As I prepare for an executive leadership position interview scheduled for tomorrow, 16th April 2021, I decided to read through my Individual Learning Plan derived from a Leadership and Management Course organised by the University of Washington. I did the course in September to December 2018. It was like I knew something was coming as I was appointed Medical Director at the Lagos Island Maternity Hospital in June 2019.
Revising the ILP was quite revealing as I saw myself again. I was glad to see how I had improved in some areas as planned and recommended. It was also disheartening to see that I was still struggling with weaknesses I had identified, and was yet to implement some changes I had devised. That’s the beauty of the written word though, we can always go back to it for meditation, revision and application. I guess that why God, Allah and Buddha ensured their precepts were put in print. Sango (African God of Thunder), how far na.
The final paragraph in my ILP got me the most though. I know it summarises me completely, well, at least the way I see myself. It went as follows:
Question: You will submit this Individual Learning Plan online to the instructor as your final assignment of the course. As a final reflection, please comment on Peter Drucker’s question to us all: “What do you want to contribute?”
Answer: “When I was eight years old, I made up my mind that I wanted to be a doctor. I know my dad being a doctor had something to do with that, as well as the fact that all his cool friends were also doctors. But there was something about helping others and the appreciation they showed to him that inspired me. When asked why I chose that profession, my readymade answer was, “These hands were made to save lives.” I never looked back and after overcoming a spell in medical school where I wanted to drop out, I became a doctor. Answering the question in my year book of what I want to be in 10 years, my answer was, “To be making a positive impact in this society.” It seemed vague, but I guess it has always been in the back of my mind.
On concluding my residency, some colleagues and I brooded on the idea of leaving the country for greener pastures. I concluded then that I was needed more in Nigeria than in the developed world and my going out would be selfish as the goal would be for perceived riches and comfort. I knew I could have more impact if I stayed at home. That was twelve years ago, and looking at what I have been able to achieve in developing systems in my organization, training younger doctors and inspiring them in a way I’ve been told is quite different, with more than a few looking up to me as a mentor, I already feel fulfilled.
I find it fascinating that Bill Gates walked away from Microsoft to do full time charity work. Well, I haven’t made as much money and I’m not working for charity but I have an idea of how fulfilled he probably feels. Recently I decided to focus more on myself and gain some financial stability. I made some strides in this but developed an emptiness within me. I had stopped focusing on others and my life seemed purposeless. I realized (again) that my life has to be one of purpose. I am at my best when I am helping others, when I am developing and improving systems, when I am teaching and mentoring, when I am saving and improving lives, be it directly or indirectly. I am at a point where leadership at a high level beckons.
It is a challenge but this course has been a good introduction and a great follow up to other leadership courses I’ve taken, albeit when not ready. With the realization that it’s all about helping people (fellow colleagues, other health care managers and people generally) I know what I want to do and the kind of leader I want to be. I will continue on this path and eventually when I depart from this world, what I want to be said about me is, “Here lies a man who truly cared about others and helped them to be the best they can be.” That will truly let me rest in peace.”
That was my answer. That is my purpose. So help me God. 🙏🏽
Walking into the building for the first time in 1996, the first thing that struck me was that it was newer than Lagos Island Maternity Hospital. There was quite a bit of traffic though and it seemed just as busy. Three years earlier, during our housemanship, my friend Deji Oluwole and I had argued about which hospital was busier. He felt Ayinke where he worked did more, a motion I strongly opposed having slaved at the other side of town.
I had decided I was going to be an Obstetrician Gynaecologist, after my first choice of internal medicine had faded during a frustrating spell at General Hospital Gbagada’s renal unit. However I didn’t go into Ayinke House as an obstetrician or gynaecologist that day, I entered as an anaesthetist (permit the loose use of the speciality status like we always did as medical officers). My moves to get into OBGYN as a medical officer had been stalled at the Health Management Board. I wasn’t bothered though as I figured I would go to LUTH once I passed primaries, or better still, check out when I finally got my visa.
I popped into the MDs office to see Dr Fabamwo. The first time I ever met the doyen. He was quite busy and gruffly attended to me with a few words of matter of fact advice. I knew I had go see him again sometime later but didn’t get the chance as he was soon posted out. That box has been ticked being ticked though and future meetings revealed his amiability. He continues to advice me in a fatherly way till date. So it was off to the theatre to link up with Dr Mrs Ogunbiyi, Dr Oloba, Dr Adebayo, and the other anesthetists to learn their trade. My hidden agenda was to learn O&G.
With a lot of admiration, I watched the OBGYN crew as they went about their work. Deji, Dr Gbajumo, Tolu Fagorala, Dr Umeh, Dr Doherty, Dr Bunmi Adenekan (RIP)nee Ogunjumo; the PMOs, Drs Areo (the machine…that man worked!) Akinyemi (the jolly doctor, no dull moment), Oyedele (the most brilliant one) Aihonsu and Oriola were Action men and women who practically lived in the theatre cutting away. Caesarean Sections and laparotomies for Ectopic pregnancies ruled every call and I had to concur with Deji that Ayinke House was just as busy as LIMH😜
As always the real deal was the consultants. Dr Sunmade Olumide’s reputation was the biggest one then. His passion, skills, good looks, drive and large personality echoed all around the hospital, and I couldn’t wait to encounter him. True to his rep, that meeting occurred when he wheeled a patient into theatre himself, driving the trolley maniacally. The patient was a doctor with major placenta previa, bleeding and insisting she didn’t want surgery. I had barely put her to sleep before the knife incised her belly. Drama! There was a lot of that in Ayinke House. It was fun though. Drs Ijioma, Emuze and Dr Ajetunmobi who was the Medical Director, were the other consultants initially. Postings brought in two new consultants that year. The way they swagged into the hospital, it was quite obvious that doctors Akinola and Gbadegesin were going revolutionise the place. They sure did and just like their predecessors they were on ground till 10pm when on call, making decisions and doing difficult cases. The family spirit was maintained. We had a “mama”, Dr Mrs Aina, and we got an “aunty” with Dr Mrs Ottun coming in later too🤗. An old friend of mine, Bose Afolabi joined the crew for an attachment, having rapidly obtained her MRCOG in the UK and returned home. It was nice to be reunited with her from our primary school days and post medical school trips😉
It wasn’t easy being at the head instead of in the pelvis. I was quite jealous of the crew as they skilfully performed the surgeries and saved the women. I felt important when I got my independence though, as the surgeons always seemed glad to see I was on duty when they came. I was the anaesthetist with no stress and we worked as a team, professionally, with lots of humour. Dr Akinola always accused me of waking the patients up a tard bit too early when the skin was being closed (we didn’t do spinal anaesthesia then). I told him it was to assure us our patient would actually wake up😄. Being at the head was a unique opportunity to learn, studying all the different surgeons and their styles was to become useful later in my career.
