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Excerpt for Adventures of A Country Boy In the City: A Memoir by , available in its entirety at Smashwords









Adventures



of A



Country Boy



In The City









Also, by Oluwole Komolafe



Sayings of the Great Masters of Wisdom: The Book

of Wisdom and Knowledge



The Enigma: Rumblings and Ramblings of a Thinker

(Coauthor: Iyabo Arinola Awokoya)



Thoughts on Granite: African Wisdom and

Philosophical Reflections on Life



Colloquies: The African Poet, the African Philosopher,

The African Physicist: A Discourse



Selected Aphorisms: Musings of a Thinker



The Lonely Ones Among Us









Adventures



of A



Country Boy



In The City:



A Memoir





O L U W O L E K O M O L A F E









ADVENTURES OF A COUNTRY BOY IN THE CITY:

A MEMOIR



Copyright 2018 by Oluwole Komolafe.





All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.





Because of the dynamic nature of the internet, any addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid.





Published in Nigeria





Non-Fiction

January, 2019









To my dearest ones:



Rhoda Omotunde Komolafe (Motunde), my wife



Yewande Olubukunmi Komolafe, my daughter



Aramide Oluseeni Komolafe, my son



Olumide Olubusayo Komolafe



(September 15, 1979 – July 8, 1999), my son



… that you may be reminded what the Lord has done for us.



And also to:

Frau Professor Helma Sauerbrey, a German

Lady, who was like a mother to me.









Note: Unless otherwise noted, Bible verses in this

book are from the King James Version.









Foreword





I felt totally inadequate when I was asked to write this foreword to Wole Komolafe’s sixth book, “Adventures of a Country Boy in the City: A Memoir.” Wole is my uncle, the youngest of my mum’s. four wonderful brothers. He is also my childhood hero, and no doubt one person in my family that I can genuinely claim to resemble in all character traits. I owe him a lot in life. Naturally, I could be more specific about the positive impact Wole’s life made, not just in my life, but also in the lives of my siblings, but that is another story, which should not be allowed to dilute what is already a very big story that Adventures of a Country Boy in the City is destined to be. I thank Wole for deeming it fit to choose Olubunmi-du (his pet name for me) from among so many more qualified personalities in his life for this unique assignment!

Unlike his first five books, which were fundamentally philosophical, this one delves into the story of his life and the forces that have shaped and honed him into what he has become in the eyes of the world. Because this story covers some six decades, it is also a story about our family, and I dare say, our nation. Through Wole’s eyes, we see indirectly but vividly, a family and a society in transition. We see not only Wole’s struggles, but also those of his family and his country, as well as the whole world around him.

Adventures of a Country Boy in the City is the story of a boy who lost his beloved mother, within a polygamous home, at the tender age of twelve, causing him to drop out of the best boarding school at the time— Christ’s School, Ado Ekiti. It is about how he embarked single-mindedly thereafter, with the help of his God, in a quest for education—a good education—in Nigeria and abroad in Germany, with its attendant hazards. It is about how, in spite of all odds, he broke out of molds of self and family limitations, recovered lost ground, and reached the goals he set for himself in education and in his profession.

Adventures of a Country Boy in the City provides a living example of how Christian upbringing and ethics, absorbed by a seemingly disadvantaged country boy, enabled him to stay focused while contending for space in a tumultuous world, saving him at every stage from the premature abortion of his dreams, enabling him to make godly choices, and achieve heights in his life and profession that transcended the expectations of his siblings, family, and society.

It is a life lesson in risk taking in the face of seeming impossibilities, relying on faith in “a God who is able to make a way where there seems to be no way,” as my uncle often told me. There are breathtaking moments in this story! On many occasions, we see him walking away from his comfort zone literally blindfolded into the unknown, and making a success out of seemingly impossible situations. How else can one describe a young man leaving Nigeria in the 1970s to meet someone in Germany—somebody he had never met, in a country he had never known, and with no backup plan as to what to do if he failed to see the person, or the person failed to receive him? We see this sort of situation repeated over and over again in this book, giving credence to the saying: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

More than anything else, this is a story about a people—the good, the bad, and the ugly—how they cross one’s path of destiny, and how all can play positive roles, if properly harnessed, in the fulfillment of life’s purpose. We see in this book how help came to Oluwole Komolafe from totally unexpected sources when expected sources failed. There is the story of a German lady, Helma, who became like a mother to him at the time he was most vulnerable. And it is a compelling story of the potential for men and women to be forces for good in spite of all the attendant risks. This stood out in sharp contrast to the professor who was determined to prevent him from graduating from the university, for no just cause. Through this contrast, I believe Wole reaches out and calls out to the good in every individual and repudiates stereotypes that erroneously label the “collective” as good or bad. First and foremost, Wole says through this narrative that people do matter, but most importantly, there are good and bad people all over the world, in every race and in every clime, and that on no account should individuals be described only in terms of the collective. At a time when, all over the world, the flames of hate, tribalism, racism, and neo-Nazism are being fanned again, Wole’s story reminds us all of the brotherhood of man, and how we can all become a force for good instead of evil in our global village.

