Today, I saw the face of death…

 

Creaky beds and ventilation tubes littered the room. In one corner, a chubby looking man sat with a stethoscope around his neck. Other significantly younger individuals flocked around doing one thing or the other… I approached his desk and he signaled me to sit.

Nurse, jor mo fe yagbe. (Nurse, please I want to shit)….

There was a fine mix of men and women in the room. At least they numbered seven. “Don’t go anywhere baba” the nurse shrieked; the restroom is full and you can dislodge your catheter if you stand.

I looked around and saw the grim look on the faces of the residents and the indifferent look on the faces of the attendants who had probably spent quality time in a medical school somewhere. The atmosphere lacked compassion. Despite being over 30 degrees, the room felt frigid.

Nurse, please I need to shit now he cried again and he began undressing himself.

In sickness, there  isn’t anything like being shy or worrying about being naked or not… The goal is simple; Get well.

As he spoke, he got up and took a few feeble steps away from the bed. He could barely stand upright. The urine bottle hit the floor and another nurse shouted “baba, wait. Don’t dislodge your urethra. Use this… as she handed him the waste bin stationed by his bed and lined with polyethylene ”. He collected it and quickly stooped to poop right by his bed which happened to be next to another patient. Oblivious to all that was going on in the room.

You look healthy he said. . Let’s check your BP. Do you exercise? Do you sleep well? Are you on any drugs? Painkillers? None? Beautiful. You’d be fine. You only need to rest…

Doc, it’s an emergency please… my mother isn’t feeling well… carry her in… the available wheel chair without rubber tires rolls in…and because there isn’t a footrest, someone holds the woman’s  legs up to avoid them scraping the floor.

She is wheeled to the center of this crowded room visibly gasping. One of the younger doctors grabs a pair of gloves and walks briskly to the woman…. He searches for a pulse…. Grabs a stethoscope… shuts his eye and walked away. She had passed.

It had happened. The young lady who only minutes ago had carried her mother into that room in an instant had no one to call mother again. . In the twinkling of our eyes, her mother was gone. Liberated from this sad existence. For her, this was the final destination. No more pain. Nothing to worry about.  She was finally at peace.

For a minute, the room went silent…. Then the chatter resumed. In the background one of the nurses was advising the lady about wrapping the body up before it became stiff and they couldn’t move “it” around….

This was my second encounter with the reaper.

Today, I sat in a room with the reaper and saw the face of death.

An Ode to GR 495 EKY

 

My Heart,

Its been a couple months since I had to let you go. you were as reliable as cold water on a sunny day. but as the saying goes, unto every thing is a time and a season. its safe to say your time came and has passed.

i hear you’ve had some surgery done on your nervous system. the doctor said your heart was fine. i knew there was no killing the beast in you. hope the new tranny works fine.

i think you’re in good hands. i hear he even got your glasses darkened. that’s so cool. its great to know you still ride the 16′ wheels i got for you and your modified Lexus Rx suspension.

I have a new beau now (sorry it took this long to tell you) and her 5 speed tranny is a wonder and she has a heart of gold. Her throttle is quite wonky tho. That first generation fly by wire thing is no match for your cables. oooo how i miss your zippy acceleration. i have taken her to meet the elders in Otukpo. you wont believe how well she blended in at Ojano. Amazing.

I really shouldn’t bother you with any more of her details. Hope to hear from you soon.

GR495EKY

Miss you loads

FRIENDSHIP

friendship
Dear friend
It started at our first meeting.

In the twinkle of an eye.
A decision made unconsciously in our hearts.
A sudden attraction that holds us bound in its cocoon.
Its influence over us is overwhelming.
It pushes us the extra mile just to ensure that smile.
The one reason we hug.
The only reason you’ll fall to prevent mine.
Your gift to me that glows even in the dark.
The foundation for our fears and tears.
The only thing they can’t take from us…
OUR FRIENDSHIP

My Mentor. My Uncle. My Father. My Friend

IMG_0011[1]

AIR VICE-MARSHALL Unaji Clifford Oche.

