Monday, January 19, 2015

‘Notorious Bridges’ Link PDP With APC In Kwara Church
Never should you invite a politician to mount the pulpit to give a talk at a funeral ceremony especially during an election period. He may stir the hornet's nest and inadvertently pollute the atmosphere. That's exactly what happened Friday, January 9, 2015, when a politician stood up to pay tribute during a funeral service for the late deputy director-general of DSS, David Jide Awoniyi who passed on last November (see Milestones: Awoniyi’s Rites of Passage).

The representative of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had stood up to deliver what the congregation expected to be a tribute in memory of the departed soul but he chose to deliver a political treatise telling his listeners the need to "shine (their) eyes" during the forthcoming elections so that their desires might come into fruition especially in the provision of social amenities like good roads and bridges to replace those he referred to as "the notorious bridges in Igbominaland" an obvious reference to the dilapidated Oko Bridge on the Omu-Aran-Oro Ago Road.

The veiled campaign was not lost in the opposing camp. This became obvious when a representative of the All Progressives Congress, APC, government of Kwara State also climbed the pulpit to deliver an address on behalf of the government. But first he felt he had to deal with the political kite flown by his 'political opponent' and which was still hovering in the minds of the entire congregation. But if the PDP man had hit APC in the solar plexus he would not allow the "unprovoked attack" go unchallenged. He literally came out smoking with vengeance. In his preamble he said he could not understand why anybody should mount the pulpit to be saying things like these. Then he delivered what looked like a hammer blow. "All the things he has been saying do not make sense... Seriously speaking, this does not make sense to me".

Some murmuring could be heard among the congregation. The clergy noticed the disquiet and promptly organised a truce. The two ‘combatants’ were called out for a special prayer. Unfortunately only one was present during the special prayer "for our politicians". Smart Adeyemi, senator representing Kogi West, stood in for the PDP while S. A. Abifarin, representing the state governor stood in for APC. It was a clever move by the clergy who seized the opportunity to preach against politics of bitterness and the need for politicians to desist from acts capable of causing disaffection among the various political groups not only in Kwara State but also in the whole federation.

As if taking a cue from the impromptu truce organised for the warring parties in the Oro Ago ECWA church, Kwara State, the national leaders and presidential candidates of the leading parties also sat down in Abuja, Wednesday, January 14, to sign a non-violence pact as the countdown for the February elections began.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Awoniyi’s Rites of Passage

David Olajide Awoniyi

"The final is not final", said the officiating minister shortly after the burial ceremony. "After death comes resurrection and judgment day". Shortly thereafter there was the traditional gun salute to bid David Olajide Awoniyi, former deputy director-general (Technical) of the State Security Services, now Department of State Services, DSS, farewell. He died November 14, 2014. It was a sombre moment for the congregation assembled in front of his country house in Oro Ago, Ifelodun Local Government area, Kwara State, January 9, 2014.

But just like the pastor had said the final obsequies was not actually final. There was more to come. There was a funeral and thanksgiving service at the First Evangelical Church of West Africa [now known as Evangelical Church Winning All] ECWA, Oro Ago, followed by a reception back in the country house. Again, that was not final. The family hosted friends, relations, guests and other well-wishers to another grand reception in Ilorin, same day. Indeed it was an elaborate farewell programme. 

The rites of passage was a one week affair spanning Abuja, Ilorin and Oro Ago with service of songs in Abuja, wake-keep service in Ilorin and burial in Oro Ago, his hometown, where he was born on January 3, 1943. He attended Titcombe College, Egbe, and had his Higher School Certificate at the Government Secondary School, Okene, Kogi State. He later graduated from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, with a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering, a course which earned him his first job as an engineer with the Broadcasting Corporation of Northern Nigeria, BCNN, Kaduna, from where he moved to Ilorin, Kwara State, in 1977 to help establish the Kwara State Television Network under the aegis of the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA.  Awoniyi's string of successes in the engineering department of NTA soon caught the attention of the powers that be who had him transferred to the State House Annex of the then Nigerian Security Organisation, NSO, as director of technical services. He was later promoted deputy national security adviser, a position he held until he voluntarily retired in 1999. In a tribute to his memory, Umaru Ali Shinkafi, former head of the NSO described him as “an accomplished scientist, brilliant, accommodating and innovative”. Ekpeyong E. Ita, present boss of the DSS echoed similar sentiments in equally glowing epithets. He referred to him as “this brilliant and accomplished Nigerian”. 

It was indeed tributes galore for Awoniyi, described by one of his daughters, Funmilola Oteri, as “a man who taught his children the value of living life with purpose, courage, integrity and faith”. The first daughter, Bukola Oderinde, sees her father as a man who fought  “for a better Nigeria, a better Kwara State and a better Oro Ago”. 

Awoniyi is survived by six daughters, all of whom are described by one of their fathers-in-law as “professionals, extraordinary mothers, wives and humble, spiritual children of God”.