Late Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Mrs Funmilayo Olayinka
By Toba Suleiman, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Anayo Okolie
For four years, the late Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Mrs Funmilayo Olayinka, struggled to overcome cancer of the breast. Although she lost the battle last Saturday, she was said to have been very hopeful of surviving it.
Confirming her long-drawn battle with the ailment, Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Ekiti State, Chief Jide Awe, said Monday that he knew about her battle with cancer when it became manifest in 2009.
Awe, while addressing a press conference at the party secretariat in Ado-Ekiti, also lauded her efforts in personally facilitating the establishment of United Bank of Africa (UBA) in the state.
He also said that the party would ensure that a monument is named after her in recognition of her contributions to the transformation of the state.
According to him, "Her travails with sickness (cancer) became manifest in 2009 precisely. She has been in and outside the country for one medical treatment or another.
“One thing that is unique about this woman is that you would not know. Unless you were very close to her, you would never know her condition.
“There were times when she returned from her medical treatments and the next bus stop would be Ekiti and the next assignment would be on the rostrum to campaign to the people. She was always with us, and from 2009 to 2010 when we retrieved our mandate, she was very strong.”
However, the late Olayinka’s sister, Tade Adekunle, who spoke to THISDAY at their Osborne Estate residence, said there was no sign that the end was near for her, as she radiated hope even on her sick bed.
“She was a rallying point. She was very optimistic of pulling through. She never gave up on her bed. She was still active and talked with us even on her bed. She was our role model and always interested in everybody," she said.
Applauding her contributions to the development of the state, the national body of the ACN, in a statement by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the late Olayinka left her indelible footprints on the sands of time.
''Mrs. Olayinka's showed her strength of character and rare courage during those years that our party battled to reclaim its stolen mandate in Ekiti. She was in the forefront of the battle, despite the risks to her personal safety. She never looked back, never regretted leaving the comfort of her previous job and never wavered.
“Our party will forever remember her contributions to upholding the standards we hold dear,” ACN said.
Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Capt Caleb Omoniyi Olubolade (rtd), in his tribute to the late deputy governor, urged the state Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, to honour her by stepping up the zeal that would fast track the actualisation of the vision they both shared.
Describing Olayinka as a consummate and reliable team player and politician, Olubolade in a statement described her death as a grievous event that would continue to linger in the heart of every Ekiti indigene for long.
More tributes continued to pour in Monday for Olayinka from eminent Nigerians. On his part, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State commended the courage and strength of the late deputy governor in the battle against cancer, adding that she worked tirelessly to please everyone until a few weeks ago when it was announced that she was proceeding on medical leave.
"Not once did she betray signs of being sick. Maybe a few persons were aware of her health status. All we saw was a courageous and strong woman willing to please everyone," he said.
Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, who visited his Ekiti State counterpart, charged women to undertake regular medical check-up to prevent breast cancer.
He stressed that only the early detection of cancer before it spreads into the body could guarantee safety.
According him, Olayinka “bore the burden of cancer with unusual courage”.
Also, Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, and his counterparts from Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola, joined other Nigerians to condole with Fayemi on the demise of Olayinka.
Ajimobi expressed optimism that she had gone to rest with the Lord, and urged Ekiti people to support the governor and the family of the deceased so that the late deputy governor’s service would be justified.
In his remarks, Aregbesola described the death of Olayinka as a great loss because of her loyalty, commitment, diligence and service to the people.
Also paying a tribute to the late deputy governor, former Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, described Olayinka as a great asset to Ekiti State.
Kalu, in a statement yesterday by his Special Adviser, Oyekunle Oyewunmi, said by Olayinka's death, Ekiti State had lost a great champion of development, accountability and fighter for justice and equity.
Kalu said he was particularly pleased with the role Olayinka played in the administration of Fayemi and condoled with the government and people of Ekiti State, Fayemi, the Olayinka family and the ACN over the deputy governor’s death.