Responsibility: The Price of Leadership

Watching the videos of the #endsars movement brought a lot of memories. I recall several struggles, protests and Aluta that we were involved in.
I had the uncommon privilege of being the Students Union President during my undergraduate days when Sanni Abacha was the Head of State in 97/98. The late MKO Abiola was also the Chancellor of the University so those were really dark days.
I recall very fondly how the Students Representative Council named our Students Union Building after Kudirat Abiola. It was a very daring move which came from a resolution to immortalize the Amazon.
There were moves to stop us from carrying out that resolution and different threats to intimidate us but we were resolute in our bid. A day after the Resolution of the SRC, I sneaked to the campus with my Financial Secretary, DJ Korea and one other person I cannot recall now.
We were just three because we had to work surreptitiously as we were under watch by Security agents. We had to keep the information about our plan of action very tight.
We had cut the stencil for the building and in the midst of the darkness (around 1am) with only a torch to provide illumination, we painted KUDIRAT ABIOLA BUILDING on the Students Union Block.
By the time students came in the morning, that bold inscription was on the building but we went underground. I remember how I changed the place I slept every night- sometimes twice a night. We just had to be a step ahead of security agents. I led many protests during that period.
One aluta will however remain indelible in my memory. I led that struggle and the whole of Ogbomoso boiled. It was a struggle against arbitrary increase in transport fares. I had different members of my exco positioned at different designated points so as to keep a lid on things.
I knew how quickly things could escalate. At a point, I asked everyone to move back to campus. The frontage of the Students Union Building was filled with taxis we had commandeered.
Then, I got several reports. The NURTW was regrouping to attack students. We had caught them unawares. Some group of students had their own beef with some other guys in town so they were planning to take back their own pound of flesh.
We also got information that some were planning to hit some stores in town and use the protest as an opportunity to loot. Some indigenes who felt our excesses had to be curtailed had also formed a group to repel us with the active support of notable individuals.
There was also a group among students who wanted to make some political statements. Different groups had their own agenda. It then dawned on me that I would be a pawn in a chess game and there was a likelihood of the struggle being hijacked.
If there was bloodshed or loss of lives, I would be held responsible.

As I led the students back to the Main Lecture Theatre for different speeches from various actors, I thought of how to manage the situation. I discussed with a few of my exco members of a possible way out.
I could see the students were already fully mobilized to go all out. Different songs rent the air. Good judgment had taken leave. There was very little time to make a decision. I knew discretion is the hallmark of valour. I would rather keep everyone alive than score a point
Leadership is not about being popular but about being right. Like I always say, I’d rather be right than be popular.

I told my exco members to disappear one after the other. They slid into the crowd from behind me where I stood addressing the students.
By then, the shout of “lead us to town” was in the air. No one was listening to beautiful speeches again. I had only DJ Korea behind me. He refused to leave no matter how much I begged him. I wanted to carry the can and be fully responsible for the consequences of my action
I started singing, “Koolu koolu, koolu temper” and the whole crowd went silent to hear what I wanted to say. I took a deep breath and said that due to so many reports I have, it was inevitable for us to reconsider the next line of action.
I wanted everyone to be safe and therefore I declared the congress closed. I stepped out of the hall the moment I declared it closed and there was a momentary silence before I heard someone shout, “Ole, he has been settled”.
I saw hundreds of students run after DJ Korea and I as we took to our heels. Different missiles were thrown at us that day as we ran for our lives.
I ran into the Old Library and made my way through another exit. The students went all over campus looking for me and my excos. They vented their spleen on the Students Union Building. Good thing was they stayed on campus and didn’t venture into town again.
It was later we learnt of the likelihood of the loss of lives should we have ventured into town again that day. Many later realized this after tempers cooled down. I was just 22 then.
The price of leadership is responsibility. It entails taking what you believe is the best decision for the overall good of the people. Many times, you’re misunderstood. Sometimes, you make mistakes which are purely errors of judgment. You will take the flak when you do so.
A few times, you’re lucky to make the right call. You’ll take the credit then. But leadership must never fail to do something.
I salute the courage of every young person pushing for a change in this generation. Every generation has their own demons to face. May you find the strength to do what is right. For your country. And for your future.


Bayo Adeyinka
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