By Tunde Odesola
(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, February 19, 2018)
Good morning, Asiwaju omo Oduduwa. I’m sure a letter from an unknown fledgling like me is the least of your expectations in your celestial abode. I think a letter from Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the Baba Kekere himself, would’ve been a more plausible expectation. Why has Baba Kekere not written you? I guess the level of the rot in this terrain called Nigeria has benumbed the elderly into shock just as marginalized youths have been depraved to neigh and watch as the ship of state sinks gradually. Going by your deeds while on this side of existentialism, I’m sure you now reside in the land where habitants never grow old. Baba Kekere is old, sir, and so are the remainder of your lieutenants like Chief Ayo Fasanmi, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Bisi Akande, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, and others who have been disunited since you transited into glory 31 years ago. Even Baba Fasanmi disclosed to me some time ago that he doesn’t know what to tell you when he eventually joins you in the afterlife. He told me he’s not happy that the house that you left in their care was in a shambles.
Papa, this letter is not in commemoration of your death – having joined the saints on May 9, 1987. Rather, it is a celebration of your birth – as you would’ve been 109 on March 6, this year. I wrote this letter on February 17, my own birthday, for two reasons. One, I’ve never written a letter to heaven before, so I don’t know how the postal service works o’er there. Daddy, postal service in Nigeria now, like all other public services, is chaotic. This is why I decided to write more than two weeks before your posthumous birthday, hoping that the letter would survive all terrestrial delays and extraterrestrial checks, and arrive safely at your abode. Two, it’s my tradition to sequester myself on my birthday and embark on personal reflection. My personal reflection gave birth to this letter, sir.
As I don’t want to be accused by Nigeria’s band of religious hypocrites of practicing necromancy, a sin for which King Saul was punished in the Bible, I fasted and prayed, seeking the face of the Lord over whether to write or not. When a sign of approval came from God in form of the first rain of the year, I put pen to paper.
Let me begin by asking of Mama HID, how’s she? How’re your sons, uncle Segun and uncle Oluwole? You must’ve learnt how Chief Bola Ige was murdered in his Ibadan home. Yes, he was killed like a dog while serving as the Honorable Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation. Suspects arrested in connection with the murder have all been discharged and acquitted. Daddy, while responding to my letter, please, get the great Cicero to tell you the names of those who killed him; I would be eternally grateful if you would allow me break the news to Nigerians! I’m going to abide by any condition you give to publish the list of killers. But if you feel the news would be trivialized as Nigerians trivialized the N36m snake at the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board – in their quest to gain votes in 2019 – then I could have it to myself.
As a distinguished journalist yourself, sir, you can really help in stamping out hired killings in Nigeria if you can get Dele Giwa, Funsho Williams, Obi Wali, Marshal Harry, Aminosari Dikibo, Igwe and Abigail Barnabas, Odunayo Olagbaju, Ayo Daramola, Godwin Agbroko, Abayomi Ogundeji, Lai Balogun, Bisoye Tejuosho, Suliat Adedeji, Olu Omotehinwa, Babatunde Elegbede, Francis Nwankwo, Bagauda Kalto, Dipo Dina etc to tell you those who killed them. Ha! It would be the news of the century. I can imagine the headlines: “Awo speaks from great beyond, names Ige’s killers!” “Exposed: Nigeria’s high-profile killers!” “I will cleanse Nigeria, Awo vows!” “I saw it coming – Pastor Kilimanjaro”. Nigerians will give anything to know the evil man who killed Giwa with a genius bomb.
What about Chief Ladoke Akintola, and his beautiful wife, Faderera, who hailed from Igbajo? My regards to Chief Anthony Enahoro, Venerable Emmanuel Alayande, Sir Olaniwun Ajayi, Prof Sam Aluko, Chief Akin Omoboriwo, Chief SM Afolabi, Chief Alfred Rewane, Chief Sam Mbakwe, Prof Ambrose Alli, Chief Bisi Onabanjo, Chief Busari Adelakun and others.
Papa, mama firmly held the fort in your absence. She must’ve told you what politicians turned your name into. They’ve turned your invaluable name into a ruthless tool to prey on the masses. No politician attained power in the South-West without dropping your name. Even those who called themselves conservatives and fought you to the death, now claim they’re your disciples, to gain relevance. Awo, blood sucking vampires are now wearing your cap and glasses, raising their hands in the air and sticking out their leprous fingers not in your victory sign but in vile mockery of democracy. Awo, your political children and the people who twice truncated your ambition to rule Nigeria are now dancing ‘Shoki’ to the psychedelic beat of corruption. They lack your essence. They’ve ruined ALL your legacies. They’ve pooh-poohed on the last vestiges of your well-thought-out policies, which made the South-West tower above the North and the South-East. You provided free quality education at all levels for the children of kings and slaves; they’ve debased this and fully brought back private schools, fit only for the rich. They budget money for your type of free, qualitative healthcare, but they run abroad to treat goose pimples. The most beautiful university in Africa, which you built in Ile Ife, cannot even source water to flush its toilets. Bed bugs chased students out of the hostels recently. The first television station in Africa that you built is debased. The industrial estates you built in Ilupeju, Ogba, Ikeja and Apapa have gone to the dogs. Nobody goes to your Liberty Stadium to watch Shooting Stars anymore. Our youths now watch foreign leagues.
Baba, do you remember Owo? Yes, Owo – the place of birth of your truthful disciple, Pa Adekunle Ajasin. Sir, do you remember you formed the Action Group in Owo in 1951? I was there as a reporter in 2001 to cover the golden jubilee of the creation of your illustrious party. The Alliance for Democracy governors including Chief Adebayo Adefarati (Ondo); Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (Lagos); Olusegun Osoba (Ogun); Adebisi Akande (Osun), Lam Adesina (Oyo), and Niyi Adebayo (Ekiti) decided to go back to the now dingy, unkempt hall opposite the palace of the Olowo, where the AG was formed. Security report advised that the anniversary be postponed because there was tension in the land. The palace and the state government were at war. Adefarati won’t be cowed, the meeting must hold, he vowed. I saw several armed youths on balconies and rooftops in the palace bearing brand-new AK-47 rifles with bullets as garlands, across the road. They interrupted the AG anniversary with booming gunshots. When the reunion jubilee ended, the governors sped to Ajasin’s house to greet his widow, Babafunke. And we, gentlemen of the press, riding inside a bus not so swift, were ambushed by some irate residents, who smashed our vehicle and unleashed mayhem. Hate has become a more daring monster nationwide now.
Muhammadu ibn Buhari is our president now. No, he didn’t plan another coup. He defeated a clueless fisherman who stumbled on power and never knew what to make of it but loot. How’s Nigeria faring? Well, petrol is still being imported, and it’s scarce and costly. You must’ve been seeing the endless ghosts of Nigerians killed daily by Boko Haram and herdsmen. Unemployment is growing. No power supply. Highways remain deathtraps. The woe list is endless. Is there any way you can help, sir?
I await your reply.
Happy birthday, sir!