Man Kept Father’s Corpse In Mortuary For 14 Years
High Chief Baogun Dodondawa
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· Paid About N5million To Keep The Body
Abdul-Hakeem Olayinka Babatunde Balogun Dodondawa, a traditional high chief, kept his father, Pa Tihamiyu Balogun Odu-Awoja, who died at the age of 132 years, in the mortuary for 14 years because of the love and affection he had for the departed.
When Pa Odu-Awoja died on Saturday, May 15, 1999, his body was taken to the Badagry General Hospital, Lagos State. However, it remained in the mortuary until Friday, January 18, 2013. He was buried on January 19 after a series of Islamic and Christian rites were performed.
The Guardian learnt that Dodondawa, who could not come to terms with the reality that his father was dead, kept him in the mortuary all these years and visited there twice a week for 14 years from his home at Ijeegemo, a suburb of Lagos.
For every day that he kept his father in the mortuary, he paid N1,000 and this amounted to over N5 million as at January 18.
In a country where, some people are buried on the very day they died, sometimes according to religious injunctions, the keeping of late Pa Odu-Awoja for 14 years in the mortuary was strange. In African society, this could make the Guinness Book of Records.
During these years, Dodondawa wrote two books to pay tribute to his father, as well as many pamphlets extolling his virtues. But the author did not sell the books; they were distributed free.
A few weeks ago, amidst an air of reluctance, the chief buried his father in a well-constructed mausoleum, attached to a beautiful bungalow at Ijeegemo, a befitting place to rest his father.
The Guardian witnessed the arrival of the corpse of Pa Odu-Awoja, who in his lifetime, was a renowned herbalist.He was reputed to have saved many men and rescued them from the spell of Magun, a charm laced on wayward women in Yoruba land. His traditional medicine was believed to be potent with healing powers.
IN an interview before the remains were brought into the community, Dodondawa said there was nothing wrong in keeping the body of his “beloved father” for 14 years in the mortuary, stressing that if not for the pressure from some quarters, he would still have loved to keep the body for another 10 years or more.
He said: “I was paying N1,000 per night for 365 days in a year. You can now multiply this for 14 years. During the period, people were saying that I have used my father for ritual,” asking, “can you imagine people saying that to me about my beloved father?”
He said people would finally be convinced during the burial that he didn’t use his father for rituals, asserting that what he had done wasn’t strange.
“Go to Genesis 34:36, he moralised, Joseph was embalmed for 40 years, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was buried after 10 years, while Chief Gani Fawehinmi, a practical Muslim instructed that he should not be buried hurriedly. “The late Ashipa of Oyo, Amuda Olorunosebi, I think, was buried nine years after his death. Mine is not the first.”
Dodondawa, an estate consultant and author, believes the books and pamphlets he wrote about his father would best portray his virtues from which others can learn.
“I saw my father as a unique personality among other fathers because he suffered so much for us (his children), particularly me,” he said.
“When I was attending the LA Primary School in Egan, several kilometres from this village, my father would put me on his shoulder to Akesan, about nine kilometres to this village, to the school.
There was no clock in this village, so he would watch the sun to know when the 2 O’clock hour was approaching; whether he was on a kolanut or palm tree, he would come down to fetch me from school. “
The Chief recalled that in those days when the richest Africans used kerosene lamps, his late father bore the lantern on his head and stooped down so that all his children could see well while having our dinner.
“I cannot remember a day he was not around to perform this duty,“ he said emotionally. “So, would you not describe him as a different father or a father in a million?” he asked. He said his father was always in search for qualitative education for his children.
On the secret of his father’s longevity, Dodondawa said that his father was interviewed on this issue when he was alive and he told interviewers that the secret of longevity was “we are what we eat.”
“My father lived mainly on vegetables and on our farm produce and not imported food. He told us that he also exercised his body. Besides, he said that men also don’t meet women the way we are doing it these days.”
He said when a woman delivered a baby, she would be kept away from him for about five years. The late Pa Odu–Awoja had four wives.
On the kind of rites of passage performed for his father, which was done according to Islamic and Christian injunctions, Chief Balogun retorted, ”I am a Muslim, but I know the Bible and I read Quran very well.”
People came from all over Lagos and beyond to celebrate his father’s life and times. There was a lot of merry-making to mark the event.
...Tortuous Road To Ijeegemo
Sometime ago, I got an inkling that one community leader had been keeping his late father in the morgue for over a decade. I became interested in the story due to the fact that I came across two books the man had written in memory of his father, he believed, distinguished himself amongst other fathers. He described him as a ”Father in a million!”
Every attempt to interview the community leader had failed. Suddenly, there was a 48-hour notice that the man had finally decided to bury his father after 14 years. As a reporter, I did not want to miss the news and also to meet this man, who many said had done an incredible thing to an African society.
I drove to the village of Ijeegemo in Badagry Division area of Lagos. Strangely, this community is closer to Ikotun Egbe and Isheri Osun areas of Lagos. I asked for the direction to Ijeegemo village. I got to Ikotun Egbe from Isolo axis and found that I had embarked on a tortuous voyage through the most cut-off suburbs in Lagos State.
These areas are close to Lagos, yet they appear far away because of deplorable roads and lack of planning by successive administrations to develop the place. The dusty road runs through valleys and hills.
There was dust everywhere. Written on my face was fear, on a lonely road that I felt led to nowhere! The inhabitants kept the environment but the ecosystem was fragile. Many parts were on wetland.
I checked the satellite images on my phone and I found that there were no street names and locations. Even my movement on the electronic road map had no name. I kept asking for direction under the scotching sun on a trip slowed down by this wide unpaved road.
There were people everywhere but there was no government presence. However, I reflected that the tax men of the local government and the State Government would have made their presence felt in the communities.
There were wooden pedestrian bridges, which was an indication that the areas I passed could have been flooded and rendered impassable during the wet season.
As I approached new frontiers and people stared at me like the European explorers on African soil, I thought I could be getting out of Lagos into Benin Republic. I almost turned back but refused to quit. Finally, I saw the posters and a big portrait of late Pa. Tihamiyu Balogun Odu-Awoja, the community leader who died at 132 years and was kept for a decade and four years in the mortuary.
Ijeegemo is after Ijegun community. In fact, I was told to count myself lucky for coming during the dry season. If it were in June or July, the flood could drown an adult.
Interestingly, the state’s Bye Laws of the Local Governments say that one local government should not cross through another one to generate revenue. But Ijeegemo is in the middle of this strange development. Iba Local Government Development Administration and Ojoo Local Government by passed Alimosho Local Government to generate revenue even though there is no link road to the community.
Does the village belong to Lagos or Ogun State? I was informed that it belongs to Lagos State and that during the terrible flood last year, which was blamed on climate change, Governor Babatunde Fashola, visited the village to see things for himself. But no action has taken place to uplift the life and environment of Ijeegemo and Ijegun. It was gathered gathered that the terrible and deplorable roads prevented security agencies from getting to the scene whenever a crime was committed.