BY DELE MOMODU (PENDULUM)
“Good morning Uncle Dele.
Message I have for you and Pastor Ituah is that Ibidun has finished what God sent her to come and do on earth and she had to leave. She was an ANGEL that God sent to come and sort Pastor Ituah out when he needed help. Those children needed to have a good life and their destiny through the Ighodalos, and if Ibidun had not come into his life, they wouldn’t have the opportunity. Pastor Ituah urgently needed an Angel at a time. Her job had been done says the Lord. She knew it was time for her to go and that was why she did all the videos and posted before she left. The Lord says Pastor will be fine and that he should not mourn!!!”
Fellow Nigerians, I received those chilling words from Mrs Nike Adesakin-Olayinka a good friend of my wife who lives in Lagos. When I first read the message, I was shocked to the marrow, stunned and stupefied, wondering how to respond. I had to actually put a call to her, and we discussed this tragic news at length. Whether you believe in spirituality or not, Nike’s words resonated with me. Ever since the news broke on Sunday, June 14, 2020, that Ibidunni, leading and superlative events planner, renowned public and street decorator, famous for the creative and remarkable Christmas decorations around Lagos, and wife of the highly revered Pastor, Ituah Ighodalo has passed (on the same date my own father died in 1973), I have been ruminating and combing through my many encounters with Ibidunni in about 20 years. My conclusion was that Nike was most probably right. Ibidunni had run her race as ordained by God and had gone to be with her Lord who she had worshipped and loved most exceedingly.
If you knew Ibidunni, even just casually, it is impossible not to have noticed the special grace of God in her. I first met her as Miss Lux Beauty Queen. She was not Miss Nigeria. She did not win The Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria pageant, yet her reign combined and, possibly, eclipsed both Beauty titles in content and stature. Her gait, carriage, poise, composure and charisma were cherubic and angelic. In just one year as Miss Lux, she mesmerized and hypnotized an entire nation with natural but graceful exterior and internal purity which she combined perfectly and superbly with sharp intellect and wit.
From that moment, her trajectory would be on the rise and she would fly skywards at supersonic speed, reaching for the skies and indeed touching them before what we on earth will call her untimely demise. Ibidunni was a perfectionist who obviously possessed the Midas touch. Everything she touched blossomed. She never stood still. Always more than a cut above the rest. Her company, ELIZABETH R, brought fresh panache to the business of events, entertainment and street decorations. Her attention to detail was phenomenal, her taste was impeccable, and her elegance was sartorial. She breathed new and fresh life into everything she touched. She was a lady of ideas and sangfroid, who would always calm you down and take away your pressure with reassuring words and radiant smiles. “Egbon mi, please, trust me. E ma worry…” was always her favourite saying that melted the hearts of panicky people like me and even her most cantankerous clients. To her, humility and respect were second nature. As one would expect from the probably foremost leader in her industry, Ibidunni’s services did not come cheap because she gave you the best, not only in terms of products, but also in terms of professionalism and above all, herself. And if ever you told Ibidunni her charges were on the high side, she wouldn’t take offence but take time to explain why her services were different from that of others and commanded such significant sums as fees. Upon listening to her deliver her homily in her sweet voice and with her lovely exquisite mien, you would be overwhelmed and overpowered and be prepared to pay even more, although your purse would groan at the impending assault and decimation of its size.
Ibidunni never stopped showering me with sisterly love. It got too much at a stage that I started running away from doing business with her because what she offered to do was much more than what I could ever pay back. I often panicked on her behalf and was forever thinking if she won’t go bankrupt by giving too much in a generally thankless society. However, Ibidunni couldn’t be bothered by such miserly thought and consideration. She simply wanted the best and planned for the best
Please, permit me to give a few choice instances. The first is when my mother died in May 2007. She was to be buried in July 2007. I had called Ibidunni, first to inform her that I had lost my amazing Mum, who, though unlettered, struggled so much to send me to school. Ibidunni instantly demonstrated her empathy and promised to plan “a befitting burial for our Mama.” Ibidunni was such an epitome of love and compassion. As far as she was concerned my Mum had automatically become hers. She went straight into action and although I kept asking for a budget, she would simply wave it aside with a shrug. She enjoyed speaking a combination of Yoruba and English languages that I found melodiously sweet. “A ni ko si problem Egbon mi..” and I would respond that “A wo’lu ma te, iwon ara e lo mo!” (The only way for a man to escape being disgraced is by respecting himself…” And she would have a good laugh.
Ibidunni got to know my secret, through my wife, Mobolaji, that I panicked easily once I see fat bills. But we got on well, nevertheless. About two days to my Mum’s funeral, Ibidunni came with the elusive invoice I had been pestering her for, and I broke out in sweat instantly. “Have I not climbed my trees beyond the leaves at this rate?”, I soliloquised. So, I quickly scanned the items and actually realized Ibidunni had been more than generous, but how will I get to pay this? Ibidunni had faith and that was her answer and attitude to such bills. Let me tell you, that faith paid off big time in my own case, as I am sure in the case of many others. Please, believe this incredible testimony. I remember precisely that I was having a meeting with my Committee of friends at Planet One Hotel in Maryland, Lago on that fateful day. That very minute, the Spirit of Africa, Dr Mike Adenuga Jr struck, in his characteristic and unexpected and unusual manner, via Bode Opeseitan, who I instantly nicknamed Angel Gabriel, being the harbinger of good news. Unknown to Chairman, the pending bill, which had been giving me chills, evaporated.
