Writing and publishing have given me access to many people and great friends through the years. I cannot imagine where I would be if I had not taken this path. Well, I might have been a full Professor or a development consultant. But, writing has been kind. Through this craft, I have met some of the finest people who have become friends, more than that family. Today, I think of a family of them, three from a family in particular who have come to mean much to me. The Oklobias. Naming from the youngest in age, two sets of brothers Samson and Inalegwu, nephews of Professor Adakole Jnr and Dr Omadachi. Samson is the full film guy who I got to gist a lot with and share ideas on many occasions, we have a mutual respect for each other’s genius. Gosh! Samson is good with his creativity and film touch. Inalegwu has come to me my brother. Omadachi introduced me to him, and somehow, we became really close. Adakole Jnr was a client and lecturer who became my friend, who I kept trying to look out for every now and then. Omadachi, big bro – as Inalegwu and I nicknamed him, former commissioner in Benue state and one of my guardians, my own elder brother with a big heart who I love dearly. One of the key things that has glued us all together is how I have tried my best to ensure that they all put something together and write! These guys are good but to get them to do anything, I have had to do proper babysitting. In between all of this, our ties have strengthened. I am in between several emotions as I write this so if some lines come out wrong, forgive me.
Today, I will talk about Adakole Jnr and Omadachi, a bit. Adakole, who became a full-fledged Professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Abuja in June this year. Easy-going, humble, effusive, enthusiastic about life and kind. I cannot remember exactly how we became friends but we did two journals together. I kept trying to get him to re-issue his poetry or get some stories out but that was one big battle that we kept fighting about. He had a collection of short stories and I think, a poetry book, and that was his bus stop. We had tried to get him to commit to putting his poems and short stories out but it was a big battle. I went to his office at the University of Abuja a couple of times, called him one gazillion times, threatened him, did this and that but for where? Work as a devoted lecturer who was concerned with expanding knowledge, researching and much more did not give him breathing space. He was always there for his students. There was also his devotion to family. He had lost his wife and was a full father, always there for his children. And then, he got busier but always loving whenever we met, sometimes going out of his way to ensure that he got a favour or the other for me. When we were working towards the Benue Book and Arts Festival earlier this year, he went out of his way to be a co-organiser of sorts, trying to help me make contact with keynote speakers of renown.
Then, there’s Omadachi who, since his days as Commissioner in Makurdi became my big brother. On many occasions, I would go to his office or visit him at home. He is easy to love because of his humility, his kindness and so much more. His office became a refuge for several people seeking one favour or the other. They often had to come back at the end of the month when he would have something to spare from his salary. He got to sponsor several projects – I think I even found that out before we met. He had sponsored a journal where I had my first major poem appear in, Bridge for Birds (an anthology edited by Sam Ogabidu, my good friend and Sam Agwa who were then Chair and Vice Chair of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Benue State chapter). I was able to force Omadachi to publish a book, Gov. Gabriel T. Suswam: Budgeting and Budget Speeches, which was a compilation of the various budgets he worked on as a Commissioner in the administration of his principal, Governor Suswam. We were able to put a poetry collection, which we need to publish and put out in the public. We have a book of fiction and other critical books too. Now, when I moved to England in 2018, I got a bit busier and couldn’t pursue him as I used to.
In the years since then, as I have got busier, I have not been able to be in touch with these friends of mine because again, we have grown and are not in Makurdi or in closer proximity in Abuja. I have managed to keep in touch through calls, particularly with Adakole and Inalegwu while Omadachi has made it a duty to check on me every once in a while. We have had to cancel a million appointments, mainly due to my increasing schedule, yet, he has kept keeping on.
This evening, I went for the Association of Nigerian Authors’ annual conference at Mpape, Abuja. I met up with several friends, colleagues and seniors in the trade. As we were gisting, I heard someone mention that Adakole Oklobia died two days ago. I shouted and turned to ask the lady, Doobee Targba, what she had said. She repeated what she said: “They pasted it on our group page. He had an accident and died, just like that.” I was shocked and could not say anything. I looked around as others corroborated the story to answer the obvious doubt on my face. I brought out my phone and checked our last communication: 8th October 2022, when we had chatted about my being on the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature shortlist. Much later, as we drove home, Denja Abdullahi, former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, told me the gory details. I was overcome with sadness and felt my eyes well up without the tears dropping. I remembered him, this friend of mine and all he stood for. I searched for him on Facebook and saw the tributes. I managed to call Inalegwu later, who told me he had just come back from Otukpo, their LGA, where they had gone to tell the elders about what had happened. Omadachi was tired and needed to rest. I sent a text, then got a kind reply still hailing me. All of these got me thinking of the gift of friendship I have received from this family, my fine friends who I love.
It is sad that I would never get to see Adakole again or hear him laugh. Sad I would never argue with him on several nonsense things or learn something he would mention casually, which I had no idea of. He was a man who was kind, a teacher who taught through his living, who never took life too hard and would always let you know that it isn’t that deep. I miss him already and to this moment, I am in pain. Yet, I am grateful for the gift of my other big brother, Omadachi, who has taught me a lot in his many ways, who is always available and remains family. I am grateful for Inalegwu, the visionary tech lord who has gone through so much in life yet keeps keeping on, trying to make life better as he forges for more beautiful beginnings and cool continuations. Thank you to family, friends and all those who remain true. Adakole might be gone but his memories live on and I will treasure them forever. For my other siblings, still here with us: THANK YOU. I might not say it often but I deeply value everything you do. For anyone reading this, please take time out to tell people who you value how much they mean to you. Have faith generally and no matter what happens, know that you are light. May peace dwell in our souls, God’s grace abide and history be kind.
Good night, Adakole.