Public Presentation Of Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi’s Memoir: “The Road Never Forgets”

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The best amongst us owe us three taxes; income tax and I trust my dear egbon has delivered on that, and somebody pointed out that he is a wealthy man in his own right.


The second is a social tax, philanthropy and in this respect, Dr. Ogunbiyi also has demonstrated that he has fulfilled that obligation with the Yemi Ogunbiyi Anglican Schools. Clearly, he has paid that social tax.


The third is a civic tax is the one which I think he has paid with the book, “The Road Never Forgets”. The civic tax is an obligation that those amongst us who have reached a certain level of success and achieved their aims and several of their objectives in life owe the rest of us to tell their stories and from their stories, we learn. His book fulfils that obligation very clearly.



Whenever I look at a book, one needs to look at what the author seeks to achieve, for anyone who has read this book, you will notice that all Dr Ogunbiyi wants to achieve is to tell a story not just of himself, but our country. I must confess that Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi has shown that he is capable of telling a story without embellishment


Anyone who has had a chance like me to read this book will agree that not only does the road never forget, but the elephant that walked the road has a phenomenal memory.  The elephant as you know, forgets nothing, its brain is 5 kg in weight.


So the Elephant in this room, if you will pardon the pun, Dr. Ogunbiyi, surely forgets little. He speaks of a broad spectrum of issues from his childhood and youth through to events that happened just last year with the same mind boggling freshness of memory.

Dr. Ogunbiyi’s story is at once the life story of a truly remarkable individual and at the same time, the story of a country. And who better to tell the story of  Nigeria, the magical possibilities of our ethnic blending, than one born in Kano of  a Yoruba father and an Igbo mother and whose first language was Hausa.


The subtext of the this fascinating life story is the account of a man and his  country,  both struggling to define themselves from his idyllic childhood in Sabon Gari, Kano, he witnessed the first ethnic riots, the 1953 Kano riots.


How does a young boy with his own ethnic mix even begin to understand the strong parochial hatreds that developed overnight and  led to the killing those of other tribes, many of whom had lived as once as siblings.?


The young nation lost its innocence as the 6 year old  Yemi Ogunbiyi lost his. He would become the brilliant university teacher, newspaper executive, debonair, connoisseur of wines  and collector of fine arts,  equally at home in modern and traditional settings, (on the matter of fine wines, I mustn’t forget to tell you to read the hilarious account of his initiation into wine drinking by none other than his illustrious teacher and friend, Prof. Wole Soyinka).


He would also overcome his initial hesitations and take the titles of the Balogun of Ipara-Remo and Omo-Olokun Adimula of Ife.


In this contemporary history of Nigeria, it turns out by some quirk of circumstance, that  the author is present in critical events that occurred in Nigeria. He had a ringside seat during the ‘wetie period’ in the old Western Region by virtue of the fact that Ibadan Boys High School was located behind Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s home in Ibadan.  His first open day at King’s College was the day of the first coup in Nigeria and he was right there when Adekunle Adepeju was fatally shot at University of Ife.


So in telling his own compelling story, we are led through the nationalistic idealism of our pre colonial days, the excitement of   civil rule and its tragic (denu mon) denouement, then Military rule, a curious diarchy, other iterations of civil rule, and all manner of contemporary events.


He engages every subject honestly, openly and frankly, somehow it almost seems that by his open vulnerable style, he disarms and commands empathy and admiration.


Perhaps, there is counsel there for us as a nation, we need to talk more to ourselves and not at ourselves, we need frank discussions on the issues that divide us, we need openness about our fears and prejudices. Perhaps, that way we may gain each other’s  confidence.


I think Yemi Ogunbiyi’s powerful story telling is made more so by his uniquely unashamed style, may be age helps in telling one’s story, you can tell that  he is  not  anxious to justify his actions or make himself  the hero of every experience.


He dedicates the book first to his wife, Aunty Sade in the following unforgetable  words “dedicated deservedly to my much loved wife Folasade, for her unbridled love, her steadfastness, tolerance, forbearance and unwavering commitment for the past fifty three years, even in spite of myself.”


You need to read the book to find out what a gem she has been and how her forbearance has made this story tellable.


Egbon, now that you are 75, there are interesting biblical allusions that I will direct your attention to. Abraham was 75 when God called him and gave him the task of birthing a new nation. May be there is a message there for you too. Perhaps your exertions have only just begun, everyone has said that you’re not just a man of charisma, but you are a force of nature – an elemental force all by yourself. Perhaps you can make a few things happen now that you are 75 and we all look forward to that.


I thank you for your care,  wise counsel, and guidance at all times, we your aburos are extremely proud of you and how through the years you have been consistent in your kindness, generosity and commitment to seeing a better nation.


Happy birthday, as your days, so shall your strength, wisdom and favour with God.


God bless you.