By Henry Ojelu
I have sought words to fully express who you were to me, but vocabulary fail me. You were more than a friend and a brother. You were a special breed of mankind. You were a gift from God. You lived your life for everyone. No one crossed your path without a sweet experience of your generosity.
From that your old dairy which always had all naira denominations, you gave out to beggars and friends. Some even took advantage of your kindness and when I draw you attention to it, you would say ‘Henry forget them’.
Even your bank account was not yours alone. It was for everyone. I am sure your daily debits for assistance and loan requests which often turn into bad debts will shock many. I often reminded you that you are not a bank or a charity organisation but you would always go behind me again and again to give even more. Then when the debtors fail to pay, you would run to me complaining bitterly.
I guess it is too late to tell you to your face now, that part of the reasons I held on to our over 16 years of friendship was because I secretly desired to have your kind of heart.
I remember how our friendship started then on the beat. They warned you that I was ‘Omo-Ibo,’ (Ibo man) but you didn’t care. They also told you I had all kinds of terrible characters but you ignored them. I had expected you to believe them because though I wasn’t as terrible as they painted me, I was not a saint being a Lagos hustler.
Despite all their persuasions, you stock with me. You knew me in a special way. You knew how to persuade me for us to do what is fair always. You always prodded me on the right path. I have not become you yet because it will take God’s grace for anybody to be Akintunde Akinwale, but I am working on it.
You always protected my interest when my platform was not a major one. You will always keep my share and everyone’s share that is ‘involved.’ You even invited me when the event ‘organisers’, didn’t reckon with my evening newspaper then. You would always say “Henry just come, I will make case for you.”
With time colleagues said we were ‘partners in crime,’. We laughed it off because we knew they meant ‘partners in hustle.’ Our friendship was beyond journalism. It was deeper than everyone knew. All the way from Okota, you would ‘travel’ to Iyana-Ipaja just to gist with me and Solomon Asowota. We often forgot your homeward journey.
When I got married to the most amusing Akwa Ibom angel, Kate Bensiah, you secretly admired me and the sumptuous delicacies I was enjoying. Years after, you caught another Akwa-Ibom angle, (Happiness) and we both became family.
When I moved to Vanguard Newspaper and needed an accommodation somewhere closer, you made it you sole task to get me a good house.You did all the search and leg work.
When you finally got one and the landlord said he will not rent his house to ‘Omo-Ibo’, you told him the sweetest word that moved my heart. You said to him, ‘Baba, I have known this man for over 14 years. He is a good man and you will like him.’ On that assurance, Baba gave me the accomodations. Today Baba calls me his son and call other tenants by their names.
I can go on and on and on and our moments and friendship will still not be fully captured. It is the story of how you promised me years ago that I will succeed you as Chairman of National Association of Judiciary Correspondents Association, and how you fought to make it happen? Is it our struggle to hold several events and the stories behind the success. I guess those tales will forever remain between us.
Friends and family have been praising me for the effort I made at the hospital to stop you from dying. If only they know that you will do same ten times over for me and any other person. When I saw you at the emergency ward, with so much pain and oxygen in you mouth, I wished I could help you bear part of the pain.
When I called you ‘chair!!’ you looked up and wanted to say many things. I said ‘calm down chair, you will be ok.’ I wish I knew better I would have remained with you there instead of going on the chase all over Lagos for O+ blood that became useless when I finally got it. I even begged them to take my own blood since we were same blood type but they refused.
All my speeding, all my prayers, all my speaking in tongues became useless. People thought I was mad when I left my car and started trekking all in search for blood. Some even thought I was a Coronavirus victim and ran away from me but I didn’t care. All I wanted and prayed for was blood for you. Alas! By the time I came back, you had gone.
When I begged the doctors to allow me some moments with you, I thought God will honour my faith and bring you back. I prayed, I spoke with you, I shaked you, I poured annointed water on your face, openned your eyes but you were gone. Gone to paradise where only special people like you can go. We were not perfect but I know that if anyone deserves to be in heaven, you are number one.
You have left us with Happiness, Akinwale Akintunde Jnr and the one yet unborn. I have told Happiness that she will be fine. By the grace of God, I will do everything humanly possible to make sure that your family is fine.
–Farewell my Friend Akintunde Akinwale.
Henry Ojelu is Chairman, National Association of Judiciary Correspondents, Ikeja