I was in Abeokuta over the weekend to attend the funeral of the late, Madam Felicia Akanke Obasa, mother of my former colleague in TheNews, Mr Idowu Obasa. Idowu is a top notch graduate of Economics of then University of Ife. He was a partner in an accounting firm in Lagos in 1992 when Bayo Onanuga, Dapo Olorunyomi, Seye Kehinde and I went to consult him to do us a business plan for a proposed publishing business.
He did a great job of it and turned in a fantastic document that convinced many investors to put their money in the business. When we saw what he had put together we told him it will be good to have him join our team to make the dream a reality. He didn’t have to think twice about it: “Gentlemen’, Obasa said, ‘knowing you, this is no business but a continuation of our student days struggle to build a great country. I will join you”.
He resigned his high paying job and became a partner and pioneer General Manager of our venture. He did not only commit himself to the venture but he committed his entire family, including his mum whom we buried weekend. He did not only got her morally committed, he put her property and all she had worked for on the line. You know what that meant under the extremely hostile and brutal Abacha regime.
Well, this is not the story of the Obasas; that will be well treated in my upcoming autobiography. This is the story of Mama Rasaki, the cleaner in my office on Acme Road, Ogba.
One evening a month after Abacha and Abiola had been murdered, I was asleep on the bare floor of my solitary confinement when I was rudely woken up by Mrs Adokiye. Anyone who ever got arrested for pro-democracy activities will never forget this terror. She was second only to police officer Zakari Biu in her brutality.
On the eve of the inauguration of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu as Governor of Lagos State in 1999, I recall that Mrs Adokiye was on hand to brief the incoming Governor on the security measures in place for the ceremony. With me and Tinubu at the Governor’s residence in Marina was Chief Ayo Opadokun who had been one of her victims. Opadokun rushed at her to deliver a blow but Tinubu and I quickly restrained him. Tinubu requested she never be allowed again to come near his vicinity for her role in brutalizing pro democracy elements.
Back then, Mrs Adokiye had asked that I be brought to her office in Ikoyi. I was taken to see her in my tattered caftan, the only one I was allowed to wear day and night for nine harrowing months. It is the same caftan that stands displayed in a media museum at the epicentre of Washington DC.
She dispensed with any courtesy as I got to her office. She told me I was to be released that night and that I should give her the phone number of a relation who could come to sign for me. I was shocked. Thinking she could be up to her usual mischief, I refused; insisting it was only my dad who could do that and he was in far away Ado Ekiti. When she saw I was not cooperating, she said she really could not be bothered and that she would release me on my own recognition. We had arguments about whether I could forgive her or not and she gave me N500 to transport myself home.
To be sure I left the vast facility she showed me the kindness of ordering one of her agents to accompany me to the main road in Ikoyi.
The operative saw me to the bus stop and left. I stood on that road, completely lost. I knew I did not exacty look good. My caftan was both torn and smelly. Me that was usually clean shaven now spotted a huge beard and disheveled Afro hair style. Even without a mirror to see my new state, I was afraid of ME. It therefore was no surprise that each time I hailed a cab, the driver would stop briefly, stare at me in disbelief and conclude that I was a mad man. Then, they would zoom off.
After about one and half hours on the road, a cab stopped. The driver looked at me up and down and asked where I was going. Acme Road, Ikeja, I told him. Where are you coming from, he asked again. I told him I have just been released from a nine-month incarceration. “There is no prison here”, he said. Not done, he continued to quizz me. “Where do you work”? I told him TheNews. He asked for my name. I told him. He asked if I knew Mr Obasa. I said yes, that is my General Manager. Do you know Mama Rasaki? Yes, I replied, that is my cleaner. His answer knocked me off my feet: ‘that is my wife, I am Baba Rasaki” , he said. Not being much of a prayer warrior, I managed to marvel at the way God arranges meetings, especially in the unlikeliest of places and in most awkward circumstances and time.
Baba Rasaki told me to get into the taxi. My mind worked faster than a computer processor as he drove me home that night to the embrace of my family, particularly my wife and two young sons.
These thoughts came flooding back in Abeokuta as I joined Obasa to give his mum a very befitting burial. At the event, I once again saw Mama Rasaki, who used to work with me. Sadly, Baba Rasaki, I was told, has gone to answer the call of his maker. May his good soul find eternal rest. He will forever be a part of my story.
Ojudu is Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters