Home Opinion Alhaji Ganiyu Elékuru – Baba Ẹlẹ́ran | Odolaye Aremu

Alhaji Ganiyu Elékuru – Baba Ẹlẹ́ran | Odolaye Aremu

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They say I am crazy. In a way maybe I am Ibadan-kind crazy. The type of craziness that follows a logic to a point and depart from it when such logic expires midway. The chronic bipolarity of that city lives with me and within me forever and ever. For example I don’t understand how Lagosians could choose to sheepishly follow one Jagaban to the end of time. In Ibadan we are quick to recalibrate our position or allegiance to the growth or development or even to the irregular, electrical touches of our brain cells. We act to the notorious pattern of the privileged residents of that fabled, invincible city within the big city itself known only to outsiders as – Láyípo!

Now back to base. More than the attractive aura of the ball club that added an allure to the lore of the city for me, Baba Ẹlẹ́ran was another Ibadan entity that helped to fully secure my love for the beautiful city. There was Lekan Salami and there was Baba Eleran. Their’s was the symbiotic relationship between Lekki and Somolu. One seemingly high and the other seemingly low. But both functioned perfectly to the massive growth of the club they both managed and supported respectively.

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The picture of Haji Gani is that of a Legend. He was as legendary as the ball club he devoted his life, business and all to. One of his children reportedly fell sick on on the eve of one of the Stars outing out of state, he only prayed for the kid and followed his heart. Fortunately the Stars won. Unfortunately the kid died. Baba Ẹlẹ́ran reportedly sucked up and thank God for taking the child but more for allowing the Stars not to disgrace him! That’s Ganiyu Elékuru, Baba Eleran!

He was our Supporters Club leader. And at the same time a one-time President of The Ibadan Butchers Association; hence the lifetime moniker: Baba Ẹlẹ́ran. He was equally one of our unofficial team scouts. By his carrying-on too, he was the man to further reinforced the prevalence of voodoo in our locker room- though treated hush-hush. It was a matter of ‘don’t ask-don’t tell.’ Looking back at it now, I think I doubt its efficacy. Not with the way we lost the biggest game of all spectacularly when we were overwhelmingly assured the game was already in the kitty.

The legend went further that the man had inputs into every player that ever wore that blue/white uniform in his lifetime. It was said, that Baba Eleran always knew the perfect fit for the team. And he had something profoundly or wickedly funny to say about any of the Stars at all times.

“Sẹ́gun tun tí bẹ̀rẹ̀ ègé wèrè ẹ nu’un! Tí wọn ba e le gba bọ́ọ̀lù un lọ́wọ́ ẹ yaa mọ gba’bẹ̀ rè’lú’u yín ní o! Ẹsẹ wèrè ẹ ò sì báláànsì ó!”

He was more than just a non-player, he was the team’s mascot, two beloved entities, synonymously linked forever – even in death. He never sat still from the start of a match till its end! It was common knowledge that he loved the Stars more than anything. He would have given his life easily if such massive gesture would or could help the Stars win the most insignificant game- be it a friendly match. An unrivaled city encyclopedia for the then Nigerian soccer league in his lifetime. Imagine that for a man not particularly lettered! His sense of recall was amazing! Being in his presence was like being in the presence of a soccer Gnome. He would forever be remembered for the Balubalu song, not only because he sang it but more for crazily believing the fallacy of an ‘albino and sun-blindness.’ Bendel Insurance had Papa Bendel. The Flying Antelopes (Rangers) had Madam Rangers. In Ibadan, we lovingly and fondly had Baba Ẹlẹ́ran!

May His Soul Rest In Peace!

“Bàlùbàlù N’tàfín Ò!
Bàlùbàlù Ń’tàfín Ò!
Sámálẹ́ẹ̀kì Ò Ríran Ọ̀sán O!
Bàlùbàlù Ń’tàfín O!”

©️ Odolaye Aremu

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