By Akin Olayemi
When former Governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode celebrated his 57th birthday without congratulatory advertisements placed in newspapers to celebrate his special day, the social media space were flooded with commentaries- good and bad- on how Lagosians and indeed political associates and the All Progressives Congress, APC are quick to forget the immediate past governor of the state in spite of his impacts on governance in the State.
To the politically exposed people and every day people, placing congratulatory advertisements in national dailies to celebrate sitting and ex-elective officers are the greatest honours and best ways of celebrating them while they live.
Opinions were divided on the reasons behind the attitude melted out to former Governor Ambode.
While some held that the denial was intended to cast Ambode into political oblivion, others believed that it was to put him in his rightful place having been sent out of office in a manner that suggested humiliation.
But either way it goes, little did they know that there is more to life than being celebrated on the pages of newspapers.
In what I described as unique and an exceptional character, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu threw a no-congratulatory newspaper advertisements’ punch at political jobbers, associates, friends and families who possibly might have had one or two arrangements made to celebrate the governor on his 55th birthday.
Every June 25 is significant in the life of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the day marks his birthday. But as important as this day is to him, I doubt if he had celebrated it lavishly since he became the governor of the State.
Bearing this in mind, friends and associates of the governor warm up to buying off space in the newspapers to rejoice with Governor Sanwo-Olu as he add another year to his years on earth but the enigmatic governor has other things in the offing.
And there emerge a shocking message no congratulatory message from the office of the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Gboyega Akosile titled “Sanwo-Olu @ 55: No Congratulatory Messages in Newspapers” informing friends, families, professional colleagues and political associates of the governor’s unwillingness to have him celebrated on the pages of newspapers.
The message read in part, “This is to inform friends, families, professional colleagues and political associates of the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu that no congratulatory advertisements should be placed in newspapers to celebrate his forthcoming birthday.
The Governor wishes to continue his tradition of reaching out and sharing love with the needy in the society.
Mr. Governor believes that an occasion of one’s birthday, especially a milestone such as the age of 55, should be a day to reflect on one’s purpose of existence in life and, this according to him, is “to serve the humanity”.
The best birthday gift anyone would give me at this period is to identify those at the bottom of the pyramid wherever they reside, lift them up by putting smiles on their faces-that way, you would have lifted my heart too.”
For Governor Sanwo-Olu, birthday is all about touching lives and not merry making.
It is about alleviating the suffering of the masses and not a day for privilege friends and associates of the governor to overwhelm him with gifts and praises which only reside on their lips.
My take is, if Sanwo-Olu, a sitting governor could stop congratulatory messages, while should anyone criticise former Governor Ambode for not getting a single congratulatory advertisements on his birthday?
If politics is about touching lives and service to humanity as expressed by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, why should some opportunists take advantage of his birthday to score political points and seek his favours?
While I commend Governor Sanwo-Olu for his determination to turn-around the fortunes of Lagos State and make it better than he met it, I want to appeal to political jobbers and elective office seekers not to drum discordant tunes.
Rather they should support and rally round anyone that emerges from the popular platform towards achieving national excellence.
We must know that celebrating our public and elective officers on the pages of newspapers do not get things done. Among other things, it causes distraction for them and by extension subject them to unwarranted spending.
Long live Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, long live the people of Lagos, long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.