7 years ago, on Saturday August 9, 2014, I woke up in a hotel room in Surulere with only one plan – see my dad.
I was on a 1 week leave to tidy up my accommodation arrangements in Lagos, and it had been quite a hectic week.
After my morning routines, I headed to Jibowu Street, Yaba. The street that holds many fond memories from growing up in Lagos.
When I arrived, my dad was sharing a joke with his sister and being his usual bubbly self. He was waiting for a masseur to massage his left leg which he said was feeling a little stiff. So we got down to talking about life and all he was up to.
I was dealing with some personal issues then, but that moment was about him.
The masseur arrived and gave his leg the massage, and he complained all through. In his words, “this man is more of a bone crusher than a muscle soother.” We laughed about it.
My aunt was travelling to China that day, so he elected to take her to the airport before going about his day.
As they got ready, I connected to the “free” WiFi and started updating all apps, and downloading everything that caught my fancy.
When they were ready, I helped with the bag to the car, and just before driving off, my dad teased me about my new car. I just kept on laughing.
He said, “I can’t wait for you to buy another one, so I can have this one.” I laughed.
My aunt chipped in, “Say Amen.” With my aunt, everything good is a prayer.
So I said “Amen”, and we all laughed as I waved them goodbye.
I stayed back in the house to maximise the WiFi, and then just took a stroll to the ATM to get some needed cash. I kept on hanging around in the house with a cousin, until about 03:00 pm. I was half expecting that my dad might just pop in, and then we would have the time to talk about me a little.
As I got tired of waiting, I decided to head back to my hotel. When I got into my room, I was about to sit down when I got a call from an unknown number. I usually do not pick calls from unknown numbers, but I felt a strong urge to pick this one.
The voice from the other side said, “Hello.”
I paused, trying to figure out if I could recognise the voice.
The voice called out again, “Hello, please is this Osasu?”
I replied, “Yes, please who is thi?” It was a voice I could not place.
“Your dad is in a critical condition, and I noticed your number was one of the last ones he called on his phone. We are currently at LASUTH.”
I immediately went into crisis management mode. I always seem like a new person in a crisis. With the normal me observing the new me. I am usually surprised at how the new me handles a crisis like it was specifically built for those moments.
I was still a little bit cautious as this was still a stranger. “Can he talk?”
“No.” the stranger responded.
“Okay. Whatever care is required, let it be done, I will pay immediately I get there. I am on my way.” I then enquired further, “Please what is your name?”
“My name is Kunle.”
“Okay, Kunle. Please just be with him and explain that anything required will be provided. I will soon be with you.”
Immediately the phone cut, I called my dad’s line, and Kunle picked. It was then I confirmed he must be with my dad.
I called my mum who was out of town to tell her the conversation I just had, and where I was heading. Just in case it was a more sinister situation.
I got into the car and started my drive to Ikeja. On my way there, I got a call from my uncle, my dad’s older brother.
“Uncle laidu.” I greeted.
“Osasu, where are you?” Was his reply. The voice sounded eerily like my dad’s.
“I am on my way to LASUTH. I got a call from a Kunle that daddy is in a critical condition.”
“Okay. Call me when you get there.” And my uncle dropped the call.
I immediately went into Formula 1 driving mode. All my senses told me something was terribly wrong. Obviously, Kunle had also called my uncle.
When I got to the hospital gate, I called Kunle’s line. He directed me to drive straight to the Emergency room (ER) building.
As I drove in, I saw my dad’s car parked close to another building, but I drove passed and headed to the ER. Kunle remained on the call.
When I got there, I saw Kunle walking out of the building. I had not even come down from the car when I asked, “Where is my dad?”
Kunle’s head dropped. “I am sorry, Osasu. Your dad is dead.”
A calm was still upon me. “Okay. Where is he?”
Kunle was tearing up. “He is in the car. He was declared dead on arrival by the doctor on duty….”
He was still talking when I reversed, turned around, and headed to my dad’s car, leaving Kunle behind.
When I got to the car, I saw my dad lying on the reclined passenger seat. He was cold already.
Kunle had ran to where I was, expecting me to be devastated.
I was, but there was no time to crack now.
I asked Kunle whether he had enquired about the morgue.
It was smack in the middle of the ebola outbreak, so everyone was being cautious about any dead bodies. The government medical practitioners where also on strike. We were actually lucky to have a doctor attend to him when they arrived. And they attended to him in the car.
I put a call across to my uncle who called earlier. Told him the truth of the situation, and he took it well. Obviously, Kunle had been more upfront with him on the truth of the situation.
I asked Kunle who else he called. Luckily, just the two of us.
I then asked what exactly happened. From his story, it seemed it was a cardiac arrest at a filling station where he was topping up gas. The reaction of people around him was slow, because they were not sure if it was ebola or not. However, I also know Nigerians are generally not trained in CPR.
My mum was calling me every 5 minutes. I called her and told her my dad was in the ER, and I was there to make sure all was well. That calmed her down.
I immediately called my mum’s older brother, told him the truth of the situation, and asked him to mobilise my mum’s sisters to her side before they break the news.
Kunle had by this time handed over my dad’s phones to me. My younger sister was calling non-stop. She usually chats up my dad often. She had his “mumu” button. I picked the call, told her my dad was in the ER, and I was there to make sure all was well.
She was with my mum, and I needed my mum’s support system to be around before the news got to her.
Then I started making enquiries on a morgue we could use. One of the nurses suggested a place in Ikeja, about 30 minutes drive from the hospital. So we moved his body there.
It was funny how I had now seperated the reality of my dad’s body which laid motionless in front of me, from the thought of my dad which was alive and well within me.
His body was there, but he was not. The body really looks like a poor holding vessel, when we no longer occupy it.
My uncle has told the son to immediately meet me up and provide support. It is not allowed in the bini tradition for an older one to be involved in the burial arrangements of a younger one, so my uncle couldn’t join in.
My cousin met us at the morgue, and kept on watching me like he was expecting me to collapse. I kept on standing.
My wife was coming into town that day. She had gotten to the hotel, but met my absence. She assumed I made a quick dash to work. I called her to share the truth of the situation. That day was also her mum’s birthday. I told her to wait for me, as we needed to make the birthday call together.
When all payments and documentation were completed at the morgue, I thanked Kunle and my cousin. I then begged Kunle to drive my car behind me, while I drive my dad’s car to the house in Yaba.
After dropping off my dad’s car. I thanked Kunle again and gave him a tip, then retired to the hotel to join my wife. She was shaken. I consoled her, and nudged her to gather herself up for the birthday call. We called her mum, but did not share anything about my dad. This was a birthday call. The storm within could wait for another day.
7 years ago, on Saturday August 9, 2014, I slept in a hotel room in Surulere with only one thought – my dad.
Rest in peace, dad. You lived every moment, and your every moment continues to live through me.
– Osasu Oviawe