Celebrating Adetokunbo Sofoluwe 1950-2012


By Funmilayo Sofoluwe

My first encounter with Adetokunbo was in the 1960s through my older brother when they both attended CMS Grammar School. The two friends later attended an interview at Christ’s School, Ado-Ekiti when my late father drove them to the Bus Station. In Ado they experienced traditional Ekiti hospitality from my parents’ close friends, the Osekitas. Tokunbo, however, stayed on at CMS before proceeding to Old Swinford Hospital School, Stourbridge in Worcestershire, England, where he completed his Higher School Certificate course in June 1968. We met again in the University of Lagos, from where we both graduated, though at different times, and then again at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. We did not become an item until the 1980s when we sealed our relationship with a marriage under the Act. The combination of a Dada and an Aina notwithstanding, we lived truly happily together until his untimely exit on 11 May 2012.

In truth, his first love was Mathematics but he loved the Arts too. He was fond of the works of William Shakespeare and often quoted from them. He seemed fascinated by the plays. It is no surprise, therefore, that he made a very good grade in Literature in his School Certificate examination. He also did well in Fine Art. This interest he continued to display throughout his life by encouraging many young artists at great expense to himself.

He was also a sportsman right from his student days. It was impossible to love Tokunbo and not love various sports. Together we avidly followed football, tennis, cricket, boxing, golf, snooker, Formula 1, and even the major horse races. We got a lot of adrenalin from the annual Oxford-Cambridge boat race, usually rooting for Cambridge University. And he was a keen chess player.

Adetokunbo loved good music. It was not just the lyrics that interested him but the arrangement of the notes and the instruments deployed. Many knew that he loved highlife and juju music and Ambrose Campbell, Rex Lawson, Adeolu Akinsanya, Roy Chicago, Orlando Owoh, E. T. Mensah, I. K. Dairo and others like them lived on in our home. Others might be aware that he was also very fond of modern jazz, traditional jazz, gospel music, regae music and even apala but I doubt whether they know that he also invested in a good collection of classical CDs right from his student days, a passion that we shared. As his flat mate in Edinburgh would confirm, he drew inspiration from the works of great composers like Bach, Strauss, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Chopin, Handel and Vivaldi.

Another interesting aspect of Tokunbo’s life was his fascination with great historical figures. As one of his brothers will testify, he read all the time about their contributions to science, nation building, their struggles and the sacrifices they made. They served as role models for him. The two brothers were always exchanging books and Tokunbo was forever expressing amazement at the enduring manner in which their governments and associates had immortalised these men such that they are still celebrated even after centuries had passed. He would always make copies of write-ups on them to share with me. He was conscious of the fact that they were mere mortals, sometimes with serious shortcomings, but he did not believe that their errors or mistakes while they lived should be publicised or even celebrated upon their death. Adetokunbo was a gentleman and an intellectual to the core. He would always wonder aloud when Nigerians would stop their futile attempt to measure greatness by material wealth, earthly titles, number of parties attended and mere indiscretions that do not bring any glory to one’s nation.

As regards the keeping of records, Adetokunbo was in a class of his own. He kept every note, letter, document and e-mail sent to him. He would even make extra copies. He kept receipts and meticulously recorded all financial transactions (payments, withdrawals, loans given with dates and agreed terms of repayment), including photocopies of cheques and bank drafts. One of the last photocopies he showed me was for the 19 April 2012 N600,000.00 life membership cheque for an academic association. (He breathed his last only three weeks after this payment, which is a clear indication that he was not expecting that his life was going to be taken from him so soon). He probably wanted in some cases to preempt potential denials on the part of the unscrupulous or to assist those who might want to pretend to suffer from the onset of early dementia but the habit had assumed a neurotic proportion. It was not cultivated, however, to entrap others even if it could. He always encouraged me to follow his style, which I did, but I was forever teasing him that he was fast becoming too eccentric for his young age and we were going to be buried under numerous useless papers in our own home.

