Thursday 23 June 2022

Uncle Cash!

A giant has fallen

“I agree with them.” That was the last message I got from him to which I responded, “I see.”. WhatsApp was our regular mode of communication typing out messages to each other about our health, our wellbeing, and other developments.

Uncle Cash of all men was the most significant and most consequential person in the making of who I have become, I can say without equivocation that without him and his intervention in my life at the particular time that he did, I would probably not be writing any story and definitely not the one I have woken up to write this morning.

Only last night, I was thinking about sending him a message to inform him that I will soon be travelling to South Africa, I vacillated and thought, I would do that by the weekend. Alas! That time has gone.

There is a small question of an unpaid debt that has been a canon in our shared stories, and that is where I will begin. When we returned from the UK in late 1970, two impressions were made on my uncle, the first of a precocious boy who spoke only English darting about the place, for which I earned the moniker Ọmọ ìlú òyìnbó (The boy born abroad) to this day, then secondly, he was having difficulties passing his West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations that my father promised him £10, if he excels.

He went on to live a more than excellent and fulfilled life, that family debt for success, yet unpaid. When he visited us, I would get tickled to exhaustion, he was humorous, playful, funny, and approachable.

In early 1986, he became my guardian, I had run away from home and was in a totally estranged situation from my father and his near relations. Uncle Cash allowed me the courage of my convictions, he could be brutal with others, but he was always, always kind, and empathetic with me, treating me with such dignity and respect, usually against tradition or convention, that I had leeway and confidence to talk to him about literally everything that concerned me. I never had that kind of openness with my parents or anyone else, he ushered me into responsible adulthood.

Uncle Cash was a giant and a pillar, I knew I could have a candid conversation with him. At times, he would say to me, “Akin, you are dangerous with the way you write, let’s talk instead.” I am a product of the example of daring and self-assuredness that he instilled in me for the 4 years that he provided support and guidance on how to live with honour and integrity, not compromising on your principles and your vision.

Uncle Cash built a career in insurance to become a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Insurers, an industry stalwart and examiner, and circumstances in Nigeria led him to emigrate to the UK where like he was wont to do, he reinvented himself still generously impacting lives when he informed me that he was going back to university to do a bachelor’s degree, in his 60s.

In the classes he attended, the faculty and the university would probably say they did not have a student attending, but a polymath in the experience of life amongst them and for that, at graduation, they arranged to get him from the hospital to be honoured with a commendation and standing ovation.

This tribute hardly captures the stature of the man, Uncle Cash was, much of it would be in the fond memories, the reminiscences, the sudden floods of insight, his voice conveying wisdom and guidance. He was religious, affable, larger than life, a partier, he loved to party. I remember when he and I spent a long weekend in Paris during a visit to mine in Amsterdam, we just had fun.

That is how I want to remember Uncle Cash, a man, a mentor, a counsellor, a confidante, a benefactor, uncle, father, grandfather, friend, Uncle Omo Uncle, sùn re o.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Uncle Akin

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