I woke up in the wee hours of 1 July, 2022, with a chilling sensation all over me. The time was 2a.m. and my entire body ached. I felt as if my joints were disconnecting; my bones threatening to fall off. I was blank. Confused. Momentarily at a loss as to what to do. Then, I remembered what I normally do whenever things seem to be falling apart. Sing. So, I broke into songs of praises. I worshiped God in the beauty of His holiness. I also fed from His word, the Holy Bible, where I read the day
‘s portion and said my prayers.
For as long as I can recall, Chief Akanni Aluko was one of my numerous friends who normally bombard my phone with ‘happy New Month’ messages to herald a new month. Chief Akanni Aluko’s was usually among the first set of messages.This particular day was different. I did not see his before I went to bed.. At 4.45 a.m, I went to his message platform, there was no message. I shrugged it off and shifted to doing other things. At 6.02 a.m., my phone rang. It was Akanni Aluko’s name on my screen. With excitement, I bellowed our usual greetings “Chief OOO, happy new month”. Most unusually, it was the shivering voice of his wife, Mama Kemi, that came on the line. Tearfully , she said: “Akanni Aluko ti lo”; meaning: “Akanni Aluko is gone” Lo sibo? I asked in Yoruba. Meaning: Gone where?. She came back: “Akanni ti ku!” Meaning: Akanni is dead.
That was it . I blanked out for a few minutes. When I regained my composure, I started recalling how I met Akanni, the camaraderie that existed between us, and how much he had impacted so much in my life.
Akanni Aluko was not only an elder brother, he was a friend indeed, a confidant and someone I owed so much that I cannot tell it all. My relationship with Akanni started in the early 1970s when I started as a cub reporter with the Nigerian Tribune. He was a young businessman in his early 30s. One thing led to one another and I began to gravitate towards him; not for monetary gains but in a true friendship built on love, trust and integrity . Gradually he introduced me to his friends, including: the late Chief Adeseun Ogundoyin, the Ogiyan of Ejigbo, Oba Omowonuola Oyesosin II and the late Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Alhaji Azeez Arisekola Alao. The foursome dominated the social space from the 1970s to late 1990s. They were the toast of the low and the mighty. Of all the four, only Baba Ogiyan, a forthright royal father is still standing. Akanni would have clocked 80 on 23 July, 2023.That would have made him to live more than ten years above his other two compatriots who had passed on much more earlier.
Our friendship, as I said, started in the 1970s from his rented office at Adamasingba. He was a big dealer in frozen fish that later made him so popular in Ibadan and beyond. However, his flair for writing incisive political analysis whetted his appetite for Journalism. At this period, I had becomen the Editor of Sunday Tribune. He, therefore, sharpened his talent for intellectual discourse on diverse issues, be it social, political, or economic. He went on to buy two pages of advertorial every week in the Sunday Tribune under the headline: Third Eye, to critically assess the performances of the military leaders in government and proffer quality solutions. This paid column became so popular that it turned out to be the Sunday-Sunday tonic for millions of Nigerians and those in government. By this time, Akanni had become so prosperous that he decided to plunge into newspaper business, establishing Third Eye newspapers . While I was the Editor of the Nigerian Tribune, I became his unofficial consultant. During this period, the military had shut down a number of so-called “unfriendly” newspapers. Third Eye therefore became haven for journalists especially from Lagos that were thrown out of jobs by the military clampdown. Many of them, like Raheem Adedoyin and Fred Ohahwa, moved down from The Guardian Newspapers, Rutam House, in Lagos and moved to Ibadan.
Aluko took me out of the pack of journalists to become one of his closest family members who had the freedom to move in and out his bedroom. In many instances, he provided succour, making me feel so comfortable in a pen profession characterised by poor wages. He spoilt me with everything I needed. I remember when I told him I would soon be 40 and that it was my desire to be a landlord. I told him how Chief Obafemi Awolowo had spurred me to begin the project. He told me to calm down and assured me that “before the end of that year you would perform your housewarming”. By the Grace of God, it happened. I remember the day he and Mama Kemi stood in front of my completed abode in Ibadan and I watched Akanni, beaming with smiles of satisfaction. He delightedly prayed for me. It was a landmark in my life which I would never forget.
His philanthropic gestures knew no bound. Akanni always made whoever came through me for one problem or another to smile home. I cannot recount how many of such people that Akanni blessed with houses and vehicles. Whenever Akanni was feeling unwell, I would be the first person he would call. Then, I had a doctor friend, now late, Dr Bob Owolade, who was always at his beck and call. As busy as I was as the Editor of Nigerian Tribune, I made sure I was with him before I retired home. My main visit was for intellectual tonic that helped me in no small measure in producing the second largest newspapers after the Daily Times in Nigeria. I earned the name:: “People’s Editor”. Till he died, I never missed any opportunity to see him whenever I was in Ibadan.
Akanni Aluko was a devout Catholic. He served God to the end. He put in so much, both materially and spiritually to ensure that the gospel of Jesus Christ was spread to all. He donated a Church to the Catholic Church, near his residence in Ilesa, Osun State. As if he had premonition of his death, he contracted a media group to move around Nigeria to interview his closest friends on video.
Chief Akanni OOO was my usual banter of greetings when he was alive; while he too would say Editor oooo! We will no longer be able to banter that way again until the second coming of Christ, which the Bible assures us that all those who died in Christ will resurrect. Chief Akanni OOO! You came, you saw and you conquered. You are now in heaven, before your Maker, to claim your crown of glory. Have eternal bliss, brother. May your gentle soul continue to find eternal rest in the bosom of the Creator. Amen.