After passing my primaries in 97, without authorisation, I bamboozled my way into the O&G Department. I was actually a medical officer (anaesthesia) in General Hospital Ikeja which was under a separate management from Ayinke House. I used the pretext of the residency training program that was just starting in Ayinke House to make make the switch internally, and I was absorbed. I was now a member of the crew. However after just two months, my unit had to face a panel. The DMS from the Management Board was shocked to see me there, especially as a I had been in her office two days earlier seeking an official posting to Ayinke house which she had rejected. She gave up and let me be.
Blending in was not as easy as I expected and my first CS turned out to be for a retained placenta! The look on Dr Ekwekwe’s face 😄😄. Steadily I settled in and quickly acquired the skills. We worked relentlessly, hardly ever referring patients, doing no less than ten Caesarean sections per day as there was no misoprostol and plenty of fake oxytocin, thus lots of failed labour. The balance with acquiring academic knowledge lagged though and culminated in embarrassment. The shock on Dr Gbadegesin’s face the day he tasked me on Diabetes Melitus in pregnancy to discover I wasn’t so bright 🙈
“Aren’t you reading your Dewhurst?” he enquired. “What is that sir?” I responded.I sought out the book and realised I was in trouble. I had to intensify my plans to leave the country before this residency got serious.
That was in 1998 and by then the crew was changing. Deji, Tolu, Drs Doherty and Adenekan had left for LUTH. Drs Kusemiju, Kaka, Olodeoku, Omobo, Okudero, Awobusuyi and Akpan had joined the fray. The ethos of hard work and family spirit was maintained as we struggled to balance it with academic knowledge. Like with any hospital experience there were a lot of stories
The headless baby scandal where a cleaner had wrongly disposed a macerated corpse in the hospital waste only for for stray dogs to drag it out and…. yeah, gory. The husband claimed the baby had been used for rituals
The hydrocephalic baby with other major deformities on DNR orders which self resuscitated and went home (dad said they had big heads in his family)
Queuing for petrol while on call at the station near the airport and getting dr privileges
Dr Oyedele and I laughing at his open invitation to emigrate to Papua New Guinea
Dr Oyedele and Dr Okudero’s shock and dismay when ManUtd scored 2 goals in 3 mins to win the Champions League. They had been laughing at me just before then…..he who laughs last laughs best😜
The amala joint that sprung up between AYINKE house and the MDs office
Dr Gbadegesin and the entire team’s dismay on a Boxing Day, at the case of eleven years infertility that had a RTA with pelvic fratucre at 33wks GA ending with IUFD
Dr Akinola’s patient that didn’t stop bleeding after three surgeries and was resigned to her fate…….the bleeding stopped miraculously
The controversial buscopan theory for cervical ripening
The adjustment to the first set of medical students from LASUCOM
The two ladies that came from Ikorodu to see the “consultant” in the theatre…..Baba Ibeji, the drunken attendant who had claimed he did plenty surgeries in AYINKE 😄😄😄
The semi protests we “residents” had when Dr Akinola was transferred to Ikorodu GH……”we no go gree o,” they reversed it after about six weeks….shortest posting ever💪🏽
It was fun.
The difficulties of an inception set of residency were real. This played out with Dr Oyedele’s struggle and intense extra efforts to pass the Part One exam. The anxiety of facing this, coupled with rejections at LUTH and the British embassy made me more desperate for a change in scene. To be one of the best, I knew I had to go back to the best cradle of learning in Nigeria. I applied and UCH Ibadan accepted me in 99. Dr Akinola then played a fast one on me. Since he knew I was sorted, he swapped me for one of his boys who was trying to get into the Ayinke House residency. Thus I was transferred to Island Maternity for the last two months preceding my movement to Ibadan. It wasn’t the best exit and Island Maternity was dreary as she was undergoing a facelift. Little did I know what the future held……story for another day 😊
There is song titled, “People Make The World Go Round.” The family at Ayinke House made those difficult Abacha years bearable. My decision to be an obstetrician gynaecologist was solidified there, and I acquired a lot of skills which were a great foundation for UCH and my career. The work ethos and passion for work I acquired there still push me till date. I am deeply grateful to all the players mentioned above and those I may have missed out. Many of us are now consultants in Lagos, still working hard and supporting each other.
Our professional journeys continue in the spirit of brotherhood………..
In my life journey thus far, I’m very grateful to have been blessed with so many friends who are like brothers. These relationships have made the ride very pleasant and worth taking. But before these friends and through them, there has always been a brother who is more than a friend. My first friend and only real blood brother, Bayo, has always been there for me and with me.
It’s hard to recall how I felt when he was born given that I had just turned two years old. I guess we have to ask mum. I wonder if I felt threatened or if I felt excited, two reactions I’ve observed in first borns I’ve delivered over the years when number two arrives. Probably both, but ultimately the joy of having someone like you in the house makes one align more with the sibling, as the sixth sense tells you that this one and you are going to face a lot together and have to stick together.
