Paul Alade a member of Ofege,the Nigerian school boy band of the 70s,has died of corona virus in New Jersey USA.
His childhood friend and fellow band member,Dapo Olumide paid this moving tribute to him.
My dear friend Paul, the news of the last few days has shaken me to my core, because it was totally unexpected, and what hurts me more is that because of this COVID-19 virus, I can’t pay my last respects to Paul because New Jersey law only allows immediate family members, or a maximum of 2 guests; I can’t pay my last respects to Paul because I’m on lockdown in Lagos; I can’t pay my last respects to Paul because the Lagos airport is closed; I can’t pay my last respects to Paul
because there are no flights to New York; I can’t pay my last respects to Paul because all the hotels in New York are closed.
All I can do now is pay tribute to him from afar - the calm, reserved, gentle giant that Paul was.
As friends, Paul and I go back 50 years; as schoolmates from St Gregory’s College we go back 49 years – and what a blast we had in those days. And let’s not forget that we were only 13 years old when the boy band Ofege was born. How many teenagers in the world today can say they were members of a band that went on tour and recorded albums while at the same time were studying for promotion exams and ultimately their O-Levels? Yet by comparison today, a 13-year old schoolboy can barely read and write. Where did we go wrong?
I remember the time when Ofege went on tour to I.S.I. in Ibadan, and when we drove through the school’s gates Paul asking me…”Why are all the girls dressed in table cloths?” We found out later that this was the print design of the school uniform for the girls in boarding. As funny as it sounds today, you must remember that back in the ‘70’s in Lagos this type of fabric was used on tables in bukas in Obalende and Bamgbose Street, places that we frequented, and this is what drew Paul’s keen eye. What Paul never knew was that many years later I would end-up marrying a beautiful young girl from I.S.I. and I can assure you that it wasn’t her boarding school uniform that attracted me to her. (laughing)
I recall with perfect clarity the days when Paul and I would get an exeat from the boarding house and walk down to his family house on Ajasa Street in Onikan to have lunch. We’d walk up the stairs to the front door, and his sister Mary would open the door. I remember looking out over the balcony of the house to see the well-manicured garden lawn with bench chairs and a small fountain that I believe today is a sandy, dusty patch of ground called the ‘Onikan Youth Centre’.
Oh, did I mention the times that Paul and I jumped over the school wall to go watch movies at a cinema on Berkley Street in Onikan (I don’t remember the name of the cinema), and on the way back to school we’d stop to buy bread, akara and coca-cola in Obalende?
Our set had so much fun as boarders, and we couldn’t understand why anybody would want to be a day student – duh!
Another strange thing was that even though Paul and I were both tall 6-footers we still wore platform shoes to parties, and we both had enormous afros (I don’t remember which one of us had the bigger afro) Best to ask the Holy Child girls for the answer to that, because my late sister Josephine was the go-between with her school friends to broker meetings to be introduced to Paul and myself. Poor old Josephine, she had to put up with a lot from her friends. Oh, and before I dis the I.S.I. uniform too much, you should have seen the Holy Child hat / fila, or whatever they called it. Now, that was a work of art that could only have been designed by an 80-year old Irish nun who didn’t want the boys from St Gregory’s College to find her Holy Child girls attractive (laughing)
Paul and I were complete opposites at school. In the boarding house, he was always cool, calm and collected; he never raised his voice in anger, and he was always a rational thinker. As for me on the other hand, I was a prankster of the highest order always getting into trouble with Django, our House Master for one infraction or the other. When I look back on my school days, it’s a miracle how that I got to where I am today in one piece, but Paul was always a very calming influence on me.
Paul would sometimes come over to spend weekends at my house during mid-term, and he was always very cautious not to get too close my lunatic, mongrel dog called ‘Whizzy’ (yes, Ofege eventually made the crazy dog famous).
As with all things in life, the good times soon came to an end when we graduated with our WAEC and GCE’S in hand. Paul remained behind in Gregs for his A-Levels, while I went abroad. Paul later emigrated to the USA where he remained until his passing.
We have lost a good, kind, soft-hearted, officer and a gentleman to an invisible killer, and he will be sorely missed - and I mean this from the bottom of my heart.
As this virus sweeps across the Old World down into Africa, having claimed Paul as one of its victims, I pray for his soul, and we thank God that he is finally at peace.
And to my fellow Gregorian’s living in Nigeria in the shadow of this pandemic, all I can say to you is…”Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking…BRACE YOURSELVES FOR IMPACT”.
Capt Dapo Olumide
St Gregory’s College Class of ‘75
_Ofege, the 1970s school boy musical band from St. Gregory’s College, Obalende, Ikoyi, Lagos. Nigeria’s most outstanding school boy band of all time!_
_Melvin Noks: Lead Vocals/Rhythm_
_Paul Alade: Bass Guitar_
_Mike Meme: Drums_
_Soga Benson: Lead/Solo Guitar_
_Felix Ijeh: Rhythm/Tenor Guitar_
_Dapo Olumide: Keyboards_
_Felix Inneh: Percussionist_