I am not going to talk about heroic figures whose names have continued to resonate in public discourse and in spaces far beyond their places of birth. This piece is not about the lives of legendary names like the great Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Sage Obafemi Awolowo, the titan Sir Ahmadu Bello, the immortal Nelson Mandela, the enigma Michael Jackson or the most recognizable face on the planet, the unstoppable Mohammed Ali.
These were individuals, and a lot more whose deeds on earth impacted greatly on their communities and perhaps the world at large. These were individuals who are probably being mourned today by people who never had anything to do with them when they were alive and also by people who were not even born when these giants loomed large.
I am talking about ordinary men and women, you and I who also have been privileged to taste the surface waters of this planet. You get wiser by the day and you realise that all the gra-gra and the I-am-the-world attitude is all sound and fury which signifies nothing. At the end of your short journey [at most 120 years] on this planet you find that you just have to disappear, and with that disappearance all your vanities vanish. You discover, that is if you can from your grave, that it is only members of your immediate family, and probably a friend or two from way back in school, and one or two old men or women you had had time to assist that would mourn you for any considerable length of time.
Majority of your old school mates, your town’s people, and many from your local government if ever your fame had extended beyond your village while alive would ever remember you beyond the first year of your demise.
It is all about the emptiness of this life, the ordinariness of each and every one of us, and yet while we still breathe we assume that we are the greatest thing that ever happened to human kind.
You may want to cast your mind back a little as I am about to do now and think of many of your old classmates, former girlfriends and boyfriends, former colleagues at work, former teachers and bosses and the many x-this x-that who have passed into the world beyond. How many of them do you remember? How many of such people ever cross your mind? How many of them are spoken about in daily conversations?
Examples are uncountable. There was a Professor B O O Osuntokun, DSc in Medicine, former Chief Medical Director at the University College Hospital Ibadan, a great scholar by any standard in the world. Ask some staff of the University College Hospital if they ever heard of his name, you would be shocked that they would draw blank. So many of such exemplary professors who performed extraordinarily as teachers and researchers who are today remembered and missed perhaps only by members of their immediate families.
Professor Dapo Adelugba, great actor, great literary critic, great teacher, and generally was a great man. He was my teacher. He passed on a couple of years ago. But mention his name in the streets of Ibadan or even in Ijesaland where he hailed from…. And this was a man that beautified the pages of the Daily Sketch and other leading papers of his day with pungent and scholarly reviews…
We had Professor Oyin Ogunba, Professor Yinka Adedeji [Africa’s first professor of theatre studies] and other egg heads. I am not sure if the department of English University of Ibadan where Ogunba was king or the theatre arts department where Adedeji was HOD for several years has anything to commemorate their contributions.
Quite a number of my close friends have passed. Professor Femi Sonaike, a town mate and classmate in the Secondary School went on to the US to obtain a PhD after a brilliant career in the Daily Times. He was my Bestman as I was also his. Eleven years since he left it is only his immediate family members, a few of his students in UNILAG, LASU, and University of Texas who bear his image in their hearts.
Ibukun Falope was about to be robed as Bishop. Lovely and jocund fellow, Ibukun, his wife, Professor Badejoko and this writer were struggling over a bounteous piece of smoked fish at the wake of Princess Funmi Fagbamiye’s mother only a few years ago. Less than three months thereafter he was pronounced dead. All his aspirations, his great vision for his Church, and other services he was to render to his flock and society at large went with him. It is his wife and children and grandchildren who can best tell what befell them.
Playwright, economist and cultural ambassador Rasheed Gbadamosi who was a Commissioner in Lagos at 29 and with all his accomplishments joined the league. In a few years to come, his name would only be mentioned in passing.
Ebullient Oluwole Awolowo an icon of Awo dynasty left about 4 years ago leaving behind a life full of life. His memory now belongs to his immediate family members and close circle of friends.
Oluwole Apagun, distinguished architect and Golf promoter worked his ass out to leave a legacy at the Golf Recreational Resort in Abeokuta. It was his corpse that came out afloat as his prize! I mentioned his name to someone who has lived in Abeokuta these past 12 years. “I never heard of his name’ she said shrugging her shoulders as if no one with such name ever existed!
There was Chief Olusegun Olusola famed creator of the soap The Village Headmaster, a great cultural icon, an Ambassador and the promoter of African Refugee foundation. There was Professor Ayodele Awojobi DSc, there was the great Babatunde Jose Africa’s greatest media manager of all time and of course there were Sambo Tawaba, Margaret Ekpo and Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. Do you remember them? How many former Governors are remembered? How many former Ministers, Commissioners, Chairmen and Managing directors of big Corporations are today remembered?
This is what is going to happen to you and I and all of us who spend day and night worrying and bothering about this empty dream called life. We must pass our examinations. We must take university degrees. We must marry. We must get the best jobs and acquire the best properties. We must ride the best cars and wear the best dresses.
Very good ambition to have.
Beyond all of that is the tall ambition to be the biggest, tallest, largest, most beautiful, most prosperous, most popular, most successful individual in the community. And for some, in order to be all that is to kill or be killed. Much of rat race and the desire to be celebrated and remembered as hero and the best the community has ever produced in the hope that your name will be out there for ever.
Life does not work that way.
If decent people who lived clean and honest lives are hardly remembered despite their huge accomplishments how much less you roguish politicians and dare devil robbers and kidnappers who are hiding billions of stolen money? You will die, perish, and be remembered only with the stench associated with your villainous name!!
The pen is the tongue of the hand,the silent utterer of words for the eyes…Henry Beecher