Oyinlola Keeps His Promise Despite Tinubu’s Victory

By Tunde Odesola

In all my column-writing life, I’ve never kicked off an article with a quotation. But if I was going to do so in this piece, I would’ve started with the most popular Yoruba incantation and chanted, “Ohun ta wi fun ogbó, l’ogbó n gbo, ohun ta wi fun ogbà, l’ogba n gba, kóse kóse ni ti ìlákòse, á sùn má párádà ni ti igi àjà… tùèh! I, Babatunde, the son of Odesola, hypnotise you reading this article never to ask me for a percentage of the jackpot I just hit. Tó, àbàlá Èsù!”

I repeat you won’t catch me starting my column with a quotation because I believe the writer should be able to capture the attention of his audience right from the opening paragraph, using their own words, and not someone else’s. But, life is different strokes, different folks; the style is the man, after all. One man’s suya is another man’s poison.

Life is a bed of thorns, roses and ironies. Nigerian Christians and Muslims won’t disrespect a babalawo as they would disrespect a pastor or an imam. They believe and fear the efficacy of the babalawo’s juju more than they believe and fear the efficacy of their own prayer and God. Ayé Akámarà! This life: thorns, roses and ironies.

This was why some netizens, a few weeks ago, came after the General Overseer, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, casting the stones of ridicule at him, calling him a fabulist.

To be sure, a fabulist is a composer of fable(s) and a fable is a partly factual story telling a general truth. Can you now see how the Yoruba, in a case of mischievous ingenuity, got to call a lie fàbú? I wonder if the greatest fabulist of Nigerian comedy, Gbenga Adeboye, got to know the etymological origin of fàbú aka oduólójì before crossing over to the land where nobody grows old.

Netizens scoffed at Adeboye for saying God halted winter when he visited Colorado. “Years ago,” Adeboye began, “I was invited to Colorado in America, in January. I don’t like cold weather at all. So, I said to my Father, ‘I’m going to Colorado, while I’m there, suspend winter’. Throughout the days I was there, people were wearing T-shirts in January. He (God) pushed away winter, brought in summer. I boarded the plane at 5 p.m. to travel back to Nigeria, two hours after I left, all the snow that had been hanging in the air began to fall.”

Ironically, most of Adeboye’s critics are Christians and Muslims, who purportedly believe the miracles in the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran. They believe Moses parted the Red Sea, Elijah shut heaven from sending down the rain, and Joshua stopped the sun from setting. Yet, they don’t believe Adeboye.

I’m not a man of great anointing like Adeboye. My faith isn’t up to a fraction of the mustard seed but I know it doesn’t snow ceaselessly all through January in America. I mean, it snows and stops, and snows and stops for days in January. So, I go with Adeboye. But I’m not unmindful of the fact that Nigerians have grown weary of religious leaders because of the shameful behaviour of many of them. Adeboye is different.

Anyway, I hypnotised the reader of this piece with incantations because I know you won’t fear me if I point the Bible or the Quran at you and speak in tongues. But seeing me brandish my horn stuffed with feathers, cowries, red cloth topping, and chanting, ‘Fírí, fírí loju n ri, bòhùn, bohun làgùtàn ń wò, tùèh!’, I’m sure you won’t wait to see the manifestation of abenu gòngò, you will japa.

I chose the àfòse African traditional method to protect myself and my jackpot because I know some readers won’t heed my warning not to solicit money from me after reading this story. Hypocrites that don’t believe Baba Adeboye, is it me that they would believe? Dey play.

Please, come with me on the journey to my newfound wealth. In 2003, I was transferred from PUNCH headquarters at Mangoro, Lagos, to Osogbo, Osun State, as state correspondent. That was shortly after Chief Bisi Akande left government and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola got in the saddle. I sailed into Osun on the wave of the acrimony of the time when you were either a friend or a foe; there was no fence to sit on.

