Olohungbebe: Shooting Down a Bright Star, By Muhammed Abdullahi

Writing this short piece is not convenient for me, considering that I have had a long day of travel. However, a message I encountered in a Whatsapp group I belonged to made it impossible for me to take the much deserved rest.

The message reads: “There is a story making the rounds about one Lawal Olohungbebe, a community development guy. Words on the street about him are conflicting – both positive and negative. I don’t know why people are angry with his good work, but he needs to be careful. The present administration believes he is mocking their 16 years in government and that he’s a supporter of the governor-elect, Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq. Some even believe he is pushing some guys to visit rural communities to expose the present government”.

To say I was shocked reading the message above would be an understatement. It is even a painful irony when one consider that the same Lawal that is being accused of working for Abdulrahman Abdulrazak is the same person some politicians have gone to the governor-elect to malign and soil his character; calling him unprintable names. How then do one walk in life without his head shaking? Abdulrahman Abdulrazak is avoiding this young man like a plague while the present government is also seeing him as an agent of the opposition. What a world!

What exactly is the offence of Lawal Olohungbe? He is a young man who devotes his time to the service of others. Even his daily official work revolves around community growth and development. The little recognition he has garnered is largely on account of his work as a community development practitioner. I wonder how following one’s passion should result in baseless suspicion and character assassination.

If only those who are going about with the story of Lawal working for a particular politician are not too lazy to undertake a simple research; they would have discovered that politicians across political parties have at one time or the other engaged his services on one project or the other. This same apolitical Lawal has worked for Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the same way he has been engaged by Mallam Lukman Mustapha. So I wonder where the theory of working for Abdulrahman Abdulrazak is coming from.

In the process of working for people of diverse background and different political affiliations, coupled with the assistance of his boss, Professor Abdulrasheed Na’Allah; Lawal has delivered impressive projects, including 40 boreholes, with just one in his local government of origin (Ilorin West). Presently, the young man also provides free health services to approximately 6,821 people, while also taking the responsibility for the welfare of 51 orphans and vulnerable children, including 5 with special needs. He has achieved this much only through the support of those who believe in his ideas of not waiting on government for everything, and of course the abiding commitment of his staff and volunteers.

I first met Lawal Olohungbebe through a mutual friend who works with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The first time I set my eyes on him, I saw in him a young man well versed in the teachings of Islam. Lawal hardly talks without using a verse of the Quran or Hadith to illustrate his thought. Of course, this wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to those who knew who his father was.

A son of an Alfa, Lawal still keeps the legacy of his father. He delivers sermons and preaches the message of Allah and His messenger. He is both a responsible husband to his wife and a useful father to his young children. How then do people find it easy to take up the assignment of destroying a man who committed no offence other than seeking the betterment of his community and State? How is it that nothing makes sense to us except politics? Why are we so shallow in reasoning that we believe nobody would do anything unless there is political motivation somewhere?

For God sake, this young man is not even interested in politics. He has told me repeatedly that he can’t stand people insulting his father, hence the reason why he must stay away from politics. Whatever he is doing is motivated by his huge passion to complement the efforts of government in his chosen field of community development. Why then should we crucify him for this?

Sometime before the elections, we both came up with an idea of organizing an event we tagged CANDIDATES’ FORUM. But because my own brother was also aspiring to be governor on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the time, we reasoned that it was best that I worked in the background. This was largely a decision propelled by the fear of someone tagging my involvement as a stylish youth mobilization strategy in support of the aspiration of my brother. Only God knows the number of young people that have jettisoned one brilliant idea or the other owing to the fear of being branded or tagged with some useless association such as the one being done to Lawal presently. Yet, we say we are concern about youth innovation and creativity!

And what’s even the reason for the latest hate stories being thrown around about this innocent guy? He was going about his work as a community development practitioner when he encountered a man who has dedicated his entire life to teach in a rural village, leaving his own family behind in Ilorin. For the first couple of years that the man spent in the village, he slept in a classroom.

When Lawal met the man, he was impressed that someone would be so committed to helping other people’s children acquire education that he would relocate to a rural village; especially in this time when teachers in the rural areas practically live in the city. So he decided to do something to encourage the man. He mobilized resources and gifts from donors and public spirited individuals, but he delayed the presentation till after the election. He feared that making the donation before the elections may be interpreted to mean he was working to denigrate the government. Alas, what he feared is now happening.

I feel pained that this is happening to Lawal, a guy that is gradually becoming a role model to a lot of young people out there who are desirous of following in his footsteps. If for any reason we read political meanings into his efforts, we may end up unwittingly dissuading others who may want to support government efforts in advancing the growth of our state and her people.

Finally, I beseech the government and all those concern to render jobless those around them whose only means of securing a daily meal is creating fictitious stories and PHD (Pull Him Down) gossips that benefit no one but the bearers. Our state needs the talent and energy of its young people; we cannot therefore afford to shoot down the few bright stars among the youths. Lawal, to the best of my knowledge, is a young man who is well concerned about his place in history, and most particularly the preservation of the good name of his father. He is not a politician and he does not plan to be. And instead of fabricating useless conspiracy stories, I believe life would be a lot easier for those who are becoming increasingly paranoid by the rising profile of this young man, if only they would also look around them and make as little impact as they can.

As for Lawal Olohungbebe, he would keep up his community development efforts and let God vindicate him.

Abdullahi writes from Abuja

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