I cannot recall what inspired my audacity that mummy (even when my kids felt that word was their exclusive preserve as in their words I was no longer a kid!) as I called her ever since my vocal tract became useful, was going to depart this earth at an unripe age of 85 (mothers can never be ripe!) when in the first instance I had silently nursed that she could have departed earlier when I spotted a strand of grey hair on her head as a kid reviewing the October 1983 election results in Daily Times. Since I left home in search of knowledge at 10, notwithstanding the distance barrier that the industrial action in the universities helped to breach in the 90s, my relationship with my mom was an invisible bonded cord that is better graphically illustrated by that magical embrace of the soul where a double amputee Victor Dell’Aquila endeavored to embrace Alberto Tarantini and Ubaldo Fillol who were hugging while sunk on the feet as Argentina captured their first World Cup on home soil in 1978.
My Mom was born in that ageless commercially vibrant south western city of Osogbo on Friday 28th March, 1958 to parents of Otan Ayegbaju ancestry, a well-known building material merchant Jonathan Omotunde Ajayi and a seamstress Ruth Olaoke Ajayi who was my Lois while her daughter was my Eunice. She excelled as a student in wartimes between 1967 – 1971 and net ball player while at Anglican Grammar School, Otan Ayegbaju, the loss of her dad in 1969 while in secondary school meant she had to jettison her prospective nursing career ambition for the teaching profession that fetched her the Best Corper award, that she held on to for the next 35 years culminating with her pen down retirement in 2012 at 60 after 35 productive years in service, and in an era where the indigenous languages are on the verge of extinction, she in conjunction with other like minds in Egbe Akomolede ati Asa Yoruba (Yoruba Tutors Association) where she was also the chairperson, midwifed the popular Yoruba inter secondary school TV debates ‘ari yan ji yan’ where she was also a part of the jury. She majored in Yoruba and Christian Religions Knowledge (CRK), she was a trustee and connoisseur of culture and she never fails to demonstrate the beauty of the Yoruba culture in her speech, deeds and wardrobes and always a marvel to watch the professionalism and colour she added to events as the compere for traditional wedding ceremonies (alaga iduro/ijoko), not forgetting that this was another avenue she used to empower other women she groomed in that industry, while her Christian Religions Knowledge background and divine grace would have been her calming balm in her vicissitude when she became a widow at 35 in 1987 with four kids the youngest at 20 months, it was a crushing blow that launched her from my dad’s chief of staff to the sole breadwinner who selflessly toiled and moiled to ensure no dependant was uncatered for irrespective of the size of her widow’s mite. My virtuous mom personified industry and I personally witnessed on several occasions how she ensured kids of school age who were not in school were duly registered in schools after meeting with their parents or guardians ditto for encouraging those who are not lettered to enroll for adult literacy classes, she does not tolerate gaps she can close.
In an era when there was a thin line between reason and treason, she was a pillar as her calmness was comforting when the Nigerian Federal Military Government felt some of my articles were uncomplimentary in the late 1990s. My matriarch was a leader imbued with the ingenuity of Bezaleel and the counselling instinct of Ahithophel. She always emphasizes that cleanliness is next to Godliness and her ever tidy place of residence like her heart was a nest of rest that offers succor to many. It is better to visit her fasting if you elect not to be overweight because of her culinary offer that ushered in your arrival like a recurring decimal. Agbeke, my amiable and affable mom judiciously spent her days in service to clan, community and church. Born on a Friday, come the Good Friday on April 2nd 2021, my siblings (Arike, Abike, Ayinde) and spouses with grandkids, her surviving sister – Amoke, families and friends will also inter her remains in her chosen garden of rest and be comforted with the Christian Hymn and injunction in the New Testament that was clear about the great union at resurrection, rest well my beloved mother, a paragon of womanhood and humanity, while we are left clinging to those love filled wonderful memories as we gracefully grapple with the void and emptiness created by her vacuum. A dependable ally of my dad, fought a good fight, finished the race and now with her crown at the feet of her maker. Thanks Mummy, you left us with a huge debt to service forever, yes, a debt of gratitude! Your Akanni.