I have written a few articles in my time; this is one of the most difficult.
To begin with, Dapo and I never actually met. Yet he became a brother and a friend. So “nearby” has he been in the last 10 to 15 years that when his passing was announced last week, I could not really grasp it. I kept watching my mailbox and my chat box, his normal arrival ports.
Yes, I knew him here, online, the address at which I have now chosen to share a few words about him.
This article is difficult to write not just because of the pain of losing such a promising young friend, but because I know the agony his family must be going through.
By family, I mean, first, his parents and siblings, whom I know he loved dearly. I ask the forgiveness of any family members whose hurt I may reopen.
But Dapo quickly became much more than the young man who left for England. So energetic and enthusiastic was he that he appeared to be everywhere online, doing something. He seemed to be a giant of a man: perhaps all of nine feet tall, 300 pounds of muscle and brains, an Olympic athlete, Spiderman standing by to repel evil or confront injustice.
He seemed to be everywhere and reading everything. When I opened my mailbox sometime on Sunday or Monday, he was nearly always there with a kind word, or standing by ready to chat.
He was a local Akure boy at heart, but he must have been a long-distance swimmer too, for I know he touched people on every coast and every shore the world over.
Yes, he was a family man: the human family, in particular his Nigeria family. I made a point to ask about his parents, who apparently visited him in London in the past year, and he was pretty upset when they returned to Nigeria. London was apparently so empty following their visit that he arranged to travel to Nigeria. He had been away for a long time, and I told him he would need a tour guide.
But it was Nigeria that kept his heart beating, and he was forever concerned about her welfare and how to ensure that the future is won for its people.
Dapo was an empowering figure: he was always advancing proposals about how to ensure the effective use of technology to advance Nigeria. He never seemed to forget, either: if I did not respond to a particular inquiry, he would find a way to nudge me awake.
How empowering was he? One day, as we chatted, he told me that on the basis of some of my articles, he knew a way I could be even more productive and my information even more organized and available. He then went on to teach me about Opera, the web browser, and with my permission, to seize hold of my laptop computer online.
In half an hour, he had installed and configured that browser, and he spent the next few weeks taking as much time as I wanted to teach me how to make it serve me.
How selfless was this man? On another occasion, I told him about a friend in his city of London who had a problem. Dapo pulled out a map, wrote out a project plan, and set about helping my friend; routinely sending me reports. I know other friends who are involved in various projects to whom he threw his expertise and enthusiasm, no convenience spared.
How did Dapo grow to be seven feet tall? That would have to be the family which raised him to believe in man as man, and in Nigeria as a country, and I thank them immensely. They raised a fine young man who thought nothing about spending his days and nights loving the next man as a human, and every waking moment dreaming about a better Nigeria.
That was why, when a certain fellowship opportunity came to my attention for African youth, I had no hesitation adopting him as my candidate. Regrettably, that process was not completed before his death, but I am glad I got the chance to demonstrate my faith in him.
I have decided to publish a viewpoint he wrote early in 2011 about the situation in Nigeria when it came to his attention that some Nigerians were advocating a military coup. I believe it says everything about him. He sent his stream-of consciousness to me by email, but I do not know if he published it anywhere else.
I have taken the liberty of giving it a title of my own, because not only is it a fitting definition of him, in his own words, it speaks about the hopes and dreams of his generation, and of the Nigerian people. I request all those who wish to reproduce the article to go ahead and do so, in honour of Dapo; it speaks far more eloquently than I can, and it speaks powerfully for many.
I invite all readers to reflect on what this young man had to say, and to remember the most important lesson of his life: Tomorrow is not promised. Do something, from you heart, today. Help your country, today.
Dapo Osewa’s Parting Gift:
[January 7, 2011]
Over at The Nigeriavillagesquare I monitored a gripping read - of a thread, with varying insights into the opinions of Nigerians on the state of the aberration that is the current so-called-democrazy in Nigeria on display.
