November 19, 2022

Restore my welfare package, Falodun, blind veteran journalist tasks Sanwo-Olu



•Says ‘I have paid my dues’ •Insists that Nigeria is not a secular state

By Sola Ogundipe

Veteran Journalist, Sir. Oluwole Falodun, who lost his sight following a botched eye surgery in 1996, is asking the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu to fully reinstate the state government’s promises to him.

Falodun, who turns 80 on November 22, told Saturday Vanguard in an interview that he became blind after being diagnosed with glaucoma in his right eye. Still, the left eye was mistakenly operated on at the Lagos General Hospital, Marina.

According to the octogenarian, a former reporter with Daily Times and Radio Nigeria, the Lagos state government took responsibility for his predicament including the education of his children. He was later given a house in 2016 and placed on life pension by the Governor Akinwumi Ambode administration.

Renowned for his Lagos Weekend “Wakabout” column, Falodun said, “The monthly payment was stopped when Ambode left in 2019 and later restored two years later in July 2021 after a series of interventions during the tenure of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. However, when the payment resumed, it was reduced from N250,000 to N150,000 and was not as regular as before.”

Giving kudos to the Lagos e state government for keeping its promise to him, he, however, said things had since taken a turn for the worse.

“Since July 2022 to date, the payment which was my subsistence has stopped completely, and I am left with no other means of survival. I am urging Governor Sanwo-Olu to restore regular payment of the original sum,” he remarked.

Further, he said, “Since I retired from active practice, life has been hard. I used to be involved in a lot of charity work, but I can no longer do that because the funds are no longer there to continue what I started. The children that I am sending to University I can no longer continue to cater to their needs, even though they are other people’s children”.

According to him, “At 80, I suffer memory blackouts, sometimes I’m incoherent, and that is why I prefer to have things documented, but I am still alive. When I go to be with the Lord, I do not believe in funeral ceremonies. I have told my children, that I do not believe in caskets. I should be buried in a coffin made of plywood, at the cheapest rate because I don’t attend funeral services.

“The last funeral service I attended was that of the late best Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Archbishop Olufoyose, I think that was in 1993 or so. I do not believe in extravagant expenses, although I go to Church, I sing and pray, I do not believe in those things.

“In the bible, there was this man who was living well and wearing purple robes and when he died, the bible said that there were funeral ceremonies and there was Lazarus who was feeding under his table.

“When Lazarus died, there was no ceremony, there was no Christian wake, and the bible said he was found at the bosom of Abraham. I believe that when I go to be with the Lord, I go straight to the bosom of Abraham.”

“I live a modest life; I have abstained for almost 30 years. I’m close to God and God is close to me. I do not have regrets because there is nothing too much for God, but my joy was when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Rumsey came to Nigeria in 1982. He spotted me and gave me the medal of St. Augustine of Canterbury. He personally picked me out of the crowd.

“Throughout his life as the Archbishop of Canterbury, he said that he had traveled all over the world and that it was only in Nigeria that his activities had been broadcast live for the first time in his life, for two whole weeks, and I was responsible for that.”

Falodun also recalled how two months later, Pope John Paul was coming to visit Canterbury for the first time after the Anglican and Roman Catholic had parted ways.

“I was the only layman from the Nigeria laity that was invited. I met the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury and I was duly honoured at the Canterbury Cathedral. With that medal anywhere I went to I was always honoured, and having positions of recognition in the churches in the UK.”

On the issue of Nigeria being a secular state, Falodun debunked the perception explaining that a secular state is one that has nothing to do with faith at all.

“People should stop calling Nigeria a secular state. Countries like Russia and China are secular because they do not pray and do not believe in God and do not take the oath. But Nigeria is a multi-religious state because we pray and swear by God.

“Our national anthem and national pledge mention God, and every year, the government is sending people to pilgrimage, Christians to Israel and Jerusalem and Moslems to Mecca.”

According to the octogenarian, “the government built the central mosque in Abuja and the Christian centre, so that does not make Nigeria a secular state. People should stop making the mistake of calling Nigeria a secular state, it is a multi-religious setup.”

Recalling that he joined Radio Nigeria as a correspondent in 1969, among his famous reports was the coverage of proceedings of the first armed robbery tribunal leading to the execution of robbery kingpin, Ishola Oyenusi, Babatunde Folorunsho and others at the Lagos Bar Beach in 1971.

Among so many positions he held and activities in which he was involved, Falodun  was a former secretary of the  Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and former Public Relations Officer of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) Diocese of Lagos.

He was Public Relations Adviser to Primate, Most Reverend Abiodun Adetiloye,  a foundation staff of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, library in 1964, and one of the certified Special Road Marshalls by the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC.