Diya And The Ritual Tale: My Testimonial


On Wednesday November 3, 2010, in the course of scanning through the pages of DAILY  SUN, my eyes caught a disturbing caption, “Diya’s  human parts storm:…”Quoting, the  first paragraph of the report: “Initially, it started as a rumour. And with time it  spread like wild fire. The story about the involvement of former Chief of Army  Staff, General Oladipo Diya (rtd), in human parts sales published recently in a  weekly newspaper came as a rude shock to many people”.

However, before delving into this issue, I wish to aver that my honest submission  should not be misconstrued as a disclaimer on behalf of the affable and scandalized  retired General. Rather, I want  it to be seen as a candid testimonial on a man I  had interacted with on many occasions: a man I had slept in his two homes in Ikeja  (Lagos), and Odogbolu country home in Ogun State; a man of strong conviction; a man  who places a high premium on a good name and his reputation; a man who is not  ashamed to talk about his vices and virtues – a man whose God-fearing nature has  endeared him to my heart, a man I have on my volition adopted as my “Baami” (an  eptthet in Ijebu language for Daddy or Father).

Now back to the question : Could General Oladipo Diya condescend so low to partake,  or initiate such a barbaric act? My response: Based on my deep relationship with  Diya, is No. Could Diya have ventured into the mortuary services business for fetish  or material motives? My answer is, No. At this juncture, one may be tempted to ask   what must have made me stick out my neck for this embattled but unperturbed and  patriotic General? The answer can be found in this brief explanation which I hope  any discerning mind will find logical and convincing.

Owing to the fact that my outfit, African Museum & Centre for African American  History is doing a self-commissioned biography on him, I think I have the authorial  authority and moral license to comment on any aspect of General Diya’s life without  prodding from any quarters. Conversely, I do not need his permission nor prompting  to admit to the things I know to be TRUE OR FALSE ABOUT HIS PERSON. Now, to the  vital question: What could have prompted the retired General to venture into this  unusual business of caring for the dead? I threw the above question at him during  one of  my numerous breakfast sessions with him (in the presence of his two wives  namely Mrs. Josephine Diya and Mrs. Folasade Diya and his childhood friend, Chief  Kayode Olusoga. Also present was Diya’s daughter, Kemi. At this time, General Diya  had got tired of my penchant for asking him questions at such events owing to the  need to observe table manners . But for me and the ‘Africaness’ in me, I thought  that was the best time to gist and ask an elder questions. After a moment’s pause,  he stared at me menacingly with his intimidating, war-weary eyeballs. Responding  rather warmly, hear him: “Mr. Journalist’, (referring to me in his usual humorous  style), When I lost my father, I was not happy, neither was I pleased with the way  his corpse was handled by the mortuary staff of the government-owned hospital we  took him. That prompted me to make a vow to float a private mortuary. And my desire  is to make LOTAD (the name of our outfit), the best in Africa. Without any  prompting, he adds: “We have done our best from inception by maintaining high  professional standards because the remains of one’s parents or relations desire  proper care in death!”

Just like I said earlier, I do not wish to hold brief for the General: Rather, from  my very close interaction with him on a daily basis spanning years, I had not for  once stumbled on any fetish object depicting him as fetish or ritualistic. I had  shared rides with him; … shared meals with him;… slept in his houses;… worn pairs of  clothes hitherto worn by him; I had sat (in) and scanned his two offices; I had  entered places ordinary visitors dared not trespass – and during the last days of  his late Mum on earth, I had entered her room too. Yet, not once did I come across  anything so absurd and disconcerting to depict Oladipo Diya and his family as  fetish. In the same vein, I had engaged scores of visitors, friends and family  members in conversations in order to get the good, the bad and the ugly side(s) of  Diya; yet, not once did anyone whisper to me, nor insinuated anything fetish or  ritualistic on Diya. Rather, every morning, I’ve had to rush down to his residence  to join scores of fellow worshipers in giving praises to God in Diya’s chapel.

As far as I am concerned, the former staff of Diya’s mortuary outfit that made the  shameful and slanderous allegation, Mr. Oluwatosin Onatade should be invited for  questioning to give more facts, backed up with dates, time and names of clients  whose corpses had be mutilated for whatever intention or purpose. Similarly, the  accuser should be made to go through a psychiatrist test. Other actions to be taken  to seek redress should be explored by General Diya whose name has been dragged in  the mud.

Above all, knowing General Diya for who he is, and the values he holds dear, at the  end of the day, should his ex-staff show remorse and apologise, Diya would forgive  him and counsel him not to seek to pull innocent people down for no reason. Diya is  too forgiving ,compassionate and God-fearing to hurt a living soul – let alone   committing acts capable of desecrating the dead.

Just like every homo sapiens dwelling  on earth, Diya has his weaknesses too. But  that is another story for another day.

Suffice to say here that Oladipo Diya is not a perfect human being. But to call this  gentleman officer a ritualist, is a hot rude slap. That is the ‘unkindest cut of  all”, borrowing the expression of William Shakespeare in JULIUS CAESER.

—Ade Osijo writes from Lagos

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