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Wande Abimbola @91: How an àbíkú decided to live (4)

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Tunde Odesola

Longevity is a predominant gene in Ogunwande’s lineage. His grandfather, Akínsílolá Légbéjure, aka Agbólelelogunyábárá, inhabited the earth for more than a hundred years. His father, Iroko, a First World War soldier, also lived five years beyond hundred. Sangodayo, his mother, breathed her last at 112 while his eldest sibling, Ogunyoyin, was two years shy of 100 when death closed her eyes, and his second eldest sibling, Ogundiya, the Asipade, and Aàre Ìsègùn of Oyo, died suddenly on December 31, 2011 when he was 88 years young. For ’Wande, Life is a marathon of battles requiring the armours of endurance, courage and determination.

“My father died in 1971. His sight never dimmed, his awareness never waned, his memory remained sharp and he still walked to and fro the town hall in Akesan, a journey of two miles, to pay his monthly water bill. He walked longer distances to visit his friends. My mother was perceptive and fit until she died in 2007. The same thing applied to all my siblings,” Wande recalled in his soft voice.

When Wande finished his M.A. degree in the US, in 1966, and returned to Nigeria, two letters of employment were already waiting for him. He never applied for either of the two jobs, one of which was an appointment as a Research Fellow at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), and the other employment was as Lecturer II at the proposed Department of Yoruba Language, University of Lagos.

So, Ogunwande arrived at the crossroads of dual employment opportunities, fully aware of what he wanted but quite oblivious to the twists and turns of the academic marathon that lay ahead of him.

FROM THE AUTHOR: Wande Abimbola @91: How An Ábíkú Decided To Live (1) [OPINION]

As I started moving up the ladder in my academic career, my mother would admonish me to be mindful of the son of whom I am. She would tell me not to steal or engage in any form of corruption,” Wande began. “I never stole a kobo all my life. What for? What am I going to do with millions?”

Wande later became a professor at Harvard, Boston University, Amherst College, University of Louisville, Kentucky; Smith College, Massachusetts; and Colgate University, among others. “I didn’t apply to be a professor in any of these universities. They made me a professor because they needed me. That’s how it should be. My elder brother, Ogundiya, never saw the inside of a classroom but when I took him to Boston for a year, he delivered lectures all over the US, with various institutions getting interpreters to explain his teachings. That’s how it should be. We should be teaching in our own language,” Ogunwande emphasised.

As an àbíkú, who was almost beheaded by an age-mate at 9, Abimbola came to an early realisation that life was a battle requiring the caution of the chameleon, the strength of the buffalo and the agility of the tiger. He soon knew that the life of an àbíkú was the tale of Ikún and Dèdè – the squirrel and the trap. Ikún n de dèdè, dèdè n de ikún.

Wande, the àbíkú, is tied down in the mortal realm by charmed intervention and prevented from going back to the underworld, but death lurks still, like a baited trap, seeking to crush the squirrel by the neck, just like Wande’s attacker sought to cut his neck with a machete. The Yoruba advise that gratitude should be the song of a victim who lost his cap instead of his life to death, “Iku to ba fe pa’ni, to ba si’ni ni fila, o ye ka dupe.”

FROM THE AUTHOR: Wande Abimbola @91: How an àbíkú decided to live (2)

The boy who attempted to behead me ran away from the village for one month. In his absence, his father and mother, who were good and responsible people, apologised profusely. We became ‘friends’ again when I recovered from my illness. Needless to say, I was never too close to him, and I never trusted him again until he died about 10 years ago,” Ogunwande stated.

An academic senior, Adeboye Babalola, who bagged a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, in 1964, was the one who invited Abimbola to join the proposed Department of Yoruba at UNILAG.

“Baba Babalola was a lecturer at the Institute of African and Asian Studies, UNILAG. He was a former student of Igbobi College. He rose to become the principal of Igbobi College in the 50s, after studying at Oxford University. Babalola bagged 9 ‘A’s in his secondary school certificate exam. I decided to join him at UNILAG because the offer had to do with teaching and Yoruba.

“So, in 1966, we started a B.A degree programme in UNILAG with only two students. In choosing the UNILAG offer over UNIFE, I asked if Baba Babalola could supervise my PhD, a proposal to which he agreed. Thus, I did my PhD on part-time while I was lecturing at UNILAG, and finished my thesis in 1969, graduating in 1970. The title of my thesis is, “Ifa: An exposition of Ifa Literary Corpus.” My thesis was the first PhD awarded by UNILAG,” Ogunwande explained.

