By Razaq Ivori
I recently took a call from a Nigerian governor requesting me to do some media work. This would have sounded huge if it was not a common feature in the last five years of my life. The governor of a state is like any other human being but here in Nigeria, the chances of bumping into one align closely with being struck by lightning twice. However, this write-up is not about me and my life but about someone who helped strengthen it positively.
One of Oyo’s greatest “akewi” (poet), Olarewaju Adepoju, once said, “If a man has done good, praise him with all the entrails of your mouth because if he did evil to you, it is with viciously flying spittle from the same mouth you will tell the narrative.” This write-up is on the recently screened Minister-Designate from Oyo State. Mr Sunday Akin Dare. He is so many things but at the top of his qualification is his kindness. And this is a short story of how we met.
A mutual friend had told me to call him. After indifferently introducing myself through a phone call, he simply asked me to meet him up at an address on Bourdillon Street, Ikoyi. Since I lived around the corner, I got into my car and drove down.
Bourdillon is easy to find but I needed help with finding the exact number of the house itself. Strangely, every passer-by I asked looked at me funny and only gave sarcastic replies to my location request; “So, you no know No×× for Bourdillon? Abeg go forward joo!” Finally, I asked a policeman who said, “See that house where people gather for the front! Na where you dey go be that!”
I gave him my thanks and drove up to the house that had a market place sized crowd in front of it. The only difference was this crowd had a mix of notable public figures, businessmen, young successful-looking individuals, community leaders, foreigners, and market women all trying to get in.
I almost started passing around my complimentary cards right there but the apprehension of how to get in struck out the thought. Earlier, I had been told by my acquaintance to just go to the gate and say my name. Pushing my way to the front, I did just that and bam, I was ushered in through the pedestrian entrance into a ‘Who is Who’ in Nigeria gatherings.
Let’s skip the part where I had my mouth wide open and resisted taking pictures. Well, I eventually spotted Mr. Dare. He was in the midst of four men, who made front-page news constantly in our national newspapers. Mr. Dare seemed to be the man everyone needed to see to facilitate whatever brought them to the abode of his boss, an influential statesman – Former Governor of Lagos State and APC’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
I walked up to him and introduced myself. He excused himself from his guests, men my father’s age or even older and attended to me almost instantly. “Ah! Me ke?!” I thought. Just another graduate from the unemployed army with nervous ideas! He won my lifetime admiration immediately.
And that right there is the reason I’m writing this. Rarely had I met an influential Nigerian that takes young people matters so seriously. Mr. Dare, (SD to his friends and underlings) has every level of young persons in his concern. He deals with the broken, uneducated, artisan, pained and even the disgruntled. He sees potential in everyone. He will point it out to you. That’s his passion; talent, fresh ideas. His favourite word is “Brilliant!” once you say something smart. For total strangers, all they need do is greet him with some sort of familiarity. You will have his undivided attention.
Make no mistakes, he worked very hard to get these contacts; he sacrificed so much for today. He left his passion for writing after two Oxford University (his alma mater) endorsed books. He left a promising career at the Voice Of America. He is the key behind so many APC victories. His genius helped set the intellectual tone of the party for the last 10 years, yet got nothing for it.
Mr. Dare is a rear breed. You don’t have to slave six years in apprenticeship to get his nod. After a brief idea exchange, he can walk with you into a high stakeholders’ meeting with top government officials or CEOs and not even notice he has just turned a milestone in your life. He can pick up a phone and summon you into a meeting with the most inferential and simply say everyone meet “Shola.”
In a country where your own brother would be in position and let you roast for a while before replying your text messages, where best friends suddenly turn strangers, you have a man who will take the work of a fresh graduate and progressively push it till it becomes state facility. I have seen him do this countless times.
Mr. Dare has a legion of young people under his tutelage. A total gentleman, I have hardly ever heard him scream. He simply ignores you when as ambitious young men we get overly excited with our numerous demands; seeing a rare chance anyone would be tempted to over do it. Call him after a few days and he accepts a simple apology and you are back in.
I congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari on this particular choice for minister. His Excellency might just have added a smart chip to his grand plan of nation-building.
In case you were wondering, that Nigerian governor trusts me so much today because he trusts the man who made the introduction, the irrepressible and kind Mr. Sunday Dare.
- Ivori is a media practitioner working in Abuja