Otedola: The Exit Of A Man Of Destiny


By Tayo Ogunbiyi

According to Edward Morgan Forster, English novelist and short story writer, “failure and success seem to have been allotted to men by their stars. But they retain the power of wriggling, of fighting with their star or against it, and in the whole universe the only really interesting movement is this wriggle”. The concept of destiny or fate in Africa is a rather  controversial one. In Africa, destiny, often used interchangeably with fate, connotes what happens or will happen to man in life that cannot be changed, irrespective of any human effort. An integral part of this conviction is the belief that not all men have the privilege of a great destiny. Some are destined for ordinary lives, while others are blessed with the fortune of glorious life.

Hence, fate is regarded as the inexorable force that drives every creature towards their eventual end. Each individual has a predetermined fate. It is laid out for them at the time of their creation. Fate is, for the most part, inevitable. You may be able to change some of the details, but unless there is divine intervention, no creature can escape the eventual force of fate upon their life. Destiny can be changed, because everyone has Free Will. Free Will is the power to make your own decisions, no matter what destiny has in store for you. Every choice that is made can steer destiny. Destiny is difficult to avoid, though, because it often seems that those decisions yet to be made are part of that destiny. How amazing!

Belief in fate and destiny is not limited to Africans. The ancient Greeks equally acknowledged the role of fate as a reality outside the individual that shaped and determined human life. In modern times, the concept of fate and destiny have developed the misty halo of romantic destiny, but for the ancient Greeks, fate represented a terrifying, unstoppable force. In some of his plays, literary icon, Williams Shakespeare, also created impressions that support the fatality of life. In Macbeth, for example, we see a man who pursues his goal of the throne ruthlessly, with murderous ambition. When the witches’ prophecies, upon which he has based his hopes, turn out to be just as misleading as any oracle’s pronouncement at Delphi, the audience is more likely to blame Macbeth for his inordinate ambition than to bemoan his fate with him.

Though many would readily rubbish the very basis of the fate and destiny hypothesis, believe it or not, certain events that happen in life tend to call attention to the reality of fate or destiny as key determinants of the course or direction of man’s life. Many toil endlessly through life but never really achieve the goals they set out for themselves. Many even exit the world in tragic and mysterious circumstances just at the brink of attaining their goals in life. On the other hand, many who idle away in life and are considered by many as unserious elements and or misfits often turn out to become inexplicable success. In this wise, fate or destiny is believed to be the unseen hand that navigate the course of man’s life, either for good or for evil.

The 1991 gubernatorial contest in Lagos state that produced the late Sir Michael Otedola as the second executive governor of Lagos state, to many, was a clear demonstration of the place of fate or destiny in determining  the course of event in the life of a man and, indeed, the society. Prior to his emergence as the winner of the contest, neither Sir Otedola nor his most ardent followers could have romanticized the possibility of his  emerging victorious in the ensuing political contest. The political reality on ground of the day did not favour an electoral victory of the defunct  National Republican Convention, NRC, under whose banner Sir Otedola contested the election. On the contrary, to the supporters and members of the defunct Social Democratic Party, SDP, being the party on ground in the state, victory at the poll was a foreclosed conclusion.

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However, in a twist of fate, the popular SDP became seriously engulfed in a bitter rivalry within its fold. Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, LKJ, the first civilian executive governor of Lagos State , who was then a cult figure in Lagos politics and a prominent leader of the SDP at both the state and national levels, was a central figure in the intra-party row. Relying on his popularity, which stemmed from his many indelible legacies while in office, LKJ had backed the candidacy of the late Professor Femi Agbalajobi. Given Jakande’s legendary status in Lagos politics, Agbalajobi, in a matter of months, was going to be governor.

 This was, however, not going to be as a rival camp within the SDP  led by Dapo Sarumi, Yomi Edu and Ademola Adeniji-Adele suddenly waged an attractive mass appeal battle against LKJ and his anointed candidate. They engaged in a kind of grassroots mobilisation movement that was, perhaps, second to none in the annals of the state’s political history. Gradually, the popularity of Dapo Sarumi, the preferred candidate of the faction soared to un-imaginable height. With the party primary ending in controversial and riotous circumstances, the SDP became more divided and it soon became obvious that trouble was looming for the party.

 It was eventually the bitter rivalry within the SDP fold that paved the way for the NRC candidate, Sir Otedola, to coast home to victory in the gubernatorial election. As previously stated, despite his being once press secretary to Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, the then 65 years old  politician from the Epe division of the state was a dark horse as far at the election was concerned.  The rest, as they say, is history.

That Otedola eventually became the governor of Lagos state could be linked to the supremacy of fate. He lived up to his name, which means ‘conspiracy favours me’, because he rode on the storm of conspiracy in SDP to become governor. Before anyone begin to fault the very basis of this fate and destiny postulation, please take time to reflect on the rise and rise of a certain man with Goodluck who currently holds sway inside the rock at Abuja. As for Sir Michael Otedola, having played his part in the stage of life, as propelled by fate, one could only wish him  eternal peace in the bosom of the Lord.

Rest in Peace, Sir Michael Otedola, the man of destiny.

•Ogunbiyi wrote from Ikeja, Lagos