By Adegboyega Adegbenro.
What’s in a name? My brother Oláníyì Fàtáì Adégbénró is by no means a rich man in terms of Naira and Kobo, Dollars and Cents, but he has something money can’t buy. He is a good and decent man with a name worth its weight in gold that opens doors. The name Niyi Adégbénró epitomizes the Yoruba adage that “Orúkọ re re sán jù wúrà àti fá́dákà lọ.” My brother is the perfect example of that rare quality. Here’s why.
I returned to Nigeria in 1987 after my search of the Golden Fleece in United States of America proved futile, but armed with certificates, I consoled myself with another Yoruba adage that “ilé ni àbọ̀ simi oko.” I got my first taste of “ilé ni àbọ̀ simi oko” at Tin Can Island port when I wanted to clear my container of household items. My clearing agent was having a relatively easy time moving my Bill of Lading documents through the Custom’s “ Long room”, as we were “greasing palms and legs” along the way, but it was still a laborious process.
Finally it reached the desk of the “Ọ̀gá pát́a pátá” and that was where it met a solid brick wall. Ọ̀gá simply refused to release my container and after days of appeals, my agent suggested that I pay the man a visit. After waiting outside Ọ̀gá’s office door for an hour while he was having his lunch, I was finally ushered into his office. On his table were leftovers of his lunch from Chicken George restaurant, which was the trailblazer of fast food eateries in Lagos at the time. A big and tall man with rosy and shiny cheeks, obviously derived from eating a lot of Chicken and George’s entrees, Ọ̀gá pát́a pátá looked at me suspouisly and bellowed; “yes what can I do for you young man?” I replied that I wanted him to sign the release papers for my container. “What’s your name?”, he asked as he began searching for my file from the tall pile on his desk. “Adegboyega Adégbénró”, was my reply. All of a sudden the man froze, looked up sharply at me and barked: “Where are you from?” “ Òwu kingdom in Abéòkúta”, I replied feebly and with a sense of foreboding that the man probably had a grudge against Ẹ̀gbá and Òwu people.
However, his next question was sweet music to my ears. “ Do you know Niyi Adégbénró?” Why yes, I replied. He is my brother. Ọ̀gá pát́a pátá gave me a studied look as if he was examining a piece of smuggled contraband and apparently satisfied with his forensic examination, he signed my release papers. “Go and carry your container”, he said. “Your brother is a good man.” Money saved. Niyi Adégbénró: OPEN SESAME!
After about a decade of “ilé ni àbọ̀ simi oko”, I was finally able to buy a piece of land in a remote area of extortions, I gradually began to put bricks and cement together. Expectations were high. Until one day when a battalion of Ọmọ Onílẹ̀s staged an early morning well coordinated land and amphibious assault on my property and halted work. Here we go again I told myself. I wonder how much I have to pay today I asked myself. With thick narcotic smoke streaming out of his nostrils and mouth the leader of the assault team screamed at me: “Chief wants to see you!”
I realized I wasn’t going to pay the usual daily money I give the foot soldiers but an amount that would doubtless be higher since it was the “Alaye chief” who wanted a sit down with me.
The chief, who is now late, was a rotund cigar smoking Ẹ̀gbá and Lagos high chief.
I couldn’t possibly imagine how much he was going to demand. Chomping on his thick cigar, the chief moved his roly-poly frame from side to side on his chair that was creaking loudly in protest, gave me the once-over and told me point blank that my “newly adjusted fee” for the land I had purchased nearly five years ago was in the upper six figures. Yépàrìpà!
But again I heard the words which had become sweet music in my ears over the years; “is Níyì Adégbénró your brother?” But of course ! I replied. I visited him at Abeokuta several days ago. This was not entirely true, but if being the brother of Níyì Adégbénró was the magical key that opens doors, I was ready to embellish a little. “Your brother is a very good man”, said the chief. “Respect him and be obedient to him.” Go and continue with your project, you don’t have to pay me anything anymore.” Allah be praised. Thousands of Naira rescued from an amphibious Ọmọ Onílẹ̀ attack. Niyi Adégbénró: OPEN SESAME!