On Wednesday November 3, 2010, in the course of scanning through the pages of DAILYÂ SUN, my eyes caught a disturbing caption, â€œDiyaâ€™sÂ human parts storm:â€¦â€Quoting, theÂ first paragraph of the report: â€œInitially, it started as a rumour. And with time itÂ spread like wild fire. The story about the involvement of former Chief of ArmyÂ Staff, General Oladipo Diya (rtd), in human parts sales published recently in aÂ weekly newspaper came as a rude shock to many peopleâ€.
However, before delving into this issue, I wish to aver that my honest submissionÂ should not be misconstrued as a disclaimer on behalf of the affable and scandalizedÂ retired General. Rather, I wantÂ it to be seen as a candid testimonial on a man IÂ had interacted with on many occasions: a man I had slept in his two homes in IkejaÂ (Lagos), and Odogbolu country home in Ogun State; a man of strong conviction; a manÂ who places a high premium on a good name and his reputation; a man who is notÂ ashamed to talk about his vices and virtues – a man whose God-fearing nature hasÂ endeared him to my heart, a man I have on my volition adopted as my â€œBaamiâ€ (anÂ eptthet in Ijebu language for Daddy or Father).
Now back to the question : Could General Oladipo Diya condescend so low to partake,Â or initiate such a barbaric act? My response: Based on my deep relationship withÂ Diya, is No. Could Diya have ventured into the mortuary services business for fetishÂ or material motives? My answer is, No. At this juncture, one may be tempted to askÂ Â what must have made me stick out my neck for this embattled but unperturbed andÂ patriotic General? The answer can be found in this brief explanation which I hopeÂ any discerning mind will find logical and convincing.
Owing to the fact that my outfit, African Museum & Centre for African AmericanÂ History is doing a self-commissioned biography on him, I think I have the authorialÂ authority and moral license to comment on any aspect of General Diyaâ€™s life withoutÂ prodding from any quarters. Conversely, I do not need his permission nor promptingÂ to admit to the things I know to be TRUE OR FALSE ABOUT HIS PERSON. Now, to theÂ vital question: What could have prompted the retired General to venture into thisÂ unusual business of caring for the dead? I threw the above question at him duringÂ one ofÂ my numerous breakfast sessions with him (in the presence of his two wivesÂ namely Mrs. Josephine Diya and Mrs. Folasade Diya and his childhood friend, ChiefÂ Kayode Olusoga. Also present was Diyaâ€™s daughter, Kemi. At this time, General DiyaÂ had got tired of my penchant for asking him questions at such events owing to theÂ need to observe table manners . But for me and the â€˜Africanessâ€™ in me, I thoughtÂ that was the best time to gist and ask an elder questions. After a momentâ€™s pause,Â he stared at me menacingly with his intimidating, war-weary eyeballs. RespondingÂ rather warmly, hear him: â€œMr. Journalistâ€™, (referring to me in his usual humorousÂ style), When I lost my father, I was not happy, neither was I pleased with the wayÂ his corpse was handled by the mortuary staff of the government-owned hospital weÂ took him. That prompted me to make a vow to float a private mortuary. And my desireÂ is to make LOTAD (the name of our outfit), the best in Africa. Without anyÂ prompting, he adds: â€œWe have done our best from inception by maintaining highÂ professional standards because the remains of oneâ€™s parents or relations desireÂ proper care in death!â€
Just like I said earlier, I do not wish to hold brief for the General: Rather, fromÂ my very close interaction with him on a daily basis spanning years, I had not forÂ once stumbled on any fetish object depicting him as fetish or ritualistic. I hadÂ shared rides with him; â€¦ shared meals with him;â€¦ slept in his houses;â€¦ worn pairs ofÂ clothes hitherto worn by him; I had sat (in) and scanned his two offices; I hadÂ entered places ordinary visitors dared not trespass – and during the last days ofÂ his late Mum on earth, I had entered her room too. Yet, not once did I come acrossÂ anything so absurd and disconcerting to depict Oladipo Diya and his family asÂ fetish. In the same vein, I had engaged scores of visitors, friends and familyÂ members in conversations in order to get the good, the bad and the ugly side(s) ofÂ Diya; yet, not once did anyone whisper to me, nor insinuated anything fetish orÂ ritualistic on Diya. Rather, every morning, Iâ€™ve had to rush down to his residenceÂ to join scores of fellow worshipers in giving praises to God in Diyaâ€™s chapel.
As far as I am concerned, the former staff of Diyaâ€™s mortuary outfit that made theÂ shameful and slanderous allegation, Mr. Oluwatosin Onatade should be invited forÂ questioning to give more facts, backed up with dates, time and names of clientsÂ whose corpses had be mutilated for whatever intention or purpose. Similarly, theÂ accuser should be made to go through a psychiatrist test. Other actions to be takenÂ to seek redress should be explored by General Diya whose name has been dragged inÂ the mud.
Above all, knowing General Diya for who he is, and the values he holds dear, at theÂ end of the day, should his ex-staff show remorse and apologise, Diya would forgiveÂ him and counsel him not to seek to pull innocent people down for no reason. Diya isÂ too forgiving ,compassionate and God-fearing to hurt a living soul â€“ let aloneÂ Â committing acts capable of desecrating the dead.
Just like every homo sapiens dwellingÂ on earth, Diya has his weaknesses too. ButÂ that is another story for another day.
Suffice to say here that Oladipo Diya is not a perfect human being. But to call thisÂ gentleman officer a ritualist, is a hot rude slap. That is the â€˜unkindest cut ofÂ allâ€, borrowing the expression of William Shakespeare in JULIUS CAESER.
â€”Ade Osijo writes from Lagos