Despite a hard-fought battle with cancer of the breast, Ekiti State deputy governor, Mrs. Funmilayo Olayinka, succumbed last Saturday to the illness. Shola Oyeyipo pays tribute to the banker-turned politician
The late Ekiti State deputy governor, Mrs. Funmilayo Olayinka, may have typified one of Williams Shakespeare’s descriptions of life and death. The great philosopher of all time once said in one of his writings: “Life is like a walking shadow; a poor player who struts and frets his hours on a stage and is suddenly found no more.”
Olayinka, during the struggle for the revalidation of their joint mandate as the validly elected governor and deputy governor of Ekiti State, stood with her boss, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, and displayed such loyalty that is yet comparable to none. She not only knew her place in the political equation of the state as well as the government formation, she also lived it, such that took her away from undue crisis or needless media exposure.
Even when her office was alleged to have constituted threat to some interests in the government, she would not let anything change. She kept her calm and did just as instructed in her capacity as deputy governor.
In all of these, she had a personal score to settle with cancer. It was not just any cancer but of the breast. She remained strong, held on to faith and trusted that some day she would give a testimony that would jolt even the greatest of physicians. Sadly, it all seemed her fantasies. She fought hard though, but Olayinka (nee Famuagun), succumbed to death last Saturday evening. She was 52.
A beautiful wife, doting mother, loyal deputy and charming politician, Olayinka was an epitome of brain and beauty as the news of her death has since left the state, friends, supporters and particularly, her immediate family, shattered.
Commissioner for Information, Ekiti State, Tayo Ekundayo, confirmed the news of her death in an official release which read: “The Government of Ekiti State announces with sadness but with gratitude to God, the passing of the State Deputy Governor, H.E. Mrs. Olufunmilayo Adunni Olayinka, aged 52, after a tough but courageous battle with cancer.”
Her protracted health status had generated concerns within her party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), where some of her close associates had suggested to her to resign while opposition members clamoured for her removal and replacement.
Only recently, her older brother, and high chief of Ado-Ekiti, Chief Segun Famuagun, had expressed regrets that there was pressure being mounted on the Governor to replace her on grounds of ill-health that had seen her travel abroad a couple of times for medical care.
However, sensing the politicisation of her situation by the opposition, government once came out to say it was not in a haste to replace her, instead, requested for prayers on her behalf.
Amongst other things, Olayinka would be remembered for her dedicated support to her principal, her exemplary performance in the area of polio eradication, which was under her purview and the joy she radiated about the accomplishments of the Kayode Fayemi-led administration.
Recently, in Ado-Ekiti, during one of the activities marking the one year anniversary of the government, Olayinka boastfully associated the successes recorded by the administration to various laws put in place by the House of Assembly. She said they had helped government improve the standard of living of the people.
She listed among other things, the treatment for over 145,000 people suffering from various ailments under the Free Health Mission to rural communities, the absolving of about 5,000 unemployed youths in the government’s Volunteer Corps Scheme, provision of equipment, fertiliser and loans to farmers as well as road construction amongst other achievements of the administration for which she was happy.
“Our government has kept hope alive and continues to demonstrate its commitment to executing developmental programmes as explicitly spelt out in our eight-point agenda. You will agree with me that we have touched lives in the areas of health, education, social and infrastructural development, as well as the state’s economy, as we continue to break new grounds.
“Other road projects inherited from the past government, including the Ado-Ifaki dual carriage-way, are now being prosecuted with renewed vigour to ensure early completion", she said with as much excitement.
Unfortunately, with her sudden exit, she no longer would be part of the accomplishment of these projects, much as her hope to continue to support a government that is her baby has been cut short.
Although gone, Olayinka would be remembered for demonstrating exemplary courage and dedication to service to Ekiti people, both during the struggle to retrieve their mandate and in her position as deputy governor.
In state broadcast on Sunday, Fayemi lamented the pain of her exit because he had hoped she’d pull through. He said: “This is indeed a trying period in the life of our dear state. We have been aware of the health challenges of our Deputy Governor which culminated in the government issuing a statement a month ago when she commenced a sick leave during which we requested that you remember her in your prayers. In the course of her ailment, she battled gallantly and availed herself of the best medical services within and outside Nigeria.
“In all of these challenges, I was of the belief that because of her courage and determination to live, she would pull through her health challenges. But man proposes and God disposes. She lost the battle.
“Fellow citizens of Ekiti State, 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,” he said.
House of Representatives Committee Chairman on Budget and research from Ekiti, Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele who received the news of her death with shock said: “This is one death too many. It is entirely an unfortunate development. She was full of life. As a public servant, she understood the needs of the people and how to meet them. Ekiti people will miss her.”
A seasoned banker and player in the corporate sector, Olayinka worked in the financial industry for 21 years before venturing into politics in 2007.
She attended Holy Trinity Grammar School, Ibadan, where she obtained her first school leaving certificate with distinction. She proceeded to Olivet Baptist High School, also in Oyo State, Nigeria where she obtained her Higher School Certificate (HSC); bagged a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and as well as Bachelor of Business Administration (Marketing) degree from Central State University, Edmond, Oklahoma, United States in 1981 and 1983 respectively.
A marketing analyst and strategist, Olayinka started her career in banking with the First Bank of Nigeria Plc in 1986, and she 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 by proceeding to head the Corporate Affairs Division, United Bank for Africa. She moved on to become Head, Brand Management & Corporate Affairs, thereby leading the team responsible for delivering a compelling brand proposition and re-branding of UBA which helped to drive the bank’s business strategy and added value to the total image of the brand.
The late Ekiti deputy governor was also the second vice-president of the Association of Corporate Managers of Banks between 2002 and 2004. She played strategic roles during the merger process of the erstwhile UBA and Standard Trust Bank where she co-chaired the branding sub-committee. She also served as a key member of the media relations sub-committee.
Until her election as the Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, she was Head of Corporate Services, Ecobank Transatlantic Incorporation, 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. She was also overseeing the General Internal Services Unit with responsibility for overall co-ordination of administrative services for the entire bank.
She became deputy in October 16, 2010, after an Appeal Court declared Fayemi winner of the 2007 governorship election in the state. Olayinka was survived by her husband, three children and aged grandparents.