Penultimate week; I travelled home to be part of the 60th anniversary celebration of my alma mater, Owo High School (OHS), founded by Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin, that great educationist credited as one of the brains behind the Free Education programme of the Action Group in the First Republic. Ajasin was also the inimitable NADECO and Afenifere leader who stood ram-rod against rampaging military dictatorship in the struggle for the democracy that we enjoy today. Sadly, it is the same democracy that the politicians that took power since 1999 have done everything imaginable, even bizarre, to undermine. The journey to Owo and back was hellish; the stretch from Ibadan to Ilesha was a death trap, to say the least. The potholes did serious damage to my SUV and the verdict of the mechanic who came to examine the damage was that the two front shock absorbers are gone!
This is not to talk of the prohibitive cost of filling my car tank. To save costs, I bought a full tank in Lagos and refilled it again at Ibadan. I got to Owo with half-tank left. Bovas had no fuel for the period I spent at home, so I got to Akure before buying some more fuel. At Ilesha, on the road to Osogbo, Bovas had fuel and I filled up my tank again. Despite my best efforts to economize on fuel, I spent a whopping N160,000 on fuel to and from Owo. I detoured into Ilesha enroute to Osogbo to drop a friend. From Osogbo through Ode-Omu, I came out again at Gbongan junction on the homeward stretch to Lagos.
Having lost the two front shock absorbers as a result of bad roads, the vehicle’s balance became suspect and I had to drive with utmost caution. I am sure you understand that I cannot heap the blame on the deplorable state of our roads on the six-month-old administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu but the person who sits on the throne is the one we still must cry out to for help. So, President Tinubu has to do everything possible to fix our roads. In case he did not know, the carnage on them and the monumental waste incurred by the citizenry have become unbearable.
Otherwise, the anniversary was fun! Old classmates met; for many, for the first time since we departed OHS 49 years ago. We also met old seniors and juniors. Those seniors who towered over us like “Iroko” trees in those days now look like Lilliputians! Faces have changed and it took some time for old mates to recognize one another again. My 1970/74 Set had our own special reunion dinner on Friday, a day before the general dinner. Just a fraction of us were able to make it. A few others phoned in from across the globe. We threw banters, embraced and went back memory lane, but not before we had observed a one-minute silence in memory of some of our colleagues that have transited. It was a solemn and somber moment. We also took note of classmates that are battling with health challenges and a decision was taken to identify with them.
One of the major decisions taken was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our 70/74 Set’s passing out of OHS next year. Everyone without an exception has keyed into this project. At the St Andrew’s Anglican Church, Imola Street, Owo where we held a thanksgiving service to round up the 60th anniversary celebrations, we intimated the National President, Dr. Foluso Falaye, of our Set’s plan and he was elated. The idea to have every set celebrate their 40th anniversary had earlier been muted but nothing came out of it. So, if we pioneer this next year, other Sets coming behind us can fall in line. The beauty in this is that every year, OHS will have something to celebrate and something new will be added to the school.
Our 70/74 Set’s dinner was fun. The food was good: pounded yam served with efo riro and bush meat; ofada rice served with goat meat and orisi-risi; jollof rice served with local chicken and fish; garnished snails washed down with exotic wines and drinks “imported” from Apongbon in Lagos. Lilijo Motels, owned by our classmate, Gbenga Samuel Arowele, provided an ambience that complimented the efforts of everyone to make the occasion a memorable one.
The 60th anniversary ended on a glorious note. The organizing committee led by Akinwale Ojomo did an excellent job. The executive led by Dr. Foluso Falaye provided the required leadership and every old student played the role expected of them. The school, led by the principal, himself an old student, cooperated fully. Whereas the one-week event has come and gone, with scores of projects commissioned, work still continues on two major projects – a multi-purpose Hall and the school gate. At the general dinner held at MIDAS, close to N10 million was raised in donations and pledges towards the school gate project.
