Final Logic

Never live your life to please anybody is one of the logic of my late father. People who do not live in our world believed we should go into debt to satisfy societal dictates. Well, if I could have acquired money to do anything in my life, it would have been to have a lavish celebration in the year 2000 when I calculated that my father clocked 100. It would have been a lovely thing to slaughter cows, call a musician, have a lavish church service and invite friends and well wishers. It was something that I personally would have loved to do, except that there was no means to embark on such a venture. Besides, it would have been obvious to Dad that I was getting into debt to do something.

When I bought my first car, a Toyota Corolla and came home after a trip, my father would not sit in his parlour to be ‘congratulated’. No. He welcome me home and as soon as people began to troop in, he excused himself went to his room and closed the door behind him. My mother understood the gesture so well, she asked me to quickly go in and talk to him.

It soon became obvious that my Dad was not going to congratulate me until I had explained to him how I made money to buy a car. Here is the story, I had gotten a facility tour from an embassy. I had a feeding allowance, which allowed me to save. I saved a lot but not enough to buy the car, I returned to town and spoke to the only person I knew who gave me (not loaned me) but gave me money to get my first car. After explaining this to Dad, he was convinced to accept communal congratulations and to pour spiritual libation for my safe drive.

Dad always reminded us that we did not have to please anybody else but our conscience and to live by the values we were raised with. It is not particularly shocking to hear the grumblings and complaints that we have acted ultra vires tradition by refusing to ‘celebrate’ the life of the oldest person in Okeagi. It was assumed that, having lived that long, his exit was not a sad one. If I had the money to throw a party, there would be a building in my name in Okeagi and my Dad would have died there in the luxury he never had. Such money would never have fed the people who did not care a hoot whether he lived or died.

Of course, none of those I aptly described on Facebook as ‘culture voltrons’ ever knocked on my father’s doors to find out how he was faring. To do that would have been the tradition that Okeagi was known for. The only exception was Uncle Olawale Lot-Ajayi, who took care of my father more than anyone else among us. When he first cranked his generating set, he extended electricity to my father’s house; it is a gesture that would stay fresh in my memory. As a pharmacist, he never returned home without medications – he knows that Dad loved to pop pills – sometimes I would say – needlessly. The rest of town walked or drove past his kraal without as much as a salutation. It baffles me to hear that they had hoped to feast on his burial party.

Dad lived the last two decades of his life in incredible health. He was blind for most of it, and later lost the use of his legs after a bed fall but to my knowledge, he never charged anyone who needed the services of his memory. He paid his dues to community and to Church – that is all that mattered to him and the things that mattered to him matters to me.

Our elders say that if you want to pass a message to the deaf, send it through his child. So I got all the feedback but I am bigger, better and stronger than those who insult me and try to impugn the character and contributions of the Asajus to their community because they did not get that wasteful passport to prey on the dead.

A Broke Orphan’s plea

I had a conversation with Chief Samuel Balogun, the Asiwaju of Okeagi. I implored him to intervene on our behalf and allow us a simple burial. I promised that when the capacity to ‘celebrate’ comes, we would do all that is culturally required of us. There is no way of knowing when a jobless person gets a good job and start to save for ceremonies. There’s no date when the widowed among us would pick up the broken pieces of their lives again. I also said that the Okeagi I grew up in, is a community of valour where nobody goes to bed without food and that lavish burials should not be paramount because the dead do not return to pay back.

Instead, I suggested a change the rules and charge funds to projects to enhance the community. I pleaded to prevail on the Oba-in-Council to change some of the demands from children of the diseased. I suggested that rather than levying goats, cows and drinks, the Council should ask people to contribute to a development fund project. I love Okeagi and I would like my community to grow. In my mind, it wouldn’t grow through lavish ceremonies in which people eat, drink, puke and return to what they were before then.

I got a feedback through one of my cousins, Tubosun. A day to the proposed burial, he snatched the phone from my younger brother to relay the Council’s message to me. Our elders warned us not to attempt burial until we have paid in full, all that custom demanded of us – a litany of things including drinks and at least one live cow. The youths, who dig graves and carry out burials made their own demand. Our clan is yet to be settled. It was not surprising to get that feedback. It is however disheartening that the Council asked him to tell me that my father used to get his share of anything they received of other people’s funeral rites as the eldest person in town. Succinctly, it was payback time.

