Humility is your name. The rare type of humility exemplified by your Lord and Saviour who rode on a donkey to Jerusalem in triumphant majesty. The kind of humility that disarms and touches everyone that comes across you.
Like when I visited or when I talk to you on phone and you are full of “sir, sir, sir”, even though you are two years older than me. It’s the same with your immediate elder brother Otunba Demola, who is also a bastion of humility, also addressing me as “sir” when I meet him or speak with him on phone. Humility runs through your family, a family richly blessed by God Almighty.
Yes, you are a humble woman. Humble to a fault. And today, I celebrate you, you woman of virtue, woman of deep respect and humility, woman of faith, woman of God, woman of prayers who daily evangelizes, transmitting prayers, sermons, biblical passages and spiritual videos to whoever is linked to you on Whatsapp. We thank and bless Jehovah Sabaoth, the Great Protector who has brought you thus far.
In the next one week, June 26 to be precise, you will clock the biblical, grand age of seventy. Seventy years! Hallelujah! The age that your daddy almost made at 69 going on 70. May his blessed soul rest in peace. What do I give you for your 70th birthday but the Word from the Holy Book, the “Constitution” your daddy handed over to you and your siblings and which you have not departed from? Let me start with the well-known Scripture concerning the landmark age of seventy that can be found in verse 10 of the ninetieth Psalm. It reads: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength, labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
Looking at you, Otunba (Mrs.) Yetunde Adebunmi Adegbola, I can see life in you. You are not flying away yet. Far from it. My prayer is that you will live long on earth just like your mother Omoba Juliana Oyindamola Adenuga who lived till 90. You will live even longer. As the Lord liveth, we will be around with you, surrounded by your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to celebrate your fourscore years and beyond on this beautiful planet, to worship and glorify God who made you and gave you good life in abundance.
A birthday is not only a time to rejoice and a time to give thanks, but also a time to look back, a time for memories, a time to remember how far you have come. Let me go on memory lane along with you. Let me take you back to Ibadan, the city that fills you with nostalgia. You once told me when I was researching my book on your famous brother: “Though our parents are from Ijebu Igbo, we were born and bred in Ibadan.” You are “Omo Ibadan” to the core. Omo Ibadan, kini sow?
“I remember Ibadan, the city of my birth, as a peaceful city,” you told me. “Big as Ibadan is, it is closely-knit. You find that everybody is close. You can call Ibadan a city village. Quiet, peaceful, not as chaotic as Lagos. For me, it’s a beautiful place to live. I still prefer to settle in Ibadan than Lagos.”
You were the Chairman of the board of the then Equitorial Trust Bank (ETB) owned by your brother, and I tried everything to include you in my bestselling book, “50 NIGERIA’S BOARDROOM LEADERS—Lessons On Corporate Governance and Strategy” but being the quiet, shy woman, you pleaded with me not to include you and I respected that. I remember that in those days, the senior management of the bank used to travel every now and then to Ibadan for your signature and for consultations.
“I was in Ibadan then, and as the chairman of the bank, they would travel down from Lagos with their files,” you told me. “They were coming every other day, and I guess it was too much for them. So we decided the best thing to do was for me to come to Lagos and be close to the bank. Because by that time, he was involved with Conoil. Conoil was new then and it was taking much of his time than the bank. I had to relocate to do some few things for the bank. He just wanted me to be close to him in Lagos. All my other siblings are also beneficiaries of his generosity. But I am the only person in charge of an aspect of his business. This is because we have always been close since childhood.”
Beloved, let’s us turn our Bibles to Genesis 4:1-13. You are all familiar with the story of Cain and Abel when God questioned Cain about his brother and he replied: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
From childhood, you have been your brother’s keeper. You have been your brother’s protector. Unlike your other siblings where the age gap is wide, you and your kid brother have an age difference of just three years. This brought you closer. As closer as twins. “The whole world calls him Mike, but I call him Deniyi or Niyi,” you told me.
Your fondest memories are the memories of growing up in the days of humble beginnings with your billionaire brother. Days when your business-genius mum schooled all her children in the art of selling. You all remember selling special bags Mama brought from London and sold by all the children with Niyi making more profit than you all. “We didn’t actually come from a poor family,” you said. “The money was there, but our parents made us to work and value hard work and money. We were made to appreciate money; that it is not easy to get money.” In those days, your brother Niyi, “was a very good footballer as a kid. They called him Goalkeeper. Our mother made us to hawk chaff after school. I would go and hawk mine, he would be playing football. After selling mine, I would come and take his and help him to sell.”
That was the extent of your love for your brother from the days of humble beginnings. As two of you grew, so did the love grow to the point that two of you were in the habit of protecting each other. Your brother and sisters told me stories of how you were protecting or shielding each other growing up.
“I keep going back to Mike’s years as a kid growing up, because that is the part I am very nostalgic about,” you told me. “As a kid, his favourite food was eba. I remember he had this radio announcer next to us called Brother Dipo. And he was so close to Deniyi. And Deniyi loved this I.K. Dairo song, Osupa roro loju orun. (Meaning the moon is shining in the night sky). On coming on air, he would put on that record and Mike would stand by the rediffusion box like he wanted to enter it. He loved singing. He enjoyed the music of Victor Uwaifo and I.K. Dairo. They were his favourites when he was young. The radio announcer would play that record and he would be so happy…Let me end by saying I am proud to be his sister. I love him for his person, not for his name, not for his achievements, but what he has been to me. We are not talking about today…He has always been generous from childhood. He would spend all his money on his friends. He had so many friends he was looking after. That’s Niyi for you. He is still childish at heart.”
On that note, let the church wish Otunba (Mrs.) Bunmi Adegbola a happy 70th birthday in advance. May God bless, shield and keep you in perfect health all through the ages.