Posted by News Express | 13 November 2021 | 418 times
It seems like yesterday when we used to congregate at the Police College Ikeja on Sundays. It was for our ‘church service’ and we usually had a full house. I recollect being part of two consecutive waves. The first one started in the early 70s and petered out by the end of that decade. I was about the youngest in the group which included top officers – squash was their game then - and captains of industry. But I was allowed to enjoy senior jokes which could be ribald at times. This wave led to the formation of ‘A Squash Group’ which was supposed to metamorphose into a social group. It didn’t. But we met at each other’s houses for a while. I look back wistfully at those carefree days occasionally wondering where the years have gone. Sadly, many of those people have passed on today. But when I pass through a section of Ogudu GRA in Lagos, where some of them had streets named after them, I remember the many things we did and I smile. Oh, to be young!
The next wave, or set, started in the late 70s and became shaky by the mid- 80s when NEPA made regular playing uncertain. Besides, it was rare to find squash players staying at a place for too long in those days. This set was more contemporaneous and I fitted smugly into the age bracket. We were ardent worshipers. We resumed for service at about nine on Sundays and worshipped until at about four. In between, we slaked our thirst with whatever liquid was available. And visitors of whatever gender were allowed to worship with us. What is interesting is that many members of this irreverent group which used to worship at the altar of squash some forty years ago, are now ‘Baba Ijos’ in churches, ‘Baba Adinnis’ in mosques, Pastors, Clerics and Knights of both the Catholic and Methodist Churches. How age and life have tempered us. Among us were people who were to become Police Commissioners, the youngest Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) of his generation and perhaps the most creative advertising practitioner of his generation – he was the brain behind Abiola’s and Tinubu’s campaigns. We played hard on and off the court on Sunday yet still had the energy to excel at work the following day. Oh, to be young!
Speaking of creativity brings me to my man of the moment. Kenny Adamson who turned 70 late last month. Encomiums poured in from his peers to mark the day. Deservedly in my opinion, because Kenny is a unique talent and a trail blazer in many ways. When he ventured into political cartooning in the early 70s, there were just a few cartoonists ahead of him. So he was still in need of mentoring when leadership and mentoring were thrust on him. He performed both creditably and helped in breeding a generation of cartoonists. He spoke truth to power as a cartoonist, especially military power, in a way that writers couldn’t do and soon became a household name. Little wonder that Sam Amuka, our boss at The PUNCH, called him Super Star. And he was a Super Star! He was still in school when he became the Chief Cartoonist for The PUNCH. He was still in school when he wore designer jeans and chartered taxis to work in far-away Onipetesi when the rest of us managed buses or trekked. He was in his twenties when his works started appearing in prestigious homes, banking halls and the then newly built Murtala Mohammed Airport – Kenny is an artist and a sculptor. Soon, some of his works were to grace Aso Rock and I am lucky to have a miniature copy of one of them. Soon, it was inevitable that Lagos State, his state of origin, would commission him to do some works. The complete design of Tinubu Square with Julius Berger and the monument to Kudirat Abiola near where she was killed in Ikeja are eloquent testimonies to his unique talent. Yes, he was a Super Star. The only employee I know who bought a brand new car without asking for a car loan. The only employee I know who dashed to London for the weekend only to meet his Chairman in the plane and still survived the encounter.
Yet, for all his visibility, Kenny is, like many truly creative people, a quiet, self-effacing man who prefers the company of his family and close friends. I consider myself one of his close friends. I know some of his private struggles as he does mine. I was his Best Man twice and that should count for something. He is a Muslim and I am a Christian. But neither of us gave a thought to that at his Nikkai – a typical Muslim wedding ceremony. And today, neither gives a thought to religion – except to eat Sallah meat – in our relationship. Kenny at 70 reminds me of the wild 70s and 80s when we were really into each other. As I write, I am seeing Kenny as a DJ with a tambourine in one hand, a cigarette in another and a bottle of stout by the turntable. I am remembering Kenny working through the night fortified and kept awake by loud music and cigarettes as he tries to deliver on a late promise. Today, those springy, bouncy steps of Kenny have been replaced by a slower shuffle. His trademark jeans and sneakers have been replaced by a more sedate attire. Today, he is more religious as is to be expected. The stout and the cigarette have gone but not the music. Where have the years gone? What happened to those years when night and day meant about the same thing to us? When our work was our hobby? I suppose we should be grateful for advancing years. It is a privilege denied many.
In a couple of weeks, another friend, another ‘old boy’ of The PUNCH and Vanguard years, another cartoonist, will be joining the septuagenarian club. Bayo Odulana will be 70 in the first week of December. So will Lai Mohammed who, if I remember correctly, was born the same year and day as Bayo. The years have been kind to Bayo whom I still see regularly at our usual ‘monthly joint’. Lai, I see more now on TV. But there was a time, again in the late 70s and 80s before his foray into politics, when we saw more frequently. Lai then was a cute ‘power dresser’. He was also a genuine, reliable friend. The last thirty years or so seemed to have dissolved fast for all of us. But we still have to be grateful for the memories. And for friendships that have endured. Here is to the new septuagenarians.
•Muyiwa Adetiba, is a veteran journalist and publisher. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
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