Abimbola’s academic journey at UNILAG took another turn when Professor Adeagbo Akinjogbin, a world-class historian, visited him, saying the Vice Chancellor, UNIFE, Prof Ezekiah Oluwasanmi, wanted to see Wande the next day.

“By 1971, I had resigned from UNILAG but UNILAG VC, Professor Ade Ajayi, didn’t approve my resignation because he didn’t want me to go. Anyway, I went to see Oluwasanmi, who told me of his intention to start Yoruba Studies in Ife. I told Oluwasanmi that Indiana University had sent an air ticket to me and had even employed a graduate assistant for me from Nigeria, who had gone to the US ahead of me. His name is Ajibade Ajuwon, my childhood friend, who later became a professor at UNIFE.

“Oluwasanmi convinced me not to go to Indiana until January. So, I taught in UNIFE up till January 1, 1972, preparatory to going to Indiana University. I had to go and teach at Indiana because I didn’t want them to feel bad. After teaching for some time, I told them that my country needed me, so I returned to Nigeria. In 1976, I became the first professor at the Department of African Languages and Literatures, UNIFE, thus making me the chair of the department,” Abimbola recounted.

FROM THE AUTHOR: Wande Abimbola @91: How an àbíkú decided to live (3)

Abimbola became the Dean, Faculty of Arts, in 1977, and was enjoying his job until one evening in 1982 when he heard a knock on his office door.

“Come in,” Wande said. It was Dr Oyewusi, a colleague. Ogunwande was in a chatty mood but Oyewusi wasn’t. “Where’s your CV?” Oyewusi asked. “My CV?” Ogunwande searched Oyewusi’s eyes for a clue. “Yes, your CV. Didn’t you hear that the VC, Prof Cyril Onwumechili Agodi, has said he wasn’t going for a second term in office?” Oyewusi asked, declaring, “You’re the next VC.”

It wasn’t hard to fetch Wande’s CV as he always had copies in his drawer. He gave his excited colleague a copy of his CV so that Oyewusi could leave his office on time.

“I neither asked nor heard anything about the issue again. It was Oyewusi who filled out the form, got someone to nominate me, and also submitted it. He only said I should sign. Oyewusi taught at the Department of Physical and Health Education. At the time, a seven-member committee consisting of three members of council, three members of senate and the chairman of council made up the selection committee. That selection committee would recommend three shortlisted names to the Visitor of the university, President Shehu Shagari.

“Oyewusi was convinced nobody was better than me for the post. But he was afraid I might go ahead and support any candidate that solicited my support. To me, Oyewusi was just joking. I busied myself with my work, teaching in Nigeria and crisscrossing the Atlantic over 12 times per year to deliver papers across the world,” Ogunwande said.

A long time afterwards, an Oyo prince, Adebayo Sàndà, who was a director with the Nigerian Television Authority, Ibadan, visited Abimbola in his Ife office, breaking some news to the scholar.

Congratulations! The president signed your letter of appointment as VC yesterday,” Sàndà gushed. Ogunwande was shocked. “Letter!?” he asked. Sàndà said, “Yes,” adding that he could collect the letter on my behalf.

“I was billed for a conference abroad around that time. I told my friend, Sàndà, about the conference, and I left Nigeria. When I returned, I went to Sàndà’s office in Ibadan to tell him I was back,” said Wande.

I noticed Sàndà wasn’t his usual self. “Maybe I should’ve told you not to go abroad. It appears they want to dabaru the whole thing. They said the National Chairman of the ruling National Party of Nigeria, Chief Adisa Akinloye, has collected your letter,” Sàndà said. Wande asked him why, and Sàndà said he didn’t know.

To be continued.

Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com

Facebook: @Tunde Odesola

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Terrorism: Court Frees Rivers APC Chieftain After Two Years

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A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has discharged and acquitted a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress and Deputy Chairman of Youth Movement in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, Chief Fubara Ohaka, of charges filed against him by the Federal government.

Ohaka had been standing trial on six counts of alleged involvement in illegal oil bunkering, terrorism, dealing in illegal refining products without a licence, and conspiracy among other charges preferred against him since 2022 by the Federal government through the Department of State Services.

Delivering judgment in the matter, the trial judge, Justice Stephen Dalyop-Pam, held that the Federal Government failed to provide evidence to back its claims, hence failing to prove its allegations against the defendant.

READ ALSO: Rivers Eders Drag Tinubu, Others To Court Over Peace Agreement

Our correspondent reports that Justice Dalyop-Pam agreed on no-case submission by the counsel for the defendant and thereby discharged and acquitted him.

