By Bisi Olawunmi.
The atmosphere was one of high octane celebration that Friday, May 30, 2014 when the shakers and movers of society in their shining galaxy of exotic cars and jeeps swarmed the sedate, pristine village of Odoragunshen, in Epe division of Lagos state to bid Sir Michael Otedola a memorable goodbye. The conclave of the rich lived up to its billing, after all, it was the burial not just of a former governor of Lagos state, but that of the father of money. (Baba owo) Read – father of Femi Otedola, the oil magnate. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, President of the Federal Republic was in attendance – live – to celebrate with one of his own . And his ebullient Dame, too – the one who lost her Patience with thatrascally governor!
It is almost a three-hour drive from Iwo, where I live, to Odoragunshen, the hometown of Sir Otedola, (16TH July 1926 – 5th May 2014 ) for whose burial I made the trip that bright Friday. When I got to Mojoda, a junction village to Ibonwon where the church service held at the Immaculate Conception church, the road had been blocked by security officials. I made a detour to arrive at the south end of the town. Even here, security personnel had blocked further movement into the town. It was traffic gridlock. Everybody became ‘footwagen’ trekking quite some distance to the church. One beefy fatcat – Edem Duke size – was trying to bully the security men into allowing him drive his exotic jeep, maybe to the church ‘door mouth’ but those boys won’t budge. So, huffing and puffing, with occasional rest stops, the fatcat waddled his way to the church.The church is an example in transformation agenda – the church, a gleaming showcase had, according to villagers, been transformed literally overnight preparatory to the burial service.
A variant of ‘Eko for Show’. A huge crowd, camera phone ready, had positioned itself outside the church gate to snap the picture of the celebrity guests, especially President Jonathan. A President may never be in their town for the rest of their lives. A debate had been going on whether or not the president would acknowledge the crowd. Some had expected he would walk to the gate and wave to the people, but when he entered his long stretch Mercedes Benz inside the church premises, the optimists still wager a bet that he would wind down the window and wave to them. It was a forlorn hope. With the car’s dark tinted windows, they couldn’t even catch a glimpse of their president. After, came governor Fashola of Lagos state – governance has taken its toll on the young man of yesterday, he is grey all over. He got muted applause as he hurried into his Jeep. Then the one with the gallon-high cap, Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun state, stepped out and got a rousing applause.
Thereafter, the burial train moved to Odoragunshen, about two kilometers from Ibonwon, for private internment and elite restricted reception – only an invitation card can give entry. At this point, the journalist in me took over. There were three glossy publications which must have cost a fortune – a 68- page of eulogies; a 33- page church programme and a folder with the iv for the reception. But the biography of Sir Otedola in the church programme, what should be seen as the main item, was an editing mess. Samples : Sir Otedola … as an information office in Ibadan; study at regent street; was awarded as a Knight ; and the ‘father’ of all errors – May the good Lord receive his should and grant him eternal rest !! The printer, rather wisely, did not put his name.
Of particular interest to me is the book of eulogies. Femi Otedola’s half page was rather detached, almost impersonal in his tribute to his father, highlighting the father’s loan of 325,000 pounds for him to start his business. It read businesslike. But the daughters, Omolola Taiwo and Omotola Kehinde, devoted one page and one and half pages respectively,of emotion-laden tributes to their father, recalling intimate moments, right from their childhood to their father’s last breath. It was moving, especially the revelation he battled stroke for 18 years. God, give us daughters ! ! Daughters who care, like Omolola Taiwo Otedola Segun-Idahorand Omotola Kehinde Otedola Oye.
When the rich celebrate, Item 7 –the eating, wining and dancing- must be of special interest and so it was with the reception. The huge,air-conditioned, tent was a fixture from Fairyland ; the food was ‘out of this world’- from Jumbo prawns, Singapore noodles, Chicken Teriyaki to, wait for it , Ethnic Designer Rice ! Do I hear you ask : What’s that ? Of course, there was unlimited supply of assorted drinks. The scintillating moment was when the music rolled out as Tiwa Savage, Nice, Don Jazzy and Dr. Sid took to the stage in turns. But it was Femi Oredola’s London-based DJ daughter who electrified the gathering with evergreens of the 70s and 80s which got the father on stage in a boogie down. Ageless King Sunny Ade took the closing slot,in a serenade of the rich, Aliko Dangote being his toast, with accompanying naira rain. Dangote, former governors Niyi Adebayo of Ekiti state and ‘fine boy’ Donald Duke of Cross River state were among the power guys who joined Femi Otedola on the dance stage. But this Dangote man, Africa’s richest person, is intriguing – even as he was dancing, almost distractedly, to Sunny Ade’s pulsating beat, he was also beckoning on and giving instructions to some of his aides. And you just wonder about these money people : Do the rich really rest, fully unwind?
Dr. Bisi Olawunmi, Fellow, Nigerian Guild of Editors, is former Washington Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org