Sunday, December 24, 2017

Elegy For Bola Ige: A Soul Uncle

By Lekan Alabi
On Saturday, 23rd December this year, it will be 16 years that the late Chief ’Bola Ige, SAN, a former Governor of Old Oyo State and sitting Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, was assassinated in his Bodija Estate, Ibadan home.
*Late Bola Ige
I was a press secretary to the late Chief Ige, when he was governor of Oyo State and also the chairman of the Protocol and Publicity Sub-Committee of his Burial Planning Committee.
Below was my 2002 tribute of the above title to the late Chief Ige, popularly called “Uncle ’Bola.” The tribute was published in the Punch newspaper issue of Thursday, 10th January, 2002. May his valiant and creative soul continue to rest in peace. Amen. 
I am writing this elegy, if poetic license permits me to describe it so, exactly on the 19th anniversary of the prized invitation to me from His Excellency, the Governor of Oyo State, Chief ’Bola Ige, to an End-of-Year-Dinner at the Government House, Agodi, Ibadan on Tuesday, January 4, 1983.
My attendance (in company of my wife) and my homely comments at that party were not unconnected with my secondment, a month after, from the former Television Service of Oyo State TSOS (now BCOS-TV) to Chief ’Bola Ige, then governor of old Oyo State, as a Press Secretary.
I, with Femi Mapaderun (also seconded from Radio O-Y-O) joined the governor’s incumbent Press Secretary, Dapo Aderinola, our colleague and friend, to form a Media/PR triumvirate under the leadership of Mr. Yemi Farounbi (as he then was). We were saddled with burnishing his Excellency’s image that crucial (1983) General Election year – what with the defections of Uncle ’Bola’s erstwhile political associates the year before.
Had nature not decided otherwise, I have strong reasons to believe that Uncle ’Bola was to have been either my biological uncle or school teacher or both. Nevertheless, nature ‘corrected’ herself by spanning the uncle/ teacher chasm with my appointment as press secretary to the “Cicero of Esa-Oke.’’
From the very day I assumed duties as a Press Secretary, till his assassination on Sunday, December 23, last year, Uncle ’Bola groomed and encouraged a ‘cousin’ from the world before this in my humble self and I remain forever the loyal and grateful protégé.
I recollect that my first contact with Uncle ’Bola was in 1979. I had joined the then NTV, Ibadan the year before from the Daily Sketch. I was a print journalist in a rush to glow in Africa’s first television station. I had been assigned to cover the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (Oyo State) Executive Committee’s press briefing at the Rex Cinema at J. Allen/ Dugbe area of Ibadan. Pardon my immodesty to say that the intellectual interactions between a typical NTV Ibadan reporter and a gubernatorial candidate on that day were in symphony. A scout for talent and wit that he was, Uncle ’Bola, then Oyo State Chairman and gubernatorial candidate of the UPN, made it plain that I was welcome at his Oke-Ado, Ibadan, residence both officially and unofficially (privately) I embraced the uncommon invitation.
A few weeks after the Rex Cinema meeting, I, with my friend and colleague, Biodun Oduwole, were at Uncle ’Bola’s Oke-Ado residence to conduct interviews for our separate programmes for our station, NTV, Ibadan. We met him at table having a lunch of boiled rice. We did not turn down his kind invitation to join him at table, although we (Biodun and I) ate our share of his lunch with stew.
Funsho, Uncle ’Bola‘s daughter and eldest child, then a 19-year old lady, (now Mrs. Adegbola), was at table with her doting father. His oft-repeated calls of “Funsh, Funsh” showed the tremendous degree of doting between father and daughter.
Our after lunch banters that day heightened Uncle ’Bola’s interest in my professional career and private life so much so that he stood as my ‘guarantor’, as it were, when Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Rimi, then governor of Kano State, sometime in 1982 declined to grant me an exclusive interview on learning that I was an NTA reporter, during the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) governors meeting in Abeokuta, Ogun State. After much persuasion by me and Uncle ’Bola’s “Abubakar, oblige him. I know him well” I secured the 30-minute interview with Governor Rimi for my very popular personality interview programme, “Speak Out.”
A professional handling and transmission of the volatile interview with Governor Rimi earned me a letter of commendation from the then General Manager of NTA, Ibadan, Prince Bayo Sanda, and an open sesame to the Government House, Agodi, Ibadan with Uncle ’Bola as the host, guest (on my programme), teacher and fair critic as occasions dictated.