I never thought this day would come. Never thought it would be this way. I never imagined writing a tribute for anyone. Not now, and certainly not for you.

I remember the year 1999 when we had to work around attending interviews for AFMS Jos and AFSS Ibadan. You wrote to the interview board of both schools. You said “Tell them you are my son”.

I remember when all it took was one phone call. I remember the drive to the gate. I felt silly… sitting beside you in the back seat of your staff car talking.  Then again, I believe that’s what having a “Father” is about.

Today, people look at me and wonder. They have no idea of the foundation you helped build. I look back at the years you mentored me. I remember the few occasions at the farm. Who would have thought that those were life lessons? What wouldn’t I give to have those moments again?

I remember you telling me about the rewards for hard work. You embodied the essence of working hard and walking tall. If I did not learn anything, I understand that someday, your work will speak for you. You didn’t talk the talk. You walked the walk.  Residents of NAF Base, 403 EMD Sha-sha will not forget you in a hurry.

We, your sons will never forget you. How can we? Where will we get unbiased tutelage from? Who will guide us through this journey called life? Who will hold our hands when we stumble? In our hearts for a thousand years your memory will live.

We are surrounded by darkness. Fear weakens our heart. We are drawn to a portion of the Bible in psalm 128 v 2 where it says” You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours”. We have a thousand unanswered questions. We want a million answers.

We prayed. We cried. We sat in silence. We hoped against hope. Still, who are we to question the will of God? Posterity will be kind to your memory. Generations unborn will hear of you. On the lips of many will your name be sung.

We are proud to be called your sons.

We have been hit by the reality of life. We are reminded of life’s fleeting nature. We are drawn together in pain.

We are consoled because on the 16th of April, 2015, Death trembled to take you.

Rest in Peace Sir.

                                                                                                                                                                Oche, Okpe. Oche

                                                                                                                                                                21st April, 2015.

All there is to Life.

Wednesday, July 24th, the heavens wept. Tears in the form of rain. There is nothing to it anymore. What could ever be is now no longer. A cruel certainty that will never change. I sit in silence. It was already past my bedtime. Sleep eluded me. I stared at my screen “Oche, my baby is gone”.it could have been over a minute, I was lost in time. Dark clouds appeared. It felt like a lifetime. I couldn’t bring myself to the realization. “She’s gone Oche” gone. How could it be? How could a child so pretty, so sweet, go like that? Who had she offended? Whose path did she cross?

Words would forever be inadequate. Memories are all that’s left. I remembered the Eco dinner. 2009. we were at the chapel trying to figure out a name for our “group/band” in the midst of all the ruckus, you couldn’t miss her voice or smile. Like a wakeup call. She could light up a dark room just with her smile.

At the dinner, she wore a pretty red dress…..I didn’t have my bath that morning. School was resuming same day and I needed to pay my fees online before attempting the journey. I stumbled into the café and she was there with Ore. We all laughed. I was almost embarrassed. I looked unkempt. Bathroom slippers, bushy hair, rough tee shirt. We all laughed about my appearance. We were friends after all.

In the midst of the pain, I wonder what the essence of life is. Was it more than blood, sweat, tears and death? If it was, what was it? Why are we born? Why do we have to go? Why will parents have to put children in the ground? I was told it should be the other way round. Children putting their parents in the ground. Does it get better on the other side? Where is the victory in death? Where is the sting? Is life just another form of lifelessness?

Its morning now and I await a better news. The night was horrible. I hope it was my mind playing tricks on me. I hope it’s all a lie. A nasty joke. I hope she’ll come back to this life. I hope we all would get to see that smile again. I hope we see Dolapo again.

My thoughts are interrupted.. Two deaths in one day.

Where is He when you need Him? Where is He when you call upon Him? Why them? Why now? Only unanswered questions remain.

