By Okey Mark
It hurts. Yes, when one shares the pains and agony foisted on one by another especially when the predator is presumed to be a big brother and held in high esteem. It hurts. Yes, too when the prey keeps the ill feelings away from the predator for so long only to break silence at a most dangerous auspicious time.
I was invited to Port Harcourt, by a former President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents(ANLCA) for a personality interview, arising from the pockets of crises the association got drenched in then. I took off from Lagos as scheduled to alert him of my arrival in PH for the engagement. On arrival, his phones were switched off. Two days after I had checked into a hotel, I got him only to be told without any sign of remorse that, “ I have been sick. I will call you later” and the phone died again. At the risk of being labeled insensitive, I opted to call him two days later with intense emotion and frustration after a series of text messages to ascertain his state of health and a reminder that I was still in PH. He replied no text and never took any call, as the phone buzzed. After one week of a hopeless wait for Godot(A President that never came), I called Prince Olayiwola Shittu, who was based in PH too. On a dial of his number, he roared my name from his end.
“Are you in town?” He asked.
“Yes. I have been here for a week now” I said, feeling relieved.
“And you just dey call now? It means you have a place you are staying?” he wanted to be sure.
“ I have been in hotel here,” I explained.
“Old boy save your money and pack your things and come to our base now. I told you guys to always come here when you are in town.” Shittu said.
A sigh of relief at this point brought me back to senses.
I moved over later but could not help sharing my disappointment for a trip well discussed before I took off. The President never called even after my return to Lagos. This was to have deep hold on my relationship with people in this profession. This man and his ilk keep seeking elective offices endlessly to lead people at the national and association levels. I share the same ethnic base with him before one concludes that he hates my tribe.
Prince Olayiwola Shittu is an antithesis of this character. This singular act of his penetrated me so much. Though we had been good friends long before the incident, it only endeared him more to me and I took interest in his person. I was submerged in his cause to emerge the President of ANLCA years after that I reached out to Igbo maritime professionals capable of voting for him unsolicited. Using a point man in Brawal ANLCA, we held meetings and got canvassers. I had to cut short my trip in China back to Nigeria two days before the election in Concord Hotel, Owerri, Imo State. I was glad I was there and witnessed the election. This is the power of impression and good heart.
Shittu is of Yoruba ethnic extraction but multi-ethnic centric in attraction and attention. He lived and learnt his business streaks in Warri and PortHarcourt. He understands the power of relationships. Like Olusegun Obasanjo, he lost the votes of his kings men to emerge President in his first tenure.
Convinced of his capabilities, I recall doing a piece on him, titled-The Coming Of An Obama In ANLCA. This raised envy in quarters as it was in a build up to the election. He came and I am glad he proved me right with legacies.
Every man has his hubris and Shittu is not immune to this. What defines a man is the preponderance of either good or bad in one. So, we may not all see him from the same lens. But he is a good man! His contributions to the maritime industry from his days in Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA) and rising from chapter and zonal as well as national executive member of his association over the years, are remarkable. His is an eloquent voice in professionalism. He is always ready to assist friends.
As he turns 70 years as a Libra this October 15th 2020, we pray for long life and in good health to help push the dream of reforms in the maritime industry true.