Opeyemi Omotayo: From Sogunro to Akowonjo

Opeyemi Omotayo: From Sogunro to Akowonjo

Thursday, November 25, 2021 8:42 am



    Opeyemi Omotayo

By Bamidele Johnson

Circa 1996, Sogunro Estate in Ogba was the favourite haunt of those of us in AM News, PM News, TEMPO and The NEWS. Sogunro had everything; everything we needed. Criminally cheap food sold from manger-like shacks, cheap liquor and a shoal of nubile, but rustic girls.

It was perfect for us. We were church mice, anyway. Food, at that time, almost without fail, was bread and beans. Anybody of our financial status would be overreaching himself to go asking for rice. Bread and beans, sometimes without meat or fish at Iya Bunmi’s place, delivered thrills and security aplenty. That combo, in our heads, had the solidity that rice could never give. You wanted what’d endure, not dissipate in a couple of ours.

It wasn’t every time that we had money for it. But you could bank on Opeyemi Omotayo, who died exactly 21 years ago today. Ope was popular on Sogunro and used that popularity to get some of us fed. He looked out for people, especially me. Food, back then, was the most pressing need. He’d ask if I had eaten and if I said I hadn’t, he’d ask that we go to Sogunro.

You’d then discover that all you were going to Sogunro with was his hefty deposit of goodwill, which never got depleted. He’d speak to Iya Bunmi, who’d get her daughter to sell food to us. I’d be waiting for him to pay and he’d just say we should go. Food on credit. That was it.

Occasionally, we’d get a helping hand from Tunji Coker, who’d come with a giant loaf of bread on which four of five of us would feast. That meant we only needed money for beans. Cost reduction. In the evening, Ope would invite us for drinks, sometimes with nothing other than goodwill. He paid later, of course. A few other things in between will be kept away from here, so I can scoot to Akowonjo.

At Akowonjo, where he lived with Afolabi Gambari and, for a while, Duro Okinbaloye, I was a regular visitor. There’s a street junction off Caterpillar Bus Stop, which had suya sellers and a woman who sold fried plantain, yam and sweet potato. Those were the things we could afford for dinner. Opeyemi provided often. So did Afolabi, who seemed more prosperous at the time. We behaved ourselves by not going near the suya, which was a luxury.

Whenever we felt like suya, we waited till it was very late. It was a move founded on the assumption that the suya man would be keen to sell off what was left of his stock, as he wouldn’t want to go home with it. It worked. We got cheap suya, which I branded “unsold”, the term used for outdated newspaper copies flogged at rock bottom prices to akara sellers and their ilk.

At about that time, I ran into a jam (details withheld) from which Ope bailed me out. He paid N2,500, a king’s ransom to me at the time, to get me out of that shit. Continue to rest in peace, my gee.

*Bamidele Johnson, a former Editor of Tempo, now a public relations consultant, writes from Lagos

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