The full thread is at http://yrn.me/fi2g1 and I encourage you to read it for a study of the dire desperation, that is at the heart of the Nigerian crisis.
What was most intriguing about some of the responses on this thread was the proposition that a military coup in Abuja, may - yet again - be desired, as the only shock treatment out of here.
A military Coup ?
You can sense the frustration - of us - yet the commitment , perhaps a little involuntary, or a case of blood-is-thicker-than-water merely reading this NVS thread.
Nigeria! has not only failed, up until here, it is deeply frustrating the whole situation;
Everyone is sick to their very wits end of emperor Obasanjo's modern Nigeria, yet the options are quite limited, so some slants are ferociously opting for a shock treatment, a desperate measure, even if a familiarly failed one - a coup.
I grew up during the latter Babangida years into Shonekan to exit through Abacha, and the progression from terrible to worse, of our lives, beginning with the most traumatic of all, our freedoms remain a living scare.
The decimation of what was our then university environment, still traumatises me to this day. I mean it leaves one in agony.
It got so bad - the economics of surviving - my parents couldn't afford to buy newspapers, and so addicted was I to reading Op-eds, I had to resort to stealing the centrespread page of The Guardian at least once from my secondary school. Or occasionally, I would take long walks to the School Principal's house downtown just so I can hopefully get a read. He usually held a copy.
We progressively adapted to finding 'saw-dusts' from various Saw Mills in and around town, in order that we may substitute cooking gas which was completely unavailable, even if you had the money to buy, and buying Kerosine - Abacha' had one particular import named after him - for the carbon stove, was too risky an alternative....
I recollect the days late Navy Commander Anthony Onyearugbulem of then Ondo, state was sent to hound Pa Ajasin in downtown Owo, on the express allegation of Abuja - well It was Gen. Abacha's Abuja - that the elderly man was providing cover to NADECO.
I still have a vivid recollection of the horror that was visited on that elderly man - Ondo state's most brilliant governor, to date - in the comfort of his room as was broadcast on OSRC. I suppose it might be time to reflash our memories, just how bad awful it was.
You couldn't even discuss these stuff - stuff that we are discussing openly here - and it had to be the late Gani Fawenhimi, who would tell Onyearugbulem off at some public event in Ikare; I knew only because I was enlightened enough to find my way to Freedom Radio / Kudirat Radio on the Shortwave receivers. Otherwise buzzing neighbourhoods became graveyards - the terror of silence, at not knowing if Abacha's men were on the prowl.
My favourite secondary school teacher in the SS classes up until tomorrow goes by the nickname GALLOW just because of the cheer fright we got from him as a class, when he described in vivid and extremely scary detail what it meant to send Ken Saro to well, the Gallows... We instantaneously tagged Mr. Ogunmola,with a deafening roar of "galloooooooooow" as he walked out of the class, as if to underscore how insightful his freestyle political commentary was that memorable afternoon. He would usually tutor our minds in the devilish ways of a military government as a way to getting a grip on our notorious attention at FUTA staff secondary school....
The day murderer Sanni Abacha would die, such was the relief that I had, as I listened to the BBC Radio and these words came through "The head of the military junta in Nigeria - Gen. Sanni Abacha has died...
I think it was approximately 6.30PM Akure time and I screamed. Actually, I roared with a loud "won ni Abacha ti ku" so much my ever so politically studied, if un-western-educated grandma ( you know, the kind that would stare long enough at the TV to recognise who is who ) would rush at me, to wrap her palm around my mouth - her way of expressing disbelief.
More so, she knew what Abacha's people do to such exterior expression of expectations.
Anyone who would openly express opposition, dissatisfaction or just any strand of opinion, on the public affairs - and it was a disaster - of Nigerians better be out of the country in exile, or be dead.
My grandma, of blessed memory, was never able to tell me "for gods sake shut up!" but I wasn't going to resist her warm embrace and protective plea, to maintain silence.
