Snapshots from life
BEING THE CELEBRANT’S SPEECH AT THE 75th BIRTHDAY BASH FOR BABA OLUWIDE OMOJOLA
Lagos, 24th August 2015
A luck-luster life as mine does not deserve speech making. But perhaps I am living through momentous events, histrionic and gorged with cataclysms, I venture, Comrade Chairman, to glide through a few snapshots or drop-outs from life, mainly in the last century.
Racing through life in the cloud of Hitler’s war, the Atlantic Charter as a reader for us, political turmoil for self government, false start for economic independence leading to social differentiations worsened by a new global economy, I end up, in my 3rd quarter of life, teaming up with radicals and progressive revolutionaries in an endless struggle for liberty, justice and freedom. A lutta continua. Vittoria e certa. It took decades before this reality struck me with clarity.
At an editorial board meeting of Mass Line in my consultancy, Comrade Tunji Otegbeye, member West African College of Physicians, lambasted my wasting time chronicling four volumes of collections titled Our Revolution, Volumes I, II, III, IV. Struggle without conquest is like corpulation without pregnancy., a pointless toiling. Consequently we stocked the volumes as Our Struggle.
Another lesson was learnt directly from Chief Obafemi Awolowo at the beginning of UPN government of the South West. We approached the leader with documentary proof that engaging in production of syringes, bulk drugs, lead pencils, exercise books etc would reduce the costs of free health and education provisions. Awolowo said as a political economist he was concerned with sustaining political gains by encouraging cadres, whilst I, a mere economist was carrying out futile exercises to cheapen services. I still tremble that with all honesty, one may sometimes be chasing shadows.
With enthusiasm we were organising cells of the Nigerian Tenants Association in several quarters of Ibadan until T-Day at Mapo Hall. Press coverage very sympathetic. Delegations of workers, market women and youths present under the chairmanship of Aare Mekunnu of Ibadan, Comrade Ola Oni. I was the translator of the mover of the motion for the adoption of the Ibadan Branch of the Nigerian Tenants Association. Before the final adoption by ovation a native son raised his hand to speak, in Yoruba. He asked those who want to remain a tenant all their lives to raise up their hand. The audience kept mum. He went on a tirade describing we the organisers in despicable terms which I had to translate: Olosi Never do well, Alainikanse a rolling stone, Iran akuse Born a pauper, Ayi’woagosehin reactionaries, Ota aje failed merchants, Okuugbe dead for nothing… The missiles that followed found us organisers, speakers, chair and translator escaping through Dugbe market. This lesson has enlightened us to spend more time seeking mortgages for convenient home ownerships as most Africans want to become landlords or landladies themselves.
I am one of the few of my generation supported by his or her family, on our social mission. My father, the late Canon Emeritus of the Diocese of Ibadan, Emmanuel Ajibola joined the priesthood, dumping a prosperous career. His grandfather Oluwide was a staff officer of Aare Kurunmi, the Aare Onakankanfo from Ijaiye. My grandfather Ajala, returned from life exile in Ondo to become a gunsmith and weaver in Ijaiye. Perhaps our Papa who opted for the priesthood founding the first private school in Kaduna, building the first St Michael’s Church 1923 in the North and retiring to Ile-Ife where that son of a gunsmith, the Canon Emeritus Ajibola, has a church named after him in his memory. He told me if I wish to serve humanity it’s my natural turf. Yet he chided me for trying to read three month’s Daily Times newspaper in his study after my release from a prison sojourn. Said Papa: ‘’the world is moving on without you. You better get out to make news in your chosen endeavour and not dwell on past history’’.
When I narrated my landing to the machine gun staccato while paratrooping down into the Algeria/Tunisia border during the Algeria war of independence; searching for my hat and fortunately saved by a Liberation soldier., Papa heartily laughed it off ‘Baba jona e nbere irugbon. You saved your head from gunshots and you are looking for your hat’’; while my mama chorused Halellujah! Jesus!!
Hardly was I back in this country, I was roped in as secretary, Lagos Council of Labour during the 1964 general strike and private secretary to Labour leader No 1. Imoudu and 28 others including me, were charged to court for high treason, for plotting to overthrow the federal government of Nigeria and waging war against Her sovereign majesty Elizabeth. Imoudu in his defence asked to be allowed to show how we wished to actualise the conspiracy. If the FGN would not accede to workers’ request for a minimum wage of £10., since police dogs were being fed with £12.10/- a month. We were freed in the court of public opinion before the judge discharged and acquitted us.
That same year I ventured into a then underground movement, the Jazz Club of Lagos. Because of my playing the piano like a village chapel organist I had the temerity to venture to the audition at an eventide at Kings College at Race Course with a bongo drum learnt in an Arab Coffee bar. It took 5 minutes for the giants like Agbonmagbe Okupe, Chris Ajilo, Fela of Lobitos then, to consign me to the position of gate keeper at future performances.
Snapshots when they were not mortifying me, like the Jazz audition, they were often so awesome like the splendour of stars watched with a telescope. One of such was the last general assembly of the Pronaco that unanimously adopted the draft constitution by ovation after such tedious labour by us at the secretariat and such acrimonious debates at plenary sessions over two years by 45 ethnic organisations, 75 civil societies and 20 county-wide popular organisations.
My first snapshot was me miserable and aimlessly going about the vicarage garden, next to the cemetery. My aunties who like to retell the story, to my chagrin, relate how I burst out like Papa’s car wound up in those days to emit noise and charged to go. ‘’I’ve lost my human being; ani mo ti so eniyan mi nuu.’’ Of course papa bought another toy for me in Lagos which I later dashed out, bemused to my only sister Omotunde as a doll named Cinderela. Thus my old Papa assumed am bent on ‘humanist service in life wishing me a life of grace’.
My mama resigned herself to fate after she learnt I blew my first, and probably last, million in 20 days. I sought out fellow travellers who needed N50,000 for some investment, per day in 1966. The revolution or humanist project requires loads of kick start finance or seed money.
For bearing with my antics I thank my family for encouraging me, my wife and children for bearing with me, my brothers for caring for me. You see they bought me two classy dresses for this 75th birthday bash. I have never celebrated a birthday for myself. Only my parents did, even while I was away at boarding house. For my younger valiant comrades to club together to expend effort, time and their money for this bash I am overwhelmed and encouraged to keep plodding along undeterred till I am incapacitated by health.. My wish is that our successful struggles will result in conquest, in the lives of your children.
And in the struggle for Africa There is victory for us!!
Or as the militants used to chant ‘God Bless Africa’, with fervour
During the revolutionary struggle in South Africa:
Oza, Oza, Oza, Maya!!
In any language may God bless Africa.
God bless Africa!!!