By Emmanuel Oladesu
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the death of my father, James Ojo Oladesu. February 1, 1977 was a black Tuesday. I was in the primary school. He travelled to Aramoko – Ekiti. On his return to Efon-Alaaye, his pick – up vehicle had an accident at Oke Igbo Eye. He died before getting to the Efon Catholic Hospital, Ita -Osun. The people of Iloja Street and Obalu Quarters were united in sorrow.
People were crying. At first, I did not cry. My grandmother came to take me to her house at Iloro Street. I asked one question from her: does it means that I and my brother and sisters will not go to school again? My grandmother, who stopped her schooling in primary one at Ido Ajinare, assured me that we will not be withdrawn from school. I was in primary four. I was not up to 10 years of age. In those days, orphans or those who lost their fathers and mothers were often withdrawn from school and asked to go and learn handwork.
I was totally sad. I looked at my mother and saw the danger ahead. She was pregnant with her last child. I knew that a new era of poverty, want and agony had come. All hopes were lost. At that stage, I cried. But, I also prayed.
I thank our primary school teachers- Mrs. Apata, Mrs. Ige and Mrs. Olajide. They excepted us from school labour and showered attention on me and my brothers.
According to townspeople, my father was a beautiful man. He was a hard working farmer, successful tailor and and promising trader. He had respect for elders. He had his shop at Imoba street, where he sold cloths. He was an effective sales canvasser. He was an initiator and communicator of values and virtues. He believed in the concept of an extended family.
He was proud of his background, being a direct son of Fagbuleola Oladesu, a son of an Aro Obalu; grandson of Obaloja Atobatele of Obalu Quarters and great grandson of Alayeluwa Adetusa Atewogboyelowooyinbo, the Alaaye of Efon Kingdom between 1893 and 1911.
He lacked western education. But, he attended adult education class to be able to read and write. That was critical to keeping trading accounts because customers often bought on credit.
He was the treasurer of CAC, Oke-Alaafia, Ojodi.
My father was also a prominent member of Egbe Olomi. His colleagues said he was honest, trustworthy and outspoken. Other members of the club were his elder brother, Oluwadare Oladesu, David Olowoyeye, Ojo Sanni, Adewumi Gambari, Oke Ologunde, Ojo Oloripaye, Anisere and Paul Oyeyemi.
My father’s beliefs and ideas:
1. He believed that nobody can become anything, unless it is granted by God
2. You should treasure members of your family because blood is ticker than water
3. Anybody who refuses to go to school may become a slave to his educated peer
4. Laziness is the key to poverty
5. Cultivate your environment and be nice to the younger generation because they are the future.
6. While preparing to attend a social occasion, eat in your house before you go out so that you will not struggle for food outside
8. Settle quarrel before it escalates to deep seated hostility
9. Don’t run away from challenges. Face the battle of life squarely
10. Boarding school is better than day system. Day students suffer in the morning before they get to school because of the long distance.
11. Those who steal should be punished
12. Give your children enough money during Xmas and New year so that they will not go out and be asking people to give them money
13. Food, clothing and a house to live are the most important things in the world
14. Those who have should share with those who lack
15. Read your books always so that you can go to the University. That’s why I am working.
16. I don’t like voting again since Awolowo did not win that time
17. Always pray and fast. Set a day aside to pray and fast in a month
18. Attend church regularly. There is heaven after the earth
19. Even, if you have another occupation, you should not neglect farming
20. You my children, don’t eat outside when I send you on an errand. But, you can eat in the house of my elder brother, Omoniyi, at Iparatita.
21. Try to save for the raining day. That is why I bought “kolo” for you.
22. You are likely to have more well wishers outside your family
23. Travelling is a form of exposure
24. The only money that is spent well is the one for school fees
25. Injustice is a great cheating
26. Male children are important, but fathers should educate both male and female children because the world is changing
27. One wife can’t be enough, except for lazy people
28. I will rather unite than divide the Aro family
29. I preferred to build my house on my father’s land. That’s why I rejected the land given to me by my maternal uncle, Olanusi, at Ule Ogboni.
30. Don’t be stingy. Don’t be dirty. Don’t covert. Ma se ojukokoro.
I was a small boy then. There were the few I could remember.
–Emmanuel Oladesu, Group Political Editor, The Nation. He just obtained his PhD from UNILAG