Mrs Olubunmi Olayinka Okikiola Imoukhuede, nee Olusoga, whom I have called Sisi for all of my life was born 75 years ago to the families of Mr. Gabriel Folorunsho and Mrs. Yetunde Olajumoke Olusoga of Ijebu descent in Ogun State both of blessed memory. She was part of the pioneer set of the prestigious May Flower School, Ikenne, Ogun State in the late 50s.
My Sisi was a woman of many parts. I grew up to know her as a very gentle, peace loving, generous, kind, caring yet firm and disciplined woman. A woman with a good and God-heart, who bore no grudges against any. She was everything to us (my siblings and I) and we were everything to her. She was our cook, launderer, home teacher, bookkeeper and sweet tooth champion from fine chocolates to English biscuits. I was her comrade at arms in Coca-Cola drink, no wonder I took after her dentition as we both visited the dentists regularly.
For our sake, she gave up paid employment from the Electricity Company of Nigeria (ECN) later Nigeria Electric Power Authority (NEPA) in her days and chose to work from home operating her poultry farm. A time-manager per excellence, she would rise very early to prepare us for school and drop us at school each day (never late for once), she would then return to make breakfast for her My Dear, who I knew as Daddy: Chief Joseph Enaifoghe Imoukhuede, OBE, and then off to her farm for morning duties with the staff. The late Joe Imoukhuede, was the first non-Yoruba Permanent Secretary in the Civil Service of the old Western Region and the first Secretary to Government and Head of the Civil Service of the Midwest Region.
An absolute time keeper Sisi was, she knew the appropriate times in the day to pick the chicken eggs from her poultry, then get into her car to pick us from school, never delegated that task to any and we are sure of Kingsway rendezvous snacks and fan-ice cream each day after school. Not just my sister and I, but every of our friends who tagged along with us; that is the generous Sisi that nurtured us.
To Daddy, she was a dear wife, friend and confidant, the dutiful, virtuous woman who took great care of him till the very end. We never saw them argue as they knew how to resolve their differences quietly in their bedroom. In fact, she was many times our intercessor with Daddy and they learnt how to play the act of good-cop, bad-cop very well.
Sisi taught us the art of saving money from very tender age. Every money gift we got from family and friends particularly on our birthdays from Daddy, we saved it in our various envelops and once it was holiday period, we would remit them to Grandma Olusoga who then opened and managed savings accounts for us at Federal Mortgage Bank. Little wonder, I was the piggy bank for many in secondary school days and have grown up to be an astute manager of men and resources. My sister has often been saddled with safe custody of finances as well.
Sisi was the family diary of notable dates such as birthdays, anniversaries and phone numbers in her handwritten diary. My sister once asked her why she still wrote numbers down in the advent of mobile phones and her answer was, her diary is her backup incase anything happened to her phone. She would be the first to call me on my birthday and always ready with her token gift for every birthday and Christmas, this I would miss forever.
As it is typical of a last-born child (though I now have many adopted aburos from my band of brothers who are also Sisi’s children), I am very fond of Sisi, but this took a different dimension after April 1989 when Daddy, Joe Imoukhuede, joined the saints triumphant. I remember on his lying-in State, as I stood by Sisi and watched, her countenance changed the moment the siren bringing his casket sounded in the house, I said to her that I would be your husband going forward. Such strong statement from a young teenage lad that I was, it could have only been the Holy Spirit speaking through me.
The loss of one’s husband, when she was just 44, is devastating talk less of two husbands at her prime, yet Sisi weathered the storm through thick and thin as she held tightly unto her God who was her strength. Many suitors came by, but she resisted them all, rather, she chose my siblings and I as her priority. Sisi handled every work her hands found to do very well and profitably too so as to successfully finance our education. She combined dual business of trading aso-oke fabrics and that of educational stationery distributor to Onward Press, even selling all her gold, precious jewelry and expensive laces at the time. To the glory of God, we turned out successful and celebrated many of our successes in her lifetime. I am glad to have assisted her as her bookkeeper and sales champion.
My Mother sowed in me, love, generosity, courage and strength. Sisi was not lazy at all, she would often say: Ole eniyan lo ma ni igba wo ni mo fe se tan.. (only a lazy person is burdened by the size of any task) and in generosity, she would often say: O kere lo n so eyan di awun.. (youre not giving because you consider it too small is what over time turns you into a miser). An extremely quiet and cheerful labourer in God’s vineyard she was, always admonishing me privately to give, give and continue giving to the Lord’s work. Sisi was a simple fashionable lady who was always wearing her smiles to all and sundry at all times. She was a humanitarian par excellence and a deep lover of God. These and many more of her godly virtues have made me the man that I am today.
I am particularly grateful to God that we celebrated her 70years milestone birthday as grand as she desired it to be five years ago. We were looking forward to celebrating many more milestones, but she is now in a constant celebration with her maker. I never thought I would be writing this tribute this soon, but who are we to question His sovereignty? In truth, you had seen flashes and foretaste of your glory home within your final two weeks with us and nothing here could compare anymore, not your Jerusalem pilgrimage that was to hold between May 12 and 19th (before the COVID-19 global lockdown), nor your much anticipated Canada holiday with your beloved aburo and grandchildren, nor even your singular heart desire between us that remained unfulfilled. I am daily comforted that you are in Heaven where there is no more toil, weeping or pain.
Prov 31:29 says many daughters have done well, but you Olubunmi Olayinka Okikiola omo Olusoga, aya Dare, aya Imoukhuede, you excel them all. We your children, grandchildren, siblings, cousins, extended families, friends and well-wishers rise today and call you Blessed, for truly blessed is your memory!
As you embark on your final journey today, our pain and loss of you, is heaven’s gain. As such, we would not mourn, rather we would continue to celebrate your life and virtues as we give gratitude to the Almighty God for 75 years sojourn of Great Grace; Grace for unwavering faith, for strength and fortitude in the very dark days of life, for courage and laughter even in pain, Grace for purposeful industry, sacrifice and above all love for Christ and humanity.
Adieu o Mama Rere, Sisi mi, One in a Million Woman, Iya ti o ju Wura lo!
––Afolabi is SSA to the President on Job Creation and Youth Employment while Oluwakemi is her elder sister