Ode To Moremi Ekiti

May 5, 2013

The devil bared its fangs, last week

Please, I don’t mean the devil in the literal sense. I mean the printer’s devil. Yes, the printer’s devil visited this page, last week, and caused a major accident. During production, an outline believed to have been trashed was picked from the system and run as the final copy. The result was what you saw-a mishmash of style and wholesale importation of materials that were totally irrelevant to the theme. I publish the real copy, today, for clarity.

Not the glittering weapon fights the fight, but rather the hero’s heart.

-Proverb

Now, I know the true meaning of courage in the face of adversity. I knew in part, but now, you have made me to know in full. Mrs. Funmilayo Aduni Olayinka, the Moremi Ekiti, you were a profile in courage. You personified courage.  Every fibre of your being exuded courage. Personable and humble, smart and fiercely loyal, you taught me, and millions of our compatriots, a huge lesson in courage with the way you bore the debilitating pain of cancer, so much so that your infectious smiles never froze. You demonstrated such a strong character in the face of looming death that even some of us who claimed some acquaintance with you never knew you were in the throes of death.

Optimism. You taught me that too. You taught me that optimism is sine qua non for the successful navigation of this world of misery. And you had a huge supply of optimism. In fact, those who were privileged to be at your deathbed in your final days, said you so were optimistic that would defeat the cancer that afflicted that you regularly talked about holding an elaborate thanksgiving service once you beat the monster.

But God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not ours. We are mere mortals, He is supreme. He is Omnipresent. He is Omnipotent. He is Omniscient. Now that it has pleased Him to take you away from us at this time, what can we do? We cannot query Him because He is God, the all-knowing.

Mrs. O, I never knew you were fighting such a titanic battle until that very hot day, last November. I had visited Dr. Kayode Fayemi, my brother-in-law, and your brother and boss, at the Governor’s Office, Ado-Ekiti.  After the meeting, I had sought to see you, but you were not available. I called your number thrice, but quite uncharacteristically, you never picked. Neither did you return the calls nor reply the SMS that followed. Again, this was out of character.

“This is unlike Mrs. Olayinka,” I had told my wife, instantly, with a sense of foreboding. “Something serious is happening or has happened.” My wife concurred. Her voice almost a whisper, she recalled how you had wanted to attend the wedding of our second son on October 29, 2011 but had to change your mind at the last minute. You sent a permanent secretary in your office to represent you at the occasion. We smelt a rat but we couldn’t place a handle on the problem. “Whatever it was,” my wife continued, “it must be serious enough for Mrs. Olayinka not to respond to our calls.”

Indeed, many people who knew you and your uncommon humility would understand our apprehension. Our fear derived from the fact that you were not one of those executives who appoint personal assistants for telephones. You answered you calls personally. If you couldn’t answer immediately, you would call back later in the night or send a text message. Despite your high office, there were no affectations. You carried no airs. You neither wore nor waved your gigantic accomplishments like a banner. You never allowed your success to alter the DNA of your humanity.

You kept your old friends and nurtured your new alliances. Few men and women of power are blessed with such attribute. God imbued you with so much grace that your high office never turned you to ‘something else’, like Femi Adesina, our mutual friend, and my bulky boss, usually says. Your humility was without compare.

This was why we were so worried when we didn’t hear from you on that occasion. We never knew you were fighting a titanic battle for life. We never knew that you were fighting cancer. We didn’t know anything. It was at the 40th birthday dinner, which some friends organized for Louis Odion, the Edo State Commissioner of Information, at Victoria Island, Lagos, that another friend intimated my wife and I with your pathetic condition. The friend said you were in Saint Nicholas, Lagos, and the prognosis was very bad. He canvassed “serious prayers” for you. My heart sank at that moment. My wife became confused and sorrowful. It was as if someone had poured tons of ice on us. We were never ourselves again throughout the event.

Maybe we wouldn’t have been that devastated had we kept in touch you, as real friends should. Maybe we didn’t do enough to find out how you were doing. Maybe, my wife and I were too consumed with the drudgery of survival in our country that we forgot to visit and ‘ask after your health’, as we often say in this clime. Maybe.

Whatever it is, God knows we cared for you. Mrs. O, you are now a spirit. Given your antecedents while on earth, I know you will be a very kind spirit. That being so, I know you will forgive us.

Having said that, I must perform my duty as a newsman. I report that your final exit, last Friday, was grand. It was glorious. Every aspect of the programme had the touch of royalty. Your Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Ekitis in Ekiti State and the Diaspora, as well as Nigerians as a whole celebrated you in a manner you would never have envisaged. They put flesh to the Shakespearian saying that, “When beggars die there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”

Since Saturday, April 6, when you passed, there has been a deluge of eulogies and activities. People of all ages and from all walks of life have been thronging Ekiti State, and your home in Lagos to pay their last respects. They have been bathing you with encomiums. From President Goodluck Jonathan to whoever is somebody within and outside our borders, they have been showering you with praises, showing profound appreciation for your godliness, goodness, courage of conviction, sincerity of purpose, industry, generosity, and unshakeable resolve to help make Ekiti a model state, among others.

