A toast to Governor Akala’s portrait.
That night my father came home with Gov Akala’s picture. He hung it in the living room. My mother entered the living room. I glanced at her, expecting some drama. Something drew her to the picture on the wall — it was Governor Akala’s official portrait.
The Governor’s smile bore the looker, but in a way, it bestowed upon the man a living spell. The spell of charisma. My mother did not like it.
She hissed, reached out for the picture, removed it, and placed it somewhere else. Our home was a regiment, not a political showroom. My father had spoken about his relationship with Akala once. Or twice. How he always had the back of his boss. Rumor was that while both men were in the force, my father was “2-I-C”. So immediately he sensed danger, he signaled his boss to act like a man and resign.
Except if a forensic investigation into the past is carried out, the details of what happened, true or false, would be lost in history as both men are dead. Anyways, Akala became Governor. He had gone to see his former boss that day. He recalled the meeting when he got back home with the official portrait. “Samson wá ṣe pọ́lítíìsì.” He mimicked his brief speech. But Samson, my father, was too straight and careful to have that ability. The family had a sense of detachment yet palpable closeness with this “PDP man.”
Of course, I never met him. He never visited. Only my father visited him. I did not entirely like him. He, an older man, stood in contrast with my outlook. Boisterous, traditional, appetitive, partygoer. He used wristbands, and some said anklets. He toned his skin. His person fitted the rumors that trailed his name. Yet, he was just a man who loved life and lived life. My puritanical conditioning — it has lasted till this day with a few adjustments — painted the picture I did not want to see.
I was a teenager, and I was prone to judging people. What my puritanical teenage mind also ignored was his courage. The Governor was bold. Perhaps, in fact, to the extreme. He once walked into the den of Sat Guru Maharaji “to see what they were doing there.” Asked by journalists if he was now a practitioner, Akala said that “he could not serve both God and Mammon.”
The Sat Guru did not forgive him for the diminution of his personal majesty. He claimed that statement was responsible for the electoral losses of the Ògbómọ̀ṣọ́-born politician.
Nor did I pay enough attention to his determination to hold power. “Can two kings live in a palace?” He asked the journalists who had been pursuing him from the entrance to the Governor’s office. At that time, he was a Deputy Governor. His boss Senator Rashidi Ládọjà was impeached — first in the state’s history. Akala became number one. Then again — for the first time in the state’s history — Ladoja was reinstated to a rousing welcome from the Oyo people. My mother and my teacher; Aunty Bùsọ́lá, were literally dancing in front of the” Sharp” television. In the other news, Akala was flipping his agbádá angrily while walking along rather briskly. “Can two kings live in a palace?” He said as he turned to the swarm of journalists.
Inside the showy, massive, loud person was a passionate man who loved life. And emotional man. A grassroots politician. He claimed to know the length and breadth of Ibadan. He did. I believe his claim. He was a policeman. They knew spaces well. Geography was their gift. The patron of “akalism.” Like it was when I was a teenager, I never really loved the man. But there was something about his demise that was not normal. Perhaps it was his drama. Or maybe I liked something about him that, for my prejudices, I could not acknowledge. It could be — or must be — the realization of the brevity of life. The suddenness.
All the same, he was a terribly lucky man. A lucky relevant member of the passing generation. Large enough to have caused an irreversible quake in Oyo politics from now into the foreseeable future.
The portrait in our living room still bears the smile and character it bore many years ago. It is — like the relics of the distant past, hovering over a museum — still hanging there.
May his soul rest in peace.