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Published On: Wed, Mar 19th, 2014

Lar: The shepherd boy destined for great things (II)

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Lar’s Spartan lifestyle and belief in the rights of the oppressed and the down trodden were well explained to the new cabinet as the pivot of his emancipation agenda. He was appalled by the infrastructural deficit and lack of capacity in rural areas and he made a commitment to correct that. There was melodrama in the governor’s office at Rayfield Jos when I went to congratulate him on his assumption of political power. Lar’s ADC had ordered me to fill the visitor’s form, but I insisted that he just give my complimentary card to the governor. Lar, who was watching us on the short circuit TV set in his office, came out raging and said, “Look here, ADC this man is my bosom friend. He is qualified to enter my bedroom. From now on anytime he comes here, if I am not at a meeting, you must send him in right away”.

Lar had come to judgement! That was what the elite in the state were saying after the “emancipator” had his government’s community development agenda. He set up a think tank of notable Intellectuals in and outside the state who were mandated to reappraise the government’s performance periodically. Most of the drivers of the rural development programme were the rural people themselves. It was a resounding feat he accomplished at the end of his first four years in office. He re-contested in 1963 and won a second term. But then the military struck again. General Mohammadu Buhari and Major General Tunde Idiagbon overthrew the federal government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari that was only three months in office in a bloodless pustch.

The junta clamped down on 12 of the 19 state governors over the mismanagement of security votes. Military tribunals were quickly set up to try the 12 governors; some of them were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment ranging up to 1000 years. Because of their long detention before trial, some of them died one after the other soon after their release. Ogun sate’s first civilian governor, a veteran journalist and popular columnist (Aiyekoto), Chief Olabisi Onabanjo was the first to die, followed by Edo state governor, Professor Ambrose Ali, then Alhaji Sabo Bakinzuwo of Kano state and octogenarian Chief Adekunle Ajasin of Ondo state. As for Chief Lar he took terribly ill and his health degenerated to the extent that he only survived by the amazing grace of God.

The undiminished image of Chief Lar and his political star will continue to bestride Plateau state and indeed Nigeria like a Colossus. One could only compare his sterling leadership and altruism to those of late Alhaji Yahaya Gusau, one in the e generation of Northern civil servants that were fearless, honest, firm and were advocates of responsible governance. Yahaya Gusau resigned as a Federal Commissioner in General Yakubu Gowon’s government when one of his colleagues, Mr. Joseph Sarwan. Tarka, imported-three exotic cars at a time the government had placed a total ban on luxury vehicles.

Again when he was appointed as Chairman of the Northern Nigeria Marketing Board (NNMB) a Mercedes Benz car Model 600 was bought for him as his official car. He gave the shocker of the year to the staff of the company when he was invited to see it. Alhaji Yahaya ordered that one car should be returned and the money put back in the account of the the company on the ground that he did not request for such high profile cars.

When he bounced back into politics in 1998, Chief Lar managed to do some leg work to gather notable political associates to constitute a strong pressure group known as G34 to confront the military junta. “We cannot go on like this; steps must be taken to send these soldiers back to the barracks”, he said. He took a letter on behalf of G34 to the dreaded maximum dictator General Sani Abacha in which the group said Nigerians were fed up with the soldiers. They should go back to the barracks. That was the message. Shortly after that, General Abacha died mysteriously and General Abdulsalami Abubakar took over but he hurriedly handed over power to elected General Olusegun Obasanjo in May, 1999.

The ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), elected Chief Lar as its pioneer National Chairman. However, internal squabbling crept in when in intrigue and political machinations were at play to remove Chief Lar from office while preparing for his second term. Chief Lar went on the offensive, lambasting President Obasanjo for marginalizing the party that brought him to power. He accused Obasanjo of bypassing the party’s channels of communication. In a letter dated July 19, 1999, Chief Lar alleged that instead of closer interaction with national leaders of the party, Obasanjo preferred to deal with governors, governorship candidates and state chairman of the party.

It took Obasanjo three weeks to respond to the issues raised by Lar. He said they were personal matters as “I have always consulted you”, he claimed. “Remember, you have an untainted reputation you built over many years and have a name without blemish.” Subsequently, Chief Lar resigned from PDP and opened a political office in Abuja where PDP political big wigs started to cross over to him. As a result, a peace committee was set up to bring back Lar and his followers back into the PDP fold. That was the first time there was a big crack in the ruling party.

On November 16, 1982, Chief Lar invited Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, the Owelle of Onitsha and the National Chairman of NPP to Jos to host him on the occasion of his 78th birthday. He pronounced Zik as a “hero and eventful man”. He said Zik was able to foresee the gathering storm that threatened to tear down the fabric of the Nigerian nation. He said he trusted that Zik would continue to be a beacon of hope and inspiration to Nigerians.

The last public appearance of Chief Lar was sometime in September, 2013 this when he and Professor Jerry Gana led a delegation of Middle Belt elders to President Goodluck Jonathan to protest the nonpayment of compensation for churches and houses were burnt during the April 2011 post-election in April 2011. Before his body was committed to the mother earth, President Jonathan paid glowing tribute to Lar who he said went into politics not to make money but to serve his people and emancipate them. Professor Mary Lar, his widow, said that before the demise of her husband, he held her hand and gave messages to Nigerians, Tarok community, Plateau people and the PDP, to remain united. Concluded

Stephen O. Bamigbele retired from New Nigerian as Associate Edito

 

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