By Vivian Onyebukwa
Chief Aduke Olufunke Odetayo, 80-year-old retired schoolteacher who celebrates her 80th birthday today, is an avid reader of the The Sun newspapers. The elderly citizen, who got hooked to the paper right from the onset, has lauded its management for making The Sun titles the true Voice of the Nation.
She described herself as a child of destiny. Her life’s story, she said, has the grass-to-grace ring around it. She shared her life experiences with Saturday Sun.
How do you feel at 80?
I feel great, and I thank God for what He has done for me. Attaining 80 years of age is fantastic. I have been looking forward to it and I have been praying fervently a long time ago, that God should give me the opportunity to cross over to 80.
Could you recall your growing up days?
I was born into the family of late Moses Alabi Oyewole, the first photographer in Ila-Orangun, Osun State, and a noble woman, Deborah Alike, Oyewole of Alapinni’s compound, Eyindi Ila-Orangun. I was a historical child. A week after my mum and dad got married, my father ran away to Lagos with another woman, leaving my late mother who was pregnant at the time, to the mercy of God and his family. The affection of staying together for about a week bore a marvellous fruit in the person of Olufunke Aduke Oyewole. That’s me, now Chief Mrs Olufunke Aduke Odetayo. My grandparents said I was a special gift from God. That was why I was named Olufunke crowned with Aduke. All of my daddy’s siblings did their best to take care of me. I was told my daddy came back to appreciate me and thanked God for my mummy who suffered from lack of husband’s affection by the time he left her.
After my primary school, there was no money to further my education. But I believed very much in hard work. I was always doing one odd job or the other, such as hawking bread and collecting commissions, washing and ironing clothes for people before and after school. I was going to farms to pick palm kernels, carrying sand and drawing water for bricklayers at sites at weekends and also during holidays. I suffered a lot but God made me excel in my studies. I started as a teacher in various schools in Osun, Ondo, and Lagos, respectively. I retired as a Head Teacher in Lagos.
Are there any memorable moments in your life?
I have a lot of memorable events because the stages of my life have been systematic. Immediately I left Grade 3 Teachers College, I married, and fortunately, to a man of my choice. The man really loves me, and we started together as young people. We cruised together, and no regrets. We have been doing things together to make sure that everything is okay. We had memorable events. Buying cars in those days was not easy. I would be looking at people on the road with cars. But eventually, God made one available to my husband and I was so happy that we too could cruise on the road. It was a brand new Toyota Corolla, fully air-conditioned with just a price under N5, 000. Later, I bought my own car, Toyota Corolla. And that’s how we became people to be reckoned with in the society.
After that, I was lucky. I just mentioned to my late brother, Afolabi Awoleye, and his wife organised flight tickets for me and my husband. We travelled together. The round trip that time was only N600 from Nigeria to Paris, and to London. My first experience was that I left my bag in the plane. When we got to the collecting point for bags in London, they couldn’t see it. I reported the situation to them. I described my bag and they said okay, let’s keep watch. To my surprise, before 4pm that day, they brought my bag. Nothing was missing. I felt that Oyibo people are wonderful. I pray that we in Nigeria too should be doing good things. We should be considerate because when you tamper with anybody’s property, you are injuring the mind of that person. We left London to New York. When we got to New York, I said: “America here I dey o. I thank God o. So, this is America, God’s own country?” I pray that our own country will be as good as America so that they will be calling us God’s own country too. When you consider your countrymen and people, you don’t tamper with them: no Boko Haram, herdsmen killers, and those who waylay women to rape them, things would be better. It’s unfortunate. We should pray that God should eliminate such bad things in Nigeria.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for my honesty. Honesty made it possible for me to attain what I am today. After my retirement, I was in some business with some people. That business is, when they get me something to sell, I would sell neatly and give them their money. My gain would be with me, and if they forgot something in my car, I would return it. If while counting I had some excess with me, I would return it. But at a time, there was a problem of extra N250, 000 that my Madam put on my head. She said I would pay the money, and I told her that I had paid. I told her that she was helping me, so how could I cheat her to the tune of N250, 000? I was totally down, depressed. I now prayed and, God said, go and check your bank account. Fortunately, I was able to see the system of how I paid in my bank account. I now took my bank statement to the woman. We had to cross-check. Eventually, the woman apologised to me. Since then, she has been pushing goods to me. When people see me they think I am the overall, but I tell them that it is the work of God. God is helping me through this woman, and a lot of madams there. I happened to meet with a lot of them and they really took good care of me. They helped to elevate me, and I thank all of them.
