The stage was set. Gaily dressed and resplendent-looking guests who came from far and near sat in excitement, throwing banters.
The event got underway with introduction of some of the dignitaries. Many others were finding their way into the expansive Eko Hotel Convention Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, venue of the ceremony.
Then, there was an announcement that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the birthday boy, hosting everyone, had a message.
What followed was pin-drop silence. And then came the bombshell.
Tinubu announced that the colloquium to mark his 70th birthday would no longer hold because of the terrorist attack on an Abuja-Kaduna train in which eight people died, 29 injured and many abducted.
The former Lagos State governor said: “Today is supposed to be a very joyful 70th birthday of my living on earth. I give thanks to God Almighty for being able to survive to this age.
“I have just been informed of a very sad incident in our country, very sad indeed that over 60 people and many more were killed and bombed on a train between Kaduna and Abuja just last night.
“That is a very serious incident about the security of lives in this country and it calls for a very serious sober reflection.
“For me to be here celebrating, dancing and enjoying myself doesn’t show enough concern of a statesman and a senior citizen of this country.
“I urge the clergies here to continue to pray and everyone of you to go home and pray.
“This event should not be holding. I’ve discussed with eminent personalities on ground and they have agreed with me. I’ve been a highly committed democrat; I have given myself to their suggestion that this event should be cancelled.
“We pray for the souls who have departed prematurely that they find rest. We also pray to almighty God to help us win the war over evil, set Nigeria on the right path, bless us and provide His guidance on all of us in our various ways.
“I want us to observe a one minute silence on this national tragedy. May God almighty bring peace and stability to our country, accept the souls of the departed and give succour and healing to the injured.”
Before the cancellation of the programme, the 13th edition with the theme: ‘Pivoting Nigeria into the new world order: Imperatives of good governance, guest lecturer, Prof. Olufemi Bamiro, former Vice Chancellor of University of Ibadan, and panel discussants were seated.
Apart from the host Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, dignitaries, including Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, Osun State Governor Gboyega Oyetola, Osun State Deputy Govenor Benedict Alabi, the representative Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Andrew Adejo, APC National Secretary Senator Iyiola Omisore, Chief Bisi Akande, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, the Osemawe of Ondo, Oba Victor Kiladejo, the Deji of Akure, Oba Adelusi Aladetoyinbo and Olugbo of Ugboland, Oba Fredrick Akinruntan, and Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, had taken their seats.
Also at the event were Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun, wife of Lagos State Governor Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, Senator Abu Ibrahim, former Niger State Deputy Governor Musa Ibeto, Senator Kashim Shettima, T.A. Gwazo, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, business mogul Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Mr. Femi Otedola,Senator Tokunbo Abiru and the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi.
Tinubu arrived at 2.42pm amid cheers by guests who rose up to welcome him.
Two clerics – Sheihk Suleimon Abou-Nolla, Chief Imam of Lagos and Bidhop Stephens Adegbite, Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lagos State chapter – rendered their opening prayers.
Rev. Adegbite, who brought felicitations from the CAN president and Southwest chairman, prayed for robust health and long life for the APC stalwart.
Eulogising Tinubu, the priest recalled his giants strides as governor for eight years, adding that he is a kind and generous giver, who the nation can depend on for leadership.
However, few minutes after, Tinubu, accompanied by Ganduje, Sanwo-Olu and former Ogun State Governor Segun Osoba, went to the podium to announce the cancellation of the programme.
Many dignitaries hailed Tinubu for his sensitivity and passion for the welfare of other Nigerians, noting that he is a good and compassionate leaders.
Deputy Governor Hamzat said Tinubu had demonstrated the traits of a humanist and leaders who shares the feelings of others.
He said: “This one is supposed to be the 13th edition of his birthday colloquium, but he said we should look at what has happened yesterday where some people bombed a train which has resulted in the deaths of our people. The Vice President (Prof Yemi Osinbajo) had already landed in Lagos, but he had to go back.
“Asiwaju decided that we should not have the celebration anymore so as to let Nigerians know that what has happened is an unfortunate incident and may God not let us experience such anymore. God should help take the devil out of the country because, of what use is killing ourselves. They killed people going to their various work places; they have turned children to orphans.