Boyo and I have stuck together since then. We’ve done everything that brothers do together. Honed our football and athletic skills together, studied together, done mischief together, had some fights against each other (as children o), and generally experienced life together. I specifically remember us suffering together as preteens when we both had chicken pox and had to be quarantined in the boys room, lamenting about who was itching more. We also suffered the wrath of daddy’s belt together about the same time when our ijogbon got too much and disturbed his sleep one memorable afternoon ( the one of two times dad beat me…..and it was Boyo’s fault🙄…well, and a bit of mine too🤓). We competed keenly in sports and although he was a better squash player than me, I often used egbon tactics (learnt from a fellow first born, Folanrin Sojinrin😉) to overcome him. We played on the same team many a times though, both members of the defunct Apapa Mountain Lions. We supported our sisters with Bayo leading them to primary school (the original BBD😎) and we were the major recruits enlisted to tend to the Commander/Captain/Commodore’s household.
I was excited when we finally got to go to the same school, the University of Ibadan. My friends all felt like they had a younger brother too as they shifted for him to take his position. “Popeye” as we called him then (because of his favourite tee shirt😀) quickly became very popular on the UI scene, and I was the proud egbon who rode on his popularity😁. Indeed he even taught me how to drive.
However things changed when he found God in his third year, as I wasn’t ready for that👺. Music and movie differences made our room at home too small for us, but sighting his prayer list which included “Salvation for Femi” moved something in my spirit. When that finally happened, I knew Boyo was one of those who’s prayers had preempted the most significant turn in my life. The delight on his face then….😇….thanks bruv.
We’ve continued to coast through life together and I’m quite dependent on my very resourceful brother, a very reliable Mr Fix It of some sort (the Navy Secondary School Old Students Association can attest to this). He is also my twin, confusing many people who know me when they see him where they don’t expect to see me 😜….he jocularly gists me of the “I know you look” he often gets and how he sometimes plays the role of confusing twin😄. Since he overtook me in height in our teenage years, he became the taller and cooler version of the Reverend. He followed the spiritual steps of the Provost as his piano and general music skills, combined with his calling, advanced him from church music director to Pastor🙏🏽 Hehehe….more backing in prayers for me, and all his other family and friends. Thankfully he didn’t follow the Provost to the other camp, and we both Manchester United fans💪🏽💪🏽….I told you he was a correct guy😎….his lovely, adorable wife, Jumoke Omololu, will tell you more 😍🥰
It is impossible to share a life story in a blog post, so this is just a snippet. I just had to celebrate him publicly today as he turns 50. Happy birthday Bayo. I can’t thank you enough for the blessing you have been and I’m really glad to have you as a brother. May our God, who you love so much and sacrifice so much for, continue to bless you, elevate you and grant you your heart’s desires. May He continually equip and empower you for all the things you do for others and your family. I love you bro. So many of us do. Cheers and enjoy your day 🙏🏽🤗🍷
So I spent this year’s Valentine’s Day at the Oriental Hotel. Nope, it wasn’t to go and eat (I’ve never liked the idea of eating out as a date), but it was for what is called the “SeindeSignature Experience.”
The sense of smell is probably one of the most undervalued by human beings. We value our sight to see creations of God, our ability feel the ones we love, to hear good music and to taste…ice cream, all among others. I guess it is because these come with so much pleasure and impinge heavily on our survival. Well, the corona virus has reminded us of how important our sense of smell is, as we are constantly sniffing to see if it is still intact. Animals have always known how important smell is and would sneer at us “higher beings” if they could. They sniff out food, fear, sexual partners, cocaine, and some say ghosts too. I’m always amazed at how my sister’s dogs, Drew and Ruby, don’t bark when I’m at her gate after a prolonged absence and with a new perfume, just because they recognize my smell. Even my dear wife struggles to discern my real smell amidst the artificial packaging.
Preparing for the Experience that morning, I realised how much we do like good smells though. My shampoo, soap and body cream were scented. My deodorant was perfumed. I didn’t use my Dolce and Gabbana (thanks again Mrs Ajim ), why take sand to the beach and lose it. The smell of breakfast was pleasant, but the fart from someone in the lobby didn’t (luckily I’m one of those who’s fart doesn’t smell, according to my son Temidayo😄). Sadly the water by the Lagoon behind the hotel didn’t smell so nice too. All of a sudden I was aware of scents, just like Drew. Indeed, smells are always around us but we seem to get used to them or move away from them, and some are transient.
Soon it was time for the Experience, and so we went to the studio. The host Mr Seinde Olusola, well, he is my uncle 🙂, was ready for us and the other guests scheduled for the day. It was like being in class again. The difference between mainstream, indo and niche perfumes were explained. The origins and stories behind the fragrances were revealed. It was nice to see foreigner made perfumes with Yoruba names and Nigerian perfumers on display. The difference between colognes, eau de toilette, eau de parfum, and all those other things we just call “perfume” were spelt out. There were over a thousand bottles there and for each one that was described, we were given a dash to experience. It was quite amazing how different each one was. Variety really is the spice of life. You’d be shocked at the different things perfumes are made from. Mr Seinde could have gone on for hours as his passion shone through his excited eyes. He had been collecting perfumes for decades. Indeed the studio was more like a museum and he was like a tour guide. Me, I have been collecting names of footballers since then 🤷🏽♂️. I remembered my stamp collection, coin collection, rabbit figurine collection and baseball hats of places visited collection, which had all disappeared. I felt some pain.
Soon it was time for another flavour of the experience. We were going to make our own perfumes! To help us out was none other than Nigerian International perfumer, Catherine Omai. Thus, after a brief description of the nature of the oils, we got to go through twenty different ones to pick our likes and dislikes. Our likes were further reviewed and sifted to settle for the combination that expressed the desired smell of us. Catherine was professional to let us have our copyrights (though she refused to buy mine which she admitted was really cool😎), and we were presented bottles of our self made perfumes. Mine read “Femi” as the name I had predesigned for my perfume but which I sent late and couldn’t get on the bottle was “Segnen”. I had researched long to find the name. Every name seemed to exist for perfumes already.