I’ve come to a conclusion that although death is real, it’s not the ultimate. Its only a part of a larger truth that doesn’t wipe away its consequence but transforms it and brings out of it a new creation.

…Blood, Sweat, tears, and Death. This is all there is to life.

Goodnight Ifedolapo…

A service of Songs

…. You can look but not touch. She tried to lighten the mood. Sleeveless low necked top, cute pencil skirt. But for the mood, I would have stared at her swelling behind a for second longer. The air was thick. The silence was alive.

Sadness.

I should have walked. I didn’t know him. There wasn’t any reason to be attached.

6:55 pm

Slow drive…. Oche…. Wear your seat belt.

What? We are in an estate pls. Not like I’d get arrested or run under a truck. Her voice went up a notch or two. “Oche, if you won’t wear your belt, stop this car now”.

“That bad?” “Yea, that bad…Damn”. “click” seatbelt warning light went off. Happy now? I asked. She hissed.

She didn’t know better. I was better than Vettel in my head. Just in my head.

7:00 pm.

Tanterlizers car lot. I sit and wait as she joins the crowd that has gathered. Almost all dressed alike. Black tee’s and trousers / skirts

I hate this. She was gone for a while. Boredom began to creep in. Chaz B on the radio. Crazy guys calling about the kind of woman they wanted. I laughed hard. One dude wanted one with money. Crazy fella.

7:30

We will join the procession to the Pavilion. I look up at her. Pretty girl. Red eyes. She’s been crying. I pat her on the back. You’d be fine Miss. You will. There’s a queue so I join in.

Hazard lights flashing. The lekki traffic is beyond itself. I hate driving slow especially with my hazards on.

Bored beyond myself and knowing she wasn’t in the mood for chit chat, I made a prank call. This was beginning to become my forte.

Hello, is this Elvis? Yea. Who be this? Who I am isn’t really important. Thing is, I called to apologize. Oh? What happened. Do I know you? What’s the problem? There was a hint of panic. Just what I wanted. I continued. I called to tell you something happened between myself and your girlfriend. What? Who is my girlfriend? Jennifer or isn’t she your girlfriend? Wait. She is. What happened? ….

It’s almost another 30 minutes before we arrive at the waterfront. There’s a little crowd now. Candles are being lit. Someone begins to talk. I can’t hear what he’s saying. It’s windy and there’s a bar next door.

The sorrow was real. It was a burden on everyone’s shoulder.

First, the prayer. Then the speech by the chairman of the estate. …. He calls me Chairman sir* and for some strange reason, only Dipo calls me that in this estate.

His name was Dipo.

More people talk. Dipo was…. Dipo was…. It’s funny how within a 60 second time frame ones status can change from He is to He was.

We’ve got to store up treasures in heaven the preacher says. I couldn’t agree more. Life in itself is fleeting. One has to make choices and accept the consequences.

Not until she was called to speak did I realize this death had struck home. I knew that face. That voice. They called her Tubo. She spoke. Her voice shook. I could feel her pain. Her shock. The realization was heart breaking.

Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me….

‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home…

Dipo you fall my hand o. I turned around. Well dressed young man sat at on the fence. Crying. Why did you go? There were so many things you said you would do. Why did you have to go? You fall my hand I swear. He was beyond himself.

Perfect submission, perfect delight, visions of rapture burst on my sight. Angels descending, bring from above echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Another prayer and we dropped the lit candles in clusters on the floor. We had to walk now. The deed was done.

This is my story this is my song, praising my savior all the day long.

Vanity upon vanity. All is vanity

A minute of silence and it was sealed.

Tears flowed.

All I could offer was a hug. It’s well dear. It is well. I held her close. I didn’t have more to offer.

The drive home was my longest ever. Music wasn’t what I needed. I didn’t know what I needed. I knew there was a void somewhere. I tried to cover it up. Seat belt warning light went off. I sped into the darkness.