“What happened was a tragic event and Asiwaju said there is no need for us to celebrate this elaborately. It is good that we cancel it and we pray for the soul of the departed which I think everybody in the audience agreed as you can see that people clapped and they appreciated that thinking that we commiserate with Nigerians. Imagine innocent people going for their livelihood just met with this type of death, may the soul of the departed rest in peace.”
In another statement, the one-time governor urged those celebrating his birthday elsewhere to stop, asking them to team up with him in donating to victims of the attack.
Hamzat added: “Asiwaju Tinubu’s action is a sign of unity amongst Nigerians from the top to down. All Nigerians, we have the same land; different languages don’t matter. The fact that somebody is an Hausa man or a Yoruba man is not by his own making, it’s the making of almighty God.
Former Lagos State Deputy Governor Dr Oluranti Adebule hailed Tinubu for living up to expectation.
She said: “When we are talking about him being a good leader, being a visionary, being a giver, a compassionate person, this is a typical example. He has demonstrated what everybody has been saying about him that he is a very compassionate man.
“Look at the amount of money they must have spent putting this occasion together, but for the love he has for the people of this country, he cancelled his own special day; that indeed, is a demonstration of kindness; it is a demonstration of compassion, a demonstration of a man that will do anything to assist and support the goals of Nigerians.
“My condolences to the families that are affected in this tragedy and I pray that Almighty Allah will have compassion on their souls and of course comfort the families and the immediate members of the departed.”
Hakeem Bamgbola, member of the Lagos State Local Government Service Commission said: “It takes a man like Asiwaju Tinubu who has human feelings to cancel such a very big event, to sympathise with those who lost their lives in the bombing of the train.
The l eader of Nupe Community in Ifako-Ijaiye and Ojokoro, Muhammad Abubakar, said Tinubu has shown leadership and demonstrated emphaty.
Former Lagos State Commissioner for Transport Dr. Kayode Opeifa described him as a caring and sympathetic leader, who is genuinely concerned about the poor and needy.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Mrs Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire described the attack as unfortunate.
She said:”It is very sad that some people that left their houses for their normal activities only to meet their death. It is unacceptable.
At the event were Chief Judge of Lagis State Kazeem Alogba, Minister of State for Health Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, Ambassador to Spain Demola Seriki, Senator Magnus Abe, Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker Mudashiru Obasa, his deputy, Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni, former Deputy Governors Olufemi Pedro, Oluranti Adebule and Tawa Orelope- Adefulire, Hajia Amina Ibrahim, Senators Musiliu Obanikoro, Ajibola Basiru, Solomon Adeola, and Fatai Buhari; Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Lagos State Head of Service Hakeem Muri Okunola, Chief of Staff Tayo Ayinde, Moruf Akinderu Fatai, Ayangburen of Ikorodu Oba Kabiru Shotobi, Ojora of Ijora-Iganmu, Oba Fatai Aromire, Oniru of Iruland, Oba Gbolahan Lawal, Olumide Ojerinde, Seye Oladejo, Ayodele Adewale, and House of Representatives members-Jide Jimoh, Samuel Adejare, Rotimi Agunsoye, Kolawole Taiwo, Wale Raji, Adeyemi Alli, James Faleke and Kayode Akinolu.
Governance Advisory Council (GAC) members at the ceremony included Prince Oluyole Olusi, Prince Abiodun Ogunleye, Asiwaju Olorunfunmi Basorun, Asipa Kaoli Olusanya, Senator Tony Adefuye, Cardinal James Odunmbaku, Otunba Dele Ajomale, Omoba Muyiwa Sosanya, Chief Rabiu Oluwa, Chief Mutiu Are, Senator Tony Adefuye, Olawale Edun, and Alhaji Tunde Balogun.
Others included Prof. Ropo Sekoni, Prof. Adebayo Williams, Yeyeoge of Lagos Mrs Opral Benson, Senator Soji Akanbi, Mrs. Gladys Ndubuisi Kanu, Joe Igbokwe, Mrs. Kafilat Ogbara, Mrs. Kemi Nelson, Mrs. Kehinde Babalola, Hakeem Bamgbola, Abiodun Mafe, Lateef Ibirogba, Hon. Labinjo, Chief Sunny Ajose, Justice Ayisat Opesanwo. From the entertainment industry came Jide Kosoko, Adebayo Oga Bello, Mrs Idowu Philip, Mama Awero, Yinka Quadri and Taiwo Hassan Ogogo.
Credit: The Nation