Funke Olaode in this report, pays tribute to late Madam Comfort Remilekun Abeni Ogunnaike Sweet they say is the demise of the righteous. And happy is she who finished the labour of life well. And for those who touched many lives, community, impacted humanity and also committed to their God till the end, their names indeed will remain in the sands of time. All these saying without doubt suit the late Mama Comfort Remilekun Abeni Ogunnaike (Nee Jolafa) who died on March 8, 2017 at the ripe age of 93.
Her 93 birthday was five days away when this reporter had an encounter with her at her Abesan Ipaja Housing Estate on June 8, 2016. There was sign of ageing but Mama Ogunnaike was full of life. Her faculty was still intact as she recalled past happenings with nostalgia. How do you feel turning 90? I asked. She smiled and retorted, “I feel excited and grateful to God for sparing my life. And that is why if I die today, I am very sure that God will say ‘Welcome, my beloved servant’ because I have served Him without involving any other gods,”she said.
But exactly nine months after that encounter, Madam Comfort Abeni Ogunnaike bade the world farewell surrounded by his children and relatives. Mama Ogunnaike was an epitome of beauty and brain. If she was to be in an academic community, she would have won many academic laurels. Brilliant, sharp, intelligent, enterprising and a strategist.
Born in Lagos on June 12, 1923 into the Jolafa family of Abeokuta descendant. Her mother was a trader trading in food stuffs while her father on the other hand was a merchant trader.
Unfortunately, she didn’t have any recollection of her father who died shortly before she was born. But like someone destined to be great, she forged on and rode to success on the back of an enterprising mother who wouldn’t spare any cost to give her only child at that time a comfortable beginning.
During our encounter, she gave kudos to her mother who stood by her through thick and thin. Though an only child for 11 years, her mother gave marriage a shot again and married Abayomi. Not quite long, her mother gave birth to her late younger sister and mother to the former deputy governor of Lagos State, Otunba Femi Pedro and his siblings.
Unfortunately, her only sister died in February 1966 leaving behind six children. It was a saddest moment in her life. But together with her mother (Pedro’s grandmother) and the grace of God they took up the responsibility of the children and today they are all accomplished beings.
Mama Ogunnaike was raised in Agidingbi but as she grew older, her mother relocated to Ebute-Metta where she began her early education at Higher Elementary school on Abeokuta Street, a popular school founded by one Mrs. Ojelade. Mama Ogunnaike’s intellectual prowess manifested early as one of brilliant pupils of her time. She shone brilliantly as she was always a cynosure of all eyes at a weekly Friday results gathering where she was always called to the stage to receive academic laurels. She kept the flag flying until she left the school and proceeded to Collegiate Girls’ High School on Lagos Island where she was a pioneer student. She finished from this school in 1939.
After her secondary education her desire was to get the best education money could offer, and even dreamt to either work in an office or government establishments. But her guiding angel (her mother) prevailed over that decision and encouraged her to go for vocational training. Her reason was that it is better to have both education and skill work that if one fails at least she would have something to fall back on. She took to her mother’s advice and enrolled with one popular seamstress of her time, one late Mrs. Aderibigbe where she learnt sewing.
She was diligent, committed and dedicated to this vocation. The fashion business flourished. She had a big fashion house with many apprentices. A woman of vision who always wanted to explore new opportunities, she would later abandon her fashion business and became a cloth merchant dealing in school uniform, clothing materials, and guinea brocade, Ankara with shops in Oyingbo, Agege, Aswani Market, and Mushin etc. Of course, God prospered the work of her hand.
Mama Ogunnaike’s feat is not defined solely by her achievement as a successful businesswoman and accomplished mother, she equally distinguished herself as a committed Christian. She was a Christian raised by a Moslem mother, her commitment to the things of God has seen her climb the ladder in the Cherubim and Seraphim where she has been worshipping since 1941/42 when she was barely 20 years old. Before she breathed her last, she had received the highest honour of Mother Seraph of Eternal Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim Worldwide.
Mama Ogunnaike also lived a disciplined life, which guided her path despite what life challenges threw at her early.
She got married to her first husband the late Okunseinde in her early 20s on December 28, 1944 and had two sons: Dr. Babajinmi Okunseinde and Dr. Olusola Okunseinde. But it was a short wedlock because he died in February 1947 when she was barely 24 years old with two young children who were less than three years. Again, it was a sad experience having grown up in Lagos where she had several suitors that she had turned down. With his death she thought her whole world had crumbled.
Instead of wallowing in self-pity, she accepted her fate and moved on until she met her second husband who was transferred from Ibadan to Lagos. Of course, her beauty attracted this young man and within a few months proposed to her. They got married and relocated to the North. The union was blessed with 10 children (though lost three at infancy).
Life is not a bed of roses as it is full of ups and downs. Mama Ogunnaike had had her own share.She was blessed with two daughters but lost one of them at age 64 in 2015. She was devastated but took solace in God and accepted her fate that God gives and takes.
And to celebrate a life well spent, beginning from Monday April 17, her children, grand-children, church and family members would roll out the drum to celebrate this woman who many described as a gift from God.
Her burial rites begin on Monday April 17, 2017 with a Service of Songs to be hosted by Eternal Sisters Association and All International Women Association at her residence on Plot 391, Abesan Housing Estate, Ipaja, Lagos from 5pm- 8Pm. And on Tuesday April 18th, another service of songs will be hosted by Mount Zion General Headquarters Ebute Metta Provinces in Lagos at Eagles Square Event Centre, Adeniran Ogunsanya, Surulere between the hours of 5pm-8pm. And on Wednesday, there would be all Night Wake Keep Service at the Eagles Square Event Centre, Adeniran Ogunsanya, Surulere from 9pm till dawn. The grand finale of her burial would hold on Thursday April 20, 2017 at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos Island. The venue will also play host to dignitaries for a grand reception after her interment at Ikoyi Vaults and Gardens Ikoyi.The outing service will take place on Sunday April 24, 2017 at Mount Zion Cathedral, Odunla Street, Ebute-Metta. Without doubt, Mama Ogunnaike died satisfied, fulfilled and an accomplished mother.