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Civility has its rewards By Lekan Alabi

Today, Sunday, 12th August, 2018, it is 40 years, God willing, that Chief (Mrs.) Adetokunbo Mojirade Alabi (nee Laditan of Ilaro, Ogun State of Nigeria) and my humble self, Oloye ‘Lekan Alabi, Agba Akin Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oyo State of Nigeria and the first Cultural Ambassador of the National Museum and Monument, Ile-Ife, Osun State of Nigeria, tied the nuptial knot at Saint John’s Wood Anglican Church, Lords Roundabout, London NW8, Great Britain. We thank God.

God, destiny and my civility brought us together, sometime in 1977, while I was a student at the famous College of Journalism, Fleet Street, London EC4 (it’s since been merged, over 30 years ago, with the University of London); and she, a student of the equally-famous Pittman’s College for Secretarial Studies, London.

I was a tenant, with former Miss Adetutu Olanipekun, later Mrs. Igbinogun, of blessed memory; and some other colleagues of hers who were also students of the Pittman’s College, at 82, Prince George Road, Stoke Newington, London N16.

One day, early in 1977, a fellow male tenant of mine, from Benin, celebrated his birthday at our 82, Prince George Road residence. I was the compere at the birthday party. Because other tenants, especially the females, were not in good terms with the celebrant, they vacated home for the weekend, avoiding the party.

The party was in full swing, real full swing, when a visitor pressed our doorbell. We ignored the call, but the ringer was persistent, as his/her finger ‘stuck’ on the bell, to our discomfort!

As a gentleman from birth, I took excuse to answer the bell, but the celebrant implored me to ignore the bell. Hear him: “Don’t answer the caller; he/she may be a gatecrasher.”

I replied him that since the caller was persistent, it was imperative that we answer the bell. When the celebrant still insisted that the caller be ignored, I brushed him aside, telling him to remember that I was a tenant with equal rights like him and other tenants in the house.

I thus went to the door to perform a civil duty of attending to the call of the visitor/bell ringer.

On opening the front door of our 82, Prince George Road, Stoke Newington, London N16, what did I behold? A strikingly beautiful lady, so well-dressed and wrapped in an expensive fur topcoat, to boot! The well-known (male) natural Ibadanness of civility, hospitality, gaiety, etc., immediately overwhelmed me, a dashing, well-groomed Ibadan aristocrat.

I politely asked her in from the biting cold and asked for her mission. She, who today is my wife, said she was looking for her schoolmate and friend, Adetutu, my co-tenant, who I had earlier said in this piece had vacated the house ostensibly to snob the celebrant and his birthday party.

I told her (Adetokunbo, the pretty visitor) this, and invited her to join the swinging party.

“No,” came her blunt reply. She said she was not interested in the party, swinging or unswinging. Rather, she requested that I kindly deliver her message to Adetutu. The message? That she had come, as agreed with Adetutu, to collect some materials promised her by Adetutu who was returning to Nigeria.

“I promised to deliver her message and asked for her name. She answered, “Tell her Miss Tokunbo Williams from Pittman’s College was here.” I, again, invited her to kindly be my guest at the on-going party, rubbing it in that I was the MC!”

The bang of the door on my handsome face by her drowned the grunts she made. I felt insulted. Not insulted, truth be told, but unlucky that such a drop-dead beauty had eluded me. Me? The popular “Mayor of Stoke Newington.” I returned to the party, with my earlier MC verve deflated.

You can imagine my unwillingness, a few days later, to deliver the message of the ‘cocky’ visitor/party rejector (if there is an adjective like that) to Adetutu. Though I swallowed my hurt/pride, and eventually delivered the message, Adetutu rekindled my rage when she burst into a searing laughter and said, “O ma se o. Please, don’t mind my friend. She is not Tokunbo Williams, but Miss Tokunbo Laditan.”

I retorted thus, “E gba mi. Ki lore re fi mi pe? I was only being civil to her. Please, warn her that I am not in the rank of Nigerian boys to be taken for a ride.” Truth be told — I prayed silently inside me that Adetutu would invite her cocky friend to our house, for me to express my romantic feelings for her – the ‘shakaraing Lagos girl.”

Sincere prayers got, and still get answered by God, as the fake Miss Adetokunbo Williams fell into my waiting hands, so to say, on her second visit to our house, to see her friend, Adetutu.

This time, though, Adetutu had finally departed London for her home, Lagos, Nigeria. But, she had passed all the materials — books and utensils to me, for collection by Tokunbo.

When, again, a visitor pressed our doorbell for long, my intuition told me it must be Adetutu’s friend, my much-awaited ‘customer.’ Lo, there she was, outside the door.

I coldly, acting to be angry, opened the door and murmured a feeble welcome to her rather warm “Good evening” greeting. I asked her of what help I could be to her this time.

Hhheeeeeheeeee, mo rerin Oyinbo, when she said: “Adetutu told me she has left some materials in your care for me to collect. That’s what I’m here for. Can you please bring them out here, as I am in a hurry and don’t want to enter your house.”

I almost fainted, going by her deadpan look and steel voice. I prayed to my “Eleda not to work for someone else to consume.” This bird must not escape me this time, I swallowed my pride. Kilo nje pride nibi ti awelewa gbe duro? l put up a bold (shakara) face, as the following dialogue ensued between the future husband and wife.

ME: Excuse me, lady. Don’t take my civility for a ride. The fact that I opened the door for you the other time and now, without any previous appointment between us, does not make me your doorman.

TOKUNBO: I am sorry. But,please, also note that I didn’t come to see you then and now. It’s my friend ‘Tutu who told me to collect some materials from you. But, if you want to confiscate them, it’s left to you.

ME: Confiscate is a heavy and indicting word. And I won’t take that from you, or anyone else for that matter. I pretended to have been insulted.

TOKUNBO: OK, I withdraw the offensive word. Go and bring the materials now. Or what again do you want from me?

ME: I said silently to myself, ‘I want you’, but pretending to still be angry: I don’t want anything from you, Lagos girl. I am a decent Ibadan boy. London is a leveler. By the way, may I have your name again, please?

TOKUNBO: But, I told you the first I came here. Why are trying to delay me? I am Miss Tokunbo Williams. Now, go and bring those materials out. I am freezing.

ME: Miss Tokunbo Williams, I am sorry, I don’t have any material in my custody for you! Adetutu handed over some materials to me for a Miss Tokunbo Laditan — laying emphasis on LADITAN. And you are not the Miss Laditan.

TOKUNBO: Mr. Alabi, I am sorry that I lied to you about my surname. I am not Miss Williams, but Miss LADITAN. (She had started to shake due to the biting cold.) Please, let me in, I’m freezing.

ME: I smiled inside me and thanked my “Eleda” that eleyi ti fall na.

Opening the front door fully, I replied her: “You can come inside, but I need proof that you are truly Miss Laditan. I am not to be toyed with, mind you.”

We entered my apartment. I offered her hot tea, which she accepted. A while later, she again apologised saying,”I thought you were one of those Nigerian boys who are in London, doing nothing tangible, but preying on unsuspecting and vulnerable girls.”

I seized the moment to rub in my enviable Ibadan pedigree; my brilliant academic/social profiles, sealing it up with the fact that I was a star journalist with the Sketch Publishing Company Limited, Ibadan, where I held the record of being the newspaper firm (and, indeed, Nigeria’s) first and only bi-columnist — “MO RI FIRI” in Gboungboun and “IT’S WHAT’S HAPPENING”, in the popular Sunday Sketch.

The rest is history.