TRANSITION: Funmilayo Adunni Olayinka

April 27, 2013

Her life and times

Ruminating on the mystery of death, Madame de Stael, a French woman of letters did say: “We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love.” Indeed, tears and wailing filled the atmosphere when the news of the news of the death of Olufunmilayo Aduni Olayinka, Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, was broken on April 6, 2013. She was 52 years old.

Born in Ado-Ekiti on June 20, 1960, the late Olayinka who was referred to as “Mama” within the government circle in Ekiti, because of her enormous influence in governance, assumed office as the Deputy Governor of Ekiti State on October 14, 2010. She was the second woman in the history of the state to occupy the position.

She was a very passionate member of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and a strong believer in the ethos and principles of the party.

Following a fundamentally flawed elections process during the 2007 gubernatorial elections, the candidate of Nigeria’s ruling party, Mr. Segun Oni was declared as the winner of that election. Whereupon Mrs. Olayinka, in conjunction with Dr. Kayode Fayemi, headed to court to contest the veracity of the results.

After a three and a half year prolonged process and court battle, an Elections Appeal Tribunal sitting in Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria sacked former Governor Segun Oni of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and declared Dr Kayode Fayemi of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) as the new governor of Ekiti State.

Until her election as the Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, she was Head of Corporate Services, Ecobank Transatlantic Inc where she was responsible for communicating the bank’s activities to the public, relationship management with the public and providing feedback to management as it relates to the total image of the bank.

A marketing analyst and strategist who started her career in Banking with First Bank of Nigeria Plc in 1986, Olayinka later worked as Relationship Manager for Corporate Accounts in Access Bank, the now defunct Merchant Banking Corporation (MBC) and United Bank for Africa Plc.

In August 2002, she took up a new challenge in Corporate Communications and promptly proceeded to Head the Corporate Affairs Division, United Bank for Africa. She later became Head, Brand Management & Corporate Affairs, thereby leading the Team responsible for delivering a compelling Brand proposition and re-branding of the UBA which helped to drive the bank’s business strategy and added value to the total image of the brand.

Described as a very intelligent, beautiful and fashionable woman, late Olayinka attended Holy Trinity Grammar School Ibadan where she obtained her first school leaving certificate with distinction. She subsequently proceeded to Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo State, where she obtained her Higher School Certificate (HSC). She held a Masters Degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor of Business Administration [Marketing] from Central State University, Edmond, Oklahoma, United States in 1981 and 1983 respectively. She was three times winner of the Dean’s Honour roll.


Mrs. Olayinka (née Famuagun) died at St. Nicholas Hospital, Lagos, after a protracted battle with cancer. She was diagnosed with cancer of the breast in 2009 and had sought medical treatment in and outside the country.

The affected breast was operated on and removed. But the health worsened following complications resulting from the spread to other parts of her body. She was said to have been in coma for five days before she finally succumbed to the cold hands of death.

Due to the illness, she was absent from office for almost two months, a situation that had started generating comments as regards her health position. Concerned about the situation, the state government organised special prayer sessions for her in different parts of the state. Unfortunately, death came knocking on her door still.

“Mrs Funmi Olayinka died after a tough but courageous battle with cancer.” A statement issued by the state’s Commissioner for Information, Mr Tayo Ekundayo, said.


Tributes have continued to pour in for the late Olayinka who was seen as the pride of Ado Ekiti people.Her death has been seen as unifying factor for the people as politicians from different political parties come together to mourn her.

Addressing the state on her death, the Governor Fayemi 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.”

The governor said shed was a hardworking, God fearing, reliable and trustworthy companion, adding, “ 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.”

Attending to journalists at their Osborne Foreshore residence in Lagos, the widower, Mr. Lanre Olayinka who struggled to control his tears said “Her last moments was peaceful; she died in my hand.”

He 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.”

Mr. Olayinka further disclosed that he met his wife when both were teenagers, stressing, “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.”

The Ekiti State Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Chief Jide Awe, who was devastated by her demise 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.”

The Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala during her condolence visit to the residence 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.”

She is survived by her husband and three children. She will be laid to rest today.

By Leonard Okachie

This article was first published in The Mirror



Last modified: April 27, 2013

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