Open Letter To My late Mum: my peregrination in the hands of fate.
By Sunday Ajibola (Edobor)
Life can be interesting, agonising, depressing and fulfilling at times. It often throws man into emotions of varying degrees. Certain happenstances rekindle memories of decades and make one feel as if they just occurred. This open letter is one of such. Pardon my digression.
Momo mi, I am sorry for not getting in touch with you all these years; 27 years to be precise. I have no doubt you have forgiven me even before I asked for it; you have never held misdeeds against me. Though, most of the time, I remember you. But mainly, your special position has not really been fully occupied. Its after your demise that reality of the Yoruba saying "orisa bi iya osi" (there is no deity as mother) dawned on me. Now, I realise that i forgot to ask you so many questions. But then, questions are never exhausted.
That very day you finally bowed to the icy hands of death, your state of health denied you the chance of saying final goodbye to me, your beloved son. Death is cruel indeed! I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that you desired to, but could not. As you held my hand and squeezed it gently, you were sending a symbolic message; your goodbye. I was oblivious of the reality of having my final contact with you as a living being. When i came back an hour later, you remained in same position peaceably, supine with eyes closed. It was unusual. I checked your pulse and tried to move your body but you had become cold and stiff. I called "momo mi", once, twice and thrice. For the very first time, you ignored my calls. The eagle had flown away not to be seen or heard alive again among the living. It was shattering and relieving. Shattering in that our relationship that started when you gave birth to me had run full circle. I was relieved from seeing you, the most important person in my life, in pain and regretably unable to offer help. I could not cry because your health, which had deteriorated, had prepared me for any eventuality.
Unconsciously, I muttered to myself in Akure dialect, "o sese tan lisinin ni." (Now, it is finished, finally.) In reality, that was the end of phase one of my life. You had been everything for me: my mum, my dad, my sister, my brother, my friend, my gist partner, my sympathiser, my benefactor and my listener. The questions flooded my mind in torrents: where else could I look unto for succour? Who do I turn to? What is the next step? As far as I was concerned, my hope, my original and only love was gone and that was forever.
The last few years of your life were traumatizing for both of us. We were perplexed seeing everything we held dear disappearing one after the other. Life could be torturing for man at times.
We did the burial. It was not elaborate, with help of God, who used Brother Kunle. But then, I cried six days after as I got admission letter into School of Journalism. As I received the letter, it occurred to me that your spirit would have been lifted had I got it when you were alive. I did not know God was pacifying me over your death . Why? My fortune reversal of the last ten years gave you trauma of indescribable proportions. Anytime I remember that fateful day you looked at me, watching clothes for others as a laundry man and said, in Akure dialect, "kimi bati ku, kan an ba foo simi fo otiburu toi, mera gbagbo." (If I had died and they tell me things have gone this bad I would not believe it.) My response of "etide lara gba." We have to accept fate was a ploy to douse your feeling, play down the tension in you. I wept bitterly inside of me. I had watched you, a bubbling, happy and a pride of your few acquaintances and envy of many, become a jelly, almost a bag of bones, in pains coughing. I compared your condition with my hopelessness and endless struggles as fast as I could. I had to play down the tension in you by making light of it.
I went to that school travelling to and fro Akure to Ibadan on a weekly basis for two years. My first day in class gave me unlimited joy. My spirit got a lifting. I was always by the roadside to get a vehicle, any type. We used to call it
"soole." God compensated me, using Mr Alakuro to offer me employment at the defunct ODRC shortly before I rounded off the course. Things started taking shape thereafter as I got out of my cocoon. And for the very first time in many years, i felt appreciated by the staff, who poured encomiums on me, saying I was good on the job. Its an entirely new experience, a sharp departure from life in the valley.
Journalism was the only passion I longed for as I told you back then; it gave me joy and I became fulfilled hunting and writing News. I never felt better. Not until I became a newsman did I realise the depth of emptiness in me. Nothing mattered to me aside News writing. I threw my whole being into it. My life became a two-way traffic: office to church virtually every day. I felt on top of the world.
OSRC newsroom helped me become more gregarious. It opened me up. But then, five years down the line, politicians came on board and started disorganising the system. I was transferred to the mainstream Ministry to become a government spokesperson. I was thrusted into mixing with people and doing things with them. My relationship with people has improved tremendously thereby. Many will not accede to my claim of being an introvert. But then, that's what I am.
Remember you told my friend and first Pastor, Gbenga Onifade to take care of me when you realised you would soon pass on. He stood by me as far as he could. But then, Welfast introduced me to the Christ-like Assembly, where I became a prominent member of the Choir. If you remember, my other passion aside buying and reading newspapers was music. I had a rich library of local music: juju, Fuji and ere ibile, foreign pop and reggae. For the first time, I had a chance to be part of the music family. The church changed some of my perceptions of life. One of these was the issue of marriage, which i never thought of. Two years after joining the church, I got married to Stella. God has been good to us. He has blessed us with everything we need in that union.
There is an issue I have kept to myself for over 20 years. When I was about getting married, I could not lay my hands on any of your pictures. I went to Okearo, I could not get any. Then, I remembered that there was a picture you took in 1988 with Welfast's mum during his wedding. Can you belief that the picture had been removed from their wedding album? I cannot fathom the cause of this.