In his earlier books, Wole dealt extensively with existential issues, but I think it is in this work that he bares his knuckles on the subject. In this treatise, he leaves nobody in doubt about his faith and the place of God in the affairs that have shaped his life. For him, the “invisible hand” in the affairs of men is God—the God of the Christian Bible. We see this God at work in this narrative, and though Wole’s purpose is not to provide an argument for this position, the stories are so self- evident and convincing that any open-minded atheist stands the risk of becoming a believer!

But this is also the story of the believer’s edge in finding and making meaning out of life’s triumphs, as well as what seem to be life’s tragedies. One of the most tragic events one can experience in life is the death of a loved one—parent, offspring, sibling, other family member, or close friend. Wole had his unfair share of these experiences, yet he seems to have found, through them, a validation of the central theme of the Christian message, that life transcends the grave. This is what we mean when we speak of a “resurrected life”—a life lived in the knowledge that there is continuity beyond the grave. It is a life lived in the fear of, and with accountability to an all-seeing God who sees us inside and out and is able to reward with exceeding abundance beyond what men can imagine. This book is about how this belief has produced a positive impact in the various leadership roles Wole has played in the family and in the public realm. It enabled him to redefine leadership, not in the general top-to-bottom relationship as is commonly known, but as a side-by-side, mutually reinforcing enterprise in which the leader stands by those he leads in order to produce results.

More importantly, we see in this story a successful passage of Wole’s values to his children. Wole’s first son, Olumide, my first cousin, left us to be with the Lord at the age of nineteen. He was an undergraduate in the United States when he died. It was a very sad period for Wole and his immediate family, and for all of us who were associated with them. But Olumide, in one of his ruminations, a few months before his transition, and in what appeared to be a dream or a trance, had captured vividly his own funeral scene in a story he titled “The Family Line.” Wole has kindly reproduced the essay in this book. In that essay, Olumide describes, in advance, what we saw at his funeral—the grieving Dad and Mum and his two siblings holding hands as they walked away from his graveside. But he also describes what we could not see on this side of reality—his own soul across the other side of the reality divide—“Family Line”—leaving the same scene, with no pain or worries, and with shouts of joy, proclaiming “Free at last! Free at last!” There is a redemptive purpose to every trial and tribulation that God allows in the life of every believer—a purpose that transcends this life and provides meaning to the entire fabric of human existence. This is what Wole vividly paints for us in this scintillating story.

I dare say also that Adventures of a Country Boy in the City is a lesson in perseverance and forbearance in the face of repeated disappointment caused by backstabbing and betrayal by those from whom one should legitimately expect support in times of trouble. But it is also about how forgiveness and love caused Wole to triumph over such situations. Wole demonstrates in this book that crises in themselves do not have to be fatal … that personal interpretation of events, self-confidence, and the help of heaven can turn seemingly unpleasant situations around and produce desirable outcomes. Over and over again, we see this acted out in this highly engaging narrative.

This is a life testimony in believing in God and working with Him to bring about convergence between faith and work in the pursuit of excellence and purpose in one’s life and career. There was a tendency for the cyclical occurrence of particular events in his life, and the way he took action to orchestrate particular outcomes is a lesson in spiritual vigilance. Are there forces that contend with one’s destiny? Are there unexplainable chance events that set one person on the path to success and another on the path to failure? Are events random, or are they predestined? Are life’s journeys pre-determined? Are we actors in a drama that has already been written? Are we just pawns in a game between powers greater than ourselves? Wole’s response to some of these questions seems to be unequivocal, and the message is repeated throughout the narrative: there are forces of good and evil, but our choices matter. Over and over again, we see this interplay between the divine and the individual, and how the alignment of the individual will with the divine forces convergence and brings about purpose. His message is clear—in Christ, it is possible to discern and break cycles of defeat forever and move on to greater heights in life to fulfill destiny.

In summary, I believe this book leaves me with three essential thoughts, but I believe the many facets of Wole’s story will enable each reader to make similar and other conclusions. The first thought is that it is possible to surmount any challenge in life if one believes in oneself and in God. No one has the right to hide behind circumstances of birth as an excuse for failure. I dare say that this message is also applicable to the collective, and by this, I mean the family and the nation. The only limitations are those one allows. With prayer and personal effort, it is possible to turn around situations in one’s life, one’s family, and one’s nation. The “promised land” will remain nothing but a promise unless we are ready to contend for it, with the empowerment of God, from within.

My second thought is that Adventures of a Country Boy in the City brings education to the core of national discourse again, especially in Nigeria. This certainly might not have been the intended purpose of this book. Education is so vital for the fulfillment of destiny. Parents, educators, and governments can help all people by investing heavily in the program. Sending children to foreign countries for education has many advantages certainly, but unfortunately it also has some inherent hazards, not only for the children, but also for the society from which they are transplanted. Wole challenges us, in our collective search for the “good society,” to commit ourselves to rebuilding the nation’s educational system—retaining at home the best minds during their formative years. That implies that our tertiary institutions must be able to meet the aspirations of our children up to the age of twenty-five. As the world moves toward becoming a global village, this might sound a bit anachronistic, but when we see education as a means not just of acquiring skills, but also of building character and absorbing culture—culture of life, culture of work, culture of relating with the environment—then the need for acquiring it within certain “supervisable boundaries” cannot be overemphasized, especially for children in their formative years. Wole suffered untold discrimination at the hands of an extremist in faraway Germany. This took away three productive years of his life and left a scar that has lasted throughout his life. Yes, he survived it through sheer force of character, the help of people like Helma, and faith in his God, but the truth is that many others have crumbled under similar circumstances. Our society must be mindful of this kind of risk and take steps to minimize it by investing in good universities in Nigeria.

