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My friend Mike: A plea for history

Mike Enahoro seemed to treat a football gently when he was on the field. He would stroke it smoothly to bring it under control. He played the guitar the same way too. It was a personal skill, his personal style to apparently take things easy while achieving the desired end.

Mike Enahoro
Mike Enahoro

He carried it to an appreciable extent in his association with his friends and acquaintances too. But most of all, it was the hallmark of his professional touch as a broadcaster of the first waters. He did not just read the news; he delivered it.

He was still in school when he featured as a guitarist in one of the most popular bands of the day. Roy Chicago created the band out of his tutelage under Bobby Benson. During which he played both the tenor saxophone and the trumpet.

He was a master craftsman who had no time for sloppy musicianship. He found Mike Enahoro a performer after his heart. Yinka Alakija, an accomplished musician and, in fact, a music guru, recounts a testimony of Mike’s importance to the band as told by Roy himself. Says Yinka, “Roy Chicago gave a radio interview many years ago: that he was in the recording studio for an album.

At the end he still had three minutes to fill. There and then, this young and talented who was his lead guitarist, Mike Enahoro, stepped forward and composed the song, “Maria”. It was rehearsed and recorded on the spot. Needless to say, “Maria” became one of the hits of the album. “Maria” is now considered one of the evergreen highlife tunes of all time.”

Mike and I were close friends but we were never buddies in the true sense of that word. He would not allow it. He knew me first as a friend of one of his elder brothers and our association retained that respectful gap in the intimacy between brothers of different ages.

And you know, he had several brothers—Tony, Ben, Christian, and others—all of them stars in their chosen firmament. Ben was my close friend, but I really liked “young” Mike who passed on at the age of 76 a few days ago.”

He was the exemplary communicator. He made sure that he got the pronunciation of every word right before he went on the air. It was far from his practice to butcher difficult names with the unprofessional, uncaring, apology of “I hope I got that right”—as is the standard of news-readers on radio and television these days. Mike operated with equal facility on both.

But who remembers all of that, these days? Who remembers the earlier Mike—Mike Olumide? Or Joe Atuona, Kunle Alakija, Emmanuel Bello Fadaka, Sunday Young-Harry, Bode Alalade, or any of those whose performances at the mike were celebrated while they were with us on earth, but have now joined their voices to the praise of their Creator in celestial climes?

They have indeed all passed away, gone into history, but their memory remains forever young in our heart Like most people who were not at work and were fortunate to have a supply of our still scarce but much improved electricity, or could afford the expense of running their generators at high noon, I was able to watch the screening of the new ministers by the senate on television. I found it impressive.

But I was not over the moon enough to agree with another octogenarian friend who was with me that “we are watching history”. Of course, we were watching what should become history, and would become history, if it were recorded. Even then, it might be only to the benefit of only researchers—and cockroaches—if it is thereafter confined to the archives and not released into the fresh and uplifting air of knowledge.

From history, we learn about the events of the past. But that, it would appear, is not what is happening now in this country. It took me a while to learn that history is no longer taught in our schools. And yet it is offered as a degree course in our universities. And we also have a National Historical Society which is functioning— at promoting itself more than its subject presumably. A society worthy of its name should have done more to prevent such a horrible event.

It would be no less than the handiwork—or “brainy work”— of some academics that had gone astray but found their way into an influential position in the re-ordering of our development in several directions. They have been responsible creating foul changes on several aspects of our lives.

They have left their marks on far-reaching circumstances of our existence and left us dumb from the din of their doctorate degrees. In other countries, such high qualifications are used to improve the lot of the people, through modern inventions or the improvement of current implements. But Nigeria, with more than just a sprinkling of these supposed geniuses is bruised by their lacerating influences.

What thinking, you would wonder, could have convinced the experts involved in this crime, that Nigeria would be a better place without a living history? It is worse than can be imagined. Go out today and ask any question about the history of Nigeria from a secondary schoolboy. His answer would send you reeling if he has one.

These future citizens of our country seem totally unaware of our antecedents. If you want a good laugh, get a group and ask them to tell you who was the second prime minister of this country. Or the former name of the Nigerian army before we became a Republic. Some of them do not even know when we became a republic or its significance.

You have probably heard about the joke of a secondary schoolboy in the Southwest part of the country, who was asked to name the most famous man called Obafemi, and he promptly mentioned, Obafemi Martins—that is, “Oba-goal” the footballer. Well, sorry; that really isn’t funny. Neither is the notion that the unification of Nigeria took place in 1960.

History is not just the events, but the records of the events that took place in the past. Shakespeare—remember him?—said: “The past is history; study the past.” The past is indeed to be studied as a store.

If inspiration for the present as well as a pointer to the rectification for the past. How can the oncoming generations derive any pride from the exploits of their forebears if they grow up knowing nothing of their history?

We are indeed in the swirling motion of swift history. A lot of events are racing across the scene and they should be recorded for study, indeed like veritable scriptures, as a guide for the future. May all those who have a part in it reap bountifully from its prospects.

Time out.



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