Our friendship began before we met. Sometime in 1991, newspapers were flooded with news and critiques of a new book by a poet named Eddie Aderinokun.
My editor at Media Review, Mr. Taiwo Obe, handed me a copy of that volume of poems to review for our journal. It was an assignment I undertook with much enthusiasm because of the admiration Mr. Aderinokun inspired in me with the respect and attention his work attracted. As an author myself, I would like to have such integrity; so, I longed to meet him. Fate made that desire of mine a reality when it turned out that Eddie’s Eric Moore Close office was the Lagos ad hoc secretariat of the Association of Nigerian Authors to which I belong. I eventually met him at one of our reading sessions at that office and my admiration for him increased.
He was warm, friendly, even with younger people, and seemed to be lacking in ego. Simply, my kind of person.
For a long time after that I never failed to remember his birthday anniversary. That was long before Facebook made reminding “friends” to celebrate each other’s birthday a tradition.
Wherever I was, whatever I was doing on his day, I managed, for several years, to get my goodwill card over to Eddie’s office. That became our bond of sorts and he would tell anyone who cared to listen that “Muritala is the one who remembers my birthday, even when I don’t.” It was the only thing I could give him. In a particular year, I couldn’t promptly get to Eddie with his birthday card, even while he had boasted to everybody around him all day that “Muritala will come with his card.” I was worried where I was trapped and unable to go and see him. Eventually, at about 6.00PM, I made it to Eric Moore Close, finding him amidst friends sitting outside the house as he often did around sunset.
“I told you! I told you,” he said, turning to those with him. “I said he’d come.”
I was very happy I made it. Eddie didn’t lose face. Nothing passed between us by way of material all those years. Only his repeated call to me to call on him whenever I needed help. So, I didn’t hesitate when I became homeless and I wasn’t disappointed because he opened his doors to me wholeheartedly.
It was while I squatted at that house I learned about what a loyal friend Uncle Eddie had been behind my back.
Mr. Kunle Idowu told me about how Mr. Aderinokun “oppresed” everybody around him by insisting that the television set in his livingroom be tuned to NTA Ikeja Channel 7 between 3.30 – 4.30PM every Sunday for more than four years that my live weekly show “Lagbo Video” was on air.
“Even when there was an international football match going on on another channel,” Mr. Idowu told me. “And he doesn’t sit through the show. Many times, he’d retire into his bedroom after watching for a few minutes. But, if anyone dared tune the show out on the assumption that Eddie might have drifted off to sleep, you’d just hear him yell from the bedroom: ‘Who tuned out that show?!’”
That’s the kind of friend Mr. Aderinokun was.
Adieu, Uncle Eddie
***Mr. Sule is a journalist, author and public commentator