PROMOTING LAGOS-IBADAN TO BENIN-ORE ROAD
Everywhere is cloudy. There is smoke billowing in the sky. Thick black smoke. Everybody is bombing somebody or something. Those who can't lay their hands on explosives are verbally bombing their enemies. Those who can't make physical arrests are threatening fire and brimstone. There is mutual suspicion worsened by insinuations of political intimidation and witch-hunting powered by cowardice. All of 'them' are on their own and 'we' are on our own.
I have stopped thinking of moving Nigeria forward and I suggest you all start thinking like me. Let each person move himself forward. If in the process of individual movement Nigeria gets moved forward, that is a great a bonus. But if Nigeria remains rooted to the spot, at least we, that is you and I, would have moved forward. Do you get my meaning? If you don't, I can't help you. I'll just move forward and let you do your thing. To thy tents, oh Israel. Only the poor die in cross fires, bomb blast and Boko Haram. Only the poor get killed by militants. Only the poor get harassed at police check points. And only the poor die during rallies. That is why it is your life. And that is why I'm not worried about who did any blast or who'll get arrested for it tomorrow and the day after. I'm only sorry that the poor died again. Let's just celebrate a few good things that have happened to us.
Today, we'll start with the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. It is worth celebrating. The wonderful stretch is graduating gradually to the Benin-Ore road. In another one year, we would all be dancing on the road. Presently someone said it takes about four hours to navigate the road, dodging tankers, trailers and basin-holes. What's a few gullies between patriots? It even provides us with the opportunity, a very rare one at that, to do detours and go sight- see such exotic spots like Mowe and tourist attractions like Ofada. The Lagos-Ibadan expressway should be the first pot of call for the next Minister of Works. He or she should go and cry there right after swearing-in. We would also be on hand to swear for him or her. But this is still worth celebrating, trust me. Only cynics and the blind think that road is bad. Not me. I'm a born-again cynical pessimist. The Lagos-Ibadan expressway is the best in the country and all those involved in it should be given GCON and GCFR, right away. They have done well. The road is now smooth. All the trailers at Ogere and Ibafo have been moved away. All the bad spots have been fixed. We are all whistling happily as we drive on our merry way.
What more can we ask from concession and concessionaires? Or isn't that what they told is now operative on that highway? And concession is good. About a year ago, we signed the papers and sealed the deal. Isn't that why we have a big bill board even God couldn't ignore to celebrate our independence? There is so much to roll out the drums for. As soon as I heard the big word 'concessionaire', I knew all our problems were over, solved. Big grammar, big solution. What else would you want to celebrate if not an expressway that has 'moved forward' and become highway to untimely graves and orthopaedic wards? I guess that is the meaning of concession.
He was one jolly good fellow as long as you met your deadline. A thorough professional who had no time for frivolities. I remember him harassing my friend, Dupe Odumade and I and telling us we should concentrate more on giving him 'his stories' and less time on 'pancake'. I remember telling him I fell down while on one assignment and bruised my knees and how my body ached and…
'Funke, where is the story? Where is my story? Bring the story first and then we can discuss your aching body. Pele.'
You could crack jokes with him after production but never on his production time. Yes, he threw banters because he actually had a wicked sense of humour. Once he sent Dupe and I to do a story on second-hand clothes market under the Ikeja bridge. As far as he was concerned, we returned to the office late and he accused us of spending production time trying on 'tokunbo bras'. We were so embarrassed but you didn't talk back to Dayo Aminu. You just did your job.
He had nicknames for almost everybody and according to Dupe who scrolled through his phone in those last moments, Oga Aminu saved our numbers with what he named us. He called Dupe Carla Prieto, after the Lux girl of the 90s advert. Billy Okonedo was Bravura. Gboyega Okegbenro was Gboyee. Adedayo Aminu was my News Editor in Prime People where I cut my journalism teeth. He made my life miserable then and I avoided him as much as possible but looking back now, I'm glad I had a boss like him.
The combination of Dayo Aminu and our Editor, Gboyega Okegbenro, meant constant pressure. I went to night clubs. I kept a column and did fashion pages. Human interest stories were a must. He taught us how to respond to news even if it broke on Sunday, at midnight or on Christmas day. Then he died on Monday, October 4 after a long drawn out battle with a disrespectful cancer. He was chief Sub-Editor of Vanguard Newspapers, leaving behind his wife and four children. But hey, Oga mi, you can't sleep yet. Jumoke, that good woman you married needs talking to. She's bottling it all up and acting strong. Please keep an eye on her. Good, at least I get to give you an assignment for once and don't you dare miss the deadline.
Gboyee is distraught. Me? I refuse to let that photo of you in LUTH stay on my mind. I prefer remembering you in your white shirt with sleeves rolled up to the elbow and navy blue trousers, bellowing in the newsroom. I remember you as the time-conscious editor who lit a candle if there was power outage because he couldn't wait for the slow-motion people putting on the generator. Good night, Dayo Aminu. You were a jolly good fellow, and so say all of us. Good night.