Remembering Bola Ige with glee

Of late, I have nostalgic feelings about my encounters with people and I feel impelled to share some with people. This piece has to do with my direct and circumstantial interactions with Chief Ajibola Ige, popularly called Uncle Bola Ige during his life time. Ige, the nation’s former Minister of Justice & Attorney General of the Federation, was, by all standards, a great man.
Undeniably, Journalism is one profession that takes one to places and enables one to meet people. So, in my early days in the profession, the famous Cicero of Esa-Oke was one of the big shots I came across. Sadly though, around this time, 18 years ago, the man was mysteriously murdered in cold blood by a yet-to-be-identified felon!
Now, the first of my reminisced interactions with Ige happened during an event in Ilesa. I think it was during Chief Ebenezer Babatope’s 50th birthday which was attended by the creme-de-la-creame from all walks of life, including Chiefs Bola Ige and Olu Falae, among others. Earlier on at the event, I had accosted Chief Falae that I would love to have a chat with him. He was forthcoming, with a promise to see me before he would leave. On my part, I was desperate to have him interviewed that day; so, I made sure that I didn’t lose sight of him. Not even for once. But, as the program progressed and people were enjoying the rollicking drums, Chiefs Bola Ige and Falae dragged each other to a corner for a tete-a-tete. In my desperation, I was stealthily following them. And, although I gave them a respectable distance, I made sure they were within the range of my sight – with the interview being uppermost in mind to make my story for the week. Chief Falae noticed me; Chief Ige, too, did. But he seemed to be uncomfortable with my presence around them. He, therefore, threw a jab at me: “Kin lo mas n se eyin omo keekeeke ode iwoyi? O ri awon agbalagba meji nsoro, o dee duro lati maa gbo” (what’s wrong with you young men of nowadays? You see two elderly people talking; yet, you want to be eavesdropping). Falae immediately interjected and saved me from further tantrums by saying, “He has an interview appointment with me and I know he doesn’t want me to escape; that’s why he’s keeping eye on me”. Chief Ige agreed with him, albeit grudgingly as the looks on his face clearly spelt.
Another encounter: Immediately Alliance for Democracy (AD) (Ige’s party at the inception of this 4th Republic) swept the polls in Osun State in 1999 which saw Chief Bisi Akande mounting the saddle as the state governor, Bola Ige, as the leader of the party, invited elected officials to his Esa-Oke residence. On that fateful day, I was part of the media team that thronged the residence of the late Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I sat close to Hammed Bodunrin and together we planned a “coup” aimed at getting at the Cicero. When Bola Ige reeled out the agenda of the meeting, the place came to life with thunderous applause from the invitees.
Sensing some people might have gatecrashed, the Cicero of Esa-Oke called for self introduction in a bid to detect and “flush out” those who were not qualified to be in attendance. Pronto, those who claimed to have come to represent some other people were shown the way out . Now our turn: Hammed Bodunrin was the first media man to be called for self introduction (remember I said we had planned a coup), Chai! Bodunrin and his sarcacism! When the mic was handed over to him, Chief Ige said, yes; but the Iresi born humorist chose to dribble Chief Bola Ige by saying, “I am Hammed Abodunrin. Raising his voice Ige said, From where ? Hammed Bodunrin said Media. At this point, Chief Ige who seemed to be agitated, asked angrily: Which media?
Anyway, the self introduction session ended such that even I, sitting next to Hammed, did not need to introduce myself anymore! Bola ige said all media men should have their seats. Our coup worked and we bantered over it for a long while after that day. I am still chuckling as I write!
My next close engagement with this legendary leader was at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife where he was the Guest Speaker of Law Students who were marking their Law Week. The occasion was a mixed bag; a pot pouri of some sort. This is no thanks to the usual gragra and razzmatazz of students. As is characteristic of students, they gave it to Chief Bola Ige, hot; and he gave it back to them in equal measure, if not greater.
During the Questions and Answers session, one of the students had tried to deride Chief Ige by accusing him of playing “politics with bitterness” because of the Shagari Low Cost Housing abandoned by his government. In fairness, the young man’s questions and comments were rudely couched. And as if the students had been waiting for someone who would tackle Chief Ige on their behalf, they suddenly and tumultuously carried the young man as they chorused you; “You don win, you don win…… “For few minutes, the hall became rowdy even as Ige sat glued to his chair, transfixed. But trust the Esa Oke Cicero, the moment the temporary madness subsided and another student (a lady), took the floor and made some patronising comments about Chief Ige, he now used the opportunity to lash out at the young man earlier hailed by the students, employing all manner of derogatory adjectives to qualify the young man who by this time had vamoosed. Quite naturally, the dice changed again with the shout of “Ige, Ige, Ige….” renting the air.
At end of the program, we, media men, accosted him for an interview. Hey! This gave birth to another round of wahala. Chief Ige quipped by telling us without batting an eye lid, “Select among yourselves, three of you who can speak good English to meet me for the interview”.
To us (journalists numbering about 15), that was a demeaning jab from the respected Chief. We were angry, no doubt, which prompted a plot from us as we asked questions that would infuriate him. We refused to select any three as we milled around him to ask our questions. Trust him; he was more than a match for us.
2001, the year he was unexpectedly murdered, was another privileged encounter I had with him. I was opportune to be part of a 4-man panel put in place for the Information Week of the Osun State Ministry of Information. Other members of the panel included Gbenga Fayemiwo, Alhaji Dele Osho and one other person I can’t remember.
Again, I had made up my mind to rattle him. I gave it to him and he gave it back to me in a hard way. But then, I enjoyed every bit of the day; and U still remember it with some fondness. Each panellist had the latitude to ask just two questions and the event was holding about the time he was rumoured to have resigned from the cabinet of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo where he was then a serving Minister. My two questions were: What could have prompted him to quit Obasanjo’s administration; and his involvement in the Ife/Modakeke internecine crisis, especially when he was the Oyo State Governor. The two questions appeared not to go down well with him as he hit hard at me. He said, “Young man, I expected you to ask more sensible questions. Besides, I don’t answer hypothetical questions”. On the Ife/Modakeke fiasco, Chief Ige went down the memory lane, railing at me in the process; he did not spare me a bit. But as a reporter, I felt greatly fulfilled and on top of the world that I got what I wanted from Chief Bola Ige. That day, I became a Star as many came to me after the program, commending me for asking those questions. Organizers of the event too came to apologize for the “embarrassment” meted out to me by Chief Bola Ige with the way he “insulted” me through the questions I asked.
I never I felt embarrassed. Not even a bit. I enjoyed the whole drama and still enjoying it till date any time I remember it. As they say, No event, no history.
While encounters with the legal and political icon, the legendary Cicero could not but fill one with much pleasantness, the gruesome manner in which he was dispatched to the great beyond still fills on with fresh pains. The agony of the assassination of a serving Attorney General of the nation and Honourable Minister of Justice cannot be eased until his killer (s) is found. Assuredly, some day, somehow, those who felled this Iroko tree shall be fished out and be made to face the law. Adieu, papa.