My Birthday Secret and Philosophy

Muyiwa Akintunde


Muyiwa Akintunde

By Muyiwa Akintunde

For every of my breath, I give thanks to the Creator. Here I am today, my 61st year on the face of the earth: Daalu, Baba! Nagode!!

I have come to the realisation that I can’t wish the pains of 2nd February away. I have to live with the situation. My beloved son, Adeyinka, forever you will live in my heart. I visualised you jumping about as your dear team, Chelsea walloped Tottenham away last night.

I hardly celebrate my birthday in the manner we do in this environment. So being quiet this time is just fitting. It’s not a landmark. And it’s not the right mood.

In recent decades, only my 40th birthday was celebrated “loudly”. Even that was conservative. I hosted family, friends, community and all to a party in my house.

My 50th, for those who still remember, was at the SOS Children’s Village, Isolo. And I’m glad that my guests complied with my request that all the gifts be delivered to the children in that home who didn’t know their parents (the society calls them ‘motherless’).

And so it was that my 60th was dedicated to my foundation – All Saints Anglican Primary School, Yaba, Lagos. There, I had my first formal education from 1966 to 1972. I desired to mark my Diamond Jubilee at my old school, which had told me their basic requirements. Family and friends were so good, they sent in their donations. But for the first time in my life, I was on duty on my birthday rather than with my family. In faraway Sokoto, a pleasant surprise awaited – the leader of our delegation got people I only knew a few days back to give me a treat!

A thanksgiving the week after was held at my church and my wife conspired with my larger family to celebrate with me at our residence.

Today will be a quiet day. I therefore use the occasion to unravel a secret that has endured for several years.

Many people have asked me: how come you always remember our birthdays and anniversaries? What’s the magic?

So many factors.

First, I would not have become anything if not that God gave me a gem of an older brother, Yemisi. What would I have been without secondary education, for instance? Having lost our father in January 1975, my brother, who finished his own secondary education just the month earlier at Federal Government College, Warri and had a Grade 1 that was slightly short of Distinction, refused to continue his own studies. He denied himself so that I could finish my own race at that time.

I learnt so much from him, including the birthday habit. He kept a diary where he wrote his friends’ birthdays.

Years later when we had our bitter quarrels and refused, on principle, to visit ourselves for weeks despite living close to one another, I told my fiancée (who would become my wife) that my brother would send me a greeting card and gift on my birthday. Few moments later, we had a knock on our door. It was my brother’s emissary. I was vindicated.

From there, I picked up that habit, which would then be honed at C&F Porter Novelli, the PR agency where I had my baptism as a PR consultant for three years from 2004. You can’t be lazy working with Mr Nn’emeka Maduegbuna. But birthdays were one of our fun moments. The competition for who would be the first to greet whoever had his/her birthday was stiff but healthy. I devised a strategy of not going to bed until I sent the message at the stroke of midnight. My colleagues said I won the fastest finger contest most of the time. Well, it was their verdict.

At that time, technology had not become advanced as we have now. I came up with an MS Excel document, January to June in one sheet and July to December in another.

Unlike now that you can harvest birthdays and anniversaries on Facebook and allied social media platforms, I did a lot of eavesdropping.

OK, so you’re having a conversation with your spouse and I pretended I wasn’t listening. The typical newsman with his ears to the ground; something dropped about your son who had his birthday yesterday. I would surreptitiously write that down or keep it in my memory to be transferred to my device as soon as I could. From the following year, you become my “victim” of “happy birthday to your son”! And Google diary keeps the record perpetually.

There have been “bad” moments in this “trade”. About three years ago, I sent a wedding anniversary message to a young woman who used to work with me. She replied swiftly that I had saved her from embarrassment. She had forgotten her wedding anniversary!

I always cite the pathetic situation of my good brother, Taye Ige (well, I don’t know if “pathetic” is the right word because he even forgets his own birthday!!!). He was my best man and I would later become his best man. Why would I not have his wife’s birthday? I sent her a birthday greeting at midnight that year and she replied typically nicely, asking me to come for a treat in their house in the evening.

I got there and the ever warm hostess was all over the house getting ready to entertain her husband and I. I didn’t know she was boiling inside, except that, while she greeted me enthusiastically as usual, she responded to her husband with her nose (the way the Yoruba would say it). Then she served the sumptuous meal and she could no longer hold it. “You, you,” facing my friend, and speaking furiously. “You call yourself my husband and you don’t know what today means”?

I thought she would allow my friend to make some guesses. But no. She continued in rage: “Your friend had sent me greetings by midnight”. To save the day, I quickly said: “Happy birthday (I mentioned her name)”.

I never sent her birthday greetings again without confirming from Taye if he had. He seemed to have “repented” until recently when he forgot again and I had already sent the message. Thank God he remembered before heading home. He got to the gift shop after work.

That. dear family and friends, is my little secret.

*Muyiwa Akintunde, journalist and PR consultant, writes from Lagos