The message was well delivered and the nuance is well taken. To God’s glory, my siblings rallied and managed to meet the demands and finally Dad could go home in peace. This brought tears to my eyes because in my last encounter with my Uncle, Rev. Asaju, he had warned that on the day my father died, we would be shaken to our bones. Not knowing that perhaps he had premonition that I would not return home to meet him, I had looked him straight in the face and said ‘where would you be when they shake me to my bones?’ Well, he left before the clouds began to pour rain – it was a graceful exit but reason enough not to spit on his grave with a lavish burial.

Dad rests in a cemetery in Igboayin. We refused the new culture of digging grave, laying it with cement and tiles and dropping an expensive casket in, covering it with a slab. We bought a cheap coffin, laid Dad in, put him back to mother earth and returned home to live, because life is for the living. Okeagi would be great and we all have a part to play in making it great. May God grant us that capacity to contribute our quota to that greatness. Amen.

Guilty As Charged

To those who mock our low economic fortunes, who swear that we are rich pretenders; to those who say we have contributed nothing to the development of our town in spite of our incredibly great capacity, I plead guilty on behalf of my siblings. By God in whom I live and serve, I plead guilty to all and more and I quote Suratul Ar-Rahman from the Glorious Quran.

  1. Whosoever is in the heavens and on earth begs of Him (its needs from Him). Every day He has a matter to bring forth (such as giving honour to some, disgrace to some, life to some, death to some, etc.)!
  2. Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you both (jinns and men) deny?
  3. We shall attend to you, O you two classes (jinns and men)!
  4. Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you both (jinns and men) deny?
  5. O assembly of jinns and men! If you have power to pass beyond the zones of the heavens and the earth, then pass (them)! But you will never be able to pass them, except with authority (from Allah)!
  6. Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you both (jinns and men) deny?

The Okeagi that nurtured me instilled in me virtues – diligence in work, dedication to duty, faith in God, respect for the culture of progress. These are the guiding principles to which I strive every day. They were the values bequeathed to us by MB and MT Asaju, they are the virtues we teach our children, the banner we hope they shall carry till their last breath and teach their own children.

The times, as they say, they are changing. I believe that Okeagi would outlive us all but its subsistence and glorious future depends lies in subscription to those values that have grown other communities. It does not lie in the show-off of vulgarious materialism or wantonness. There is no future for a society whose youths are blighted by hard drugs and alcoholism. I have paid my dues to my parents. My Dad’s favourite song of praise to himself is – apata nsalubo o, koi gbe ni. It is too early to write us off. I am not running on anybody else’s clock.

2 Corinthians 10:12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they show their ignorance.
                                                                      Berean Study Bible

I do not strive to be better than anybody else on planet earth. As Paul said in Phillipians 4:12

I know how to live in poverty or prosperity. No matter what the situation, I’ve learned the secret of how to live when I’m full or when I’m hungry, when I have too much or when I have too little.
GOD’S WORD Translation

I have embraced my uniqueness in all situations. There is no one on this planet created by God that I envy. I admire values in others, but I do not mirror my life after anyone. My parents have left great shoes that fit no one but their own feet; I am constantly modeling my shoes to suit my feet. I strive with each breath I draw, to be a better person than the idiot that I was the second before. My faith in God helps!

In spite of all the politics, I am grateful to Okeagi that nurtured me. To Odio and the Oba-in-Council we are grateful for that piece of earth to bury our dead. We are grateful to the Iyajakan clan and all those, who in spite of our inadequacies through calls, personal and social media messages commiserated with us on the passage of our Dad. The vacuum, as anyone who has ever lost a loved one would testify; is a gaping bottomless hole. We know that wounds heal but they leave scars. May God be with you and may you find help in your own hours of need.

To my siblings, it may look like I am carrying the curse of the Pharisees in

Matthew 23:13: –
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.”
NIV Translation.

Thank God you all know that we have all been ‘redeemed from the curse of the law’. Nevertheless, I am sorry for blocking the doors of favour against you with my writings. I have always felt that journalism is a duty to nationalism, to a better society in which the needs of everybody is met. Dad’s passage is teaching me vital lessons.


I won’t even try to thank people exhaustively by name. But I am forever indebted to the Jolasinmi Family of Olukolo Compound, Edunabon – they raised a daughter who became my friend, my wife, my mother, my confidant, my heartbeat. Her siblings drove from Lagos, Zaria and Warri, despite my plea not to bother – you guys are not my in-laws, you are family! To Professor Pius Adesanmi your moral and financial contributions lifted me beyond your understanding. To those creaking-bone angels and spring chickens of Bible For Missions, BFM Ottawa – keep on hugging – that’s what Jesus would’ve done! Walter Hammond, Abu and John – when are we doing the chicken and beer next? To my cell leader, Deaconess Aanu Iyaniwura and her lovely husband, Dr. Iyaniwura and the entire members of my cell-group, to Pastor Veronica Adu-Bobbie and All Nations Ottawa, words do injustice to your financial and moral support, love and and care. To Dr. & Mrs. Audu – ajose wa ko ni baje o. To Dr. Nduka Otiono, Lolo Onyisi and Kika, thank you.

Anti Oluremi Asaju, my nephew Olasunkanmi Asaju who dropped everything they were doing to travel to Okeagi without hesitation. To Mrs. Tina Mohammed-Kpoga (Mummy Oyoyo), Shade, Dupe Adegboro, Mr & Mrs Rafiu  Oyesiji, Mr. Peter, and the crew who came from Abuja and elsewhere for whom we could not even provide proper feeding or accommodation, thank you.

Journalism has brought me close to a few people – moral trump cards I could use when utterly needed. One such person is Olufemi Aduwo, the man I fondly call the Olu Omo of Ikaleland,  thanks for the huge cheque and support for my siblings. To my friend, brother and family here  in Ottawa – Dr. & Iyaafin AG Ahmed – sai godiya! Mr. & Mrs. Oluremi Oliyide (who left his own father’s burial plans to give moral and material support– e seun sir! Alhaji Idris and staff of the Nigerian High Commission in Ottawa; His Excellency, Ambassador and Mama Ojo Maduekwe – Dad would’ve been looking at that bottle of wine to share with you; Ambassador & Mrs. Charles Onianwa – thank you. God made me a Yagba man by birth, but my encounters show that I am a spiritual Ibo man – thanks to Mr & Mrs Cyril Onyemaechi Oleh and family.Thanks to freshly minted Dr. Bolade Anjorin for that long trunk call. Mr & Mrs. Joe-Momoh and Alhaji Yusuf and friends from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,  friends from the USA, the Media Trust Family, and my Facebook family – to everyone else who have kept faith with this long, winding and obviously boring threatise with all its grammatical imperfections – I’ll continue to write for you. Big thanks.




For now, Adieu Pa Mark Balogun Ogunrinde Oloke Asaju.


Omo jakan ajiri / Son of the one worthy of being met at dawn
Iwere onitogun / Relative of the one who fights wars
Ogbayin Ote a mon jidho / The one who backs rebellion without remorse
Omo biyhonnu yhomgbagoodi/ The hated one who is posted as sentry
Omo biyhonnu e jalupa/ The hated one is not to be murdered
Omo olile li pokete / The owner of the land in Pokete
Eja gbigbiigba / He cultivates them in thousands of heaps
Okunrun arigbodo se / The sick one that you dare not cross
Omo oloshe l’Isado / The one who owns the baobab tree in Isado
Esakeke emu rangundanrangundan l’Isado / Displays his large palmwine calabash in Isado


Omo asimoko – Son of Asimoko
O simoko gbarugbaru – You totally exiled them from the farm
Onikedo toun toun – Your bared chest roars like peels of thunder
Afeyhee re hanlu ramu – As you go to Isanlu to bring home your lover
A se fee w’ogun baawodi – You saunter saunters into war with the ease of an eagle

Until we join you on yonder shores

E re booni ti ku, – Let’s go to the  house of mourning
Oran itan, oran itan – When its time to relay their valour
E re booni ti ku – We go to the house of mourning
Oran itan, oran itan – Time to recall their past deeds.

(Literal translations mine)

I am proudly Asaju, proudly Laofin, proudly Okeagi and ever so proudly Naija.

So now, which of the blessings of my Lord would I deny! By His grace I have lived to bury my parents, not the other way round. Which of the blessings of my Lord would I deny?

Dad with his grandchildren
Dad with Dolapo & Abimbola







Maria Titilayo Asaju, Mum was Dad’s fifth wife.

Everyone knew Dad to be tougher than nuts. He is pretty unconventional in his thinking and when convinced about a line of action, he would not easily change his views.

Dad avoids anything that would inconvenience him. Even though he had become the custodian of clan history and culture and is more knowledgeable on our traditions; he steered clear of the enslaving arms of culture. Flatly refusing to assume traditional titles that is exclusive to our family or our clan was one way he did this.

He once told me that he was conscious that most parents leave inheritance for their offspring.

‘In my case,’ he would argue, ‘I have nothing but the legacy and good name that my own father bequeathed on me. It is therefore right, that I should not impoverish you (his children) by taking decisions that would inconvenience you.’ Dad never shirked his responsibility towards his community or country. Shortly after returning home some decades back, we were cleaning his wooden box when I discovered that he had been paying his taxes to the colonial and national administrations dating back to 1944.

As at the time of this discovery, the only government presence in Okeagi were the three wells dug in the town for water supply. The community set aside every Tuesday to make the five or so kilometres stretch of road between it and Mopa. I recall how men would take their hoes and cutlasses and women would carry their gourds or buckets so that they can fill the craters on the road. While one group busied itself on this stretch, another worked hard on the Okeagi-Imela road. The Oyi River bridge was another problem. It was decked with wooden planks that would sometime cave in. The community would contribute for its repair.

Looking back at all this, I insisted in 1984 that my father should stop paying taxes to the government. My argument was simple, he was not ‘gainfully employed’, and if there was no government presence in the community, government had lost the moral right to demand taxes. Back in the day, to be caught dead without your tax receipt was a serious offence. But I was sure I could win an argument for my father in court. Incidentally, nobody faulted my logic and nobody sued him for dodging taxes. I believe that civil disobedience is a duty where the responsibilities of government to its citizens are blatantly denied.

Refusal to be King

When it was the turn of Laofin to produce a King, my father was eminently qualified and many saw him as the natural choice. Indeed, there was nobody in the clan that opposed his natural choice, not even Chief Isaac Dahomi who was then the Shaaba of Okeagi (long before the Yagba adopted the title of Otunba). Dad’s arguments were as sound as they could be. His sight was failing rapidly. Doctors diagnosed trachoma and said back then that as a result of his age, it would be suicidal to operate on him. He saw the darkness coming and bore it with stoic witticism, recalling God’s goodness over the years when he could see and remembering that some were born blind.

Dad’s best arguments hinged on his lack of formal education. He had taught himself to read and write and served as secretary to clan meetings and even town council meetings. After converting from years as a Jehovah’s Witness to Christianity, he even became the lay reader of the Church of God in Christ in Okeagi. But Dad argued that no forward-looking community installed a blind or an unlettered man as their king.

He went further to say he it would be shameful to go for a traditional council meeting in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital only to be asking for interpretation of proceedings from fellow rulers. This settled the argument. The right of first refusal was granted us, the children, but none of us thought Kingship to be the best way to serve God and the community. The right was waived.

His rejection of the Kingship bothered the head of our clan and second in command, Chief Isaac Dahomi who feared that the clan might lose out. When Stephen Dahomi, as he then was expressed interest, the Sha’aba was worried that although he is educated, he was not knowledgeable about the culture and traditions of the community. My Dad vowed that he would groom him. He kept that promise until the King joined his ancestors. Simeon Dahomi, one of the eldest surviving sons of King Dahomi rightly alluded to this in a video at my father’s lying in state.

Many Reasons For A Low-key Burial

For us the children, there were more compelling reasons apart from being unashamedly flat broke to avoid outward display of gratitude. Just because it is now fashionable for people to ignore the poor conditions of their parents when alive only to turn around and break the bank when they died does not make it morally right.

We believe that a community like ours, until lately absolutely neglected by the government that taxes its adults and give nothing in return should have community based development plans. Yes, with the creation of Mopamuro local government, communities have seen a few government presence, but conditions are far from ideal. Poverty is still exhibited in rusted roofs and wasted youths.

