As a reporter and now Special Assistant to Governor Kayode Fayemi, Odunayo OGUNMOLA knew the late Mrs Funmilayo Olayinka – the woman who never took no for an answer.
She arrived the Ekiti State political firmament unheralded but she left in a blaze of glory after breathing her last on Saturday, April 6 following a long battle with cancer.
Olufunmilayo Adunni Olayinka was born to Chief Festus Obafemi Famuagun, a native of Ado-Ekiti and Mrs. Grace Adetutu Famuagun, who hails from Ido-Ekiti at Ile-Abiye Hospital and Maternity in the Ekiti State capital on June 20, 1960.
Having sojourned outside her community on academic and professional pursuits which took her as far as the United States of America where she bagged her first and second degrees and a banking career spanning 21 years, she returned home to serve her father land.
This writer remembered that day in January 2007 when she was unveiled as running mate to Dr. Kayode Fayemi, at the state secretariat of the then Action Congress (AC) in Ado-Ekiti by the party chairman, Chief Olajide Awe.
Dr. Fayemi had just won a keenly-contested party primary held in December 2006 and a long search for a credible, exposed, experienced, tested and trusted running mate had just ended.
Party members who were present at the press conference were confounded by the confidence she exuded that day believing that although she was new in partisan politics at the time, her experience in the corporate world had prepared her for the demanding office of the deputy governor.
She said: “I may be new in partisan politics but having spent over two decades in the corporate world, I am prepared for the office of the deputy governor and I believe that I will bring my experience to bear
on the job.
“Don’t forget that everybody is a political animal and we play politics on daily basis. You know that politics starts in the family when the father decides who gets what, when and how.
“The children gather together and decide on what to present before the family, do you want to tell me that this is not politics?
“I am coming from the corporate world into politics and I want to assure you that the experience gained there will stand me in good stead for this job.
“There is also politics in the boardroom where key players try to influence a decision through arguments and games of wits. I want to tell you that I am well-prepared for this job.”
Shortly after her public presentation as the AC deputy governorship candidate, Mrs. Olayinka showed the stuff she was made of as a colourful politician.
Her ravishing and stunning beauty stood her out anywhere she went as she combined brain with beauty in winning the hearts of the electorate who saw her as a competent hand in the Fayemi team.
She learnt the ropes very fast and adjusted well as a thoroughbred politician of the progressive bloc in giving unflinching support to Dr. Fayemi and joining hands with her “twin sister”, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, to mobilise women on the political field.
Very proficient in the local Ekiti dialect, Mrs. Olayinka articulated the manifesto of her party and eight-point agenda to be implemented by the Fayemi administration when elected to office to voters and followed her boss to very hamlet in the state to campaign for votes ahead of the April 14, 2007 polls.
She supported Mrs. Fayemi in organising financial and economic empowerments for women in Ekiti State to help reduce poverty and hunger in the grassroots.
Having been born by a textile dealer who trades at the popular Erekesan Market, Mrs. Olayinka spearheaded market campaigns ahead of the election urging market women not to disappoint the daughter of one of them.
It was not a surprise that majority of market women in the state voted for the Fayemi-Olayinka ticket.
In the absence of Dr. Fayemi, Mrs. Olayinka always took charge of activities at the governorship campaign secretariat and ensured that the place was well run and did not lack anything.
Anytime she was around, party members would converge on the Old Coca Cola depot building to hold consultations with her and many of them would return home happy because the late deputy governor was a generous and cheerful giver.
She also took care of young ladies working in the campaign organisation and it was no surprise that she ensured that they and other campaign aides followed her to the Government House after her inauguration as the state number two citizen.
Even after the mandate given to Dr. Fayemi was twice brazenly and egregiously stolen, Mrs. Olayinka provided a bulwark of support and courage for her principal.
This writer remembered the mood at the press conference addressed by Dr. Fayemi shortly after the Governorship Rerun Tribunal gave a split decision in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in which many party members wept profusely at what they described as daylight robbery. Mrs. Olayinka who did not betray emotion that day was busy pacifying the party faithful who were crestfallen and disconsolate with the 3-2 judgment which they believed robbed their party of victory after the then Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mrs. Olusola Ayoka Adebayo, infamously told the “party to go to court” after the perceived electoral robbery.
Mrs. Olayinka was a dogged fighter and a firm believer that the stolen mandate would be retrieved hence her recourse to prayers throughout the time she was in the political wilderness with her boss.
She participated in the various street protests, democracy walks, June 12 Democracy Day rallies, public lectures, interviews in media houses and other activities to force the then interlopers in the Government House to surrender the people’s mandate.
After a three-and-half-year legal battle to retrieve their stolen mandate, the Court of Appeal which sat in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, on October 15, 2010 declared Dr. Fayemi as the rightful winner of both the 2007 and 2009 polls and ruled that he be sworn in.
Dr. Fayemi alongside Mrs. Olayinka took their oaths of office before a mammoth crowd on October 16, 2010 as the Governor and the Deputy Governor respectively which marked the beginning of a purposeful leadership which has turned the fortunes of the state around for good in all sectors.
Mrs. Olayinka was loyalty personified and her relations with Dr. Fayemi is a good example of how a governor and his deputy should work together harmoniously for the development of their state.
Throughout the time she sat on the deputy governor’s chair, Mrs. Olayinka was a workaholic who usually closed from office after midnights attending to files and horde of visitors thronging her office.
She wanted her targets met and never took no for an answer. She was a stickler for punctuality and always asked about the welfare of her aides and civil servants working with her.
Mrs. Olayinka as the Chairman of the State Economic Management Team, led other eggheads with backgrounds in the economic and financial sectors to fashion out a blueprint that added value to Ekiti State and brought her out of the woods.
The late deputy governor would also be remembered for bequeathing a new corporate identity and rebranding of Ekiti which is in consonance with the dream of the founding fathers of the state.
She was an active player in the process which helped the state to secure bond from the Capital Market with which visible capital projects and infrastructural transformation of the state were carried out.
Although Mrs. Olayinka is dead, her legacies in governance, politics, women empowerment, philanthropy, gender advocacy, economic development of her home state.
This article was first published in The Nation on April 26, 2013
Last modified: April 28, 2013