The third thought I have gained from this story is this—and I believe every reader will easily come to this conclusion—Judeo-Christian ethics make no distinction between secular and spiritual work. Certainly, Wole makes no such distinction in this narrative— the secular and the spiritual are intertwined. This is Wole’s thesis as he takes us, step by step, through this life story. Within this context, the call of God is upon all. The pastors and the laity alike are called, and all things are to be done as unto God, and all things become possible, because of the unlimited possibilities of a “big God”! A life lived with this conviction receives the sanction of heaven and impacts one’s domain of influence. A life of faith thereby becomes a profitable enterprise for the individual, his family, his society, but most especially, his God. The people of Nigeria, and indeed all of humanity, need to hear this message over and over again. Adventures of a Country Boy in the City has, in essence, captured this message on every page—and it is my singular honor and privilege to commend it to all in our collective assignment to recover the earth and make it a better place than we found it.

Wole has helped to communicate these vital thoughts and messages by the most potent means at his disposal—the story of his life! Adventures of a Country Boy in the City is a compelling, real-life story, an interesting story, an engaging story, written in excellent prose with breathtaking suspense, and beautifully arranged to provide lessons for all men and women in Christian parenting, courage in difficulties, and training in servant leadership. It is an important contribution in our collective conversation and search for the good society. It is a must read for all!



Olubunmi Obembe

Executive Director

Total E&P Nigeria Limited (TEPNG)

Abuja, Nigeria









Acknowledgments





One of the things that fascinated me most during my first visit to the United States of America in 1987 was how progress in the culture of reading was intrinsically linked to the availability of bookstores and public libraries in the cities I visited, and the response to using these facilities by the reading public. Being myself an avid reader and lover of books, I spent most of my leisure and free time going from one bookstore to another during the short time I spent there.

Although I lived for a considerable length of time in Europe as a student, I never had the opportunity to visit such magnificent bookstores and libraries that were as busy as the ones I saw in Washington DC and in New York. It was in the course of going round the bookstores that I discovered the Barnes & Noble, and ever since, it has become my favorite bookstore. Each time I have visited the United States, I have sought out the Barnes & Noble in the city I’m visiting and have spent long periods of time going from one bookshelf to the next.

I remember sitting one day in a café opposite a Barnes & Noble bookstore in New York, watching the high traffic of booklovers going in and out of the store. As a result of the high traffic of visitors to the store, the revolving door was rotating as if it was being operated automatically. I must have been outside the bookshop for a period of over one hour as I watched the door rotating with the crowd coming in and out of the bookshop. During my subsequent trips to the United States, before e-books became popular, I would always buy boxes of books from Barnes & Noble and bring them for my family’s library on my return trip to Nigeria.

One day, I was at the Barnes & Noble at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland, and after staying in the store for a couple of hours, on my way out, I said to myself that it was not enough to simply come to visit the store, I must write a book that would be stocked and sold at Barnes & Noble. I knew that this would be a tall order, but I was determined to do everything in my power to write a book that would be published and retailed on the bookshelves of my favorite bookstore, Barnes & Noble.

Much sooner than I expected, the opportunity to realize my ambition came when, in the year 2007, my book, Thoughts on Granite: African Wisdom and Philosophical Reflections on Life was published by iUniverse. I found my book displayed among those written by such authors as Soren Kierkegaard, Thomas Aquinas, and others for a period of eight weeks on the bookshelf of Barnes & Noble at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore.

The opportunity offered by iUniverse to stock and display my book at Barnes & Noble was a most humbling experience for me. Ever since then, my other book published by iUniverse has been made available through the channel distribution arrangement of the company, and the books are available for ordering and distribution to online booksellers and retailers around the globe. Thanks to iUniverse, suddenly, a remote author like me has been able to fulfill a lifelong dream. I have been given a voice so that I might share my thoughts and my story across the globe in places beyond my immediate horizon and imagination.

I owe great deal of thanks to my brother, Chief Michael Funsho Komolafe (Brother M. F.), who is currently the head of the Komolafe Family. He supplied in great detail, and in written form, the stories concerning the early years of our father, Pa Solomon Ojo Komolafe. Without Brother M.F.’s assistance, the stories about the early life of our late father would probably have been lost in obscurity and perhaps forgotten.

I am also grateful to my late brother, Chief Israel Kayode Komolafe, who expended great diligence in making repeated calls to relatives as far away as Omuo and Imakeke in Akoko Edo, in the present Edo State, to put together the long-forgotten history of our great-great-grandmother on our mother’s side. I leaned heavily on a pamphlet written by my brother to obtain the historical background on our mother’s family. A lot of credit therefore goes to him for the details of the lineage of our mother’s ancestors.

I see my nephew, Olubunmi Obembe, as my alter ego in the psychological sense. He is someone who, in speech and thought, so often behaves the way I do. Bunmi must be singled out for mention from among members of my family. In our family, we relate with people who unconditionally take us and respect us for what we are and what we stand for. As will be seen in the book, Bunmi, who as a child I fondly called “Olubunmi-du,” has always been part of my story. It is therefore apt that he should be the one to write the foreword of my book.

