Pa Oladejo Okediji a Yoruba fictional writer who died some weeks ago has since been buried. Our reporter Taiwo Abiodun went down memory lane to write on his encounter with the late Writer
It was one afternoon , an okada rider dropped me at the gate of a building at Mabolaje Area in Oyo town. I knocked and a woman sewing clothe (who I later learnt was Baba’s younger wife) opened the gate. As Baba sighted me , he said ”come in , I have been expecting you .How are you my son? I hope it was not difficult for you to locate this place?. How was your journey?”, I replied it was fine. ”Baba , your son, Professor Moyo Okediji gave me your cell phone number’ ‘, I said and he replied ” Yes, he called me on phone and told me you were coming for an interview , thanks”.
One of his bookshelves
Simple and soft spoken, loving and jovial, Baba Okediji trusted people and believed in God. He did not ask for my identification card as some would. I have worked in the media for many years and have met those who are not up to his caliber and would arrogantly demand for one’s identity card and even ask whether one is a a genuine reporter. Some would look at you with disdain then take you to another place, or outside for interview while some with arrogance would show you their material wealth and therefore would change to another expensive living room to show you how wealthy they are but not Baba Okediji. He said ” Sit down, and let us do the interview here”, the interview was successfully conducted.
. In his living room were prophetic , philosophical and Biblical verses written on cardboard papers and hanging loosely in the air like ‘MA SORO IBINU’, ‘BI O BA BERU OLOUN’, ‘JESU NI AGBARA’ , ‘PRAY’, ‘MA SIKA’, ‘U 2 WILL PROSPER’, ‘BE A GOOD MAN’ , ‘GOD IS GOOD’, ‘SMILE’, ‘GOD WILL GIVE’ , ‘JESU NI AGBARA’ ,’PRAY’, ‘MA SIKA’, ‘GOD WILL GIVE’, MA SORO IBINU’, ‘ BI O BA BERU OLOUN ‘, GOD IS GOOD’, ‘JESUS LOVES YOU’, ‘BE A GOOD MAN’, ‘U 2 WILL PROSPER’, ‘SMILE’, ‘BE A METHODIST’, ‘JESUS LOVES YOU’,
I said ” Sir , how is Lapade , Tafa Igiripa Omo Lawale?”, he laughed and asked ”Do you want to see them?” and we all laughed. I could not imagine how a simple man could craft stories like that . I was expecting a tall and huge man. I was expecting a man with croaked voice like he described Tafa in his books. I was expecting the spirit of Lapade, Tafa, and Sule Alayimo , but no. I was expecting his action to be like that police officer, Audu, but no,Baba was simple , he spoke softly as I interviewed him.
I looked at him, I was excited to see him , excited to know him and felt honoured to shake his hands. ”So this is the Baba that wrote those mind-boggling , suspence and adventurous crime stories?”. This reminded me of the late Bayo Oguntuase a Linguistic and Columnist whom I knew in the defunct Concord Press, The Comet and The Nation newspapers correcting English tenses . He used to sleep ‘among’ his books. I went to his house while he was still living at Ketu, Lagos where I found him using his room , living room as libraries as you cannot differentiate which one was the library or bedroom!.
Now Baba Okediji was like the late Oguntuase ,he was taking me round his personal room, having confidence in me. On his bookshelves are Yoruba and English literature , novels and Grammar books you cannot find in any Nigerian library or bookshop.His library was rich with books, he had books!.
When he told me that one of his children is a Professor,another a lawyer , a principal etc, I looked at him again and said ” God please give me the humility that this man possessed. Those who didn’t have one of these are proud and doing gra gra , making noise in public places, but not Baba Okediji!
I looked at the card boards where he wrote some Christian, philosophical, moral and soul- lifting words that could convert an Atheist or the Devil to Christian . I looked at him and asked whether he was a preacher and when I remembered that he was Baba Ijo and the Baale of Apaara community , I praised him to high heavens .
I asked ” Baba why did it take you a long time to write again for only Agbalagba Akan, Aja Lo leru, Oga ni Bukola, Atoto Arere that are known?”, he said ” Oh I have published some other books like Ka rin ka Po which I published 30 years after Aja lo leru , it is the third book after Aja Lo leru, and Agbalagba Akan, I have also published Running after Riches and they are in the market”.
”Baba you should be a millionaire by now for your books are popular?”, I said, Baba laughed, blew his handwoven fan and asked ” Taiwo or Babalawo of the Nation, are you also rich?That is the problem, Nigerian writers are not appreciated and don’t have money ”
When asked about what he hung in the living room he said ” when people see this they will think twice , and even when you read and ponder over them before you go to sleep you will repent. They are messages , there are many ways one can evangelize, all these are part of evangelizing . I don’t need to go to the street preaching”.
In my own opinion Baba was a millionaire but chose to be humble. He was a millionaire but lived a modest life .How many old people were buried within three days with fanfare, honour and dignity as he was?.