I remember the extant jubilation across the street by 6.30PM - mere thirty or so minutes later when the news spread around Akure, and grandma realized her grandson was right afterall - if a little naive. Another elderly woman was said to have retorted “if it was indeed the prompting of someone's death that there was cause for so much jubilant air of relief, then that person must have been truly evil..” Such was the times. Even soldiers jubilated.
Chief Gani. Fawenhmi, will later capture the mood of the nation, the next morning on those BBC good Morning Africa shows summing up Gen. Abacha's final exit with a humble prayer: It went “May the good Lord provide Abacha the hottest part of hell”.
These are just snapshots of what I remember of the last days of Nigeria's Military government(s). That's mine. I would hazard yours are screaming at you already.
Given all of these - and other horrific stuff that you and I remember of those Khaki boys - It is unthinkable, in fact bizarre that I'd even contemplate the idea that something will force us to relive that era.
In my opinion, that will be sacrilege. It is insane!
Yet, some of the arguments put forward by the coup proponents on the NVS thread at first glance seem very compelling. Such is the seeming nature of the mess, that is emperor Obasanjo's modern Nigeria.
A commentator on TheNigeriaVillagesquare, once stated that the notion of development, is in itself progressive. I will go into personal experience one more time.
Few years back, I worked right on top of PDP-HQ building at the heart of Akure, and prisoner Bode George - former Ondo state Miltary Admnistrator too, remember - will pop into town once very while. I think he held some sort of a PDP position at the time. When he is in town, it was un-missable scenery along Oyemekun road.
With a noisy followership of all sorts of wasted youths backdropping him in a crowd, hailing him with their cutlasses and knifes in the air into town in what was a dispiriting entourage of countless brand new jeeps all marked "THE PRESIDENCY", prisoner Olabode George will step out, almost majestically. I saw him, up close plenty of times, and I have never met so much of an arrogance effusing, cocky, and 'short' for nothing old Yoruba man.
From upstairs where I 'd peep occasionally to have a look, at the noisy celebration of PDP mediocrity mixed with madness, or from the generator cell, where I'd go downstairs to power up the office, I'd be thinking to myself: this guy walks and moves about, carrying on as though he was some-kind of a 'god'. So riling...
But where is he today?
The one thought that haunts me since the rather entertaining, if comforting news of his criminal conviction came through is, if there was anyone who dared to suggest to the grade A Crook that was prisoner Olabode George, or in fact in his vicinity, that at some point, this gangsterism - of a democracy - that we have in Nigeria, will end up jailing him inside Kirikiri, he would have, quite simply laughed his very soul out. And that unfortunate, loud-mouthed, bloody civilian may well meet with some serious physical beating, at the behest of Bode's command.
At that time, Olabode George was a god onto himself.
Here is another pointer; To the best of my knowledge, since the very cold night a few months back, that a couple of London based Nigerians took the liberty and time to chase emperor Obasanjo out of the 'mago-mago' lecture on war and peace he was supposedly to deliver at the London School of Economics (http://yrn.me/sq0h2), he has not been back; He has not been publicly back - that I am sure of.
Former Governor James Ibori, - and would it not be nice to have the Oxford dictionary people assimilate Ogidigbogbo in, under category O ? - is on his way to prison and I know a couple of guys who are so willing to welcome him to Brixton prisons when his hour cometh.
To paraphrase, Eric Cantona, a great, yet un-named Nigerian already kicked Hooligan Obasanjo. Well, he punched him in the tummy.
The lunatic of Minna, that is Nigeria's grandest fool - Ibrahim Babangida - has not spoken about his presidential ambitions since Abuja suggested he might be committing Treason. It is a good thing he remembers, what he did to his supposed friend - Major Maam Vatsa. Self suspicion can be such a great moderator...
