Nothing depicts Jamaican reggae music superstar, Jimmy Cliff’s evergreen track, House of Exile more than two events that happened in the past week. Cliff had begun the track by stating that there is a day of feasting, day of gladness and day of sadness. One could eat in the day of feasting but will naturally be downcast on the day of sadness, said Cliff who said that these were features of a house of exile.
This song depicts the binary nature of creation: two lips, two eyes, two legs, two kidneys and many others. So also is joy and sadness. That binary nature of life was what gripped friends, acquaintances and families of two Nigerians – the large-hearted and large-statured journalism icon, Dele Momodu and the late Kehinde Ayoola, ex-Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, who was, prior to his untimely demise, the Commissioner for Environment in the state.
Let me begin from the latter. On Thursday last week, fear of the perishable nature of man and the fitting description of existence by the holy writ as vapour which burns for a short while and disappears without trace, gripped friends, family and acquaintances of Ayoola. It was at the news of his death. The 55-year old Ayoola was my friend and was generally liked by all and sundry. If elegies for the dead could raise them, Ayoola would be home now devouring a plate of amala. His memories were garlanded by those who saw him as a good example of how a public official should be.
Ayoola and I started our friendship even while we belonged to different persuasions. He was of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and I, publicist of an All Progressives Congress (APC) governor. We both received and honoured an invitation to appear on an Ibadan television to defend our turfs. We literally spat in each other’s eyes, banging the table and aping the mythical Sango’s fire of fury. After the “war,” we exchanged smiles and cell phone numbers. Not long after this, a friend on Facebook alleged that I wanted to kill him and Ayoola was one who came to my rescue. “If it is defending where he belongs with words, Adedayo is a killer but if it comes to taking the life of a person, it is a no, no!” I paraphrase Ayoola’s intervention. Thereafter, we became friends, aligned on same persuasion in the build-up to the last gubernatorial election in the state. So you can imagine how downcast I was when his passage was made public.
On the flip side of that monumental sadness stood Momodu, known as Bob Dee, a journalism exemplar whose strides I began to mop up back in the days at the university. Providence was to make some of his besotting friends like Oba Adedokun Abolarin and Prof Wale Adebanwi my friends too. As he celebrated his 60th last week, Bob Dee must be celebrating a media remarkability that has become synonymous with him. You may disagree with his views but you cannot put down his immense contributions to the Nigerian journalism creed in a very significant way. These are contributions etched on the rock which make him a name that can never be forgotten in the annals of our history. Momodu was one of those who took a mix of hard and soft issues journalism to the zenith in the 1990s via Weekend Concord and Classique and who held forte in the two dispositions.
You can thus understand my binary feelings at the two occurrences. Ayoola was a great man, in the definition of greats. Highly cerebral, humble and one sired in the true tenets of African virtues and values, he will be sorely missed, not as an engaging cliché that dots dirges but in deed. While I bid my friend, Ayoola goodnight till the resurrection morning, I salute Bob Dee on his 60th birthday.