By Bisi Lawrence
When I was told on that Sunday afternoon that Navy Captain Wole Bucknor had passed on, I did not know how to believe it. But I knew that rejection of the information would not change the truth, though that is usually oneâ€™s first reaction to the unexpected death of someone dear or close to us, or anyone with whom we identify.
However, the common outburst of â€œWhat? I canâ€™t believe it!â€ is but a trite expression of futile disbelief. The truth is the truth, though it is seldom revealed as a whole picture.
That â€œpartialâ€ picture is actually what millions of people received, for instance, with the sudden news of Michael Jackson, â€œThe King of Popâ€. His was an existence that was naturally larger than life. It is not given to many people to share more than a slice of that reality; the main, widespread aspect of the superlative artiste obscured so much of it.
But, of course, there were millions who related to him and actually thought, or felt, they knew so much of him. Hence the outpouring of universal grief.
Some people, on the other hand, chained down to the high ground of morality, would wish to distance themselves from him, though not from his music.
Although that aspect, in itself may be enough, it is human blood that drives those legs in the execution of the exclusive dances, and also powers the voice in the rendition of those scintillating songs. You can neither separate the man from his music, nor the melody from its maker.
I have known Wole Bucknor for some sixty-five years, since we were at the â€œPrepâ€ classes of the CMS Grammar School, in Odunlami Street, Lagos. He was not yet ten years old then, but even at that age, he was already a musician â€“ yes, much like Michael Jackson.
But the tag of a prodigy easily slipped from the shoulders of someone whose mother, two other brothers and several other relatives were all musicians who had started early too … in a way, also like Michael Jackson. That is not to compare one with the other, but there were slight similarities.
However, â€œWole Bâ€ â€“ that was his nickname â€“ went on to actually study music like his big brother Femi before him, and with his cousin, Art Alade, and Fela Anikulapo Kuti as his contemporaries.
At one time or the other, they all later worked in the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation at a time when you could still hear good music on local radio, and they found me there. And so, by the way, did another of Woleâ€™s cousins, Kofo Bucknor-Akerele, the former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, in whose blood also runs the artistic temperament of a true performer. (She was quite an actress).
While Femi stayed with serious music, teaching in the university and conducting the Cathedral choir, Wole steered a middle course, at the same time enjoying his Beethoven, but never losing touch with his Count Basic. He was also very passionate about dance as an art form and once formed a troupe, but he eventually ended up with the Navy where he raised a band that moved military music several paces forward in Nigeria.
Well, what really puts the artiste apart from the rest of us? I believe it might be a case of good old temperament. They have to put so much of themselves outside themselves, to come through with delivery.
I have known quite a number of them who did not go as far down the road as â€œWhacko Jackoâ€ but that was because they were perhaps constrained by the implacable norms of the society in which they lived. But then, someone like Fela went the way of Jackson â€“ and then some.
Son and grandson of a priest, he rejected the idea of God, though he built a shrine to his belief in whatever that was. Quite a number also just managed to stay this side of the fringe. But Wole Bucknor, superb artiste though he was, stayed on the straight and narrow.
He attended church service regularly, and we shared the joy of a warm embrace before the Holy Communion, while most people merely shook hands. I shall never forget that.
I shall remember several other things too, and thank God for the life of this beautiful man in the way it touched so many of his friends and associates. God rest him.
The passing scene changes from one moment to another, affecting our hopes and expectations, creating fresh fears and delights, and revealing new vistas of aspirations and opportunities.
Top stories displace one another, headlines replace headlines, and the breaking news, which took our breath away a minute ago, is in no time indeed broken into pieces and discarded as yet another then breaks in its wake.
We were very concerned here about the standard of our education last week, particularly with regard to the seemingly shilly-shally attitude of government about the lecturersâ€™ efforts to revive its dwindling fortunes. We invited your views and reactions have been pouring in. Here are two or three samples.
Adipere, P.G: It is very obvious that Nigerian leaders donâ€™t value education, despite having two (former) lecturers occupying the highest offices in the land, our education system still lies in shambles.
