By Oluwasegun Abifarin
Some three and half decades ago, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim and his tribe of activists in their teens and early twenties bestrode Nigeria’s political landscape like giants that they are.
Those were the days of Military rule, and the radical students leaders, the radical Bar and intelligentsia were the main opposition against the military government.
Students leaders like Gbenga in that era, had such influence that they could shut the country down for weeks and leave the miltary leaders with the only option of pleading for dialogue after series of repressive actions to crush protests would have failed to deter the activists.
Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim was an international celebrity in those days such that international broadcasters from BBC, VoA hunted for news about him in an era when there was no Internet and cable news.
When he was detained Under Decree 2, stories had it that representatives of the military made him offers including offer of a pathway to a foreign service career in exchange for support after his release which he declined.
He was one of Africa’s delegates to the 13th Festival of Youth and Students in North Korea in July 1989, and participated in the international solidarity March to cross the Demarcation line in the border of South and North Korea in the company of Rim Su young, the South Korean Student activist dubbed the flower of Unification.
In 1989, when Gbenga was detained in Nigeria after declining the offer of possibility of asylum in two European countries, he was named Prisoner of Conscience just four years after the legendary Nelson Mandela was so named by Amnesty International.
He was guests in those days of Presdents of different countries, foreign ministers and Ambassadors.
Last week the businessman announced his intention to formally declare for the 2023 Presidential election on the platform of the APC.
Since his activist days three decades plus years ago, Olawepo-Hashim has done many things in business unlike his peers who stay in the traditional comfort zones of running NGOs, media organisations and working in the universities.
On his part, he went into mainstream business in 1991 spanning public affairs management consultancy and political communications.
His company, Set and Sell Communication ran the local government election campaign for CNC in 1997, picked up important clients such as Nigeria World Bank National Water Rehabilitation Project, Petroleum TrustvFund (PTF), Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, M-tel, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, Oasis Mortgage Bank etc etc.
Over the years, he diversified into Construction, Oil and Gas, Power generation and made useful business intervention globally including in countries such as Gabon, United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirate, Chek Republic, Slovakia etc,etc.
Like Cyril Ramaphosa President of South Africa, Olawepo-Hashim transformed seamlessly from activism to business, he did perhaps earlier than Ramaphosa.
As one of the earlier political leaders after the military departed in 1999, he was Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the Ruling party and Chairman of the party’s Group of 54 NEC members which he formed.
He resigned from the PDP in 2006 after a lot of disagreements over matters of Party internal democracy.
He is in his 50’s .He holds a Master’s in Global Affairs from University of Buckingham in United Kingdom where he was best student in his cohort.
He received the Lord Max Berorf Prize for Global Affairs .
He has a certificate in International Petroleum Management from International Human Resource Development Centre in Boston Massacheuesete.
He had his first degree from the University of Lagos in 1990.
Olawepo-Hashim is strong on Economic issues, National Security and National integration which he has spoken widely on in the past four years.
He has core competences theoretically and practically apart from doing business across many international jurisdictions he did core courses in International Finance ,International Economics and Global Security.
He has lived in three continents , well travelled and globally connected. He is a long standing anti-corruption campaigner.
The question is: Will he like Ramaphosa, be the activist-businessman turned President?
Nigerians and time will tell.
*Abifarin, an award winning journalist and former Editor of The Week Magazine, writes from Lagos