By Joseph Ushigiale
There is no news as heart-rending and devastating as an announcement of the passing of a loved one, close associate, or a colleague at work. It is that unforgettable moment most people dread and yet it is inevitable because once you are born, the natural order is that in the end, you would die. While some deaths are recorded at childbirth, some people die at over 80 years plus; it is the deaths of young men and women who die at their prime that is most painful. That singular moment provokes you into rethinking the essence of living.
We all are born nursing dreams of becoming something, owning something, traveling to a particular country, or achieving a particular vision. We toil going to school, waiting tables or engage in menial jobs working long hours to eventually gain a breakthrough or make it in life
While some have the providence of seeing their dreams come through early or later in life and go on to live their dreams, others are not so lucky; they die before their dreams come through. And in death, the entire dreamworld evaporates into thin air leaving in its wake anger, sorrow, and regrets. It is even worse when some young people leave behind young families with no secure future. Some parents even have the misfortune of burying their own children who are cut down by death in their prime and some grieving aged parents end up dead.
Akintunde Akinwale, our judiciary reporter and utility staff of THISDAY LAWYER left home last Monday bidding his pregnant wife and two-year-old son, Akintayo bye as he proceeded to work in Apapa. Little did they know that it would be the last time they would see him alive. Akin arrived at the office looking forward to a fruitful day and also head back home at the close of work to the warm embrace of his family. As he went about his official duties, exchanging banters intermittently with colleagues, he had no premonition that his hour would soon come and he was about to keep a date with his creator.
After work, he left the office, heading home. Akin owned a car, but for inexplicable reasons, that day, he chose to take public transport. As soon as he left the office premises, he boarded a motorcyclist popularly called Okada, halfway along the short journey he was involved in an accident within the Apapa area. According to some policemen who were at the scene of the accident, the motorcyclist ran into a trailer that was in reverse mode.
These good samaritans graciously took him in their vehicle and brought him to our corporate headquarters on number 35, Creek Road, Apapa. I was on my way home then but in traffic around Alaka area when my phone suddenly came alive. It was Davidson Iriekpen, my colleague at the other end calling to inform me of what had happened and that they needed money to take him to the hospital. After a few phone calls, money was promptly released and he was taken to the hospital.
It was therefore shocking to learn that Akin, who reportedly could talk when the policemen brought him to the office, passed on a few hours later because, according to his pastor, there was no matching blood in the hospital for a transfusion. That was how Akin’s curtain finally drew to a close, signaling the end of family life, an active and vibrant journalism career, and a life of serving God as a minister.
The next day when I broke the news of his demise to my colleagues on our staff portal, the entire THISDAY was thrown into a state of mourning. The first reaction came from the Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of THISDAY Group, Nduka Obaigbena and here is how he captured it:
“It is very very sad. Needless. May his soul find peace. Perfect peace. THISDAY will meet all financial costs of his burial, his continuing salary, and the cost of the full education of his children. May God bless and keep his family.”
Former THISDAY Editor and Managing Director, Arise News Channel Africa, Ms. Ijeoma Nwogwugwu wrote: “Terrible. What a big loss. May his blessed soul rest in eternal peace.” The Deputy Managing Director, THISDAY Group, Kayode Komolafe penned the following words: “Tragic and shocking! Akin was a pleasant and conscientious guy. God rest his soul and comfort his family.
There were also condolence messages from Peter Ishaka, Bawo Golde, Angelina Anochirionye, Femi Emiloju, Nduka Moseriernest, Yinka Olatunbosun, Ezekiel Akiemughu, and Eric Ojeh all alluding to his capacity for hard work and to do good.
Last Wednesday, he was buried and THISDAY took full charge of his burial expenses back to back. Buried against the background of the current COVID-19 physical distancing policy, the brief ceremony was largely witnessed by his family members and several other sympathizers who were present but watched from afar.
In a short meeting with the family immediately after he was interred, I intimated his family members of THISDAY’s plan to endow a foundation in his memory; train his children up to university level, take the full cost of his burial expenses and continue the payment of his salary to sustain his wife and children.
Akin was a good man, a team player, unassuming, humble, and ever-smiling. He was a great family man with a doting wife and son. He only got married a few years ago and God answered his prayer promptly; they were blessed with a boy. His wife is currently heavy with a second child. Although he never worked with me directly, our paths crossed from time to time, and in the whole time we engaged each other, Akin never turned down a request to help someone on my prompting; or do a story here or assist someone in a court-related matter. He was ever willing to help even at his own expense or resources.
Akin’s kind was rare and God-fearing. He was a hands-on reporter, meticulous, and extremely hardworking. His colleagues who worked closely with him praise him for being a jack of all trade and master of all. For instance, during production, once Akin arrives at the office and the stories are ready, Akin would not waste his time waiting for a page planner. He would roll up his sleeves and plan all the pages to save time.
Just for emphasis, page planning is a very specialized field in newspaper production process and is handled in most newsrooms by designated planners. So it is almost rare to see a reporter double as a page planner. But Akin would have none of that. He dedicated his time to learning the design package and became good at it, saving time and resources at no extra cost.
He was just 43, looking forward to an exciting and rewarding life when he died last Sunday night.
He began his early education at the Army Children School, Bonny Camp in 1983; after which he proceeded to Ireti Grammar School, South West, Ikoyi where he obtained his secondary school certificate. Aiming to acquire higher education, he attended the International Centre Informatics, Research, and Development, Victoria Island. On graduation, he later proceeded to The Polytechnic, Ibadan to study mass communications where he obtained a national diploma in 2001. He is survived by a pregnant wife and a son. May his soul rest in peace. Amen.