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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Dele Momodu: The Ritual Called Happy New Year

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[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ellow Nigerians, please permit me to wish you what has become the world’s most popular cliché, Happy New Year. On a personal note, I often wonder who came up with the idea of this yearly ritual. In our younger days at Ile-Ife, Christmas was OdunKekere (the junior festival) and the New Year was OdunNla (the senior festival). When I asked why it was so, I was told that the birth of Jesus Christ was a big deal but it was largely a Christian celebration while the New Year festivity was more of a world affair. Christmas was a time to salivate over turkey, duck (pepeyeorogbangudu, o bimokoreyinponmo, as the Yoruba described it) and chicken which was not too common as it is today. We had fun.

Even in those olden days, we fired our bangers called Bisco. Yet we were ordinary folks with no silver-spoon background. The gap between the rich and the poor was not as wide as it is today. My father was a road overseer but he was a big man in his own right. In the early sixties, he owned a Jawa bike with registration number WF 333. He was always impeccably turned out. We celebrated both Christmas and New Year with great fanfare. My parents were prayer warriors and they went to the Aladura Church, which was led then by Baba Akeju, at every opportunity on daily basis.

We used to keep vigil on Christmas Eve and repeated same with greater fervour on New Year Eve. But I began to enjoy Christmas more when I discovered Father Christmas in Kingsway stores in Ibadan. Leventis also had its own version. Ibadan was like London for most of us rural boys. I discovered the alluring beauty of Ibadan when I was about eight years old in 1968. Ibadan was highly cosmopolitan. The Cocoa House which was then its most famous landmark was supposed to be the tallest building West Africa. We were warned to be careful when trying to see the topmost part of this supernatural skyscraper lest we broke our necks. In fact, life was good.

Those who failed to turn up at services most parts of the dying year often came to church on New Year or New Year Eve. There would hardly be any space to sit. I used to wonder about such brazen hypocritical behaviour. It has become a tradition of pretence. We prayed non-stop and pleaded like penitent school kids for God’s abundant mercy in the New Year. As soon as we left the service, most guys headed straight to some local bear parlours and sinful joints to partake in the usual debauchery. God is too kind indeed. I didn’t hear that any of us received some invisible slaps. Or that thunder struck someone who called God’s name in vain. Till this day, I marvel at how possible it is for someone who was never seen the whole year as he suddenly surfaces in church without any iota of shame and embarrassment.

What I wish to achieve with this preamble is simple. The New Year alone can’t guarantee better life. We must prepare well and work very hard. Chief Moshood Abiola had described hard work as prayer in action. The era of waiting for jobs is over. I’m truly bothered about our army of unemployed youths. Most have become so disillusioned and have turned to what Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili once called “children of anger.” They need little or no provocation before they explode. Something drastic has to happen for us to avert the apparent danger ahead. Let’s not wait till December before we start dreaming of happiness. We can, and must, start to plan and work from now. Time truly flies and waits for no one. Before you know it, another Happy New Year is knocking and what a waste of the previous ones!

If you are familiar with Tastee Fried Chicken, the incredibly successful fast food conglomerate in Lagos, you must have heard about its owners, The Adedayos. The family business was started by Mr Kunle Adedayo as Chairman and Mrs Yinka Adedayo as Managing Director. They were later joined by their only child, Mr Bunmi Adedayo, as Executive Director. The Adedayos and their energetic team worked assiduously to create and achieve the super-brand status. Against all odds, they have maintained a world-class standard and they have been consistent with it.

Bunmi Adedayo dreamt big and came up with innovative ideas to propel the family business to higher grounds. But tragedy struck in 2013 when Bunmi Adedayo suddenly took ill and was flown out for urgent and critical medical attention. He never came back alive. On September 25, 2013, to be precise, Oluwabunmi Omotayo Adetokunbo Adedayo passed on in Pretoria, South Africa, leaving behind his parents, young widow, Oluwayemisi, and two kids, Iyanuoluwayimika (girl) and Morolaoluwa (boy). No tragedy could have been bigger for any family. The Adedayos went into an unimaginable shock that nearly killed their souls totally. If Daddy appeared strong outwardly, Mummy instantly became a shadow of her usual ebullient self. She was disconsolate and inconsolable. When I visited their home on a condolence visit, sadness had enveloped everywhere. Mourners came from far and near. Men and women of God took turns to preach to the Adedayos about why God’s decision was final and cannot be challenged. I was tongue-tied and stared into empty space most of the time I spent with them.

I don’t know how to describe this type of monumental tragedy. My God, even as I write this, words fail me. Bunmi’s parents have not fully recovered. For months his mum refused to come downstairs in their home. The burden fell on Daddy to soldier on like the old Roman soldier. The Adedayos had touched many hearts in different ways and they were surrounded by good friends in their moment of extreme grief. I was privileged to know such humble souls.

I received a call from Mrs Adedayo sometime last year requesting me to visit whenever I came to Nigeria. I didn’t know what the invitation was about but I knew it was one I must honour. I would do almost anything in this world to ease the pains I’m sure the Adedayos carry in their hearts. When I eventually made the trip and went to see Mrs Adedayo at their Lekki home, the topic was about her beloved son Bunmi. It was such a harrowing experience for me. But I left with some measure of good news.

Mrs Adedayo told me about the decision to set up The Bunmi Adedayo Foundation. Wow, I said to myself, this would occupy some space in Mummy and Daddy’s souls. She then dropped the main message: “Please, I want you to be a part of this as a member of the Board of Directors, and I have a letter ready for you to that effect.” My itinerary was already chaotic enough but somehow this was one additional responsibility I could not escape. I accepted and the rest is history.

On Tuesday, January 5, 2016, The Bunmi Adedayo Foundation will be launched to the glory of God and the benefit of mankind. The vision and mission is to help nurture the Nigerian child through investing in conducive environment for learning. A group of Nigerians from different disciplines have been gathered to realise this dream. They include Mrs. Olayinka Adedayo, Mr. Funsho Phillips, Mrs. Doyinsola Abiola, Hon. Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Mrs. Yemisi Adedayo, Mr. Tunde Akinleye, Dr. Dele Adegoroye, Mrs. Abimbola Abioye Dada, Dr. Abimbola Jaiyesinmi (Awodipe), Mr. Akinola Amosun, Ms. Odunoluwa Longe, Professor Wole Atoyebi, and yours truly. A press conference was held on Tuesday, December 29, 2015, to promote the launch of the foundation next week.

From what I can see in terms of preparations, The Bunmi Adedayo Foundation is poised to make substantial contribution to the development of education in Lagos State in particular as work has already started on a school for extensive renovation.Bunmi as a lover of kids would have been very proud to execute this project personally but we are determined to do our best on his behalf.

May Bunmi’s gentle soul continue to rest in perfect peace.

Dele Momodu is a Nigerian journalist, publisher, and former presidential aspirant. He tweets from @delemomodu. This article is culled from ThisDay.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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