Three deaths happened in the past week. Two of them were personal, and the third was deeply professional. The first and personal one is that of Pa Jacob Mosanya, a labour activist and perennial fan of In Touch and The Nation. He struck a friendship with me about five years ago, and was like a father figure. He visited my office a number of times and showed his great love of poetry, history and politics that engaged our conversations.
He wrote a book a few years ago on Awoism and the Western Region. He worked for many years with the Railways and was a committed Nigerian. I will miss his intellectual brio, his mental dynamism and paternal advice. He died two days after his 88th birthday. He had wished to outlive his father, who also died at 88.
The other death was a little personal. The poet Derek Walcott died at 87. He visited Nigeria a few years ago, and I met with him for a long interview about his works. He told me my interview with him was different because I was familiar with his works. Many interviewers around the world were not. I interrogated him. His great work, Omeros, was a modern epic that domesticated Homer’s Odyssey in the Caribbean. He won the Nobel Prize principally on its strength. My favourite line from his work has haunted me: “You will love again the stranger that is yourself.” Another line? “I met history but it didn’t recognise me”
The more distant death was of Jimmy Breslin, 88, the cigar-chomping journalist, who dared establishment, baited scoundrels and supported the common man. He wrote in a sunny, acerbic style, and maintained a column for over 40 years. He was a major icon of pen, and won the Pulitzer prize. He has been imitated in vain by many columnists and served as example in journalism classes. I never forget his view of column writing, maybe because I share it: “Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.”