Farewell, Great One

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By Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika

Family members and friends, we are here gathered today to pay tribute to a great man who lies dead before us.
He left our offices for home in the late hours of Monday 4/7/2016 deeply hurt at not seeing my name on the list of lawyers newly elevated to the Rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria. The next day, Tuesday 5/7/16, a public holiday, I received from him at about 9.40am the following SMS text message from him: “Good morning my brother, we will achieve our goal no matter the odds. I just know it in my bones that it will happen someday. All I wish for is for me to witness it. But for you, I ask that you do not let this current situation depress you or believe that there is an element working against you. It is an unfortunate situation, but I plead with you not to give-up or lessen your efforts towards achieving the goal. You inspire me to continue to strive to live despite my debilitating health challenges. I ask that whatever happens to me, you will not give up in striving to achieve this honour you richly deserve. We will overcome!”

It was the penultimate sentence that got the better of my attention. What did he mean by “whatever happens to me”? It had been more than ten years since what he referred to as “my debilitating health challenges” (a degenerative heart condition) was first diagnosed. But he had, with the support and care of family, close associates, and reputable experts (local and foreign) in the field, lived with and battled it with the same single-minded tenacity for which he was reputed. So successful he was in this that until his very last day at work (Friday, 8/7/16) he remained the workaholic that he had always been, laughing-off my worries and pleas to slow down. The very suggestion which I deciphered from his SMS text message that morning that there would ever be a time that I would have to soldier-on without him by my side (for the first time after about thirty-two years of our acquaintanceship and close relationship), was beyond my realm of contemplation.

My response to him, therefore, was: “Good Morning, Niyi, and thanks for your kind and encouraging words. You should know me better than many than to worry I’ll be down by worries about disappointed expectation. I’ve moved on from what is past. Today is another day. Let us grasp, and joyfully make the best we can of it. We all only live in hope and expectation of the dawn of tomorrow, which as at today is unknown. If tomorrow comes, then we’ll strive to make the best of it”. To this he replied: “I agree. Have a super duper holiday”.

Shortly after these exchange of texts, I received from him another text at about 11.45am on the same day a text calling my attention to the fact that Thursday 7/7/16 had been added to the holidays, and complaining that the criminal trial he had so thoroughly prepared for, for that day, had become truncated. He got an unsympathetic response from me by phone call telling him that that was one decision of government that I would not tolerated to be criticized since it would force him to take some more needed rest from his intolerable addiction to work despite what he himself just about an hour before described as his “debilitating health condition”.

I share these exchange of texts and telephone conversations with those of us here gathered to typify the noble and ennobling character of the one whose dead body lies before us. I never met, and I doubt I would ever meet a more hardworking person. He regarded no work to be beneath his position, and he left nothing that should be done today for tomorrow. He gave, and tolerated no excuse for avoiding any honest work. He was at his desk, working, from early morning on Friday 8/7/16 until about 4pm when he told me he was a bit tired and would be retiring home early. It was for precaution that we persuaded him to head instead (accompanied by a couple of us) for a quick check-up with his expert medical consultant not knowing that that was going to be his last departure from our office premises.

He, my Niyi, was first my ideological opponent during our student days at the University. He was completely against the socialist ideology which he believed was represented by the USSR. Despite his vociferous campaign against anything Marxist or socialist at the time, I noticed his genuine concern for the downtrodden in society, and in his humanity in general. Indeed, most of his alternative solutions to the problems of humanity, whenever challenged during his polemical wars against us, was oft times even more to our left. He eventually came over to our side when after many of such encounters, he came to realise that Socialist humanism was beyond the evil that was then represented by the then USSR. From that time, about thirty-two years ago, he had been my friend, and my faithful collaborator in all things. He it was, who at the foundation of our law firm, insisted not only that it must be built as a fighting tool in defence of the oppressed, but also that it must be governed by what we preached: From each, according to his abilities, and to each, according to his needs. From this mantra, he never wavered throughout his life time. He wanted nothing outside what he required to meet his basic needs. He never ceased to be amazed whenever he read in the newspapers that one public official or the other had helped himself or herself to some billions of public funds because he could not fathom what in the world the person needed the money for.

I loved him with all the love that was possible for a mortal to muster. And he loved me no less, if not more. His Methodist faith tells of a time when the World will generally come to an end; the Apocalypse. In truth, there is a sense in which the World comes to an end everyday, with every death. The World came to an end, that moment on Thursday 14/7/16, when he breathed his last. In the privacy of my heart, I will sorrow and mourn this loss, my loss, until the World comes to an end for me, as it will, inevitably, for all of us, one at a time.
Friends, it is true testimony I give when I say that here lies the body of a man who believed in friendship, and held principle above profit. A man who rescued guiltless fugitives and gave asylum to the oppressed. His life was expended in doing good, in defending what he believed to be the truth. He was generous beyond his means, helping others to help themselves, engrossed with the public good, physically fearless, intellectually honest, thoroughly informed, unselfish, ever-reliable. It is lamentable that he didn’t live long enough to reap the reward of having being an honest man. But I take solace (and I urge you all to also do) in the fact that good deeds are never childless, and a noble life is never lost. He that scatters with generous hand such seeds as this soul did throughout his lifetime, shall surely reap the reward of immortal memory.

And now, in the words of the great humanist, the magnificent Robert Ingersoll at the funeral of his departed friend, Richard H. Whiting, I conclude by saying of this departed soul that:
My life has been rich in friends, but I never had a better or truer one than he who lies in silence here. He was as steadfast, as faithful, as the stars.
[Adeniyi Adeyemi Adewumi] was an absolutely honest man. His word was gold … his promise was fulfillment … and there never has been, there never will be, on this poor earth, any thing nobler than an honest, loving soul.
This man was as reliable as the attraction of gravitation… he knew no shadow of turning. He was as generous as autumn, as hospitable as summer, and as tender as a perfect day in June. He forgot only himself, and asked favours only for others. He begged for the opportunity to do good … to stand by a friend, to support a cause, to defend what he believed to be right.
He was a believer in the religion of deed, and his creed was to do good. No man has ever slept in death who nearer lived his creed. I have known him for many years, and have yet to hear a word spoke of him except in praise.
His life was full of honor, of kindness and of helpful deeds. Besides all, his soul was free. He feared nothing, except to do wrong. He was a believer in the gospel of help and hope. He knew how much better, how much more sacred, a kind act is than any theory the brain wrought.
The good are the noble. His life filled the lives of others with sunshine. He has left a legacy of glory to his children. They can truthfully say that within their veins is right royal blood … the blood of an honest, generous man, a steadfast friend, of one who was true to the very gates of death.

If there be another world, another life beyond the shore of this, … if the great and good who died upon this orb are there, … then the noblest and the best, with eager hands, have welcomed him … the equal in honor, in generosity, of any one that ever passed beyond the veil.
To me this world is growing poor. New friends can never fill the places of the old.

Farewell! If this is the end, then you have left to us the sacred memory of a noble life. If this is not the end, there is no world in which you, my friend, will not be loved and welcomed! Farewell!
And so, let us now depart in solemnity, one after the other, having completed our immediate duties to our friend, not in dread of what lies beyond, but in hope that tomorrow will meet us on this side of the divide until our respective times here come to a stop.

––Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika – Partner, Citipoint Chambers