When I informed Ibidunni about the miraculous intervention from my Guardian Angel, she said “Egbon mi, eyin ni, Olorun ko ni je ki e mo iyi ara yin o!” (My big Brother, don’t you know who you are, may God never let you even know because others know!). I loved the way she spoke her Yoruba, mellifluously, learnt that she grew up in Ibadan, the former headquarters of Yoruba warlords and high jinks politics but also the home and assembly of great poets and orators.
Five months later, in December 2007, the Ovation Red Carol was birthed at the Eko Hotel Ocean View marquee. The event which has endured till this day was designed by Leke Alder of Alder Consulting (a prodigiously gifted man I gave the moniker of Professor Socrates for his Grecian brains). The event was instantly grabbed by the genius at UBA, Dr Tony Elumelu, for sponsorship, because he immediately recognised the potential. I didn’t have to think twice before I gave Ibidunni the business of event planner and she did such a magnificent job of it. Elumelu was so thrilled that he approved the next year’s event in the hall before we even brought the show to a close.
Ibidunni continued to wax stronger and stronger in her industry. And I always wondered how she gave so much consideration to others above her own interests. We became extremely close. In death, I now know she was virtually close to most people because that was the kind of soul she was. From the deluge of tributes, it is obvious she made all of us feel like the closest and I wonder the skills that made that possible.
Let me fast forward, please. My 50th birthday soon came in May 2010. By then, Ibidunni had grown into an octopus in her trade and I truly panicked about approaching her to plan and organise the event. I remembered my Mum’s favourite saying “A wo’lu ma te”! I knew Ibidunni was no longer within my sphere of affordability. It was therefore something of an abience for me. But this loving Angel probably read and saw my mind as plainly as daylight. Before I could decide whether to call her or not, she appeared from the blues and asked again: “Egbon mi atata, bawo ni a se nse birthday yin?” (My big Dearest Brother how are we celebrating your birthday?). I knew I was already trapped, and pinned down, by that rhetorical question. And I began stammering. Before I could find the appropriate response, Ibidunni helped me out: “E jowo, e ni ki Aunty pe mi, kaa jo plan everything…” (Pls let your wife call me so that we can knock the plans together).
So, I told my wife, Mobolaji, to reach out to Ibidunni. You won’t believe what happened. Ibidunni connived with my wife and told her not to tell me that she won’t accept a dime for the job. There I was already perspiring in advance about the potential damage to my pocket! In fact, Ibidunni went beyond my usually fertile imagination by unleashing a plethora of special effects on the venue. It was a masterstroke and showpiece event that will live forever in my memory, an immortal gift that I cannot now ever repay. The ambience was heavenly and Paradisiacal). You know that paradox of loving what you are not sure you can afford. This was exactly it! Again, she knew my thoughts even before I could voice them. “Egbon mi atata, this job is my gift to you on your birthday Sir”. “Whaaat!” I exclaimed. I was deeply touched, and my heart truly prayed for her.
Ibidunni’s heart was definitely golden. She had a portion of it ready to give anyone privileged to meet her. She often regaled me with how she believed that Ovation International had turned her into a superstar. But she was a superstar as destined by God. We merely became one of the willing tools that God used to propel and propagate her gospel. We were only doing our job. My interactions with Ibidunni would fill up a whole notebook.
Our most recent encounter was when she sent me a WhatsApp message to inform me about her latest venture. I knew she was a Lady of many trades and Master of all. She was building COVID-19 isolation centres around the country and she wanted me to ask if Iya Adura, Reverend Mother Abimbola Esther Ajayi, could sponsor and build one for Lagos State. I told her Mama was building one of the most magnificent Temples of God in Victoria Islan, Lagos. Ibidunni immediately told me she’d seen the monumental edifice next to The Trinity House, Pastor Ituah’s Church, and that it was beautiful. I explained that Mama was concentrating all her energy on that endeavour and might not be able to donate an isolation centre at this time. As was her character, she understood immediately.
Ibidunni was extra special, selfless and passionately devoted to the cause of happiness for others. She was an inspiration in her desire to make others happy. She had apparently planned that her 40th birthday which would have taken place on 19 July 2020 would be celebrated without a party of any kind, but with the gift of parenthood for 40 indigent families. What a truly gifted and generous soul!
I saw so much feverish activity on Ibidunni’s Instagram account in the last few weeks. She was always in a playful and boisterous mood around her husband. I was going to call her last Saturday, when I saw an unusual pose and post of hers in which she had a travelling bag without her usual smile. But I got distracted to ask where she was off to and that was it. Incidentally, she had just visited her father’s burial site in Ibadan, ostensibly to let him know they would soon be meeting to part no more. We never spoke or chatted again. She went on that trip to Port Harcourt and never returned. The pain is just too hard to bear.
Mrs Ibidunni Olajumoke Ighodalo, nee Ajayi, will be buried today, survived by her widower, Pastor Ituah Ighodalo, two lovely children, Keke and Zenan, her Mum, Mrs Monilola Ajayi and siblings as well as a whole army of loyal and dedicated friends, known and unknown. May her soul Rest in Peace…