I AM MOURNING
This morning I am wearing Black. This morning I am mourning .This morning I am in a sober mood so nobody should talk to me. This morning I am grieving so nobody should call my phone . I am crying not only for myself but I am crying for the entire nation for not appreciating this woman . Come, sebi they gave out Nigeria National Merit Awards and gave Post humous awards?. Why did we forget the couple: the late Tai Solarin and his wife, Sheila? .Are we ingrates or have we forgotten the couple? .What a country! . So we have forgotten her kiakia niyen?. Nigeria we hail thee. So they did not deserve national honours or is it an act of omission or commission ? . Next year they should be awarded , and if they are not honoured , I along with Mayflower students both ex and present will protest. We will march from Ikenne to the National House of Assembly in Abuja .
She was a library. She was a Griot. She was rich in stories infact she was an encyclopedia of stories. She was never tired of me. A phone call will put you through. She would not tell you the time to come . No scheduled time .Unlike those so called arrogant millionaires who would be flaunting their illegal or ill-gotten wealth and pacing up and down in their living rooms to show you how wealthy they are , no!, not for Mama . Mama Sheila as she was fondly called would invite you into her sparsely decorated living room .Her dressing was simple .She was modest in everything .
MY CONTACT WITH HER
I vividly remember the late Abayomi Ogundeji who was the Editor of Sunday Desk in the days of The Comet Newspaper who asked me to go to Ikenne to do a story on the late Tai Solarin’s anniversary . It was my first time to visit Ikenne and Mama welcomed me to the fullest and answered all the questions I asked .First impression last longer , they say. Since then I have been their family member . And when The Nation newspaper was launched in 2007 the then Sunday Editor Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin would say ” Babalawo Of the Nation let’s have your Tai Solarin story, you have become their family member”. That was how I covered the Solarins’ story till when God said e don do for me at The Nation newspaper. Mama was ready to give me all stories . Ask her any question she was ready to answer.
WHAT I MISSED IN HER
I missed her if you don’t miss her. I know her worth and value . She was witty, she was an egghead and was full of wisdom. She taught me many things before she left. I was one of her students . The education she gave me for the 10 years I covered her story from the defunct The Comet newspaper to the biggest and thriving Nigeria media House – The Nation newspaper was great. She taught me what others can never have. She taught me what University education cannot teach you. She was to me like Socrates and his followers or disciples. During my journey in life I came across her and she was super. If you go to a rich man’s house he would feed you with food and wine but go to Mama Sheila she would feed you with knowledge and wisdom. She was one of the few greatest Nigerians I ever met.
I am in Black dress, mourning
THAT BLACK SUNDAY
I remember that day . It was Black Sunday . I repeat that that day was a Black Sunday . Today it echoes, the messages , the telephone calls , my actions .Yes I can recall all . It was a nasty Sunday . Yes , I didn’t go to church that day .I remember it was around 2 O’clock , yes 2 O’clock in the afternoon . I could recall the time, date and all what happened .Today I recalled that day, the sun was shining and the temperature was very high. I was drinking my black coffee , yes I could remember . Then I was laughing hysterically when I remembered something , Yes it was … no don’t let me tell you, when suddenly my phone rang. gran gran gran , and then started dishing out my favourite Bob Marley Music. I allowed the music to go on. It stopped. Again the phone Nokia 3310 rang and I picked it . Who could that be? . A voice came through ,”Babalawo , do you have Tai Solarin’s children’s cell number? I heard that Mama Sheila is dead , please help us to confirm’’, that was the voice of Kofo Osagie, a colleague from education desk from the office . Immediately I heard the name Babalawo I knew it was from the office, for that is what they call me. I suddenly became cold. I stopped sipping my coffee. I became cold . Tears went down my cheeks . It was a day that my heart was punctured .It was the day I missed one of my favourite family members I was never related to by blood. Yes , I sank into my sofa chair and screamed ”Oh my God”. Then I was a full staff at The Nation newspaper , then I was already the family member of the Tai Solarins. They all knew me ,my face was not unknown to the household except Tunde whom I never met till date. Mama said Tunde is a private person. But I was very close to Corin, who is a younger sister to Tunde.
I was shivering like Christmas goat and unstable like a floated leaf on waters. My cell phone almost dropped from my hand as if I was suffering from Parkinson syndrome. I called Corin’s line the first child of the Solarins. ”Confirmed ”, she replied in a text message and I wept like a baby. This was the second time I would weep in my life .The first time was when my mother died at 79 .
Few hours later I started receiving calls from home and abroad asking me the full details and her last hours as if I was there when she breathed her last. .
I used to ask her many questions from sense to non sense , civilized to uncouth, foolish or wise yet she would not turn me down. I have asked about her romantic life when she was young, the medical problem she ever faced and she told me it was cervical cancer. I told her that I am a friend to her parrot as I sighted the parrot in her house, she too told me that we were the same thing. I asked her why she did not use walking stick , she replied ‘’ I don’t need it’’. I have asked her why she kept Ghanaians ,Togolese in her house , and she replied ‘’ what is wrong in that Taiwo? . They are okay’’.
I remember she asked me to bring my twin brother if truly I am a twin , and I told him that my twin brother, Kehinde is still alive but far away in Canada but she said ”that is what Yoruba will say when they have no twin brother or sister again, anyway let us meet one day or do you want me to come to Owo? ”, she jocularly asked , and I promised to bring my twin brother ,Kehinde to know her .Unfortunately the woman never lived up to see him!.
Anytime I mentioned the former Head of state General Babangida she would say ”I cannot forgive him, he contributed to my husband’s death. Babangida incarcerated my husband for months just because he was fighting for a just cause. Where are the leaders of yesteryears? But has he come here to tender apology?’’, she asked.
I asked her why she did not go to Church on one Sunday morning when I went to interview her, she responded ”And why did you come here on Sunday morning when you know I should be in church. Church? I don’t go to Church. I am an Atheist .I am always busy ’’. And when I told her it has been long since I went to church she was excited and gave me a parting gift , a book titled Humanism By Barbara Smoker. Apart from this I have other eight books she always gave me anytime I went there for an interview ,these books are in my library.
SHEILA SOLARIN 1924-OCTOBER 10, 2012
Mama Sheila was one of the greatest Nigerians I ever met during my sojourn in journalism. She was a millionaire but chose to live a simple life. She fought for the Nigerian masses. She had wanted everything to be better but today things are getting worse. Her voice was powerful. She was listened to . She criticized the government both the Military the Civilian. She admonished the greedy politicians who increased poverty in Nigeria.
She could have wished to go back to England and live but chose to live and die in Nigeria. Can we have another Sheila again? . She had wanted History Subject to be brought back into the School’s curriculum. To Mama , the military only came to destroy the country while our politicians are just selfish and amassing wealth and impoverished the Nigerian masses.
Mama Sheila knew we would all die and not go with wealth. She knew that life is ephemeral. She was modest in everything . Her life was simple . While our millionaires wear expensive rags they called clothes , my Mama , our Mama would wear clothe full of wisdom , put on the cap of knowledge . All these and many more will be in my Book to be published soon.