VERY early in life, I learnt the beauty of reading widely. I read editorials and newspaper columns. I dare not speak bad English. It might be permitted elsewhere, not with myself or my then only brother. It was a rule to pass English Language very well. i remember the mantra then was not only “study to shew thyself approved to understanding”, it was also “read as extensively as you can, that way you will know what your mates and elders do not know”.
It was weird then but then I am very appreciative I had that head start, and early in life too. I had this journalist who made me read, and then encouraged me to write thereafter. He encouraged me to never be far from my dictionary, to always carry a writing pad and either a pen or pencil to write any new word I might encounter. Today, if boredom sets in, I want to write to chase it away. If I am sad, I want to write away my sadness; my whole emotion has one thing to do with writing.
That I write anything today – poems, articles, news or anything is strictly attributed to this man. I remember placing a bet that I will score an A1 in my WASSCE English some twelve years ago. You dare not score a C in English Language. I did not score an A1, but I was close, and to you I owe it all Dad. With all sense of modesty, Father made me believe in my writing, and told me I write better than some people who trained in the Arts. Thanks for that Dad, you rock big time.
Dad has been a steady pillar of support and encouragement. The one who saw in me the natural thing to be in the arts, the one whom I rebelled against before ending up as an animal scientist, the one to whom I finally retraced my steps to want to write the way he does. I can go on about this man who adds a year today. I must say of you Baami, you are a real blessing to me, and to us all.
Its another year to celebrate God’s faithfulness in the life of the man from whose loins myself and two other young men have emerged. My writing this week will therefore seek to eulogize the man whose impact on me is unparalleled. I will try but this piece will not be enough to celebrate the man I have grown to know as a father and a friend since my childhood. I know what I mean when I say that and you will get to know in the course of this piece.
I can count loyalty, truthfulness, devotion and honesty among the virtues I have learnt from Sakin Babalola. He was loyal to a fault to Daily Sketch where he worked and rose to the post of News Editor before mismanagement killed the company. When challenges came after Sketch closed down and we suggested he tried another field, Father just looked at us and sat us down and educated us about passion, loyalty and what being devoted to your passion is. He has a passion for journalism and journalism alone. He will die a journalist.
“I’ll rather die poor than fraudulently obtain anything in life”. That was my Dad talking to me during one of our now uncountable gists. For someone who has had different opportunities to perpetuate fraud or be dishonest to remain staunch, you deserve a big salute Dad. He was being wooed into occultism by some top politicians and famous people many years but father refused saying he would rather work hard as he was scared to join up and later have to pay for it with his family. That is the dedicated family man in him.
I do not know what other thing qualifies him as a family man if not for his refusal to relocate from Nigeria earlier in his life. He told us years after that he did not go because he did not want to leave us. Things like that count, and mean a lot. He cherishes his family. If he travels out of town for two hours, he is always calling to check on us. He could be very possessive and caring, and that can be annoying, it however shows the premium he has placed on his family. He still does that.
I have learnt the beauty and blessing of giving from my Dad. While he held sway as the News Editor of Sketch Press Limited, Father received lots of corporate gifts during celebrations – Sallah, Christmas, Easter and so on. He has this way of sharing the gifts in the News Room so that everyone, including interns will have a share. Some of his contemporaries called him names because of that. Some others laughed at him, calling him a ‘waster of things meant for his family’.
I remember Dad was once given a Christmas hamper and shared everything therein, coming home with the empty basket. That he still does till this day. Never afraid to get things for people, even when he himself is cash strapped. He puts the interest of others ahead of him many times. Those things he has done in the past are speaking for him, and for us as children even now.
As children, Dad always said to Yinka and myself, “the young shall grow” to which we replied, “the old shall wax stronger and stronger”, flexing those tiny muscles. Right from childhood, my father has always related with us as friends, not like the typical stone faced ‘Daddies’ of those days. I remember quite well that the only time I was beaten by my Dad while growing (till now) was when I was six years old. Of course I knew what I did was wrong. The fact that I did what made him beat me was what made me cry.
I can go on and on but I will not bore you by making this piece too long. The only favour I ask of you is to drop your comments and celebrate my Dad with me on the auspicious occasion of his birthday. The young ones have grown, and the old is waxing stronger, and STRONGER. Happy birthday to a wonderful father, friend and confidant. Happy birthday Baami, emi gigun ati Alafia o. E ma pe fun wa. I love you pieces Dad, We love you lots. Your grandchildren? Very soon pal, very soon.