Raheem Akingbolu pays tribute to the late deputy governor of Ekiti State, Mrs. Funmilayo Adunni Olayinka, who passed on exactly a year ago, pointing out her humble attributes and contributions to politics and women development
In life and death, the former Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Mrs. Funmilayo Adunni Olayinka, who surrendered to the cold hands of death after years of battle with cancer, exactly a year ago, was a glamorous woman. Her death meant many things to many people, so much that, what would have ordinarily been regarded as a loss to Ekiti people became a national loss.
In a way, the period of grief ironically became a moment of unity for indigenes and non-indigenes of the state. In mourning the late deputy governor, members of different political parties, religious divides and ethnic backgrounds forgot their differences and took time out to identify with her family, the administration and Ekiti as a whole.
Many things were responsible for this. One, she combined some rare qualities; beauty, brain and humility. As a result of her super personality and contribution to women development, she was nicknamed ‘Moremi of Ekiti’. She was so referred because her achievements and personality were likened to that of Moremi Ajasoro, a brave and beautiful princess of the Yoruba, who, in order to deal with the problem facing her people, offered anything she had to give in sacrifice to the Spirit of the river Esimirin so that she could discover the strength of her nation’s enemies. Though Mrs. Olayinka’s didn’t offer any substance or object to gods like Moremi Ajasoro, her strong determination to see things work in Ekiti, despite her ill heath was a huge sacrifice that could not be quantified.
According to the First Lady of Ekiti State, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, even while on hospital bed in London, Mrs. Olayinka was in high spirit. One of her main concern was for the administration, where she was a core player to succeed and leave behind a good legacy. She spoke glowingly; hoping that one day Ekiti would be the best in Nigeria and a reference point in Africa.
As a corporate player at either United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Ecobank, where she was in charge of corporate services, many journalists and other stakeholders in the banking industry, who came across her during her active days in the banks, attested to her good disposition to people. As at the time she was approached to be the running mate to Governor Fayemi, the corporate player turned politician was the Head of Corporate Affairs and General Services at Ecobank.
For her seemingly fragile personality, not a few people thought she was about to swim in an unusual water when Governor Kayode Fayemi named her his running mate. Like Fayemi, many thought the beautiful woman was too polish to take part in the Nigerian brand of politics. But at every point of her participation; whether during electioneering campaign, legal struggle to reclaim their mandate and while she was eventually in office, Adunni Olayinka demonstrated a high moral standard and used her matured approach to issues to redefine the polity.
Though she contributed so much to business and politics, one important lesson that would not be forgotten in hurry about her was the demonstration that refined individuals can go into politics and excell despite the general belief that it was a ‘dirty game.’
By the time she would die on April 6 last year, she had not only become a role model to the younger generation, especially the women folks but also a shining example to public office holders. As deputy to Governor Fayemi, Adunni Olayinka defied the common norm, where deputy governors and their bosses always disagree. From day one to the last day, the late Ado Ekiti princess was humble, loyal and willing to contribute her quota.
According to Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, in a society where women are completely relegated to the background by culture, law and religion, Mrs. Olayinka emerged a respected political leader through dint of hard work, sheer courage, unrelenting determination and unalloyed loyalty to principles. In a letter addressed to Governor Fayemi, shortly after Mrs. Olayinka died, Falana admitted that in the space of three years, the late politician and the governor’s wife; Erelu Bisi Fayemi, had encouraged and influenced young women to discard prejudices and compete with their male counterparts on the basis of equality of opportunities.
“Mrs. Olayinka was polite but firm, she was gentle but tough, she was friendly but strict. At all times she comported herself with dignity, grace and sartorial elegance. It is indisputable that Mrs Olayinka was an Omoluabi per excellence,” Falana had stated.
Among other wishes, Olayinka and Fayemi both desired to make Ekiti State a better place than just the small, poor state of professors for which it has been known for a long time, and they sought to transform the fortunes of the state. Even though she didn’t live to see the result of some of her labour, the strong intellectual bond she developed with her friend and wife of the governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, had made Ekiti better for mothers and children.
For Governor Kayode Fayemi, the man who worked closely with Mrs. Olayinka before her final exit, their years together were full of good memories. No wonder, the governor stated in a broadcast after her death that he was pained by her exit because Olayinka was always ready to partner in their collective quest to develop the 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,”
As Ekiti deputy governor, the governor described Mrs. Olayinka as a hardworking, God fearing and trustworthy companion, who served her people meritoriously in various capacities. Among other areas, the late deputy governor was said to have been tasked with 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, among others.
Despite her achievement and laudable wishes, Mrs. Olayinka didn’t win the battle with cancer; the deadly disease attacked her breast, her liver and on April 6, 2013, took her life in a Lagos hospital.
May be her story would have been incomplete if Mrs. Funmilayo Aduni ‘Moremi’ Olayinka, didn’t play any role in God’s vineyard –but she did. She didn’t take her faith lightly and that informed why she remained a Lay Reader in the Anglican Church until her last day.
As friends and family within and outside Ekiti remember this strong woman today, one can only take solace in the biblical message as contained in 2 Timothy 4: 7-8; “ I have fought the good fight, I have finished my race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge will give to me on that day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing”.
This article was first published in ThisDay on SUnday, 6th April, 2014.
Last modified: April 6, 2014