Adetokunbo was a kind and generous giver, but a most quiet one. The last thing he desired was publicity. There were so many people on his list that he gave money on a monthly basis. Throughout his adult life he chose to be responsible either in part or in full for the school fees, pocket money and house rent of many. I must confess that as a typical wife I worried about our future finances and I sometimes voiced my concerns. To provoke him I called him names, the kindest of which were ‘Father Christmas’, ‘Public Property’ ‘A bu je bu danu’ and ‘Mallam Toks’ (We Yorubas rightly or wrongly believe that our Hausa brothers do not get unnecessarily anxious about tomorrow, especially where personal needs are concerned). He would always assure me that I worried unnecessarily about the future when God was so merciful and would never allow either of us to suffer in our old age. In this regard Tokunbo’s trust in God was genuinely 100 per cent and I greatly admired him for it.

He frequently gave out loads of his nice outfits and shoes. Some outfits were given out only after just one wear. I would grumble sometimes that he didn’t’ understand what it took to trudge up and down Balogun West to pick out some of the best Ivorien fabrics for him and have them tailored only for him to pass them over so quickly. I would even threaten to stop buying him things. But I knew that he wasn’t one to hold on to material things and this was just another gesture of his that confirmed my ‘Mallam” title for him. And I give thanks to all those who proudly and lovingly shared his apparels.

The goodwill that he demonstrated towards others was legendary and uncommon. He wanted the necessary things of life for everyone around him. It was almost like interfering at times. For him you cannot have enduring happiness and peace if others around you lack them. He always argued that no one should try to be a lone star. He would always want to know, for example, if each employee or friends already had a plot of land. If they did not, he had to find out why and would not let them rest until something positive was done. For those already with plots he would want to know how far they had gone with developing the plots. As some will testify, he would arrange to visit the sites and provide encouragement with cash and prayers. And I have accompanied him on some of such visits.

He was always concerned whenever he learned that people were sick, even those he did not have any relationship with. He would always ask that we contribute something to their medical care. These things, he would say, could happen to anyone. He was also interested in the care of the elderly and always sought assurance from friends and colleagues that they did not neglect their aged parents. He often sent cash and other gifts to parents he had never met. And he did not forget the Old People’s Home either.

Unknown to most people my husband also gave a lot to further the work of the church. Many misunderstood his relationship with his God and felt he was not a serious being. Unlike many of us who paid our tithe in just one place, Tokunbo paid in four different places. I was personally responsible for delivering to three of them and he would also always want to confirm from me each month that he had already given me the money. He did not rob God but rather gave more than the mandatory ten per cent. And he was ever so willing to assist with church projects, be they physical or evangelical. These things Adetokunbo never considered as issues for discussion with any so-called friends or for broadcast.

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On his relationship with God, we held weekly prayers with our pastor friends. Once when all of them had traveled I thought we would not have the usual session. But my husband surprised even me by insisting that we carry on as usual and he personally took charge. May God forgive me for not at first taking him seriously on that day early last year. One of the great lessons that I have learnt from my journey with him is that it is only a fool or mischief maker that will claim to know the desires of another individual’s heart, especially where you do not share a home. For a true believer that is a prerogative of God and we have no business attempting to hijack abilities that rightfully belong to our heavenly father alone. Rather than fabricate unnecessary lies to make people think that we are privy to the secret thoughts and intentions of others, the least we can do is to try where possible to find out the truth and nothing but the truth.

