By Mark Adebayo
“Sometimes, only one person is missing, and the whole world seems depopulated”
– Alphonse de Lamartine.
PETER YINKA ODUMAKIN. There was no way I could have known that the meeting we held in February this year at GRA, Ikeja, would be the last time I would see Yinka alive. We met twice in February on crucial national issues. We had plans. We had things to do. So much to do. For people and country, there was so much Yinka wanted to do with likeminds. He was focused. He was determined. He was loaded. He was hopeful. He was sure-footed. He was ready!
But fate had other plans.
Death, an inevitable end of man, would never cease to catch us unawares. We would never get used to it. Death. The sound of it, the mention of it, the sting of it remains humanity’s worst nightmare. Death is an implacable intruder that knows no untrespassable terrain. All spheres are its thoroughfare. Death, as life, is determined by forces beyond human projection. We are born without partaking in the process of conception and birth. We have no choice in what sex we become. We cannot choose where we are born, when we are born, who we are born to or the race we are born of. Those identities are divinely masterminded and supernaturally orchestrated. Some call it accidents of birth.
Death may be a little different from birth because people do take their own lives. Others are killed. Even then, some might argue that that was also fatalistically predetermined.
A school of religious thought believes that you can’t take your own life unless you’re propelled by unseen spiritual forces. Meanwhile, there have been many people who have failed in their attempts to commit suicide. They drank poison, jumped from the tenth floor of a building, shot themselves, jumped in front of moving automobiles but still survived it all. People see the hand of fate in all of this with the conclusion that you can’t even take your own life except so preordained. You can’t keep alive a man whose time to leave world’s huge stage alive and you can’t kill a man whose time to depart hasn’t lapsed.
But anyhow it comes, death is disruptive and oftentimes destructive. It’s a force for no good. It’s a power whose control buttons aren’t with any man. It’s the master of all and the ultimate leveller in the affairs of men. Death is oblivious of status, wealth or power – it is a power that consumes the most powerful of men without recourse. Death shatters dreams and consumes visions. Death is a monster whose visit everyone dreads. But it would come when it would. Therefore, to live in fear of death is not to live. If it would come when it would, why fear it? Damning it is better. Yinka damned it by his choice of struggle and the fights he picked to help his people. He did nothing for self. He was all about the people. Death is not a welcome visitor but we are damn helpless about its itineraries.
It came suddenly as it wont and snatched Yinka Odumakin from our hands. It was sunset at noon. It was my first bad news of the year. It was a blow below the belt. I had hoped and prayed fervently that it was untrue. But a confirmation by Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, his bosom friend and Comrade Femi Lawson, a younger but close ally of his, my personal visit to his house the following day destroyed all my hopes against hope.
Yinka truly died! My heart sank.
I was submerged by a cataclysm of discordant emotions. A futile moment of denial was overtaken by a rush of maddening anger at nothing and nobody in particular and quickly subdued by a sense of helpless concession of the fatal reality that our beloved Yinka Peter Odumakin had indeed taken a bow off the stage of life. It’s punitive. A punishment to all for whom he represented hope, a punishment to kill all that he fought for but yet to accomplish, a punishment to all of us who love(d) him, a punishment to his 115-year old father and aged mother, a terrible blow to his loving wife and kids. An unfair and undeserved punishment to everyone. Yinka deserved to live far longer.
Here was a man who who bore his destiny in his own hands from his young age. He was clear as to what he stood for and the direction he wanted his life to traverse – humanity first! That was the noble ideal Yinka epitomized. He was determined to fight against any manner of injustice and would pluck his own eyes to help others in need.
He lived and died for humanity.
Yinka was an intellectual colossus that bestrode the Nigerian media and political firmament with a depth of compelling prose and historicity. He was a mobile encyclopedia of Nigeria’s sociopolitical history. Being vastly well-read, his intellectual resourcefulness was buoyed by his robust and enviable relationship with elders in the country, especially his Yoruba side of the Nigerian state, which gave him limitless access to first-hand witness information about the Nigerian state from pre-independence till date. Unlike his traducers, itinerant political jobbers who are ignoble errand men and women in the service of roguish politics, his writings were devoid of prosaic subterfuge and intellectual comatoseness of those who made consistent failed attempts to counter his positions on national issues. Oftentimes, they weren’t even courageous enough to attach their bylines to whatever rubbish they spewed but rather chose to hide under ridiculous but poorly disguised pseudonyms that left their tracks wide in the open. He knew them. He mentioned their names. Even now in death, those merchants of ignominy cannot own up to their published trashes against Yinka. They will never rise to his level of honor and acceptability.
