By MIKE AWOYINFA
SET in Yavapai County in the state of Arizona, USA, Sedona is an idyllic wonderland, a Miltonic picture of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained in time and place. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Look at the red rocks of wonder, clayey, towering like Goliathan anthills straight from an epic poem, straight from a dream, straight from a work of art wrought by a celestial artist. So timeless. So immutable. So indestructible. Rock of ages, cleft for me!
“A cold coming we had of it,” just as T.S. Eliot wrote in his poem, Journey of The Magi. In our case, it’s “A long coming we had of it.” What a journey! We had travelled ten hours in the sky, from London to Phoenix, Arizona, the city named after the mythical bird that died and was reborn out of the ashes of its own conflagration to live forever and become a symbol of immortality and regeneration.
I first heard about the city in the song: By The Time I Get to Phoenix, a song originally written by Jimmy Webb but redone by Isaac Hayes, “The Black Moses” in the 1969 album Hot Buttered Soul, with Isaac Hayes rapping the words: “I’m talking about the power of love now…Love can make you or break you. It can make you happy or sad…In case of jealousy, love can make you mad.”
I was on this long journey with my wife to celebrate the wedding of Fela Odeyemi and his African-American love Tocke Frazier. Fela, the fourth of the five sons of Professor Olu Odeyemi (Professor of Microbiology, Obafemi Awolowo University) and Mrs. Lara Odeyemi, the former bursar of the same university, is an engineer at Intel Corporation who doubles as Adjunct Professor at Arizona State University College of Engineering. Fela has this uncanny looks like the legendary afrobeat king, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. He even has the same shape of head like Fela. In America where Fela, the musician is so popular, Fela Odeyemi used to play tricks when asked if he is the son of the afrobeat star.
I asked Professor Odeyemi why he named his son Fela. Has it anything to do with Fela, the rebel musician?
Not at all. “Even though I love Fela, I didn’t name him after Fela,” Prof Odeyemi says. At a time Fela was born, he had three sons and was hoping Fela would be a girl. “Initially, I wanted just one boy and a girl, but it turned out that I kept having boys. When the fourth boy came, I named him Oluwafela, meaning God has expanded the glory.”
With five boys, the Odeyemis could have given the world, a Nigerian version of Jackson Five, the American singing family group that produced the legendary Michael Jackson of blessed memory. But rather than become a musical family, the Odeyemi boys walked in the footsteps of their dad to pursue academic excellence. The first son Tunde is a medical doctor in New Jersey. The second son Kunle has an MBA from London Business School. The third son Lanre who married the daughter of the late Ooni Sijuade has MBA and MSc from Columbia University. The fourth son Yemi has an MSc in Microbiology from OAU and a second MSc in biotechnology from the University of South Florida, Tampa.
“Dad had inspired us to work very hard and strive to achieve our dreams,” Fela told me, as we drove around the city of Phoenix, getting to know ourselves better. “He always led by example. He also emphasizes humility, patience and a thirst for knowledge, claiming that knowledge/education is more important than money or fame. My mum too must be commended because she has always been the backbone of the family, keeping everyone in line in the gentlest way possible. She could be tough when needed. She’s always been the protector of the family.”
Fela met his wife for the first in California when he visited there from Phoenix. They were introduced by a common friend. And ever since, they have not separated. The turning point was when he brought her to Nigeria and she was able to fit into the African culture so seamlessly, showing respect to his in-laws and the elders by kneeling down each time to greet. That was what wowed the parents of Fela. “She is such a good girl,” says Prof. Odeyemi. “She is friendly, she is sharp, she is humble and very understanding. I was so impressed by how she tried to pick up some aspects of African culture.”
I asked Fela why he opted for Sedona instead of Phoenix for their wedding. And he simply replied: “When you get there, you will know why.” He was right. Haaaaaaa!!! Sedona is just magical. It is beautiful. It is awesome. It takes your breath away. It is one of the places on earth you must visit one day. My most unforgettable memory of Sedona is waking up early in the morning and from my hotel room, watching the sun rise and God splashing His beautiful light on the glorious hills. No words can capture the beauty of Sedona at sunrise and at sunset.
“It is one of the very best places in the world to get married,” Prof. Odeyemi says. “I thank God that one of my children was able to have a marriage in this heaven on earth. The place is so quiet. No noise. People are doing their work, yet you don’t hear noise. It is a far cry from Nigeria where there is so much noise. Here in Nigeria, we talk, talk and do nothing. Look at the beautiful inter-state roads linking all of America. Why can’t we have our roads like this? Instead what we have in Nigeria are appalling roads. How can we grow our economy without something as basic as good roads? Why are we like that? Nigeria needs to get back to work. We talk a lot in this country. Talk, talk and no solution.”
During their courtship, Fela took his girlfriend to Sedona for the first time and she was so seduced by the beauty of the place to say: “Wed me in Sedona.”
Prof. Odeyemi Launches 3 Books
On Monday November 16, 11 am at the Airport Hotel, Lagos, Prof. Olu Odeyemi will launch three books among which is a book on “TWO CENTURIES OF OIL AND GAS (1860-2060). A prolific writer and academic, he wrote that book because “an aspect of oil is one of the courses I teach at OAU. And I know that Nigeria depends mainly on oil. That was why I started the course on petroleum microbiology. Through my reading in that field, I got to know that the whole world is seriously running out of oil and gas. So I wrote to alert the world on that reality that oil will dry out completely in 2060.”
On whether he is not sounding too alarmist, Odeyemi said: “I am not a prophet of doom but a prophet of boom. By alerting the world like that, we will have to look for other sources of powering our nation. I also highlighted the need for Nigeria and the world to focus on agriculture. Government must review its land-use policy. Instead of saying the ownership of land is government, we must liberalize land ownership so that youths can have access to land.”
Among distinguished guests at the book launch are Mr. Wale Tinubu of Oando, who is the Chief Launcher, Justice E.O. Ayoola, former ICPC chairman who is the chairman of the occasion and His Imperial Majesty Oba Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran II, LLD, CFR, the Royal Father of the day.