13th September, 2012
By ‘Funso Adegbola
Birthdays were always a big deal for my dad, Bola Ige (SAN) and former Attorney-General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who was assassinated in his Ibadan home in the evening of 23 December, 2001.
Those who know my father well, will confirm that he had a good head for dates, among many gifts, and he would always call members of his family and friends, on their birthdays. Oftentimes he would be the first caller, soon after midnight of your day of birth and sometimes he would be the one to remind the celebrant of the birthday!
As far back as I can remember, he made me feel like a princess on my birthday, and everyday until he died, most unfortunately. So I learned to reciprocate by calling him a minute after midnight every 13th day of September, and praying for him. I also gave him a birthday card and written note to wish him a happy and fulfilled year ahead. I am thankful to God that I had the grace and opportunity to celebrate my dad in his lifetime, especially the birthday and other milestones in his life. He wasn’t an ‘owambe’ person so he wasn’t given to parties and rollicking, instead he preferred to have an Open House where he and my mum would entertain all those who remembered the birthday. We, the children and grandchildren, would visit him and he would start the day with prayers of thanksgiving to God for the gift of life, good family and divine health. He would end his prayers with his favourite chorus- ‘Ope lo ye o, Baba Olore’. We would have breakfast, lunch and dinner with him. We would always take a birthday cake, no matter how small for him to cut and share with all who visited him on the day.
When we left for our homes, he would pray for us and the grandchildren. For his 70th, he had many activities- thanksgiving service with Holy Communion, presentation of books and even a celebration in drama and music. Both my parents died shortly after their 71st birthdays. We remember them daily but more especially on their birthdays. My brother, Babatunde had pre-deceased our parents in 1993, but my parents and I chose to remember him more publicly, on 2nd June, his birthday.
After Dad’s murder in 2001, we his children in conjunction with the Bola Ige Movement and his extended family and friends, decided to continue the tradition of making his birthday a memorial of his life. We usually mark the day with a Public Lecture, and we have also had book presentations in his memory, including my memoirs on our father-daughter relationship, ‘He gave me wings’, a dramatisation of his childhood autobiography, ‘Kaduna Boy’ directed by Dr. Tunde Awosanmi. Last year, we had the spectacular performance of the dance drama, ‘Nigeria the Beautiful’, written by the prodigious Odia Ofeimun. There was also a medical mission organised in Esa-Oke, his hometown, in his memory.
For the first time, I will not be physically present in Nigeria, but I will celebrate my dad, in the way that he and I love best, in my thoughts and prayers. I will be with my family and his grandchildren who he loved and doted very much. I am fully persuaded that Bola Ige lives on, because he lives in the hearts of we his children, grandchildren and true friends and associates. I will continue to celebrate him in the values of integrity, loyalty and family devotion which he held most dear and his passionate political commitment to his people and patriotism to our country, Nigeria.
As I reflect and remember him. I have decided to commit myself to my father’s primary constituents- his family and the youth. So I have resolved that I will empower and sponsor programmes in Nigerian universities. I will start from his alma mater, the University of Ibadan and the Law faculty. We already have a relationship with that faculty in sponsoring moot trials and debates, and the Superbowl Oratory Competition where the Winner gets an award in his memory.
I learnt something from my parents which was reinforced recently at the NDC in Charlotte- when watching Michelle and Barack Obama -both great lawyers and awesome speakers! A smart man is smarter and greater when he marries a smart woman! My dad was a very smart man and even smarter by marrying a smart woman, my mum! From this year onwards, I will include a prize in my mum’s honour- Atinuke Ige JCA, for they both ministered at the altar of justice in Nigeria. Pity, both their deaths was a result of the miscarriage of justice in the same Nigeria, but our faith and confidence is not confined to territory, space or time but Divine Justice, which we know will surely come in due season, in Jesus’ Name.
To my exemplary dad, Uncle Bola to millions, we will continue to celebrate you this 13th of September, as always. We will never forget you. The memories of you, like all the righteous, are always and forever. It is well with your soul and with us, on this side of the divide. Continue to rest in the bosom of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. I love you always and forever remain grateful to be your daughter.
•Adegbola, a lawyer, is the proprietress of The Vale College, Ibadan.