Speaking to newsmen outside the courtroom, Ohaka expressed happiness that he has been vindicated, saying the judgment has put shame on the faces of all those who conspired to tarnish his image.

He said, “I’m happy that the judiciary has vindicated me today. I told the world that I never had any idea of the allegations against me, I am not a bunker, I have never sponsored any person to do bunkering,

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“Thanks to the judiciary who in its wisdom have reached to the root of the matter and proven to be the last hope of the common man.

“I want to thank those who stood by me in the time of trial, I’m happy that I never disappeared from them when I was told I was innocent of the allegations against me.

“Let me also use this medium to advise government agencies to always carry out proper investigation before engaging in legal battles, because if they had I would not have spent the number of months I spent in detention before the legal action that turned out in my favour today.”

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NLC Insists On Planned Protest, Knocks DSS

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The Nigeria Labour Congress has insisted that the planned protests against the prevailing economic situation in the country will hold contrary to the warning issued by the Department of State Services to shelve its protests.

The organised labour, on Monday, began mobilising its members for a nationwide protest slated for February 27 and 28 over the cost of living crisis in the country.

The Federal Government’s failure to fulfil its promises after the 14-day ultimatum by Labour, according to sources, will be met with a two-day nationwide protest already slated for February 27 and 28.

Reacting to the planned protests in a statement on Wednesday, the DSS spokesman, Peter Afunanya, urged the union to shelve the plan in the interest of peace and public order.

READ ALSO: Economic Hardship: CSO Gives FG Ultimatum, Threatens Nationwide Protest

The Secret Service urged the union to pursue dialogue and negotiation rather than engage in conduct that could heighten tensions.

However, the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, in a statement he personally signed on Wednesday evening, noted that the protests will still hold and questioned why the DSS had yet to execute the arrest of those planning to disrupt the protests.

We are concerned by the unsolicited advice of the Department of State Security to shelve our planned protest against the unprecedented high cost of living despite the indescribable suffering in the land, spiralling inflation, deepening poverty and the Naira at an exchange rate of N1,900 to the US Dollar.

“According to the Service, the planned protest should be shelved ‘in the interest of peace and public order’, pre-supposing that the action is intended to be violent and disruptive even when we have a history of peaceful protests’.

“More worrying is the new role the Service has assigned to itself, the chief spokesperson of the government.

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“We are equally worried that although the “Service is aware that some elements are planning to use the opportunity of the protest to foment crisis and by extension, widespread violence and yet have not executed the arrest of these elements,” the NLC president said.

Ajaero noted that the NLC will not compromise the sovereignty or security of the country while assuring that the protests would be peaceful.

We are equally intrigued by the innuendos of the Service, their philosophy of “peace” and wild allegations and we want to reassure them that no one loves this country more than us and on our honour, we would never do anything that will compromise its sovereignty or security.

“Having said this, we would not have ourselves blackmailed or lied against by the Service. Our protest is a peaceful one against the unpardonable cost of living of which the unserviced personnel of the Service are also victims.

“We cannot fold our hands and pretend all is well. That will be a grievous conspiracy that history will not forgive,” he said.

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VIDEO: Give Tinubu Time To Get Things Done, Gowon Begs Nigerians

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A former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.), has urged Nigerians to exercise patience with President Bola Tinubu’s administration, emphasizing that it’s premature to anticipate flawless outcomes at this stage.

Gowon spoke in an interview with State House correspondents after a meeting he had with Tinubu on Wednesday.

The former Head of State, who noted that he was visiting Tinubu for the first time after the latter’s inauguration, disclosed that discussions revolved around matters concerning peace and security within the West African sub-region.

Responding to inquiries about his advice to the President regarding the prevailing national circumstances, Gowon acknowledged the existing challenges but stressed that it’s too early to anticipate perfection.

READ ALSO: JUST IN: Tinubu In Talks with Gowon At Aso Rock Villa

He said, “I was telling him that there’s no Nigerian leader that can get there, that will not get all of these, all that is being said about him. But certainly, there is no doubt about all that one has heard and seen from various media. I think the government is trying its best to deal with the various problems of the country.

“But with Nigerians, don’t worry, you will get criticised but people who get there know better than you know. I think all one can say to Nigerians is that they have to give the President time to get things done and it is too early to sort of say a perfect result will be achieved. That is my opinion.

“At least, if I remembered, I was told that I was too slow, fighting the war and that probably Nigeria would not make it and we should seek for discussion. Well, did we do it or not? They probably did not know the problem there on the ground there.”

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