After three hours it was time to go. It had been a satisfying and fulfilling Valentine experience, and we oozed of the smell of love. As we drove away from the Hotel and quiet Lekki tollgate, the aromas from the museum and the entire experience lingered. It got me wondering what heaven will smell like. Fancy that, with all our senses rolled into one. Well, Segnen is German for “blessed,” so maybe when next you smell me, you may just have gotten a whiff of the Divine!😇
To get the experience, check out seindesignature.com @seinde_signature
(Contains no spoilers but the comments section may do so)
I’ve always loved the English. I love their language, their unassuming wit, their relative conservatism, Hugh Grant, a football team in Manchester, their 80s music, their literature (yep, I read some Shakespeare and a lot of Thomas Hardy) and their depth. Of course there are some things I don’t like about them too as they are far from perfect, but the English have the upper hand over the Americans in the battle of the West to influence the rest of the world where I am concerned. Maybe it’s because my home country is a member of their “Commonwealth,” thus influences right from my birth run deep.
One of the things I admired most about them is their history and tradition. This brings me home to the stimulus for this write up, the monarchy. I have not really studied the royal family, but I have gained some insight through the Netflix series, “The Crown.”
Ironically, long before I subscribed, The Crown was recommended to me by my then house officer, Dr Tobi Kolawole (there’s your promised mention doc), and I sure took my time in getting to it. Narcos, Money Heist and Greenleaf attracted me faster. I did start The Crown somewhere in the middle of those, but took my time to digest it and paced through slowly over about fourteen months. The journey through five seasons ended last week.
It was another dose of the wow factor, but wow sounds American so I will say it was quite a fascinating watch. The series was well crafted. It entertained, it taught and it amused. It was stirring and made one reflective. The historical representations were quite educational and the cinematography breath taking. The acting was excellent and the dialogue was captivating. So much so that (like my friend Rahmat I later discovered) I watched the series with a jotter and pen to catch new words and search out their meanings. The reflective quotes were too many to note. The series was just a pure English delight.
It gave an insight into the Royal family and the challenges of the monarchy. One cannot but admire, feel sorry for, and sometimes loath the Queen and Prince Philip, just like we do for most people really. But more than all the above, I think I understood them better, despite all the artistic license taken in the series. I had to do a lot of extra reading to shift that out. One must not be fooled by the movie industry. The entwinement of the monarchy with politics was also quite informative and it was a pleasure to sight Churchill again, and to glimpse Thatcher. My favourite character though were the young Prince Philip and of course, the sweet Emma Corin who brilliantly portrayed Lady Diana’s sweetheart legend.
For me the Crown ranks right up there as one the best drama series I’ve seen. It comes highly recommended if you like story telling without car chases, explosions, gunshots and heavy adrenalin surges. This one releases the hormone slowly in a subtle, disguised form if you catch the vibe.
Okay, I know I can be easily star struck. I blame Michael Jackson for that. The sweet lure of music and movies with a rabid imagination stimulated by books could have also been a stimulus for it. A deep appreciation of art is another thing that makes us love the “stars”. Some of us get to experience the “Star treatment’ in milder forms and this makes us look up to those who have enjoyed it in full measure with some glee. Experiences with friends, and the right song or movie at the right time especially during adolescence can make one a fan for life. I guess with these preceding lines I have justified my writing yet another note on my idols (see my other notes Fela Resurrects, Lets Talk Movies and Confessions of a Michaelmaniac.
Driving home from work three weeks ago I heard the entertainment pilot of my cruise, Kirk Anthony on SmoothFM announce with delight that George Benson would be performing in Lagos on the 13th of October 2012. George Benson! My all time best jazz artist, not to mention R&B when George was in the mood. I had read my friend Jino’s post on facebook with envy some weeks earlier when he attended a GB concert in America. I had just watched a GB live in Cape Town CD my friend Konwe bought for me on his visit home this summer. I was scheduled to return from the FIGO conference in Rome on Sunday the 14th October, but as Kirk played GB’s “Love x Love” to promote the concert, I knew I would be in Expo Hall at Eko Hotel between 7pm and 12midnight on the 13th October 2012. I had missed Bobby Brown and BBD, another of my childhood idols for some reason (over maturity) but this was one I couldn’t miss. Later on I heard Lagbaja would be the opening act. I smiled and had a break out of goose flesh in anticipation……
Lagbaja! I remember him best in the 90s before he became well known. I thank my friend “Fresh” for taking me to the now defunct Sea Garden in Ikeja to watch him perform for the 1st time in 1994. Yinka Davies used to be his main vocalist then. Amazingly, at that first show we visited, Fresh and I accidentally entered undisturbed through the exit and thus got in free. More money for drinks. Having had enough stout at Berkeleys, we had to settle for Smirnoff and Juice which were the only drinks on sale. Ali Baba used to open the show with a stand up routine after which Wunmi and Tunde Obe would perform and dance to some oldies. This was before Lagbaja himself would always appeared from within the crowd, completely masked and unknown to us, blazing his sax in tandem to the African drums. The crowd was always thrown into a frenzy as we gyrated and chorused to the songs. Some of my friends and I always joked about been too mature to do the running man dance as we attempted the dance every show. Lagbaja always had a twenty minute session of praise songs (as in real church praise songs) during every show. Indeed then, when my family left for Night vigil every last Friday of the month, I left for Lagbaja’s show. Any hangovers were dealt with during the environmental cleaning exercise. When he moved to Motherland we moved with him. Ironically I made a decision to stop drinking after the last time I saw Lagbaja perform live which was on the 30th November 1996. Nothing to do with him though, someone bigger was beginning to have a serious influence on me then, prompting that decision.
My love for George Benson began fourteen years before I saw that first Lagbaja show. The instruments and the vocals of “Give Me The Night” separated in the cool air of FGCL on my first night in boarding school, is a memory I will never forget. At school parties George Benson reigned. Whether it was Blues or Soul, George had something for us to dance to. He also had some jazz for us to listen to, as he mouthed in tandem to the echoes of the strings he strummed on his guitar, his trademark. I had to dig deep into years before then to find GBs hits like “Greatest Love of All”, “Nature Boy”, “Broadway”, “The Ghetto”, etc. Seriously almost every song this man has produced is a masterpiece. There are so, so many songs; Star of a Story, Turn your Love around, Breezing, his Collaboration with El Klugh, Living Inside Your Love, Love Remembers, Irreplaceable, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (in the voice of Yul Brynner in the King and I) . Anyone who considers himself a music connoisseur must have these albums somewhere in his collection. I do.
