The mystery of death is not only in its invincibility, it is more in the fact that it can come at anytime without the slightest whiff. And that was what happened to my Oga, teacher, Bros and humanist, Mr Dafe Onojovwo, who suddenly passed on last Saturday, in his sleep, I hear.
We had met June 14 at a kinsman’s home for some discussions. He was in his full gaits, defined in his trademark simplicity. At the end of the meeting, he hurried to his car and his driver ferried him away. I followed, caught up with them on the road and he gently waved me, muttering some usual complements. It turned out his final wave.
He had been a crucial factor at every turn of my career growth. As my lecturer at the College of Education, Warri in the early 80’s, Onojovwo laid in me the very foundations of my career today. I recall, once, how a certain lecturer at the College, who had difficulty interpreting some East African poems to us-- the students, had to invite Onojovwo to help him out with that bit of the course. I remember very clearly how Onojovwo sauntered into the lecture hall and with a fleeting ease demystified the poem: No Coffin, No Grave, of Jared Angira. 28 years after, I still can picture his demonstrative gaits in class that evening, the ring of his sonorous voice as he gave the exegesis of the poem in a way that students fell in love with both the poem and poetry generally. His communicative ability was powerful.
And at graduation, impressed with my high points, Onojovwo never hesitated to give me a note to somebody, (I cannot remember his name now) at the University of Benin to facilitate my admission as a Direct entry candidate. It worked out. Years later, I was only too glad to see Onojovwo in Lagos in the journalism profession, where I was struggling to cut my teeth. He was with the defunct The Mail Newspaper. But he soon stormed out in a huff, when the late Clarkson Majomi, the publisher of the paper, once sent and published an Editorial Onojovwo had written to the Daily Times. Editorial copies had to be sent to Majomi for approval before they were published. It was during the Babangida days , when the June 12 issue was festering. Majomi was a friend of Babangida and used the Daily Times as a medium to dish out some messages on the activities of the Federal Government. Onojovwo was livid that his work was published without acknowledgement in a newspaper he was not working for. Haughty Majomi was even arrogant about the copyright breach and spoke brusquely to Onojovwo. The latter stormed out of the establishment in anger. And that was it. He later joined The Punch and became the Editorial Board Chairman. His experience at The Punch did not end in exactly pleasant way. He left for Daily Independent Newspaper and later National Mirror, where he was, before death ceased him.
He had had arthritis that knocked him down for some time. “I could not even write my columns myself”, he once told me, explaining that, “I used to take my son to the office, where I dictated the sentences and he typed out my column”. His undying commitment to good society was always reflected in the character and content of his writings. He was a tireless campaigner for good governance, probity, transparency and above all humanism. Never loud or violent, Dafe was perfectly ascetic in his taste and ways. His humility was without measure. His modest abode at some corner in Ayobo community, Lagos State, was a good portraiture of his person.
Surely, we will miss him sore. And if our standards be the standards of God, Dafe should qualify to sit on the right hand of the Father.
He has gone before us. We will meet him someday, hopefully. But for now, I join many others to bid my teacher, mentor, counselor and confidant good night. May the good Lord grant him perfect rest.