As usual, my colleagues in Sages Consult Limited provided secretarial backup and support for this book, and my ever-ready partner in Sages Consult Limited, Mrs. Arinola Iyabo Awokoya, needs special mention for the provision of useful input, critique, and for her longsuffering and patience when being used as a sounding box for most of the ideas and general layout of this book. Many thanks, Iyabs.

Lastly, but most importantly, my nucleus family; namely, my wife, Motunde, and my children, Yewande and Aramide (Seeni) deserve special thanks for contributing to and embellishing details included in the book, particularly where my memory has failed over the years, and also for working through the draft manuscript with me. Your useful insight and general guidance to improve the quality of the book is much appreciated. Despite the fact that this is your story as much as it is mine, I still want to thank you most sincerely for your assistance in seeing that this work was brought to a timely conclusion. I assure you of my continued love, and I thank you most sincerely from the bottom of my heart, as the saying goes.



Oluwole Komolafe

Lagos, Nigeria









CHAPTER ONE



Reflections



In reality, there is perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.

Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin





I thought about the mountain that stands still, unaware of the power it has that can result in a volcanic eruption. I thought about the deep, calm sea as it spreads to its depth, breadth, and length, unaware of its power to carry a tsunami. The heavens spread wings of clouds over the earth unaware of the pending storm and hurricane they might bring. The earth remains suspended, turning on its axis, unaware of its power to tilt sideways and cause waves and flooding of the streets of cities.

The seas and the earth, despite their God-given strength, do not have the power or foreknowledge to predict coming events and changes that will result from their latent power. They all surrender to Mother Nature to take their natural course. Living beings, including trees of the forest, birds of the sky, the lower and some of the higher animals, also obey nature’s biddings and surrender to the call of change by Nature. Trees shed their leaves in preparation for changes in weather conditions. Birds, fish, and land and sea animals migrate at certain times of the year to obey the laws of Nature.

The mountain, unaware of the pending changes, and incapable of analyzing the situation, it finds itself, remains calm, and waits patiently to midwife the volcanic eruptions from within its bosom. The mountain, still as in yoga, does not fret; neither does the sea, the earth, or the heavens. They simply let go and surrender to Nature. The trees bend and bow in utter surrender whither the wind blows them, just as the earth patiently waits to contain the flooding of the seas.

As a result of the complexity of his brain and his God-given ability to have foreknowledge and premonition of pending events, man analyzes and overanalyzes the situations in which he finds himself. He looks for ways to try to resist changes in his environment. Because he is endowed with the mind of God, he has a pre-instinct of pending changes, and when changes are about to occur in his environment, he becomes uneasy. He begins to fret, and he becomes anxious. Sometimes, he begins to worry, even when the changes will bring him good and positive vicissitudes in his life.

Continuing in my thoughts, I said to myself, It is pleasant to sit on the beach watching the wind playfully churning the waters. When the turbulence results in a tsunami, it is time to run for dear life. It is nice to watch from afar the volcanic eruption puffing out lava from its fiery furnace; however, when the lava pours downhill toward one’s dwelling, it is time to run and seek shelter in a safe place. It is pleasant to sit ensconced in a reclining chair, watching a revolution on television; when one is caught in the crossfire of the opposing group and government forces, the story is quite different. It is entertaining to watch snowflakes drop one after the other till snow mountains obscure the residence of the neighbors; the trouble starts when an igloo is formed round one’s dwelling making an escape impossible. One might be indifferent watching from a distance the suffering of others when one is not directly involved; but the moment one hair on one’s head is torched the whole world will hear of the sad story.

Natural events are preceded by cyclical actions that must exist before such events can begin. Certain actions must take place before the tsunami, before the storm, and also before the volcanic eruption.

Nature sounds its warning bells. Rain does not suddenly start to fall. Rainfall is preceded by the formation and the gathering of clouds and, sometimes, winds. The process before it rains can be followed and predicted by observers of changes in weather conditions. If at noon the sun becomes hot, the period before sunshine from dawn till daybreak and sunrise can also be predicted. Nature’s ways are set and can thus be studied and foretold. The sun will always rise at predictable times in the east and sets at predictable times in the west. Before there is a full moon, there will always be quarter moon followed by half moon. Nature makes things occur for a just cause and for a certain purpose. It is for a just and certain cause that the sea lies low. By lying low, all rivers and wetlands drain into it. Thus, the sea derives its might and prowess from its humility in lying lower than all the rivers.

I ask myself: Is it actually correct to say that the sun rises in the morning in the east and sets in the evening in the west? The rising of the sun in the east and the setting in the west gives the impression that the sun moves from the east where it “rises” in the early hours of the morning to the west where it “sets” in the late evening. I beg to differ from this line of thinking, as I oppose the concept of a risen sun for the following reasons: Nicholas Copernicus was thought to be stupid for opposing a hypothesis accepted by everyone over a long period of time of an earth in the middle of the universe characterized by a moving sun. His heliocentric model of a solar system with a stationary golden sun encircled by moving planets was considered “contrary to human reason and in opposition to the Holy writ, and against the true senses and authority of the Holy Scriptures.” Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in AD 1600 for holding the belief that the earth moved round a stationary sun. Galileo Galilei faced life-threatening charges of heresy for his concept of a stationary sun. In 1616, Galileo was ordered by Cardinal Robert Bellarmine to desist from defending his concept of scientific findings that did not support the doctrine of the Catholic faith.

