That was a thorny question one of my sisters was asking emotionally as the undertakers were lowering the casket bearing the remains of my father last Friday afternoon. I was shaken that I would not see the ‘Baba Aladura’ again. Every one of the ten surviving children was sobbing, muttering nonsensical things as we were bidding him goodbye at the graveside. The question: ‘who will pray for me again? re-echoed while the pastor who prayed for the family in the house reminded the widow about the significance of that emotional outburst when he (the pastor) reminded me and the widow about how to fill the gap my father left behind as the chief priest for the family.
All the testifiers from neighbours, through relations to the children recalled at the modest but remarkable wake-keep on Thursday Papa’s unique role as a prayerful father and arrowhead. As soon as you appeared before him over the years, his first assignment was a word-based prayer: he always prayed directly from the word of God especially in Psalms. He demonstrated in his prayers at all times that our Creator should be praised and adored first before asking for anything. Yes, he knew how to praise God in most of the names the scriptures have revealed to us. We were always ever willing to kneel before Him to hear more names of God. My dad knew the power in praise more than prayers for material things. As that my sister, Itunu asked that question, who will prayer for her again, I realised too that there would be no one to pray for me too in Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs and the exact words of Christ from His sermon on the Mountain.
Uundoubtedly, we will all miss the man who taught me how to manage my emotions even in the face of crisis. Yes, Pa Michael Oloja Lemikan was never angry about anything. Even when you deprived him of anything and even cheated him, he would only smile and ask God to be with you. No one heard any harsh words from him. He was always quite witty. He was a clean man who also cherished a good dress-ence. He would always remind you about a clean God who would not tolerate dirty environment.
Before returning to the significance of my father who just left me to my devices, I would like to thank friends and relations who made me realise that despite the harsh environment that our duty bearers have just imposed on us, there is still love in my country. My friends and relations most of whom were never invited honoured me in my modest town, Ajagba which is about 30 minutes away from Ore where the civil war ended in 1973 in today’s Ondo state. I would like to be grateful to the late Olusegun Agagu who as Governor of Ondo State opened up the Ore-Irele-Omi-Ajagba-Agadagba axis road networks.
May the good Lord continue to bless the memories of Agagu who also made our neighbours, the Ilaje to be able to drive to their ancestral homes since creation. Anytime I travel home I pray for repose of the soul of Agagu. May the good Lord continue to bless his family. My guests from Abuja and Lagos could not lament getting to my town In Irele Local Government. They got there on good roads. I hope more governors could get accolades when they are no longer there. I hope more people in power would learn to number their days so that they could apply their hearts to wisdom – that there will be the judgment of men too here on earth before they face their Creator for the consequences of their stewardship. May Agagu’s soul continue to Rest In Peace!
Sorry about the digression, no thanks to the way Agagu actually broke the power of road transportation darkness over the old Okitipupa Division.
I can’t continue to mention all the names of those who were there physically. I would also like to say, Thank you’ to those who sent messages to me across digital platforms. I thank those who inquired about the promised virtual participation. There were technical hitches, which made that impossible.
Accept my sincere apologies. I am still overwhelmed by emotions including those from my national media family.
And The Guardian family’s pleasant surprise…
Who am I that The Guardian family has been mindful of me? They came to Ajagba, they saw my sleepy, modest town and painted the place red. They helped me to pay my father the last respect. I had never seen anything like that before: 55 of them from all the departments of the flagship of the Nigerian press were there. They contributed and bought a cow for me. They organised without leaking it to me. They brought the cow live through our Ondo State Correspondent. The Lagos and Abuja integrated newsroom did this to me. The Business Operations situation room also did wonderful things. Some individuals in the same commercial sections contributed to bring their preservation facilities with food items from Lagos. They also brought Plan B drinks – just in case of their ‘anti-social’ chief servant’ could lack in capacity to play host to too many people. They brought the day’s newspaper issue. I was sober. They made me realise the significance of an ancient word that there are some friends who stick closer than brothers. I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love by the ‘The Guardian’ great family. All I can say is that I am very, very grateful to the Board that made this happen. I will forever remain grateful to the Alex-Uruemu Ibru family that built this great media empire, which has remained credible and influential. I will forever remain grateful to the God of all flesh who has supplied the grace to sustain One Love that has kept us together. The covenant-keeping God will not allow us to fail. He will not allow us to falter. He will not allow us to fall from grace. His grace will continue to be sufficient for us in Rutam House where we have all pledged to work together for the rise and rise of ‘The Guardian’.