We were born in a ‘loaned’ house until our parents decided to build. Dad and Mum, especially Mum had a dream to see that home completed and so, they stayed both moved in and stayed in when it had neither doors nor windows and the ceiling was open. They lived in this shell for eight years while we all struggled to get an education. When people talk about poverty, we all could relate, but for me, poverty is not an abstract condition – poverty was our landlord. It regulated our lives and put breaks on our progress.

Writing so barefacedly about the background in which I was born and raised is not a badge of disgrace but a legacy that constantly reminds me to stay humble. Contrary to the stories I now hear, if we had the resources, we would have raised a palace to honour our parents. The fact that we kept trying to ameliorate the mud contraption is not to hide our supposed affluence but the level of our material wealth. We are wealthy in honour and that cannot be quantified. Borrowing money to show off would have been an accursed way of bidding our parents goodbye. We were not raised to live beyond our means, even if such forgery raised social status.

Five Times Married

Our mother, the late Maria Titilayo Asaju was the fifth woman to be married to our father in his lifetime. In a society that places so many premiums on childbearing, Dad’s greatest quest was to have children. At no time was my father a polygamist, but only Mum would break the jinx of barrenness. The first two wives died. The third was never consummated and the fourth whom I grew up to know left of her own volition, choosing to go and try her luck elsewhere.

As they say at home, Mum bent her knees nine times, and God kept eight of us alive to their last day. Mum died exactly eleven years less a week the day Dad breathed his last. In our culture, it was (and I hope remains so) that the prayer of every good husband is to be buried by his wife. Dad prayed that prayer, but God didn’t honour that request. Mum left before him. Although both our parents lived relatively beyond their fifties, Dad would have considered it worse than dancing on the graves of his wives if we painted the town red.

Another Reason For Low-Key Burial

The second reason is even more compelling. Dad was the eldest of four siblings – three of them were men and they had a sister. These were Pa Adeleye Asaju the next to my Dad and the first of the siblings to die. Reverend Jacob Asaju was next to him. He died ostensibly of an asthma attack while I was away on scholarship in London. The last of these, my aunt, Mama Abigail Owolaiye (nee Asaju) also died living their elder brother alive. It is not a thing of joy to outlive your younger siblings, but that is not a decision for us to make. In spite of sometimes lingering family squabbles, I do remember my closeness to my Uncles and Aunt. I would not subscribe to a culture that dances on their graves. If we ignored that culture, the same people who accused us of ‘burying our parents like chickens’ would have turned round to ask us where we kept shame, decency and decorum.

…to be concluded.

Preying on the Dead – Culture & The Odyssey of My Dad’s Funeral – IV

With Dad & Mum

This picture, taken in second year of university shows Dad, Mum, their last two children and the girl who would later become my pillar, my wife.

The Burial & What Form of Burial

I always told anyone who cared to listen that for what you would call ordinary country folks without formal education or extended travel, my parents were decades ahead of time and their peers. I have heard stories of parents breathing down the necks of their children over issues of life. I thank God for mine. Dad and Mum placed our personal happiness and welfare over and above anything and everything else. From the choice of where we reside to whom we married, we made free choices. If any of us failed in character or anything, it is our fault.

They discussed death and rituals openly and refrained from dabbling into anything that would economically ruin their children at their demise. Thank you Dad and Mum for your consideration. On my part, in those discussions, I made it quite clear to them that I would not embark on a money-wasting burial ritual. A child’s contract with their parent is not to bankrupt at their demise but to bring smiles and make life easy for them while they yet live. The contract I had with my parents was a contract for better life, not a show-off burial ritual. This is my understanding of life. That if you did not kill a cow for your parents while they were alive, you invite divine anger on yourself trying to impress people who would still insult your lack of priorities when you entertain the world at their death.

I recall telling Dad and Mum that left to me, when they passed, we would buy the cheapest coffin and reunite them with mother earth, as quickly as practicable – devoid of the culture of wastage that has now become fashion in Yagbaland. Incidentally, Dad passed on my wedding anniversary. That wedding did not tow the usual line of sending invites and lavishly entertaining guests. We had one or two ensemble or aso-ebi and only my in-laws cooked to entertain their own guests. That marriage, to God’s glory has survived two decades and counting. That is all that matters, after all, Adam did not throw a party in the garden.

