On Friday, July 2, 2021, I had the opportunity of taking a shuttle back into my past. I had met Chief Akinwande Akinola, former Managing Director of International Breweries Limited, Ilesa at the Ibadan Recreation Club’s conferment of Merit Awards on recipients, among whom was Akinola. While the din of music was blasting the ears, I walked up to the podium ingenuously called the “high table” in Nigeria to meet Akinola, now an octogenarian. After exchanging measured pleasantries, the type you give a stranger, I asked him if he could still recollect knowing me. He cast my face a futile scan and made frantic efforts to decode who the stranger was. Losing the battle of recognition, he announced, “I can’t recognize you, sir.” Then, silently, like the whoosh of an evening wind, I announced to him: “Some 35 years ago, sir, I was your messenger at the International Breweries, Ilesa.” You can imagine the incredulity that coated the face of the old man.
Osun State, for me, holds both nostalgia and history of my growing up years. That history suffered violence a few years ago when my schools lost their names and uniforms. Thank God, we have them back. From St. Johns Primary School in Ikire where I began, to Ajangbala D.C. Primary School in Iwo which I left in 1979, Akinorun Grammar School in Ikirun where I began my secondary education, to Cherubim and Seraphim High School, Ilesa where I finished my secondary school and The Polytechnic, Esa-Oke where I began my Ordinary National Diploma, I am always ready to duel whoever chooses to call me anything but a stakeholder in Osun State matters. On Saturdays in Ikirun those days for instance, it was time to hawk plastics for my mother, walking from Ikirun to Inisa and down to Iragbiji. Last week, I was back to the Ikirun, Iragbiji road on an excursion to my past. It was like a transmogrification and transfixion. Suddenly, I was hawking plastics again.
I had cause to ply that route a couple of years ago. It bore the colour of decadence of road infrastructure that litters the whole of Nigeria today; and indistinguishable from the craters that have been the people’s lot. Last week, however, the road had received its own transformation. Like what I saw in November 2017 when I went to witness a friend’s PhD reception on the Gbongan, Osogbo road. Immediately I left the Gbongan overhead bridge, with the exception of a few kilometers that were passable, the rest was grueling. I learnt the 29 kilometer stretch of road had been awarded by the immediate past government which did its best and left the rest for the people to grapple with. It was a very loud complaint about that road that cost a high court judge her job under the last government. Last week, however, when I breezed into Osogbo, after four years, I met that road, up to Ode Omu, wearing some garment of life adorned it by the Governor Adegboyega Oyetola government.
I was in Osogbo to honour a friend and sister. But I felt I should complete the voyage into my past by touching the beacons that marked out my life trajectory: Ikirun, Iragbiji and Ilesa. From Osogbo, I was asked to take the Kelebe to Iragbiji road, home of Iragbiji Grammar School, the school that, in connivance with rivals like Ebedi Grammar School and Kiriji Memorial College, Igbajo, used to give my Akinorun Gramms a tough time in those days in inter-school football fiesta. The freshly done Osogbo-Iragbiji road is historic. It was tasting asphalt for the first time since Adam and Eve. I had earlier driven through the almost completed Flyover bridge at Olaiya in Osogbo via Alekuwodo road area. From Iragbiji, I went to Ilesha, through Oromu, Oke Iyin and to the Ilesa Roundabout Okeoye to Irojo and down to Ilesa/Akure Expressway. Those days, while Baba Adedara Ar’unra L’oja Oba, the Adamo music legend, played draft game along this St. Margaret road, we used to go look at the iconic Adamo musician. This was at a time Adedara was engaged in a huge tiff with Akanbi Aliyu and the very visceral track from Aliyu – alara jiju, yei le, yei po era – the man with skin laced with craw-craw; this is mind-boggling!
Like millions who regained their almae matres from where the last government dumped them, I have a soft spot for the incumbent governor. And I pray for him each time I think of Kerubu – students’ inflexion of our school’s name – and its Lazarus experience. So when I read the Commissioner for Works, Remi Omowaiye’s claim in a national newspaper interview last week that his principal, Governor Oyetola, would trounce the likely governorship candidate of the PDP, for next year’s governorship ticket, it occurred to me that the opposition should take Omowaye’s claim with all seriousness. Osun is no doubt retrieving itself from its recent past. One quiet man is sitting there silently rewriting Osun’s developmental history.