“For it is in giving that we receive, and in dying that we are born to eternal life”
-Prayer of the Franciscan.
The Middle Passage is that historical, moral and emotional space, gap, absence, presence, nothingness and something, memory, loss with which the first generation of Africans apprehend the experience of enslavement in the Diaspora. It is about death. It is about living. It is about a journey to somewhere. It is about a journey to nowhere. It is about departure. It is about arrival, and it is about no arrival. Finally, it is about that inseparable duality and totality that define the African mind.
The recent transition of Professor Fẹmi Akindele on Wednesday August 14th 2013 in Botswana in Southern Africa has jarred memory. As a Diaspora subject, death as death, transition of a family member, of a fellow Diaspora subject creates its own “middle passage” for memory jingles at the instance of such transition. In doing this, death creates a presence and an absence.
This Middle Passage becomes an interiorization of the pain of eternal departure and agony of eternal absence, of an eternal gap, of the nakedness of humanity, of the cry of the dying and the living, and of the recognition of the depth of the Franciscan prayer that we are born, we die and in dying we pass to eternity. Thus Death as a Middle Passage is a paradox of living, dying and transiting to eternity.
So when the African mind thinks of death he likens it to poison when they say “Iku doro”-which means Death creates poison-not physical poison, but the “poison” of an intense interiorized eternal absence.
The same African mind insists that death is holiness for they say “Ma jọkun, ma jẹkolo, ohun ti won ba n jẹ lọrun ni ki o ba wọn jẹ.”-“Do not partake in material death and dirt any more, partake in perpetual eternity, in the ideal and in the adoration of peace with your fellow ideal ones…” Sometimes the bible likens death to nakedness when the bible says Naked I came Naked I will leave. And the bible becomes more intense about it when the bible goes for the broke and calls death vanity.
When death of the material calls we all struggle to name it. Listen to Laolu Akindele the child of the one whose eternal transition we mourn, whose transition threw us into that Middle Passage Pang.
With his calm and peaceful look- his divine gifts- Laolu Akindele looked dad in the face stone dead, his eternal body in his boyish, gripping and unsteady hand; right there in the morgue, in Botswana; he looked death in the face, that thing the bible with eternal finality calls nakedness and vanity, that thing which the Franciscan prayer names the passage to eternal life. Laolu Akindele in his gentle kindly, loving and filial voice, said to me about dad “gone too soon”.
Yes Laolu, dad left “too soon” for we all thought the one you said had gone “too soon” still had work to do here. So I thought. So our family thought here in the US. So you thought over there in Kenya. So mom Mrs. Oladepe Akindele thought in Ile Ife, Nigeria. So Olufemi thought. So Ayomiku thought in Nigeria. So Busayo thought in Nigeria. So people thought in Botswana. As we thought so here in the US, you all thought so in Africa. But the eternal says I call him back to live with me eternally and peacefully for he has completed his task on earth. With our mortality, we thought… but the owner of life called.
“Too soon, too soon…” so Laolu Akindele’s voice trailed off. Yes Femi Akindele has “gone too soon”. “Too soon” is about love, the eternity of agape love, the divinity and spirituality of love that passeth all human understanding.
Laolu, Dad’s love for you, for mom, for your siblings Olufemi, Ayomiku and Busayo and your love and that of your siblings and mom for Dad-is that spirituality, totality, and divinity of love that has just departed, that has just “gone too soon.”
Born to the family of Joseph and Deborah Akindele of Ipe Akoko in Ondo State on the 25th of May 1950, the last child of a family of four and the only son, Professor Dele Olufẹmi Akindele belonged to the lineage of Nigerian scholars in the Diaspora. While others chose other Diaspora space, Professor Fẹmi Akindele nestled his scholarship in the continent in Southern Africa.
Educated in Nigeria where he did his primary and secondary education, he completed his Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree from University of Ife in the years 1978 and 1983 respectively. Enamored by the nature and behavior of language in social contexts, he took a PhD in English and Linguistics at University of Nottingham, England in 1986.
Back in Nigeria in 1990 as a lecturer at the Obafẹmi Awolọwọ University, Ile Ifẹ, Oṣun state Nigeria, he later became a Senior Lecturer in 1990, a position he held until he moved to the Southern part of Africa in 1994 in the English Department at the National University of Lesotho. In 1997 he was appointed Associate Professor where he was till 2002.
While at the University of Lesotho, Professor Fẹmi Akindele served the civil society organizations of Lesotho in various capacities; including being represented on various Boards and Executive Committees of various organizations. He additionally, served for a number of years as Editor in Chief of the “Work for Justice” the newsletter of the Transformation Resource Centre and observed national elections in 2002 and 2007 respectively under the Lesotho Council of Non-governmental Organizations.
In October 2002, Prof. Akindele joined the Communication and Study Skills Unit at the University of Botswana. A prolific scholar, Professor Femi Akindele is widely published in International refereed journals as well as in the region. His research output consists of the following; 28 refereed journal articles, 5 books, 6 book chapters, 3 refereed conference proceedings, 3 book reviews and numerous PhD and Masters supervisions.
All these are eternally and divinely for you Dele Olufẹmi Akindele, and in your living memory for the African mind conceptualizes life as an indivisible totality, the indivisible fullness of life. The African mind locates this fullness of life as “Eniyan laṣọ mi, bi mo wo iwaju, bi mo wo ẹyin , bi mo ba ri ọrẹ ati ara mi, ara mi a ya gaga.” meaning that “The human being is my armor, the human is at the core, and the causative factor of our permanent state of social sensation, social and moral engagement”.
The human being, the bearer of ideas and social progress is at the core of that indivisible fullness of life. Dele Femi Akindele, you gave the world you left behind these human beings in your life. Together with his scholarly legacy, Professor Olufẹmi Akindele is divinely survived in an immediate sense by his wife dear wife Mrs. Oladepe Akindele and four children Laolu, Olufẹmi, Ayọmiku and Busayọ. They and us who live for love are part of his divine memory, the human armor, the bearers of ideas, the reasons we all live for divine and spirituality of love, the agape love.
Is it about death? Is it about him? Is it about us? Or is it about all? This is also about the ambiguity of death. It is one thing we all know will come but which no one can prepare for enough or stop. It imposes on us the paradox of death. Death is one thing we claim to know. But then how can you know nothing for the claim to know is about something. How can we know nakedness for nakedness is a void? Yet we know for death is nakedness, that Franciscan prayerful birth to eternity.
And for these reasons, accepting our divine mortality and in our middle passage, we surrender to God’s will in eternal peace and solemnity.
“Rest In Profound Eternal Peace Professor Dele Olufẹmi Akindele. You will no longer partake in material death and the dirt of our mortality any more, partake in perpetual profound love, in eternity, in the ideal and in the adoration of peace with your fellow ideal ones, the heavenly ones…we will remain connected and united in the divinity of the eternal path of life… .” The African mind represents this thus:
“Sun re o, Dele Olufẹmi Akindele. Ma jọkun ma jẹkolo. Ohun ti wọn ba n jẹ lajule ọrun ni ki o ba wọn jẹ. O darinako. O doju ala. O dọjọ ajinde. Ẹyin rẹ a dara. Ẹyin rẹ ti dara. O digba ”.
Adeolu Ademoyo email@example.com is of Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
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