There is no gainsaying that the late Ekiti State deputy governor, Mrs Funmilayo Olayinka, made her mark and left her footprints in the sands of time. The accomplished banker-turned politician contributed immensely to the smooth sail of the political boat of Ekiti State and the nation in general. But most importantly, Olayinka was not found wanting as a wife and mother. Through her committed and dedicated lifestyle, this epitome of beauty and intellect proved the truth of the saying that it’s not how long you live that matters, but how well, writes TOLUWANI OLAMITOKE.
It was tears and wailing on Sunday, April 7 as the news of the demise of the Ekiti State deputy governor, Mrs Funmilayo Aduni Olayinka, hit the air waves.
Mrs Olayinka, who had been on a sick leave for sometime, died on the evening of Saturday, April 6, at St Nicholas Hospital, Lagos, after a protracted battle with cancer. She had been in and out of the country for medical treatment in the past few years, and according to reports, had been in coma for five days before she finally gave up the ghost.
The political amazon was in 2009 diagnosed of breast cancer when she went for her routine medical check-up. The affected breast was operated on and removed. But her health was reported to have later deteriorated due to complications resulting from the spread of the disease to most of her other organs.
Her absence from the public for close to two months fuelled speculations as to the state of her health. The news of her helpless state about a fortnight ago made the Ekiti State government to organise special prayer sections in different parts of the state for her. But despite her failing health, no one ever thought that death would come knocking at her door so fast.
A statement issued by the state’s Commissioner for Information, Mr Tayo Ekundayo, reads: “Mrs Funmi Olayinka died after a tough but courageous battle with cancer.”
At the moment, gloom pervades the residence of the late deputy governor’s parents in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital. The parents, Chief Festus Famuagun, and his wife, Grace, were obviously inconsolable.
The 80-year-old mother, during the condolence visit of Governor Kayode Fayemi and her wife, Bisi, in tears, was reported to have rhetorically asked, “Kayode, where is Funmi? Kayode, where is your deputy?”
These questions had evoked emotions in the govenror, who could not hold back his tears. He removed his glasses intermittently to wipe his tears.
The widower of the late political amazon, Mr Lanre Olayinka, tried as much as possible to control his emotions while speaking to journalists at their Osborne Foreshore residence in Lagos, but grief was written all over him.
“Her last moments was peaceful; she died in my hand,” he had said.
Describing his late wife, Olayinka said, “She was a sister, friend and confidant. I found her to be a very reliable, courageous and dependable partner. If I had to do it again, I would still marry her.”
The widower, who said he wished to be spared the ordeal of recounting his late wife’s ordeal during her illness, added: “She bore everything in her characteristics courageous disposition.”
Recalling fond memories of their relationship, Olayinka disclosed that he met his late wife while they were teenagers.
“She was 17 and I was 19. We later travelled out of the country to the United States for further studies. There was never a dull moment in our relationship. She was an exciting woman to be with, strong in character and purposeful,” he said.
As a confirmation of what her husband has said, the late Olayinka in an interview with the Saturday Tribune in 2009, when asked what role her husband played in her political career, had said: “What I always tell people is that if you work in the bank, if you are a politician, like myself and you are married, and you stay married, then you must be married to your own husband; not just your husband, but your heavenly given husband.
“I have a husband who is loving, kind and understanding. And of course, I would not have ventured into politics without his support.
“He was with me almost throughout our campaigns and also at the tribunal. Most times, he comes to Ekiti to be with me.”
Chief Jide Awe, the Ekiti State Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), who had tried to fight back tears, burst into tears as Olayinka was referred to as the “late.”
He said: “One thing that is unique about this woman is that you would not know the condition of her health unless you were very close to her. She was always with us and from 2009 to 2010 when we retrieved our mandate, she was very strong.”
As a liberator, the late deputy governor became a force among Ekiti women.
The late Olayinka, according to records, was instrumental to the establishment of a branch of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) in Ado-Ekiti when she was working with the bank.
Displaying her political prowess, the late deputy governor, while speaking with Saturday Tribune on the expected role of a deputy governor, had said:
“Ordinarily, a deputy governor should qualify to be a governor. So, a deputy governor who is not qualified to be a governor in the event that the governor is not available should be seen as a spare part. I believe the deputy governor’s main job is to support his/her principal to make sure that the promises the principal made to the people are delivered.”
Describing the death of his deputy as a great loss to the state and his government, Fayemi said he had lost his co-pilot.
“The death of my deputy would be likened to the plight of a pilot who loses his co-pilot mid air. We will make her happy by ensuring that her dreams for a better Ekiti are realised,” he said.
Among those who paid condolence visit to the deceased’s residence was Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. In her tribute, she said “it’s with deep sense of loss that we learn of the passing of our beautiful, intelligent sister. She was a true representative of Nigeria’s womanhood.”
Describing the news of her death as a “thunder bolt,” the ACN National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohummed, said, “The fact that she left her footprints on the sands of times in banking and politics provided all those left to mourn her with some consolation.”
Popularly acknowledged as beautiful and fashionable, the late Olayinka had during her life time displayed taste and simplicity in her appearance and ways. And the mother of three had often attributed her good looks to God and peace of mind.
The late Olayinka had a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (Marketing) and Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Central State University, Edmond, Oklahoma, United States, in 1981 and 1983 respectively.
She was three-time winner of the Dean’s Honour roll. A marketing analyst and strategist, she started her career in banking with the First Bank of Nigeria Plc in 1986. She later moved to Access Bank as Manager for Corporate Accounts.
She also acquired more of her banking experience at the now defunct Merchant Banking Corporation (MBC) and United Bank for Africa, Plc, where she was Head, Corporate Affairs Division and later Head, Brand Management.
The late Olayinka was also Vice President, Association of Corporate Managers of Banks between 2002 and 2004.
Born on June 24, 1960, Mrs Funmi Olayinka died at the age of 52.
This article was first published in the Nigerian Tribune
Last modified: April 13, 2013