I returned to Lagos late on Sunday night and decided I needed some rest. I threw my phone far away. The opportunity cost, however, was that I missed out on a lot of breaking news. When I switched my phones on again, the first caller was an avid reader of my columns. He said: “Thank God you are now back from Owo” Before I could respond, he added: “How was your celebration? I hope you enjoyed yourself” Again, before I could respond, he said: “I am very eager to hear what you have to say about goings-on in this country of ours” What could the goings-on be? I have been out of tune with breaking news for days. So, what could the matter be, I asked.
“I want to find out from you when Nigeria suddenly became an Animal Rights country. I know we used to be a human rights country. We used to have the likes of Tai Solarin, Gani Fawehinmi, Fela and his brother Beko, Femi Falana, Femi Aborisade, husband and wife Odumakin and many others fighting for human rights but I did not know when we began to fight for Animal Rights like they do in Europe and America”
I was at sea and I told him so. “So, you did not hear that they said one dog ventured into a big man’s compound and they arrested the dog and beat it blue and black. As a result, people are now protesting and threatening hail and brimstone. They are even threatening to go on nationwide strike because of this. I just cannot understand”
By this time, I had started trying to figure out his narrative. So, I asked him: “But what kind of dog is this dog that you are talking about? Who is the owner of the dog? And what is so special about a dog, anyway?”
“That is my own worry, too. Of all the problems that Nigerians grapple with, why did the problems of a dog become the centre of everyone’s attraction?”
“Does this dog belong to a VIP? The president, senate president, one big man or woman?” I tried to find out the status of the dog in question. Then he said: “From what I understand, the dog appears to belong to a lot of people, a multitude of people. They said it is “aja – ero”, and “ero” in Yoruba means multitude of people. How can a single dog belong to…”
I did not let him complete the statement! I now understood what he had been trying to say! “See, sir, they are not talking of any dog here; they are talking of a human being; in fact, a very important human being for that matter – the leader of Nigerian workers saddled with the responsibility of fighting for their rights, albeit responsibly. He was badly treated, whatever may have been their reason for doing so is wrong. And whatever may have been his shortcomings or overzealousness…”
It was now his own turn to cut me short… “I see… Who, then, is this man, since you say it is not a dog that is the object of the nationwide strike that disrupted activities all over the country” I did my best to explain to him that “aja” in the Yoruba language may mean “dog” but it does not necessarily mean the same in other Nigerian languages and that Ajaero is one word, not two words (Aja ero) and that is has a beautiful meaning.
“Tell me the meaning. I am eager to know” I told him: “Google says it means ‘sacrifice well received…’” He did not let me finish before he snarled: “But is it not dogs that are used for sacrifice?” Not in all climes, I told him. Human beings have found many uses for dogs: As pets, as breeds for home security, and as delicacies, among others. I then told him to perish the thought that the wahala that led to a nationwide strike had anything to do with a dog and that Ajaero is a very important, even if misguided, Nigerian. His rights must be protected, even when it is obvious that his intentions are not as altruistic as he pretends that they are.
We must note, however, that the government ought not to have waited for Labour to declare a strike before condemning the Gestapo-style treatment meted out to the NLC president, Joe Ajaero, in his home state of Imo. Those responsible for the beating Ajaero received must be brought to book. Nigeria is not yet a banana republic for such bestiality to go unchallenged and unpunished.
But should Labour be contemplating joining our “oppressors” by flying Ajaero abroad for treatment? They are all birds of a feather! What is unfolding before our very eyes is not workers’ struggle or class struggle but intra-class struggle of different sections of the Nigerian comprador bourgeoisie to corner political power for the sole purpose of controlling and monopolizing the sharing of State resources.
If there is any Labour leader that has dragged the union in the mud this much, it is the present crop of Labour leaders – NLC, TUC, with the ASUU tagging along – whose tribalism has shone like a million stars. There is an undertone of partisan politics in all they do. They leave no one in doubt where they stand on the political divide. But what is “Labour” in Peter Obi? Let someone show us his “Labour” antecedents or credentials. And what is even “Christian” about him? The next time you will see him make the rounds of churches and call church leaders “Daddy” is at the next presidential election in 2027! I begi, let Tinubu breathe!