Funmilayo Aduni Olayinka: Painful Exit Of A Resourceful Deputy Governor

April 20, 2013

Late Mrs Funmi Olayinka

Ekiti State has been in mourning mood since April 6 when its first female Deputy Governor, Mrs. Funmilayo Aduni Olayinka died of cancer at a Lagos Hospital. MUYIWA ADEYEMI x-rays her life and times and landmark achievements in the state as second-in-command.

SOMETIME last year, an exclusive press interview was going on with one of the Ekiti State commissioners in the cabinet dissolved in January this year, but when he realised that it was about 10 minutes to the commencement of the weekly executive meeting, he stopped the interview mid way and pleaded with the reporter to continue after the meeting. He said he could not afford to be late to the meeting because “Mama is presiding”. The late Ekiti State Deputy Governor, Mrs. Funmilayo Adunni Olayinka was being referred to as “Mama” within the government circle in Ekiti and this is one of the references that show the enormous influence and command she wielded in the administration she co-piloted since October 16, 2010.

The delectable bank executive turned politician was not just the usual deputy governor that could be referred to as a spare tyre, as it is the case with some states; she was an effective “second in command” in the administration because of the confidence Governor Kayode Fayemi reposed on her as an astute administrator and a faithful partner committed to the ideals of his eight point agenda of rebuilding the state.

Not many in the state would forget in a hurry her supervisory role to the local council administration and how she had kept the council chairmen on their toes especially in implementing the policy of the government by making them to be transparent and accountable to the people. Worthy of note is the implementation of the construction of the five-kilometer road by each of the 16 local councils every year and the performance score card she had for them.

Besides, as chairman of the State Tenders Board, almost all the major projects in the state passed through her supervision and many in the state commended her for being painstaking and thorough in assessing and approving contract papers.

Since her nomination as Fayemi’s running mate in 2007, the late Olayinka was said to be part of those that designed the agenda of the government and played prominent role during the campaign period and three and half years the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) fought to regain its mandate from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Party sources said from the trenches, she had proved to be a good fighter and one of the strong pillars that sustained the party structure to weather the storm and make the party popular within Ado Ekiti.

The late Olayinka and Governor Fayemi worked like a brother and sister and a source close to her said there was no decision taken by Olayinka that the governor reversed or queried because both of them had clear vision of the administration, the reason she was always in charge whenever the governor travelled out of the country.

In his address to the state on the death of Olayinka, the governor said: “I am pained by the exit of our Deputy Governor who was my ready partner in our collective quest to develop our dear state.  As my dependable ally in the struggle to free Ekiti, she was a consistent bulwark of support, especially through the period of the judicial struggle to reclaim our mandate. I was never in doubt of her unalloyed loyalty, competence and integrity. I shall miss her greatly. In the course of our struggle, she also became my wife’s best friend.”

Fayemi further remarked that, “as my deputy she was a hardworking, God fearing, reliable and 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.”

The late Olayinka was a rare gem that combined beauty and brain, which made her cynosure of all eyes in the public. To the members of the public who were not aware of her health challenges, her death was a rude shock. But the opposition parties had in the last one year been raising alarm about the status of her health which they mounted pressure on the government to disclose. But the state government had consistently dismissed it as “wicked rumours”. In fact when Olayinka travelled abroad last year for over two months for medical treatments, the opposition parties alleged that government expended public resources to treat her and challenged the government to disclose how much it had spent on her health, but government still insisted that Olayinka was hale and hearty.

A source told The Guardian that the late Deputy Governor first discovered an unusual lumps in her breast in 2008 and went for a medical check up but the diagnosis did not reveal that she had breast cancer but by 2009, the ailment had become manifest and she went for the surgical operation in a London hospital where the affected breast was exorcised. But with the medical treatment available to her, the source said her medical team didn’t believe that the cancer viral would metastasis to the other side late last year.

But what was initially dismissed as a rumour by the government was last month confirmed when the state Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation Mr. Tayo Ekundayo issued a press release that Olayinka had gone on sick leave and urged the public to pray for her. With the confirmation, analysts in the state had concluded that for the government to issue such statement, her health condition might have worsened to a level that her chances to resume back to office was slim or that the government had bowed to the pressure and was preparing ground to replace her.

But the government was quick to dismiss the latter and declared that Governor Fayemi was not under pressure to replace the ailing deputy governor. Though the statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Yinka Oyebode was in reaction to the statement credited to the elder brother of the Deputy Governor, Chief Segun Famuwagun that some desperate politicians were already jostling for her office while she was on sick bed.

A source said even when there were growing concerns about the condition of Olayinka’s health, Governor Fayemi was said to have been optimistic that she would still live longer than she did because according to the source, the government ensured that she had the best of treatment within and outside the country. And the woman rarely exhibited that she was nursing a terminal sickness. The government was even said to have got assurances from her medical team that “all is well with her”, the reason many responsibilities were placed on her shoulders.

In fact, the wife of the Governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, convened a special prayer session for her while in hospital for her quick recovery. Top female officials of the state and appointees, as well as wives of top government functionaries attended the prayer session. Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ekiti, Most Revd Felix Ajakaye, led other ministers of God to intercede on her behalf.  Ajakaye admonished the people of the state to stop peddling rumours about the health status of the deputy governor, but to intensify prayers for God to bring her back to her feet soon.

But by Friday April 5, a source close to her confided in The Guardian that the battle to rescue her life from cancer might have been lost as her immediate family that stayed with her in the hospital were already weeping and bidding her farewell. And by the evening of last Saturday, the woman died.

By 8pm when the government confirmed the passing on of the first female deputy governor of the state, youths of Ado Ekiti trooped to the streets in protest, insinuating that she might have been killed by the opposition but the government was quick to douse the tension by disclosing that she had been battling with cancer since 2009.

The late Olayinka was a pride of Ado Ekiti people that most times people referred to her as “odo eye” (a celebrated beautiful flower). Her untimely death was not only painful to them but also united all the politicians from different political parties in the area, as they put aside their differences to mourn her.

And more traumatising is the sight of her octogenarian parents, Chief and Mrs. Festus Famuwagun who had to witness the death of their promising daughter.

The late Olayinka is also survived by her husband, Architect Lanre Olayinka and three children. Her remains would be laid to rest on Friday April 26.

This article was first published in The Guardian on April 20, 2013.

Last modified: April 20, 2013

One Response to " Funmilayo Aduni Olayinka: Painful Exit Of A Resourceful Deputy Governor "

  1. Rebbeca says:

    When I initially left a comment I appear to have clicked on the
    -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I recieve four emails with the exact same comment.
    There has to be a means you are able to remove me from that service?

    Many thanks!

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