|Azeez Arisekola Alao|
I started my journalism career in 1973 with the defunct Sketch Publishing Company Limited, Ibadan as a reporter/writer/reader, in addition to writing a column in the Yoruba language weekly in the Sketch stable – “Gboungboun”. A year later in 1974, a late editor of the popular “Sunday Sketch”, Mr. Phillip Bamidele Adedeji, did the unprecedented not only in the Sketch Group, but in the Nigerian media history by offering me a column and later a page in the weekly, thus making me Nigeria’s first bilingual (Yoruba & English) columnist (“Mo ri firii” in Gboungboun and “Its what’s happening” in the Sunday Sketch). Old generation newspapers readers would remember that there were just three weekend (no Saturday papers) newspapers in Nigeria in the 1950s to early 1970s) – (i) the mother of them all, Sunday Times, (ii) Sunday Sketch and the then new arrival, (iii) Punch, which started as a weekly on Sundays. One day in 1975, our News Editor, the late Mr. Abiodun Famojuro, a vibrant wordsmith and tireless journalist, assigned me to go and interview the young, with due respect, Alhaji AbdulAzeez Arisekola Alao.
I did my job, but politely turned down the kind offer of Aare – “a token for your transport fare back to Sketch”. The editor of “Sunday Sketch”, had warned us not to receive gifts in any form, with emphasis on pre-publication gifts. That interview in 1975 was my first contact with Aare.
In February 1983, I was seconded to the then Governor of old Oyo State (present day Oyo and Osun States) the “Cicero of Esa-Oke”, Chief ’Bola Ige, my boss and mentor, as a Press Secretary. God grant his soul repose. Amen.
One day in 1984, my friend and colleague, the current resident media consultant to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Investigation Commission (ICPC), Folu Olamiti, then a senior editorial staff of the Nigerian Tribune, Ibadan visited me in the office and told me of Aare’s urgent need for an appointment with the Military Governor. I replied Folu, a close acquaintance of Aare, to give me some time to arrange the visit. It will be recalled that the new military government was wary of civilians. After strategic maneuverings, I succeeded in fixing the appointment for Aare, which Governor Popoola graciously approved. Their meeting, at which I was present, took place in a private home (not connected to Aare) on Bodija Estate, Ibadan. Of course, that further cemented our relationship.
Since the universal path is not an endless straight lane, there would always be twists, turns and corners in every journey. The long, mutual, sweet and beneficial relationship between Aare and I received a jolt which turned our relationship sour in 2009.
Someone received a biting, acrimonious and rude text message intended for Aare on her handset. She forwarded the rude message to Aare. Naturally, as a human being with feelings, Aare was discomfited by the acrimonious text message. He, thereafter, summoned the famous “Aare’s Inner Caucus Cabinet” to his home and read out to us the highly offensive text message wherein the author alluded to Aare as a one-eyed man in a land of the blind. Little did I know or could ever imagine that I was suspected by Aare to be the author as I was told some days after the meeting, of the damming text message! A gulf was thus created between us. I maintained my innocence, and stayed off Aare’s company.
I was later vindicated by God, men and women of goodwill. Aare and I put the issue behind us and our relationship resumed with greater gusto. Aare died in his sleep in his London, UK home on Wednesday, June 18, 2014, aged 69 years and was buried in his Oluwo Kekere Basorun, Ibadan home on Friday, June 20, 2014. May his kind and noble soul continue to rest in peace in Aljannah Fridaus. Amen.
Oloye’Lekan Alabi, D.Litt (h.c) is Aare Alaasa Olubadan of Ibadanland