After all these saints were persecuted for their beliefs, which science later proved correct, we must not rewind the hand of the clock of progress by saying the sun rises, since the concept of a risen sun connotes movement of the sun. There is irrevocable evidence beyond doubt that it is the earth that moves in relation to the sun, and that it is this movement that causes us to see the sun to the east of the earth in the morning hours. This is the concept that gives us the erroneous impression that it is the sun that rises in the east and sets in the west. Science has shown that it is the earth that has moved rather than the sun.

Man engages in a lifelong struggle to fit into and adapt to nature’s circumstances. Man adapts to daylight, to darkness, to extreme weather conditions, to natural upheavals like tsunamis and volcanoes, and to the seconds, minutes, hours, days, and years of the seasons. Now, most recently, we are adapting to the climatic changes that are the result of global warming that is affecting all of planet Earth. In the process, man grows old, and eventually, his life spent, he passes away and is replaced by one generation after another. Yet, Nature remains the same. Nature does not grow old. Daylight, darkness, extreme weather conditions, the seasons of the year reoccur in the universe; the universe itself is forever changeless in time and space.

Man has changed from generation to generation and has moved relative to the constancy of Nature. Simply put, the position of man in the universe may be compared to the hands of the clock … the part that moves. Conversely, nature is the face of the clock calibrated in seconds, minutes, and hours. This is the part that does not move, yet it is the yardstick by which the time of the day is measured. In like manner, the earth moves, and the time of the day is calibrated in relation to the stationary sun, which gives the phenomenon of daylight and nightfall upon which man now calibrates the concept of time of the day in hours, minutes, and seconds. Nature is the ruler or yardstick against which all activities of man are measured.

In life’s circumstances, some men are proactive, dwelling already today in a future that they predict and create in their minds. The world marvels at the audacity of their actions and sometimes mistakes their actions for complacency, not knowing that the seer has comprehended what will happen ahead in time, in a future world that he alone can see, and wherein he alone has been dwelling, even before the present day.

Some other men, who have less of a gift of foresight, just wait and can only react to events based on present or past experiences. Some allow matters first to happen, and then they react retrospectively to the situation that has arisen. In extreme cases, they attain success and begin to look around themselves to see how they might adjust their lives to fit into the new situation. Some others work arduously to attain success based on a path clearly defined in their minds, and when they attain success, they know precisely what to do in their new situation.

Again, whichever way one looks at the matter, whether one is proactive or reactive, certain actions, as in the examples of the men given above, must precede the other. Thus, all events are preceded by engagements that must begin before some related actions can take place. Ponder and see if there is a solitary action whose presence does not depend on the existence of another. The end we know, just as death ends life, the night ends the day, journeys come to an end, childbirth ends pregnancy, the flooding resulting from a tsunami ceases, and the waters recede into the depths of the ocean. Whichever position we are experiencing, there is a beginning of the beginning.

Whence, then, was “In the beginning …”? This is the question generation upon generation has always asked. And they have never received an answer. And so the riddle of life remains unresolved, except the explanation offered about the beginning of the world in the Good Book.




I gazed briefly at my image in the mirror as I trimmed my pencil-line moustache in preparation to start the new day. I noticed how grey my hair has turned over the years, and how with time, even my once- thick moustache appeared to have thinned out. I shaved my beard as I have always done in the past four and a half decades since it began to grow.

There was a time when I could count the number of grey hairs on my head. When I was in my late twenties and I first noticed one or two strands of grey hair sprouting on my head, I pulled them out, out of embarrassment. How can a young man like me start having grey hair so early? I wondered. Now, the reverse is the case. I can count the few strands of black hair on my head. I would not start pulling out the few black hairs on my head in order to have only grey hair, so as to look older. Wisdom demands that I would not want to look older, since it is human nature to want to slow down and not hurry the process of ageing.

With years of practice, I dexterously continued shaving without paying much attention to the motion of my hand. As I shaved, I remembered my childhood days and wondered how long ago it was that I was a little boy dreaming of the time that I would have my own house and my own family. I remember saying to myself then that my bathroom would be so clean I would be able to sit down there and have a meal if I chose to. I looked around me briefly, suspending my shaving. I saw that indeed, my bathroom was sparklingly clean, but I still would rather go downstairs to the dining room for my meals. As was always the case with me, I thought about the events of the day ahead of me while I continued to shave. I thought about what I would need to accomplish during the day. It was a Saturday in December 2012, a work-free day.

By the time I finished shaving, I came to the conclusion that I would go downstairs to my library and start working on the book that I had always wanted to write about some of the remarkable events in my lifetime, which had spanned the past sixty years. The book would document my life from the first episode to the present date. The next episode of the remaining part of my life would then be left to the documentation provided by the world of technology around me in the form of snail mail, e-mails, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google, and so forth, depending on how many more years I might remain in the land of the living.

