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In Loving Memory: Of OJ Akingbesote – An Exemplary Husband Who Loved without Restraint!

He was my best friend, confidant, faith booster, prophet, editor of my academic papers and official writings, encourager, accountability partner and teacher (yup, he taught me how to drive and so many other things). This is such a loss I’m not sure I’ll recover from. He died serving this great nation. He was killed in the course of a heated military operation in Northern Nigeria. He was shot whilst trying to rescue a friend and colleague in the course of battle. That colleague called me to narrate the chain of events himself – the most painful news I have ever received. His sacrifice leaves my heart heavy but I’m certain heaven must have rewarded him with an award badge because he literally laid down his life for his friend. Here on earth, his good deeds live after him.

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When we lose people we love, their physical bodies may be gone but the light of the love we had for them lasts for an eternity. BellaNaija presents In Loving Memory to give everyone in our community a chance to etch the memories in stone. 

We’re kicking off the series with the incredibly sweet memory of Toyin’s husband. She tries her best to capture the emotions she went through and the love they shared; and it is truly an honor for us at BellaNaija to bring this story to you.

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I lost my darling husband on the 5th of October, 2018 and that has been the most excruciating pain ever.

My hero, Capt. OJ Akingbesote, was a Captain in the Nigerian Army, a Signal Officer to be precise. He was an ardent lover of God, country and family. He firmly believed that his purpose on earth was strongly connected to these three: God, country and family. As a little boy, he incessantly dreamt of being in the Army. In fact, he wanted to be in the Infantry (that’s the Corps for the actual “foot fighters”). His parents recounted stories of how he would wield sticks and rods as his gun. After his elementary education, he indicated his intention to attend the Nigeria Military School (NMS) but out of apprehension, his parents would rather have him in a Unity School. He gained admission into the prestigious Federal Government College, Idoani and greatly excelled there.

Upon graduation, he proceeded to Federal University of Technology, Minna (popularly referred to as FUT Minna) where he studied Electrical and Computer Engineering. Regardless of the fact that he was acing his courses, by his third year in the University, he discreetly purchased the National Defence Academy (NDA) admission form and left Minna for Kaduna in the hope that he would soon become a Cadet. He was on the reserve list so he kept his hopes high and remained in Kaduna almost missing out on a full semester in Minna. When it appeared he was going to miss an entire semester in Minna, his best friend, Charles, called him and strongly advised him to return to Minna for the semester exams so he doesn’t lose out on both sides. Apparently, he missed out on the continuous assessment tests for all his courses so he had to read extra hard for the outstanding 70% for each course. Yielding to his bestie’s call, he hurriedly returned to Minna and read tirelessly for the exams. He aced all exams and did not have to resit any course. He completed his University education with honors but did not stop purchasing NDA admission forms every year or attempting the entrance exams. He was a firm believer in the quote: “anything that is conceivable is achievable”. He wasn’t just writing these exams, he equally fasted and prayed to have his dream come true.

When I met him in 2009, he had finished the compulsory National Youth Service Corps and was working for his dad, whilst also job hunting. However, he never let go of his dream to join the Army. At some point, he had the option to be aided with his admission into the NDA on the condition that he changed his state of origin to Osun State because all slots for his home state had been taken. Being a man of integrity, he didn’t want his admission offered on the altar of lies so he politely opted out..

Someday, in 2010, he called me excitedly on the phone and this time, he had a testimony. His dream of gaining admission into the NDA had become a reality just like that! I had mixed feelings but I would rather support him to live his dream than be selfish. This was the least I could do because he always supported mine, after all. I was in my fourth year in the University, studying law at the time and I kid you not, he was my alarm clock for waking up to read because he would always call me on the phone when it was my study time. I would go for “night class” and the one who accompanied me – whilst staying on the phone – until I got to my hostel safely, was my OJ.

By August 2010, he left for the NDA but he stayed in touch. Phones were not allowed at the Academy but they had access to a payphone once a week (every Sunday, I think) and he would call me every week.

After completing his short service programme at the Academy, he was posted to Lagos to serve at the Signal Command.

He was a very disciplined man in every sphere. He loved God so much and would never joke with his Deeper Life Monday Bible Study. Deeper Life was not his home church but that was the fellowship he attended whilst on Campus and he never outgrew his love for the weekly Bible Study. According to him, Deeper Life Ministry is one of the few churches in Nigeria that constantly remind you about heaven and is not smitten by the “24/7 prosperity sermon” bug. He would study the word of God on his own and make jottings (one of them is attached to this mail for reference purposes).

He also gave benevolently for the spread of the gospel. I recall he was a member of an RCCG parish in Ile-Ife whilst he was on Army sponsorship for a postgraduate course in OAU. He was the parish pastor’s go-to person for arising financial contributions and he never held back.