It is very shameful that we as an independent nation have not been able to equal the standard of education we received from our colonial masters. FG (Federal Government) please settle ASUU before Nigeria is ruined with high crime rate online, due to the increase in the number of idle youths in our streets.â€
Mr. Adipere is so lucid. This indeed is the period when academia should have been strutting up and down with the pride and joy of being â€œin governmentâ€, if not â€œin powerâ€, with two members of their clan on top of the heap.
But it would appear, conversely, that they are hardly in the reckoning in the order of things. Edema Fuludu agrees with that:
â€œThe President, Vice President and the Minister of Education were all former lecturers. So what is their problem with doing what is right with the education sector? I support the strike.â€
Letâ€™s read one more reaction this week from someone who agrees though in a modified manner, with the popular view typified by Adipere and Fuludu above. He is part of a very slim minority, but democracy demands that he should be given a hearing too.
Agu, B.M. â€œI support the struggle for better education in this country, but I donâ€™t support the strike again as an option. We are in a democracy. ASUU should mobilize to vote out the Party that fails to support education.â€
Having given B.M. a hearing, he should now lend us his ears. Firstly, he is quite right to characterise what is going on between the universities and the authorities as a â€œstruggleâ€.
That should instruct him about the seriously unhealthy situation into which we have thrust the future of our own country when we have to plunge our education into a strife to improve the development of our youth.
If I may borrow a phrase or two from Adipere above, â€œthe increase of the number of idle youths in our streetsâ€ is daily contributing to crime now, not just â€œonlineâ€, but also in the streets themselves.
Secondly, if Agu has any knowledge of the journey that has brought ASUU this far, he may have to re-define his meaning of â€œan optionâ€. The synonym of â€œoptionâ€ is â€œalternativeâ€.
Havenâ€™t all the milestones along that route been put behind us? If all he can offer is based on the premise that â€œwe are in a democracyâ€, he has got bad news ahead â€“ we are not.
And so, voting out parties who have no serious commitment of any kind to education, through a system that is patently warped, has got to be a bit of a joke.
We will publish more reactions later, not necessarily those which share the declared view of this page, but what we consider genuine echoes of the Nigerian voice. However, that will not include comments devoid of due civility to the principal elements of our government.
That would detract from the whole picture of what we are trying to portray in supporting the ASUU position. The great struggle continues, as we stay solidly behind ASUU.
Muhammad Reza Sha Pahlavi, Sha of Iran and the last in the line of such titled rulers in â€œmodern Persiaâ€, meant well to a considerable extent, actually.
His pace of development and its direction left the people bemused because the structure of the modernisation, which included education and a measure of liberalism, was not based on any strand of tradition or acceptable reference to culture, as his people knew it. His land reforms angered the landed gentry. Foreign interests openly directed the industrialisation he introduced.
Thus an uprising of the people toppled his government and replaced it with an Islamic oriented regime of clerics in the â€˜sixties. Iran must be wondering today how she slipped from autocracy to theocracy.
Meanwhile, democracy cries out freedom in the streets, and that is where the citizens have now convened. It took just over a quarter of a million throng to oust Pahlavi from his palace. Half a million still canâ€™t touch the incumbent Ayatollah, the head of the Mullahs in charge of the Iran theocracy now.
The Chinese have taught the world an awesome lesson in mob control, courtesy of Tianamen Square, when they mowed down hundreds of protesters in 1989.
But the Iranians still stayed out there, taking in gulps of tear gas, streaming from the eye and the nose, having forsaken strikes, almighty strikes, as an option. Strike, actually, is not the last option.
At oneâ€™s time of life, be it never said that a breakdown of law and order holds any appeal for us in preference to peaceful change.
One has seen the rout of so many uprisings without what could be termed a tangible result.
All the same, nothing is settled until it is settled aright, and nothing is going to be offered to anyone anywhere in this Century â€œon a platter of gold.â€