Ayokunle Odekunle: Life- of being and nothingness - @oddy4real

My earliest recollection of loss was as a 6 year old when I visited my paternal grandparents for the Sallah celebrations in Ibadan. I had ...

My earliest recollection of loss was as a 6 year old when I visited my paternal grandparents for the Sallah celebrations in Ibadan. I had a friend I looked forward to seeing. His name was Ayomide.

My very first years alive were spent in my grandparents’ house with Ayomide’s father’s house beside ours. We were friends. Childhood friends. We never knew what life had in store for us. To us, life was what it was; fun. We never had dreams as we were perhaps too young to dream dreams.

Ayobami never got to even dream dreams as he was cut short before his life started.
“Your friend, Ayobami is dead”, my grandmother told me. To me, she was speaking Swahili or a Latin dialect. I didn’t understand her. I then told her “Mama, I want to go see Ayobami”. Then she said “He is dead. You won’t see him again”.
I said okay but something hit me. I couldn’t reconcile myself with the fact that someone would just disappear from the surface of the earth never to be seen again.

Growing up, I have always had to deal with some demons. Very stubborn inner demons for that matter. I couldn’t bring myself to understand why I had to work hard to be somebody in life when I was going to die and leave the world with nothing.

A colleague lost his brother who was a top executive in a Multinational. The guy, a fit guy was just jogging so as to keep fit. But he dropped dead. As a Muslim, he was buried that day and I was at the burial.

The Imam kept on harping about how vain life is and how close we should be to the Almighty God. “This guy’s journey had come to an end”, the Imam sounded out to his bemused and codedly frightened audience.

As I left the cemetery on that day, what hit me when my friend died almost 23 years ago hit me again. I asked myself “Why do I have to work so hard, toil so hard and live all my life struggling when I am going to die suddenly one day with nothing?”

EPISODE WITH MY PATERNAL GRAND DAD

Sometime last year, I was in my father’s house in Ibadan when my grand-dad came around. We started gisting and of course, he kept talking about why I should get married, get him a grandchild and all that. Then I picked up my phone randomly and started playing “Busari Salami’ by Yusuf Olatunji. My grand-dad on hearing the song sang along and was close to tears. I couldn’t understand. Is there a point in one’s life where having done almost all there is to be done, one starts to have feelings akin to nostalgia and then feel melancholic? This reminds me of an episode with my maternal granddad who loved pictures so much. He was a lover of the good things when he was younger. There was a particular picture he took with his ‘happening’ peers back then in the 1970s where they have looked gay with their resplendent aso ebi. As he grew older, he developed the habit of writing ‘RIP’ above anyone who had gotten deceased in the picture.

So, there was this day when I was with him and he kept starring at the picture with tears in his eyes. Guess what? In the picture, he was the only person alive as at then and I am sure he kept relieving memories and asking himself what life was really about. He continued this habit till he died at the ripe age of 95.

ECCLESIASTES

Though a Muslim, I have a thing for the book ‘Ecclesiastes’ which I believe is the best book of the Holy Bible. And it doesn’t help matter. Without mincing words, the author reminds us that no matter how hard we work and how successful we’ll become, one day we’ll pass away. That all is vanity. Chapter 1:11 is particularly instructive as it says:

No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.

SO WHAT IS LIFE’S ‘PURPOSE’

This is one question I have tried to answer as a kid and now as an adult. What are we really here to do? Live, toil, toil and toil, get married, have kids and then die knowing that one won’t be missed and even after one’s eventful or uneventful passing, the world is going to continue as though one was never even on it?

I ruminate on this everyday, as I drive to work 5am everyday and drive back home 9pm everyday, on weekend when I drink and gist with my closest friends, Edward Israel-Ayide and Uche Briggs at Bar Enclave. I have heard people say “Ehn, a good name will pay you even after you are dead”. But pray how? How is your good name going to be of benefit to you when hungry termites and insects are piecing through your skin when you are 6 feet below as you did the helpless chicken who were slaughtered for your benefit when you were man alive?

There are those moments when I think about how I’ll be when I am old enough (If I am fortunate). Would I look back at the moments past, which include that which I am living now with nostalgia, melancholy, fulfilment, or despair?

I have my fears. Always had my misgivings. Yes, I believe no man is indispensable but there are some people whom I feel should I lose, my life wont ever be the same, however skewed this thought may be. I fear losing my parents, siblings and the very few friends that I have. But hey, we have been told that anyone can go at anytime and life is vanity, so why fear losing them?

I don’t know

MY SOLUTIONS

I have never been one to live life by the book. Yes, I know life is empty and vain. And it is cool. Everything must have its end, yeah? I however feel we, should strive to make meaning of life as it is. As we are fortunate to be alive now. I believe in not playing by the rules because I believe that to each man, his own way of doing things. I believe in treating each case on its own merits. I believe in doing things that make me happy and seeing other people happy. I believe in making friends that impact on my life.

Unfortunately, my life is ruled by fear. No. Not fear of death or fear of evil. It is deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. (apologies to Chinua Achebe). It is the fear of failure. Fear of being inadequate.

And it is that fear I am going to live my life conquering. As I believe that conquering that fear means I have lived a worthy life. It means I have LIVED. Not just existed. And I can request that this be written on my epitaph:

“Herein lies the remains of Ayokunle Odekunle who LIVED because he conquered fear”.

Should I die under such circumstances, I’ll live my ‘life’ in my grave smiling and happy. Only that I may not have access to Guinness Stout and music.

That is a matter for another day.

………………

Ayokunle Odekunle, a Lawyer, writer and brand strategist works with one of Nigeria’s Largest full service law firms. He was most Outstanding Personality at the University of Ibadan in 2011 and tweets from @oddy4real

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