Ikenne is a unique town. It is the town of legends,the town of great and tough people- Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Tai Solarin, Chief Kehinde Sofola, Professor Yemi Osinbajo the incumbent Vice President of Nigeria,over 25 Senior Advocates of Nigeria more than any other town in the country, legendary professors, professionals and businessmen, Chief Mrs Hannah Awolowo, a legend in her own right and so on and so forth. One of them Arc. Adesina’s Interstate Consultants designed the iconic building of the Central Bank Abuja among many others. Ikenne is familiar with fame and success far beyond her size of, may be, its 30,000 people. It’s achievement is the envy of many big cities. It has become so accustomed to great achievement, attention and adulation, which it has enjoyed continuously for nearly 100 years, that it has taken success for granted. No small achievement seems good enough. It’s children seem to drink the elixir for success from the Uren River at birth.
But today, Ikenne is in the throes of big mourning and an unaccustomed retreat and seclusion. The voices of women in the market place are muted, there are no sirens,no jokes in the bars and city square and no celebrations and no confidence in the air. Ikenne is in deep mourning because the town which has been known for every good thing is suddenly at the Centre of a national calamity of monumental proportions over the Gerard Road national disaster in which a towering building of 21 floors came crashing down taking with it over 30 lives including that of an emergent 53 year old son of Ikenne Olufemi Osibona who is the developer of a property supposed to be a game changer. The son of the 92 year old Baba Ijo of the famed, St. Saviours Anglican Church, Ikenne, Chief Awolowo’s church, where I was joined with my wife nearly 50 years ago.
I did not know Femi Osibona. I know his meek and distinguished father grand old man, a man of peace. Femi’s death is a disaster in every direction, a tsunami the ripples of which will go far and deep. Femi did not die alone. So many, we may never know, died with him. Instead of being a source of inspiration for many young people his death will dampen the hopes and aspirations of many. I have no idea how he came by his wealth and success. I am in no position to defend or come to any judgment.He may have exploited the rut in the system as business men are wont to do. Indeed, he will be an angel to have made all his money in a clean way in the extremely corrupt country we live in.But from what we now know of the exploits of this young man in England, South Africa and Nigeria, it is clear that a giant, and an empire builder, who wanted to change the world, lies below the rubbles of Gerard Rd with his tall dreams and an expansive heart. Serious mistakes have obviously been made and there may have been corner cuttings. We must leave that for history.
But one thing is clear, this is such a tragedy for everyone concerned- family, friends, bankers, clients, government officials and for this country. The effect of this calamity will be on ground for a long time to come. A humongous amount of money, of all shades, has been lost.
For IKENNE this is a time of grief and sober reflection. For as Richard Nixon once said, “Only if you have been in the deepest valley, can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.” It is my belief that out of this morass, Ikenne, which has been such a wonderful example for good governance, professional achievement and excellence, will rise again.
Adeyemi Adefulu, MFR