BY WOLE OGUNTOKUN
IT’s a New Year, the beginning of a new decade and it’s almost impossible not to be optimistic that the years to come will be brilliant ones. Anyway, it is the way I wish to see the future.
On Wednesday night, The Whisperer was at a reception organised by the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) in honour of several people of which he was one, people who had kept faith with the arts through the years.
There was Ayo Arigbabu, the architect-turned book publisher, whose range of activities continues to expand, Deji Toye who is able to make sense out of the most abstract things, Jumoke Verissimo the poet who started writing for major newspapers while she was still in university, Adunni the lead singer and the head of the musical group, Nefertiti, Chris Ihidero, who turned from university lecturer to magazine publisher to television series director amongst other things, Segun Adefila, head of the Crown Troupe, who has made the thing called dance exactly what he wants it to be, and then there was The Whisperer. Well, you all know who I am. We were hosted at the home of the man we all call the ‘Publisher’, Toyin Akinosho, Secretary General of CORA.
As people sang and danced and rejoiced for a year that was almost over and a New Year they hoped would make their good dreams come true, my eyes ranged over all those present.
The veteran and leading authority on all things music, Benson Idonije sat casually, enjoying the excitement of the more frenetic (Crown Troupe had its dancers present) and Ihidero sat almost in an identical position, probably also musing on the future (or the past).
It is difficult not to reflect on things that have taken place in the past as a year draws to an end.
Almost three years to the date, Verissimo, Arigbabu and I stood outside the same venue, after a similar occasion and for the first time; I gave voice to my desire to write a column that would deal with matters touching on gender relations and affairs of the heart.
That day, those two were enthusiastic about the things I said I could make of it and when the editor of The Guardian on Sunday, Jahman Anikulapo, joined us where we stood, our enthusiasm rubbed off on him.
I have whispered every week for almost three years since then and consider it a great honour to have the privilege of telling people around the country, my thoughts on relationships between the sexes.
So today, I go back to the future with some of those stories I have told, of people that have walked through my life.
I remember Rosemary, whom I met as a 13-year old and had a crush the size of a house on.
When she finally invited me to a party and I arrived dressed in my bell-bottomed denim trousers and matching waist-coat, she showed great joy at having me there but then told me someone my own size would soon walk through the door (I wasn’t a very tall thirteen year old).
That would have crushed the morale of a lesser man and I was saddened for a while but soon got over it.
If I were to see Rosemary today, I would not recognise her and would walk on by. When some people enter your life, their impact is not one that should hurt you permanently, and when your time is done with them, find the strength to move on.
KN my third form and when I was only 12 or 13, I told friends in the neighbourhood, Ayo and Segun Idowu, (they were brothers too) that I wanted to improve my social life.
Since they always seemed to be going to parties and seemed to have an incredible social life, I felt it was a thing worthy of emulation.
They promised they would take me to some of these outings and thus started a situation that makes me smile whenever I remember.
It was the way I got to Rosemary’s party and a few others. Parents should keep an eye out on their children too for crazy aspirations like that one I had.
As an adult now, I think, “did I really want to associate with the people I met at a lot of those places?”
However when you are at an age your friends are telling you the only way to be über cool is to be on the streets all the time, you tend to get carried away. I do not wish to be 13 and gawky ever again.
But still, I cannot forget the beautiful people I met when I was about that age. Many of them stayed in the staff quarters of the University of Lagos, children of the professors and doctors who were lecturers at the University of Lagos then. There were many girls I was “in love with” — Yemi Iyanda, Yinka Ogunye, Ifeanyi Okoisor, Ifechukwu Mordi, Mope Olawoye... Life is a large tapestry and each person you meet is a patch on that network sometimes sewn on with the greatest delicacy and at other times, crudely stitched on.
The offspring of the lecturers of the University of Lagos in those days were beautiful people and the places they hold in the tapestry that is my life will always be one of the most sacred places to me.
IN at least two other columns, I have spoken of the beautiful Banibe, who was studying for her A-levels at Igbobi College, while I was doing the same at the Lagos Baptist Academy.
“Barney” as we all called her would walk through “Baptacads” on her way home from school much to the admiration of the pimply-faced young men (of which I was one).
Today, I write “Back to the Future” and I say it would be a beautiful world to have the Banibes of my youth back in my life as my friends now.
For all of you who dream of happiness coming into your lives, I hope you are able to return to the places you once found happiness and bring these joys into your present.
May our joys be strong in this New Year.