He was also an unrepentant lover of his country and was very diligent at his job. This is evident in the way he passionately served. One of his bosses, a Brigadier General, described him thus: “It’s painful and very hurtful. I have lost a son, a fine soldier, an embodiment of intelligence, sincere and naive professionalism, a fearless warrior, and all it takes to be a gentleman soldier and officer. He was the finest of his generation, a natural-born soldier. Sola can never die! He remains immortal in my heart. He is my candle in the winds.  He shall be studied for his all-round abilities and leadership qualities.  He was naive and loved his work with passion. He does not know how to say no to tasks, including dangerous ones. He always sacrificed his all, energy and time. So amiable, and charismatic. Never saw a frown or grimace on his face when assignments are dished out. His mental and physical maturity was beyond his age and experience, omoluabi ti lo. Glad he passed through me and forever grateful that we shared time together. He was always steps ahead, exceptional and almost mythically proactive. I never had cause to check him because he was always exceptional. Nigeria, and indeed mankind, has lost a rare gem. A gem far above the best of diamonds and gold and every other precious stone. Sola will live on. His virtues will be taught for all to learn. He was not of this generation he was far above. I love Sola and I am forever grateful to God for making our paths cross in this perilous and uncertain world. Sola,  Rest in peace my son and my hero. Till we meet to part no more. Adieu.”

He was so responsible financially that he never failed to draw up his budget every month. He helped me develop myself in this area because I spent on impulse. My husband’s budget had his tithe as top on the list, then expenditure for our home and the rest goes to charity; he barely spent on himself. By charity, I mean money for a relative who needs a raise, a cousin who is yet to pay up fees in school, distant relative who needs capital to fund a new business and gifts for our parents – mine and his. Not like they would ask for it but he believed that’s the least we could do for our parents.

Sola was a giver, a cheerful one at that! He honoured his parents so much that sometimes, I wonder why his life was cut short since the key to a long life is for us to honour our parents. I have since come to the realisation that we often read the scriptures in part and interpret in part. Even though we are told to honour our fathers and mothers so our days can be long, the scripture also tells us that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.

He was an exemplary husband who loved me without holding back. I cannot stop relieving the memories of waking up in the night to the face of a man staring at my face and smiling. The first time I noticed that, I was startled to the nerves. I woke up and suddenly saw my man staring at my face and smiling. One of those days, I asked how long he had been staring and he said “not too long ago” (maybe so I don’t freak out). He said he could not stop admiring me. He made me feel so good and comfy in my skin. I also recall that when I was hospitalised, I woke up (unknown to him) and saw a grown man in his uniform crying and asking God to put the illness on him rather than watch me being ill. That grown man was my husband! He showered so much love on our son and me. He could not bear grudges; if we disagreed on an issue, he would make sure we made up without delay. When I’m pissed off, I prefer to keep mute and stay on my own but my husband could not take the silent treatment. If he had tried to gist with me and I was still forming ‘angry bird’, he would set up an emergency family Bible study time. He would make us study the Word, pray together and in the course of praying, he would raise really hilarious prayer points such that I would have started chuckling even before the prayer is over. He made it so easy for us to settle our differences and taught me seamless dispute resolution.

In my career, he was a pillar of support. I got a job in a bank shortly before we got married and he was ready to wait till I was confirmed at work for us to start preparing to have a baby. According to him, it would be unfair to my employers if I had to push a big belly around the office barely one year into my employment. Our plan fell through! When it was time to prep for baby No. 2, I had just changed jobs to a new path in Law practice, which was my dream job and path. He agreed with me to settle into the new office before making our baby. Unfortunately, he slept in the Lord just when we were ready for our next baby. This man paid through my LLM programme in Unilag when he had not even bagged a Masters degree himself.

OJ never saw me as a competition. For every dream I have nursed, we would pray and fund it together until it became reality. He knew I always wanted to have a post grad degree abroad so he registered me for another online Masters programme with the University of South Wales through UNICAF, shortly before his demise. He also joined in doing chores at home; he never considered himself too big to help out. He was an amazing father to our son. Through delivery, he was right by my side in the ward taking in all my yells and labour drama. At some point, he told me to reduce my voice and consider other patients on admission in the hospital. I yelled at him and asked him to leave my room. He left very calmly because he knew I was “under the influence”. That’s not the regular Tosin. Few minutes later, guess who was calling for her husband to return to the ward and give her a back massage? Me! When our baby finally came forth, he made the first contact with him, held him in his arms and prayed so fervently for him before the nurses took him for their routine. Work did not avail him 24/7 presence at home but he was always present with us. WhatsApp and IMO were our favourite apps for video calls.

Amongst these super qualities he had, he was a great listener, extremely selfless and full of empathy. A lover of football (Man Utd addict), a provider, a stern disciplinarian (sometimes when he discipline our little man, my eyes would go dim) and other exceptional qualities too numerous to mention.

It is evident how greatly his departure has affected me. He was my best friend, confidant, faith booster, prophet, editor of my academic papers and official writings, encourager, accountability partner and teacher (yup, he taught me how to drive and so many other things). This is such a loss I’m not sure I’ll recover from. He died serving this great nation. He was killed in the course of a heated military operation in Northern Nigeria. He was shot whilst trying to rescue a friend and colleague in the course of battle. That colleague called me to narrate the chain of events himself – the most painful news I have ever received. His sacrifice leaves my heart heavy but I’m certain heaven must have rewarded him with an award badge because he literally laid down his life for his friend. Here on earth, his good deeds live after him.

I’ll always remember him for the fantastic angel he was on earth and can only pray that his son carries on with his strength of character.

Forever and a day, my hero. He remains in my heart.

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