Old house

The house where my Dad eventually died wears a better look now, but Dad & Mum lived here for almost a decade without doors, window or ceiling. We weren’t just poor,  poverty was our landlord.

Most of my siblings shared the principle of frugality. From our conversations, Dad was left with no illusion about what would happen after he took the last breath. I did not promise a gale of lavish parties. The idea of being placed in ‘ayanran’ or morgue offended him until I left for Canada in 2010. He had wanted quick burial. Lately, he had asked for my assured presence at his funeral. I refused to give such assurances telling him we would cross the bridge when we got there. It would be unkind to those whose parents lived shorter lives to say I did not expect that bridge to rush towards me on April 16. But that’s the truth.

He Saved For His Own Funeral

Dad assured me that whenever death occurred, there would be enough cash under his pillow to take his remains to the nearest embalmment centre if that was what we wanted and that he was saving money for his own funeral.

At his death, we discovered that he fulfilled that promise. There was N14k under his bed. As news of his passage filtered in, the one with whom he had been saving money came forward that he had over N70k in savings to cover his own funeral costs. Dad never believed in burdening anyone with his own needs. He lived within his means. The creed of his household was this, that “What I cannot afford is not good for you”. It is a creed that is now passed to generations.

Sunday April 17, a day after Dad breathed his last, all those who could be accommodated in a conference call met to discuss burial arrangements. It was the general consensus that he should be buried within a week. The reasons are straightforward; no member of my immediate family that had earned a salary in half a decade. Salaried jobs were not forthcoming.

Between Notoriety and Popularity

Sometimes I think I am the cause of the economic downturn in my own family. Critical writing has earned me a notoriety that inhibits the chances of those who share my surname. Conscientious writers hardly grow rich; they are just notorious. Notoriety forces even those who want to help you or your siblings to think twice. They never know how you were bound to react to their most altruistic acts. On my part, I have learnt not to expect anything and never to ask. People should understand the dissonance between notoriety and popularity. Popularity opens doors of favour, notoriety distances people, especially the crooked from you.

I am notorious, not popular. I am a journalist, not a lobbyist. I do not criticize for personal gain. I believe that my writing should expose the wrong in society, point the way to the alternatives and put fear in the minds of those who perpetuate the status quo for their personal gains. This is the ideal I chose, it was the ideal I learnt from home and aligned with in journalism ‘school’. I know of friends and colleagues who have made money out of journalism, I do not necessarily disrespect them, but I envy no one and that way of life is not the way I practice my profession.

I believe that journalism was what I was created to practice. If I have done it well, I have fulfilled my destiny. If I have failed, it would not be based on lack of trying. God and the world have invested so much on me, it would tantamount to betrayal if I let myself down.

If the society in which a journalist lives is crooked, a conscientious journalist should neither take advantage of it’s loopholes nor contribute to the perpetuation of that crookedness. As much as possible, I live within my means. I am imbued with self-pride and a level of material decency. I am too proud to beg, bow or bootlick. I have suffered for that rigidity but that suffering has become for me a conscientious badge of honour. It is the Valium that helps me snore when I sleep and helps me carry my head with a modicum of dignity when I walk around. It is the way of every authentic Asaju; it is a virtue we inherited and a baton we strive to pass on to the next generation.

A Burial Date Is Chosen

Subject to community approval, we fixed burial for Friday April 22 and promptly asked Sam to convey that decision to the Oba-in-Council and return with the list of burial requirements. The reaction from the community was understandable. It is a reaction that greets me at every door I knock on in Naija. With such notoriety, money must be floating in my house. Without pride, I am the most travelled of my father’s children, and perhaps of my community. But those who think that being ‘abroad’ is synonymous with having the key to the Reserve Bank are wrong. There comes a time in life when one must take firm decisions and live with the consequences of such decisions. The story of how I ended up in Canada is well known and I do not intend to embarrass my wife by recounting it now.

