By Dr. Abiodun Raufu
A number of people have been curious about the nature of my relationship with Engr. Oluseyi Makinde, the young man who has been transforming Oyo State through creative leadership and ingenious ideas and I have often been reluctant to say much. But in this season of the celebration of his 54th birthday, I am going to spill the bean a little about the Seyi Makinde that I know.
Seyi and I met for the first time in 2006. I was the Editor of Nigerian Tribune at the time, he was a senatorial aspirant under the aegis of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP). He wanted me to assist him towards the actualization of his political aspiration and would like to know what it will cost. I replied that I don’t take un-earned money from people, particularly those who request for my help and that moreover a newspaper is a market place where there is a space for everyone irrespective of their political affiliations. Afterall, it was by opening up Nigerian Tribune to everyone that the paper regained its pride of place under my leadership and cemented my reputation in the pantheon of journalism icons.
He cracked a joke about something and I laughed uncontrollably. That was how we bonded and have remained good friends and brothers ever since. Even when I left Tribune in 2008 and moved to Lagos the following year having been appointed as the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of National Mirror Newspapers, the bond only became stronger.
That was probably helped by the fact that we both resided at the Victoria Garden City (VGC), Lekki-Ajah, Lagos during my two-year stint at the National Mirror Newspapers.
So many things happened but I remember during this period how he funded a lavish and well-attended reception for me at the NUJ Press Centre at Iyaganku, Ibadan. The young men who organised the event, Akeem Azeez and Akeeb Alarape, refused to tell me who provided the money. Seyi had told them not to reveal to me that he was the sponsor. But knowing that neither Akeem nor Akeeb had that kind of money at the time, I was curious about the knowing the source of the fund for the reception. I applied some pressure and they eventually told me that Seyi was the sole sponsor but that he had warned them not to tell me.
Meanwhile, Seyi, who came in straight from South Africa, had attended the party just like any other dignitary. When I called him to express gratitude, he became angry and wanted to know who revealed the secret. Such was his good heart and generosity.
When I left National Mirror in 2011 to return to Ibadan to attend to my growing business organisation full time, our relationship continued to blossom. In late 2013, he informed me that I was going to be the Director of Publicity of his 2015 governorship campaign under the Social Democratic Party (SDP). I accepted but a few weeks later, the opportunity to take my family to the United States popped out of the blue moon. I informed him about the new development.
I had wanted to settle the family down in America and come back to help his campaign and also be around to manage my various businesses, but I soon found out that America is not a place where you dump young, black teenagers without a strong fatherly presence around to watch over them like a hawk.
Barely two weeks after I arrived in the United States, Seyi came to see me at a brother-in-law’s place where I was acclimatising, pending when I would get my own accommodation. He came with Tayo, his youngest child. We went out for dinner where I told him my fears about leaving the kids behind without providing fatherly presence. I was shocked that he was not bothered. Instead, he asked if I needed any form of assistance. I told him that I brought enough money to cater for the family for at least one year.
He insisted on obtaining my bank account details. I thought nothing of it only to get an alert the following week: $25,000! I remember that he also took me to one of his houses, a four-bedroom duplex in Missouri City, situated in a suburb outside Houston and offered that I move in my family. I declined because I have never been known to take undue advantage of generosities. Friendship requires mutual respect and greed is anti-thetical to healthy friendship.
Furthermore, he insisted that I continue to serve as the Director of Publicity of his campaign from the United States.
Having been an editor for nine years, MD for two years and as a former Vice President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), I put all my connections in the Nigerian media at his disposal and virtually all my friends in the media – Editors and MDs – assisted me in regularly writing and publishing stories about his political activities without asking for a dime between 2014 – 2015.
Whenever he was in the U.S. and I was available, we would meet up in his exquisite mansion in Woodlands, Houston to discuss the challenges facing Oyo State and Nigeria and also to have a good time together. Our children got to know each other and we generally relate as members of the same family.
The fact is that we have indescribable chemistry and I have sometimes wondered if that has to do with the fact
we are both December children. Some journalist friends actually think we are siblings till today, though they are curious why we don’t share the same last name. Seyi has many stellar qualities but those I admire in him are the qualities we appear to have in common. Some people admire him for his undoubted intelligence. But what I really love about him is his unyielding determination, courage and insistence on affecting the course of history. Anyone who has met Seyi can easily feel the fire in his eyes, burning like a furnace forged in the heavens. He is not perfect just like everyone else, but he learns quickly from his mistakes which is actually a foremost sign of a greatness. He may appear quiet but his leadership capacity is undeniable.
Above all, he is compassionate, generous and care about the poor, which is not surprising given the fact that he had to pull himself up by the bootstraps from a humble background to create huge wealth and make a name for himself in business, politics and national leadership. I daresay that Seyi’s upward climb on the ladder of national politics and leadership has just begun.
Happy birthday to my friend and brother by another mother!
…Excerpts from my forthcoming autobiography – _The Butcher’s Boy_
Dr. Raufu, an Int’l Visiting Scholar to Covenant University, Otta, is an Assistant Professor at Southern University and A&M College, Baton Rouge, LA, USA and aspirant for the House of Representative