By Anote Ajeluorou
Today, after lying-in-state at Iperu-Remo, and a special farewell performance by Akesan (Iperu) Club 1954 members, Amb Segun Olusola will finally be laid to rest after a week of activities organised by the art community to celebrate the culture icon. The rites of passage for the late culture icon began on Monday at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. Although the planned carnival procession from the late sage’s residence in Surulere did not hold, a mini carnival of sorts was held within the vicinity of the theatre edifice, with the National Troupe of Nigeria making the most of what ordinarily ought to have been a grand event.
Many elderly people in the culture and arts scene had come to pay last homage to the veteran broadcaster and culture patriarch who transited into ancestry last June 21 at the ripe age of 77. But they waited a long while before things could shape up as organisers were slow to put things right. In attendance were Oba Gbenga Sonuga, Dr. Newton Jibunoh, Larry Williams, Ben Tomoloju, Fatai Rolling Dollars, Frank Okonta, Chief Eddie Ugbomah, Omooba Adedoyin Shyllon, Kolade Oshinowo, Kunle Bamtefa, Mufu Onifade, Orits Williki and Mayo Ayilaran.
Dejumo Lewis, Demas Nwoko, Prof. Tunde Babawale, Prof. Ahmed Yerima, Mahmoud Ali-Balogun, Chike Ofili, Daggar Tolar, Segun Sofowote and his wife were among the other culture personalities that graced the Culture Panorama event organised by one of the transition committees. It was well after mid-day before activities began proper on Monday on the grass lawn in front of Entrance D of the theatre. The elders took shade under the dogonyaro tree from the sun and watched the dances and sparse performances.
School children from Ajegunle flagged it off when they performed ‘I have not died’, to signify the seeming immortality of the late culture sage. ‘I have not died’, they said, seemingly echoing Olusola in their various renditions, “if you embody the things I lived for, if you carry out my life’s work.” The elders clapped for the ingenuity in the simple words of the young ones in stressing that Olusola lives on in the minds and souls of all those who admire him if only they could carry out his life’s work and even surpass them.
National Troupe of Nigeria surpassed itself in putting life to activities in their performances. Young, hiphop musicians also joined in honouring Olusola with their performances as well. Finally, all the elders on hand took to the open stage to dance to a Yoruba highlife tune from the 70s, which further added colour and life to a programme that had been bogged down by inept planning.
FINALLY, the celebration train moved to the Banquet Hall of the theatre. On the foyer, an exhibition had been mounted to showcase various artistic offerings by Nigerian artists, including local fabrics and books. The art works came from the National Council for Arts and Culture. There was the traditional Mat Carpet reception for the dignitaries to represent ancient rites for the late pan-Africanist. A delegation from Pan-African Diaspora and Jah People Cultural Embassy from Benin Republic, self-repatriated Africans from the Caribbean, the Jah Evejah couple and their son, were also part of the celebration of Olusola, whom the couple regarded as a great Pan-Africanist. It was total representation of the life of Olusola, whose work spanned various segments of the arts.
Eminent art collector, Shyllon, was chairman of event at the Banquet Hall while Bamtefa and Yemi Sodimu were comperes that added comic twist to the evening. But there wasn’t any protocol of speeches, only performances from various groups. First to mount the stage was Funmi Odusolu, who performed a long poem that sang the praises of Olusola in its call-and-response format that involved drumming and singing from the band.
Thereafter, Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture took to the stage with a special ritual song and performance, Ogiri’aparo, a dirge of transition in the order of Osun worshippers, all of them clad in ritual white as they gently eased the late ambassador from the realm of the living to that of ancestors. It was a riveting sight, with the solemn drumming and singing, befitting the passage of an old man of Olusola’s stature.
Then it was time for a royal performance from the Fadesewa of Simawa, Sagamu, Oba Gbenga Sonuga, who was a former director at Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture. His was a tribute that recounted what Olusola was in his many roles to the various people and organisations he touched and blessed with his wealth of experience and fatherly wisdom. Read in a poetic format, he composed a response and drumming pattern to the stanzas he called out. He was applauded for his royal effort.
Then the cast of Village Headmaster was called on stage. Twelve of the surviving members showed up to the admiration of the audience, with Lewis (Kabiyesi) leading the pack. A Village Headmaster Day to honour Olusola, they said, was in the offing, and asked everyone to look out for it.
Queen Sheeba from Ibadan, who sang soulfully in Yoruba, was among the other performers of the night that honoured Olusola in the weeklong cultural package for his transition.
Indeed, it had been a grand farewell to a grand culture icon, who has gone to take his deserved rest!