10:00 pm.

Someday we too would tow that line. Lord knows what people will say about us.

Rest in Peace Dipo.

Words have failed me.

Engaged

Now…

Omg!!! Yes!! Yes!! Yesss!! I will

*left hand outstretched, right hand drifting from across the mouth to the chest. *

Earlier…

This wasn’t his style. He was a conservative. Jide wouldn’t dare suggest a public venue for dinner. He invited friends? The gods really must be crazy.

It must be serious. Did he cheat? Why would he invite friends to an ordinary dinner? We’ve had dinner a million and one times. Why can’t i figure out the big deal.

Something isn’t right. I can almost certainly tell.

He’s probably trying to be open. I’d laugh my head off today. He’s trying to be take the bull by the horns. Hopefully his cheeks won’t turn purple. I’d wait till then…

My chubby jide is a very reserved albeit shy man. Funny I’d say shy. He still has lumps in his throat when we kiss in public. Public display of affection isn’t his forte. I love him to bits. I think he’s the most Detailed and polished man ever.

He has been exceptionally well behaved today. Hmmm. That’s not a good sign. He’s usually extremely naughty. The friends perhaps. The usual jabs have subtly faded. Perhaps its the crowd. He doesn’t do well in a crowd. I feel I should take him to somewhere I know is his comfort zone. Somewhere he’d feel at home.

He looks so lost…

Everyone’s been chatting their lives away. The foods great, the wine…. Ah the wine. Awesome would grossly understate it but I’d stick to awesome for now. The wine is awesome.

Shit..

I’ve lost count of how many glasses I’ve had. Hopefully I won’t voice these disturbed thought I’m having right now!

Stacy…

What the…..

What’s going on. Why is everyone suddenly cheering. What’s going on? Why are they standing? Why is Jide kneeling beside me. What’s this?

Is that a …..

Sweet mother… a ring. For me?

Stacy….

I could barely the chants from the crowd over the voices in my head.

Naaa. I’m certainly buzzed. I knew the sweet wine would knowck me over. I really should attempt to stand. This is all to shocking.

Stacy will you marry me?

That was Jide. Even in a storm he had the ability to calm me. Like a balm, his voise was soothing. Certainly not the Barry White kind of voice. This was better. Far better.

I’m certainly not buzzed. I make the attempt to stand.

Knees don’t fail me now.

They barely hold as he fixed the ring… I was lost. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I didn’t even know where they came from or why I shed them….

….NOW

An Evening at the Marina

Bare feet, long legs, wind drawn hair, and a streamlined body. Awesomeness in a person. All I saw was black. I knew she was here…or so I thought. I could feel her presence…i knew i was hearing her muffled cries. I thought I could feel her pain. I could touch her. Only if I tried, but I knew she was miles away. She was far from me and all I wanted was to provide a shoulder for her to cry on. Body and soul belonged to her lover. I felt that too, but I would try. It wouldn’t end at this.

Her eyes were dark and cold.  Her voice was soothing and unwelcoming. I could tell she loved him. Every bit of her told me that…every move she made was directed at him. If I knew one thing, he didn’t speak her language.

She held onto the rail. She began to fade into the setting sun. Her tears fell into the water, lost for eternity. Needless to say, she was drowning in her own thoughts. They choked her. Forced the tears to her eyes. She fought all she could to hold them back but the wounds didn’t seem to heal. The pain was just too real. Not even time could erase them. If only I could wipe away all of her tears.

I was drawn to the water. A stranger I was. It was surreal. The air, the scent, the water mixed with tears. The sounds…music to my soul and there she was… a silhouette

It was my first day at the marina. It was her first time letting the tears out. We had a connect. We were made for the marina. We spoke, we talked, we listened, and we laughed. We shared a hug. We said goodbye. I watched her walk into the shadows… out of my reach. He was a lucky guy.

Me? It was my first day at the marina and I loved it.

