Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, has narrated how the late human rights activist and columnist, Yinka Odumakin, supported Bola Tinubu’s candidacy for Lagos State governor in 1998.
Aregbesola, a former governor of Osun State, disclosed this in a tribute on Saturday titled, ‘Yinka Odumakin: The exit of a convinced humanist’.
The PUNCH had reported that Odumakin, who was the spokesman for pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, died on April 2 at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital Covid Isolation Centre.
Odumakin was a staunch critic of Tinubu, Aregbesola and many other politicians in the country. The late activist canvassed the ideas of restructuring, fiscal federalism, decentralised policing as solutions to the country’s socio-economic challenges.
In the tribute, the minister said he was proud to have known, interacted and worked with Odumakin whom he said doggedly fought for the dignity of the Nigerian people.
Aregbesola said, “Yinka has had to publicly criticise me a couple of times, especially when I was governor in Osun, our relationship notwithstanding. I took it in good faith, as it never affected our relationship. His criticisms were consistent with his convictions on what constitute public interest.”
“He was a tenacious advocate of his convictions; never gave up on whatever he believed in, regardless of the opposition,” the minister added.
Aregbesola, who was a ranking member of the Alliance for Democracy led by Tinubu, was Director of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu Campaign Organisation in 1998.
Aregbesola recalled how he met the late Odumakin back in 1998 during the preparation for Nigeria’s return to democracy after the dark years of military tyranny.
He said, “How did we meet? Yinka Odumakin and Bunmi Omoshehindemi walked into my office as the CGS of Bola Ahmed Tinubu Campaign Organisation office at Sunday Adigun St., Alausa Ikeja. It was in November of 1998.
“Both came to declare support for the candidacy of Bola Tinubu unequivocally. This was in defiant opposition to those then opposed to any form of accommodation for democratic building process without a clear resolution of the June 12 imbroglio. This was a courageous step, then considering that their position would have been considered anathema by the movement. We had since then built a robust relationship, sometimes very smooth and at times frosty, but all the time remarkable till his translation on Friday, April 2, 2021.
“I said we had a remarkable relationship because Yinka was consistent in standing up to fight for democracy, federalism, justice and rule of law. These to me are the factors for defining the dignity of man. Whoever has this commitment is an ally and a humanist.”
Apparently, the late Afenifere spokesman later entered another political boat as he was known in the last couple of years before his death as a fiery critic of Tinubu, who is now a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress.
However, Tinubu, last Monday, paid a condolence visit to Mrs Joe Okei-Odumakin, widow of the late activist. He also said the story of Nigeria’s democracy will not be complete without mentioning Odumakin.