By Folu Olamiti, FNGE
As I punch the key-board to write this, it still feels like a dream. A very bad dream. As I struggle to stitch the words, I fight back tears. It is as if a big screen unfolds before me and his images seem to be reeling right before my very eyes. Am I dreaming? I could hear myself whispering. But even in my great sadness and sorrow over the unimaginable loss, I manage a wry smile.
That is when I realise how difficult it is to write a tribute of someone you see or talk with so often, someone whose life is a quintessence of love, compassion and care. As the smile widens on the imaginary screen in my subconscious, I feel a gentle breeze that brings to my consciousness that though Dr. G.T.N Ajakpo, the Galadima of Lokoja, Kogi State, may have gone to a place of everlasting happiness and eternal joy, he is still very much with us; alive. Yet, to think he is gone forever is hard to comprehend. I can’t even think of him in the past tense.
He lived for just 70 years, but he impacted humanity in more ways than many 100-year-olds could dream of. He impacted me in many ways words cannot adequately capture. He was an embodiment of love, a loveable human being, a friend without vile, and whose demise shall for a long time remain a forlorn dream.
My path crossed Ajakpo’s during my sojourn at the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission, ICPC, in Abuja. He was one of the few friends that invited me to join the membership of the Cathedral Church of The Advent, Abuja. I didn’t hesitate to become a member and I will forever be grateful for that decision.
I recall this particular day he came to my office. He was a governorship candidate of one of the political parties in Kogi State. He complained about the high level of corruption in the system. He was so visibly concerned he asked loudly: When would Nigeria’s political system support God-fearing candidates; embrace men and women of integrity? He looked intensely at my face as he searched for the answer. Calmly but firmly, I told him: “Maybe at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
He was a sad man at that instant. He got up, removed his cap and asked us to pray. We did, and we exchanged phone numbers. Then, he was gone in a jiffy. But from that day onward, we called each other regularly to chat, share the word of God and counsel. I commended him on the many occasions I listened to his inspiring sermons.
Shortly after, we were heading for the General Synod of the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion in Ibadan. I spotted him in the shuttle taking us to the aircraft. With us was the former Primate, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh. With humility, he vacated his seat for Baba Okoh and we stood and started chatting about his affinity with the Yoruba race. He intoned: “I’m married to a Yoruba woman.” Then, you can speak the language? I asked. He switched immediately to Yoruba and started conversing with me flawlessly. His polyglot nature further cemented our friendship.
Beyond my personal relationship with him, he was a member of the Board of Management Advent Cable Network Nigeria Television ACNNTV of which I am privileged to be the Chairman.
My joy knew no bounds when I sighted his name as one of the members of the board when it was constituted in 2017.
He didn’t come for the board’s inauguration because his dear wife, Mummy Kehinde, was undergoing medical treatment abroad. He cared so much for Mummy Kehinde that he inspired worshippers at the Cathedral Church of The Advent, Abuja, to pray for her every Sunday. To the glory of God, Mummy Kehinde got healed and we were happy to welcome him fully back to the board.
He was not a seat warmer neither was he a non-committed member who just wanted to mark ‘’present’” at board meetings. His intelligent contributions gave the board a new fillip in deliberations.
When congratulating Dr. Ajakpo on his 70th birthday, one of our members, Venerable Dr. Sadare, wrote: “Happy Birthday to our dear Distinguished Galadima extraordinaire. Your calmness, wisdom and focus is an inspiration to us all.” This aptly summed up his stoic character.
As the Board’s Chairman, and with my journalism background, I, in most cases, look at issues with emotions, wanting immediate implementations of some of our decisions. Dr Ajakpo, with his usual cool and calm mien, would interject, telling me to cool down; and without raising his voice, would clinically analyse how such decisions could be achieved without breaking our heads. In most cases, his counsel worked like magic; and on few occasions he was greatly appreciated.
Another big positive side of Dr. G.T.N. Ajakpo is: his warming up to people effortlessly, regardless of age, tribe, class or status. I remember one occasion, after an event at the Church of Nigeria Secretariat, Mathias House, Gudu, Abuja. I was about asking the ACNNTV General Manager for a ride to my residence when Dr Ajakpo immediately offered to take me home. I asked him: ” Where is your driver?”
He answered with his usual conviviality: “Chairman, I’m driving you home but, first, to my residence because you have not been there before.” That ride gave me more insight into Dr. Ajakpo’s humility. The Galadima of Lokoja was not only a renowned medical practitioner, he was, above all, a true son of God. All these three attributes made him an extra-ordinary persona.
While driving to his residence, he exuded an uncommon warmth and friendliness. He opened his life to me like a book, and told me practically his life history. He, particularly, emphasized that one of his successes in life was the luck he had to have a virtuous and committed wife. He told me how grateful to God he was for healing her comprehensively from the life-threatening disease. He was very happy to drive me to his residence into the warm embrace of Mummy Kehinde. They spoiled me with generous hospitality. The well-kept compound houses the hospital as well as his residence. By every standard, Dr. Ajakpo was a comfortable man. Judging from what I saw in Abuja and Lokoja, this great man of God was a wealthy man. He was also generous spirit to the fault. He loved to share and enjoyed giving without inhibitions.
Dr. Ajakpo, the great Galadima of Lokoja, I shall miss you sorely. But my consolation is: during your 70 years on this divide, you touched so many lives socially, spiritually and medically. You came, saw and conquered. Your very successful life further underscores the maxim that: it is not how long a man lives that matters but how well. You served God faithfully through your many Church activities. Your contributions to the upliftment of ACNNTV (without ever asking for one Naira in return but instead gave when needed) will for long be remembered. On behalf of our grateful board, I thank you. On behalf of our staff and viewers all over the world, we say it is well. May your services count in the type of crown our Lord will give you. Adieu, our friend and compatriot, till we meet at the feet of Jesus Christ.