So from the Fuminicio Airport in Rome on October 12 2012, through Heathrow Airport in London, I proceeded on my journey to meet with George at Eko Hotel. I had a scare when my sister told me tickets were sold out, but thankfully she was able to squeeze out two for me and my better half. In preparation I listened to George on the plane. I arrived safely in Lagos with little anxieties (the joy of International air travel) and by 7.15pm I was seated. My darling wife was beside me as my anticipation had infected her.
Lagbaja appeared from within the audience in trademark fashion. The audience was old school. You could easily tell that the average age there was about 45. Afterall, George is 69 years old! Indeed, I know my friend Olumide Ajayi’s 70+ old dad, would have loved to be there. I must confess Lagbaja’s performance was toned down. He played mostly his new songs many of which I didn’t know and he seemed to be setting the tone for a jazz concert. He was still an ace on the sax though, as the music was rich and soothing. As with the last time I saw him live, the alcohol I drank (this time 4cl of Henessy mixed with Fanta o, I no get liver) did not take me too high as it used to do. After an hour he exited to polite and warm applause.
Without much ado, George appeared on stage. Black haired with a simple shirt, the trim moustache and all, he picked up his guitar without a word and he and his 5 man band set the theatre alight with “Breezing”. Without pausing he transited to “Love times Love” bringing out my first break of goosebumps for the evening as he did. He then introduced himself, subtly complained about Lagos traffic, appreciated Nigerians, picked up the guitar and played some more. He played, “Never Give Up On A Good Thing,” ‘Lady in My Life (MJ jazz),” “Living In High Definition” (my 4yr old’s favorite jazz piece), “20/20,” “Moody’s Mood,” “Greatest Love of All“(to which the audience chorused), “Turn Your Love Around,” “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You” (to which we chorused again), “Kisses In The Moonlight,” “In Your Eyes” (by this time I was teary eyed) and “What We Have Is Much More” (I saw my High School classmate Bisi stand up to dance to this in another section in the crowd) amongst other hits. By the time he got to “Give Me The Night,” it was a George Benson Party as everyone was on their feet dancing (even one of my friends who had fallen asleep earlier).
As GB sounded off with ‘Broadway’ and ‘The Ghetto” the frenzy eased off. Old George decided not to kill us with his hits it seemed, but there was a look of satisfaction on all the faces as we left the hall. It was a great experience well worth every second, penny and sacrifice made to attend.
Life is indeed short and the clock keeps on ticking. We are writing our life stories which are filled with many challenges, trials and tribulations. We also have our victories and our memories of pleasant experiences. Memories and experiences can be relived through shows like this and through gathering with old friends and acquaintances. We must take time out to breathe and enjoy what we can while we are “young” and while we can. I have “Given The Night” of October 13 2012 to George Benson and added the GB Live experience to my story. I am sharing part of it with you. Get yours (pleasant memories and experiences) anywhere and with anyone worth the while…….and share some of them with me too. It’s all good.
There was something mystical about watching the Fela Broadway show during Easter and at this time of elections in Nigeria. Learning more about his life story, and fusing it with what I had known before this time, made it seem that a messiah who truly cared for the masses and even ran for presidency had resurrected. Indeed to many of his admirers, Fela never died. After all he said he had death in his pocket.
For those of us who lived in the 70s and 80s, our Fela experience probably have a lot of similarities. I first came across him in my dad’s collection of LPs (what does LP mean, large plate?). Having developed an ear for music I constantly fiddled through that collection. It was a time when LP covers had a message and a meaning but Fela’s had more than that. They were very graphic and told a story. The short comic sketches were also quite amusing. The “Follow Follow” cartoon got imprinted in my brain at that young age and that is why it has been hard for me to follow anyone blindly. The lyrics were also written on the album covers for all to read and digest. Thus at a tender age, I also made up my mind never to be an “Original Sufferhead” and not to do the “Suffering and Smiling” thing.
“Shakara” and “Lady” must have been the 1st Fela songs I heard though. The words of Shakara guided me in my first and only physical fight in primary school. My opponent was bigger and louder than me and bullied me a bit. One day I decided it was all Shakara and took him on. Thankfully I won more than the fight that day. I also won his respect. I think Shakara taught me how to learn when someone was bluffing. Of course I made a few wrong calls but thankfully the prices were not too high.
As for “Lady”, I think that one made the female sex more mysterious to me. He put the African woman on a high pedestal and I looked up to them. Perhaps, the sharp tongue of African women, oops, ladies, Fela depicted in that song also made me a bit wary of them early on in life. However the stories of the ladies that hung around Fela and the way they dressed and danced created a paradox in me. His decision to marry all 26 of his dancers was a surprise. I concluded that he wanted to give them some dignity. My young mind wondered how he would cope with them all and my respect for him grew. What a man!
The first Fela song I remember dancing to was “Zombie.” The pace of the song was intoxicating and the lyrics were catchy. I remember how we sang and danced to them at those Tamandu Barracks birthday parties in the 70s. Then the song was banned and our parents told us not to sing it anymore. However that was the cue a young mischievous mind needed to reinforce the love for the song and its lyrics. Watching soldiers all my life, the song seems so apt.
The first Fela song I listened too maturely was “Power Show”. It remains my best Fela song till date. As my uncle Folabi, who introduced the song to me in the late 70s said, one night we listened to it as we drove down the Apapa bridge, this is pure African Jazz. Palaver is another jazzy tune that appealed heavily to my auditory yearnings.
Fela was always in the news. He seemed to be the bad boy of Nigeria. Like the fantasy notoriety many tried to achieve in secondary school, Fela was doing his on the Nigerian and world scale. The stories of him swallowing marijuana when arrested, the police raiding his house, his mother being thrown from a building, his carrying her coffin to Dodan barracks, his names, his girls, his shrine and what happened within, glamorized and mystified him all the more. He was the Kaiser Sose (Usual Suspect) everyone knew and could see. I did laugh when he declared his intention to run for presidency though. Original Bad Boy.
