Adebola Saheed Buries his Father

By: Deji Yesufu

This life is one incredible circle: a child is born; that child grows into adulthood, giving birth to children of his own; and then that child dies and the children he has given birth to bury him. I have had the privilege of watching the final days of two men – both of them Professors. Prof. Adeogun, former deputy Vice Chancellor of, the University of Lagos, was an uncle (who married my mother’s elder sister); and, Prof. B. E. Olufemi, former Dean of Students, University of Ibadan, was my father-in-law. Both men died in their 70s. Before Prof. Adeogun passed in 2003, he would speak calmly about his death – making careful preparation for his end, and instructing family members on what to do when he passes. I remember my wife asking her father, Prof. Olufemi, to not talk about his death any more. Prof. looked at her with some incredulity and said in Yoruba “… ta ni mo fe fi jo …” – in other words, no man is immortal. Death is one common denominator for all of humanity.

Adebola Saheed, my good friend, whom I call “Bola” for short, will be burying his father, Pa Sulaimon Olatunde Sayid, today, Sunday 26th May 2024. Since Papa was a Muslim, he had been buried way back in April when he died. Today’s program will be a ceremony to celebrate the life of the good man. I did not know Papa Sayid well but the little that I know of him shows that he lived a good life. When I used to visit Saheed’s home at Adeniji Adele, Lagos Island, I found Papa to be the gentlest and kindest person I have ever encountered. He also rarely spoke – often observing things around him, responding softly to the myriad of visitors that thronged their home – many of whom were their children’s friends. At this juncture, it is best to allow the family to tell readers who Papa Sayid was. In their tribute to him, the children write:

“Sulaimon Olatunde Sayid was born on June 30, 1938, in Imota, in Ikorodu to a family of hunters. Pa Sulaimon was the son of a revered hunter. His father instilled in him the values of perseverance, discipline and integrity – lessons that became the bedrock of his life. He embraced Islam as his religion of choice at a rather young age, becoming a staunch Muslim whose faith remained the cornerstone of his life. He grew up during the last decades of colonial rule where he learnt the values of hard work, resilience, and community from a young age. He developed a strong work ethic and a deep appreciation for family values. Sulaimon Sayid started an apprenticeship as a radio technician where he learnt repair and workings of transistor radios and TVs’. He later founded an electronic repair workshop called ‘Super Electronics’ to support his family while looking for a blue-collar job.

“Fortune smiled on him in the mid-70s when he secured a job position at UTC, where he met his beloved wife – Christian Chika Sayid – in the late 60’s. Shortly after the two met, Nigeria civil war broke out which tested the love and commitment of the duo to each other. The ethnic and religious differences between them did not deter their love for each other but rather proved that love can be found in the most unlikely places. It was an unlikely connection, a testament to the unifying power of love. Despite the tensions of the time, their families, touched by the sincerity of their bond, eventually came to embrace their union.”

Papa and Mama on a recent trip to the USA

Children are not just a physical product of their parents, they also usually take after their character traits. Either something in the genes, or through imitation having spent long hours with them, children almost always begin to behave like their parents. Sons take after their fathers; daughters take after their mothers. I did not know Papa Sayid well but I suspect that Bola, his second to the last child, is a very careful replica of his father. Bola and I lived on the same block at the Uthman Dan Fodio Hall of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in our final year in the University in the year 2000. I look back now and I realize that the only friend I may have taken out of the University is Bola. There is just something about him that makes it easy to be his friend. And I think that Bola himself would realize that he got that “something” from his father. So, the much that I know about Papa Sayid is what I found in my friendship with his son. The children conclude their tribute to their father:

“Sulaimon Olatunde Sayid married Christina Chika Unaegbunam in the late 60s, and together they raised five (5) children: (Iyabode, Gbenga, Segun, Adebola and Abosede). Being a family with love and high moral values, numerous relatives spanning from cousins, nieces, nephews and in-laws were accommodated and trained as their children. As a devoted husband, father, and eventually, a beloved grandfather to fourteen grandchildren, His love for his family was evident in the countless memories he created with them, especially being the disciplinarian yet loving Grandfather. With Daddy, there is always a curfew time from 9 pm if you’d like to sleep in the same house with him. He was very wary of late-night movement and safety conscious while ensuring his family was within a safe space.

“Known for his kindness, wisdom, sense of humour, and agility, Sulaimon Olatunde Sayid touched the lives of everyone he met. He enjoyed listening to his radio, chatting with loved ones, reading the daily newspaper and, often sharing these passions with his children and grandchildren emphasizing how education is the utmost gift from a parent to a child and passing down valuable life lessons. He had a funny habit of watching the same movie with his late wife, yet asking what happens next.  Throughout his life, Sulaimon Olatunde Sayid remained a pillar of strength and guidance for his family and community. His legacy of hard work, integrity, and unconditional love continues to inspire those who knew him. Sulaimon Olatunde Sayid passed away on March 30, 2024, leaving behind a rich legacy of love and memories. He will always be remembered for his remarkable life and the profound impact he had on his immediate and extended family and friends.”

Papa Sayid

When the Coronavirus hit, Bola told me that his greatest fear was that it was going to claim the lives of his parents. With his folks way beyond seventy, I often wondered why he was bothered. But there is a connection one has with a parent that never leaves you. It is as if when you are with them, you are always a child. A security, a love, a bond… it is not something that can be explained in words. This is what children fear losing when the thoughts of their old folks dying cross their minds. They may be independent now, but the parent-child bond will forever be there.

The Saheed children buried their mother in 2022. I was at their Ikorodu home to witness Mama being laid to rest. I knew Mama a little more than Papa because when I visited Bola then, I would often go to her pure water shop and spend time with her. She was equally a splendid personality. I tell Bola that he should be congratulated for succeeding at killing both his parents in two years. He understands the joke and it is our way of lighting up a heavy burden. With both of us knocking heavily at age 50, we understand that we would be blessed indeed to live as long as our parents have lived. Perhaps one of the few good things about Nigeria is the blessing of family that God has given us. We may have irresponsible government; we may have corruption sky-rocketing; but we have family. We have siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles. But most of all, we have parents – very caring parents. Bola told me of how his father had to sell all the shares he had in heaven and on earth so that he could go to England to get a Masters’s degree. One person calls it the “Bank of our Parents”. I will call it those sacrifices parents make that children will never be able to repay – regardless of what these children give them in this life. 

I hereby express my deepest condolences to the Sayid (Saheed) family. And like we say in Yoruba, “…may the days be far from each other…”: a euphemism to mean that though we know that our deaths will come, may God grant that the days will be far from each other. Amen.

Papa and Mama with a few of their Grandchildren

Posted by Deji Yesufu

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