THE pothole-filled street (it appeared to have been tarred at some point in its life) that led to Pini Jason’s Surulere residence had an unfair share of ponds after the early morning shower. You drove with care or ran the risk of splashing murk on passers by. The other thing more challenging was getting a parking space. It is a busy close.
Everyone knew Pini’s house, possibly more famous with his passing on Saturday. Visitors expressed their condolences and left. They were not the reason for the jammed street. Like most parts of Surulere, residents have turned garages into offices and extensions of their dwellings.
“You know your friend,” Oby, his wife of 34 years, said. “He would never live above his means. The children have grown. With just two of us, we reasoned there was no point staying in a big house,” she explained the relocation.
Pini had lived on Jalupon Close, which, like the abode where he shared his final moments, is off Adeniran Ogunsanya Street. It was a more appointed place, with enough space (and again Pini’s spirit) for him to allocate a part to some friends who were starting a consultancy in 1996. He lived there for so long many thought it was his. Anyone who does not pay attention to the new address may head to Jalupon which hosted many high profile guests.
I remember former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, now Secretary to the Government of the Federation, visiting and more. Pini was in touch with the people, his people, Ndigbo, and all other peoples in between. He had a good grasp of issues, ranging from Nigeria’s unnumbered challenges to religion. His place was an informal centre for the creation of things – ideas, projects and even Ebonyi State.
He was never afraid of flaunting his roots but hardly told anyone about the greater labour of seeing to the welfare of Ndigbo. His broader approach to national issues was like baking a bigger cake, so that hopefully, Ndigbo would benefit.
When Vanguard team of Sam Amuka, Publisher; Gbenga Adefaye Editor-in-Chief, Mideno Bayagbon, Editor; Omasan Amuka, AGM (Legal & Admin); Chioma Gabriel, Editor Saturday, Jide Ajani, Editor Sunday and Victor Omoregie, Public Relations Manager, paid a condolence on Monday, Mrs. Jason was still in grief.
“It is unfortunate that I am meeting the Vanguard family for the first time under these circumstances,” she said, what was left of her voice was barely audible. She had spent the past three days crying, crying, and crying again.
She thanked the guests, breaking into more tears.
The setting was sombre. Pini’s framed picture from his book launch (a collection of his writings), and an artistic impression of him, adorned the table where guests wrote their condolences. If I was looking for a final proof that Pini was gone, those constituted it. Another proof – burial plans are being discussed, for Pini Jason.
Yet people keep reminding me that they read his column on Tuesday, as if columnists were not permitted to die in the week they wrote. The finality and serendipity of death supply incoherence in abundance. Pini will not write his column today, he will never write again.
“I watched my husband dying. He was helpless. I couldn’t help him,” Mrs. Jason continued. “So, if I was not there someone would have been telling me the story?” More tears. We were helpless, too. With death, a condolence is respect for the family as well as the deceased. Were we making Mrs. Jason cry?
His former colleagues have not run short of tributes. “We were in Customs together at the Marina. While we idled away waiting for the ships, he was writing for Lagos Weekend,” said Melvin Obriango, more famous as Teacher Oghene in Village Headmaster, a television series that dated decades back. He had known Pini for about 40 years. “I was the master of ceremonies at his wedding and at his book launch. I don’t understand this,” he lamented.
Pini lived a simple life. It was his conviction to please nobody, in matters of his standards, otherwise he would have lowered them a lot. He was dapper, always. Some mistook this elegance for abundances stashed away from prying eyes. Where are the millions he was supposed to have made from serving in government? How could he have moved from Jalupon to this place? I was relieved that those who castigated his involvement in government, solely on this score, did not know him.