Adetokunbo was incredibly tolerant, bore no malice and was extremely down-to-earth. These were some of his strengths but some mistook them for weaknesses. They saw him as carefree or even reckless. Nothing could be further from the truth. He simply enjoyed helping others through giving and he believed in giving each individual a chance. He knew when demands on him were unreasonable. He would come home and describe some of them. So he saw through most people’s schemes eventually, but he always hoped they would change and believed that God was capable of touching anyone. Whenever, I asked why he was allowing himself to be used by seasoned con artists, he would simply reply that if it made these people happy to believe that they were smarter than him or if their deceit helped them to maintain their sanity or reap mere financial rewards, why rock their boats and have a greater problem on our hands? He preferred to play along, saying the diabolical and unscrupulous had to be handled with care but that we would have the last laugh, God willing. He was a great advocate of peace.

If Adetokunbo had been so carefree or had a death wish as some have alleged, he would not have kept records the way he did and neither would he have been checking to make sure every night before we slept that all electric sockets were unplugged and gas knobs were turned off. This was another habit of his that almost assumed the proportion of an obsessive compulsive disorder.

Being such a generous individual and an incurable romantic, I had to plead with him every year on my birthday anniversary that he should not host any party, no matter how small. I am even more publicity shy and surely more of a spendthrift. My protests almost always fell on deaf ears, with him telling me that I did not know my own worth. Up to the end I got expensive gifts and several greeting cards for each birthday, with at least one each time being custom-made. I am certain that there are people present here today whom he sometimes used to achieve the cards/parties/gifts conspiracy. To these great brothers and friends I say thank you for your goodwill towards us as a couple and for your steadfast support ever since.

Adetokunbo also always wanted us to dine out or even go on date nights or date weekends. He wanted us to visit more exotic locations together and he had drawn up a list. He already wanted to know where in Lagos I wanted us to settle at the end of his tenure and we had already reached a decision. Very often he expressed the wish that we grow old together like many of the elderly couples that we saw around us. He loved the way they assisted each other and the obvious understanding between them. Each night he lovingly checked that I was properly tucked in and not exposed to the cold in our room.

As every member of my family would testify, they were treated like royalty. He would always announce to his audience that he did not want the Olagbaiyes to withdraw their daughter from his care and then proceed to shower them with gifts. Bless him. For the support, care and mutual respect we shall all be eternally grateful.

Finally, as our newspaper/magazine agent can testify, every week he provided me with several magazines on all manner of subjects, more than I could ever cope with. Whenever I begged him to return some of them and save money he would ask if I was planning to carry money to heaven. He also borrowed magazines from his brother for me to read. I could go on and on.

His nephews should please take note. Uncle Toks was extremely close to you and you know what he preached about good care of your lawful wedded wives. If you loved him and wish to keep his memory alive then you must treasure your wives. That is what he would have insisted upon and God will empower you in this regard. And as he never wanted to let any of you down any way, we must please not let down his memory in any way. The newest husband and dads in the family are not doing badly. As for the nephews-in-law, beware for Uncle Toks is watching you!

There was no bone of arrogance in Tokunbo. Every morning he made his own tea, he sat on the floor to feed his dog before walking it, washed up our dinner dishes at night and made breakfast with me at weekend. I am sure the stewards at the Vice-Chancellor’s Lodge must have marveled at his attitude and thought him strange at first. And he always helped to tie my wrapper before leaving for church. After we ran late once and were caught doing this inside the church hall and he was teased, he subsequently made sure that I left enough time each Sunday morning for him to sort out that aspect of my dressing.

Even though he related with individuals from different strata of the society and various character, Adetokunbo reserved his highest regard for those friends and family who are highly principled, who set him high moral standards and who encouraged him to live up to such standards. He clearly recognised the difference between those who sincerely would have him guard at all cost the integrity of his father’s name and those whom he often described as toxic and fair-weather friends that would encourage any act all for the sake of mere earthly benefits.

Please join me in celebrating the good things about this truly remarkable gentleman. As Adetokunbo himself was fond of saying, God alone is the final judge and E je ki a ma se dada, awon eniyan n‘wowa. May my beautiful one’s beautiful soul find repose with his maker.

– Dr. Funmilayo Sofoluwe, Dept. of Psychology, UNILAG

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