Back to my roots…

Penultimate Friday, I went back to my roots – Owo in Ondo State. Mission was to give Madam Felicia Aboyinbogun – Iye Bimbo (Bimbo’s mother) – a befitting burial. And, truly, the burial was glorious! Just like Madam Aboyinbogun was my mother’s very close friend, Bimbo and I have been childhood friends. As they say, I walked into Owo on my head and not with my legs; meaning, I was born and bred there by Owo parents.

I left Owo for the first time in mid-1976, two years after passing out of Owo High School (OHS) in 1974 with Division Two. My first port of call was Ede, then in Oyo state but now Osun, to live with my elder sister whose husband, Mr. Olusola Omiyale from Igbajo, was a teacher at Baptist High School, Ede. My in-law registered me at the Labour Office on Fagbewesa Street, Osogbo and the first job they got for me was that of a Laboratory Attendant at Osogbo Grammar School. I rejected the offer. I never was a Science person. Next, I got the job of an Auxiliary teacher in the same school, which I accepted, and I taught English and Literature in Forms 1 and 2.

At OsoGrams, I was known as “Mr. Jeans” because of my penchant for jeans and high-heeled shoes called “Platform” in those days. I left Osogbo for Ilesa Grammar School (where friends called me “Odaju” – the Audacious One) for my “A” Level in February 1978 and passed the first-ever JAMB, getting admitted into the then University of Ife same year. While in the university, I spent my holiday regularly at Owo; usually together with Bimbo, who also attended Ife, and on occasions with another classmate, Olanrewaju Adepoju (Larecso) at Ipele, a few kilometres from Owo, where my mother hailed from.

At OHS, Laresco and I (Black Avenger) together with Victor Akinlose (Vicky Moro), Akintayo Akintewe and Monday Adodo formed the dreaded “Danger Five”. My father died in 1996 and my mother followed 10 years later. Since then, my visits to Owo have petered out. But thanks to technology: I have managed to keep in touch with Owo through the social club to which I belong – the Krown Klub, Owo. We have a platform where we interact and occasional visits to Owo, such as that of penultimate Friday, have ensured that I am not totally cut off from my roots.

Penultimate Friday, I found that Owo has changed in, interestingly, two opposite directions. I had to fall back on residual knowledge to pick out places and locate where I was going. On the negative side, most, if not all, of the magnificent buildings of yore have become a shadow of their old selves. Other more magnificent buildings have taken the shine off them. This is a lesson! There is no opulence you display today that others coming behind will not surpass. Whatever you build today, better buildings are coming to overshadow it.

Everywhere also displayed signs of the harsh economic downturn that wallops the country. For sure, our fathers were wealthier than us in real terms. They lived a better life and prospered earlier. They recorded outstanding achievements at a relatively younger age than ours. Keeping aloft their legacies has been difficult for coming generations.

Rural-urban migration has left telling effects on Owo. Many like me have relocated to the cities and our places and positions left vacant are being sorely felt. If you have read Walter Rodney’s “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, then, you will understand how the relocation of able-bodied young people from one location impoverishes that location while prospering their new-found homes.

Another reason advanced for the parlous state of our localities is the weakening of family ties brought about by new-found individualism. Rather than converge on the ancestral home as was the case in the past, the new elite prefer their own buildings in the GRAs, fenced round with barbed wires and made inaccessible to unwanted family members. The ancestral home, which once belonged to everyone, is this way left forlorn and abandoned.

But Owo has also witnessed some development! New houses, more hotels, a university, a dual carriage-way that runs through the town and many more were evidence Owo has not been left behind in the scheme of things. Laresco took me round some of the on-going road projects. His summation was that Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu (aka Aketi) has performed. And I remember that Yemi Olowolabi, the then Ondo State Commissioner for Information, had told me a few years back that no government in Ondo State since the return to civil rule in 1999 accomplished a fraction of what Aketi did in just one year in office.

Partisanship apart, Yemi should know. He was Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Olusegun Agagu, now late. But Akeredolu suffers two vices: One is that he is a good governor but not so good a politician, to borrow the words of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu while describing the erstwhile Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State. Ondo politicians are grumbling that Akeredolu is not putting money in their pockets. Truth be told, Akeredolu must find a way to do that without compromising good governance. It is a tight rope politicians must learn to walk without falling.

The story is told of a governor in one of the South-west states who went head-hunting to get competent hands for his government. Among those invited was an “Americana” who came and started building roads, hospitals, bridges and providing water in his local government, intent on turning it to New York overnight! When the time came for second term, his constituents rejected him! They complained that he did not put money in their pockets. Our “Americana” hurried back to the US flabbergasted! Again, good performer but not so good a politician!

Akeredolu’s second virus is that he shies away from publicity. He works but does not advertise his work. People around him say they are tired of trying to let him see reason. They say he insists his performance will speak for him! Amen! Until Anita Ward of the “Ring My Bell” fame took hold of the bell and rang it herself, no one rang her bell for her!

Penultimate Friday also, my seniors at OHS, the third set that, in 1969,  passed out of the school described by one of them, Pastor Jube Olawale, as Nigeria’s own Eton (for that was the founder’s goal and ideal for OHS), celebrated their golden jubilee on the school premises. They had refurbished a whole block of classrooms. The president, Dr. Bode Ogunleye aka Adinqua, also reeled out scholarship and prize-giving initiatives the set as a group and as individuals have initiated. The digital centre donated by another old student, Foluso Falaye, sits majestically within the premises.