As the years rolled into the 80s and we waited four years for Michael Jackson to release an album, Fela churned out the hits with a regularity that was remarkable. “Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense” was a hit at parties in my early university days. The best of those was when the deejay would turn off the sound and the entire party would chant the words as we gyrated to the African beat. When he came out with “Beast of No Nation”, we just couldn’t get enough. Then my friend, Folanrin Sojinrin’s Volkswagen beetle, “Ocho,” didn’t have a sound system, so we would load our cassette player with batteries and “f’ese lu” all over Lagos.
I did get to see the legend on 3 or 4 occasions. The 1st time I tried in 1986, I waited for him at an Independence Day concert at the Tafewa Balewa Square. I was ordered to be home by 10pm. At that time Fela was yet to grace the stage and Alex Zitto and Danny Wilson had less than thrilled me. I tempted my dad’s wrath and waited till 12midnight. Still no Fela. We left disappointed. Thankfully Lekki Beach New Year Sunsplash was an afternoon show and in the 2nd edition in 1988, I got to see the man himself. What a man! What a performance! After he performed, the show paled. Poor Ras Kimono, he came on next. As we walked towards our car in the usual traffic jam leaving the beach, I looked at the passengers in a coaster bus held up. In the middle was the man himself! I managed a smile and a wave as the goose bumps hit me. He looked directly at me in the crowd that was gathering after I had attracted their attention to him, gave me that toothy smile and the fist, before closing the curtain for some privacy. What a man!
The 1st time he visited University of Ibadan in my time, there was a carnival atmosphere on campus. People came from all over. As always, it was quite a show. The second time, my friend Zeze and I walked a quarter of the way back to UCH in the early hours of the morning with the excitement and the gist of the show for company. That was in 1991 and that was the last time I saw him.
The next memory was a sad one. It was when General Bamaiye of the NDLEA arrested him for drug possession and was publicly interrogating him. With his infected skin in faded underwear, and a tired face capped with rough tangled hair, Fela seemed to have lost it. He was incoherent and didn’t seem to know where he was. I almost cried that day. When he fell into a coma, I prayed for his soul because I didn’t believe he deserved to go to hell. When the news broke that he had died…..of AIDS, I shed a few tears. On the day he was buried, from the balcony of the four room hospital flat in Ikeja bus stop where I worked the night shift then, I watched a crowd of his admirers dance down Obafemi Awolowo Road from his house. The crowd grew as it moved. I felt like joining in as a mark of respect.
I never went to the shrine to watch Fela. I was always scared and believed the day I went was the day the place would be raided. Fela! the Broadway show depicted a show at the shrine. Not quite the real thing, indeed far from it. However his story was told from another angle and I gained more insight into the man. In those three hours, his life, his women, his demons, his ideologies and his music had me mesmerized again. He had seemingly resurrected. Like Bob Marley, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, Fela will never die. As far as Nigerian icons go, it will be hard for his legendary to be overtaken.
I was doing some sorting at home last week when I came across my DVD collection. There were over 100 movies there. I looked through them with some nostalgia and wished I could sit down and watch my favourites all day long. Movies. We have all been mesmerised by the stories, the effects and the thrills they produce. Movies have been a major part of the lives of those who live in these wonderful times we live in. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve learnt and we’ve just been entertained as we looked at the screen and followed the stories. For me it started on a black and white screen, sneaking out of my room and hiding behind the settee to catch a glimpse of the late night movie. I suspect my mum knew I was there sometimes and just ignored me. Being a mum she would even let me watch sometimes. I could never try that with dad! TV shows were as good as movies then and I watched the Mod Squad, King of Kung fu, Starsky and Hutch and Laredo in the 70’s. I remember watching a Paul Newman movie which thrilled my mum (which is why I remember his name) and a movie on Rudolph Valentino (I wish I had paid more attention to that one)! My 1st visit to the cinema (Roxy at Apapa) was to watch The Sound of Music (in colour). I also watched a movie called “She” there too.
As we moved into the late 70s and the glorious 80’s TV expanded and I got more freedom in front of the screen. As early as 6pm. We could watch Star Trek, Space 1999, The Protectors, Jason of star Command and The Land of the Lost after the cartoon segment which had featured Scooby doo, Captain Caveman, Clue Club, Shazaam, Banana Split Show, The Alvin Show, Gigantor, Secret Squirrel and Atom Ant. We still had time to play football, catcher, Police and Thieves. Later in the day we could watch sitcoms like Good times, the Jeffersons, Sandford and Son, Love Thy Neighbour, Different Strokes, Are You Being Served, Different Strokes, How’s Your Father, Rising Damp and The Many Wives of Patrick. Thrillers on air then included The Professionals, The Avengers, Vegas, Dan August, Randall and Hopkirk, Hammer House of Horror, Tales from the Unexpected and Hawaii 5-0. Most of my romance was in The Love Boat. Then the highest form of sexuality was a kiss.
Friday night became movie night for me and my sibs as we were allowed to go watch movies on the Big screen at Apapa Club. There I watched movies like That darn Cat, The Glen Miller Story, The Gattling Gun, Billy the kid and some John Wayne films. I also watched a documentary on Abba there in which my good friend, Folarin pointed out “boobs” to me on a fully clothed woman. That was new to me then. I first encountered James Bond in The Man With The Golden Gun there too. These Friday night trips conflicted with watching Cock Crow at Dawn on TV, but thankfully Sundays belonged to the Village Headmaster. At Christmas, NTA ensured we watched 5 days from Home and It’s a Wonderful Life. Strangely they showed The Scarlet Pimpernel one Christmas. At Easter it was Franco Zefferelli’s Jesus of Nazareth, which was the first movie to make me cry. Bollywood also reigned briefly on TV as we read, watched and danced to Sholeh, Jugnu and The Burning Train amongst others.
