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An Unofficial Autopsy Of Mike Awoyinfa By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo

Mike Awoyinfa is dead. I do not know when he died. I have no idea what killed him. In any case, it saddens me.

Mike Awoyinfa is dead. I do not know when he died. I have no idea what killed him. In any case, it saddens me.

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My shock was compounded because for a long time, Mike had escaped my radar. That was until the other day, when I paused and said to myself; “Yeah, what about Mike? What’s the matter with Mike Awoyinfa these days?”

I googled Press Clips, Mike Awoyinfa’s long running column. Instead of Press Clips, all I could find were Dead Clips. Clips like these: “I have always believed that good journalism and good evangelism should go hand in hand,” Mike wrote. “I have always tried in this forum to build a bridge linking evangelism and journalism…Journalism and evangelism are both rooted in news.  One is the Good News.  The other is Bad News.  In journalism, bad news is good news while good news is not necessarily bad news.  Am I confusing you?” You bet!

 I searched for Mike Awoyinfa’s autopsy, but there was none published anywhere. So this is my little attempt at stringing together an unofficial autopsy report for Mike Awoyinfa.

I am for conducting an autopsy when a young man or woman dies too soon or under mysterious circumstances. An autopsy is a tool used to prove that there is sense in things that do not make sense. Where there are no autopsies superstitions thrive. And where superstition thrives, witch doctors, witch pastors, and witch con artists have a field day.

Another reason for an autopsy to be done is to ensure that the thing that killed the man, in this case Mike Awoyinfa, will not kill others.

You see, I knew Mike long time ago. Ok, I don’t actually know him, but through his columns, I felt I knew him. I used to travel from my hometown, Nnobi, to Nnewi to get a copy of Concord newspaper when he used to write on Thursdays. And I continued to do the same when he started Weekend Concord. The only other person that made me make such a trip was MEE, May Ellen Ezekiel.

 I didn’t matter if I had examination the next day, I would read Press Clips before I read my books. By the time Mike Awoyinfa wrote, Tai Solarin: May Your Days Be Rough, I was sure when I grew up, I would be like Mike.

I still remember the crazy reaction of Nigerians to that column. My father explained to me that the column was a good example of the literary tool called satire.  He used the opportunity to reaffirm to me that satire thrives on the use of ridicule, irony and sarcasm, to portray folly and destroy them with mockery.

Growing up, I respected prose provocateurs like Adebayo Williams, Edwin Madunagu, Eddie Iro, Niyi Osundare, who write impeccable English. But I admired satirists like Mike Awoyinfa, Olatunji Dare, Ndaeyo Uko and G.G. Dara. When I thought of commentary, I thought of them.

Anybody can come out and say that the president is stupid. Some can even give great reasons why the president is stupid. What a satirist does that is different is to freeze a clip of the president in a public function, zero in on a spot on the president’s trouser and blow the spot up until it shows that it is poo-poo. Nothing can be more effective.

Death is a bitch. Death knocking a man like Mike Awoyinfa out of commission is a serious loss. Old journalists know a lot. I recently met one of Nigeria’s old journalists here in America. I asked him why he wasn’t writing anymore. He told me that incidentally a column came to him the night before. I asked him when he would write it because I missed his column. He said to me that he wouldn’t because if he should write it, it would shake the nation.

I felt like asking him what was wrong with shaking the nation. But he was such an old man that I could not stand giving him stomach ache. I’d find the answer in an encounter with another senior colleague who was still writing. He told me once that what I wrote captured his view. And when I asked him why he did not write it in a column of the same subject he said that his hands were tied.

Which raises the question, does Dan Agbase still write? What about Yakubu Mohammed? Ray Ekpu, I understand, died after he was caught copying from Thomas Paine. If these people still write, why is it that once in a while, I don’t get their works in my mailbox? The worldwide web is such that any brilliant piece published anywhere, be it in Okitipupa Times, will get to your mailbox somehow. Even for newspapers that are not online, readers often scan a particular work and send it as an attachment.

Writing is not a job that comes with retirement. There are no retired writers. Writers who stop writing become dead writers.

That is why I like Ernest Hemingway. When he felt he was not writing great works anymore, he shot himself. I don’t mean that Dan Agbase should shoot himself. I’m speaking like President Jonathan - metaphorically. Rather than waste newspaper pages or magazine space, writers who feel they have lost their mojo should just shoot themselves.

Journalists and writers may not have been there when the killings were done, but they often know the people who did the killings and where the bodies were buried. Which makes it all the more sad when they die without sharing their knowledge.

As I mourn Mike Awoyinfa, I must restate again that the trouble with satire is that those you expect to use their tongues to count their teeth often do not have that skill. Men created riddles out of fear, not out of any noble desire to stimulate thought.

In my hometown, I am classified along side those who are dead. I am okay with that. I would rather have it that way than come back home and die the way Mike Awoyinfa died.

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