By Francis Abayomi
Comrade Adeola Soetan a.k.a Baba Sho roundly fits into the rank of cadres driven by conviction and passion for the enthronement off egalitarian society. There is no pretence or prevarication regarding his stance on issues; it doesn’t really matter if at variance with popular mood. You may not necessarily agree with him but you can be rest assured of his dogged commitment, consistency and boldness when the clarion call is made! His activism is neither conditioned by convenience of the moment nor defined by the urge for relevance and selfish motives. He could have stayed the course of a promising career with the prospects of becoming an elite broadcast journalist. As it turned out however, his innate passion for activism was ignited by the stark absurdities of governance and the looming rots in the society which became palpably visible during his voyage as a broadcast journalist.
Rather than being consumed by early exposure to the limelight offered by broadcast journalism; engaging the sharp contradictions in the society became his passion notwithstanding direct access to the high and mighty in the society as well as actors in the corridors power. It is therefore not strange he has committed almost four decades of his life to the struggle for social justice with dedicated enthusiasm. Baba Sho is ever conversant and versatile as the Northern Star when it comes to grappling with societal realities and contradictions which make popular struggle against anti-people forces inevitable. As the President of the Students’ Union of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Baba Sho distinguished himself as a man of the people worthy of trust of leadership. He provided leadership at a most critical era and remained resolute in spite of persecutions. Little wonder his name still resonates with the authorities of OAU close to three decades after his eventful era as a student leader.
I came across Baba Sho in the theatre of the struggle and my admiration for his tenacity has been strengthened over the years. It was an era that gave no room to luxuries; and we just got along regardless of differences in our ideological camps. Baba Sho was accessible to the less visible cadres who readily found comfort in his company. Rather than being restricted by the largely artificial walls of sectarianism that became an identity for most cadres of the left on campuses at that time, Baba Sho was always eager to identify with positive struggles regardless of who are at the forefront. It didn’t take long for me to appreciate the uniqueness of the man Adeola Soetan; the essentials of his activism much more than the aesthetics of his persona. It is gratifying that Baba Sho remains a committed Marxist genuinely guided by the philosophy of dialectical materialism. I recall with nostalgia Baba Sho’s numerous ‘nocturnal’ appearances at most inauspicious times; when his presence on campuses was bound to trigger meddlesomeness of state security operatives. Baba Sho was always with us in sprit and in flesh at the campus in Abeokuta to lend support and encouragement to our movement. His Ijeja abode in the heart of Abeokuta was often at our services whenever we needed to engage in deep strategic thinking on the next line of actions during the numerous struggles we waged at UNAAB (now FUNAAB) and across in campuses in Ogun State.
It is indeed fitting that we are celebrating Baba Sho at graceful age of 60! A well-deserved “Sixty Gbosas” to a thoroughbred cadre, grassroots mobiliser, fearless organizer, culture enthusiast, proud ‘devotee’ of traditional masquerades and a jolly great connoisseur of ‘freshly minted’ palmwine who exudes revolutionary activism; the perfect blend of pragmatic intellectualism and active engagement at the barricades! Baba Sho has a deep appreciation of the place of culture, tradition and communality in contextualizing the struggle of Nigerian people amidst harrowing failure of the State. His resourcefulness is manifest in his highly engaging social media commentaries; and glaringly attests to the profundity of his presence of mind; his contentment as a focused and committed revolutionary cadre. Notwithstanding, there is no doubt Baba Sho could easily be misunderstood by people who never related with him at close quarters. But I can boldly attest to his open-mindedness; his readiness to be amenable to consensus on issues and strategies; provided such would not be counter-productive in the immediate or in the long run.
On the auspicious momentous occasion of his Diamond Jubilee, we can only wish that his strength be continually renewed with fresh grace to finish well and strong. I celebrate Baba Sho and wish him long life in good health in continuation of his avowed commitment to the struggle aimed at impacting genuine change in the Nigerian society and on humanity at large.
Sixty cheering ‘Gbosas’ to the Emperor of Olumo Republic; the nightmare of the Abobakus and one and only ‘landlord’ of the faceless but ubiquitous Iya Seki!
Francis Abayomi is an Atlantic Post contributing writer and columnist.