Tuesday, 26 April 2016
Braithwaite, a revolutionary thinker, crusader
By Ben Obi
We have lost again, a progressive, a detribalised Nigerian, bold and courageous, an eminent Nigeria who was always at the forefront of entrenching democratic ethos, fundamental human rights, zero tolerance to corruption, and above all, he lived an exemplary life worthy of emulation. He was a revolutionary thinker, teacher and crusader, the light that fears no darkness.
Dr. Tunji Braithwaite totally believed in the ability of the youths, hence, for the first time in the history of our nation, he led and championed the first revolutionary party in Nigeria which brought the Nigerian youths into participatory politics, the Nigeria Advance Party (NAP), through its symbol, sought to entrust the future of the Nigerian youths into their hands.
In forming the Nigeria Advance Party (NAP), he brought on board a few tested and trusted friends, like Dr. Ayo Ojajune, Dr. Muyiwa Oladimeji, Comrade Mallam Sanni, and Chief Ben Obi, CON. Ayo was the director of ideology, Muyiwa was director of organisation, Comrade Sanni was Acting National Secretary, and my humble self was National Publicity Secretary. We had the slogan: Eliminating cockroaches, rats and mosquitoes, which was a philosophical way of saying; Eliminating bribery, corruption, poverty, ignorance and disease in our decadent society.
I could remember vividly, since I was particularly close to him, that I attended all meetings with him, such as meetings with the then President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, GCFR, in company of some then National Party of Nigeria (NPN) faithful and leaders, like Alhaji Umaru Dikko the then Minister of Transport and Alhaji Ali Baba who was Minister of Interior Affairs.
We also had a meeting with the then Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, and his deputy Brig. Gen. Tunde Idiagbon on January 12, 1984. This was coming at a time when most politicians were so scared of the duo of Gen. Buhari and his deputy Brig.Gen. Idiagbon. We also had meeting with President Ibrahim Babangida GCFR, as well as Gen. Aliyu Muhammed Gusau who was Director General Nigeria Security Organisation (NSO), and his message to all of them at these meetings, was to eliminate corruption and bring about transparent, focused and dynamic leadership that will better and improve the lot of the Nigerian people.
He had a very rich Christian life, and was very instrumental in integrating Christians into politics, he was instrumental to the formation of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), and had a good rapport with highly anointed men of God in Nigeria. He influenced the formation of PFN. He and I started by going to the renowned tele-evangelist, the late Arch. Bishop Benson Idahosa of the Church of God Mission, where we spent two nights in his GRA Benin Residence to mobilise Pentecostal churches into participatory politics by having a body or platform, which was later to be called Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. On our return to Lagos, we continued on our mission, by visiting the late Pastor Adeboyejo, founder of Foursquare Gospel Church, Pastor E.A. Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Bishop Mike Okonkwo of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), Pastor Tunde Joda of the Christ Chapel International Churches (CCIC), Pastor W.F. Kumuyi of the Deeper Christian Life Church, and a host of others – all in a bid to integrate Christians into participatory politics, which was hitherto like a taboo in the Christendom.
He was a colourful and glamorous politician with style. He was something special, a combination of talents, with incredible knowledge of the constitution and the law, and a passion for making the country and politics better.
As a lawyer, he conquered the legal world, in his astuteness, he demonstrated vast and accurate knowledge of the law; using it to liberate the oppressed, defend the defenceless, even in the face of the fiercest opposition from the then ruling military junta, he not only remained resolute, but also stood firm and firmly defended all, including defending Chief Obafemi Awolowo when he was charged for treason.
Having the credit of bringing onboard and registering Julius Berger, the biggest construction company in Nigeria (he became their first legal adviser as well as holding the legal retainerships of over 20 multinationals including foreign missions and embassies) testifies to the fact that he was a lawyer of great repute.
When I ponder over the demise of this great Nigerian, his rare qualities, I have no doubt that he has sacrificed and given his best to this nation; his wise counsel will be greatly missed. No doubt, the legacies he left behind will be transmitted from generation to generation. Although there will never be another Tunji Braithwaite, let’s hope there are many more like him.
I condole with the entire family on the demise of their beloved husband, a great leader and teacher. At this moment of immense grief, it is my prayer that God Almighty grants them much grace and fortitude as possible to bear this regrettable loss. Prayerful best wishes.
*Senator Obi wrote the piece to commiserate with Dr. (Mrs) Grace Braithwaite.
The article first appeared on The Guardian.