By Donu Kogbara
THE last time I spoke to my dear, precious, brilliant friend Joy Okoye, I promised to see her when I next visited London. I flew into London from Abuja last Saturday, just before Easter Sunday. Joy died the same day, so our reunion never happened.
Nearly 40 years ago, when we were both in our early 20s and fresh out of the British universities we’d attended, I met Joy in Lagos. She was at the Law School in Victoria Island. I was doing my national youth service, NYSC, at Shell Petroleum’s headquarters on Marina. We bonded immediately and deeply for all sorts of reasons, including the fact that we were both feisty, both thoroughly enjoyed Life and both smoked and drank like Oyinbo girls at a time when such habits were regarded as inappropriate for Nigerian ladies from good homes.
When traditionalists complained about our “misbehaviour”, I would point out that Joy and I were, at least, not sexually promiscuous!!! In some ways, we were tomboys; and we liked to hang out with male chums who treated us like fellow guys and engaged us in lively intellectual discussions and heated but amicable debates about current affairs, philosophy, legal matters, et cetera.
That year in Lagos (1981-82) was absolutely fabulously carefree and one of the happiest years of my life. We made so many wonderful friends and went to tonnes of fun parties and nightclubs and beach picnics on Tarkwa Bay. We fondly reminisced about these halcyon days whenever we got together in the decades that followed. Joy and I eventually decided to return to the UK where I became a journalist and she a barrister who took a keen interest in defending ethnic minority underdogs who were victims of a British criminal justice system she constantly assured me was racist to the core.
When we were in our late 30s, I decided to have another go at living in Nigeria; and I moved to Abuja with my husband and son. Joy came to stay with me for a while; and I looked for her whenever I was visiting London. As we aged, our conversations mostly revolved around the multiple painful disappointments we had endured.
We would talk for hours and hours about the stupid mistakes we had made and the bitter betrayals that had been inflicted on us by folks we had helped and expected small basic kindnesses from. We reacted differently to the emotional suffering, financial worries and professional problems that scarred us so profoundly.
I got tougher and angrier and more selfish. Joy continued to be an angel. She was one of the most generous and courageous individuals I have ever had the privilege of knowing; and she wore the sadness and fear that she often experienced with superhuman dignity. I nearly collapsed from raw, head-spinning grief when she calmly told me that the cancer that had attacked her body was terminal.
Since I was told about her death, I have shed so many tears. I am totally, inconsolably heartbroken. May she rest in peace in the bosom of the Almighty. Farewell, until we meet again, JoyGirl.
EARLIER on this week, the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, decorated the new Acting Inspector General of Police, IGP, Usman Alkali Baba, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The vice president said: “You are assuming office at a very turbulent time in the life of our people. There are multiple threats to law, order and public safety. The role of law enforcement agencies, particularly that of the Police Force as the primary agency charged with maintaining law and order, has never been more important.”
The vice president made other perfectly sensible comments on this occasion. But guess what?
I have heard a barrage of gripes from people who feel that the vice president has no business decorating a Northern IGP (who is, allegedly, junior to senior Southern policemen who were more qualified for the job).
Others are expressing the view that the vice president should not lift a finger to perform any official role on President Buhari’s behalf because the latter allegedly insulted him by not officially handing over to him when he took off to London last week for medical reasons.
“Mumu!!!” and “Powerless!!!” are words that are frequently used, in private gatherings, to describe the vice president nowadays.
And I’m totally appalled by the disrespect that is being directed at one of the most capable public servants in Nigeria…and shocked by the hypocrisy of harsh detractors who are hellbent on chastising him for not rebelling against his Boss and “Fulani Muslims”.
“Osinbajo should resign if he doesn’t have the balls to assert himself and represent Southern Christians properly!” according to a contemptuous fellow APC politician from my state. You know what annoys and amuses me about such criticisms?
Whether they are in government or the private sector, Nigerians are famed for their cowardice and the sycophancy they display in the presence of superiors. And I am pretty sure that not one of the people who are abusing the vice president for being too tame would behave any differently if they were occupying the Number Two slot.
The vice president is being respectful; and I’m 100 per cent OK with his decision to wisely play second fiddle and not try to carve out a separate agenda that will put him at loggerheads with the man who appointed him.
As far as I am concerned, you either agree to be a super-loyal deputy or you throw a tantrum and leave when you don’t like the lie of the land. And I don’t think the vice president should leave because he is doing a lot of worthwhile things for this country behind the scenes.
Frankly, I would have blown a fuse by now if I had been in his shoes. But it is precisely because I am the crazy, fuse-blowing type that I will never be in his shoes!!! And it is precisely because he is not a volatile drama king that I regard him as a safe pair of hands.