Five years after an accidental gunshot almost terminated his life in 2018, Senate Leader and Chairman, Southern Senators Forum, Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele will graciously enter into a diamond league tomorrow, Babatola Michael writes.

Precisely, on June 1, 2018, I received an emergency call from the immediate past Commissioner for Housing in Lagos State and a two-term member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Moruf Akinderu-Fatai. I thought it was one of the usual phone calls to discuss and evaluate the country’s political dynamics at a time political parties were preparing for their primaries at both national and state levels.

But with a quivering voice that portended untold misery, Akinderu-Fatai simply said: “Leader has been shot, and we cannot precisely ascertain his condition. But we leave him in the hands of God Almighty.” He was visibly feeling uneasy, intuitively reflecting on his affinity with the leader and what they had suffered together in their collective exploits to deepen and promote progressive politics not just in Ekiti and Lagos, but also in Nigeria at large.

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Midway into our conversation, I exclaimed: “Oh, God! What happened? How did it happen? Where was he shot?” He soberly replied: “I told him not to go to Ekiti for now. But he did not listen to me. See what happened now?” Obviously devastated and troubled, Akinderu-Fatai could not entertain further questions before he abruptly ended the conversation.

Anxious to get more details about what happened and how it happened, I called my contacts at different levels, but their lines were practically engaged. I eventually turned to the websites of the foremost digital news platforms, curiously searching for news updates about Ekiti’s gun violence.

Sadly enough, most of the digital platforms did not update their websites until 45 minutes later. Our inability to get updates immediately enabled our faith to seek divine intervention. Honestly, the waiting period was at best a moment of impending doom because nobody could ascertain whether he would survive the gunshot that ripped his stomach open.

At this point, we were just trusting God for divine intervention, eternally hopeful and fervently interceding with glimpses of faithlessness flipping through our hearts at regular intervals. Amid this seeming uncertainty, Akinderu-Fatai’s call came in again. This time, he provided more details about how it all happened, where it happened and our leader’s grave conditions despite intensive medical response.

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He narrated how the then Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi stood by him at the Ekiti State Teaching Hospital. He also recounted how President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, then the National Leader of All Progressives Congress, facilitated the deployment of an air ambulance that eventually conveyed him from the Ekiti State Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti to a private multi-specialist medical facility in Victoria Island, Lagos State.

That perhaps was the gravest episode in the life and times of the Senate Leader and Chairman of the Southern Senators Forum, Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele. Then, we thought he might not witness every second that flipped through. By providence, however, he will graciously turn 60 on Saturday, July 29, 2023. Glory and honour to God Almighty who averted the tragedy that almost cut short his life.

Bamidele, fondly called Leader among his political allies in Ekiti and Lagos, is today a living legend given the diverse atrocious travails he had survived on his political foray. From 1993 when he emerged as the leader of the Nigerian students to 2023 when he became the Senate Leader, Bamidele has always been a victim of political travails that later placed him in the council of decision-makers at a higher level than he ever bargained for.

The fiercest of such travails was the bullets that ripped through his stomach in Ado Ekiti on June 1, 2018. Why was he in Ekiti at a time he was gradually coming out of the cloud of the 2014 politics that cost Fayemi re-election? This question might sound illogical, even unreasonable to those who are conversant with the origin and politics of Bamidele for reasons that are not far-flung.

At first, Bamidele is an illustrious son of Iyin Ekiti, a purely ancient agrarian settlement coterminous to Ado Ekiti and located in Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government Area. By implication, Bamidele is always at home anywhere on the soil of Ekiti. Besides, he is a political actor passionate about the state’s socio-economic development. He demonstrated this passion in 2010 when he officially quit the allure of Lagos politics to the uncertainty of Ekiti politics.

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Lastly, Bamidele’s heart of benevolence towards his immediate and remote constituents is unparalleled not just in the history of Ekiti State, but also Nigeria at large. Unlike other political actors whose acts of humanitarianism are tied to the political payoff they are pursuing, lending strategic support to the people of Ekiti is just naturally a part of Bamidele’s life.

