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October 1: Global Elderly Persons Day – 1

By Dele Sobowale

“Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord, your God, has given you, (Bible, Exodus 20:12)

“And your Lord has declared that you worship none but him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them, or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them. But address them in terms of honour”. [Al-Isra (17): 23].

The Federal government of Nigeria had finally admitted that October 1 celebrations had become a hollow ritual; each year bringing forth a harvest of insults every time to present and past leaders. That has been the case for more than twenty years ago.

Since 20I0, the President and Commander-In- Chief of the Armed, (C-I-C), Forces of Nigeria, had found it expedient to hide behind the barricades of Aso Rock instead of risking his skin on the parades grounds of Eagle Square. One uncouth fellow called it cowardice. Even if it is, President Jonathan has my support. You only die once.

For a long time, even before the C-I-C took shelter behind the battalion of soldiers and armoured vehicles, it had played on my mind that we needed something extremely important as substitute for the hollow ritual which October 1 had become since Obasanjo’s second term.

The problem had been “what is it that could be all embracing, non-partisan and worthy of our total support as a people? What can bring together Jonathan, Buhari, Tinubu, the Sultan of Sokoto, the President of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Boko Haram and Christians, The Beroms and the Hausa/Fulani of Jos, Employers of Labour and Nigerian Labour Congress, male and female, Northerners and Southerners, and, perhaps, even induce Unijankara people to shake hands with GEJ (even if only for a day)?

In short, what can indisputably unite us, even if briefly, better than the success of the Super Eagles?  Well, I was not wise enough. Then, somebody else, given the inspiration approached me for help – just like the young Muslim author of “A-Z”.

Within five minutes, I was convinced that we have in this country two projects that can unite us – if we seize the moment. A-Z, can wait, but make no mistake about it, you will read more about how two Christians, a benefactor and I, have decided to collaborate in order to use “Quran A-Z” to send a message to those wanting to break up Nigeria that “united we will stand forever”; irrespective of religion.

While we have been busy rubbishing our nation’s independence day, so much so, some are asking for other dates to be recognized as our “National Day”, the world had snatched the date from us and devoted it to something universal and to which every human being on earth can subscribe.

October 1, had for several years been declared by the United Nations Organisation, UN, as Elderly Persons Day – that means a day we should set aside to honour our parents and grandparents. And let us all admit it; that is something we have failed to do.

Silly young and old “lovers” (usually more lecherous than loving) have turned Valentine’s Day into a money spinner for merchandisers of worthless cards and flowers. Mothers Day has become another ritual which daughters remind their fathers about, just before Dads leave office, to prod them to buy a gift for Mummy.

Forget Father’s Day. The “he goat” usually spends “His” day at the Club getting drunk or just wasting time. Few of us fathers ever remember our own day – and that should tell you all you need to know about it.

But, Elderly Persons day is something special – especially in a country where the life expectancy is still only a little over fifty. That means that people like me should actually be booking our seats on the chariots carrying “dead woods” to “life after”. Not that I believe in any life beyond the grave; but, it keeps most of us from committing atrocities while enjoying life on “injury time”.

As far as I am concerned, nobody should be regarded as “old” until the person has attained the age of seventy. So, this appeal to Fellow Nigerians to rally round October 1 and accept it as Old Peoples Day in totally eleemosynary. There is nothing to gain from it because I am not yet 70 – and might never make it to three score and ten years. Nevertheless, I still strongly believe that we should set aside the day, as sanctioned by the UN, to honour our old people.

The inspiration for this initiative belongs to a cleverer person than me — Mrs Toun Giwa, wife of Dr. Shamsudeen Giwa, good Lagos fellow and a devoted Muslim. Because time to October 1, 20I2 is so short, permit me to appeal to all our living past Heads of State, Vice Presidents, Ministers, President Jonathan, Vice President Nanadi Sambo; all the 36 Governors; the major Islamic Movements and CAN, as well as retired public servants, philanthropists, Alhaji Dangote and Mr Femi Otedola (representing the Organised Private Sector); Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and Chief Bisi Akande (standing proxy for the political class); Mr BIGGS, Tantalizers, Coca-Cola and Seven-Up; bottled water marketers etc– to support the first ever Old Peoples Day holding at Glover Hall, Customs Street, Lagos. The Chairperson and Eminent supporters will be announced soon.

P.S. I seriously apologise to those individuals and organisations whose names were specifically mentioned. But, time is short and next year might be too late to start this initiative. I pray God will prolong the lives of those over 70 and grant those under 70 the grace to reach the milestone. Please get in touch and let us know what you can do to assist.


“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous; he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man”. Mark Twain, 1835-1910. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p 42).

“Obasanjo is just an ordinary person”. Dr Doyin Okupe, Senior Special Adviser under Obasanjo; same under President Jonathan.

Our Zoology department at Unijankara, admittedly, not the best in the world, has identified several species of dogs, namely, guard dogs, stray dogs, wild dogs, pepper soup dog etc. They have also advised that there is a group called Mad Dogs. Presidents are generally advised, by Unijankara, to be sure about the pedigree of their dogs before bringing them home.

Obasanjo is few people’s favourite former Head of State; and the few, less than I00, showed up at a recent book launch written about OBJ. But, to call the two-time Head of State “ordinary” is something else. Even the worst critic of Chief Obasanjo must take exception to that statement.

P.S. This is a piece of advice for “dogs”. B’aja ba nsinwin, a m’oju ina, [translation: even a mad dog avoids fire”].


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