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A tribute to Bàbá Onípákó: The man who made everything happen

Bàbá Onípákó made everything happen because, without him, I wouldn’t have had any education much less become a professor and do whatever that I’m presently doing. He made everything happen, not because he is my biological father, but because his foresightedness is responsible for who I am today

Father and son… Baba Onipako and Saheed Aderinto (aka Isola Arobemasa)

I WOULD like to thank you all for your kind words and prayers on the passing of my father. The 8th day prayer took place on Friday. I couldn’t attend because Itandola is graduating from high school. To all the people waiting for a big party so they can get drunk at my father’s burial — God catch you! My father was a devout Muslim. So, no big amala or Fuji party!

This picture was taken in June 2018 when I went to present to him my book on the history of guns at the shop where he raised the money to send me to school. I dedicated the book to him. My good friend, Dr. Stephen Boluwaduro, took the picture.

No two books are the same, for they represent different things in the evolution of a scholar. My book on guns made me a full professor. I could have become a full professor at 39 because the book came out three years before I was formally eligible for promotion. Allowing him to see the book symbolized that I already had what it takes to be a full professor—the exalted position that we both dreamt of—even if he didn’t live to see me become one. Thankfully, he witnessed my promotion to the highest rank in the academic profession in 2021 and was happy when his name went viral because I won the Dan David Prize.

Baba Onipako invested in all his children. The traders and artisans among them received start-up money for their businesses, others paid for school fees on time. By 1987, five of his children (including Ìṣọ̀lá Ojúrábẹmásàá) attended Adeen International School, arguably the most prestigious and expensive private elementary school in Ibadan of the 1980s, where children mastered the Quran and big English! Although Baba Onipako didn’t have post-elementary schooling, he wanted his children to belong to the right class of the future.

My father was a successful but not a perfect polygamist. There is no such thing as a perfect polygamist, anyway! He married his two wives, about four years apart, in the 1960s. Unlike men of his age and status, he didn’t take additional wives as his wealth increased through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. All his 16 children came from his two wives, who gave him 8 children, each. I’m number 12 of 16, and 6 of my mother’s 8.

I owe my perspectives on equity and inclusion to my polygamous father who conscientiously built a large family when the political economy of Nigeria permitted communal living and when Yoruba Muslims combined the best in indigenous and foreign cultures. Collective progress and equity in the management of resources are difficult to achieve when you have a large family, but polygamists like my late father made it work before I began to read about them in books. My father is my role model for fairness, which I attribute largely to his personality and Yorubaness.

Bàbá Onípákó made everything happen because, without him, I wouldn’t have had any education much less become a professor and do whatever that I’m presently doing. He made everything happen, not because he is my biological father, but because his foresightedness is responsible for who I am today.

Yours Sincerely in History,

Ìṣọ̀lá Ojúrábẹmásàá

 

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