I sat comfortably at my desk and started writing from memory about the events that marked the last six decades of my life as far back as my memory could carry me. I relied on the few documents that I had kept over the years, since I never kept a daily journal as some well- organized people that I know do. I had always wanted to write my story to serve as life lessons to those who might care to know more about me and possibly read my writing, at least for the literature, and so it was not difficult for me to settle down and put my thoughts on paper.

This is the seventh book that I have authored. The other six books discuss abstract thoughts about situations that most of the time did not occur in reality. The situations were sometimes comparable with playing a game of dice on matters of chance and plausibility, and choices of life to satisfy the yearnings of the intellectual mind. The books were, in most cases, about surreal things, sometimes supported by theories and rhetoric I gleaned from academia. In these books, I had to imagine and write about things that had not happened, but that I thought might occur, arguing that, if the things actually did occur, what might have made them happen, and what impact could such occurrences have on the lives of individuals who existed in a world of my own creation and imagination. It was therefore sometimes difficult to put thoughts and words in the mouths of the soulless phantom objects that I created in the fantasy of my mind. With this new book, the situation is quite different. I had only to scratch my head a little bit to recollect what happened some time ago in my life. These events were real and tangible things and not things that I imagined. The success and power of my presentation in my new book will help me carry my readers along. Particularly if I am able to make real episodes in my life sound credible or appear interesting, I might be able to get my readers interested in my new book. As much as possible, I will make my story interactive and engaging so as to make my readers enjoy my story and have some fun while reading this monologue.

I paused a little while after settling down at my writing desk, and I wondered at the stillness and tranquility that I was enjoying in my home even within a town like Lagos, a city that never sleeps as the saying goes about the town. For one to be able to have Saturdays free of social engagements means that one would have declined invitations to the various weekend celebrations that the social life in Lagos demands. In most cases, socializing and weekend rendezvous start on Thursdays and end on Sundays at the various church society meetings that might last till the better part of the afternoon after the Sunday service. Most people return home in the evenings on Sundays after having started their weekend rendezvous at the midweek. The cycle of life of pleasure, filled with much laughter and easy life, is repeated from January to December of every year. I have nothing against my compatriots who are so outgoing. That is very good, and I admire them. After all, Nigerians have been described as one of the happiest people on earth. I have been asked oftentimes how I find the time to engage in intellectual work despite my seemingly busy schedule. My answer to such questions has always been the standard one-liner: I might not have the crowd to show for my company, but I have my books to display round about me at my bedside!

I thought to myself that the stillness and tranquility have a kind of potential energy that, in a practical sense, can be converted into an advantage, as we learned in elementary physics. If I could be still and discipline myself to convert the quietness around me into some productive work, I would be able to add another book to my name. My other books were all written in the same environment, mostly at a time when I oscillated between the soft and cushioned mattress on my bed and the hard-wooden chair at my writing desk in the family library.

My books were all written when the human me, who wanted to ease into the idleness of the dreamland of a life of pleasure spent on my bed, alternately struggled with the intellectual me, who struggled to face the perils of the daily life encountered in my world of wakefulness. The battle has always been won by the intellectual me, for I have spent more time in wakefulness than in dreamland.

I recounted the words of Voltaire, which taught that both the bed and the table are necessities of life, and the habit of being alternatively on these two thrones will never disgust one. I therefore decided that Saturday in December 2012 to spend more time at my table, and in departure from the lessons of Voltaire, I was disgusted by the temptation to choose the other throne where I could roll back and forth as if joined to the hinges of a swing door, floating in the dreamland of what mortals call sleep.







CHAPTER TWO



My Childhood Days



We’re fighting against terrorists, but the truth of the matter is, Nietzshe had the answer when he said, “Beware, beware when you fight a dragon, lest you become a dragon.” We have to be careful that in fighting those who would threaten liberties, we don’t get rid of liberties; that in standing against those who would do away with freedom, we don’t do away with freedom.

Tony Campolo Sermon: "It's Friday, but Sunday's Coming"





Memories of my early childhood are blurred, and I cannot easily remember the details of events that happened during that time. From the time of birth till a certain age when one begins to be aware of one’s surroundings, one cannot commit events that happen around one to memory. The time in the womb does not form part of one’s memory; neither are the nine months in the womb added to a child’s age, so also, the time of a woman’s labor and the time of birth is not known to the child, and neither are the toddler days remembered.

I am not quite sure when I started to be aware of my surroundings as a child growing up in Ayedun Ekiti, a village, in the north eastern part of Ekiti State in southwest Nigeria. At the time of my childhood, Ayedun was a small village of less than 2,500 inhabitants where everybody virtually knew everybody else, and all parents disciplined all the children in the village.

I clearly and shamefully remember the time when I could neither read nor write. I also remember the time when, as a child, I was feeling a bit awkward that I could not write my name, and how I later boasted that, if I opened any English book, I would be able to read and understand the meaning of a few words, such as and, table, to, and other simple words. A major achievement indeed, I thought! The fact that I could still remember all these details meant that I did not start reading and writing early enough, as some people cannot even remember being unable to read or write as a child. As a result of the privilege of their upbringing, they saw reading and writing as a natural process synonymous with the ability to walk, to talk, to see, and to hear, all of which come naturally.

