Nigeria can champion black renewal, says Odegbami
He is better known for his prowess on the football pitch, where he led Nigeria to many conquests, including winning the African Nations Cup for the first time in 1980. Now, Patrick Olusegun Odegbami wants to go into a different kind of battle. This is a battle he believes would give every black man the sense of fulfillment in a world dominated by the white.
It is not a racial war, he says, but a quest that would ensure that the best in the black is presented for all humanity to see.
Odegbami is a strong believer in the fact that the black man is best suited for technological and innovative thinking. To him, every human being, black or white, given a conducive environment, can achieve things that will make the society better. And he is ready to lead the campaign, if or when he becomes Ogun State governor next year.
Odegbami is running for the Ogun State number one position on the platform of the Labour Party. And one of the first things he wants to do, as governor of Ogun State is to bring the best of the black race to the state to see how they can tap into the enormous resources the state is endowed with.
Aside the arts and culture, Odegbami says underneath the Ogun soil are some of the most precious resources that could transform the state into a paradise for all black men.
“In 2020, we will host the Black African Arts and Culture in Ogun State in four locations across the divisions. That is just a year after my inauguration as the governor of the state.
“This festival will drive developments in tourism, culture, science and technology and it will be championed by blacks from within and outside the country.
“Some of these people are coming from Guyana, Barbados, Jamaica, America, Canada and all over the world.”
Already, according to Odegbami, five black American vice chancellors have bought the idea and are now “galvanizing a team of black scientists for the day we will call them to service.”
Odegbami believes that every African nation should look inwards first, before going outside to seek help. He says the current president of Ghana has caught the bug and so is not looking at the Americans or Chinese for his country’s technological development. “We will invite black scientists, who need a base to express their talents.
“Mandela said that Africa will wake up when Nigeria wakes up to appreciate who they are and do what they should do… the black race is waiting for Nigeria’s leadership and we are willing to provide that leadership.
“We will no longer think small. People from the East, North, South and West will rise to champion the cause. When things are set, you will not hear of Boko Haram again. Poverty will no longer drive our youths to slavery in the name of religion. Nobody will bamboozle our youths again.”
Odegbami says he is driven by the fear that Nigeria would cease to exist if those with political power failed to do the right thing now.
According to him, “We are sitting on a time bomb. The American government has seen what I am talking about. People have called me privately to plead that I should do something urgently and I am determined to liberate our people.
“If you go to the north, you will see idle youths doing nothing. They have no means of livelihood. These are people that can be used to foment trouble. They are vulnerable because they are not educated.
“Now they are pushing the boys down south. These are the people who ride Okada here. It is a time bomb that could explode at any time.
“Now people are saying so many terrible things about the Fulani, but I want to tell you that the Fulani is a peaceful person. They don’t trouble anybody, but some wicked people are trying to tarnish their name by attributing evil to them. We will liberate them and bring out the best in them.”
Odegbami also believes that hosting the FIFA World Cup across six countries of West Africa will accelerate development in the sub-region.
In the early years of the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency, he tried to champion a bid for the FIFA World Cup to be hosted by five West African countries. But he failed because “people did not see what I saw then.”
To him, hosting the World Cup will present West Africa the fastest route to infrastructural and economic development. “The economy will boom with about 250 million people mobilised to harness the resources of the region. It will accelerate development across the region.
“I tried to sell that vision to the government a long time ago but nobody listened to me. That is what the American continent used to win their 2026 bid.
“You can imagine a World Cup across United States, Mexico and Canada. It will be a massive technological and cultural event that will add immensely to the growth of their economies. Now think of that happening to West African economy.
“We are talking of employing millions of young people who have the passion for these things in the present world. It is a huge industry.”
On the proposed Black African Festival of Arts and Culture, Odegbami says the idea is to ensure that all parts of Nigeria benefit from the inflow of cultural and economic activities the event will drive.
“We will have a minimum of eight venues in Nigeria. Nigeria will undergo the fastest infrastructural development ever.
“There are countries waiting to come on annual pilgrimage to Nigeria because of the festival. It is a festival that will stimulate educational, cultural and political growth in Nigeria.”