Gradually, the subset of crooks and continental disgrace of a people that has held forte and rode majestically as though today will never come are meeting with their powerlessness, faced either with their own mortality, or extra slow wheels of justice either in Nigeria, or anywhere on the face of the earth.
It is no mean feat. For us, and for the trappings of democracy as we currently have it.
On Facebook, on this site, on Twitter, and the Internetsphere at large, young Nigerians who are live on their mobile phones, are asking question and soaking in the experience of having their voices count; It may not be democracy in the way of Westminster or Washington, In fact we may not know what we are doing, but the days are gone when you had to painfully go through the crap the Nigerian Television Authority will dish out at you while you shake your head at home, at the many contradictions that was what you saw, and what you were told.
Essentially, the sort of nonsense that was easy to perpetuate by Nigeria's diseased elites, and by extension (mis)rulership class, and cover up 10 years ago, is quite simply impossible now. People tend to understate the importance of this, but secrecy is a powerful weapon towards the continued capacity of a force to produce evil.
And if you want to know what the Internet can cause - the geek word is disruption - you wait over the next few months when the connectivity and sheer bandwidth of Main-One ( the Submarine Cable company ) fresh in Lagos begin to trickle down. Then, you are going to truly see what 'education', heck ! proper education does to a people so abused /tricked for ages. Be prepared.
Already, 25%+ of Internet traffic out of Nigeria is from mobile (http://yrn.me/2ti8x) and Nigeria is already the 20th ranked country speaking in terms of Internet penetration per population (http://yrn.me/rh5u3)
My argument ?
I know two things; One, I have no idea what way Nigeria's fate will ultimately pan out for brilliance or worse, but I know for sure that, the idea of a military-come-and-take-over is a complete and absolute, one hundred percent, madness to me! It scares the core and crap out of my living senses, the suggestion, of in fact contemplation of it.
Now, I say that not without minding the seeming hopelessness, that is today's Nigeria;
No, but trapped in a seeming hell-hole and in the absence of an abija-wara-bi-ekun magic wand, I am willing to contemplate what strikes me as the most sensible way to proceed. You may proceed without having any idea where it leads, but then the conviction of being the most sensible will in all probability guide you through. This is my premise.
I would argue that given the margin of successes that we - the remaining sane members of the Nigerian class have achieved in the last few years, It would seem to me that the most logical thing to do, is continue on this path.
Let's turn up the heat on the fraudsters, of so called leaders, and rulers, wherever there is a chance of doing so.
Let's pile pressure on the Fayemis, the Mimikos, the Obis, the Fasholas ( I hope he reads these places now ?) - what I can describe as the lesser axis of evil, so they can be shining examples; some sort of place where there will be renaissance and a never-again : Nigeria's final breath of recovery. At the very least, they have got to realise the cost of failure. And if they do not, it is down to us to make them pay.
The technological tools at our disposal are immense now. It is upon us to use them to defeat these charlatans that currently are the major actors and actresses in Abuja and down the X and Y axis of Nigeria.
And as the seeming cluelessness that permeates Abuja currently feels like it is calibrated to burst your mental shock absorbers, what with the tepid response of President Goodluck Jonathan to the scary bombing of hapless everday people on new year eve, let us remember that approximately this time last year, there were indeed legitimate fears the military folks may decide to cut the tape that was the Turai & Cabal horror film. But they did not. You know, they are scared too. And this too shall - it seems to me - pass.
At some point, progress - in whatever form we ultimately evolve - being a progressive thing will become self perpetuating. To me, It makes much more sense.
Finally, and perhaps more importantly, let's begin to look around for ways with which we can stop more of our people - our undergraduates especially - from going to those useless and pointless brainwashing sessions at Pastor Adeboye's camp (read churches incorporated Nigeria) relentlessly without thought, and actually begin to read these places (most of them are out there poking their lives out on Facebook anyways) in order that they may know, that their salvation is right in their hearts, in their heads, and in their hands.