Perhaps, the one that would thrill you most is how everyone has been harping on your virtue of humility. They say you were very humble, like your brother and boss, Governor Kayode Fayemi, with who you collaborated so well to write a fresh chapter in the history of service as sacrifice in Ekiti State, and, by extension, our nation.

Mrs. O, if it were possible for you to see the eulogy that Dr. Fayemi wrote for you, you would have walked on air. “My friend’s life is a study in redefining our society as a space guaranteeing increasing measure of opportunities for both men and women to actualize their dreams,” Dr. Fayemi wrote in The Nation newspaper of Friday, April 26, the day your remains were returned to mother earth.

“This point was clearly captured when Mrs. Olayinka joined Bisi (his wife), Mairo Mandara and other leading ACN women to draft a Womanifesto for the Action Congress of Nigeria in 2010, insisting that our progressive party must live up to its billings by paying more than just lip service to gender equality. It remains a bounden duty for us to ensure and promote more women in public life against all odds.”

For this reason, your brother and boss urged everybody to endeavour to keep your memory evergreen “by not forgetting the contributions of my remarkable, redoubtable, courageous, dedicated and loyal partner in the Ekiti project.” For this reason, too, Fayemi promised to invest in “efforts at early diagnosis of the dreaded disease” that sent you the way of all flesh- cancer.

“This is why I shall not relent on delivering our promises to Ekiti people through our eight point agenda. This is why your family is now my family. This is why Bisi and I will forever remain grateful to you for being part of the Collective Rescue Mission. This is why you’d remain my sister, my friend even in death.”

I cannot but agree with all the beautiful testimonies that people have been giving about your eventful life since you passed. You smiled a lot when you were on this plain of existence. The smiles would have even been broader now judging from the way Nigerians have been celebrating you. Truly, you have every cause to smile because it is not everyone that has gone into public service that enjoys or will enjoy such sincere appreciation. Many, dead or alive, have been known to have exited in shame, some with their tail between their legs.

In a country where people don’t count sacrificial service, like you gave, as a virtue, very few qualify for the kind of honour your state has given you. You would be amazed by the outpouring of love for you and your family by every Ekiti man and woman. Immediately you died, Governor Fayemi, declared a seven-day mourning period for you. The government also drew a weeklong programme for your final rites of passage, from Lagos to Ado-Ekiti. And all the venues were jam-packed with people who came from far and near to bid you bye.

On Friday, the day of the grand finale, the rites were so spectacular, so magnificent that if you saw anyone beating his or her chest, or gnashing his or her teeth, wailing at your graveside, you probably would have tapped the person on the shoulder and counseled caution. You would have, perhaps, told the individual or individuals to wipe their tears because you are now in a place where there is no day or night. Where there is no pain or sorrow. Where there is no death but life eternal. Where light shines perpetually on saints long gone or just departed, like you virtuous self. Where peace flows like a river.

Indeed, Friday, your big day, the final day of the celebration of your action-packed life, was so big and beautiful that if your saw anyone crying, you would, perhaps, have brought out your immaculate white handkerchief to stop the cascading tears. You would have comforted the grieving soul with these words scripted by Mary Frye in 1932, titled:

Do not stand by my grave and weep.

 

Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there, I do not sleep.

 

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glint on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn rain.

 

When you wake in the morning hush,

I am the swift, uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circling flight.

I am the soft starlight at night.

 

Do not stand at my grave and weep.

I am not there, I do not sleep.

(Do not stand at my grave and cry.

I am not there, I did not die!)

Yes, Funmilayo Adunni, omo (child of) Famuagun, aya (wife of) Olayinka, you cannot die. You were a heroine. You were one of the few heroines of this democracy. An heroine of good governance. Heroes and heroines don’t die. Even if they shed this physical, corruptible shelf, like you have just done, their good works live after them. Their good works are forever emblazoned in gold in the hearts of all who love them. Your name is already etched in gold in the hearts of Ekitis and, indeed, Nigerians across the country. Everybody testifies that you died an heroine. And they have honoured you accordingly. They have proven that it is better to die an hero than live long to become a villian.

Mrs. O., as you carry your hero’s banner to heaven, please, remember our country, Nigeria. Tell God that things are still not at ease in our country. Please, tell Him that our country is still burning and hurting. Tell Him the blood of the innocent is still watering our soil; and He should help us cleanse the land. Please, appeal to Him to kindly touch the hearts of the so-called insurgents, whether they are of Boko Haram stock or MEND, to stop killing our people, to stop desecrating our land with the blood of the innocent.

Mrs. O, please, report our political class to God and ask Him to infuse His fear into their hearts so they will stop their brigandage and mindless looting of our commonwealth. Tell God to make our ruling elite rededicate themselves to good governance and causes that would emancipate our people from second slavery and perpetual poverty they are being sentenced, every day.

Mrs. O., as you enjoy your well-deserved rest in the bosom of the Lord, never stop reminding God about Nigeria. Lastly, don’t stop praying for Dr. Kayode Fayemi, your brother, for the grace to finish the great job you both started.

Sun re o, Moremi Ekiti.

Rest in peace, Moremi Ekiti.

 

By Shola Oshunkeye

This article was first published in The Sun

Last modified: May 5, 2013

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