Do any of my readers remember when they started walking, seeing, or hearing? Why is it that one can remember what happened on a certain day thirty years ago, but one cannot remember what one had for dinner two days ago, or what shirt one wore to work three days ago? I am asking not for any particular reason … I am just curious.

As I look back at my early childhood days, now with the benefit of the eye of an adult, some of the memories that I can recall date back to over sixty years ago.

One thing I clearly remember was that, even as a child, I knew I was going to devote my life to studying. I knew I would engage in lifelong academic pursuits. Though a late starter at reading and writing, when I eventually learned the skills, they came to me naturally and very easily as if they had been there hidden in a remote corner of my mind and all I needed to do was to bring the ability out. As soon as I was able to read and write, I started reading the few books stored by Father in the glass bookshelf that was used more as part of the house furniture than as a bookshelf in the living room of our house.

One of the first things that I was able to read, which has remained with me all my life, was an inscription in yellow paint on a mirror that hung in the family sitting room. It read: “If music be the food of love, play on.”

At the beginning and at the end of the quote were the pictures of two birds—robins—painted in brown, facing one another, with their heads tilted upward as if they were chirping the words. I read and memorized the words, and for many years, I would repeat the quote to myself and interpret the words by their literary meaning, word for word. And sometimes, when I heard music being played, I would use the quote as a wise saying. It was not until many years later in my adult life that I fully comprehended the quote from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, act 1, scene 1, 1-3:

“If music be the food of love, play on. Give me excess of it; that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die.”

At the age of about twelve, I had read almost all the literature books in the village, having borrowed books from virtually every person who had books in his or her possession. It was at this time that I learned to take care of borrowed books and return them to the owners without marks on them. I would carefully wrap the outer cover of the books with newspapers to protect the covers from damage. I also learned the important lesson during this time not to use borrowed books as “file jackets” by putting other books, pencils, and papers in between the pages. These are lessons I learned at that young age, and I still put them into practice today by treating borrowed books, and books in general, with respect and care.

Now putting words to my childhood thoughts in the language and thought patterns of an adult, I know that I realized, at that very early stage of my life, that the person who has stopped learning is dead. In adult language, I told myself retrospectively that the person who has stopped learning first suffers brain death, then he suffers lip death, and then he dies in his mind. And, lastly, he suffers bodily death as he dies physically. In this order, the symptoms of impending death are similar to those experienced by a fish at the early stage of going off and becoming unsuitable for the dining table. The fish starts getting rotten from the head. To test the stage of freshness of a fish, smell the head. To test the stage of decay and idleness of the human brain, quiz and query the head to determine common sense and logical thinking. I made a lifelong covenant never to stop learning.





Climbing up trees and jumping down from them was a great pastime for us when we were young. I remember how, together with my half-brother, Esan, and some of my other playmates, we climbed the trees in the garden at the back of our house. Each of us selected and claimed ownership of a personal tree from among the orchard planted by Father. My favorite tree was a luxuriant almond tree with low branches that were easy to climb. The branches all took off from the flattened base of the tree. They formed a hollow, level surface where I would lie down on many occasions, enveloped by the branches of the tree. I would allow myself to be rocked by the rustle of the leaves into a pleasant afternoon nap.

“When I grow up, I want to be a teacher,” Esan said thoughtfully one day as I walked toward the orchard with him, and my friend, Tope, and my cousin Tunde.

“I want to become a writer,” I re-joined, “and I want to write books like The Overloaded Ark by Gerald Durrell, which I have just finished reading.” I tried to recite from memory though not using the exact words, my favorite passage from the book, my head tilted slightly at an angle skyward: “I know I would return, Sir Durrell writes, or be hunted forever by the beauty and mystery that is Africa.”

“Why do you want to write books when there are so many books in the library and all you need to do is to pick up a book from the bookshelf to read? What would you write about?” Tope asked. “I would rather be a soldier when I grow up,” he said. “And with my gun, I would be able to hunt and kill as many rabbits as I wanted.”

We would go on a voyage and find out where the Treasure Island is,” rejoined Tunde. “Maybe, we would be able to meet some of the characters in the book like Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins, and possibly find some hidden gold!” We reached the garden at the back of our house, and we all went to our individual trees. There were altogether about fifteen exotic fruit trees in the garden. Esan preferred the short cherry mango tree at the far end of the garden. He would climb his tree and perch precariously on one of the branches. During the fruiting season, he would pluck the ripe mangoes and generously share them with us as if, indeed, he owned the tree.

My cousin Tunde, like all of us, also had a favorite tree. He did not spend his time in the garden climbing and sitting in his tree like the rest of us. He was more interested in examining, in an investigative manner, every little change in the garden. He was the one who would tell us which tree was about to fruit, when the trees fruited last, and what birds were likely to be found nesting in the trees.

One of Tope’s favorite trees was a tall cola nut tree. Tope would climb to one of the high branches and practice stunts like jumping down from the tree or using the branches as a swing. He would hold to a branch and swing loftily to and fro high up in the sky. He would continue this stunt until the branch either gave way and broke or until the leaves on the branch became ragged and the branch itself became bent and twisted and touched the ground. At that point, the branch would remind one of a chicken that had been beaten by the rain. Tope would then go to another tree and practice the same stunt. As soon as anyone saw a tree looking torn and raggedy, that person could tell that Tope had been there. I did not know how he achieved this, but as a matter of utmost self-restraint and conscious effort on his part, he never touched Esan’s tree or mine, even in our absence.

