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Moments with Dapsy

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Akin Adesokan

Thank goodness that “self-sacrifice” is an abstract noun! Were it to be an expression amenable to literal use, I often tell Dapsy, he would have been long gone. And he is alive and here with us and he’s here to stay, having pulled through a tough one just over a year ago.

I’ve not known anyone as well as I’ve known Dapsy who’s primarily not interested in his “own.” All the good qualities of a human being—generosity, tolerance, care, patience, courage, forbearance, honesty, loyalty, and more—are so unusually definitive of his person that they might have become his flaws. But then, he is gifted with something equally or perhaps even more compelling—a sense of humor.

All one can say is, that’s how he is wired:

It is no surprising that all fine people feel drawn to him. I was an undergraduate when I first heard of his name, and the speaker added: “Sooner or late you will know Dapo.”

For one week before he finally fled the country from Abacha’s killers in early 1996, Dapsy and I met every day. For about four nights of that week, we slept in the same bed. You could not believe, even if he had said it, that Dapsy was on the run, that he had not been to his house in Isolo since May 1995, that his colleagues like Kunle Ajibade and BagaudaKaltho were in jail and missing. After long moments of looking at him or listening to him I would simply sigh, Ha, Dapsy. O ga o.

Dapsy played a major role in how I came to see my political and aesthetic preferences fusing in Lagos of the 1990s, although I didn’t realize much of this at the time. Between July 1992 and March 1995, I went nearly everywhere in Lagos, Ile-Ife and Ilorin with him, and I had many of my “fixations” and “opinionated tendencies” tested by his exemplary, creative choices. In his unobtrusive way, he provided invaluable mentoring to me, Ebenezer Obadare, Jenkins Alumona, MuyiwaAdekeye, Tunde “Lumpen” and many others. Idowu Obasa wasted no time in calling him “egbon e” (your brother) anytime he wanted to address both of us, and I was quite astonished when Ladi, his wife, spoke in a similar vein as I prepared to disengage from The News. I have long come to terms with this fact, that I have as much claim on Dapsyand feel as much psychic affinity to him as his biological siblings.

Journalism is the profession in which Dapsy has distinguished himself and to which he has made lasting contributions, all of which will be fully accounted for. But the profession of journalism in Nigeria, of which he is at once historian, theorist and practitioner, cannot be separated from his ethical exactions as a radical political activist. I still don’t know enough of this part of him. However, I recall one night when he and Femi Falana were having a good time of self-deprecating laughter about an episode from this episode of his life, what Falana termed “your Yola phase”!

Addressing you directly now: Dapsy,we are grateful to Providence for your life. You have lived as your eleda wishes. I know that you abhor “sekarimi,” that, like Samuel Beckett, you’d rather run away from this kind of spectacle. Well, moments like this are the culmination the spirit of selflessness with which you have lived your life, and now it is too late to be otherwise.

US-based scholar, Adesokan, sent this tribute at a special panel organised by the Lagos Books and Arts Festival on 9 November 2017 in celebration of Dapo Olorunyomi @ 60.