By KEHINDE ADEREMI
TODAY, May 25, the late Pa Solomon Adebayo Oguntuase would have turned 79. But since he breathed his last on Friday, April 28, at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, [LUTH], Idi-Araba, Lagos, I have found it very difficult to put up this piece. His ‘’sudden’’ death took a huge toll on me. And I couldn’t imagine writing a posthumous tribute for Baba that was my hero and godfather. But I decided to do otherwise for two reasons.
First, I owed Baba a huge debt of tributes, accolades and gratitudes because he had been the reason for my career as a journalist. And, second, for many of his numerous readers who didn’t have the rare opportunity to meet with him before his demise. For these reasons, I have to move out of my ‘’mourning zone,’’ to tell the world about Baba, the late Bayo Oguntuase. Up till the present moment, I am still trying to strike a balance between the reality of his death and the thoughts of missing him for the rest of my life.
Baba’s death was a rude shock to me. It isn’t because he was too young to die, but because it came at a time that was least expected. At 78, Baba enjoyed a rare gift of good health. He enjoyed life to the fullest and was always vibrant and full of life, that even those of us that were very close to him always envied his good health and sound mind. Death is often unexpected, yet there are times you ask questions why it took somebody very dear to you. I was at an event in Ikeja, Lagos, when his eldest son, Ayodeji, called to intimate me about Baba’s critical condition at LUTH. He said Baba was placed on admission, shortly after he suffered a fatal fall, at his Odogunyan, Ikorodu, home. The domestic accident eventually claimed his life.
On hearing the news, thoughts of my last visit to him just two days before the accident, including my discussion with him that very day, rushed through my mind. I couldn’t figure it out, so I quickly left the venue and made straight to Ward A2, at LUTH, where he was kept alive by an oxygen tank.
I got to LUTH a few moments after and I saw him. I had thought he would make it, because I knew Baba to be an optimist. But the following day, which was on a Friday, about 1.30 pm, Yetunde, Baba’s eldest daughter, called to tell me that my hero had passed on.
Memories of my relationship with Baba, and the role he played in my life will continue to linger on, and I doubt if I can forget him all my life. I lost my father 29 years ago, at a very young age, but God used Baba and a few other people to change the story of my life. He gave me everything I could think of, including his time, love, money, compassion and his most treasured valuables- books, freely without looking back. And everybody knows that I cherish him so much.
There are many things to appreciate about Baba’s life. And one of his greatest qualities was that he was a kind giver. He was a passionate giver and generous to everybody that crossed his path. There was nothing he couldn’t give, even his most treasured books, he gave them out with ease. Besides, whoever came visiting him would not go without getting a book or two. Even my little daughter, Ibukunoluwa, often remembered Baba as a giver of books.
Nothing in life captured Baba’s fancy except books. Whenever he buys a new book, Baba would celebrate it. His love for books was phenomenal and his rich library was a true testimony of his passion and love for books. Baba, in his life, was very accommodating. I think that really helped him in his old age.
Everyday, he welcomed everybody to his abode with mutual respect and honour. He was very homely and it was always an interesting experience spending time with him, as he shared memories of his good old days in Germany and how he was able to achieve his lofty dreams in life. With Baba, there was always no dull moment. And, I know many of his neighbours would definitely miss him, because Baba was everybody’s man. Baba was very humble.
Disparity was never a barrier to him. He often related with both the young and the old. Baba hated liars with a passion and whenever anybody played the ‘smart game’ on him and he later found out, he would simply say’’ Oh my God, Dudu are so terrible people’ ‘meaning black people are very terrible people’’. Baba would never feel disappointed by events of life and he couldn’t keep malice with anybody. He was a blunt man that says it as it is. Baba’s wisdom was exemplary and he was very organized and well coordinated. I think that was one of the lessons he learnt while abroad. He did many things on his own without being assisted. He was very neat and he gave no room for untidiness. His books were well arranged on the shelves and his surroundings were always neat. That was Baba Oguntuase for you. Baba didn’t discriminate, he was always happy meeting with people. Baba’s typical day begins by 4 am daily. He would have his bath, listen to newspaper reviews and start reading. Daily, he would take a cup of tea, without milk or sugar. That also contributed largely to his good health. Everyday, Baba would go round to say hello to all his neighbours, and ask about their well-being. He would say that was how his late father, Pa Emmanuel Oguntuase, popularly called Baba ‘Ole Oje’gi’ of blessed memory, brought him up.
Baba’s simple lifestyle attracted him to many people who wondered how a genius like him could relate with both the powerful and the lowly people in the society. In his abode, there was a room for the ‘boys’. The room was usually reserved for those that keep him company. Baba was a student of history and he had a gift of vivid memory of events that had happened several years back. He speaks German Language fluently and whenever his son, Abayomi, a music promoter called from Germany, they communicated in German Language.
Every Thursdays and Fridays, Baba usually received over a hundred calls, including text messages from his numerous readers of his popular ‘Mind Your Language column in Daily Sun from across the country. They would call to ask one or two questions about their worries and problems in English Language. No wonder he had over 1000 books on English Language alone, a treasure that was worth several millions of naira. As far as I am concerned, I can go on and on, on the late Pa Bayo Oguntuase, a bibliophile and consummate writer, but I wouldn’t want to bore my readers only on his attributes.
In all, Baba Oguntuase is gone, gone forever, but the truth is; memories of his good deeds will for a very long time linger in my mind and that of others that had the opportunity to know him. Besides, Baba’s life was full of great lessons.
It is now left for us to replicate his qualities and learn from those lessons. That to me is the best way to immortalise my godfather and great hero. Rest in the lord, Baba.
Aderemi writes from THE SUN.