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Ayorinde’s Homily At Achievers University Convocation Ceremony

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Volatile Rivers State On The March Again!

By Bolanle BOLAWOLE

[email protected] 0705 263 1058

It has become customary for the Pro-chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of Achievers University, Owo, Dr. (Hon.) Bode Ayorinde, to invite me to the university’s convocation ceremony. I must have attended the last five in a row. They are usually a week of impactful activities, beginning on Monday with a press conference addressed by the vice-chancellor; novelty matches and other sporting activities; induction ceremonies; and the commissioning of various projects fill the space between Tuesday and Thursday.

The major attractions are the Convocation Lecture on Friday and the Graduation/Convocation itself on Saturday. Jumat service comes immediately after the Convocation lecture on Friday, capped with a variety night and Convocation dinner. The Owo traditional dance and songs at the variety night are not only a delight to watch but they also help to keep alive important aspects of our traditions and customs that are fast going into extinction.

Every Convocation ceremony comes with the foundation laying ceremony of one developmental project or the commissioning of another. The university adds something to its giant strides year-in, year-out. We all have something to learn from Ayorinde’s “Can-do” spirit; which is why I do not doubt he will, God willing, achieve his vision of making Achievers University the best university in Africa and one of the best in the world!

Achievers University is a blessing to Owo in particular and Ondo State, Nigeria and humanity at large. Had there been a university at Owo in 1974 when I passed out of my alma mater, Owo High School, with one of the best results, I would not have had to beat about the bush for four years before gaining admission to a university. Bright students in the Owo vicinity who do not take advantage of the presence of Achievers University should have themselves to blame. The scholarships and discounts that the university offers students in many of its courses is also an incentive.

At each convocation that I have attended, three distinguished Nigerians were awarded honorary doctorate degrees. Ayorinde has been careful to ensure that one of these comes from the Owo community. This is an incentive as well as giving back to the community. More than that, Ayorinde has leveraged the awards to preach the message of peace, unity, love and cooperation in Owo, a community noted for its political volatility and communal strife occasioned by acrimonious disagreements over chieftaincy matters.

What should be a blessing was, unfortunately, mismanaged and became an albatross around the neck of Owo for decades. The Chief Obafemi Awolowo-led Action Group, which governed the old Western Region in the First Republic, was officially launched at Owo on 28th April, 1951 but the disagreement between leading figures in the town over which path to tread during the Western Region crisis in the early 1960s set Owo on fire, which raged for decades before commonsense began to prevail years back.

Ayorinde has helped the healing process in the way he has adroitly selected the awardees of his university’s honorary doctorate degrees. I was there when my “egbon”, Prince Adesuyi Olateru-Olagbegi, was awarded and he immediately proceeded to pay homage to the reigning Olowo, Oba Gbadegesin Ogunoye 111. It was a spectacle no one would have envisaged years back. I was also there when Kabiyesi, Oba Ogunoye, bagged his own doctorate degree. And I was also there on Saturday, 9th December, 2023 when my own dear sister, Mrs. Jumoke Anifowose, bagged her own doctorate degree. “Antie Jumoke” as we affectionately call her, is the daughter of the late Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin, principal and founder of my alma mater, the one and only indomitable NADECO leader that fought the IBB and Abacha military dictatorship to a standstill, and former governor of old Ondo State.

There is no denying the fact that Owo is healing; and Ayorinde is mightily helping the healing process. Relationships that were impossible in the past are now flourishing. The sharp division of the past, which robbed me of the opportunity of marrying an Olateru-Olagbegi sweetheart, has been substantially erased. There must have been so many others so robbed on both sides of the divide. But there is another headache that true Owo sons and daughters must contend with: the tussle between the Olowo and his brother, the Ojomo-Luda of Owo.

Truth be told, the present alleged frosty relationship between the two brothers is not new. It has always been there for as long as my generstion knows, causing one late Olowo to abolish the Ojomo traditional stool. Another Olowo came and reinstated it. Yet, that same Olowo knew no peace with the Ojomo! Now, it is said that the reigning Olowo and his brother, the Ojomo-Luda of Ijebu-Owo, are at war again! The why’s and what’s need not detain us here. What is important is to sue for peace.

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Ayorinde brilliantly did exactly that in what I choose to refer to as a homily when he said: “To our royal fathers, particularly from Owo Kingdom, as your son, I greet you with awe and full cultural respect. Permit me to publicly appeal to you to please allow peace to reign in Owo Kingdom. Peace is health, and health is wealth. A healthy kingdom is a wealthy land. History will have a chapter for the role you play individually and collectively in making or unmaking Owo. Your sons and daughters at home and abroad look up to you to allow us to breathe.