More movie liberation came as the video machine became available. Since my dad refused to buy one, I was a regular at the Ajayi’s where myself Olumide and Segun explored Dr Ajayi’s wonderful collection which included, The good, the bad and the ugly, Hang em high, A fistful of dollars, Dirty Harry, Magnum Force (yeah he loved Clint Eastwood), the Inglorious Bastard, The Dirty Dozen, The Eagle Has Landed, Guns of Naverone (he also loved war films too) amongst others. He loved comedy too and had Charlie Chaplin movies, Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, and Buster Keaton. My dad eventually bought a video cassette player (thankfully VHS and not betamax) but kept it in locked his room. I remember getting a spare key to sneak the video downstairs once so I could watch Scarface. It was worth the effort!
In school movies were not available so I read movies to be made. Photonovels of Grease, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Champ and Dracula were popular then. As per true novels Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins and Jackie Collins and Jeffrey Archer were the major writers and had us watching movies called “best sellers”. Hubert Ogunde made a Big Nigerian movie called Aiye then but I was too scared of its supposed realistic fetish stuff to watch it when it was shown in my school.
By the mid 80s movies were everywhere and even my dad succumbed. Video clubs sprang up and the pirates had a field day. Friends would exchange videos or rendezvous at each other’s houses to watch the new release. It felt like being in a cinema with all your friends. We watched Soulman, Twins, Predator, Big, The Karate Kid, Fast Forward, Trading Places, Jumping Jack Flash, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Untouchables amongst many others. This carried on into the university and I remember how so many boys crowded into one room in Alexander Brown Hall to watch Basic Instinct!
The video clubs drained our pockets. I once lost one of videonet’s movies and was told I had to pay for it plus the 2 month cumulative late dues. I did not argue but said I would pay later. A week later I went there with a friend, collected 7 films (which included A Few Good Men, 4 Weddings and a Funeral and Schindlers’ list) and never went there again. So, thus started my personal video library. Indeed anytime I had to leave any video club, my library grew….the phantom of the video club strikes again, I always said, feeling cool with myself. This library then included Cool Running, As good as it gets, Nothing to Lose, Simon Birch and the Titanic amongst others.
Video cassettes were phased out and in came video CD’s which led me to my current dilemma. They were so cheap I just bought them. Living and studying in Ibadan gave me the luxury of time and money to swell my collection. However as time went by it appeared my years of watching movies were catching up with me. It became increasingly hard to find that thrill. I resorted to watching films based on the actors and the likes of Robert de Niro, Al Pacino, Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence did not disappoint me.Indeed watching Tom Hanks literally alone for over one hour in Cast Away showed how safe this type of gamble was. Watching Oscar winning and nominated films like My Left Foot and Driving Miss Daisy helped. Factual movies were another guarantee for me. Nollywood movies have always been a big NO for me but I couldn’t resist that girl called Jenifa and some Mainframe movies.
Time keeps rolling and now I rarely watch movies. I seem to know all the plots. I used to wonder why my dad didn’t watch movies the way I did when I was growing up. Now I know why. The actors I relied on are growing old, the pictures now move too fast and the new actors swear and curse so much. I tried catching up with the series but could only watch The Sopranos in full over 8 months, bits and pieces of Prison Break, got stuck in season 3 of House and I’ve been watching season one of Heroes over the last 4 months. I watch current movies in the air when travelling or scout for popular ones like SlumDog millionaire occasionally. I’m yet to watch James Bond’s Quantum of Solace as I write. Once in a rare while I bump into a good movie on TV but I guess I’ve turned a corner in life. I won’t say I’m getting old but sometimes some things lose their appeal. Indeed I was at the Silverbird galleria last night. I tried to catch a thrill I thought would last a long time. I watched my childhood idol Michael Jackson’s “This Is It!” I was thrilled and was suckered into buying some memorabilia. However by this morning I could not feel the goose bumps anymore. I’m watching one major movie now though. I’m following it very keenly and am even involved in its making. Yeah, it’s the story of my Life.
SOME UNTOUCHABLE MOVIES IN MY COLLECTION
– The Godather I II III, Jerry Maguire, Bridget Jones Diary, Million Dollar Baby, The Bucket List, Rocky 1 -5, DieHard 1 – 4, Roots (complete), Sopranos (complete), Shaka Zulu (complete), Franco Zeferelli’s Jesus of Nazareth, The Matrix, Lord of The Rings I II III, Finding Nemo, Shrek, Something About Mary, Grease, Ray, Jenifa, Carlitos Way, Forrest Gump Aladdin, As Good As It Gets, The Departed, Rise and Fall Of Id Amin, My Fair Lady, ET, Midnight Run, Boys in The Hood, Good Will Hunting, When Harry Met Sally, Life Is Beautiful, Simon Birch, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Usual Suspects, Shawshank Redemption
MOVIES FOR SALE OR RENT
About Adam, Mama Mia, Bonfire of The Vanities, Prison Break (complete), Barber Shop I and II, Black Hawk Down, 90 minutes at Entebbe, Ronin, Love Don’t Cost a Thing, Stuart Little, House Season 1 – 3, Shakespeare In Love, Traffic, K Pax, Meet the Fockers, Catch Me If you Can, Shrek II, Armageddon, The Incredibles, The Man Who Saw Tomorrow, Odessey, Hitch, The Terminal, Matrix Reloaded, Bad Boys, National Security, Chicago, Dreamgirls
SOME MOVIES TO BE GIVEN AWAY
Charlie’s Angels part II, Mary Reilly, Bad Boys Part II, Die Another Day, Matrix Revolutions, Are we there Yet, Final Analysis, The Last King Of Scotland, Top Gun, Black Knight, Bullet Proof Monk, War of The Worlds, Merchant Of Venice, National Treasure, Basic Instinct Part II
SOME FILMS I’LL PAY YOU TO TAKE
Soul Plane, Wedding Crashers, Dr Doolittle, Oceans 13, Signs, Master and Commander, Rocky 6, Fearless Hyena, Fantastic Four, Motives, Dangerous Twins, Garfield, American Pie III, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Last Holiday
SOME FILMS I WANT TO BUY
My cousin Vinny, Cocktail, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
On entering the Festival Hotel, the first impression you get was one of an establishment which had seen better days. That’s typical in anything historical in Nigeria today, sadly. Sights and sounds of Lagos on the way to the hotel while negotiating the notorious Lagos traffic to get to Festac Town revealed a City attempting to regain its glory with lots of ongoing road and rail construction. Festac 77 was a pleasant memory of Nigeria. What memories did the next few days hold, one wondered?
