By Demola Akinyemi
For Alhaja Risikat Lawal, wife of the late Alhaji Saliu Lawal,54,Â Public Relations Officer of National Open University [NOUN] , this yearâ€™s April Foolâ€™s Day was her day of sorrow. That day,Â her husband, a media practitioner for 20 years from Share in Ifelodun LGA,Â Kwara,Â who had been plyingÂ the Lagos/Ilorin route for his duties,Â had called that he would come to Ilorin that day.
The coupleâ€™s residence is a beautiful three bedroom flat constructed on a spacious fenced land, in far away Oke Andy, a developing suburb of Zango, Ilorin. So, it was understandable when the husband requested that the wife come with his Honda car and pick him up at the Queen Elizabeth College gate, the commercial centre of Ilorin, and last bus stop of all passengers from Lagos and Ibadan. It is very far from the Lawal residence.
When Saturday Vanguard paid a condolence visit to the family last Tuesday, the widow was mum. She was too shocked to recount her ordeal. But the daughter who is the first child, Fatimoh known as the â€˜second wifeâ€™ because of the affection between her and her late father spoke.
Fatimoh, a press secretary in the state Ministry of Education and Technology, explained that the Sienna mini bus of eight passengers had already conveyed her father to the Eiyenkorin outskirts of Ilorin, about 15 minutes to the last bus stop. The bus had driven over three hours from Lagos. Her father had called her mother to come and wait for him at the bus stop with the car because he was nearby.
According to her, â€œafter about two minutes, one of the front tyresÂ burst and the mini bus was said to have somersaultedÂ and crashed heavily into a deep ditch.Only two passengers, a young man returning from Spain and another survived with mere blood stains on them. Other six, including the driver and my father died.
â€œTen minutes after, my mother telephoned again. But her over 20 calls were not received. Shortly after, a policeman called my motherâ€™s line that she should come for a brief, atÂ the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital [UITH]Â which is directly opposite where she was waiting, and so she merely drove across.
By now, my mum was suspicious that something had happened but we never bargained for the worst .When she arrived there, everything was narrated to her and she was shown the corpse of her husband, quite unbelievable. That was how it happened,â€Â she said.
â€˜â€™My father was buried later that same day, according to Islamic rites. Can you imagine that?â€™â€™
The son, Luqman, a medical student in the University of Ilorin said, â€œI donâ€™t know what to say about this man. He was too good to be called my father. Should I call him a messiah, or a martyr? He lived a selfless life for the family and community. Daddy, Iâ€™m sure you are resting with our great prophet. Your Islamic life baffles me a lot.
Adieu papa.â€Lawal was born at Share, Ifelodun Local Government Area of Kwara State on November 11, 1956. He attended United Missionary Church of Africa, (UMCA), Primary School. Bachita, 1968_1973; Fatimo Community College, Ekan Meje, 1973-1977; Kwara State College of Technology, School of Basic Studies, Ilorin, 1978_1979; and the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, 1984-1987. He also attended Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos, 1990_1991 where he did his Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism and later, The University of Ibadan, 2001_2002 for his Masters of Arts Degree in History.
He started his journalism career with The Herald Newspapers, published by the Kwara State Government, 1987_1991 before joining Concord Group of Newspapers published by late business mogul, Bashorun Moshood K.O. Abiola, where he rose to the position of Night Editor, 1991_1993 before June 12 1993 political debacle led to the resting of the stables. He moved to Monitor Newspapers and Third Eye at Ibadan respectively between 1993 and 1995.
He joined the service of The Sun Newspapers as Pioneer Night Editor, 2002-2004 before joining the service of the National Open University of Nigeriaâ€™s Public Relations Unit where he worked from 2004 until his death in the auto crash of April 1, 2010.
He had started work quietly on The Political Economy of Share in the 19th and 20th centuries for a PHD programme that he was planning to do at the University of Ibadan.
Until his death, he belonged to various religious, social and academic societies such as NASFAT- an Islamic society, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Historical Society of Nigeria, Leo Club of Share where he was the secretary.