Sowunmi Charles Olabode (1936-2016)

image By Chief Ajibola Ogunshola Saturday, January 30, 2016. As Bode slowly, very slowly, descended the staircase and then, still very slowly, walked towards the car that was to take him away from the venue of our last class meeting, some of us were apprehensive that he might be attending the class meeting for the last time. Eight of us attended the meeting at Coconut Country Club, Olonade Street, Yaba in Lagos.

He had participated normally in discussions at the meeting and, as he moved towards the car, he briefly exchanged young-adult banter with Victor (Roy) Abiodun. Because we all expressed concern about his physical state, he volunteered that his illness commenced when he experienced a succession of stressful events.

Thursday, April 7, 2016. It was the Christian wake in Magodo Shangisha, Lagos of our class secretary, Biodun Akinbiyi, who had been absent, with apologies, at the January class meeting. Our colleagues who attended this sad and solemn occasion were nevertheless delighted and much relieved when Bode showed up at the occasion.

Even more gladdening was that Bode had truly and visibly shed some of �that� weight, his movements were a little less slow and he looked a little fitter.

He spent that night at a hotel in Lagos and showed up again very early the following morning for another Christian service at the deceased's residence, from where he returned to Ibadan.

I was confident, we were confident, that Bode's state of health was now in the ascendant.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016. Shock. I received a text message from Roy, who usually hears every news concerning one of us before the rest of us, as he is in touch with almost all of us, that he had just heard the bad news that we've lost Buddy Show.

�Buddy Show� was a very likeable and vivacious personality, gifted with broad and frequent smiles, with loud and unmistakable laughter.

Both in secondary school and in his young adult years, he thoroughly enjoyed himself, as we defined enjoyment. He was the quintessential boisterous fellow. Yet, his inner essence was serious, driven to achieve whatever goals he set himself. He came into GCI as one of the eight �government scholars� in the set, based on his performance in the entrance examinations and interview, came up in Grade 1 in the West African School Certificate examination and went out with high grades in the Higher School Certificate Examinations. Later, he sensed that he needed to have a Ph.D degree in nutritional biochemistry and went straight out to obtain it.

His family and friends would, naturally, have wished him to remain with us for many more years; even then, on the scale of length of life, he has fared much better than most members of the general population here, just narrowly missing A minus, if 80 years is scored an A, and 75 is A minus.

He had worked for about three years in Lever Brothers Nigeria Limited, now Unilever Nigeria Plc; had a stint of teaching, before joining the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute. He became self-employed in 1986 when he established BODEX and Company, to provide services and training in Grain Storage Pesticide and Pest Control Technology.

My own best and fondest memories of Bode were in secondary school. Up to the School Certificate level, we sometimes sat together in class. We became real friends, and not once did we have a quarrel or remarkable disagreement. And I have always liked the name "Charles" which, in a way, also attracted me to him.

He was good-natured and, during classes, a serious and gentle boy. Outside it, he could be as noisy and stubborn as the rest of us, especially in his interactions with some of his seniors in Grier House.

Bode was a keen, general sportsman who particularly distinguished himself in football, where he played in the first eleven and won school colours. He was also a school prefect.

Because we were in different school Houses, he in Grier and I in Field, and also did not play any sports together, as my own sporting ability was only limited to swimming and hockey at the House level, there was no real opportunity or incentive for our friendship to blossom to the extent that it might have done.

At the H.Sc. course, he and I offered different sets of subjects, and thus our lives� journeys further began to diverge. At the university, he read biochemistry but I mathematics, and we were in different Halls of Residence.

His closest friend then was the late Afolabi Epega.

After our undergraduate years, we saw little of each other, mainly at the occasional chance meeting and our class gatherings.

The passing of a colleague often invites one to recline and reflect, not only on intimations of his own individual mortality, but also on the evolution of his group longevity.

In September 1956, we were 48 boys that entered Government College, Ibadan. Today, 60 years and four months later, 21 of us are confirmed to be alive, 23 dead, while we have been unable to contact Emmanuel Tunde Fakoya, Ebenezer (Pope) Popoola, Stephen �Oriens� Oruma, and Timothy Olusoji Robinson.

Among the 12 that began in Grier House with Bode in 1956 (there were 4 Houses with 12 boys each), seven have died and five are alive.

The year 2016 was unprecedented in the severity of mortality experience of the whole group: four members died, of whom three were from Grier.

In January 1962, another 18 joined the class for the two-year H.S.C. course of whom at least six are known to have died.

Farewell, Bode, farewell. Your journeys to Lagos in January and April, unaccompanied and unaided, were acts of great courage, physical endurance, and determination to be with your colleagues on those occasions, in spite of the attendant stress and strain.

We will remember you, for the rest of our own remaining years.

As your body is lowered into the earth today, may your dear wife, your offspring, and your larger family be consoled by the good name, the very fond images and the various landmarks that you left behind.

Chief Ajibola Ogunshola is chairman of Continental Reinsurance Plc., and former chairman of Punch Nigeria Limited.