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|Posted on May 19, 2013 at 11:05 AM||comments (0)|
XXX, Abule Onikorobiti,
I have conceived the idea of writing this letter since1980, when I was 12 years old. I canremember vividly that it was in the noontime of Friday 6th March ofthat year. It was on this day that I realized you were my father. Although Ifound it difficult to believe when I heard grandfather conversing with hisfriend who asked, “Is that Badiu’s son?”
This was indeed a shocking revelation to me! I had beforethat day, strong, full-grown feelings; a bond of love – an affection of a son’sdeep attachment to his grandfather. I became depressed, confused and weptprofoundly for many days. I went in secret to ask Iya Eleran-dindin whom Ihave also believed to be my mother to know where you were living and why youhad never visited us in Ejigbo. She said you had gone to Iwale Asa. I asked her togive me your address so that I could send a letter to you; to ask you to come.
Nmmmmm! What a day! Iya Eleran-dindin lookedinto my eyes intensely and she cried out with all her energy. I could feel thepains as her heart ached from the absence of you. I don’t have the address, she murmured. I wept again, knowing it would be difficult toask you to come home. I cried for several days, when I knew she was your motherand I had believed all this while she was my mother. It pained me even more whenI told her I wanted to come over and live with you. She shouted, you cannot go, no you can’t go! Shecollapsed onto the floor, and screamed, calling your name.
My tender age did not permit me to understand what myloving grandmother was telling me about your residence. More often, I would pesterher to give me your address and description on how to get to you. Each time Iasked, she burst into tears followed by depression, but finally on one of the eveningsof the pestering; she gave me a picture of you. Therein you were standing wearing an Army uniform and a grassy-helmet.Your eyes were gazing at me, as if you knew I will be born a strict semblanceof you. The picture and your book; A New Geometry for Schools authored by Clement V.Durell are the remnants of you in my possession.
Grandmother, your mother, told me that it is only in the dream state Icould see you. Therefore, each night since I leant of you as my father, I wouldplace your photo under my pillow, hoping I would see you in my dream. Everymorning since then has been a handful of disappointments and sadness, as I alwaysmiss the chance of seeing you and listening to you either calling me, my son or scolding me for being wrong. When I eat, I would look for you at the otherside of the table, hoping to see you sitting and ordering me to take my shareof the meat. But I only see the absence of you. This was also always the casein the mornings when I would be going to school. I would hope to see youescorting me across the dreaded Ojuoluwa junction. I would stop briefly beforeI got there and imagined you there, holding my hand as we walk through to myclassroom.
I am sure you knew that your father, my grandfather, loved you so much.I was told he cried a lot and locked himself inside his room for several hourswhen you departed to Iwale Asa. It took the whole community tobreak open the door. He almost killed himself. Your newly wedded wife, mymother fainted. She almost lost her one month old pregnancy. If that hadhappened, I would not have had the opportunity to come to this world. For this,I am highly indebted to you, for fathering this process.
I was also told that the day you departed was in the morning of January27, 1968. You may not be aware of this, but that day was horrible and terrific inthe history of our ancient community, Ejigbo. There was confusion everywhereand everybody was in disarray as annoyed soldiers besieged the community. The soldiers were furious and shot severallyin the air, shouting and screaming. There was panic everywhere. The soldiersleft with your body and nobody up till now in Ejigbo could say where you were takento. This is barely 45 years now, and I still cannot see where you were buried.
Bami, I have met some of your friends who told me you were a greatsinger. They miss you a lot, as they fondly remember the WEERE and TO-RORO youjointly established with them. My daughter, Adeife, is a resemblance of you, asregards your music prowess. Although she is just 6 years old, I wish toencourage her to be a great musician. Your friends also said that you were agallant soldier who was fearless and courageous in defending the unity ofNigeria. However, I wish to ask you why they often refer to you as Ewele Onitsha. Your friends could provide neither an answer norclue to this question. Perhaps you can tell the reason. I must say that I havepicked such traits of fearlessness from you, but this often makes me feeluneasy, as the world itself is filled with dangerous people.
I am happy to inform you that your father took care ofme. He loved me dearly; he trained me to bestrong, amiable, and friendly; and to devote my life in the service ofhumanity. He also taught me how to love my neighbor as I love myself. Hisleadership quality influenced me tremendously. He put the welfare of the peopleat the Centre of his administration when he was the Adele of Oba ofEjigbo.
I want to tell you that I have four children. They are Damilola who is the eldest is 17years old, Atiku is 9 years old; Adeife is 6 years, and Badiu whom I namedafter you is a year and four months old.
Bami, I wish to see you in my dreams.
Emi omo yin nitoto,
The Letter was written by Jelili Atiku to his father,Badiu Olorunfunmi who died on the 27th January, 1968 seven monthbefore he was born. The letter was object of Jelili’s performance titled, Araferakuand was commissioned as part of The Progress for Love – A transatlantic collaborative projectby The Menil Collection, Houston,Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, St Louis and Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos.