Today, I find myself working while blasting Ayinla Omowura records in my office, with my earpiece on, of course. I cannot but remember my late uncle. My mom called him, Boda Sunday. He lived just across my mom’s house. Bàbá Pápàpáà (Baba Sharp Sharp), as he was famously known for being an artisan who gets the work done on time, was one of the most significant influences and father figures in my life growing up.
He was an expert at fixing household utensils. As a Tinker, he would fix aluminum or metal pots, kettles, and big water containers we call “bàsíà.” During the repressive General Sani Abacha era, his ability to fabricate Adogan (a metal firewood stove), coal pot and efficient sawdust cookers from any piece of used metal was the stuff of legend in Ọmí-Àdìó. Most of all, he was there for his baby sister, my mom, through thick and thin. Poor as he was, I could never have wished for another uncle. He was a hardworking, loving, and caring man that life dealt a weak hand.
He had limited schooling, but he was a highly skilled artisan. He was once a Welder for an Italian construction company before joining Solel Boneh, an Israeli construction company. He was proud of his work as one of the welders who built the Kainji Hydroelectric dam in Niger State. Baba was laid off after an accident, and he lost his fortune. His wife left him and remarried. He had to raise two teenagers by himself. Life weighing heavy on him, he took to drinking locally brewed gin, ògógóró. He came back to Ibadan and set up his welding shop. Bad situations here and there and the shop folded. He sold his equipment. For want of something to do, he went back to tinkering.
Tinkering is a family business that gave their father his wealth at Agbokojo, Ibadan. My maternal grandfather, in his lifetime, had a huge compound that had professional tinkers and many apprentices learning the trade. Apart from the intrigues of a polygamous family, my mom’s siblings loved one another. Particularly the ones from her mother are tightly knit.
Baba was there for me. He watched me grow and protected me with a devotion that some people even felt I was his biological child and not my mom’s. He made me love Apala music. I learned his signature dance steps to Haruna Ishola and Ayinla Omowura, his favorite musician. Baba was short, but he had a backside that some women would envy today. So, he would gather his agbádá around his body, with one of his hands in front making the motion of someone riding a motorcycle. Then, Baba would bend his back a bit forward and majestically move his backside to swing to the mid-tempo, heavy percussion apala beat, as the waves on his vinyl record player carry Omowura’s sonorous voice. He loved music, and that love was infectious. I caught the bug, even though, Apala was not in vogue at this time.
My uncle, Bàbá Pápàpáà, had his close friends and they were all drinking buddies. They had thick skin for insults, mockery, and all kinds of disrespect because of their work and drinking habit. Two of his most prominent friends, Baba Pélé and “Boda Kayode”(That’s what my mum called him) were fascinating characters. Baba Pélé was a typical Ibadan man with a very sharp wit. He can humorously exchange cusses and insults with his traducers till they literally hate themselves for daring to make fun of him. Boda Kayode played pool or what they now call sports bets. He was easy-going, unassuming, and kind. I learned a lot from these folks. They take criticism well. They take life in their strides and carry on with little worries about many things in life.
Last year, I went to Ọmí to visit him. He was very old and frail. He lived in my mom’s house at the time as the caretaker. It took him a while to recognize me. We haven’t seen each other for more than 20 years! When he did eventually figured out who I was, he cried, and I did too. He was so proud that I had grown and turned out okay. I hugged him and thanked him for great childhood memories. He went to my mum’s grave, in front of the house, with tears in his eyes, he said to her, “Bọ́sè, your child is home.”
Baba passed away in August, this year, reportedly in his sleep. I was in another part of the country and couldn’t make it back in time to attend his funeral. Today, I honor him as Ayinla Omowura takes me down memory lane on YouTube.