The news of the death of Mrs. Eunice Funmilayo Adunni Olayinka (nee Famuagun), described as the “Amazing Amazon of Ekiti politics,” jolted many people in Ekiti State into a numbing silence. It had started as a rumour, anchored on the famed ill-health she had been battling.
The rumours of her ill-health had usually been castigated by various stakeholders and had often been followed at times by the news of her death and (or) her resignation from office as the deputy governor of Ekiti State, but it never really faded away.
Then the Ekiti State government, through a statement by its Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Mr. Tayo Ekundayo, announced that Mrs. Funmi Olayinka had proceeded on leave, “to take care of her health.”
That statement gave life to the rumours that Mrs Olayinka was not in a good shape. And until her death on Saturday, April 6, 2013, not many people knew the nature of the illness or where she was receiving treatment.
The death of Mrs Olayinka, also known as Moremi among her admirers, is a kick in the teeth, not just for her native Ado Ekiti people and her immediate family, but also to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), especially in Ekiti State, the state government under the leadership of Dr. Kayode Fayemi and the state at large. The quality and quantity of mourners of this lost gem of a politician and administrator prove this point.
The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was among the first callers at Ado Ekiti to commiserate with the government and people of the state on the death of Mrs Olayinka.
Okonjo-Iweala described her as an “intelligent sister” and “a true representative of Nigerian womanhood.”
On the political front, a former governor of the old Ondo State, Evangelist Bamidele Olumilua, who is a chieftain of the ACN in Ekiti State, said her death was “a painful experience for us and a big blow on the state government and all people of Ekiti State,” adding that, “she was a rare gem.”
“At the political level, she was courageous and would always do what she was sent to do. She had the right word for the right occasion. It is a big loss,” Olumilua said.
The chairman of the ACN in Ekiti, Chief Olajide Awe, knows why he wept openly when he spoke about Mrs. Olayinka. “During our struggle, Mrs. Olayinka added a lot of interest that actually made us succeed. She acted as a mother whenever we were in critical situations and when you see a woman with a very high moral, then as a man, you have to sit up.
“To the ACN in Ekiti in particular, it is a big loss which we never contemplated. It is very difficult for us to come to terms with her death.
“We take solace in the fact that she made a huge contribution to the success of our administration in this state,” Awe said, adding that, “she was the pillar behind the success of the state government and the governor of Ekiti State. She added a lot of interest to our party in the state, added a lot of lubricant that helped us to move forward. So, to us, she was not just a Deputy Governor, she was everything.”
Mrs. Olayinka, born in Ado Ekiti on June 20, 1960, to Chief Festus and Mrs Grace Famuagun. She attended Holy Trinity Grammar School, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, where she obtained her secondary school leaving certificate with distinction. She subsequently proceeded to Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo, in Oyo State for her Higher School Certificate (HSC). She then went to Central State University, Edmund, Oklahoma where she obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing and a Masters Degree in Public Administration between 1981 and 1983. While in Oklahoma, she was three times winner of the Dean’s Honour roll.
She started her career in Banking with First Bank of Nigeria Plc in 1986; worked as a Relationship Manager for Corporate Accounts in Access Bank, the now defunct Merchant Banking Corporation (MBC) and United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc. In August 2002, she took up a new challenge in Corporate Communications and promptly proceeded to Head the Corporate Affairs Division of UBA, where she excelled. She later became Head, Brand Management and Corporate Affairs, thereby leading the team responsible for delivering a compelling brand proposition and re-branding of UBA, which helped to drive the bank’s business strategy and added value to the total image of the brand.
Mrs. Olayinka was sworn-in as the deputy governor of Ekiti State on October 16, 2010 and brought her exquisite qualities to bear both her office and the politics of Ekiti State. The late deputy governor worked in exemplary harmony with Governor Fayemi; the wife of the governor, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi and sundry functionaries of the government.
Governor Fayemi said, “As my Deputy, she was a hardworking, God fearing, reliable and a trustworthy companion. She served our people meritoriously in various capacities, overseeing key units of government, including the Ekiti State Economic Management Team; Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs; Ekiti State Tenders Board; the State Pilgrims Welfare Board; the Branding and Communications Strategy, etc. Among her several achievements in office, she would be particularly remembered for overseeing the birthing of a new brand identity for the state; restoring the dignity and honour of our people and bequeathing brand identity icons that have become unifying forces among our people regardless of age, gender, or socio-political leanings. Her unique legacy is that active participation and high achievement in politics and governance should not exclude women; this is particularly instructive in our society today as we pursue inclusion in every sector of national life.
“She was a virtuous family woman and devout Christian who served God practically and diligently, touching many lives in compassion and humility. Even as we mourn the dearly departed, we are consoled by the fact that she has gone to rest with the Lord and thus free from the burdens and worries of this earthly realm,” the governor said.
By Sam Nwaoko
This article was first published in The Nigerian Tribune on Wednesday, 10 April 2013.
Last modified: April 10, 2013