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From the jobless he has empowered to the widows he regularly wipes off their tears, the indigent he has given boundless hope and the communities he has saved from the impending crisis of water-borne diseases, Bamidele is, no doubt, not in politics for himself, but for his Ekiti people and beyond.

With this context, the need to forestall the scenario that culminated in the defeat of APC in 2014 compelled Fayemi to seek reconciliation with Bamidele, a formidable political figure whose public acceptability is not limited to his primary constituency, but crisscrosses the political geography of Ekiti.

Given this consideration, the state’s former governor and the immediate past Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo convened a private peace meeting between Bamidele and Fayemi. Fayemi’s wife, also, played a central role in the process of reconciling her husband and Bamidele, one of her agelong comrades right from their days in student activism.

At the peace meeting, Adebayo appealed to Bamidele to put aside what happened in 2014 in order to avoid another electoral defeat in 2018. He also appealed to Bamidele to support Fayemi’s aspiration to return as the governor of the state in 2018. This came first with an assurance that Fayemi would support Bamidele’s governorship aspiration in 2022 and also a promise to support him to garner a senatorial nomination for Ekiti Central.

To demonstrate his commitment to the peace agreement, Bamidele attended a reception, which Ekiti APC then put together to celebrate Fayemi’s active return to Ekiti politics. It was at this reception that accidental bullets hit Bamidele. It was a huge sacrifice he had to pay not to secure his personal political interest, but to work in tandem with other progressives to reclaim Ekiti from the claws of the ruling conservatives who never nurtured Ekiti to truly be the land of honour it was created to be.

In truth, Bamidele paid a supreme sacrifice for Fayemi’s re-election in 2018. He equally fulfilled his part of the peace accord that Otunba Adeniyi brokered before the 2018 election. Did other parties fulfil their part of the agreement? Why did they not commit themselves to this accord? The time is not yet ripe to dwell on these questions.

Fairly enough, however, they accorded Bamidele unprecedented moral support while he was undergoing surgical procedures in a London hospital for almost six months. They, also, supported Bamidele’s aspiration to clinch the senatorial nomination for Ekiti Central in 2015 even when the APC resolved to return all senators unopposed.

But they denied him much-needed support to fairly and freely pursue his governorship aspiration in 2022. Rather, they agreed to field the then Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Biodun Oyebanji, a dependable political godson of Otunba Adebayo and who was also privy to the peace agreement that his political godfather brokered in 2018. They even threatened to deny his return ticket to contest the 2023 senatorial election. The rest, they say, has now become history

But Bamidele has now emerged stronger, even more valiant, from the brutality of an accidental gunshot that almost terminated his life and the agony of political treachery that denied him his constitutionally guaranteed to contest the 2022 election. Put differently, God rescued him from the graveside and placed him in the realm of national glory.

Tomorrow, he will graciously enter into the league of diamond champions, a special age that holds spiritual significance and ushers him into the new status of the Senate Leader. At 60, as shown in Genesis 25:26, God brought great deliverance to Isaac and his wife conceived and delivered two great nations, whose influence still shapes global affairs till date. At 60, as revealed in Leviticus 27: 1-7, God directed the Hebrews to redeem themselves from a vow of serving the Lord by paying 15 shekels to the temple.

As these verses have espoused, 60 is obviously an age of great deliverance. It is equally an age of recommitment to God’s service. That is exactly what God has done for Bamidele, an unlucky lucky gentleman who unknowingly ran into death, but valiantly overcame only in the strength of His Maker.

At different times, he was a victim of accidental tragedy and political treachery. Yet, God the Creator of Heaven and Earth spared his life, even lifted him higher than what his political rivals ever desired. The greatest glory in living, therefore, as Nelson Mandela once said, lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

Happy Diamond Jubilee, the Senate Leader!!!

Michael, a peace research specialist, writes from Lagos