Straight trees never last in the bush – Requiem For ba Olupo (1949 – 2022)

They are called lumberjack in North America, probably due to the nature of their job. Lumberjack engages in cutting trees for building purposes.

They are called lumberjack in North America, probably due to the nature of their job. Lumberjack engages in cutting trees for building purposes. They would never cut a tree unless it is tall, big and straight. We equally have them in Nigeria, especially in the Southwest. However, the name is different. They are called “Agbegilodo” and some people qualify the name with “ma beru epe” (not being afraid of curse) their activities are not regulated like that of North America. Lumberjacks occasionally destroy farmland where they operate and the helpless farmer would result to casting spell on them.

Unfortunately, they are not deterred, another farm would still be destroyed and the farm owner whose means of livelihood had been wrecked would rain curses on them hence the adjective, “ma beru epe.” Whether the curses have effect on the lives of Nigerian lumberjacks is a discussion for another time. The narrative explains the Yoruba adage “Igi to to ki pe nigbo” (tall, big and straight trees never last in the bush), they are always the lumberjack’s targets.
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Oba Emmanuel Onaolapo Oyeleso Oyebamiji, Fadare II, the Olupo of Oluponna, the capital of Ayedire South LCDA, Osun State was the beautiful tree that did not last in the bush. Cut short on January 3, 2022 at aged 73 after a fruitful 22-year reign as pioneer king of Oluponna. Fate goes beyond human reasoning, it is just too complex to narrate as no one was a witness to his creation as enunciated in Qur’an 18: 51.

At every epochal juncture of Oluponna history, there were leaders who stood on its threshold and wrote their names into our lore with royal grace. Oba Oyebamiji was one and the first king in Oluponna to wear a beaded crown in 1999. His tenure undoubtedly brought a masterful blend of royal diplomacy and respectability, witnessed many developmental landmarks beginning from Ayedire South LCDA, the new Ultra Modern Palace, Bowen University Estate, and by extension reshaped the age-long ‘don’t-go-home’ syndrome — a practice that is very common among those who are successful and living outside their place of birth. This is the ‘fear of unknown’.

I had few encounter with him as a growing son of Oluponna, student, and later, a participant in the scheme of things and I can say that Olupo was arguably the most accessible king in this area and his love for his community was second to none. His peace loving initiative is the envy of many similar kings.

I remember with nostalgia in circa 2005 as a student at Oluponna High School, we were preparing for West Africa Examinations Council (WAEC). On a particular day, grapevine had it that our mathematics teacher, Mr. Orisatola, who was adjudged the best in teaching the subject, was about to be transferred to another school. We (students) all felt unhappy and went straight to the palace to register our displeasure.

Our ‘unhappiness’ was for two reasons: one, we were not sure of his replacement — anybody who has the knowledge of teachers’ ratio in government schools in that era will attest to this. Second, we were concerned about the next teacher who we may not easily get familiarised with his ‘lecture method’ also known as ‘chalk and talk’ in education. Our good relationship with the teacher in question and others in his ilk was not in doubt. I later knew and valued teacher-student relationship after my university education through my involvement in teachings and further trainings. On getting to the palace, we told Baba the essence of our coming. Immediately, he placed a call to the TESCOM chairman in Osogbo and the rest, as they say, was history.

On another occasion, Mr. Bisi Ogunkale, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Planning and Economic Development and myself led a STOWASA, an agency under the Ministry of Water Resources and Energy, Osun State, to assess the Oluponna Dam after a similar visit to the Palace of Olowu of Kuta, Oba AbdulHameed Adekunle Makama, himself a passionate king. Kabiesi Olupo was not only happy to receive us he was ready to support the government in seeing the water coming back to life.

That was typical of Olupo! Unfortunately, that effort was thwarted by a certain force somewhere, which caused a little delay – that is not the main thrust of this writing.
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I can go on to mention many other gestures he rendered to the humanity while alive. Is it countless of students he helped to secure admission into Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife; University of Ilorin; Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomosho; Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo; among others in the country?

In 2019, when the xenophobic attack was at its peak in South Africa. I ran to him to stand on his contact when a friend who was then a doctoral student at the University of South Africa was denied a visa for nearly six months. He did not only help us, but advise that my friend move out of that country, if possible. He did the same thing to his two children who were then schooling in South Africa. As his remains entered the mother earth yesterday in Oluponna, may his soul rest in peace. Amen!

Kabiesi Olupo lived on many national highways, initiating a meaningful connections, forging links and fora, curating spaces and places where his subjects could be planted, supported and left to bloom. He sought to harness all the budding starlight around him into a huge enlightening bonfire to power the Oluponna of our dream. He has left us so much of himself and we see so much more of himself in ourselves. He is us. The reign of his diplomacy, ideas, ideals and dreams have just begun. In death, he is still connecting with us and summoning us to march on. And we will. As a poet said of Lincoln when he died, so, I should say, Olupo belongs to the ages.

• Nafiu is the convener, Ileri-Oluwa Purposeful Youths, Ayedire/Iwo/Ola-Oluwa Federal Constituency
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