The Journey to Timbuktu By Omoniyi Ibietan,Phd

So, last night I was ‘arrested’ by my twinny in the student movement, Niyilola Dopemu Rasheed, my namesake, friend, brother, comrade. ‘Lagos Connection’ is the popular name. He is indeed a prince of Lagos. Otherwise called ‘Eko’, he was House Secretary of the Student Union Government at the University of Ibadan, when I arrived UI, in the first instance in 1995. My comrades and I have been embattled for years at Abuja where I was expelled ostensibly for radicalism, alongside 44 others, the reason the case file was labelled Niyi Ibietan & 44 Ors Vs University of Abuja & 2 Ors.


Every lawyer of conscience was involved, beginning with the late legal conscience of Nigeria, Chief Gani Fawehinmi. Thankfully, we won our cases all the way, even at the Federal Court of Appeal, where the University had gone to challenge the victory handed to us at the Federal High Court.


I was such a roving, possibly the most itinerant ambassador of the Student Government of the University of Abuja, which we had formed ‘in exile’, and I became the PRO. So, when I arrived UI for solidarity/mobilisation work, it was Niyi I walked into and he promptly took me to our big brother, the popular High Priest, Oladoyin Odebowale, who gave me the greatest singular welcome I ever received on any campus. That story is for another day.


Anyway, my orchestrated ‘arrest’ last night was to make me to autograph a copy of my book which Niyi had procured. He needed the autograph last night, not today, the reasoned there had to be a dispatch to fetch me for that purpose. Friendship is indeed a networth.


The high point of today was the visit by Lekan Busari ex-banker and now financial advisor. It was the first time I have met him. A jolly good fellow whose charitableness would be testified to by a longtime colleague of mine at NCC.


Lekan came to collect autographed copy of my book for the first buyer of the physical copy, Eyitayo Alimi. Tayo Alimi is my all-time friend, sister and classmate at the School of Basic Studies, Kwaratech, Ilorin, where we studied to write the Advanced Levels General Certificate of Education (GCE). We were both very active in the English Students Association at KwaraTech because literature was one of our mutual courses of three combinations. I think we both offered Economics too but while my third subject was history, Tayo studied Government.


However, the literature classes were the common rendezvous for us and importantly, Tayo and I were always looking for ‘troubles’. Besides the reality of being in the same political tendencies, it was through us our classmates knew which public intellectual was coming to Ilorin to deliver lecture, and where. Usually, it was at the University of Ilorin, mini campus.


I remember one day we actually left a lecture before it was over because Balarabe Musa was coming to talk about socialism at UniIlorin. Tayo and I left campus at our school’s permanent site, a different school and campus altogether and took public transport with four connections to UniIlorin to listen to Balarabe Musa.


At other times, we would go to Unilorin to see performances at Prof Zulu Sofola’s class or Prof. Akanji Nasiru. There was this passion we both had for reading, writing and for the humanities in general. I am not surprised to find Tayo a great teacher of English in the United Kingdom. A great feat. Thank you Tayo, for being my nexus to Lekan Busari, a good man, who also bought copies of my book.


Then, Sesugh Akume made another scheduled visit today. For those who may not know, Sesugh is possibly Northern Nigeria’s burgeoning equivalent of what Fawehinmi used to be in terms of public interest litigations. He has personally taken up public interest litigations at his own expense, including suits against the suspended infamous central banker and many more against the Benue State Government, his home state.


A public intellectual, Sesugh is inimitable with good intellection as much as he’s civil and courteous. A patriot that is both intentional and decidedly dedicated to the pursuit of whatever is edifying of Nigeria. He wants Nigeria to be a nation in the real sense of the word. I would autograph Sesugh’s copy of my book too and just before I was done, his fellow traveller in civic public intellectualism, Nnamdi Elekwachi walked in to join us to get his copy of my new book autographed too. He had notified me of his arrival in Abuja yesterday. Historian, broadcaster and active citizen, Nnamdi is my very dear friend and brother, one of those I have been gladdened to make their cyber acquaintanceship.


Nnamdi and I had planned an offline meeting sometime ago. I was going to Abia State and he was to fetch me at Owerri for the journey. That was to be our first physical meeting but one of our airlines which had gained notoriety for delaying and cancelling flights, rescheduled my flight to a time when the ceremony I planned to attend would have been over. So, I rang Nnamdi to convey my regrets. We finally met today and so the curious title of this note. For it is he who writes and regularly end on the note: “I am off to Timbuktu”. Sesugh remembered him for that and we all laughed so loudly in response.


Timbuktu was the location of the famous Sankore University and a great centre of Islamic scholarship. It carried so much glory until the Moroccans invaded Songhai Empire in 1591. Like the British invasion of Benin in 1897, which left so much devastation, Timbuktu was in ruination as the University and Mosques were ravaged and many texts destroyed.


Anyway, I am still savouring the honour of the visitation of two socially active citizens and amazing public intellectuals who have used social technology to call attention to Nigeria’s challenges and proffer solutions. And indeed, the good-naturedness of Lekan Busari is an occurrence I will savour forever.


A great day indeed. Have a great weekend friends. Cheers!




* Ibietan, a Communication Analyst,is the Author,Cyber Politics: Social Media, Social Demography and Voting Behaviour in Nigeria

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