Dr. Tai Solarin’s wife, Sheila
By Sheriff Balogun
Sheila, wife of the late educator, Dr. Tai Solarin, passed on Sunday at Babcock University Teaching Hospital, Ilishan Remo, Ogun State.
Sheila died at the age of 83 after she was said to have suffered a fall on her way to bed a few months ago from which she never recovered.
She was reported to have broken a hip as a result of the fall and underwent surgery, but was disclosed to have succumbed to the injury at about 4.30 pm Sunday.
Two of her children were at her bedside when she finally gave up the ghost; however, her remains were immediately taken to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) mortuary.
The late Sheila arrived Nigeria in 1952 along with her late husband, Augustus Taiwo Solarin, a social activist, critic and foremost educator, and worked with him to establish the May Flower School, Ikenne in 1956.
Although a British national, Sheila Solarin adopted Nigeria as her home, and for more than 50 years was at the forefront of several major struggles for the transformation of Nigeria into becoming a better governed society.
The deceased’s daughter, Ms. Corin Solarin, said she could not summarise the life and times of her late mother in words.
Corin, in a phone chat, said: “I cannot summarise her life and times in words. She was a good, kind hearted and humane personality.
“She played the role of a mother to thousands of people across the world. Her love and service to humanity were exemplary and legendary.”
Also, Mrs. Alake Sobo, niece to the late Tai Solarin, described Mama Solarin as a rare mother who gave all that she had to humanity.
For Dr. Wale Omole, founder, Tai Solarin Hospital, Lagos, he described her death as a big loss to humanity.
He said: “She and her husband sponsored thousands of Nigerian children to the university level. They knew little or nothing about those children's parents especially those that were affected by the Nigeria Civil War.
“There is so much to miss in her life for she symbolised humanness, generosity, philanthropy and all those virtues that distinguish the human race.”
Also mourning her death, Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, described the demise of Sheila as most painful and a great loss to the state and Nigeria in general.
In a press release signed by his Senior Special Assistant, Media, Mrs. Funmi Wakama, the governor said: “Mama Solarin was a foremost educationist, a great teacher and disciplinarian who rendered an immeasurable service to the people of Ogun State and Nigeria through the Mayflower School.”
He added: “The school founded in 1956 became one of the best schools in the country and produced many of the leading lights in our nation.
“Ogun State and Nigeria have lost a first class teacher, an epitome of hard work, a humanist extraordinaire and role model of distinction.”
In his reaction, former governor of the state, Chief Gbenga Daniel, said the death of Madam Solarin, in spite of her advanced age, was a huge loss.
Daniel, in a statement by his media aide, Adegbenro Adebanjo, said the late Mrs. Solarin was an epitome of the best of womanhood, adding that her contributions to the development of education in Nigeria would not be forgotten.
“Even after the demise of her husband, she kept the flag of Tai Solarin flying loftily in the education sector in Nigeria. Through her death, Nigeria has lost a humanist, educationist, bridge builder, and peacemaker. We will miss her but take solace in the fact that she left behind a worthy legacy,” he said.
The late Mrs. Solarin was one of those foreign wives who completely adopted Nigeria as their home.
Sheila met her husband while both of them were in the military following the World War II but in 1952, they decided to move home to his native Nigeria, and both worked at Molusi College in the Ijebu Igbo area of Ogun State.
The Solarins, during their lifetime, were major social critics of several military regimes and fought against religious discrimination in schools before they decided to build their own school in Ikenne.