My brother, my Hero

Shared by Dele (Fawole) Airen on be... on March 26, 2021
From my secondary school days, I had often doted on the trio of God-given older brothers that I looked up to.
I particularly recall that several of my school's senior girls were brother Gbenga's secret admirers, who somehow knew his long-standing nickname 'Empee'. How they got wind of his nickname, I never could fathom but I will not deny the several benefits it often yielded in the manner those senior girls jostled to 'spoil' me with gifts from the tuck-shop.
Having him come home, in his university days, was usually delightful for me as I enjoyed hanging around him. His calmness and tender heart notwithstanding, he was firm in ensuring I toe the right path.
I was to continue enjoying the benefits of being _Empee's sister, even after I returned to UK, as some of his acquaintances and former students that I came across were often willing to bend backwards to assist me on various issues.
My brother, Gbenga, was meek in the context of the biblical Moses and never sought to take undue advantage of any situation, regardless of his prowess, an attribute he has successfully passed to his loving offspring. I am confident he is now rested in the Lord , free of the pains and miseries of this earthly world.
Adieu brother Gbenga, as I often call you.


Shared by Toye Fawole on March 26, 2021
Each time I listen to the jazz number, Take Five (Take Another Five) by Grover Washington, Dave Brubeck, George Benson or any other version of that vintage tune, I get a nostalgic feeling that takes me back to my pre-school days at Ode Omu (Odeom City), the sleepy town in the present day Aiyedaade Local Government Area of Osun State. Each day then as my immediate elder brother went to school, the seven-hour period of separation between us was like eternity, which shows how much I missed him.
But as soon as Radio Nigeria started blasting the cool instrumental music, which I later got to know as jazz music, I always knew my brother would soon return home. It was the landmark radio programme by which I “knew” time.
Thomas Adeoye Olugbemiga Fawole was my first playmate – that I knew. He was my compass and my pathfinder. He had the joker with which he navigated me out of trouble. I didn’t know God, so he was not just everything to me; he meant everything to me. He was indeed the world to me. There were no toys to play around with but he improvised, using cartons of sugar and every available thing to make jeeps and cars for me. He improvised tyres, so I could push those things around. He was my mentor, and remained one – till Thursday 11 February 2021.
He simply would not see me hurt, and this I reciprocated. So when our mum passed on at age 26 in far-away UK and there was so much weeping and gnashing of teeth all over the place, I was so young that I didn’t know what was happening but the tears in my brother’s eyes brought me to tears as well.
To me, he was an inspiration. When I got into West African School Certificate (WASCE) class at Olivet Baptist High School, Olivet Heights, Oyo, his words of encouragement, his pep talk, saw me passing in flying colours. In my final year in the university, having scored low in my previous session and heading for a let-my-people-go class, his wise counsel propelled me unbelievably to Second Class Upper Division (2.1) Honours. Searching for a job after NYSC in 1984, each time we both drove around in Lagos and saw the prominent billboards that announced the coming of THE GUARDIAN a year earlier – “Sooner or Later, You’ll Read THE GUARDIAN” – Empee used to whisper to me prophetically and reassuringly, “Sooner or later, you’ll join THE GUARDIAN.” My joining the flagship of the Nigerian print media – as he prophesied - within two months after NYSC was through him. It has never been lost on me therefore that, as they say, he brought me to Lagos. And I remain eternally grateful to him for this.
Empee – I took that name from the lips of his classmates at Igbobi College, Yaba, Lagos, where his nickname was Emperor – never hurt a fly. He had no record of rascality. He was simply as cool as potted water.
He made good of interceding for me with Dad. In recent years, I came across a letter of 4th January 1978 which he wrote to Dad from his Room 213, Awolowo Hall, University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), from where he graduated in law later that year. The School Cert result of Bukky and I, having been withheld along with those of 38 others among the over 100 of us who wrote the exam at Olivet in June 1977, were released during the Yuletide season in 1977. With both of us passing in flying colours, Empee seized the opportunity to put in a word for me. It was a one-page, three-paragraph letter in which Empee wrote, among others, “Please let me congratulate you again for their (Bukky and I) brilliant success in the school certificate exams.”
As a State Counsel in the Civil Litigation Department of the Federal Ministry of Justice in the early 80s, he simply stood out of the crowd as he traversed the courts nationwide representing the Federal Government, such that some judges commended him, noting that he did not have the usual civil service nonchalance which was the trademark of some State Counsel.
At a point, after lecturing at the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos, for about 10 years, he said he could beat his chest that about 50 per cent of Nigerian lawyers had passed through him. All through this, as he flew the flag of the family as Dad’s learned friend, he held his head high and we are ever so proud of him. Even after emigrating to the United States, he remained ever so allergic to bad manners.
As we held a family meeting by Zoom across three continents last week, I was reminded that it was my responsibility to do a formal announcement of Empee’s status, which I did in three paragraphs:
“With heavy hearts but with total submission to the will of God, the family of the late Justice Jones O. Fawole hereby announces the passage of the late jurist’s eldest son, Mr. Thomas Adeoye Olugbemiga Fawole. He took his last breath on Thursday 11 February 2021 in New Jersey, United States, his last country of abode, after a brief illness. He was 65.
“He is survived by his wife and three children, as well as a community of siblings, cousins and other relations.
“Funeral arrangements will be announced shortly.”
Coming exactly two years after Bukky passed on in January 2019, Empee’s home call is unbearable. But it is well with us in Jesus’ name! It is well with his wife whom we fondly call Madam Funke. It is well with Empee’s children – Funlola, ’Detola and Seun. Indeed, it is well with all of us too numerous to mention.

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