Adeniyi… Rescuing Nigeria from the belly of vultures
Commissioner, National Population Commission, erstwhile Federal Permanent Secretary for Special Duties in the Presidency; onetime Acting Editor-in Chief of Nigerian Tribune and Deputy Managing Director/Managing Editor of Sketch newspaper:
Africa’s First Newspaper Ombudsman; Fellow, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Fellow, Nigerian Union of Journalist, Fellow, Commonwealth Journalists’ Association; Member, International Press Institute – Foundation Secretary-General, West African Universities Literary & Debating Societies, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, York Region Business World magazine (Canada); Chairperson, Boards of the Toronto-based Canada University Press and Canada College of
Business and Technology, among a long-list of other earth-shaking accomplishments.
A people without heroes cannot be a civilized people. The available evidence, including the tribute by Abiodun Akomolafe rendered in flawless prose in the book, the Author’s Profile in brief, and other information gleaned from disparate sources by the present reviewer about this accomplished Nigerian and great patriot whose tribe is regrettably fast disappearing from our national landscape.
That is now sadly but inexorably and vigorously assailed by a litany of woes ranging from crass opportunism to unabashed mendacity and other manifestation of infamy are quite revealing, about a man who from all accounts does not seek Praises.
They confirm in bold relief that Adeniyi has indeed vividly packed into over seven decades of purposeful existence, a great miscellany of attributes which distinguish him as a consummate journalist of immense national and international stature, an essayist of uncommon breadth and depth of Vision; a media Administrator of incredible ardour;
A literary scholar of quiet yet profound erudition; a social critic whose engaging pen is, literarily speaking, mightier than the Sword; a Public Servant par excellence; a nationalist in his own right, and for all these or in spite of them, a traditionalist of an uncommon hue and liberal disposition of mind.
The author of 14 books of biography, poetry and drama; credited with over 15,000 articles, essays, short stories and reviews, Adeniyi has lived, trained and worked in all the continents of the world; he has held top editorial positions in Nigeria, British, American and Canadian newspapers.
The heights attained and kept by this enigma of our time were not attained by sudden flights.
As a media person, for two years he wrote 14 columns of every week in Tribune and in Daily Times Group in the early 70s he must have written close to 20 columns in a week.
In the Evening Times alone he wrote two columns a day, six days of the week. Not to talk of two in the Lagos Weekend; two in the main Daily Times, one in Sunday Times.
As Kole Omotosho, his friend and soulmate reportedly enthused: “How many of our young men of today have the courage and the creativity to match such records.”
But morning was already showing the day. As far back as 1961, when he was in form 4, he had published a creative work titled Aiye Ode Oni, a book of Yoruba poetry, which became a recommended text for all secondary schools in Ijebuland in 1964.
Earlier, in 1959 he had written a full-length play, Answer On The Wall, which he later put a stage in his secondary school.
In 1955, when he was in primary 4, he wrote a play Aiye D’ Aiye Oyinbo, which was produced by the standard six pupils of a primary school.
In the secondary school, he was compelled, like his other colleagues, to read a minimum of 52 books a year, (a ratio of one book per week).
And so, “by the time he entered the University, he was already a voracious reader, consuming the works of all the major writers in the world”.
He sponsored himself for his Higher School Certificate course with a book he published as a student.
The same book he hawked by himself throughout Ijebuland supplementing it with wood selling. Even though he reported late to the school, as a classmate of his once recalled.
“We had no teacher in English Literature. Tola taught us. He listened and we gained.
The interaction in Economics class was the same. He was also our class teacher”. Any wonder that his principal. Ambaliyu Sanni, recorded in his School Leaving Testimonies: “Adetola Adeniyi is certainly the best in his class.
He is a young man with a big brain. He is a professorial material. He is intelligent, hardworking, highly dependable and thorough”.
‘His biographer indeed confirmed that; “He has ears for poetry, nose for prose and his mouth draws drama”. (Eddie Ayo-Ojo).
A restless mind in the best fashion of artistes, within two years after graduation from the University, he changed jobs with unusual ease; He got employed 6 times and 6 times he walked away.
The jobs, we are told, ranged from teaching appointments; to being an administrative officer, in private Companies, admission officer of a post-secondary institution, assistant manager of a University bookshop, and civil servant.
At times, he spent a week, two weeks, two months, one month and even one day on such jobs. When he started Aba Saheed, he was not up to 30. He built his gigantic edition 14-room edifie at Ashi Road, Ibadan before he was thirty-two.
