By Ibraheem Abdullateef
Sheriff Shagaya in the minds of most Kwarans is already a distinct politician and elected office holder-in waiting. The simple reason for that is his drive for community development and philanthropy. It accounted for the popularity and street credibility on full display during his homecoming last week. Three days after he left, the ripples are still on about those places he visited, why, and how much could be a smokescreen to an appearance in 2023.
Having such an impression on the people is good. But unsettling his imaginary adversaries is even better.
I heard more than ever the odds have gone high. Fortunately for the people, they won’t need any bookmakers, and they won’t be the last to know!
He was making his first visit to Kwara in 2020. The last time he was home was November last year for the official commissioning of a 4,000-home solar intervention project at Oke- Apomu, chaired by His Excellency Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic didn’t only keep him away from home but threw spanners into some of the good works we had in the pipeline.
On touching down at the airport, his point of call was his papa’s place. Charity begins at home, they say, but good upbringing reflects lifelong. I bet a few people didn’t know not all London boys are spoilt. Not my Shego. His knees still bend.
It didn’t take too long before our motors set running to Oke-Apomu to have a feel of another home. Some when they want to get mischievous would say he is too much into his base for his interventions. I don’t know how there could be anything like too much for someone in making a mark where he comes from. As usual, the young and old thrilled in unison the noble name of their beloved, “Sai Sheriff”, in an unmistakable tone of reference and love.
While I was much younger, my grandma never failed to remind me of three things to have as a leader; a big heart, a good home, and small people you can call your own. She’d say a man must have a fortress before he aspires for an empire. Each time Sheriff is home; you see such a lesson coming to life.
Some three hours after touching down from the plane, he was heading to meet Ilorin West elders boasting in its rank Alh. Alh Baba Adefalu, Alh Mustapha Kobe, and Alh Baba Olosasa – the three musketeers whose story of friendship is so inspiring. They have been a good cheerleader of SSF. It suffices to say Shagaya values a good time with elders and relishes learning from their experiences.
The next day, Saturday, started where Friday ended. Ilorin Emirate Youths Development Association (IEYDA) was giving illustrious sons and daughters Royal awards in commemoration of the emir’s 25th anniversary, and the shortlist was incomplete without him. At exactly 12: 20, we filed into the event, giving it life and pomp. It is worthy to commend Mallam Lawal Olohungbebe for the incisive lecture. A second look at him, Sheriff, Alagbonsi, and a few others in the same age bracket revealed a grandeur future for Ilorin Emirate and Kwara than envisaged.
Enter RTEAN. How can I feign ignorance of the message the meeting passed? But then, intention is one’s, interpretation is another’s duty. What interests me is how the chairmanship of Alh Olayinka Onikija tries hard to develop the union. But what matters is the readiness of a philanthropist you know to lend a helping hand. RTEAN- Sheriff story is unravelling it is better told in the coming days.
As it was clear we’d be meeting Baba Kunle Sulyman, it was sure we’d be going to have fun. Baba and Sheriff’s parole is time- tested. From 2015 till now, it has grown in leaps and bounds. On each of such occasions, they’d talk as freshly as if they saw every day. Even I used to wonder at the bond. But he said after the last visit that Baba’s grasp of issues and deep analysis is unique. Whereas some have since begun to float the kite of political conspiracy, here we are saying ‘Fem’ and hoping you catch #NoStress.
Sunday was an ambivalent day– it came with sweet- sad moments. On the one side, it dawned that Sheriff had a flight to catch. On the other hand, we were going to attend the 14th remembrance prayer of ex-Governor Muhammad Lawal, a legend who has continued to live in the mind of the people. Some 24hrs earlier, his first son, Hakeem Lawal was a fellow recipient of a royal award with Sheriff where he donated an eye-catching 125 scholarship to students. When one looks at the Lawals, he is bound to come away with a prayer to God for similar children who can sustain a legacy.
It was at the gathering we met the OniKwara of Kwara today, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. He sat modestly, smiling warmly in acknowledging the greetings. AbdulRazaq, among other reasons owes Kwarans the duty to do better by them in honour of the late icon. And if early signs are things to go by, he is on the track. On the political front, dots of indifferences between and amongst some gladiators will clear off in a matter of time.
We’d become the Governor’s guests some minutes after. Almost an hour later, myself alongside the DG Muftau Akanbi-Oke, Chairman Sheriff Shagaya; Governor AbdulRazaq; and Alhaji Lateef Babakini were smiling at the camera for the pictures which have made my phone number more active than necessary. Unlike Abati, mine keeps ringing wrongly. Some have even started postulating I was becoming an SA to the Governor! The other flip to it was a rife rumour that my oga had already thrown his hat into the ‘royal rumble’ for Kwara central senatorial ticket. These necessitated this epistle.
For me and Shagaya, our steps are in God’s hands. And only He knows the direction. No SAship on the horizon for me. And Shagaya is just being his noble, inimitable Chairman of your darling SSF. If and whenever destiny calls on any of us, you won’t be the last to know!