By Sylvester Akhaine
Comrade Abiodun Kolawole
Yuletide was forthcoming and as always, everyone was caught in the hustle and bustle of preparation. You were not left out. As it was your tradition, you wanted to take your family elsewhere, in other words, change environment for familial union and hospitality. There was always a certain air of freedom and inexplicable health implication; somewhat therapeutic, whenever you did. Therefore, you eagerly looked forward to, shall we say, another lease of life. A few days to Christmas, you were suddenly overwhelmed with an uncanny feeling of doubt as to whether you should travel for the season’s holiday or not. You told your expectant family members with a patriarchal pitch that you were no longer travelling out of your normal place of abode, in this case Agbara and Lagos.
You planned to alter in some creative way, the drudgery of being in the same environment. You would take the children and madam to Muson Centre on the eve of yuletide for a start to watch Odia Ofeimun’s Nigeria the Beautiful and the Feast of Return. Felix Okolo’s stage choreography would be something to thrill the young ones and nurture in them a sense of aesthetics. This first level plan looked real and sealed. A day before the eve, at about 5 pm, you then got a call from your friend and comrade who broke the news of the sudden transition of your comrade and family friend.
All ears, you were told that his spouse was also part of the ritual of transition to the great beyond. Incredulous, you then inquired about the nature of this sudden transition. The man had arranged with his wife on the fateful day to pay homage to his in-laws at Ikoro-Ekiti. The wife normally lived in Ilorin and husband in Osogbo. The latter had planned that the wife should come over from Ilorin and wait at Omu-Aran and while he would drive in from Osogbo in their onward journey to Ikoro. Both were happily united and made it to wife’s place and on their way back, at a location in Iloro, some few kilometers from Ido-Ekiti, the Hiace bus which they had travelled in, with husband and wife occupying the front seats, somersaulted.
No one could tell in dramatic details what went wrong; the couple died on the spot and were conveyed by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Ido and deposited in the morgue. Still incredulous, confirmation from those who knew the couple was important. A close comrade in the vicinity assumed that office and confirmed in sobbing tone that it was real. You decided there and then in company of our mutual friend to see things for yourself. You headed to the FMC and you saw the family, friends you had wined and dined with lying lifeless. They were no more and had faded into history and to be referred to in the past tense.
In manner that drove home the reality of their transition and at once scaled up your sorrow, text messages poured in from sympathisers who knew how close you were to the departed. One read: “By overcoming the challenges that the fallout from the tragic death of Comrade and Mrs. Kolawole Abiodun you shall be soothed.” Another read: “My brother, I didn’t know what to say, and that is the reason why I didn’t call you earlier.” Your were yet to be weaned of your sobbing bouts and fate again thrust on your laps the harrowing task of breaking the news of death to the eldest son of the couple barely 15 years old. You could imagine your pains and while sobbing the following lines formed in your mind: akha d’ ukpon, e-eh ukpon so ma/ egbe na tete o la ki eken/ egbe kha yu, orion la bu onoyaen (when you dress yourself in your fanciful clothes, you look good/ the body that you adore so well shall be sand someday/ and when the body ceases to be alive, your soul shall return to the creator).
The next stage was burial. Again, you accompanied the bodies to their final resting place – a twin grave and watched their coffins being lowered into them. As you left the graveside, you saw four sobbing children who could barely fend for themselves and the humanity in you gave way with tears rolling down your cheeks as a result.
This was my ordeal in this last season of festivities. It was for me a spell of mourning and soul-searching. I lost a comrade and his better half, Abiodun Kolawole and Cecilia Temitayo Kolawole. A few words about this brave couple: As Frantz Fanon reminded us, “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.” Comrade Abiodun Kolawole, 45, and a former Secretary-General of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), did not search for too long to discover what his mission was in the Nigerian wilderness. He saw the many contradictions of the society, which had truncated many an aspiration and indeed produced many wasted generations. He joined early in life the band of idealists and revolutionary workers intent on enacting the Nigerian revolution. From the student movement to pro-democracy movement and self-determination assembly, he worked doggedly for the structural transformation of the Nigerian society.
These activities were to drive him into exile in Cote d’Ivoire for a couple of years until the exit of the military in 1999. Comrade Kolawole was a revolutionary who would be remembered for his single-minded commitment to the cause of the transformation of Nigeria to a better place for all; his infectious humility and devotion to self-less service. He held the abiding belief that permanent struggle was important to preserve human liberty. He was in the vanguard of the struggle against IMF-World Bank inspired Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in Nigeria and was committed to the highest principle of revolutionary struggle demonstrated robustly in the struggle against military rule.
Cecilia, 43, was a woman made in heaven, motherly, devoted and tolerant. As every revolutionary worker knows without a woman committed to the struggle on the side of the man, the latter is more likely to derail, especially in the difficult environment that Nigeria is. This woman suffered many deprivations for the sake of the struggle to save Nigeria for which her husband was married and to which by implication she was also wedded to. She suffered the years of exile with her husband in Cote d’Ivoire and bore the greater part of the burden raising their children. It was not by accident that she died with the husband – it was a price of devotion.
Abiodun and Cecilia: you will continue to remain evergreen in our collective memory and consciousness. While we rise in proud salute to your courage, we pray that your children may inherit the future of their dream.
• Culled from the Guardian. Dr. Akhaine is a Visiting Member of The Guardian’s Editorial Board.
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