As stated earlier, I joined Uncle ’Bola’s media team in February 1983 and it was an admission to the ‘Awolowo School of Life’ under Uncle ’Bola’s principalship. He taught us a lot – politics, etiquette, poetry, music, culinary, diplomacy, values among other subjects of life.
In a published birthday tribute in 1992 to Uncle ’Bola, I wrote inter alia “...As you now sit quietly at the bay watching the political waves romp, those who await the ark know themselves …” And when in 1999, he returned to politics and was in the thick of action and no longer the apostle of ‘siddon look’, I again wished him a happy 69th birthday in another article titled “To Uncle Bola Again”. May I quote from that article.
If modesty does not permit me to rate my prophesy of the ark, there was an Awo-type accuracy in Uncle ’Bola’s own prediction in his last live radio/television broadcast to the citizens of old Oyo State as the Governor on September 30, 1983. I quote relevant portions of the broadcast.
“Today, Oyo State has been pushed to the gate of temporary change and the masses, the great majority of the wonderful people of Oyo State, are now awaiting the beckoning of destiny. May God guide us through. I have already left the Government House this morning, and by mid-night today, my four year term will end. I go back to Oke-Ado, Ibadan and Esa-Oke. One thing is certain; through the grace and power of the marvelous God, the support of you, our people and the solidarity of the patriotic forces in the country, the Unity Party of Nigeria, I will return.”
Even though Uncle ’Bola did not return to Government House, Agodi, Ibadan, I, on his behalf, returned, four months after that broadcast, to serve three of his military successors for five years as Press Secretary. Please, remember that Uncle ’Bola first took me to Government House Ibadan as a Press Secretary in 1983.
Each time I stepped into the Government House Ibadan, after his ouster, Uncle ’Bola’s “We Shall Return” continued to echo in my ears. Today, as you celebrate your birthday, Uncle ’Bola, whether in Abuja, Ibadan or Esa-Oke, you may please wish to ponder on your 1983 prophecy. If the return meant by you is where you are now, as a Federal Minister, or still ahead, it has not been without its cross.
Whereas clerics/malims hold the preserve to sermonize about the travails of prophets, we, their congregations can be excused to enumerate the travails of our leaders before they sang their songs of victory.
First, Nnamdi Azikiwe. From the pangs of hunger as a student in the United States of America that led to his suicide bid on a railway track, the flight to Ghana, to the African Continental Bank/Eastern Nigeria Government financial enquiries and the 1979 tax tar.
Next Obafemi Awolowo. From the pains of semi-orphanage, (the loss of his father) at an early age to his peasantry in Ijeun, Abeokuta, his maternal grandmother’s hometown, the liquidation of his cocoa/transport business in Ibadan, the Action Group crisis which blew open at the 1962 Jos Convention, the Coker Commission of Enquiry to the Treasonable Felony Trial and the 10-year jail term.
And third, Ahmadu Bello – His brushes with the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar and the Northern Region Colonial Administration Financial Enquiry. Every great man/woman must dance to the ‘No cross, no crown beat”.
Dear Uncle ’Bola, as wine glasses are probably being clinked, may I propose the toast by recalling your shoeless feet, until your affectionate sponsor and older brother, Uncle George, bought you pairs on gaining admission to Ibadan Grammar School, the 1962-1963 restriction, the UPN night of long knives, our lucky escape at Tonkere – Modakeke, the symbolic “Eyin iya mi ati Baba mi” 1983 political broadcasts, the FEDECO assault, the Election Petition, the military century jails terms, the Epe house arrest, the Abacha gulag and Col. Ahmed Usman ‘prisoners of war’ nonsense.
I have quoted extensively from my 1999 birthday tribute to my boss and mentor. Today, he is no more with us, as he had joined the triumphant band in heaven. But, in paying tribute to Uncle ’Bola, one may ask: has any lesson been learnt by us, the living, between 1963, 1979, 1983, 1993 and how?
Let us all pray to God to forgive us our sins and replenish our motherland with tolerance, justice, joy and progress. Uncle ’Bola, my beloved soul uncle and mentor, good bye. God shall grant you eternal rest. I also pray that God shall grant his wife, our lovable Aunty Atinuke, their children, relations, friends and admirers the fortitude to bear this great loss. Amen.
*Alabi is Agba Akin Olubadan of Ibadanland and former press secretary to Bola Ige of old Oyo State (1979-1983).

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