When I met with Pa Ayo Adebanjo...

Meeting Pa Ayo Adebanjo (92) in person was one of my biggest highlights in 2019. He’s a respected elder statesman, Awoist and leader in the Afenifere (a Yoruba socio-political organization). I met Baba for the first time on March 6 during the award ceremony for the ‘Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership’ in Lagos. After the event, I boldly walked up to him as he was stepping out. I introduced myself, took a picture with him and then asked for an opportunity to meet with him again. He kindly gave me his phone number and asked that I feel free to visit him when it was convenient. For a moment, I was wowed that he called out his phone number without any 'struggle'.

I didn’t get the chance until the night of April 9 – a day to his 91st birthday. At the start of the day, I had no idea I’ll be meeting with him later that night. What happened, in my opinion, was by providence. I was riding home with a friend who erroneously sped past my bus stop and had forgotten I was to alight. We decided to drive to the nearest bus stop from which I could find my way back but there was none so close. At that point, I called Baba that I’ll be visiting that night. To my surprise, he was OK with the idea and graciously said he’ll be expecting me. My friend dropped me off at Baba’s beautiful house. This was almost 9 pm.

When I got to the living room, he was calmly seated in his chair rounding off with his dinner. I prostrated in deference to him and I could tell he was happy to receive me. We had a great conversation that lasted for more than 90 minutes. We talked about his life, family, lessons, trials, time in exile in Ghana during the trials of the 1960s, his extradition and time in prison, relationship with Chief Obafemi Awolowo, opinion on the state of things in the country, way forward and some other details he didn’t document in his book.

As a man in his nineties, Pa Ayo Adebanjo’s accurate recollection of events and characters is nothing short of stunning. The experience of that night left a lasting impression on me. I was also very encouraged by his very warm reception of me and we keep in touch from time to time. It was that night that I purchased a hardcover copy of his autobiography: “Telling It as It Is: An Autobiography of Ayo Adebanjo”.

I have the good pleasure of reviewing this book as my first in the ‘Booksof2019’ series in the hope that you’ll learn a thing or two and possibly pick up a copy. I’ve shared some pictures of our first meet and subsequent visits.

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© 2020 Samuel Akinnuga.