Apart from being honest, I love going to church, being open and to pray. There are a lot of pamphlets to read to check your excesses. When I read it and I see that I am at fault, I would just pray towards it and ask God to help me not to go astray. And God has been answering my prayers. My children know that I can pray a lot. Even my husband knows too that I pray, and that whenever I am praying, I don’t want anybody to disturb me. I want people to emulate the idea of praying because there is no other one that can deliver us except God Almighty. Even God, in His infinite mercy, can send helpers in areas in which one is lacking. Prayer is the key even when one has no job. All we need to do is to pray to God and He will continue to send us helpers. He is there to answer your prayers whether you are a Christian or a Muslim. Pray to God and He will do whatever you want Him to do for you.
Looking at the situation in the country such as kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery, killings, and so on, would you say that parents have failed in their duties?
All the atrocities going on in the country now such as Boko Haram, banditry, raping, killings, and a lot of bad things that are happening in the town, we may not say that it is the fault of the parents. It is the fault of the society at large because evil communication corrupts good manners. Parents might have trained the children well from birth, but when there is no job, they mingle with bad gang. From there, they do a lot of havoc in towns and villages.
What can you say about high cost of living in the country?
The condition in the country is horrible. One cannot eat three square meals successfully. It is people that are causing all these problems. Anything that goes up in Nigeria cannot come down because the prices are ever skyrocketing. I remember when I bought my first car; it was only N7 fuel that we bought to fill the tank. It is unfortunate that most of these things are no more manufactured in Nigeria. I don’t know why it should be so. When they were manufacturing 505 in Kaduna, we were able to buy our car just for only N56, 000. Now you can’t buy “Tokunbo” for N3m. It is above N3m. How can you get N3m when you cannot get three square meals a day? People are suffering in silence. I am a retired teacher, but on my way to collect my pension people would be begging me for money, out of how much? Even the pension, you won’t get paid on time. We will be going there severally. People at the top should help us; we are really suffering.
What advice do you have for the government?
Government should intensify efforts in tackling the issue of security so as to create a conducive environment for everything else to thrive. Jobs should be created for the youths to keep them busy so they won’t be restless; they would concentrate on their jobs.
Any regret in life?
Actually, nobody is perfect. By my own religion, once you realise that you have made a mistake, and you go to God in prayers and beg for forgiveness, God will definitely forgive. There’re a lot of regrets, but once you beg God to forgive you, you don’t repeat the bad attitude, God will pardon.
Are you happy with the number of women we have in government?
Women have been cheated a lot. They don’t give us our rights and dues. They should allow women to get to the seat of power so that things would be all right. Things wouldn’t have been so bad like this if there are enough women in politics. Look at Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. All of us are very happy for her. It is her qualification that made her to get that job. If it is Nigeria she couldn’t have been able to rise up. I pray that the Nigerian government would not say women education should end in the kitchen. It shouldn’t. Let us be together. Two heads are always better than one. Let them allow women too, to come up. It is not a matter of pride. If we have four to 10 ratio, I don’t think it is bad, but nowadays it is hard to find one or two ladies in the cabinet. It is horrible. They should consider women in the cabinet so that everything will go on smoothly.
What can you say about education of the girl-child?
Parents should try to educate their girls. Don’t allow the girls to be wayward and be messing up with men. How much will they give them? If the parents should take care of their girls, they will be okay. It is because they lack home training, that’s why they go about messing up with their bodies, which are too expensive because the kind of disease they contract there, a lot of money may not be able to contain it. So parents should try and train their girls in the Lord’s way and be able to achieve success in life.
What can you say about The Sun newspapers?
I will like to thank The Sun newspapers for the good work they have been doing in the dissemination of information to the populace and also for the creation of a platform for all and sundry to air their views in the paper. I pray God will continue to elevate them and to bless the works of their hands. I will continue to thank God Almighty for giving me the opportunity to talk to the press. I have never had the opportunity of talking to the press. I thank you, The Sun MD and all the management. All your endeavours will not end in vain in the mighty name of Jesus.
I want to further thank God Almighty for He has shown me great favour in life. Imagine me Aduke Omo Deborah Alagbafo, washerwoman, starting from the scratch to grace. The Lord has always shown mercy to me in various ways. I thank Pa GAO Oyinlola Awoleye, who sponsored my first overseas round trip to Paris-London-America in 1980 when there was great joy in travelling, and not this period of COVID-19. I thank my darling husband, Aremu, by whom God has blessed me with good children and grandchildren.