Sometime in May this year, I was going through my Facebook notifications when I saw that a friend had listed the types of girls he’d never date. I really have forgotten much about that article, but “a girl who calls herself a bitch” stood out. And what stood out even more was the friend I made off the comment wars.
Monica Fatogun. Mhhmmm. Some of you wondered (and had the audacity to ask me) why my general mood suddenly changed after i finished my project. Why I ignored my facebook for a while, why I reinstalled my Skype and Whatsapp. Well, I was talking to her. She’s sarcastic. She suffers from a brain condition that makes her unable to express herself except by indirect suggestions laced with near-insultive adjectives.
And I like her. Frankly speaking that’s the only girlfriend (general sense of the word) my younger sister ever actually liked enough. Recently she was in Nigeria- we spent quite a few hours together, she was in the car when I drove into a booby-trapped parking lot (and got my bumper ripped out), she was there when I got stopped for making an illegal u-turn (and had to pay a “fine” of 300 naira). She was there when an innocent-looking white girl at Sheraton sweet-talked me into buying birthday cards I probably won’t need till next year.
Oh, and she gives me a lot of grief over the silly things I do. She knows when i’m sad, lonely, hyperactive, happy- She’s become like my mirror in female flesh. She’s given me practical advice about love interests; she’s provoked very interesting discussions about religion, politics, music and sex- i think that’s as far as you can be friends with someone over 5, 000 miles away.
But this is not about Monica. It’s about the friend who connected us (and who suffers from the same debilitating condition as she does)
December 3rd 2006, university of Abuja invited us for screening. We’d been offered provisional admission to study law at the “prestigious” University of Abuja. The process was tedious, from collecting admission letters to getting forms. I spotted this very thin child with a long tortoise-like neck. His prescription glasses gave me the impression that he was very intelligent, thus he’d know better than me about the process. Turns out Mr. Turtle-Neck was as clueless as I was. Who was this clueless little brat? Ope Owotumi. Or if you like, Onaopemipo Olaniyi Owotumi, Matric No 06261046.
In no time, temporary cliques began to emerge, and by 2ndyear, somehow about six cliques merged into the L.G.C. we met every night; we would first talk and talk. Eventually talk would give way to worship and prayers, eventually we would order Kush and Dush (a local delicacy made of beans and yam), and pounce on it, LGC style.
Eventually this singing formed a band among the boys. We met in my house to rehearse. From this singing other peoples’ songs, our own songs began to emerge. As at when we graduated from the university, we had 52 songs. Who was at the heart of this band? Ope Owotumi.
Those who knew me prior to 2008 will remember that I was a Rastafarian at heart. I loved reggae, i learned to play the guitar, we would sing normal songs like reggae. We even wrote some reggae songs together with Monday Egamana. I remember one incident when we missed a legal system test. Monday had just returned from Lokoja that morning, and we figured we had another 15 minutes to kill. Turns out my phone’s time was late by 13 minutes. The previous night a friend convinced me that we should go to Alhaji Bagudu’s “mai shai” shop to have dinner (before he slept over at my place). So he ordered bread and eggs while I had noodles and fried eggs. While waiting, I decided to charge my battery with his generator since there was no power in gwagwalada for over a week. After charging, my time had reset itself so i asked someone for the time. Unfortunately it was 12 minutes late. Guess which friend convinced me to eat there? Ope Owotumi.
When our band first went live on stage, FCS had their first concert open air. We were the opening act. We were so good during the auditions that Ezekiel Atenaga (a very caustic critic said “if I had my way, you guys would do the theme song for the concert. That sound was refreshing like cold water to a thirsty soul.” Igiehon Ifueko, the guest vocalist shook her head in wonder and stared as we sang the opening lines of Jadon Lavik’s “How Majestic”, me strumming on the acoustic guitar, Ken on the Bass, Uche on the Piano, Michael Ogah on the tenor and an alto backup vocal so powerful I almost stopped singing. Guess who was the alto vocalist? Ope Owotumi. By the Way, it rained mere minutes after we ministered. So in all we were the main acts for the night.