Fola Adeola’s tribute to Olutayo Aderinokun

Fola Adeola and Tayo (standing) at the start of GTBank. 1990

I HAD moved to Ikoyi in 1986, having joined the wonderful team of young men and women that made up Continental Merchant Bank. My teenage friend, Tayo Aderinokun, was one of them.

One of the challenges posed by living in Ikoyi in 1986 was that there were no barbers anywhere near-by! One, therefore, had to go to the Mainland for a simple haircut any time one was required. I was on one of these barber trips one Sunday when I saw a ghastly accident on Eko Bridge.

The only thing that came to my mind was whether the victim of that accident was also on his way to the barbers! I decided we would put barbers in Ikoyi. The only person I knew that would entertain such a fanciful thought was Tayo Aderinokun. We both dipped into our pockets, and thus Finishing Touches Barbing Salon was born. The salon has remained in business up till now, even though we no longer owned it.

Banking licence

Tayo Aderinokun

In 1990, after we had obtained a banking licence, Tayo suggested to me that we sold the company. As far as he was concerned, we should no longer be barbers having become bankers. As an aside, one of the terms of the sale was that Tayo, myself, and all our male children, would cut our hair for free, forever! As if he knew!

Tayo was an entrepreneur at heart. Someone who could take risks and pursue what others may consider an off-the-wall idea. In that way we were often kindred spirits. Tayo ran the Kano Branch of Continental. He had observed that that there was no public gym in Kano.

During one of my trips to Kano to visit with him, he had discussed the idea of our establishing a members-only gym in that city. I’d agreed. He set about the project by renting a property we would re-model for our purpose. After about two weeks of taking the hammer to this building, including removing the roof, the landlord could not recognize his property anymore!

This landlord was a big Kano Alhaji. Instantly, he reached out to Col. Sani Bello, the bank’s chairman, who, in turn, reached out to Dr. Ayagi, the bank’s managing director. All hell broke loose. Tayo and I had to look for money to restore the building to its original state.

That was not all; the stage had been prepared for Tayo’s return to Lagos, and the chain of events that would culminate in him joining me to establish Guaranty Trust Bank.

For me, the idea of a commercial bank never died. I revisited it with Tayo, and told him I was now prepared to go ahead, as I felt the window of opportunity for a licence was narrowing. This was in January 1989. Fortunately, he agreed, and the rest is now history.

That extra-ordinary organization that Tayo would serve diligently for 21 out of his 56 years on earth, was born. It is important to mention three friends of mine, who believed in my ability to run a bank and encouraged me greatly; Akin Akintoye, Gbolade Osibodu, and Moses Ochu. I will always reserve for myself the credit for partnering with Tayo.

In 1990, specifically August 2, I had the privilege to collect, from the Federal Ministry of Finance, banking licence No. 58, dated August 1, 1990, and signed by the Federal Minister for Finance, Chief Olu Falae, for Guaranty Trust Bank Limited. Tayo was by my side. And so the journey had begun. Suffice it to say that in my entire experience, I know of no other person, who could execute as efficiently as Tayo!

I slept with my eyes closed all through the 12 years he was my deputy. Like me, he was not a perfect man; but, for the work that we did, I knew of none better! My greatest memory of Tayo, regarding Guaranty Trust Bank, was always that of the extra-ordinary outcome that only sincerity of purpose, discipline, and hard-work could produce.

Work ethic and discipline

I had great respect for Tayo’s work ethic and discipline, but what endeared him to me the most was his thoughtfulness and reliability, especially during one of the most painful personal experiences of my life – the  loss of my mother.

My mother had died in far-away Abidjan on April 28, 1989. It was a Friday, and as Muslims, we were determined to bury her in Lagos the following day. Tayo had arrived at my home, not too far from his, on foot around 8:30am on Saturday to condole me and ask how he could help.