Odegbami presents a man so passionate about his beliefs that one lured into believing that Nigeria’s salvation is just a year away. What is his driving force?
He says, “The state of the nation has prepared me for this position. This Nigeria that I have experienced through over sixty years of my life has put me in a period where I have the bird’s eye view to see how things are, how things were and to follow the footsteps of certain people that have through time tried to champion the cause of this country.
“My conclusion is that our country is in a mess in virtually all sectors, but we cannot do anything. We complain and lament and criticize things.
“If you read what people write and say, you are tempted to ask why we are still here? Why have we not changed things.
“I just read that Nigeria has the highest number of poor people in the world. That is what the visiting British prime minister said of Nigeria. But we have no business being poor with all the resources available to us.
“When you look around, you don’t see the political will, no activation of anything. Instead we are just mired in the same old, tested and failed system of governance.
“God wants to change the paradigm. The voice of the people is the voice of God. The people want a genuine change. They demonstrated it in 2015 when they chose a supposedly innocent man. A man who has integrity, who is known for his incorruptibility, to become president of the country.
“What happened? The system is overwhelming. Nigeria is so big, so complex. The man has been shackled by the old system. So, we must do things differently, totally different from what we have been doing before.
“We must do away with the money politics, the buying of votes and the manipulation of results that have produced the leaders that we have had, such that every time they get into power they get the infection and deviate from what they said they will do.
“I am a leader of socio-cultural Yoruba group in my community and I have a firm understanding that we need a change in the way we do things.
“I tried to talk with leaders and government officials to do things differently. But with all of that failing now, it dawned on me that the only way we can effect change is by driving that change. That is to be a leader of a group that actually implements the vision. The average Nigerian has the vision of Nigeria as a great country.”
Odegbami is firm in his belief that Nigeria can witness genuine change if the leaders followed the path laid by leaders of the developed world. His words, “It is not impossible because we have the evidence of Chief Obafemi Awolowo who started revolution in the late 1950s and the rest of the country followed after him.
“It accelerated the development in the East and the North. We will start from the bottom, from my state, Ogun State that people can come and emulate. We must have a true renaissance, rebuild Ogun State in the shortest possible time into a state that people could come and live, work and invest in.”
Odegbami reveals that he decided to choose a less known party to drive home his message to his people, saying that joining the existing system would have defeated his campaign from the onset.
“The thing is that you have to have a totally psychological paradigm shift before you start. If you followed the existing system, the existing parties, you will end up the same way the others did.
“That is why I chose a party that is non-existent so to speak. If you look at the Labour Party, its logo is a man, a woman and a child, that is the people, the family. We will empower the people to create the change that is desirous.
“Everything has to be different. Somebody like me can never find a space in APC or PDP because I will become a part of the system that I say I want to change.
“It is not that the people in PDP or APC are bad or that they are deliberately impoverishing people. No. It is the existing structure, system within which they also operate. That is why I sought a party that reflects something that is different, that reflects my belief.”
Gaining political power is not done by wishful thinking. It requires a lot of financial and human resources, especially when an ‘outside’ wants to overthrow the existing system, but Odegbami believes that money would not play a major part in his case.
The former Nigerian football team captain says, “I have thought about this my reckless adventure into politics. Me, ordinary me… I don’t have the resources to go into politics the way it is done here. I don’t have a godfather or a political structure that can lead me. I am just going into it recklessly. But I believe I am being led by the Creator, Who wants to use the foolish things of this world to confound the wise because He knows my heart and the genuineness of my intention.
“I am not going there to criticise anybody, but all I want is to lead people like me who want to effect change in our society.
“I chose two parties, one of them was Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s UPN, the other is Labour Party. I was told that UPN was not available and I left. But I was at the World Cup when the Labour Party came to me and I prayed over it and it became comfortable in my spirit. I had to assemble my own set of people and sell my ideas to them.”
He says that coming into the race without the encumbrances of godfathers, who will want to impose their ideas on him, makes his case better. “Mine is a miracle that will spread beyond Ogun State and encapsulate the whole country very soon. I may not even be there, but it doesn’t matter.”