The foregoing constitutes the background from which the collection of essays in this book was written. The coverage in terms of the issues captured was simply breath-taking.
As the ‘foreword’ uniquely and strangely rendered with poetic brevity shows, they range from Culture, Tradition and Eccentricities to Nigeria’s Sociology and Social Framework; Debilitating Social Structures and Infrastructures to Economics, Commerce and Responsibility; Satire, Corruption and social.
Ills to Citizenship, Politics and Governance, Ethnicity Insecurity and Instability to Random thoughts and Reflections (on certain and Life); all of them, challenging the Nigerian people.
Choosing an appropriate title for a work with such a sweeping coverage can be a little hazardous.
It was originally conceived as Nigeria A Nation of Idiots, This may sound irreverent, but as the Author noted in the book it was Pastor Tunde Bakare my course mate in The Nigerian Law School, who once remarked that it takes only fools to be ruled by idiots; or idiots to be ruled by fools.
The author indeed opined in one of the articles, “Nigerians must have been compound idiots for them to allow, tolerate and grudgingly accept the barefaced robbery which the ruling elite had inflicted on the county’s patrimony.
No collection of human beings anywhere in history and in the world had allowed the reckless brigandage that had consumed the Nigerian nation for the past fifty-five years (as at 2015) without raising a finger in protest.
He also thought of Nigeria: a Nation Betrayed, eventually settling for Nigeria: in the Belly of Vultures the rapprochement with animals which has been trending in recent times in Nigeria is causing disquiet in some contexts.
When ‘mysterious’ snakes are not swallowing millions of naira; monkeys are allegedly carting away money.
When cows and not are stopping airplanes from landing at the airport, rats would not let the President be in his exalted office.
Alarmed by the trend, a notable columnist cynically expressed worries that he hoped that in 2019 lizards would not swallow ballot cards, chimpanzee would not swallow card readers; baboons would not swallow ballot boxes. WHAT A COUNTRY?
Zent Sowunmi, who is described as a bold writer on African and social issues, and fondly called “The Oracle” captioned his book The Vultures And The Vulnerable: Oriaku And Okpataku Of Nigeria Politics since 1945.
The Island magazine says of the book: ‘Bold, lucid, scandalously brilliant, until now (it continues), no one has been bold enough to put everything on the table.
The true political history of Nigeria and the inner minds of the political actors of the nation since 1945. The Oracle said, “It is all about speaking and writing the truth; fear is the surrogate for pain, address it when it comes”.
Aba Saheed: A Literary Portrait of Tola Adeniyi by Eddie Ayo-Ojo opens with a chapter captioned ‘In The Belly of Aba Saheed.’ ‘Aba Saheed’ is certainly not a vulture. He is Adetola
Adeniyi (the author). As Eddie Ayo-Ojo noted: “Adeniyi is a study in outrageous words – Till date”, he continues, “There is no writer in this country that can match his outrage.”
It was events of the last 18 years or so in the country that “really threw up the most appropriate title” for the present book These were; years when as he, put it” “a cabal of vultures descended on the country and held it by its jugular.”
Listen to him: “ – – never in the history of the unfortunate country have a few rogues gathered and conspired to rob the country silly, and empty the national treasury with a fiendish force bordering on insanity.
It simply is beyond imagination that a people could decide to steal and a mass such humongous wealth that they could not consume even if they spent a thousand years on earth. It was agreed and gluttony at its worst crescendo.”
This explication on the title of the present book further accentuates Gobolabo Ogunsanwo’s characterization of Tola Adeniyi as a writer who “did not just speak truth to power (but) hurled literary grenades to power.
“In many ways” “he stated further”, he Adeniyi reflected, he articulated the frustrations, the painful disappointments of the generality of the masses of our People and the tragedy of misgovernance in Africa’s most populous country”, “For a writer who is distinguished by his predilection to reach “for the Jugular of his ‘political victims’ the title could not have been more apt.
Particularly running into 1,168 pages of fine print, this compendium of thought-provoking essays spans a period of almost four decades of the Author’s insightful musings on the Nigerian condition.
In the words of Chief Yemi Farounbi in a related contexts (which words I respectful adopt), “The more you read this (book), the more you get attracted to this bundle of intellect, imagination, creativity, and raging soul fire.
The more you explore the pages, the more you appreciate the selflessness, “the patriotism and the nationalist zeal that motivated those fiery columns.
* Popoola of the Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife
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