Thursday 12 November 2020

The Vulture died of a ripe old age

Boys being boys

Gúnugún kìí kú léwe, in Yorubaland, there are sayings put to song and then played out with the talking drum. The tonal percussion of the talking drum with its musicality immediately registers with us and we engage by singing out the lyrics being played.

Then some boys probably took one of those sayings in songs and made a catcall out of it, whistling to the tune of the song. It became their call sign through adulthood into old age. Whenever one arrived at the other’s house, you heard the visitor whistle and the host responded. We soon learnt what it meant to great amusement.

Every kind of old

The first part, as written above translates to, ‘The vulture never dies in youth.’ The full saying itself speaks to growing old and growing old well.

Gúnugún kìí kú léwe, kí ẹ dàgbà kì ẹ dogbó, kí ẹ fi gbogbo ara hewú bíi ti ́́ Ẹfun. The vulture never dies in youth, may you grow old and wizened, growing grey hairs all over your body like the beaded crown of the Alaafin of Oyo.

The monarch of the Oyo kingdom in Yorubaland is known as the Aláàfin, meaning the owner of the palace. He wears the rare ́́ Ẹfun crown which according to tradition is first worn at least 10 years after coronation. It was made centuries ago. The colourfully decorated white crown has a veil of white strings looking like braids of hair, hence, the simile of grey hairs and the ́́ Ẹfun. Click on the link for the pronunciation of ́́ Ẹfun.

The ́́ Ẹfun crown courtesy of NairaLand.

The whole saying reads like a prayerful incantation for long life and between these boys and lifelong friends, it seems to have been fulfilled.

Back to their story

Their lives more or less ran in parallel similarities, both went into the same profession of accountancy, whilst debatable, they were lotharios and Casanovas at one, they took second wives and started second families, built homestead houses literally opposite each other in our village. The comings and goings of one were always known by the other. The children are good and tight friends even if we live in far-flung places.

He was a jovial, affable, humorous man who anytime he saw me called me by the nickname Akinse, Akinse, and the last time we chatted on the phone he wondered why I hadn’t visited after all this while. That is another story. I do recall that my stepmother also pressed me about visiting Nigeria for years, it was left an unfulfilled promise that the vicissitudes of the times has put out of reach. She passed on just over two weeks ago.

He was my father’s best friend from childhood, and I know he will be sorely missed by many, including his children. Adieu! Otunba Ogunjimi Taiwo, may your gentle soul rest in peace. The vulture did die at a great number of years in his 80s. A life to be remembered, celebrated, and honoured.

In gratitude, I acknowledge the help of @KolaTubosun & @Bishopade who on Twitter helped me find the meaning and use of ́́ Ẹfun.

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