For 10 years now, the CEO of Nordica Fertility Centre and Founder, Endometriosis Support Group of Nigeria, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi and his wife, Tola, have been partners in the business of multiplying families and bringing smiles to people’s faces. In this interview with Mary Ekah, Ajayi talks about how he met his wife and why she’s the perfect fit for his business, among other issues
There have been a lot of activities ongoing to commemorate Nordica’s 15th year anniversary. Can you talk about this?
We are not really marking 15th anniversary. Nothing really is being done special for our 15th anniversary because we really want to roll out the drum when we clock 20 years. Actually, we were planning for our Endometriosis gala and coincidentally the date that was chosen for the gala happened to be the birthday of Nordica Fertility. So, we used the opportunity to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Nordica. The date actually was set by the guys, who came from Germany because the only date they could give us was 10th to 12th April, and on the April 13th they went back to Germany. The gala usually follows the conference on Endometriosis and that actually fall on 14th day of April which actually marked our 15th year anniversary as well. And so we had the Endometriosis day/gala night just in a bid to create more awareness on Endometriosis. The turnout was impressive. We had a walk and a lot of people joined. So the awareness of Endometriosis is gaining ground in Nigeria and a lot of people are getting more and more aware of the disease. We also had a special roundtable, where we invited two doctors from Germany to have a talk with our Nigerians doctors on the current diagnosis and management of Endometriosis. To round it off, we had Endometriosis gala night. We wanted to raise awareness and see if people can donate to the Endometriosis Support Group Nigeria (ESGN), a foundation that provides information, support and friendship for those suffering from Endometriosis.
You create awareness on Endometriosis every year, what would you say has been done differently about this year’s edition?
What is special about this year’s edition of Endometriosis awareness is that probably, we are trying to go to the next level in awareness creation because we started first by making people aware that the condition exists and that it is risky. And now what we are trying to do is how to improve treatment of the condition and not only creating the awareness that the condition exists and that is why we went into collaboration with the German Endometriosis Scientific Research Foundation and that is why we had a couple of people – Klaus Buhler and Klaus Neis – visit from Germany during the last Endometriosis awareness week held by Nordica Fertility. We hope to continue with that collaboration so that we can get Nigerian doctors trained in Germany and that is what we really want to get from that collaboration – so that we can easily have Endometriosis surgeries in Nigeria.
How do you intend to go about the collaboration?
Once the two foundations can collaborate then one other thing we want to get out of it is to exchange doctors and give them places for training.
Now, 15 years down the line. How has it been so far with Nordica Fertility Centre?
There have been wonderful memories. Some pleasant and some not really pleasant but it has been okay. Long and short, we have been able to contribute our own quota to the development of IVF and reproductive medicine in Nigeria.
For years, you have been working together with your wife on this business. So how has been working with your spouse?
Two good heads, they say, are better than one. So, I am sure she has contributed her own quota too to the progress we have made today but of course there are so many other people also that have contributed to making us who we are today. However, there was a need for her to work with me at a point and so I just ordered her to join me and now we are used to working together as husband and wife. Nevertheless, when Nordica started, it was not my idea that my wife and I would work together but of course when the need arose, we needed to make that decision and here we are now and we have been working together for over 10 years now.
What really prompted you to ask her to come and work with you?
You know when a business is progressing, you need somebody who shares your values and to who you don’t need to explain too many things to before the person understands what you are talking about. I think that was what prompted me. But now, I also have so many people who understand and share my values, but at that point in time, it was very necessary I got my wife to work with me.
How long have you been married to your wife?
We would be married for 30 years this year.
Thirty years is a long time and yet you both are still waxing stronger in your marriage. So what is the secret to the success of this union?
I guess she understands me; I am not the easiest person but we just seem to understand each other and I don’t think she also is the easiest person. Yes, she knows the things that I am particular about. I think that is just it. We just seem to understand each other and the rest is God.
Of all the women you met as a young doctor, why did you choose Tola, to be your wife?
That’s a tough question because I can’t really say why. I don’t know whether it happens to women, but it happened to me. You see a women and you just know this is your wife. I think that was just it. I just saw her and I knew she was going to be my wife. I don’t know how to explain it further.
When you told your parents the first time that she was going to be your wife, what were their reactions?
It was funny then. You know, my wife is from Modakeke in Osun State and by then, we weren’t as liberal as we are these days. So, I could remember my aunty asking if I was going to marry someone that is not from my town. My family would have loved me to marry from my own town but of course for me, it was not going to be and once I have made up my mind, I have made up my mind. That is the thing about me. My life has been like that, once I say this is what I am going to do, I am going to do it that way. So I told my family she was going to be my wife that was it.
So how did you propose to her? Did you go on your knees with flowers in your hands and all that?
No, no, no! I am not that kind of person. African men are not that romantic except these days that people are turning everything upside down and we are now majoring in minor. The important thing in marriage is not the way we propose but your commitment to go through thick and thin with somebody, that is the most important thing, whether it was on aircraft you proposed or while eating beans in a local canteen. Unfortunately these days, these are the things people are taking so seriously. You see so many people who proposed in very grand styles and in few months the marriages are gone. For me, I am an African man to the core and I am unapologetic about that.
But you have not said how you proposed to your wife?
I can’t even remember again. It been 30 years now, please let me be.
What are the things you like about her?
I can’t really say what I like about her because now she is like my second skin. What I actually saw in her was that my weaknesses were her strength and my strength was her own weaknesses. I don’t really know how that worked out for us.
You have spent about 30 years with her now, is there anything you would have loved to change about her?
She is very stubborn. I guess she has to be because I am equally very stubborn. Seriously, I don’t really know what to change about her. I don’t think like that and seriously I don’t know how to think that way because I try to make the best out of anything I have rather than trying to change it. I look at people’s strengths rather than their weaknesses and then try to make use of the strength. So for me, I seriously do not know what I would have wanted differently in my wife. I have never thought about it.
You have a high taste for fashion and also is your wife. Does your wife have any influence on your dress style?
I think it is the other way round. I have always been a very fashionable person and I think I took after my father. Even at a very young age, I was always conscious of what I put on. But it does not have to expensive; it just needs to be neat. I think I have a good awareness of what to put on at all times. I have always been like that. It is not right to say that my wife influenced my dressing sense although she makes choices of the fabrics we chose sometimes but then we try as much as possible not to wear uniform – Aso ebi, as they call it. It is, do your own and I do my own. Our attires might look alike but they are never the same thing. Marriage is deeper than what you wear, so it is not the uniform that you wear that tells how deep your marriage is.
What advice would you give to young couples who aspire to have long lasting relationships like yours?
I will tell them to marry for the right reasons, and then make the best of who you have. There is no perfect human being. So make the best of whoever is your spouse.