Moremi-Ekiti Goes Home

April 14, 2013

The late Mrs Olayinka lived a life of service

Uncle, your article today is a masterpiece’; ‘egbon, an absolutely brilliant piece, e ku’se ilu’ and so on and so forth. That was how I got this riveting encouragement, week in, week out, from none other than the Amazon herself; the young, totally irreplaceable Moremi-Ekiti , Her Excellency, Mrs Funmi Olayinka, the Ekiti State Deputy Governor, who translated to higher glory exactly a week ago. Tell it not on Ekiti streets; let it not be heard in the redoubtable Famuagun family house in Ado-Ekiti which has since turned a centre of pilgrimage. Nor must her ‘twin-sister’, the woman who stood ramrod beside her all through those agonizsing years of chemotherapy, and yet more chemo; whilst some idle, ignorant do-nothings gossiped endlessly about a so-called portfolio hijack, remember that her sister is gone, never to be seen on this side of the divide.

Moremi- Ekiti, the woman who stood, unwavering, beside Dr John Kayode Fayemi throughout those nervy, energy sapping years of a titanic struggle against Nigeria’s men of illicit power, was as brilliant as she was radiant. Loyal to the end, our departed Amazon was a study in reliability. ‘Obirin bi okunrin’ – a she-man!

Mrs Olayinka neither wavered, nor was she ever discouraged even as she got thrown into the jungle that Nigerian politics has become; a whole world away from her serene banking profession where she had risen to lofty heights in some of Nigeria’s leading banks. Such was her steely nature and single-mindedness, even at the height of serial treachery when otherwise respected ministers in the temple of justice , and their ignoble soul-mates in judicial merchandising, thought nothing of selling their conscience to the highest bidder, that she soon became a Job’s comforter to her leader and other distraught party members on those occasions when justice was shamelessly trampled.

But nothing encapsulates our departed titan more than Senator Femi Ojudu’s tribute to her, quoted here mutatis mutandis. And the senator should know. Once it was decided, on the advice of Erelu Bisi Fayemi, that the Deputy Governorship candidate should preferably be a woman and the party added the additional proviso that she must come from Ado-Ekiti, it became Ojudu’s task, given by the party, to head-hunt a candidate who, like Dr Kayode Fayemi, is well-educated, independent-minded, decent and of impeccable integrity’. Wrote Femi: “We lost an asset. A consummate administrator, an unparalleled image maker, radiant, brilliant, self-confident, and a quintessential Ekiti woman who gave a good face to Ekiti State. Without the slightest hesitation, continued the senator, she left her plum bank job and went headlong into the murky waters of politics, determined to give of her best to her people. I will miss you.” He continues, Kayode and Bisi Fayemi will miss you. The entire Ekiti people will miss you. Ado Ekiti will miss you. Both E11 and the Afenifere Renewal Group, of which you were a pioneer member, will miss you. And most importantly, Lanre, your better half, will miss you. Yeside and her sisters, your three adorable daughters, will miss you dearly. Papa and Mama Famuagun and the entire Sasere clan will miss you. You gave our struggle and the one you waged against that debilitating disease all you got. You never wavered. Rather, you were courageous, full of hope and kept reassuring me that all will be well even when I had to apologise to you at those low moments for bringing you into the rough and tumble of partisan politics.”

It has been a stream of tributes, from far and near. As at the last count, almost all the state governors or their emissaries had visited to commiserate with their brother governor and the family of the late Mrs Olayinka. Both Ekiti Elders Council, under the lead of our highly regarded Papa, Chief J.E Babatola himself, and Christ’s School Elders forum led by Chief F. A. D Daramola, have been here too, and on the occasion, Chief Dele Falegan, on behalf of the Special Intervention And Empowerment Programme (SIEP), which he chairs in the state, said as follower of the late Deputy Governor: ‘she came like a meteorite, fulfilled her early call with elegance, diligence, confidence, humility and honesty and, disappeared from the stage at her appointed time like a meteorite. You lost a partner in progress and we all lost her. She died at the flower of youth, loved, renowned, honoured and celebrated.”

And, paraphrasing the authors of THE LONG WALK, a book which details the odyssey of Dr Fayemi’s mandate retrieval battle, themselves active participants in the seemingly intractable struggle, the departed Deputy Governor was born in Ado-Ekiti in 1960 and attended both Holy Trinity Grammar School, Ibadan and the Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo, before travelling abroad for further studies. She holds a Masters Degree in Public Administration and a Bachelors degree in Business Administration from the Central State University, Edmond, Oklahoma, United States, where she was three times on the Dean’s Honour’s roll. A Marketing Analyst & Strategist, she started her banking career at First Bank Plc and later worked at both Access Bank and the now defunct Merchant Banking Corporation. In UBA she served as Head, Brand Management & Corporate Affairs and left the industry as Head, Corporate Services Department of Ecobank Transatlantic Inc.

Of the departed Mrs Olayinka, they further wrote: ‘the late Funmi Adunni Olayinka was a highly personable woman, a mobilising impresario and motivational speaker. So concerned was she that in the man- eat- man phenomenon that Ekiti politics became, she regularly kept in touch with the spouses of those involved in the struggle without the knowledge of their partners. She always encouraged party supporters, assuring them that all would be well as victory would certainly come the way of the ACN. She regularly enjoined Ekiti women to be steadfast in their support for justice as by so doing they were securing the future of their children.”

Brilliant, prayerful and untiring, she took her courageous single-mindedness into fighting the punishing disease that she had, since 2009, been diagnosed with. She gave it no quarters and did not slow down at work either, always saying it would be unfair to the Ekiti people who entrusted Dr Kayode Fayemi and herself with their mandate to do otherwise. Her’s was a life of service. Even as she would not inform family members of her medical travails lest she put them in unbearable torture or even earlier death for her aged parents, she had the unstinting empathy and unqualified support of the governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, and that of her friend, and sister, the First Lady, Erelu Bisi Fayemi. While Erelu gave her unceasing emotional support, the Governor ensured that the best oncologists in the world , whether in the U.K, U.S or India attended to her in search for the elusive cure.

It has been tears galore all over Ekiti, if not in the entire country since she passed on. But truth be told, seeing what I have, whether in her Lagos house, in the Famuagun family house, not to mention the indescribable scenes in the Ekiti State House, I dare say her departure could not have been more momentous and glorious even if she had lived three lives. Therefore, we must all take heart, accept that God is the all-knowing and infallible one who knows all and has chosen to call her home. For our departed darling sister and Ekiti’s second ranking citizen therefore, it must be a celebration of life and thanks galore to God Almighty as the Holy Writ has enjoined us to do in all circumstances.

Mrs Funmi Olayinka touched lives and was an integral part of what the state Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, calls his Collective Rescue Mission. What remains for us to do is pray for her sweet repose at the feet of Jesus and eternal grace on all she left behind, especially her very aged parents, her husband and the young girls she was blessed with. At a time like this too, we must all remember Ekiti State in our corporate and individual prayers and ask that the Almighty God continues to guard, and guide our Governor and his family. We must specifically ask God to continue to uphold and renew him so that he will neither fail nor falter in his determined effort to uplift Ekiti. Adieu, our adorable, totally committed Moremi, a name Ekiti people had long given her in sheer admiration of her service and commitment ala an earlier Moremi whose votive sacrifice saved her Ile-Ife Yoruba ethnic group from annihilation by the invading Baribas.

Adieu, dear Avatar, rest at the feet of your Lord and saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, till we meet to part no more.


By Femi Orebe

This article was first published in The Nation on April 14, 2013.

Last modified: April 14, 2013

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