The nakedness with which ‘home-truth’ was conveyed to my family by community leaders shocked. Pa Mark Balogun Ogunrinde Oloke Asaju, may have been a communal elder, he is our father. The parent-child relationship conferred certain rights; rights that included having the final say over how parents are buried. It is an inalienable right conferred by God, affirmed by nature and endorsed by laws to all sane humans. I believe that right to be earned. I believe that those who interact with others should respect the rights of children to bury their parents within their means. Celebration of life is good, but please celebrate the life while it lasts, not after the person who had the life no longer exists.


…to be continued

Preying on the Dead – Culture & The Odyssey of My Dad’s Funeral – III

Dad's coffin and his 'children'

Dad’s simple coffin surrounded by all his ‘children’.

Breaking ‘the news’

In Yagba culture, the passage of an old person is not official until the elders have been properly briefed. The emotional cry of a son or relative of the bereaved is not allowed until this business of official briefing has been done. Where this culture is breached, the ‘offender’ is subject to fine.

So, I brazed up for the odds. My younger brother, Sam, became the arrowhead of things. He has been living in Okeagi for a while and would have to grow up through this if he is not knowledgeable and be schooled on this cultural practice. From my experience with my mum’s passage eleven years earlier, I knew nobody ‘breaks the news’ with mere word of mouth. Culture demands that the appropriate sum of money and kolanuts be delivered to the King at his palace or his official designate. We made arrangements to ‘break the news’, as demanded by culture while Dad changed his residency temporarily to the morgue.

Reality dawned on me as I saw his the Facebook picture posted by my younger brother. It was of his shekere lying on his empty bed. It was the painful official reminder that the man known as Mark Balogun, Ogunrinde Oloke Asaju has changed cosmic residence.

Dad's praise instrument - the Shekere on his empty bed

Dad’s favourite praise instrument lying on his bed – Pix by Sam Asaju

I called my cousin from another mother, Rafiu Oyesiji. Rafiu who started friendship as my auto electrician grew to become a full-fledged member of my family through his honesty. It was said that artisans are rogues, well; here is one who is absolutely not. When circumstances demanded that I find a manager for my writing allowances that could operate from Abuja and meet frequent and mostly urgent family demands, there was no-one more qualified to fit that bill than Rafiu. If life could be held in trust to the best of men, Rafiu would be the choice to hold mine without fear. He has earned that respect for nearly 20 years now. He has never betrayed that trust either to me or the few of my friends or members of my extended family with whom he has done business.

Rafiu’s knowledge of the electrical anatomy of vehicles new or old is amazing. His honesty is out of the local or foreign league. He became my financial manager and does an incredibly honest job of it. It is unbelievable that we do not share the same blood. From him I learnt that all I was worth was N100, 000. I know that people believe that I am worth millions. Yes, maybe in value!

Of course, I went to Facebook to announce that my giant Iroko tree, the indomitable elephant of my life, my father and friend was gone. I have not always loved Dad. Both my parents are strict disciplinarians. My Dad recalled being beaten by his own father three times in his lifetime. He remembers his offence on all three occasions. I did not get that luxury, though hitting his children was not Dad’s favourite pastime. But if you had a toughie like me, you do not play by the rules.

Dad and Mum’s tough love caused me to doubt their paternity of me as a kid. Mum never spared you when you broke the rules, but Dad would keep a diary of your sins for the day your bucket of iniquity is filled to the brim. As neighbours know, when that day comes, Dad does it in style and any onlooker is allowed to add salt to the injury, but not to plead for mercy. For those who might read this and shout – child abuse – thank you Dad for those beatings, they recalibrated my behavioural laxities and helped shape me into who I am today.

Time caused me to study and understood the reasons for our earlier clashes and from the moment that happened, the bond between father and son has not wavered. I shared the worst secrets of my miserable life with my father and if my Dad decreed a thing for me, usually it is law! He would not impose things, but reason it out, using experience, knowledge and hindsight. He would expose the scenario of things and help you take a decision that would help you.

Knowing that his son is a pen-pusher, in one of our conversations, Dad whose biting sense of humour is usually misunderstood had predicted the whole world knowing about his passage whenever it happened. I had assured him, also in humour that that would happen, assured that the world is Zuckerville. God made the earth and its fullness; Mark Zuckerberg shrunk it into an object in the palm of our hands. Thanks Mark for shrinking the globe!

