Aged but stylish, suave, smart and blessed with a retentive memory after retirement. 83 Year Old de-trabilised ex-diplomat, Singer, Songwriter and one of the few most influential and long enduring musicians alive, has had a fulfilling and influential career. Following his recently launched story-telling style of music Album launch in Lagos, Pa Akinlolu Fafowora, a man regarded as one of Nigeria’s greatest musicians ever,is famed for composing the very popular signature tune,Wa–zo–bia and several other classics recorded by the late Highlife legend, Roy Chicago, until his death in 1988. He speaks with Adedayo Adejobi on Life as an Ex-diplomat, the struggles, his unique music , and why he derives joy in solving people’s problems….
Dateline was a sunny Monday Afternoon, at his Amuwo Odofin estate in what was supposed to be a chance meeting. Even at 83, he looked clean shaven, suave and decked in crisp sparkling patterned white Long-sleeved shirt, signature glasses recommended and trousers with a matching cap. For an retired octogenarian, Pa Fafowora still makes a statement with his fashion style, having had to stay in good shape and health in order to entertain Nigerians, even at a ripe old age.
Meeting the ex-diplomat and veteran Musician, one thing you’ll notice is that he,like the English man he is, Pa Akinlolu Fafowora exudes calm, composure, humility, retentive memory, and a great sense of warmth and courtesy to visitors and domestic staff. He regurgitates with timelines and dates. Although a few few are blessed with good memory, but quite a rarity and far between for someone his age.
Born in April 1939 in Ilesa, Osun State as the 16th of 25 Children by 5 women. He is the only boy amongst his 5 siblings from his mother. Childhood was interesting until he lost his father- the breadwinner at a tender age.
Although music wasn’t offered as a subject in school, it was innate for Fafowora who found ways to express himself in Church services where he sang, played the drums, and got to listen to evergreen musicians at his Uncle’s popular record shops’ in Ilesha.
With particular penchant for Highlife music from Ghana, he listened to many records almost on a daily basis after returning from school.The immersion in evergreen music from music greats, inspired his foray into highlife music.
Even though his parents knew he was born for the music, he was discouraged. Yet unfettered, he narrated, ‘‘Those days, when I showed signs of a love for music, my mother used to tell me these things. But she never wanted me to exhibit those talents. My father also went against it. But I just continued until my father died on October 19, 1953 and my mother in 1961, two years after I had left school.’’
Having lost his father whilst in primary school in 1953 at a very tender age, his late uncle late Chief Sylvester Taiwo Afolabi Fafowora sponsored his education between 1955 and 1956. From 1957 to 1958, his two elder sibling sisters took over, after which he took a loan from an in-law to go to boarding school. He paid same from 1962 – 1965.
After school’s fees increased between 1966 and 1968, the self-driven Composer, resorted to studying privately for the Advanced Level of the G.C.E and passed in flying colours.
Another stumbling block rared its ugly head in 1969 and 1970, when Fafowora gained admissions to different universities but couldn’t go for lack of funds. Undeterred by lack of funds, and like a Pheonix, he went back to civil service in May 1973 at the Ministry of Defense with a view to working to raises funds needed in furthering his education .
Again, in 1975, he went back to another tertiary college – polytechnic College, Ibadan to pursue National and Higher National Diploma in Accounting combined programme within three years 1975 to 1978 and went for his Youth Service in 1979.
With a brief stint at the Ministry of Defense in 1979, in a dramatic twist, he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in September 1979, upon hearing of the Federal Government’s recruitment of Account Officers instead of relying on temporary transfers from the Ministry of Finance.
When asked how he met his wife of inestimable value, forty three years three ago, ‘’ One day, Chief Mrs. Abosede Fafowora informed me Dapo,my in-law was worried about my not getting married,as I could be posted out to serve in the Embassy of Nigeria sooner than expected. She shared this view with her husband that I should get married as soon as possible because of posting. Luckily, I had broken up my former relationship with a lady. Wonderfully, Chief Mrs. Fafawora paved the way and I married the lady she recommended to me. That was forty three years ago and we are,today happy parents of a Chartered Accountant, a Lawyer and a Medical Officer working in the U.K.’’, he enthused.
Reminiscing one of many of God’s wonders and people contributions to his life, ‘‘My house was planned for me by a very close friend Chief Kunle Oluwasanmu, a lawyer and former customs officer and also a former Federal Minister of Mines and Power.I should also contribute to people’s life and assist in all ways to solve other’s problems.I did plenty of help and assistance to people at all times, while still at work and particularly while abroad. I did my best even at great sacrifices and pains to me and to my family. Really, I assisted mainly Nigerians like me.’’, he disclosed with nostalgia.
Giving account of his stewardship, 1983 whilst he was the Accountant in the Embassy of Nigeria, Ndjamena, Chad, ‘’Our Defense Adviser came and because of the war, he couldn’t be booked into any hotel. I readily accommodated him and five of his staff in my official quarters for the Estacode period, before we got his official quarters for them.’’
With a great level of openness not seen nor exhibited by civil servants, Fafowora nudges the reporter to cross-reference his statements from elder statesman and revered gentlemen like Dr. Adolphus Wabara, former Senate President of Nigeria, who was the Head of Chancery in the Nigeria Embassy, Ndjamena, Chad.
Even though he is retired, he isn’t showing signs of tiredness. His recent release of a four-track album titled ‘Reminisce’, gives credence to quest to leave his mark on the sands of time, through Music-his first love and passion.
The new album release was graced by Nigeria’s Arts’ great like Yinka Davies, Taiwo Ajayi Lycett, Dede Mabiaku, Dede Mabiaku, Wale Thompson and Lake Friday amongst many others; whilst the album featuring scintillating popular tracks like Wazobia, Fiwajomi, Iba fun Obi and Jesu-improvised by Veteran Music Producer Sola Ogunsola and performed by a 22-piece live band.
When Pa Akinlolu Fafowora isn’t reading history books and daily newspapers, he his reading religious books and discussing with his close friends conservative views on why Nigeria needs proper evolution- one to be agreed upon by the masses.
In the hour spent with him before and almost immediately after the interview started, three people waltzed in to pay their appreciation to the Ilesha born songwriter for favours rendered, whilst his phone rang intermittently with calls to cement his varying acts of philanthropy.
When asked why the sobriquet ‘Baba Rere’ meaning good man, copiously used on him; and how many times receives calls each day, Pa Akinlolu replied with a smile saying, ‘ I had no cause to count the calls I receives in a day. On the appellation, perhaps it is a reflection of how people see my roles or activities at work, at home, in the area of residence or in social places. Long ago, I adopted the policy of making myself available in finding solutions around, no matter who is in trouble. Akinlolu believes that whatever you give to nature or life, you get the reward back from God in multitudes, good or bad. It is true.’’
Even one of his three daughters thinks, Pa Akinlolu has a compelling superior complex in him which makes him assume always that he should or must be involved in finding solutions to other people’s problems..
A defining philosophy for the the musician is captured in his words,‘‘In my entire life God has used many people in solving my problems. Such people came from all over the place, from the families on my both sides, men and women at great sacrifices.