Giving back is the name of the game. The river that forgets its source will dry up. I never met them in school (I was admitted in 1970) but I remember hearing some of their names and aliases from our seniors, such as Titi-kaka; Bobo-Bobo. I met them life-and-direct penultimate Friday. Some of the old students (and their spouses) at the event were Tunde Fadayomi, Ajayi “Samuel Crowther” Ijadimibola, Bobola Owoputi (Bobo-Bobo), Pastor and Mrs. Kunle Saliu, Engr. Gani Lagundoye (Titi-Kaka) and his wife, Alhaji Nafiu Kayode Muhammed Apaokagi (and his wife), Comfort Femi Aiyetigbo (nee Lasekan) who was described as “Mother of the set”, Revd. Adebayo Gabriel Adesina (represented by the wife), Olori Olasinbo Famakinwa (one of the set’s moving spirits), Pastor Olorunjube Olawale and his wife, Alhaji (Chief) Owolabi Olufemi, Phillip Ojo, and Kola Adekagun. Also in attendance was president of OHS Old Students’ Association, Revd. Canon Bayode Oladimeji.

The school was adequately represented by students and teachers ably led by the principal, Mr. Bola Obameso. Interestingly, Bola is the kid brother of my bosom friend, Olajura Obameso (Barbarossa), who has retired from the Army. The cultural display, especially the Owo songs, rendered by the students made my head to swell. May our culture not go into extinction the way we are going!

The 1969 set eulogised our founder and principal, Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin (now late), who later became governor of old Ondo state. We sang his favourite hymn – SOP Hymn Number 515: “He who will valiant be…” and held two minutes’ silence in his memory and honour, as well as in those of his wife, Babafunke, and members of the 1969 set who are deceased, some of whose names were mentioned. The set was to later pay a courtesy call on the new Olowo, himself an old student, and on the traditional prime minister of Owo, High Chief Ojumu.

My own set of 1974 had better started preparations for our own golden jubilee!

What a stressful but memorable weekend! The bad state of the inter-state roads nearly ruined it all. And to think these were the same roads the Minister of Works, Babatunde Raji Fashola, swore were “Not that bad”! Not only were they that bad, they were, indeed, death-traps!


Between Secondus and Modu Sheriff…

Recent events must have PDP leaders thinking which of Ali Modu Sherriff (aka PDP’s undertaker), and the incumbent, Uche Secondus (aka “Se ko dun”: Cook PDP well and let it taste well in APC’s mouth), is more of a pain in the arse. Exchanging one for the other, has PDP not jumped from frying pan into fire?

Ex-Gov. Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State and sitting Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers reportedly brought Sherriff. They had thought Sheriff’s touted deep pockets and vast connections, especially his insider-knowledge of the ruling APC, would help in the battle to outwit APC and return PDP to power. But shrewd Sheriff had his own game-plan!

PDP leaders thought they had a mule in Sheriff but the ex-governor of Borno was a tiger. You may ride it – but only if you would never disembark. When Sheriff showed his hands and PDP wouldn’t agree, come and see battle! As they say, “e wa wo’ja ni Lafiaji”! PDP climbed down by fire by force but Sheriff the Shylock had his pound of flesh.

Having led the battle to dislodge Sheriff, interim chairman and Kaduna ex-governor Ahmed Makarfi wanted the plum job. Many thought it should go to the South-west instead to balance the party’s zoning formula. Titans from the South-west who showed interest included Chief Olabode George and Prof. Tunde Adeniran. Wike and Fayose, however, decided otherwise. Overnight, the party chairmanship was gifted the South-South. Enter Uche Secondus!

The game-plan was for Gov. Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto and Fayose to get the PDP flag and running-mate slots respectively but ex-VP Atiku Abubakar turned the table by winning the PDP ticket. While the losers were still sulking, Atiku rubbed salt in their injury by choosing Peter Obi as running mate. So did the South-west lose on both ends!

Wike and Fayose railroaded Secondus into office but no sooner than Atiku bagged the ticket than Secondus shifted base. He cross-carpeted and became like Atiku’s follow-come; even saying Atiku could single-handedly chose his running mate. Obi was not the consummate politician that his South-east base favoured for the high office of vice president. And with the South-West wounded, it was a half-fit PDP that went into the 2019 presidential election. Massive rigging apart, PDP played like a not-fully-fit striker in an el classico. The rest, as they say, is history.

With that and the losses suffered by PDP in the just-concluded Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections, it is debatable who, between Sheriff and Secondus, has wounded PDP more. While the struggle to offload Sheriff lasted, PDP suffered avoidable loses in Edo and Ondo states.

More importantly, however, PDP hardly displays an understanding of the mechanisms of political parties. Conversely, APC behaves more like a political party. Unlike PDP which behaves as if bereft of party ideology, APC on the other hand sticks together, even if their ideology is backward, reactionary, anti-people, anti-progress, ultra-conservative and anachronistic. PDP appears more as a group of individualistic power-mongers and office-seekers. “My country, right or wrong!” cried Carl Schurz (1872), but for PDP, it is “I and I alone”! Little wonder, then, that one of their leaders told me that politics is a game of self-interest!

But King Sunny Ade had warned in one of his songs: “A f’emi, a f’emi l’Oba akoko so to fi ku/Beeni af’Olorun af’eniyan, af’eniyan af’Olorun Oba.”