OPINION: 5yrs in mind: Tribute to my late father, Alhaji S.A. Arowona. By Abdulazeez Arowona
My late father, Alhaji Salihu Ayinla Arowona was so different from every father I have ever come across in life. Sure, he and I used to discuss and move around at his will. But he also talked about feelings and encouraged me to take life very simple and easy because according to him, “Everything in life is vanity and should be treated as such”.
Although, some of his philosophical postulations, if not all, were out rightly ambiguous to me and I wouldn’t realize there essence until he passed away. Growing up, I knew him as a man uncomfortable with laziness and cruelty. I saw him openly struggle with his own entrenched business mindset and high sense of contentment.
I closely watched him as he tried to give clear definitions to hardwork and obedience among his children as against unseriousness that is fast gaining the centre stage in our society today which he sincerely demonstrated among all his God-given children including yours sincerely. He was a complete disciplinarian and not wicked, he was so generous and humble to a fault.
These kinds of experiences are uncommon to be gotten from a father who was ready to do anything that could bring smiles to the lips of his children and everlasting happiness to the entire family. Most children I know don’t have much praises for their fathers, particularly when it comes to upbringing.
In order to understand this perpetuation and feelings of patriarchy grasping my emotion presently, we have to look first to those who most embody it–men, fathers and sons. As well, we have to try to grasp how we came to wear and display its indelible imprint. And yet we must also locate the unlikely chinks in its formidable armor: the sites of refusal and struggle in which men, often hesitantly, have challenged patriarchal privilege. Thus I think it’s useful, perhaps crucial, to revisit our dad’s lifetimes with both sincere compassion and unflinching criticism.
I want to pay tribute to him. And I don’t mean that in any kind of simple, celebratory way. Rather, this is a tribute worthy of him, one that brings together the good in him. In the real world, where domination and oppression intertwine with all aspects of our lives, there are no easy, uncomplicated sources of inspiration.
But there are lessons. I look from my dad, then, for lessons about how to struggle against phobias as well as for lessons about the structures of patriarchy.
My late dad was born during the early years of the 8th Emir of Ilorin, Shehu AbdulKadir Dan Bawa who reigned between 1919 and 1959. He was born by Alhaji Gidado and Alhaja Asmau respectively. Although, he was not the only child neither was he the only male child of the family.
From all indications, he was well brought up and he enjoyed the warmth of his parents during his early days up to adulthood. The family was and still remains indeed a large one spread all over the entire city of Ilorin and even the emirate as a whole.
He had so much passion for humanity, immediate and extended families and community at large. He showed everyone who comes his way absolute respect, humor with greatness, patience, calmness and hope that indeed, God has power to do all things with little or no struggle but with prayers.
My late father succeeded in bringing up all his children in the ways of God such that they could adapt to the nomenclature of good living in the face of numerous global challenges. He would be the last to go to bed after locking all the doors in the house and be the first to wake even before the first Adhan was to be called at the Olowo Mosque. After returning from mosque with his bright metal torchlight after Subhi prayers, he would retire to his traditional prayer mat made from the skin of sallah rams.
Right there, another man would later join him and make supplications for the entire household and my father will reward him and put smile on his lips before he exits our home. While on the prayer mat, all the children in the house will approach my father for the early morning salutation/greetings and he will reply by clapping his hands or nag the prayer mat in response.
Also, aside his commitment as a successful business mogul, he took reading the Holy Quran and completing it about twice in a week to his extracurricular activity including been generous. But mind you, don’t talk to him or ask him any question while reciting the Quran, otherwise, he would spurn you and your request may even be dumped or treated with disappointment. What a religious man!
He tried to manage all circumstances that came his way with genuine approaches and when my late dad was not happy with you, he will tell to your face and endeavours that such atmosphere doesn’t affect his inter-personal relationship with you as he will quickly embrace you and hurriedly give you more tasks to clear the complex in you.
Also, he doesn’t have limitations to the amount of airtime he uses on daily basis as he will make sure that he talks to all his children across the country and even his nephews in Nigeria and the one in far away United States of America. Occasionally, he find time and takes same greetings to their door steps respectively.
Death Comes in the Morning
The memories of Saturday 29 January 2011 will continue to linger on my mind. It was the day I lost my loving father. Unfortunately, I can no longer see him again to provide answers to some salient questions I had reserved to put to him in future dates as I grow older.
Because I had so much bothering my mind at that period, I had slept over the night and woke up on the said day with complete sadness and never knew that a lifelong damage will soon visit my heart in few hours time.
The period happens to be a year the then Commissioner for Finance and later Commissioner for Economic and Planning, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed would soon win the PDP ticket and coast home to victory in the later general election and become the 6thExecutive Governor of Kwara State as the case may be.
