For Kola Ologbondiyan, immediate past National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; the recent dinner organized in his honour by friends and associates left an impression on him almost difficult to caption in words.
The event was attended by serving and former members of the National Assembly, ex-governors, the clergy, chieftains of the Kogi state chapter of the PDP, family members and journalists, some of whom shared newsroom experience with Ologbondiyan a few years ago.
A few weeks before the historic night, Ologbondiyan won deserved accolades at the PDP valedictory session for members of its immediate past National Working Committee, when his then-deputy national publicity secretary, Diran Odeyemi took to the microphone to make some comments.
Odeyemi who slammed the practice of relegating deputy national officers of the PDP to the background in the scheme of things however expressed gratitude to Ologbondiyan for yielding him ground to speak on behalf of the party in the four years of their stewardship. “I am particularly lucky,” Odeyemi began, “that my own boss, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan did see me in the four years that we served this party, as a spare tyre. He gave me enough room to speak on issues concerning the party and that gave me a sense of belonging. I will forever remain grateful for this,” he noted.
Perhaps, the biggest takeaway for those capable of seeing beyond the bridge of their noses was the presence and endorsement of Kabba-born Ologbondiyan for a higher national calling by no less three personalities in Senators David Mark, Tunde Ogbeha and ex-deputy governor of Kogi state, Yomi Awoniyi. One after the other, the trio saluted the courage of a man who spoke truth to power at a time others kept sealed lips.
For Mark particularly, Ologbondiyan’s deployment of his divinely-endowed gift in putting the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government on its toes would forever be remembered as the hallmark of statesmanship, service and patriotism to one’s fatherland. Having worked as media adviser to Mark while the latter was President of the Nigerian Senate; it is not surprising that Mark sees in Ologbondiyan, a talent that must be unleashed on the nation to enable her to stay alert in the journey to greatness.
According to him, “We are here to celebrate a worthy Nigerian; a man who has distinguished himself among his colleagues, a courageous gentleman. Kola is a perfect gentleman in every sense. There was a time in this country when we needed a detribalized Nigeria and that was when Kola came on the scene.
“You can see that people here cut across states, regions, religion and party lines and even people without a party are here with us. That is what Kola truly is- a man who is truly patriotic and a man whose comments at the time he was telling them made people afraid.”
Sen. Mark recalled that in the course of Kola’s assignment as opposition spokesman, he had cause to be afraid for the ex- PDP image-maker, saying, “I used to call him to say, I fear for some of these things you are saying oh. But we need a man to say what he was saying. Those of us who are close to him are very proud. At a point in time, he was not just the voice of PDP or the opposition; he became the face of opposition and that is what Kola is most known for,” he added.
With the general elections slated for 2023, the gathering mirrored a platform on which an agreement was hatched that the ex-PDP spokesman is pushed for yet another office to serve his people; the people of Nigeria.
Head David Mark: “He (Ologbondiyan) has left the National Working Committee of the PDP but we believe that the good works he has done will follow him all the days of his life,” he said as he added that Nigerians would remember him and they “will praise you for saying what you were saying at the right time.”
Kola, he noted, sure has a date with destiny, noting that “the voice of the people is the voice of God. If the people are calling for a higher responsibility for him in the future, it means he deserves it.”
The apolitical nature of the gathering perhaps was what brought the revered John Cardinal Onaiyekan and the man famed for his relentless pursuit of peace in the land, had a word or two for anyone desirous of seeing a great Nigeria emerge in the years ahead.
“We have not recognized how important peace is. All human beings all over this world are brothers and sisters. How much more in this little corner of the globe called Nigeria, not to talk of my Kogi state. All you need to do is look at the face of the person next to you. He could well be a blood brother or cousin. When you meet children talking together, they don’t just don’t care where you come from. That is the basis of a peaceful society and I believe it is possible if only, we take peace seriously,” he said.
On his part, former military administrator of defunct Bendel state and later Akwa Ibom state, Brig. Gen. Tunde Ogbeha said Ologbondiyan as PDP mouthpiece “never disappointed Nigerians because he was responding to all situations and responding appropriately and very well. So it is a good thing. He has served, completed his job as national publicity secretary on a very high note and we do congratulate, commend him and ask him to apply his energy and wisdom to his local chapter, Kogi state.”
Like Mark, Ogbeha predicted a higher calling for the veteran journalist cum politician, saying,
“I think the journey to his political eminence is just beginning. For the rest of us, I hope he has set a standard that we need to emulate,” he said.
Crediting Ologbondiyan for not playing the ostrich in moments of national crises, media mogul, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi said the ex-PDP spokesman spoke truth to power and damned the consequences.
“We are here to congratulate Kola for facing the very unfortunate challenges he had to go through, the challenges of offices, the collapse of the Nigerian economy, the lowering of Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world, with the unemployment rate hovering over 33 per cent.
“Indeed, as opposition spokesman, he had the courage, strength of knowledge to preach a better Nigeria. It is not an easy task. It is not an easy task to actually run as a spokesman when you have no budget at all. You have to depend on goodwill. He left office at a time when his services were still more desired when his experience was required by the PDP. But Nigerians, I believe still owe him and he has a lot to contribute to Nigeria.”
An obviously elated Kola who couldn’t hide his joy thanked the organizers for the honour done him even as he pledged to do more in the future. Not one to forget how the journey to stardom began, Ologbondiyan took a trip down memory lane, much to the delight of his audience.
“Not many know how this whole thing started but the man who pushed the idea is my big brother and former deputy governor of Kogi state, Yomi Awoniyi. He led our people to meet General Tunde Ogbeha who told them not to bother to come to his house and that he was a big supporter of the project (Ologbondiyan for the office of PDP national publicity secretary). He led the group of supporters to the Abuja home of my boss and leader, Senator David Mark who immediately gave his fatherly blessings. I cannot forget these people in a hurry,” he recalled.
He thanked Senators Mark and Ogbeha, his elder brother, Joseph Ologbondiyan; wife, Omolara; Ibrahim Idris, Ibrahim Wada, Babangida Aliyu, former governors of Kogi and Niger states respectively for trusting his competence to deliver as PDP spokesman following their campaign for his candidacy in 2017.
It’s George Orwell who in his famous classic, ‘Animal Farm’ reasoned that “Leadership is not a pleasure but a deep and heavy responsibility.” What awaits Ologbondiyan, we may never know for now but in the words of a PDP stakeholder and member of the current NWC, “Ologbondiyan must as quickly as possible take on the next assignment. He is an asset to the PDP, to Kogi state and to Nigeria. In politics, it is the locality that counts. So, let’s see what his people want of him. He has assured support already whenever the time comes,” he said.