Esan was a few months—perhaps six months, or at the most a year—my senior in age. He and I were very close, and even as far back as then, when we were little kids, Esan was quiet and a little reserved for his age. He was never ruffled, and he was kindhearted and gentle. I, on the other hand, was a contraption of various shades of characters oscillating between being playful and gregarious, rough and ready, and augmenting those traits with being very resourceful, thoughtful, helpful, and sometimes highly introverted for my age, choosing sometimes rather to be away from the crowd, curled up in a corner absorbed in a book. Sometimes I would go for a whole day not caring about food when I had some work to do. When I chose to play to reward myself after working very hard, I would play so hard that an erroneous conclusion might be drawn about me that I was too playful. When again it was time for me to be serious, I would become the model studious child, capable of sitting quietly alone for hours in pursuit of the solution to a problem many grades above my level. As I matured in age and in years, I stabilized and I gravitated gradually toward my present state of mind; that is, being pensive and reclusive, while abandoning the other character of playfulness.

Though Esan was not stoutly built, even as a growing child he was not somebody to be pushed around or to be bullied by other children who may have appeared to be stronger. Fighting with one another over some childish things was commonplace in those days. A week would not pass without one child quarrelling with another over some inane and silly issue such as somebody singing “my song”; that is to say, one of us would sing a song, and somebody else would pick up that song and start singing it. This might be a reason to start a quarrel with the person who had stolen the first boy’s idea and started singing “his song.” Esan was engaged in one such brawl one day; or rather, another child had engaged Esan in one such brawl. The boy, who lived across the street and was known by all to be a bully, had been taunting Esan for no just reason for a long time. One day, Esan was sitting on the floor as the boy passed by. The boy kicked Esan, complaining that Esan’s legs were in the way. Before Esan could get up to respond, the bully was on top of him, slapping and kicking him. On such occasions, I would normally have come to Esan’s rescue by confronting the bully, but things happened very fast that day. Before we could separate the two, the boy had pounced on Esan and attacked him. Esan, who was known to be full of tricks when surprised like that, grabbed a handful of sand and threw it into the boy’s eyes. We all expected him to take advantage of the boy’s discomfort and retaliate by hitting and kicking the boy who could no longer see as a result of the sand that had temporarily blinded him, but in Esan’s typical, thoughtful way, he got up from the floor, led the boy by the hand to where he could get some water, and assisted him in washing the sand from his eyes. Even as a growing child, I tried to imagine what a wonderful world it would be if it were populated mostly with people like Esan. Such were the kinds of lessons we always learned in those days when in Esan’s company.

When Esan died suddenly of the flu of 1952, I was one of the most miserable persons who had ever lived, as that was my first time experiencing any death. And this was the death of someone close to me. I was not allowed to see Esan’s corpse, as was the custom in those days. I therefore did not actually understand the concept of death or of dying, apart from the fact that I was told that Esan had left us and was said to have gone to heaven, a place where all good people go to when they die. I was told that he had gone to the great beyond, and that I would never see him again. Since I was not allowed to participate in the burial rituals, I watched from afar as Esan’s body was carried away encapsulated in the impenetrable coffin. I watched in distress as Esan’s body was lowered into the freshly dug pit at the back of our house, and incidentally, under the shade of the mango tree that was his favorite in the garden.

For months, I could not go alone into the room I used to share with Esan. I could not even talk about sleeping in the bed we shared together. I had to move into my mother’s room after this tragic event. For months, the family mourned the death of Esan, and Esan’s mother would break down and weep uncontrollably anytime she remembered her son. As a sign of respect for the dead, we never mentioned his name again except in a whisper. If we talked about him at all, we referred to him in the third-person pronoun, “he.” I revered Esan and remembered him by his third-person pronoun as his name. Such was the respect and awe we had for the dead in those days.

Esan died during the raining season, and barely two months after he was buried, his unmarked grave was overgrown with weeds, making it almost impossible to know the exact spot of his grave. This was my first encounter with the passing away of somebody close to me. This incident left me with many unanswered questions.

One such question was where that life that was there before death had departed to. My infant mind sought to know what life was, after all, about. What were we doing here on earth, and why would people die and disappear, never to be seen again? My inquisitive mind probed further and asked, where did we all come from? And why are we here on earth?

As a child, I did not see the answers to these questions in the living plants and weeds that grew luxuriantly on Esan’s unmarked grave. Now as an adult, I have come to realize that the answers are indeed to be found in the flowers of the plants and the weeds on the graves of the departed. I see that life is not destroyed by death; rather, life continues as the earth takes his own only to give it back again as life to the animate and the inanimate in order to continue the cycle of the living. And so, I learned the lesson that death is not final but is replaced by life and vice versa, all in a continuum.





Tope’s dad was a tough disciplinarian. He had a moustache about two inches wide from just under his nose to the edge of his upper lip. As a child, and for no just reason, I instinctively feared men who styled and fashioned their moustaches in this manner. I believed that all the men with this type of moustache were unusually harsh with children; there was just something about them that made me rather uncomfortable.


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