This letter will be incomplete if I fail to talk about this; for I know you will be interested. Concerning the legacy you left behind, I have so much to say but I will edit myself and make it brief. Since I left school and got employed, your son has been in charge of your house at Idi-iroko. I have been kept in the dark. He has even obliterated you and his father, baba Aromowa's memory from that house at Eleye Junction Oke-aro. That cannot work as you and Baba Aromowa remain indelible in our memory forever with legacies to remember. Are you wondering how? The house, where you and his father, were buried has been demolished. The man, whom your son sold it to, pulled it down late last year.
On reflection now, I can deduce your motive for living a regimented, disciplined and principled life. Your life was work, work and work. You had no time for frivolties. Frivolties drain man of mental and physical prowess. I cannot remember you leaving your shop to visit anyone. That is part of me now. Your life was a classic display of what singleness of purpose and focus mean.
Momo mi, hmmnn. As I get to rounding off this piece, that prediction you told me has not come to pass. I hold passionately unto it. And I am of the believe that it will.
If there was anything you allowed me to enjoy, it was the freedom to live as I wanted. Some people trying to hide under certain guises, think they can take that away from me. They do not know me at all. I will not allow that to happen. Even, our Creator does not try to make us fools. Complaisance, to me, is the root of sadness; it is foolishness.
Finally, momo mi, if I tell you the tears have dried up, I will be a liar. You did not bring me up to lie or steal. I cannot forger the warning you issued everytime in our native dialect: Ki moba bimo kee sole, ma moogun eku kooje. (If my child steals, I will poison him.) My distaste for such behaviour stems from my being content with whatever I have. Another person's belonging does not appeal to me. Its hard to stay in line with that stance in Nigeria of today.
As I said earlier, the tears of the love which has eluded me since your demise happens everytime. My deep and personal tears started on that day I was denied travelling to UK. On my way back to Akure and deeply depressed, I wrote at the back of the Guardian newspaper in my hand, "home is the place to go after defeat." The lady who sat beside me looked at me out of curiosity and shook her head. She understood that I had been defeated and thereby lost something precious. That was the first time I knew the meaning of fear; it was a turning point. Man will rather make you sad than make you happy. However, do you remember that young man, who used to visit me back then at the height of my life in distress by name Femi? He has been of tremendous assistance; he is always there anytime, everytime. His words are a source of inspiration all the way. Come to think of it, he was not even my friend directly at that. I feel he is being used by God to pay back the good deeds I had done friends.
These days the subdued and bottled up emotions that I grew up with runs riot at times. I cave in, in silence almost on each occasion. Loneliness has always been and is still part of me. Being an introvert has its advantages and woes. Introverts are stronger alone. A philosopher says, a man who loves being alone is either a god or a devil. Our godly nature comes to the fore when we are creative. The devilish part manifests when we are in the mopes. We feel our joys and pains lonely. Most of the time, we keep our innermost feelings bottled up. It gives me opportunity to critically analyse myself, my life and life generally, thereby make decisions. My spirit is at pains about so many things and they grieve it. Among these are the series of events that preceded your sickness and eventual demise. I feel bad and sorely so, that you did not reap anything whatsoever from your efforts on and investment in me. I am also tearful that since that very day I left Federal School of Arts and Science, Ondo (FSASON) as a Hall Captain, which gave us joy, my life tumbled from mountain top to the valley. I also cannot understand why I was so lonesome without help coming from anywhere. What about missed opportunities, the losses, the maltreatment and disrespect as well as denials? It's not their fault. Definitely, oju oni koya seyin tiri mabo. (He that turned off the track has experienced a lot).
Why was I born into a house which had no teenager, not to talk of a contemporary kid to play with? The youngest person in that house was over 30 years. Why did you not give birth to my brother or sister you told me I always asked you when I was a toddler? These laid the foundation for my introvert nature. Remember my primary school days when I was denied admission into Secondary school though I attended the interview? That year, my classmate, who did not attend the interview as a result of poor performance in the exams was admitted into that school! What about attempts to gain admission into FSASON? I sat and passed the exams twice but was rejected until late Auntie Julie intervened. At the Guardian and Counsellor's Office I saw that most (over 200) who were admitted scored far less marks than i. They were connected, I was not. Momo mi, I hope you remember the case of University of Ife, now OAU? That fateful year, with 246 marks, the school denied me admission to read English. Yet, a girl with connection, scored 202 and was admitted to read law. This was too painful. I read more than ever before, after release of results. I wanted to show Professor Adebayo Williams of Newswatch that I too could write. But the system short-changed me. Put together, I have come to realise that the Nigerian system is a fallacy; I do not have faith in it. All these were not your or my making. Some things are not meant to happen and they will not, no matter what we do.
When I think of all these, I am fully persuaded to agree that what we all brought to this world surpasses what we met here. Yet, we always try to place what we met here above what we brought.
Anyone is at liberty to agree or disagree but experience has shown that everyone will live as planned before his birth. My experiences notwithstanding, I try as much as I can to render assistance to those I feel need it. I also see everyone as my brother and sister and treat them as such. But then, i treat with disdain those who have misconceptions about life with false myopic delusory sense of being more important than others.
Momo mi, in spite of all these, there is a silver lining in the horizon. I have discovered myself, found my range, the rhythm is back and I stay there. It thrills and give me unlimited joy. There is time for everything under the sun, says the book of Ecclesiastes. More than ever before, I find peace in doing my thing and doing it well.
Momo mi, interesting times are ahead. Even at that, I deeply feel you ought to see your boy doing well and enjoying his life. Ori oye ti mo gberu, ilu olodi ti fowosi. The next letter I will write you is going to be about my exploits.
Wo kare eye rire. I cannot forget you forever.