Who am I really that ‘The Guardian’ family rose for me at the weekend in a remote village? I will continue to probe the question: who am I that my people in Rutam House were mindful of me this last weekend?
My Significant Dad
My father wasn’t a prominent person but he was part of those Rick Warren would like to tag as significant persons who don’t have to be prominent anyway as so many prominent people in this our broken world are not significant to God and mankind. He was born some 93 years ago to the family of Pa Eyinmonoren Lemikan and Mama Medunrunmonen Lemikan, both of Blessed memory. They were peasant farmers. Principally, Elder Oloja was literate to some extent.
Pa Oloja was a farmer, hunter, a trained local medicine dispenser and an itinerant chemist who would keep his medications in a box. He was a local musician and a very artful dancer. He served as Chairman of the Parents Teachers Association of Local Authority Primary School, Gboroye, Ajagba (I attended) for so many years before relocating to Ode Ajagba. He was a community leader of some sort.
My father became a Christian very early in life by joining a Baptist Church in Gboroye Village and used his knowledge of the scriptures to serve God. He was indeed a devout Christian who dedicated himself to cultivating peaceful relationship with people across ethnic groups, which resulted in extending his friendship beyond ethnic and tribal groups. My dad could speak English, Edo, Urhobo and Itshekiri, among others.
He was a compassionate father to all his children and younger ones within the nuclear and extended family settings. He was not just a preacher of the word, he was a peacemaker and dispute resolution expert throughout his lifecycle. Note this: my dad never used forceful words or arms on anybody. There is a sense in which we can conclude that he was busy throughout. There was no dull moment for him even in his old age, in his house.
The got married to the late Mrs Alice Oloja as his first wife and later married Mrs Ruth Oloja Lemikan, the only surviving wife. He left behind ten children, many grandchildren and great grand children. In his prime time, he kept four bossom friends outside his community. They were Aghonenbaren from Kiribo, a town in present Ese-Odo Local Government Area in Ondo State, Elder Kosoko from Igbekebo in the same Ese-Odo LGA, Elder Peletu from Igbotu in the same Ese-Odo and Uwenmajega who hailed from the Urhobo-speaking Delta state. They were always exchanging visits when they were younger. I believe this was why my dad’s favourite delicacy till his demise was unripe plantain cooked with pepper-soup source made of dry or fresh fish.
But all the aforementioned friends of my dad had died earlier. My father joined them on September 14, 2021.
My dad who had a sobriquet ‘Bebebokaja’ for his dexterity in dancing would be sorely missed as a man who didn’t like chieftaincy titles either in the church or in flesh. He hated anything that could be interpreted to mean worshipping of idols or other gods he regarded as the works of men. That was why all of us his children could have asked that question: who will pray for us now that our prayer warrior had gone to be with His creator? Certainly, as the Lord liveth, I think as the firstling (the one who opened the womb of the wife of his first love) the answer should not blow for too long in the wind. Thank you all for your messages of love and hope. May the God of all grace teach us in the end to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. I can’t forget all the Ministers of First Baptist Church Ajagba, Ode Irele, Akotogbo, especially Pastor Babafemi Omolade Aiyela who is the Minister-in-Charge of First Baptist Church, Ajagba for their services at the wake-keep and the final funeral service. Thank you all. Good Night my significant dad!