Most good stories about cars often start with either a good ride in them or a gratified attempt to own them in their grandeur. But this was not the case with Akin Ojelabi. While his mates worried about owning the finest cars, preferably in multiples, his desires were quite modest. For whether it was a classy Peugeot 504 car or the legendary mechanical tortoise of the Volkswagen, all that mattered to him was keeping it blotless. I never really did understand why my father took the cleanliness of cars so seriously, and after many conscious attempts to try to comprehend why the old man would not pay someone else to clean his car, I am tempted to infer that I never will.
My father, Akintunde, grew up at a dilemmatic point in time. The norm at the time was that when a male child grew up to a certain stage, he started to accompany his father to the farm and at another point in his growth, he got his own farm. Most of Akintunde’s older siblings had gone through this ritual. However, western education was the modern trend in Oyo at the time and although my grandfather wanted his son to walk in the ways of his fathers, grandmother’s ideals were aligned towards contemporary trends as she was very persistent in ensuring that her son got a formal education. As a matter of fact, he did, even though it was a little later than expected, he graduated from the University.
In search of greener pastures, he moved to Lagos and courtesy of the education his mother had gifted him, he was able to get a good job- at least one that would ensure a convenient life for him and his small family.
In no time, that small family came along; mother, my little brother and I. Although my father’s bank job might not have given us the ‘first-class’ life, it afforded us some luxuries such as a Peugeot 504 car with a working radio on the inside of it.
I cannot say with too much confidence that father was satisfied with some of his achievements, as little or big as they might have seemed but the only two things I was sure that made him lose himself in the hearty laugh that the streets of Lagos had almost taken totally from him was Amala and Abula in its finest form. This was a secret my mother knew. Being from Oyo herself, she had learnt from her mother, as her mother had learnt from her mother that good food was a shortcut to the heart of most men. And if that man was from the home of beaded gourds, Amala stirred to the right texture coupled with a mixture of Gbegiri and Ewedu accompanied by the right kind and number of meatballs would do the trick, for indeed, Oyo men are rarely vegetarian. However, the one other thing that made my father happy was washing his car. Of course, being the first son, I was by default his personal assistant at this chore. I had to inherit his hobby; it was my figurative inherited farmland.
A round head, a fine sense of humour and a sincere love for Adewale Ayuba, these are some of the things that I unapologetically inherited from my father. But unlike the first two which might have some genetic basis, I doubt that the fine melodies or sometimes vulgar lyrics of Ayuba sank so deep into my father that they formed the foundation of my DNA or maybe they did. The scientific disproval, coupled with the fact that I wasn’t always a lover of the sound might, however, invalidate the latter postulation.
My assistant role in helping my father wash cars began from the very foundation- from the days when my hands were so little; they could barely properly hold a pencil, not to mention washing a car. However, even at this stage, I had assignments to do, like helping fetch water for the mechanical bath (a lot of water).
To my father, the greatest assignment was observing and of course, standing by in case he needed me to help get anything. And from this stage I proceeded to washing foot mats, scrubbing tyres and cleaning interiors. Before I could even finish learning to move it anywhere, I could wash the whole car like it was just another dirty dish on the sink. Indeed, by the time I got to the tyre stage, I had already disliked the chore and it would have taken only the sternness of a Yoruba father to actually get me to do the chore. But every time, I always had the good old radio to see me through and she always had something from Mr Johnson himself. I think they made the job bearable.
I am not sure if I would ever love washing cars as much as my father did, neither am I sure if I would have any sons but sitting before this white screen trying to hide my father’s face somewhere in this story, the only thing I am a little sure of is that it’s going to be really hard for any offspring I bear not to find some pleasure in the sonorous sound of Ayuba.
For even here in my lonely meditations, the only company I ever get is Adewale Ayuba, even though today, he is far gone in the praises of Abeeb Dickson.
‘Joba Ojelabi is a young writer and student of the Obafemi Awolowo University. Although from the ancient town of Òyó in Oyo state, Ojelabi currently resides in Ile-Ife. He has several known attempts at poetry, whilst might have come out well, some others have not and quite a number remain undone. He currently tweets @jobaojelabi.
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