And some of you know me as a rocker. I love metallic rock. I love hardcore, thrash, industrial metal. If not for the satanic lyrics and stage attitude, death metal would have appealed to me. What many of you don’t know is that I didn’t always like rock. Forget the gravelly voice and hoarse screams I let out. It is NOT natural- i developed it. And that’s because a friend of mine convinced me that rock was more mature than dancehall or reggae in the sense that it was much more philosophical than dancehall and far less explicit/simplistic than reggae. The nested layers of meaning you could get from one song was mind-blowing. So I spent the holidays of 200 level listening to Kutless, Building429, Tantric, Within Temptation, Nickelback, Relient K, Shewbread, Payable on Death (P.O.D) , Anberlin and a host of other bands. By the time I came back, people started calling me “rockstar”. I bought an electric guitar and ordered a distortion pedal to aid our metal sound. Guess who turned me into this rock-loving, rock-spewing dude? Ope Owotumi.
And what about the nights i needed a place to crash after a long day at school? Y street was halfway between the school compound and my house. So walking home at 2am wasn’t a very good idea. One night I met Timi Ajibade and we went to Y street to sleep. Barely 30 minutes after I entered, we heard a van/pickup stop noisily, the click of guns being cocked, five loud kicks on a metal door and shouts of “yee!!! Yeee!!!! Don’t tell my daddy!” I was so sure I was going to be robbed that night. So i quietly removed my SIM card and My Memory Card from my precious SonyEricsson Walkman phone and kept the phone within reach in case the “owners” came for it. We waited with bated breath but nothing happened. In the morning we heard that undercover cops came to arrest a suspected cultist from the house. Whose house do you get to experience such movie action? Ope Owotumi! (By the Way, I never went home by 2am after that 😀 )
And there’s this my friend who has this annoying habit of stealing my friends. All i have to do is to introduce them to him and they’d hit off and leave me behind. Yvonne Mukoro, Kunmi OSekita, Blessing Amba, Shalom Idikwu, Adaora Nwajagu. I remember when Monica came to Nigeria I told her i wanted to meet her first cos when she met him, that’d be the end of our friendship as we knew it. Guess who that friend is? Ope Owotumi. Eventually though, given the fact that i met her through him, i actually stole this one. 5 – 1!
When we were doing Intellectual Property, the smartest person in group A was never around for group assignments. He’d only come at the last minute and attempt to embellish what was already obviously good enough. It made us MAD that he used his chambers activities as an excuse to be absent. In fact, we always got into trouble with uncle Weezy for Ope’s business!
There was this friend of mine who passed on last year. Nobody shared my grief like he did. Ope joined my sorrow, spilled some of his, and now we have a place for our little sister/niece who was too great for this world to handle. She was like a candle in a hurricane. The world was a candle, she was the hurricane. She blew the world out and walked away victorious.
There’s this friend who never returned my money on time whenever he had occasion to borrow some. So of course i totally returned the favour whenever i had the opportunity. I probably owe him 5k, and probably does owe me something around there, but who cares?
See, when we were struggling with Uncle Weezy to finish our projects, Ope took the fall for us. He took the blame for us not finishing on time, attempting to exclude me from the inexplicable wrath of our supervisor. I was touched to the inside. That Ope Owotumi.
When I was tied down at work (during my internship), we were asked to submit our data for our law school applications. I was so far away (and we were given only that day to submit). Guess who knew all my data (except local government area) and submitted in far away gwagwalada on my behalf? You guessed right. Ope Owotumi.
On my birthday i read a wordpress post revealing my blunders throughout university (read here). Funny enough he didn’t refer to the “eba” incident, maybe because that’d hurt someone else. i was having a very boring day at the office, I didn’t buy a cake, I didn’t have a party like I did last year. The piece made me laugh so hard I almost cried. But i told myself when today came, I would retaliate.
As a young man who i’ve come to know as friend, roommate, bandmate, and brother turns a year older today, I must stop the world to see, and hear, and understand, and celebrate the genius that I was privileged to annoy for five years.
Happy Birthday Bro
(and Thanks for The Monica you sent me. She was nice :-D)