As it was a weekend, and banks were closed, he had thought to bring with him N8000 to assist me. I thanked him, and confirmed that I would indeed need the money, except that he would be the one to spend it. I asked him to go to Atan Cemetery, and prepare a befitting grave for my mother. By the time my mother’s remains had arrived, there was little time to conclude all ceremonies preparatory to interment.

It was not until we were headed for the cemetery that any of my siblings, who had also just flown in from Abidjan, asked what the arrangement for the grave was! We got there, and found Tayo in the same clothes he was wearing earlier in the day when he had visited.

He was waiting to lead us to the grave he had procured and prepared. None of us had seen the plot before then. As a matter of fact, some of my siblings may just be learning of this for the first time! That was the level of confidence that Tayo engendered, and the level of commitment he displayed. Once he accepted the task, you could take it as done.

Surely, I will miss my friend! The fact that Tayo was always there, is remarkable. You could pick up your phone and be sure there was someone you wanted to talk to, someone you’ve always talked to, someone you did things with, at the other end. “When are you free?”, he would ask. And whatever time was agreed, the answer was always, “see you then.”

Courage to challenge him

An aspect of his life that I found somewhat intriguing was the fact that he did whatever he wanted to do, once he set his mind to it. This was both good and bad, depending on what it was he set his mind to! Somehow, Tayo’s family indulged him; so did his friends! I wonder whether we did not fail Tayo as friends with regards to his illness, in particular, when he came with the news that he no longer had the cancer he had earlier been diagnosed with.

Some of us were not sure, and were worried; but somehow, either because we lacked the courage to challenge him, or he made it difficult for us to do so, we allowed him to have his way, once again! This time, for the last time.

As we grew up, Tayo always shared his life’s desires with me. Two very important objectives he always emphasized. One was to be very rich, and he would add, “very, very rich”; the other was to be managing director of a bank. He accomplished both. I would ask him, often, what would you do with such wealth? And he would laugh, and reply, “wait until I get it.

Tayo, Day Waterman College is an outstanding example of what you did with the money! So many people have also praised your uncommon generosity.

As to becoming the managing director of Guaranty Trust Bank, I commend you for sustaining the vision, and taking the bank so much higher to a realm I know I could never have taken it to. In your hands, the bank simply grew in leaps and bounds.

I am still amazed at the way you successfully resolved all the major issues that came up after my departure! Your handling of the Soludo consolidation phase, with so many options to choose from, and the clean bill Lamido Sanusi gave our bank after the meltdown clearly brought you out to the world as an outstanding professional.

Greater heights

I pray that your successor will also build on what you had done, and take the bank to even greater heights. You had discussed your exit plan with me; I was thinking of the bank. Little did I realize that you were getting ready to exit this world. I had eagerly looked forward to our being neighbours again, as we were in Surulere, when we were young, only this time, on the Presidential Hilltop in Abeokuta, where you were planning to relocate. It was not to be!

It is now clear to me, Tayo, that those of us who are your friends took you for granted. We did not know how big you were in the eyes of the world. How else can we explain the outpouring of emotion from people of all walks of life, competing for space to honour you? The Yoruba must be right when they say, “iku ni’yi”. (In death, honour). Undoubtedly, Tayo, iku ye e. That is true for you, and those of us you have left behind must reflect on what we need to do with the rest of our days for death to so honour us. Indeed, Tayo, o mu ‘ku wun’ni.

Sun’re o, Olutayo, Lukosi Aje Owu, omo Olowu Oduru, omo Ajibosin, omo aseseru ewe ako t’on morijade.


FRIENDSHIP

Just like our first encounter,

 It happened in the twinkle of an eye.

 A verdict made intuitively in our hearts.

A sudden attraction that held us bound

Its influence over us; Overwhelming.

It pushes us the extra mile to ensure that smile.

The one reason we hug.

The only reason you’ll fall to prevent mine

Your one gift to me that glows even in the dark

The foundation for our fears and tears

The only thing they can’t take from us…

Our Friendship