On the constant complaint by some states that they lack the resources to run the government, Odegbami says all the states in Nigeria can drive genuine development if they stopped misusing their income.
To illustrate his point, Odegbami says, “ I spoke with the former Governor Segun Mimiko of Ondo State recently and he told me that the resources governors get every month would be enough to take care of genuine development for their people if they don’t spend a lot of it to service political patrons and all manner of things that don’t impact directly on the lives of the people.
“Go to Sokoto, Maiduguri and Zamfara and see the level of development there. They have nothing except their farming and money from government. But they have some of the best roads in Nigeria, good hospitals and quality schools.
“I believe you can do certain things if you do not squander or commit your state to financial brigandage. Go to Anambra State and see what is happening there.
“Ogun has the highest number of industrial estates in Nigeria. The best farmlands and the best universities where you can get human resources to drive development if you are serious.
“I was driving between Owode and Atan in Yewa and for many kilometres I saw a beautiful landscape. When I enquired, I was told it was Awolowo’s agricultural plantations. Along the road, you will see the houses built for the staff that were supposed to manage the plantations. They are now carcasses, people still live there, but nobody is doing any farming there now.
“We can revive that and create job opportunities for our people.
“A contractor friend of mine once said that if people knew what they found underground in the geo survey of parts of Ogun State, they will start killing each other.
“Ogun State has one of the largest limestone belts in the whole of Africa. Half of the state is granite, rock and red clay soil and so when you build a road in Ogun State it should last for at least 50 years before you service it. But they build roads that don’t last six months now.”
Odegbami is not bothered about the consequences of trying to ruffle established feathers. He knows he will face stiff opposition from those that ‘have held the state down for long’ and is fully prepared for the battle.
“This course which I am on…this reckless adventure is led by something that I don’t even understand.
“What I am thinking is the possibility of a new Nigeria, a new Black civilization with Nigeria as the epicenter.
“When you follow what is happening in the United States and see the connection with Nigeria, you will understand my motive.
“For 250 years, we have been dependent on white civilisation. They take our resources and then sell these same resources to us.
“Our African American brothers have a 450 billion dollars annual portfolio that they can invest in Africa. They don’t have the lands in America, but they have the lands in Nigeria, in Ogun State.
“In 1921, they spoke about the Black Wall Street and built a fantastic environment in the Baltimore area. But the white supremacist movement destroyed it.
“The people who are sympathetic to us are our black brothers in America. Nobody likes us in the world. Even our neighbouring Arabs don’t like us.
“The architecture of this world is not meant for the black man to succeed. The answer lies with us, we must restore those things that are ours that they took away from us. We must restore all the things they destroyed in us and create our own black world and civilization to relate with them on equal terms.
“From Ogun State, we will start looking at ourselves as the beginning of a new black culture in the world. “We are going to use the culture, the dance, drama, language, arts, music and sports that are here with us to start that revolution. We will bring back all our black brothers and make Ogun State, Nigeria home to every black man.
“We will invite our brothers across the Niger in the East, South South and the North to come and see what is possible if we only look inwards and are not led by the prescriptions of the West that have not served us well.
“These will happen in a very short time. Awolowo did it in four and half years and he did not have the resources we have now; there was no oil.
“He built one of the most modern hospitals that the Saudis came to patronise. He built the first television station when France had none.
“These are the possibilities that I am preaching. I am not saying I will do anything to anybody. I am a sports man and we have been conditioned to win and lose. I know it is a game that you have to go in prepared.”
Odegbami says he is not employing any external security to guide him while trying to change his society, adding that the people are his source of strength.
“I am putting myself in the race stupidly. The area boys, the market women, even the thieves and the robbers, who support us in sports, are my security.
“Thieves once looted my house in Ibadan and the Police could not do anything about it. But somebody took me to the head of the thieves in Ibadan, who happened to be a supporter of IICC.
“He called the leader of thieves in my area and they brought back all my things. Robbers and area boys stop cars for me on Ikorodu Road. I am used to the poor people at the lowest rung. Those were Fela’s people. They were Awolowo and Gani Fawehinmi’s people. So they are my security. They also want good governance.”
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