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BODE GEORGE: CANONIZATION ON THE WAY

By NBF News
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Friday, March 11, 2011
I agree with most of the things that have been written about the Lagos Boy who recently came back from Kirikiri prison. Celebrating Bode George, who served a two-year jail term for contract splitting, is a glorification of criminality. Receiving the man back home in a carnival-like atmosphere is antithetical to penitence and contriteness, which we must see from someone who served term for a criminal act, and not for political reasons.

There is a desecration of what all decent human beings should treasure and hold dear, in the effusive celebration of Bode George by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), including the Presidency, which sent a serving minister to represent President Goodluck Jonathan at the thanksgiving service in Lagos. As written by our elder in the journalism profession and a columnist with this newspaper, Chief Duro Onabule, last Friday, Bode George has a right to resume his life, but then as quietly and unobtrusively as possible. I agree. But there is one place where I disagree with Onabule.

He said Justice Olubunmi Oyewole of the Lagos High Court who slammed a two-year sentence on George for contract splitting was unnecessarily harsh on the former chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority, and that to ensure he went to jail, the judge ensured there was no option of fine. But was a crime committed? Yes. And a crime is a crime. Like Onabule himself observed, 'the fact that others are always allowed to escape the law is no excuse not to have prosecuted Bode George.'

If truly Justice Oyewole was harsh on George, why didn't the Court of Appeal reverse the judgment? Onabule seemed to have forgotten that Bode George and his co-convicts appealed the sentence, which they lost. So, under the law, the accused had all the opportunities to prove their innocence, which they could not. Therefore, they remain ex-convicts, who went to jail on criminal charges, except a higher court rules otherwise.

We have seen the beatification of Bode George since he came out of jail. A convict has been portrayed before our very eyes as a hero by the PDP, save for former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who last weekend asked the party to distance itself from the prison returnee. The PDP has become a monument for all that is reprehensible, despicable and objectionable in this country. As long as the party is in power, there will never be a new Nigeria. As long as the PDP holds sway over the country, there will be a continued erosion and corrosion of our values. There will not and there cannot be a honest fight against corruption. There will not, and there cannot, be righteousness, probity or integrity in our national life. Criminals will always be portrayed as heroes, while virtues like honesty, forthrightness, fidelity and honour will be treated with scant regard.

Bode George came from prison, and all the bigwigs of the ruling party, including a representative of the president, turned out to celebrate him. How the rest of the world must have laughed us to scorn. And soon, quite soon, Bode George will become a saint, as a presidential pardon will be worked out for him, and the PDP will begin to pray in his name.

What are the steps leading to canonization, the declaration of sainthood? First, the heroic virtues of the person in question must be celebrated. The office of The Sun Newspapers is in the Kirikiri area of Lagos, just a stone's throw from where Bode George held court as Lord of the Manor in the past two years. In the week he was to be released, I was quite scandalized, shocked to the marrows, to see posters emblazoned on walls and electric poles in the neighbourhood. 'The Joseph of our time,' the posters read, with the giant picture of Bode George. Joseph? Or did they mean to write Barrabas? Joseph went to jail in Egypt for standing on righteousness, not as a felon like Barrabas, whom the Jews asked Pontius Pilate to release for them, instead of Jesus Christ. So, why compare George with Joseph? Wasn't Barrabas more like it? But the PDP said George was a hero. And celebration of heroic virtues is one of the steps leading to canonization.

The next step is called beatification, in which a person is declared blessed. Usually, the person being beatified must have at least one miracle ascribed to him. Tell me, what else is miraculous than for a person convicted on criminal grounds to suddenly be dubbed a 'Joseph of our time.' It was a miracle, if ever there was one. All hail Venerable, Blessed Bode George, the imminent saint of the PDP. I can wager that very soon, PDP will declare George a saint, and they will begin to pray in his name. However, whether the canonization of George is complete or not lies in our hands. Honest men are running for positions in the elections next month. A vote for PDP is for Barrabas, and for the canonization of Bode George. Anyone that wilfully does it should not turn round to lament about the state of the nation in future.

For the Adesina professors
Within 10 days of each other, two of my siblings were recently named professors. My elder sister Foluke Ogunleye (nee Adesina) was named a Professor of Dramatic Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. She becomes the first female to attain that position in our old school. We were still rejoicing and calling our mum 'Mama Professor,' when the other news came 10 days later. Tayo, my immediate elder brother, who teaches History at the University of Ibadan, was also named a professor. What a cascade of blessings. Now our mum is 'Mama Professor x 2.' And what more, the professorships got backdated to the year 2007, respectively.

The Adesinas surely have every reason to rejoice, and give thanks to God. And at a time like this, we cannot but remember the great educationist who sired us, and who also beat the hell out of us all. John Oyebade Adesina made no distinction between the school and the home. He ran both with iron hand. He was the First African Principal of St. Charles Grammar School, Osogbo, and later, Principal of Notre Dame College, Usi-Ekiti, before he retired in 1970. We not only got good nurturing from him, we also got resounding whipping whenever we misbehaved, which was quite often. He started with a cane, and when our hide developed resistance to that, he started using the cord of an electric iron. It stung you like many bees, simultaneously. But after some time, we equally developed a resistance to it, so he graduated to a rubber pipe. If that one landed on your head, one hour later, it would still be reverberating, and you would hear the ringing where you were curled, licking your wounds, and pitying yourself. Later, it was horsewhip, and on and on.

The only thing he didn't use to beat us was an iron rod. Whenever I meet his old students, professors and accomplished professionals today, they equally have stories to tell. At 70, in 1995, the great disciplinarian passed away. We cannot but pay tribute to him now as we celebrate our two professors. Only God knows what we would all have become if he were not such a 'good bully.' Incidentally, my father had always felt I was the one who would end in the academia. But I charted another course after graduation, while Foluke and Tayo chose the Ivory Tower. Now, the only way I can ever become a professor is if I start a Fuji music band, and assume the title, just like Kollinton Ayinla did sometime ago. His rival, Ayinde Barrister, had got a honorary doctorate somewhere, and typical of musicians, began to flaunt it. So, what Kollinton did was to invest himself with the title 'Professor Master.' Well, unless I form a Fuji band, and do like Kollinton Ayinla, or Professor Y. K. Ajao, another musician, I'll never become a professor like my siblings.

Foluke is not only the first female professor in the Dramatic Arts Department of OAU, she now succeeds greats like Professors Wole Soyinka, Ola Rotimi and others, who have left their footprints on the sands of time. It calls for celebration. I remember that Tayo never really loved going to school. In 1969, our father had been transferred from Osogbo to Ekiti, and we changed school. Every morning, Tayo would cry as we walked to school: 'Ile wa la ti nkawe l'Osogbo' (At Osogbo, we studied at home, we were not compelled to go to school). Of course, that was not true. We attended St. Claire's Nursery School in Osogbo, he cooked up the lamentation simply because he did not want to go to school.

He has a stitching at the bridge of his nose today, memento of his truancy from school. He had fallen and broken his nose one day, while trying to avoid going to school. Also unforgettable is the day we had all gone to school, and he stayed home alone. By the time we returned, he had taken 39 tins of milk, out of the 40 at home. Now he's a professor, backdated to 2007. Hearty congratulations. Well, this is a note of warning to all police checkpoints. No messing with me. If they stop me next time, and begin to ask funny questions, I just whisper: 'I have two professors in my family.' If that does not shakara them, I guess nothing else will.