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)


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