O Ri Pe Awon Eleyi Sunre (You See That These Ones Are Sleeping Well)

Johnson Babalola
September 14, 2023

A friend I refer to as L told me this story. It was a story his friend, P had shared with him after a visit to Canada by P’s dad.

So, P’s father, who was in his 80s and had zero Western education, had never been outside of Nigeria. He had been invited by his son to spend the Summer with his family.

Right from the airport, Papa was always commenting on almost everything he saw in Toronto.  “Gbogbo ibi yi lon dan gbirin” (everywhere is shining). “Ko ma si idoti ni titi ke” (There are no garbage on the roads”. The son would take his time to explain how things work in Canada. “Daddy, won gba owo ori to po lowo wa, sugbon won n lo dada” (they tax us heavily, but they use the funds well), he would often respond.

Papa was always amazed that at P’s home, there was constant flow of public water. “Omi ijoba yin ma dara o” (this public water is good) he would say. He also asked about the constant electricity: “Ina yin ti kii lo yi jo mi loju o” (this constant electricity amazes me)

There was a day that Papa was taken on a visit to Toronto Zoo. He saw the environment and the healthy-looking animals and remarked with all seriousness: “Awon eranko lon gbadun bayi. Olorun ma sanu wa lorile ede wa o” (here are animals enjoying.  God, please help us in our country).

Papa on a particular day insisted on accompanying P to pick up his child from school. When they arrived at the school, Papa stood still in front of the school without a word. On their way home, he asked P that the school must have been recently built.  P said no. It was 50 years old. Papa’s response was simple: lo wo ile iwe re nile. Ko ni windo ati panu. O ti fe wo tan” (go and check the school you attended at home. It has no windows or roofs. It is dilapidated).

P took his father to a number of places to sightsee: police station, hospital, post office, bank, fire service and many more. Each place, Papa would comment. P would explain to Papa that the leadership and the followership were both responsible for the provision and maintenance of the infrastructures. He would remind his father that if he stayed long enough, he would see the other side of Canada too.

Towards the end of his visit, Papa asked to visit one of his cousins. He needed a change of environment as he was missing Nigeria already. He would remind P that he missed his friends, neighbors, and his community engagements. Despite all he saw and admired in, and about Canada, there was no place like home, he would say.

On their way, they drove by a cemetery.  Papa asked P to stop and for them to take a walk. P did and they walked through the cemetery silently. It was a humbling experience. Papa was deep in thought. P allowed him to be, as he was deep in thought too. He recognized that they were both dealing with the reality of death and that one day, they will part ways.

Then Papa sat on a bench, eyes moist, looked into his son’s eyes and said to him in an almost quiet voice: O ri pe awon eleyi sunre (you see that these ones are sleeping well). P looked around the cemetery. He saw well tendered lawn, tarred roads, sitting areas, water fountain, well-shaped trees and a befitting office. It was quiet and peaceful. Truly, these ones were sleeping well, he thought in agreement with his father.

He held out his hands to his father, gave him a big hug and told him: “eyin na ma sun re” (you too will sleep well”. His father responded “hmmmmnn. Ti awon eniyan wa baje nile” (hmmmmnn, if our people will allow at home).

Silently, they walked into the car with deep thoughts about nation building, leadership,  followership, responsibility, separation, culture, legacy and death.

Johnson Babalola, a Canada and Nigeria based lawyer, leadership consultant, storyteller and corporate emcee, is a public affairs analyst. Follow him for discussions on real life issues that affect us all.

You can obtain a copy of his newly released book, REJECTED on Amazon, FriesenPress, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, Apple Books, Nook Store etc.