I didn’t witness Akande govern but I heard the tales of his commitment and prudence. I also saw the sprawling grandeur called Governor’s Office which his administration built with disciplined frugality. It was during his term the Ife-Modakeke War ended.

Before berthing in Osun, I had worked at the PUNCH head office as a proofreader, reporter, and correspondent in Ondo State, among other positions. So, I clearly understood PUNCH’s credo of fearless and impartial journalism. Like young David, PUNCH kitted me with battledress and gave me a two-edged sword, telling me: fear not, fail not.

I had hardly dismounted the horse I rode into Osun when I started using my sword. I began to fire stinging reports serious enough for the Chief Press Secretary to Oyinlola, Lasisi Olagunju; Press Secretary, Kayode Oladeji; and Media Assistant, Bamidele Salam, to notice. Olagunju didn’t like my reports and he gave me a name, Alakatakiti, which means troublemaker. Oladeji courted me with diplomacy while Salam always appealed for understanding.

Governor Oyinlola also took notice of my reports. So did the Osun Peoples Democratic Party led by the late charismatic Ademola Razaq aka Landero. The state PDP felt I was a rebel fire ignited by the fuel of the opposition Alliance for Democracy. But, it appeared Oyinlola didn’t see me as an enemy, though he knew I was critical of his government. At news conferences he addressed, he would openly ask of me, saying, “Tunde Odesola da? Ko wa? O ti lo mitini? Ha! O wa? Ma bo niwaju mi, je ki n ma wo o. (Where’s Tunde Odesola? He didn’t come? He has gone to their meeting? Ha! You’re here? Come over here, come and sit in my front, I want to be seeing you so that you won’t say you didn’t hear me well and I will see something different in the paper tomorrow!)

Nationwide, government ceremonies were often long and governors wouldn’t speak until the tail end. Osun wasn’t different. Due to this, I didn’t like attending government functions because you won’t be able to attend to other stories. And PUNCH preferred human-angle and exciting stories to bureaucratic stories. Even when you wrote government stories, PUNCH taught us to dig beneath the press statements.

A dilemma occurred along the way. Oyinlola would ask of me at state functions covered by journalists but I would’ve left within minutes if the press conference didn’t start as scheduled. So, Olagunju and Oladeji devised a plan. From my house to the Government House, Osogbo, was about five minutes just as the distance from the Governor’s Office, Abere, to my house was about 20 minutes. So, Olagunju or Oladeji would call me when the governor was about to deliver his speech, and I would arrive just in time.

At a particular news conference in the Governor’s Office, I indicated my intention to ask questions but the Master of Ceremonies had publicly said every journalist should only ask just one question. Oyinlola saw my talking with the MC and he asked what the issue was. He intervened, saying in Yoruba, “Let Tunde ask all his questions. I’m prepared for him. If you don’t allow him to ask his questions, what you will see tomorrow in hIs paper is, ‘Oyinlola bars PUNCH journalist from asking questions, front page.’ Speak, the General is listening.’”

I got the mic and asked, among other knotty questions, if the governor was going to reshuffle his cabinet like he did two years into his first term.

Oyinlola’s commissioners, who had been having a good time laughing and enjoying the programme, suddenly became silent, letting out a collective hiss and murmur. If looks could kill, this year should be the 15th anniversary of my demise.

Oyinlola expressed confidence in the work of his commissioners, to which they all shouted for joy, showing how relieved they were. After the news conference, the ADC to the governor, Mr Bola Adeyemi, came back into the hall, looking for me. He said the governor was calling me. I went with him to the governor in his car, outside the venue of the news conference.

When I got to him in his car, Oyinlola said, “You asked when I’m going to reshuffle my cabinet; what do you want?” I told him I just asked him the question because he reshuffled two years into his first term. Then he said ok, and I left.

• To be continued.


Written by Tunde Odesola and first published in The PUNCH, on Friday, December 1, 2023.
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