Tosin Adeniyi @ 50: December 1998 Revisited, By Louis Odion

The air, this December harmattan morning, was tense. The two dozen intending couples had filed out in two rolls before the altar in the commodious cathedral, except one. As the best-man to the only groom without bride, yours sincerely found himself sharing himself between casting anxious gaze at the church’s door intermittently and calming the groom on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Feigning ignorance of the conspicuous absence among the parties gathered before him, the officiating priest continued the customary sermon espousing marital values. But as one minute followed another agitated minute, what the embarrassed groom and the best-man actually began to hear from the loudspeakers was mere sound of words, not their meaning.

Then, visibly ruffled Segun Adeniyi, with the snow-white lace gloves now discarded in anger, suddenly broke from the altar assembly and dashed out in a desperate hope to find the missing bride, while I trailed him in uneasy steps.

The unfolding suspense only seemed to add to the surfeit of gut-wrenching dramas we had encountered in the countdown to the D-Day.

For instance, our identical, navy-blue suits were not delivered until the very eve of the wedding by the tailor introduced to us by our then boss at the Sunday Concord, Mr. Tunji Bello.

Now outside the Winners Chapel this harmattan-scorched day, it was quite a Herculean task for yours sincerely to calm Segun down as he kept muttering, “Why did Tosin choose to disgrace me this way?”

It wasn’t yet the era of cellphones when communication was seamless and easy.
Not finding answers immediately, we soon went back inside to rejoin others intending couples.

From distance, I could see beads of sweat cascading down the face of Mr. Segun Babatope in unspeakable unease among the congregation in the otherwise well-aerated gallery.

His discomfiture should be understood. He had diligently fulfilled the duty of “Alarina” (Yoruba for cultural mediator) engaged in a tortuous “negotiations” with the bride’s dad to agree to the union.

All that was left was for the priest to formally say “I pronounce you husband and wife” when, lo, the much-awaited bride barged in and ran to the altar, to a thunderous applause and laughter of the entire church.

“Well,” continued the priest jocularly when silence returned, “It’s better to be late than never.”

It later emerged that Tosin’s delay was not intentional. Their motorcade got trapped in a traffic jam caused by the monthly prayer staged by another mega Pentecostal church elsewhere in Lagos. She had to hop onto “Okada” to get to the church eventually…

How time flies indeed! How ironic that, twenty-six years after that near-miss of December 1998, Tosin and Segun Adeniyi have not only calcified into an impregnable union but also raised three adorable, well-behaved children who are doing very well in their own individual pursuit in life. The last being Korede (harbinger of good tidings), a stocky lad (whom I usually tease as “My dad is a journalist!”) schooling in Boston, United States.

How gladdening and truly remarkable then that Tosin is entering the fifth floor (born April 12, 1974) not only as an accomplished professional (stockbroker), but also a shinning model of motherhood and virtuous wife at an age when it is increasingly fashionable to trade pristine family values away for the ephemerality of career growth or vice versa.

This exceptionalism can be attributed to Tosin’s uncommon personal qualities: humility, respect, honesty, contentment and forbearance. I make such categorical depositions as one who has known and been like brother to Segun for more than thirty years including when he first “toasted” Tosin as student at Lagos Poly.

The law of physics states that opposites attract. For Tosin and Segun, it is undoubtedly a case of mutual reinforcement forged in shared deep commitment to Christian values like charity.

An expression of that is the Not Forgotten Initiative (NFI), an NGO founded and run by Tosin providing succor to the needy in Abuja over the years.

He who finds a wife, declares the holy Bible, has found a good thing. Talented singer Sonny Nneji adds, “She plays the harmony to the sound you make” in his seminal “Oruka”. For more than a quarter of a century they have been married, not once have I seen or heard Segun and Tosin engaged in any big fight. Other than once when I heard often restless Segun walked away from a scheduled family photo shoot at home because it was taking rather too long for Tosin to decide on her clothes and make-up.

But after a while, Segun returned with a contrived frown. Only a little joke “Oju to le ko le tan ina cigar” (fieriness of a countenance can never light a cigarette) by Tosin and Segun burst into delirious laughter. End of quarrel.

Being married to journalism/writer can be very challenging indeed. For the vocation is demanding and jealous, requiring an understanding spouse. Tosin is Segun’s greatest cheer-leader. Through the 90s and early 2000s, Segun and I were like professional Siamese twin. Right from Concord to ThisDay.

As deputy to him when editor, I recall Tosin never failed to call on production nights. In such agonizing wee hours while still brainstorming for cover story for the next edition, Segun would hand the phone over to me to hear Tosin consoling, “Epele. Won ni esi nwa cover.” (Sorry, he said you folks are yet to find suitable cover story to lead with).

But don’t be fooled by Tosin’s easy smiles or meek look. She is very shrewd and relentless when it comes to business. So much that she could persuade a cynical Edo man like me to take an insurance policy at a time!

Segun is a man of good heart, generous to a fault and incapable of malice. Tosin has to be the family accountant, to save Segun from going bankrupt out of instinctive giving spirit. One of such “safety mechanisms” is barring him from operating internet banking. Otherwise, Segun cannot say No to anyone who call him for the proverbial “urgent N2k”.

Her shrewdness served the family well at a time of great need following the unexpected death of President Umar Yar’Adua in May 2010. To take the job of Special Adviser on Media to the President in 2007, the family sold their home at Ajah, Lagos and relocated to Abuja. They moved into an official quarter, close to Aso Rock.

It is a measure of Segun’s contentment and aversion to crass material acquisition that he never gave a thought to the idea of securing a personal property in Abuja for the three years he worked for the President.
So, Yar’Adua’s sudden death meant the family temporarily faced homelessness with the change of guard at the Presidency.

With eviction from the official quarters looming, Segun spent the next six months running around to raise money to develop a parcel of land allocated to him at Asokoro long before he became Special Adviser. Tosin took charge at the construction site daily and personally supervised the building from foundation to the finishing, getting involved in negotiating the prices of materials. While Segun was on the road looking for money.

On a jovial note, let it however be put on record that it was not in all projects Tosin succeeded. Hard as she tried, her efforts to match-make this writer and the best-lady after her own wedding in 1998 failed after a year of conspiracies and arranged dates. Right from the wedding reception held at Airport Hotel, Ikeja, she was the first to tease that her bosom friend, a svelte beauty, and I looked fit for each other. Apparently, she put similar idea in her friend’s head. So much that we soon found ourself calling each other and me visiting her in school at Lagos State University.

However, following my failure to report much “progress” after several months, Segun soon hatched another plan, now at GSP parish of Redeemed Church in Lagos where we both worshipped then. This time, Segun’s own “project” was another smashing beauty and church worker. Proud of his “old school” methodology, he resorted to the tactic of bombarding her with links to my writings to which she, I was told, had expressed great admiration.

But after several months, it turned out another failed project. Maybe, just maybe my Edo testosterone was still far too restless to yield to conjugal regimentation at 25.

Here is wishing Tosin, the good wife, many happy returns of the day!

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