…to be continued.
(Pictures courtesy of Asaju Sam)


The Power of a Hug

The sudden passage of a loved one leaves no room for or time for sober reflections. One the inevitable happens, your brain works overdrive, your thoughts are uncoordinated and no matter how strong you are, you are at your weakest. I would have to break the news to my siblings who may not have been reached, knowing it was sometimes faster to reach people from ‘abroad’ than to do it in country. I broke the news to my co-volunteers the new family I discovered since January when I signed on at BFM Ottawa, volunteering first one day a week and later extending it to six days a week.

Hugs are not part of my culture and I never imagined that they packed so much punch. Within minutes of the news going round, I received so many hugs and it made such a huge emotional difference while I made the calls. This was not me. I never envisaged displaying such emotion or such feeling of emptiness and loneliness – not after my Mom’s passage eleven years earlier or my Uncle, Revd Jacob Asaju who passed while I was on study leave in England. Suddenly, a seemingly emotionally fortified me realized I couldn’t stay on at work in spite of thinking this news wouldn’t stop me carrying on whenever it broke.

After calls to my siblings and a slew of relatives far and near, I called my wife to break the news. I knew she would be devastated. Dad preferred not to hear from me for weeks, but not to hear from Ayoka temi nikan soso for a couple of days was just too much abandonment to him, especially since she returned home after her tour of duty leaving us behind. The bond between daughter-in-law and father-in-law is beyond understanding. I am never a son-in-law in Olukolo’s Compound in Edunabon any more than my wife is in the Asimoko household or the larger clan. Why an ingrate like me is so blessed baffles me.

I remembered I would have to break the news to my daughter who was preparing for an examination before someone from the extended family reached her. From the time she was born, Dad had always had a soft spot for the young lad who would shout ‘Grandpa, kai’ whenever he tried to call her by usual pet names or sing to her. She would tease him by going for his meat at dinner. After I made the call to Dolapo, it dawned on me that I couldn’t remain at work. If Dad’s exit was so emotionally draining all of a sudden, I could imagine what it would do to her, so I spoke to my manager, removed my badge and brazed myself for that incredibly long drive back home.

In times like this, I was torn between two emotions – missing my wife and being glad she was home. While I needed the emotional stability here, I also needed a part of me overseeing arrangements whatever they turned out to be, and Bola fits that bill more than anyone in my life. In the meantime, I would have to protect my daughter from having an emotional breakdown. It was bound to be hard on her, only three weeks earlier; she had spoken at length with Dad, promising at his request, to see him in December. I had cautioned her against making promises she could not fulfill and she promptly changed tactic, saying she was certain to see him when she graduates in two years. Now, all she would ever have are sweet memories of herself and her young brother sitting on his laps.

Dolapo & Dad

Dad & Dolapo, one of my favourite pictures of the two.

The drive home was a miracle, but I made it, not remembering how except that I managed to avoid an accident as I cried myself through. As soon as she heard my footsteps, it became a harvest of wailing. My son, Abimbola consoled us both with calm stoicism. Over the coming days, he would be my pillar of support as I cried at every moment.

Family At Home, Family Abroad

I have two family members in Ottawa. I never live in a town or city without having extended family members. Who else fits that bill better than my cousin, Professor Pius Adesanmi, and my good friend, Walter Hammond. Walter implored me to take things easy, promising to show up later that evening. Pius had no such luxury; he drove down immediately offering that support that only the unspoilt Yagba understands.

Much younger, Adesanmi is an elder on matters of bereavement and the politics of it, having buried his own father years earlier. In-between words of encouragement, he babysat and spoon-fed me on what to expect – from friends, acquaintances, and the community. He warned me to braze up for an imminent clash between my faith, my philosophy of life and the cultural demands of our people. Clairvoyantly, he was spot on – on all! Thank you Pius. He would later augment that daily constant care with the first cash transfer to help my helpless state. Walter fulfilled his promise, showing up with Abu, our mutual friend, bales of plantain that they made Dolapo roast and two roasted chicken. We sat down over beer reminiscing the good and bad times. Their presence helped me cope all through the coming days.

…to be continued.