The hotel reception and lobbies were decorated with Obstetricians and Gynaecologists from all over the country. A smile lights up the face as friends and colleagues are sighted despite the masks. Also recognised are old teachers and students stimulating the spirit of unity as fists were bumped and elbows kissed. There were some people you couldn’t resist hugging though, as love defied the virus.
It was an election conference and there was a keen competition for one of the posts, so campaigning was rife that Wednesday afternoon. Very civilly though, with many keeping their votes to their chest. When the President, Professor Akinola rapped his gavel to commence the AGM, things got serious, and the professional in all present emerged to review his tenure and the activities of the previous year. Dr Chris Aimakhu chronicled what had been an eventful and successful tenure despite 2020 and its challenges. That we were seated there and some following at home was another testimony. Have you paid your dues? Only those who had done so could vote. The election portal was open between 7pm and 8pm but many were unaware and missed the boat. However, the gentlemen of SOGON agreed it had to be done again. Thus, amidst a serene cocktail and a surprise dinner, Professor Aboyeji secured the 2nd VP seat. There were no pre election mail in votes to be counted and Dr Akinde is the complete opposite of Donald Trump, so the night ended on a pleasant note of concluded business.
The next day (Thursday) presented Prof Bosede Afolabi, Dr Ezechi and the rest of the scientific committee in beast mode, as they ensured the plenary and parallel sessions held to time, with robust presentations and discussions. For those online it must have been cool to be at SOGON in their offices, cars, bedrooms and who knows, maybe in theatre. Conspicuously physically absent were Prof Fabamwo, Drs Juwon Alabi, Obinna Nwokoma, Daniyan, and a majority of the UCH Ibadan sector. It was nice to see Profs Giwa Osagie and Ogedengbe, and Drs Tope Ojo and Babasola Okusanya. Indeed, some attendees in festival hotel rooms attended online too. This is 2020, the year of Zoom.
The conference was declared open by the Lagos State Governor, ably represented by one of our own, Dr Benjamin Eniayewun, a consultant OBGYN who is a Permanent Secretary in the Lagos State health system. This was after we had been held spell bound by the excellent lecture on “Strengthening Women’s Health In The Covid19 Era,” delivered by Professor Dilly Anumba. I doubt if anyone who listened had heard a better presentation this year. We also celebrated those who had crossed the age of seventy years. One would be forgiven for thinking Dr Michael Ogunkoya was representing someone else, as the spring in his step, his jeans, casual shirt and trim physique rivalled that of any youth. He caused the President to pray that we all stay strong and erect by the time we reached that age. I don’t know if the pun was intended.
There were some interesting faces among the new entrants into SOGON. One must ask Drs Imosemi and Soyinka how it felt to be “jambites” or “graduates” once more. Recent survivors of residency, Drs Soibi Harry, Akinyemi, Oloko, Ajepe, and other fresh graduates felt the vibe too as they proudly took the oath of this noble society. Window shopping and actual shopping at the well designed exhibition hall felt like being at the foreign malls travel restrictions had prevented this year. There were a lot of good bargains on parade as marketers tried to cut their losses, and doctors sought to negotiate the looming recession.
The stars came out during the Variety Night by the pool side. The comedian on the mic struggled to shine though, but the exciting traditional dancers didn’t. The night however belonged to the SOGON “stars” with the hilarious and interesting Karaoke competition. Dr Kaka asked us to “Celebrate” and Dr Chris Aimakhu urged us to “Get Down On It.” Professor Fawole called out the “Zombies” Fela style, while Dr Okunade sang about “Heroes.” Professor Adeniji craved to “Dance With His Father”….while dancing with Dr Harry (?), and then proceeded to sing to us about “Secret Lovers.” Hmm…. There was no secret about the love between Dr Enabudoso and his wife as they publicly professed their “Endless Love” for each other. Drs Omololu, Aimakhu and Harry united everyone in singing “We Are The World,” and the night ended with everyone present singing and dancing to Madonna’s “Holiday,” as we all took a breather from frontline of the year 2020 war. Who said doctors don’t know how to relax?
Rape, Universal healthcare coverage, Infectious Diseases in OBGYN and Pre-implantation Diagnosis were on the menu for day three. Very topical issues which provided some deep insights from the discussions held. The Professor Ajabor Medical Education series lecture called for a reflection on how we teach with competence as the key word. But to what end with the continuous brain drain, one wondered? The conference powered on driven by its engine which consisted of Drs Obi, Adedeji, Oshodi, Prof Afolabi, and of course Dr Okunade. Kudos to the entire LOC, Lagos Sector and Dr Akinde.
The Banquet Dinner was calming, and the comedian redeemed himself somewhat, amidst the excellent cuisine on the buffet table. The wine may have helped too. Professor Akinola formally handed over to the new President and Exco with the transfer of the medallion, intact with its whole weight and prestige. Dr Habeeb Sadauki laid out his plans which gave an assurance that SOGON would continue grow in influence and impact. Some more awards were given out, and the night ended with Dr Moses white agbada stealing the show on the dance floor.
IBILE 2020, was truly a memorable conference. It was a welcome gathering in a difficult year and a ray of hope in a despairing country. The communion of acquired knowledge, skills and expertise in OBGYN had enriched all those in attendance and soon it was time to return to the reality of the frontline. Not only against the economic recession, SARS and the pandemic, but more against maternal mortality and all that threatened women’s reproductive health. As members checked out of the hotel, left the conference WhatsApp group and clicked the red “leave” button on zoom, there was a feeling of fulfilment, and hopefully we all had a good experience. All roads lead to Makurdi next year. By God’s Grace we will all be alive, be unmasked and able to freely hug and shake our colleagues then.
Dr Olufemi Omololu Chairman Publicity subcommittee IBILE 2020