To My Brother as He turns 30


Adetunji Oluwafemi ADEGBITE,: Engineer, Startup Founder, Father, Brother, Leader
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The most difficult tributes to write are those of your family members. Or how do you manage to compress a journey of 30 years, 26 of which you have witnessed yourself into a less than a thousand word post? Even if you had more than a thousand words where do you start from? How do you pick out of a maelstrom of memories, the best angles to capture the boy that my brother was, the man he has become, and the man he is going to become without the feeling of dissatisfaction that you have somehow sold him (and yourself) short? It is hard but I’ll do it anyway.

My brother was the shadow warrior

If the statement above happens to take you back to T’Challa the Black Panther in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War,  don’t think you have misunderstood me, because that’s precisely what I am also thinking about. Like T’Challa my brother is a prince (at least in name if not anything else) and a first son. But I am being mostly metaphorical here as my brother’s essence if far beyond the mudanities of a black Panther costume. Of the five of us, he is the least vocal. The rest of us having inherited to different extents the boisterous, bluster, the and touchy charm and bright eyed curiosity that drank from everything and everyone and regurgitated it as freely and as fast as we absorbed it,  from our father, a lifelong teacher. My brother was the least likely to say what he is thinking. For a very long time a closed book, to us. My brother closed mouth was not a lack of emotional adjustment, he was as emotionally rounded as the rest of us, and even some, because behind the closed lips was a keen mind which often drops chunks of insight that revealed that his mind was as sharp as those the rest of us, only that he is less likely to pour it out in streams as we all do.

My brother was a shadow warrior, I think the fact that he is an engineer at present says it all really. Not given to the histrionics that the rest of us especially the two of us he is sandwiched  between, he was the practical one who learnt how to drive at the age of sixteen by just  observing how Dad drove. He was the one who decided he would leave the world of literature and books he had been born into behind and become an engineer instead. He is the one ever brimming with ideas the one who founds startups like they are the easiest things in the world to do.

When we were in the university, he, my sister and myself, we were members of the Anglican Students Fellowship with varying levels of activity,  my sister was in Drama,( which says everything you need to know about her), I was in Ushering, the one who got to welcome everyone to every fellowship meeting with a smile. My brother was in Evangelism, the ones who were never seen at fellowship meetings because they were off on outreach in some village somewhere. When he was chosen into the fellowship executive council, he was made the Transport Secretary, the one who drove “Newer Dawn” ( the fellowship bus) and were never seen in fellowship events because he was probably off helping the organizing committee or the Welfare committee to carry stuff. That was his style, get more done while working from the background.

My brother was the pathfinder

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Father is a lecturer in the humanities, Mom is a nurse, My big sister is a lawyer, my brother is an engineer, I am a writer and broadcaster with a degree in English and Literary studies, my other bother is also a linguist like Dad, and my other sister is a nurse. You noted something odd, yeah I know you would. My brother left us behind, to find his own path, while the rest of us, lined up after our parents. It wasn’t easy for him, having to study alone because none of tour siblings or parents could help you with your school work, and your textbooks were recipes for mini heart attacks for the rest of the family. But he stuck at it, and told engineering to go do one. Because that is his style, he finds his own path like a boss.

My brother was the leader

Picture a newbie freshman, who at the time had only been in the university for a few weeks and had only a few friends sitting in a fellowship service. He sits alone not knowing anyone. Suddenly a lady walks up to him and asks “sorry do you know Tunji Adegbite” the newbie, stunned, blurts out ” Yes I do, he is my brother” and then she goes ” No wonder, I have been watching you for some sometime and you guys look so much alike.” And that was how I made my first ever friend in the Anglican Students Fellowship Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife. For a while after I was “Oga Tunji’s  brother” and it was really amazing the number of people who were pretty much falling over themselves to meet me, to welcome me because of that fact. But my brother was leader way before that time. We feared him, even more than Dad at times. if Dad said ” I will not give you pocket money,” we knew he was never going to carry out that threat, but if my brother said “I am going to beat you” You knew not even mom, God or the devil could save you from the beating you were going to receive. Decisive and calculating, he never made a promise he couldn’t keep or a threat he wouldn’t carry out. He is the calm when tensions boiled over, the one who just always knew what to do at any point in time. Even at play, he was the innovator, he was the one who learnt the bawdy remixes to popular songs and taught them to the rest of us, he was the one who introduced the rest of us to “Table Soccer” a game which we played against each other with bottletops wrapped in paper and painted in the colours of our favourite teams. My brother even designed our own Table soccer world cup, which coincided with the France 98 FIFA World Cup, complete with fixtures and a trophy  which he then promptly won, beating the rest of us (even my uncle who lived with us at the time), without losing a single game. He is only three years and a few months older than I am, but so much has he got the hang of this “adulting” of a something that it feels like ten years sometimes. That was his style, get stuff done without fuss or drama, like an engineer, like a boss, like a leader.

As he turns 30  today, This is to celebrate a milestone of achievement (which coincidentally is the age Dad was the year he was born), and many more years of great achievement. I know the best I might probably get from him is a terse “thanks” (but my very nice sister in law is going to cook me some very good Jollof rice which is good compensation). But who needs anything else besides a chance to follow in the footsteps of the leader, the pathfinder, the shadow warrior.

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