By: Dapo Oke
It was the 27th of August in the year 2003, just like any other day in the historic town of Ilaro, nestled in the Yewa South Local Government Area of Ogun State. People went about their usual routines, but for Professor Afolabi Olabimtan, this day held a significant purpose – a crucial meeting in Imeko that turned out to be his final engagement before departing from this mortal realm.
As the evening unfolded, news of his passing spread like wildfire, leaving everyone in a state of shock and disbelief. The tragic news carried the weight of a devastating car accident along the Lagos/Abeokuta road. It was now undeniable that Afolabi Atanda, also known as the son of Ojelabi, the renowned poet from Ekerin Compound in Ilaro, had embarked on his journey to Iwaleasa, the vast world beyond. Afolabi Olabimtan, the esteemed University scholar, a masterful political figure, a devoted Afenifere leader, and a dedicated follower of Awoism had departed at the age of 71, a time when his guidance and leadership were dearly needed for the progress of Yewaland and Nigeria as a whole.
With solemn dignity, you were laid to rest in a casket that symbolized heroism. It was lowered into the earth, returning your body to dust. The ceremony was presided over by a multitude of bishops and clerics, witnessed by distinguished figures from Nigeria’s political and academic landscapes. Your departure was marked by grandeur and heroism – a day etched indelibly in the annals of Ilaro’s history. Indeed, your passing was an occasion of unprecedented celebration and remembrance within the community.
Your life was a mosaic of roles and accomplishments. You were not just a prolific writer and poet, but a literary luminary, a political force to be reckoned with, a community leader who left a profound impact, and a pioneer Commissioner in the state of Ogun. You ascended to the role of a Senator in the 4th Senate, leaving a legacy of integrity and unmatched mentorship across all your endeavors.
Your legacy lived on even after your physical departure. Your footprints were discernible in various projects and initiatives, particularly the cathedral projects and programs that you championed. Your influence was tangible, leaving a vacuum that has yet to be filled. I recall our interactions, particularly during the inaugural Oronna Day Celebration in 1992. You invited me to partake in a symposium on youth engagement and emerging society dynamics, during which I candidly addressed the shortcomings of the older generation in community building. Your endorsement of my speech resonated deeply.
Following my speech, you took the stage as the Chairman of the Oronna Day planning Committee. You praised my presentation and acknowledged that while the older generation had its flaws, it hadn’t entirely neglected its leadership responsibilities. Your question to us, the youth, lingered: What agenda did we possess to rectify the situation? Your challenge was an ignition of responsibility, urging us to rise and take the mantle of leadership. You even envisioned my return to that podium at the 20th Oronna Day celebration, to appraise the impact of the new generation. Alas, the 20th celebration arrived in 2015, twelve years after your departure, preventing me from fulfilling that promise.
Today, I stand before the world to declare that we’ve significantly built upon the foundation you laid. You were a trailblazer, a role model, characterized by your vision, cultural grace, and unwavering focus. Your imprint is undeniable in the yearly celebration of the town festival, now a national cultural extravaganza.
In the wake of your absence, a youthful and dynamic monarch, Oba Dr. Gbadewole Kehinde Olugbenle, ascended the throne of Olu, steering Ilaro’s ship and setting Yewa Community’s course. His reign has illuminated the path of development for Yewaland, breathing life into the hopes you ignited during the first Oronna Day. His rule encapsulates the aspiration you seeded within us.
Your influence extended beyond rhetoric; it was present in your mentoring. Your Leslie road residence was a sanctuary of illuminating ideas, a meeting point where you shaped our growth, both in community service and career progression. Following your guiding principles, youth involvement in Western Nigerian politics has soared. Notably, your son, Olaolu, now walks in your shoes, inheriting the legacy you left behind.
Eng. (Mrs) Noimot Salako-Oyedele, the daughter of your dear friend Prof. Salako, stands as a distinguished Amazon in our state’s political landscape. Solomon Olamilekan Adeola, the vibrant Senator of our district, embodies renewed hope for political influence. Many others, including Gboyega Nasir Isiaka, Biodun Akinlade, Tunji Akinosi, and more, honor your legacy through their contributions to our Senatorial district. This very district you once represented as a revered Senator.
As we mark two decades since your transition, we reaffirm our deep respect and love. Farewell to Ilaro, your birthplace; farewell to Yewaland, whose interests you ardently protected; farewell to Ogun State, the noble land where you toiled for advancement; farewell to the Ivory Tower, enriched by your scholarly pursuits; farewell to the political family of Obafemi Awolowo, where you stood tall; and farewell to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where your impact was a beacon of virtue.
Rest peacefully in the embrace of the Lord Jesus, who perfects through His Resurrection.
Adieu, Professor Emmanuel Afolabi Atanda Olabimtan, beloved husband of Olubunmi Ejide.
Dapo Oke writes from Ilaro, Yewa South Local Government Area of Ogun State, Nigeria.
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