“Olowo Adedipe and Ojomo Oludipe were brothers of the same parents. With love they protected and defended each other in times of war. With love they created two kingdoms out of one and reigned over the great Owo Kingdom up to Edo and Kabba. We earnestly beg you to return to that era of unconditional love so that we your children can breathe. No meaningful development can be achieved if there is no peace in the land. Development can only thrive in an atmosphere of peace and harmony. Peace is undoubtedly the most important ingredient of development; so, I appeal to you, our royal fathers, to please sheathe the sword and allow peace to reign for the sake of God, for the sake of your forefathers, and for the sake of your subjects”

It could not have been better put! Olowo was there in blood and flesh, seated a few steps away from Ayorinde as he read his speech. The Ojomo-Luda was not there but I know Ayorinde’s homily will reach him. The history of the bonding between two brothers could not have been any better than what existed between Adedipe and Oludipe. It was like the story of David and Jonathan, except that while those ones were merely friends, Adedipe and Oludipe were blood brothers – siblings of the same parents.

According to history, the younger brother (like Jonathan) risked his life to help his elder brother escape plots after plots to exterminate him (like King Saul fevereshly chased David to kill him). The reigning Oba’s goal was to frustrate the Ifa oracle’s divination that Adedipe, like David, was destined to be king after him. When the time for succession came, the younger brother could have ascended to the throne; instead, he led the kingmakers to his elder brother’s hide-out, as a result of which Adedipe was able to fulfill his destiny and became king.

Filled with gratitude, the elder brother decided to compensate his younger brother by creating a kingdom for him while both of them still lived. Now, should any of the brothers forget the good heart and loving disposition of the other? Why, then, the recurring decimal of bad blood between the Olowo and Ojomo-Luda?

To Olamiti, Falana, Otufodunrin and Ajayeoba: It’s congratulations all the way!

Wrong dating made me miss the book launch by my brother and friend; a professional colleague extra-ordinaire, Sir. Folu Olamiti. I got to learn of my mistake a few minutes to the launch! Even if I had wings like a bird and could fly, how do I cover the distance between Lagos and Ibadan in minutes? Reports of the success of the book launch, however, gladdens my heart. Folu, or “Ore mi” (my bosom friend), as we mutually address each other, has a good heart. That is the testimony of everyone he worked with at the Tribune newspapers and elsewhere; except… I am sure you know some people just cannot stand godly-hearted people. Their good grief! As one of the finest practitioners the journalism profession has produced in this country, Folu paid his dues and has left indelible marks on the sands of time. His name he has already etched in gold. The book that he launched – Peep into the Past: An Oeuvre – is just a parting gift, an icing on the cake. But journalists – especially writers – do they retire? Can they turn their back on their first love? That’s for Folu to answer! Congratulations, Ore mi!

I have been searching to see how many husband- and-wife Senior Advocates of Nigeria we have in this country. I know of fathers and sons/daughters who are SAN. The Falanas – Femi and Funmi – have made the mark; they are now both SAN! Femi is my comrade, beginning right from our university days. So, I knew Funmi before she married Femi. She is principled, dogged but friendly. The (Akinola) Aguda blood flows in her vein. Her trajectory indicates a woman of purpose and vision. Watch out for her; for even as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, she has not peaked yet! Congratulations!

Last Wednesday was a momentous event as ex-PUNCHERS gathered to launch their book – Our PUNCH Years – the brainchild of Lekan Otufodunrin. Thirty-eight ex-PUNCHERS, including yours truly, contributed to the book. The ecstasy of the launch aside, reuniting with old workmates was something else! Some of the faces I could no longer even recognize! Good that Lekan promised what we launched on Wednesday was just the First Edition. So, those who missed the First edition should get ready: More editions are on the way! Congratulations, Lekan! Congratulations, all ex-PUNCHERS!

From the book launch, I headed straight to Yaba College of Technology where my brother and pastor; indeed, my father-in-the-Lord, the man who brought me into the Redeemed Christian Church of God and my Pastor-in-charge-of Province at the moment, Pastor Benjamin Adewole Ajayeoba, was rounding off a 37-year sojourn at Yabatech. Whaouh! What had never happened before in the College happened: Ajayeoba’s pen-down was marked with a well-attended Christmas Carol! I was there life-and-direct to cover it and bring you the report live. Hearty CONGRATULATIONS to Pastor Ajayeoba and his amiable better-half who stands ramrod behind – or is it beside? – him, Pastor (Mrs.) Victoria Olubisi Ajayeoba. As they say, behind or beside every successful man…

LAST WORD: I wish my readers a Merry Christmas and happy new year! But to whom it may concern: I am yet to receive gifts of rice, turkey, wine, new Naira notes, etc. for Christmas and New Year o! Pray, who or what is causing the delay! Loose your hold fast!

* Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy-Editor-in-Chief, BOLAWOLE was also Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the SUNDAY TRIBUNE and TREASURES column in NEW TELEGRAPH newspapers on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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