Barrister Kunle Owolabi
How time flies! Life is certainly ephemeral. It looked like yesterday but today marked the 15th years of the exit of a pragmatist. On 8th July 2005, we just had the sad news of the exit of Dr. Ahmed Oladepo Kusamotu. Fondly called Great KUSH, he was everything you could think of. Academic. Politician. Legal luminary. Strategist. Leader. Family man. All rolled into one.
Of his earliest history and political development I was not privy. I only came closer at the height of his political career. I started monitoring his political footprint when he came fully to limelight during Choice 92 group within the National republican Convention (NRC), one of the two parties created by the then military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. He eventually became the National President of NRC.
In 2001, I fully came into Great KUSH’s household through my brother, Mr. Bayo Olaore. It was through my brother that I knew all about the aborted Third Republic of Babangida. My brother was an ardent follower of Dr. Kusamotu. When I started working as a journalist in 2001, my brother would take me along on a weekend when he visited KUSH.
From this period he took interest in me. He was loving, caring, easily approachable. Anytime you visited Great Kush and you met him in his element, you would enjoy every bit of your stay. He was an avid reader. He would discuss any subject with you with such effortless ease.
If you were of his scholarly type, he would love you the more. I liked meeting him in his study. His shelves, full of books of whatever discipline, would take you round the entire world, genre by genre, author by author, subject-matter by subject-matter.
It was in this well-stocked study that I read the History of the Yorubas by Samuel Johnson. It was also in this rich library that I read one of the sad commentaries of the Gen. Sanni Abacha’s locust years – This House Has Fallen – written by a German, Karl Meier.
Who will ever forget you, a great leader and teacher and a legal luminary? I could still recollect few instances when your name opened doors and performed magic. I remeber when I moved to the Punch Newspaper in 2003. I had passed the written interview and was called for oral.
I sat with the three man-panel that fateful morning to answer barrage of questions. As a journalist, you as good as your sources. A journalist without sources cannot go far in that profession. So when i was asked which people I knew, it was Kush’s name I first mentioned. And the editor then asked me which Kusamotu. I said the same Kusamotu, former NRC National Chairman. That was where the interview ended. His name as secured me the job.
Six months later i was still not confirmed and I went to enquire what was delaying my confirmation. I was told two things: one, i presented a statement of result not university certificate and two, I need letter of recommendation.
I dashed down to OAU to collect my certification. But that was one leg of the solution. Then i came to Great Kush’s office on the 7th Floor of Unity House on the Broad Street. I did not have to wait for long after telling his then Personal Assistant, Alhaji Rasaq Badmus.
I remember the recommendation was about the paragraphs of not more than two lines his on his letter head bearing Shinkafi, Kusamotu and Olojo.
There was a line of description he wrote in that recommendation that I have not forgotten till today; he wrote: “Owolabi Adekunle is the unappointed ambassador of his family.”
That alone ferreted the letter of confirmation out from Punch Newspaper. That is the name H. O. KUSAMOTU!
He was also instrumental to my success in that newspaper. He was a great source of some of my political stories, some of which would make the front page of Punch.
Any time there was a dirt of news, my editor would ask me when last I saw my great uncle and leader. Story must come out that weekend. Thanks for all these. My mind prays as I write this remembrance.
The last experience here was a sad one for me but thank God I still recollect today with nostalgia. Some weeks before Dr’s death. I had visited him with my brother. I wanted to tell him of my wedding coming up soon.
After the usual pleasantries, my brother told him of our mission: “The Great journalist’s wedding comes up July 31, and he said he wanted you to be the Chairman of the occasion Sir.”
He smiled smartly and kept quiet for about five minutes, steadying his gaze at me. I could not decipher was went on in the recesses of his mind. Then he finally asked: “What do you want me to give you.” I could not say a word: I was glued to my seat. It was my brother who told him that the young man wanted the Greta Kush to be at his wedding and chair the occasion.
But he had another plan. It told me that he would certainly attend my wedding but he would not be the chairman. He said i should leave the choice of the chairman to him. He promised he was going to bring Ghazal Lawal to chair the occasion. Alahji Lawal was then a top police office from our town. He retired few years ago as a DIG.
I was extremely happy. But that was not the end of the story. He told me to give two dozens of ‘Aso Oke’ cap we chose to Alhaji Razaq Badmus. He would distribute them to some of his colleagues in office, like Chief Tunde Olojo.
I was happiness personified by the time we left his residence that evening. He then told us that he was going to London for a brief stay and medical check up. That was three weeks to my wedding.
Few weeks after, I knew the awesomeness of God in human affairs.
Then the disaster struck . the news of Kush’s death just came with a rude shock. The rest is history.
We did as we planned but without the presence of the Great Kush.
I later discovered that he had planned everything as he promised me. One incident told me this. I had gone to his Unity House Chamber to interview his colleague, Chief Tunde Olojo for a story I was doing in his honour entitled: “The Kusamotu We Knew” in the Sunday Punch edition of July 24, 2005.
After the interview, Chief Olojo asked me when my wedding was coming up. I told him it had passed. He now told me he was sorry he did not know the date again but his friend, Kush had told him of my wedding and that he must attend it with him.
He then opened a drawer and brought out a white envelope, saying that was his gift for me. I could not believed what happened. But that was how Dr. Kusamotu did his things. You taught me one lesson of life that every period of adversity is ‘just a passing phase.’
I have held on to it till date and face any life’s vicissitude with sterner calmness. Yes life problems is surmountable you would say, if one just focuses on where one is going or what one is doing.
What a loss!
What a life!
I missed you greatly Sir.
Great Kush, Rest on.
Your legacies live on.
Kunle Owolabi, a Veteran journalist and Legal Practitioner is the Managing Partner of Owolabi & Owolabi Law Firm in Lagos, Nigeria