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It is with a very heavy heart that I, once again, reflect on the untimely demise of Deacon Feyishola Olawale Folarin. He passed on March 7, 2008, just eight days before his 41st birthday. The distress call came from one Good Samaritan, one of those who had taken care of him from the grisly scene of the motor accident somewhere along Sagamu: “your brother has passed on”, that was how he put it. The words were initially incomprehensible to me, as the import of the message made the voice to sound distant and faint. A call had come earlier from my immediate younger sister that “someone called that brother had an accident this morning with a minor head injury, and we need to quickly go and see him at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH) in Sagamu.”
I hurriedly left for home to change, go through Lagos to see my other siblings, pick one of my elder brothers and drive straight to Sagamu. That was when the other call came in about a “passing on”. At first, I suddenly couldn’t understand what that phrase meant again. I tried to re-interpret it in my mind. I even asked the man to hand over the phone to “brother, so that I can speak with him”. But he kept on shouting the words to register into my journeying mind through my ears: ‘pass on…pass on”. At this point, I broke down and later picked up and refused to accept the message. I threw the phone on the seat beside me without formally ending the call. My little daughter was watching me quizzically, particularly as my playful countenance had evaporated.
Events after were overwhelmingly sad. From the visit to Sagamu to the preparation for his final journey, it could be observed that the irresponsible attitude of the OOUTH medical staff on duty that morning was the cause of the untimely demise of the man. I didn’t introduce myself as any other person than his brother. I did not want any hypocrisy. I perceived the air of utter unconcern, and I gathered from the policeman and the phone-caller, both of whom tried to save his life, that the doctors did not attend to him until one hour later, while the nurses did not make any provision for first aid, as no doctor had given the instruction to do so! According to the account of the good Samaritans, Feyishola was conscious enough to mention my name and that of my sister’s, and had even specifically scrolled through his phone contact list and asked the helper to call me and my sister.
He was conscious to ask the doctor to: “please, save my life. My wife, children, brothers and sisters would be devastated if I should die. I only told them I was returning later this evening. I mustn’t die…it is news we can’t cope it in our family. Please save my life….” The doctor assured him he would be safe as he had a minor head injury. But he asked him to call his people to “send N10, 000 naira first before anything can be done”. All this while, Feyishola was bleeding on the head without first aid. After spirited efforts to stay alive for us, the man died!
My conclusion was that the OOUTH staff on duty that day killed him. Their irresponsibility led to the demise of this promising young man, a man who had struggled all through his life to make others happy and fulfilled. He had paid the price for family, friends and strangers; we used to call him ‘Mr. Nice’, because, he would let go of his last dime if someone else needed it, while he would bear the dire consequences. He had to forgo his school fees several times, for me to go to school. He would make sacrifices for his numerous friends, who, when things were really tough for him, would abandon him. He was forgiving, he would embrace them again when they reappear to apologize and tell fairy tales of why they failed as trusted friends. He believed in friends as well as in helping people. Those bad and ungrateful friends know themselves; they were too ashamed to come to his graveside to heap eulogies on someone they had abandoned when it was time to pay him back in his shining coin.
Feyishola was our Professor. He was always there to tutor and add intellectual value to us. Indeed, I learnt a lot of English language from him as we grew up. He was my teacher of History, Government, Economics and Literature. His friends gave him the name “Professor” because of sound intellect as well as great command of the Queen’s English.
He was quite focused and visionary. He had traversed the corridors of professions. He had a humble beginning as a casual worker in the defunct Nigerian Grains Board, before proceeding to test the world of Disc Jockey (the likes of Waxxy, Jimmy Jatt and Humility would have been envious of him), and then worked as a teacher briefly before joining the Daily Times. He was also briefly a Manager of the Juju musician, Wale Thompson, before travelling abroad to further his journalism career. On return, he dedicated his life to the service of God, became one of the most committed in His vineyard and rose to become a Deacon in the church. All along though, he had remained focused in his vision to build a school. He shared his dreams with me when I paid him a visit during Christmas in 2007. He showed me the building he had acquired, the computers he had procured, copy of the favourable agreement with a bank, as well the good report from the team of government inspectors. All was set to realize his dreams. But on March 7, 2008, the cold hands of death aborted all this!
Comets are seen when great men die. Eulogies are given. The epitaphs are golden. Editorials are devoted to them. But here was a man who, because he was not in public eye, is not as celebrated. Here was an incorruptible and selfless Nigerian; here was one of the most generous humans to ever live; here was a philanthropist who gave all from his small; here was one of the finest gentlemen who dedicated his life to being Christ’s apostle. He remains our hero. Though unsung, Feyishola Folarin is a great man who should be emulated by all that aspire to be their brothers’ keeper while alive.
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