On the contrary, Yinka’s writings were unrepentantly combative but not vindictive. His style was impeccable, his language was educated and educative. His weekly column in The Tribune, Voice of Courage, inter alia, lived up to the designation; it was voice of courage par excellence. Yinka took no prisoners and wouldn’t sacrifice truth on the altar of closeness or friendship. No matter whom you were to him and whatever position you occupied, if you did or said what was deemed to be compromising the principles of justice, equity and humanity, Yinka wouldn’t spare you. He would spear you! Ask Pastor Tunde Bakare, a very close ally and brother of his. He was intrepid and
wasn’t given to eye service. He hated inconsistency. Not given to political correctness. He was his own man. A man of his words.
He could defend every action or writing of his. For two decades of being spokesman for Afenifere, not once did he publish a retraction of any statement because nobody could fault the facts he laid out. He wasn’t given to frivolities.
The humanity side of Yinka would bend over backwards to help you out of difficult situations. He was a lifter of men. If he knew your needs, he could sacrifice anything to meet them. He connected many to their helpers. He would not block any from their potential benefactors. He was personable, respectful, and considerate. He was a man you would want to be with and never get tired of being with. On one of our trips across the country trying to find solutions to the country’s myriads of hydra-headed malaise, we had coincidentally booked the same flight to Abuja to meet a prominent politically exposed personality on invitation. He had included me on that delegation of other eminent members of the Core Federalists which he co-founded. I was looking for the earliest possible flight from Lagos to Abuja and the only one that could fly the earliest was Azman. Yinka wanted to check on me the morning of the meeting to be sure I would make the trip, so he called to find out where I was. I said I was already at the airport. He arrived shortly afterwards and it happened that we had booked the same flight. After the meeting, we returned to the Abuja airport together. I didn’t book a return flight. He had. We got to the airport less than an hour to his own flight. I decided to fly the same plane with him again and so attempted to book on that flight at the counter.
The airline’s POS wouldn’t work and I didn’t have sufficient cash. Time was going. Yinka stayed put. A guy who worked with Federal Aviation Service who apparently knew him well and had been helping him to book flights came to greet him. Yinka told him to help me use the ATM with my card to collect money and pay for the flight in cash. He said I shouldn’t worry, that the guy was trustworthy. The issue was that the ATMs were in the arrival hall not accessible to passengers at the departure. We could see the ATMs through the glass partitions, so we could monitor the guy. He had access to the place due to the fact that he was a staff. He got there and my card wouldn’t bring out money. Network troubles. It was at that time that Yinka, who was with his card too but not with sufficient cash to book the flight, decided to use his own card. He even saw a friend of his at the airport and told him to pay for the flight in cash and he would transfer the money to him. It was at that point suddenly the network was restored and my card paid. He almost missed his flight for my sake. He was ready to go the extra mile to help. That’s who he was. A philanthropist to the core. A giver. A doer. A leader of men. An inspiration to all. A cynosure of noble causes.
When, so unlike him, he didn’t reply my message to him on March 8 reminding him to formalise my membership of Afenifere, I got worried and called the wife. She explained the situation to me that his health had taken a hit but it was like he was out of danger. My hopes were rekindled. We knew he had been fighting a battle with health issues for sometime, but he had stubbornly remained on the move. Nobody ever thought it could lead to death. He didn’t give anyone any reason to doubt his full recovery. He was up and about.
My last message to him which he couldn’t also respond to was on March 16 where I said
“Good morning, Comrade. I hope you’re feeling better?
Praying along with you. May the healing hands of God touch you IJMN.
He would never reply! So has fate determined – or predetermined.
When I saw his wife that I’ve known at the barricades for three decades, I hardly could recognize her. Comrade Joe has been a redoubtable fighter from her preteens. No wonder late Chief Gani Fawehinmi refered to her a ‘man’. She never shied away from the barricades no matter how hot the battlefront is. Her marriage to Yinka was like fire getting married to inferno. They were both fiery and fearless. Nothing defeats Joe. But her biggest challenge yet has come. Her biggest fight ever. I’m confident she would also overcome.
This, too, shall pass.
We have lost a rare gem. We have lost an angel in human form. His types only come around once in millennia. Yinka tried his best to work for a workable Nigeria where justice and equity should be our article of relationship across the Niger and the Benue. But he also fought hard against the enslavement of his Yoruba people, the South as a whole, the Middle Belt and Northern minorities. He built bridges and forged enduring relationships all over Nigeria. He worked to his last breath finding a sustainable panacea to the Nigerian malaise.
We haven’t realized yet what we’ve lost. Our tears won’t dry in a hurry.
Yinka remains unforgettable and will dominate our thoughts and discourses for decades to come and the history books would remember him as a man who served humanity well and sacrificed a lot for the causes of justice, equity and fairness.
I will end this article with this quote by Terry Pratchett who wrote
“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”
We shall speak Yinka’s name for a long time to come and after us his name shall be spoken.
Here was a Peter Yinka Odumakin, when comes another?
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