Remembering Bola Ige
May his noble soul, continue to rest in peace. Amen.
The late Chief Ige, better known and called Uncle ’Bola, was not only my boss, as I was one of his three Press Secretaries while he was the governor of old Oyo State (1979–1983) he took me under his wings and became my mentor, until his assassination.
As I, like his family and millions of his followers and admirers, remember the late “Gcero of Esa–Oke” today, I recall my first posthumous birthday tribute to him, on Friday, 13th September, 2002, published in some national dailies (for reference, The Comet newspaper issue of Friday, September 13, 2002).
Below is the tribute.
“Today is the birthday, first posthumous, of our dearly beloved Uncle ’Bola.
He was the quintessential copy of what God made him for, whether as a teacher, lawyer, politician, administrator, poet, husband, brother, father, friend, uncle etc.
When I talk of him as the ‘Principal’ of the Awolowo School of Life, which I had the good fortune of attending in 1983, what I am referring to, in essence, was that think-tank comprising Dr. Yemi Farounbi, Professor Tunde Adeniran, Professor Tola Atinmo, Dapo Aderinola, Femi Mapaderun and my humble self. Uncle ’Bola headed the think-tank.
We planned and executed strategies, under the aegis of Uncle ‘Bola’s government, aimed at improving the quality of life and economic well-being of the citizens of the old Oyo State.
Our ‘principal’ and his able departmental heads taught administration, politics, poetry, music, elocution, diplomacy, sartorial and culinary savvy.
The period was a great chapter in one’s life. I dare say. Take a look at the ground, and another look at the edge of the hoe.
“I and others ‘graduated from the ‘school’ on Friday, September 30, 1983, though abruptly.
But, Uncle ‘Bola, our principal ensured that our advanced learning process suffered no hitch.
He designed and executed a continuous, near and distant learning programmes from which all his bright and loyal students, in spite of the tragic December 23, 2001 transition, can boldly say, “look teacher, no hands.”
At the September 30th, 1983 ‘graduation’, Uncle ’Bola, ended the ceremony with his famous signature tune; “Ope lo ye o, Baba Olore”, (Praise ye, Merciful Father).
It is imperative therefore to centralize this posthumous birthday tribute on the song of victory.
“As my dear reader will recall, Friday, September 30, 1983 was Uncle ’Bola’s last day in office as the first Governor of old Oyo State.
Our itinerary for that historic week read thus: Monday, September 26 – Meeting with all Permanent Secretaries in the State.
Tuesday, 27 September – Meeting with all Chairmen and Board Members of Parastatals. Commissioning of TSOS at Iwo.
Wednesday, 28 September – Cabinet Meeting, Thursday, 29 September – Meeting with Chairmen of Local Governments and Planning Authorities, Friday, 30 September – Press Conference at the Executive Council Chambers.
“I shall dwell on the governor’s last assignment vide the live broadcast that Friday, at the Executive Council Chamber, Agodi.
Rather than sulk, pine or agonise, we, His Excellency, the Cabinet and personal staff, made a triumphant entry into the Secretariat from the Government House, Agodi, Ibadan.
“Hear Uncle ’Bola, ‘I thank God that at the end of four years, I am able to come before you today.
The purpose of this broadcast today is to make some remarks on my stewardship so that through such it would be possible to reflect upon the present state of our affairs, our achievements, prospects before us, and the choice we have to make as from tomorrow.
‘At this point, you are all aware, we are passing though unusual times and events that will be unfolding during the next few months defy precise prediction.
It is my belief, however, that the course of history cannot be short circuited.
Truth will triumph over falsehood, and light will banish darkness. Some people have stolen our bugle, we will wait and see where and how they will blow it.’
“Uncle ’Bola, ever the compelling orator, emphasized every point during the broadcast.
He went philosophical and prophetic. His audience, immediate and remote, warmed up to the melody and soaked in the words of wisdom of a warrior whose head, unfairly bloodied, yet remained unbowed.
I, now can still see, touch and smell the edifying scenery of the OYSG EXECO Chamber, as Uncle ‘Bola kept faith with destiny.
“He, in the broadcast, predicted a return, his return and our return. We never doubted him. But, who could tell us the when and how of the promised return? Faith whispered an assuring answer, “at the right time”.
“Uncle ’Bola went on, “I have already left the Government House this morning, and by midnight today, my four-year term will end. I go back to Oke-Ado, Ibadan and Esa-Oke.
One thing is certain: through the grace and power of the marvelous God, the support of you our people and the solidarity of all the patriotic forces in the country, the UPN and I will return”. He returned. We also returned. Do you remember?
“At the end of the broadcast, the teacher, lawyer, poet, connoisseur, orator, mentor, principal and outgoing governor, requested his listeners, viewers and those of us with him in the chamber to join him in his famous signature tune, “Ope lo ye o, Baba Olore” (Praise ye, Merciful Father).
Surveying his audience he said, “As I go away, I want, again, to thank God for having used me as an instrument of His purpose for change in this state and for preserving our life.
I thank Him for everything that has happened, because, I have assurance that He will hear the prayers of you the ordinary people of Oyo State who love me and our party and our government.
My song is one of victory and of thanksgiving: Ope lo ye o, Baba Olore”.
“The national anthem was played, curtains were drawn and an era thus ended. Everyone left for their various destinations and destines.
The ‘principal’ took his student aside and said emphatically, ‘We shall return.
Meanwhile, bye for now’. Dear Uncle ’Bola, your prophetic words re-echo. The song remains that of victory and thanksgiving; “Ope lo ye o, Baba Olore.”
Kindly permit me to conclude this tribute to Uncle ‘Bola by quoting part of his written testimony, in 1990, when I requested him to be a referee in my quest for an academic placement.
“He is a very likeable and trustworthy young man and I like him because he is very good at his profession.
He is honest and frank, and at the same time loyal.”
I believe I owe my late boss and mentor, an eternal gratitude. May the valiant soul of Chief Ige continue to rest in perfect peace. Amen.
Alabi is Agba Akin Olubadan of Ibadanland.
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