I could also remember vividly that it was a day when as a reporter with the Fresh Fact Newspapers, a weekly national publication, I was in the company of my colleagues led by the then Chairman of the Correspondents’ Chapel, Rev. Felix Ajide, at the Ansarul Islam Primary School, Okekere to cover the controversial re-run senatorial primaries between Dr. Bukola Saraki and Alhaji Lasisi Kolawole Jimoh (L.A.K) on the fateful day.
At about 10am, the stage was set for the two gladiators to knock horns and as a reporter that I am, I was already taking jottings, taking accurate note of arrival of election materials, party delegates, political personalities as well as the entire scenario to determine who laugh last in the poll. Unfortunately, that was all I could say about the poll. Shortly before accreditation commenced, one of my elder brother called my telephone and talk to me in Yoruba saying; “Abdulazeez tete ma bo nile, oti sele ooooo” meaning “Abdulazeez come home quickly now, it has happened oooo”.
The venue of the election, Ansarul Primary School, Okekere to our family house at No. 111 Dada road , Abayawo area, is not too far but belief me, up till now, I can’t really recall how I got home. On getting home, I saw crowd in our premises gazing at me with sympathy, suddenly, I burst into tears. Although, I saw on the face of my loving father a day before his demise, on Friday 28th January 2011, sincere love and concern about his children. He had actually shown that he wasn’t ready to leave his children and entire family too soon.
But the saying of Allah that “All souls shall taste death at their appointed time” became a reality in his case too. He gave up the ghost at the early hours of the day and joined his siblings as well as parents who have gone much earlier and later before him.
I entered his room, I saw him lying on his magnificent bed, I sat by him, offered prayer for his soul and wiped his face with my right hand as well as held him tight to myself for the last moment.
He was duly prepared and bathe spiritually in which yours sincerely also took part in the exercise before he was later laid outside where Solatul Janazah was performed on him and lowered into the grave .
The turn out of sympathizers at his funeral prayer within the shortest period of the catastrophic happening really gave me a genuine conviction that my late father was a man of God who lived a fulfilled life. There was absolute restriction of vehicular movement on the major road that connects Abayawo to Alore as everyone was running helter-skelter to pay him last respect.
It was a terrible pill for me to swallow at that moment because we all needed him around us to stabilize so many things in our lives. Death disallowed him to continue to be caring and loving to us. I couldn’t believe he was gone until much later when I started feeling his exit around me.
He was indeed so lucky to have lived his life quietly and lovingly because none and I mean none of his children ever disturbed his peaceful moment for a second. I think he was been adequately paid back because records and historical accounts never revealed that he also disturbed his parents during his days as a youth.
It was in his honour I named my first son, Salihu Modibbo Ayinla to always serve as a solace in the fact that he lived a worthy life of emulation. And also because of his watchword which is “Patience” at all times and in all circumstances, I never hesitated to name my second child Abdus-Sobur Sultan, to always remember what he stood for in life.
Lessons learnt from him
On one hand, then, I acknowledge his successes and the inspirational role he has played in my life. Simply put, I would not be the person that I am today without him driving me to this worthless world. He helped equip me with some essential reflective tools such as actions for challenging systems of oppression. He embodied a (not entirely) different way of ‘being a man.’ And he taught me basic things: to confront my own phobias, to contribute equally in household responsibilities, to never forget how to cry when need be and how to smile if conditions requires. In this sense, I carry him all along with me.
On the other hand, I acknowledge my dad’s generosity. I love him, and the most sincere way I know of expressing my love (particularly in his absence) is by learning from his unique qualities and accepting the responsibility of doing more and more. I too cannot afford to ignore his lifestyle or else, to forget any of this would be the greatest disrespect to my dad. In this sense as well, I carry him, again, all along with me.
While I pray for Allah’s forgiveness and blessings for his soul and the entire Muslim Ummah, let me stressed that his life really taught me the greatest lesson of my life which was enshrined in the daily opening speech of the late 20th Emir of Gwandu, Sir Haruna Rasheed, he would say: “Yan uwwar mu, ayikukari, ayi aiki kama baza mubar duniyan, waato, ayi adini, kama baza mu kai goobe, asalamu alaikum” meaning “Oh my people, let us endeavour to work hard as if we are not going to leave this world, also, let us be committed to God as if we shall not wake tomorrow, peace be onto you all”.
It is 5 years glorious years of your exit now, I had thought that I will climb on your shoulder to be great in life but now that you are no more, the indelible landmark and good name you left is really lifting me high. May Allah continue to bless your soul (Ameen).
Abdulazeez Arowona, a journalist is a Senior Correspondent with Nigerian Pilot Newspapers, Abuja as well as National Secretary of Shehu Alimi Foundation for Peace and Development.
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