Raheem Akingbolu pays tribute to Ekiti State First Lady, Dr. Olayemi Oyebanji, a rare symbol of courage, humility and service to humanity.
Peter, NOT Peter the Apostle; but Peter, the hero of Hugh Walpole’s novel, FORTITUDE, said: ‘It isn’t life that matters; but the courage you bring to it.’ After life had done terrible things to Peter, he heard a voice that said among other things: ‘Blessed be these things; for of these things cometh the making of a man.’ This, perhaps, summarizes the event that have consistently shaped the life of today’s birthday ‘girl’ and the wife of Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Olayemi Oyebanji.
Two weeks ago, precisely on Thursday, 19th October, during the unveiling of her pet project -Widows and Orphans Hope Project (WAOH Project) a personal project initiated by Dr. Oyebanji to bring smiles to the faces of children and women who are in need in Ekiti State, there were many stories and experiences shared by prominent Nigerians, about this woman who has consistently stood by her husband, the Governor of Ekiti State, Biodun Oyebanji like the Rock of Gibraltar. Before her husband was inaugurated as Governor and she naturally resumed office as the First Lady, not many Nigerians had heard of this University amazon and her stabilizing role in the home of the Oyebanjis.
For Dr. Oyebanji, expectations were high when she came on board because of two factors. Firstly, she was stepping into a big shoe left by another cerebral woman of substance, Erelu Bisi Fayemi. Secondly, as the wife of a man who rose politically like a phoenix from the ashes, the First Lady was expected to play a pragmatic, but positive role, of the Shakespearean Lady Macbeth as a perfect match for Ekiti modern messiah, hence she was christened BAORESS to complement BAO (the acronym of Governor Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji’s names).
But while the hues and encomiums were on, BAORESS remained calm and preferred to study the situation to avoid playing to the gallery. She told everybody who cared to listen that she doesn’t, as a person, jumps on the bandwagon. Being a senior lecturer in a reputable University -University of Ibadan, Dr. Oyebanji saw the need to first research and evaluate the situation on ground before embarking on any project. Of course, she also didn’t allow the razzmatazz that characterized the early days of her husband in office to derail her spiritual life. To this end, the First Lady waited for two things; the result of the survey she initiated and the voice of God. Thus, she hit the ground running with the launch of the WAOH Project. The success of the event and the testimonies of over 350 vulnerable people who were empowered right at the event spoke volumes of the character of Dr. Oyebanji.
It must be added that before the official unveiling of her project, the First Lady has worked tremendously unannounced to lift many people and contribute her quota to Ekiti development in a unique manner. Among other ways, she had given financial assistance to those in need in hospitals, indigent students in schools and women in the SMEs. The peak of her approach to touching lives in a different and more impactful manner, was a month ago when the First Lady began a community service at the Ekiti State University (EKSU) where she has offered to teach students of Education Management for free, as a means of contributing to their development.
The First Lady was in the classroom for about two hours to share knowledge with the students in the university where she began her career as an academic, and taught for 12 years before transferring her services to the University of Ibadan for family reasons.
Oyebanji said her gesture was borne out of her desire to leave her comfort zone in the Government House to do what she knows best – teaching and imparting knowledge in the students.
According to her, she is fulfilling one of the three core values of the academic profession, which include teaching, researching, and community service, noting her being the First Lady cannot take her away from her love for students as well as helping to mold their future.
The governor’s wife had earlier signified her intention to take time off her busy schedule as the First Lady to lecture students periodically at EKSU to contribute her quota to the development of students at the state-owned university.
Dr. Oyebanji is an accomplished scholar. Long before the media attention following the inauguration of her husband, as helmsman of Ekiti State, she was a senior lecturer at the Department of Education Management at the University of Ibadan. Determined to make a difference in the life of Ekiti people, especially the women and children, the Ado-Ekiti princess has since embraced her duties as a supportive wife, mother and lover of humanity.
Her simple disposition, unassuming personality, down-to-earth nature, coupled with her intellectual prowess distinguish her from her contemporaries.
With a robust resume, the governor’s wife caught a picture different from her humble and gentle mien. Of all her achievements in life, Oyebanji’s teaching career as university lecturer and her status as born-again Christian, are two things that influence her life more than anything.
Dr. Oyebanji’s career trajectory has always revolved around the classroom as a teacher. Reflecting on this new status, she couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of her marital journey to Governor Oyebanji that he would one day seek elective post.
Like her husband, Dr. Oyebanji has a homegrown advantage as a diligent young lady who had her primary and secondary schools education in Ado Ekiti. As a child at primary and secondary schools, Olayemi Oyebanji was very bright, and excelled which informed why she was made the Senior Prefect Girl at the Baptist Secondary School, Ado Ekiti in 1988.
Dr. Oyebanji is very strong-willed and she exhibits self-confidence, but yet she will exercise those leadership qualities in a very loving and motherly manner over those who were under her spiritual, political and educational care. She has such a close walk with the Lord so much so that one could sense a strong presence of the Holy Spirit in her family progression, a success that is beyond human words to explain.
As this woman of immense grace clocks 53 today, friends and associates are already in ecstasy of celebration of a woman who is determined to bring the best out of Ekiti women an