I Never Knew I Would Attain 70



Interviewed by Funke Olaode

How do you feel at 70?
I feel fulfilled. I thank God for sparing my life. I never knew I would attain the age of 70 due to some health challenges. When I was approaching the age of 70 so many thoughts went going through my mind.

Can we have an insight into your background?
I grew up in a home where education was paramount. My mother was a business woman supplying food stuff to schools while my father was worked in the Ministry of Agriculture in Abeokuta. I was born in 1946 in the then Gold Coast now Ghana. In a way, it was a privileged beginning for me because my parents believed in education and this had a positive impact in my life.

I learnt from them that education is an investment and something one has to cherish. I didn’t experience discrimination as girl-child. Abeokuta had been exposed to education early. For instance, my maternal grand-father was an educated man as far back as 18th century.

Having a privileged background must have placed a burden of expectation on you to excel?
My parents had four girls and a boy. I am number three. I loved my father for one thing; he was always protective of us. There was a time an old man made a sarcastic comment and said ‘you are having female child, why don’t you marry another wife to give you boys.’ My father just answered him and said ‘don’t you see girls becoming doctors, lawyers, engineers and so on.

I am okay with my girls.’ And girls take care of their parents more. With a supportive father like him, it placed a kind of expectation on us (girls) and at the same time put me on my toes not to disappoint him. He always advised us to face our studies that our certificate can take us anywhere. When I submitted my letter of retirement as a teacher at age 38 in 1984 to go into business, my father asked why I was retiring early. He persuaded me to withdraw the letter but I refused. I didn’t regret that decision because God prospered me as a business woman.

At what age did you start school?
I started school in 1952 at age six at St. Andrews Anglican Primary School Ibara in Abeokuta, Ogun State. That time, we would start from elementary one and two (which is like pre-nursery of today) before going to Standard One. In 1955, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo changed the school system. So I left primary school in 1959. I proceeded to Our Ladies of Apostle Modern School. I chose Modern School because of the orientation that after Modern School, one would go to England for Mental Nursing. I was actually tilting my career towards that line.

But I had an Uncle who was a Judge at that time. He advised me to go back to secondary school. I enrolled at Abeokuta Girls Grammar School and started in Form Two. After secondary school, I went to Adeyemi College of Education which was affiliated to University of Ife then where I was trained as a teacher. I graduated in 1975 and started my career in Ibadan where I taught briefly. I moved to Lagos and continued my teaching career and finally retired in 1984.

Why did you retire early as a teacher?
I was passionate about the job but I discovered that the money was not enough and I had a lot of dependants who I was training in the university then. Today, I have lawyers, doctor, and architect among them. I quit teaching and went into full time business travelling to Europe and China importing household wares: kitchen utensils and gift items. The Nigerian economy was good at that time and I really enjoyed it while it lasted. I retired from business when I clocked 55. So life after retirement has been fulfilling and refreshing.

For how long have been married?
I got married in 1971 to Mr. Johnson Ojo Akeju, native of Ado-Ekiti. I met him in my early 20s when he came to work in Abeokuta. He lived around our house. He was a civil servant then working with Cocoa Industry and later switched to National Youth Service Corps where he retired as a Director. He made the move and I found out that I liked him. We tied the nuptial knot 45 years ago. I couldn’t have wished for a better husband. He is a quiet and reserved person. Sincerely, he has been a wonderful husband and a faithful man.

How well have you played your role as a mother?
I was strict with them. I made sure that they faced their studies. I am happy that they are well placed in their endeavours.

If you could turn the hands of the clock, what would you do differently?
I would love to establish a home for the less-privileged.

What lessons has life taught you?
Life has taught me to be good and kind. Galatians 6: 7b says “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Any regret?
I don’t have any regret. We shouldn’t allow life challenges to overwhelm us.