Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Former president Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, expressed shock over the death of his erstwhile adviser on Women Affairs, Titilayo Ajanaku, noting that her loyalty and commitment to women affairs development was exemplary and worthy of emulation.
Obasanjo also recalled how the late nursing professional joined other Nigerians to visit him in 1998 to persuade him to contest the seat of the president.
The death of the late first chairman of Abeokuta Local Government, Ogun State was confirmed by her son, in a telephone chat with the former president early hours of yesterday.
Ajanaku, 73, died after a long battle with cancer.
She was until her death, the Otun Iyalode of Egbaland.
The late politician, trained nurse, administrator and women leader was born on January 25, 1946 at Àgo-Òdo Quarters, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
She attended Nawair-Ud-Deen Secondary School, Abeokuta. She trained in Nursing at Stobhill General Hospital, Nether-Edge City General Hospital, Sheffield, UK, 1964-1965.
Ajanaku was known as foremost political activist and first came into national limelight when she emerged, against all odds, as chairman (old) Abeokuta Local Government, Ogun State, under the zero-party arrangement, hence, the first woman to be elected as local government chairman in Nigeria.
She was also in the vanguard of G-34 which metamorphosed into Peoples Democratic Party; she was also one of the top politicians arrested and arraigned for a coup in 1995.
Obasanjo described her as a woman who would do everything in her capacity to uplift, improve and advance the cause of women, saying, this largely formed reasons for her been appointment as his women adviser, the position she served creditably well.
In a statement by his Special Assistant, Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, Obasanjo further described Ajanaku as a woman of great substance in her own right.
The former president who wrote a personal condolence letter to the head of the Ajanaku family said the deceased played a prominent role in his decision to contest the post of president in 1998.
“I remember vividly one of my memorable encounters with Ajanaku, when she accompanied a group of politicians, led by S. M. Afolabi of blessed memory to my Abeokuta residence to persuade me to contest as president of Nigeria.
“It was partly their persuasion and that of other groups that later yielded my final submission to contest the office of the president.
“In her lifetime, Ajanaku had a genuine desire to contribute her quota to building a better society through advocacy for fundamental human rights and service to humanity. She was an activist dedicated to the cause of protecting the rights of women within the context of culture, policy and law. An advocate of gender balance, she remained mindful of those fundamental responsibilities of women which remain critical to family life and stability.
“All of these culminated in my appointing her as my special adviser on Women Affairs during my administration as the president and she creditably acquitted herself in every assignment given to her.
“Indeed, shortly after her appointment, it was easy to recognise her notable qualities of work ethic and commitment to public service. She bore the responsibility of proving her mettle with the consciousness that her success would create opportunities for other women.
Meanwhile, Lekan, who arrived the country from the United States of America, narrated how his mother died, while receiving mourners at their Ibara GRA home.
He said: “It appears my mother waited for me to die. She firmly held my hand and breath her last.”
Lekan, who described her late mother as ‘mother of all’, added that she would be greatly missed.
Asked when his mother would be buried, he said: “It will be difficult to say now when exactly my mother would be buried because I know very well that it would involve many stakeholders.”
While thanking Obasanjo for his fatherly role, he recalled how the former president offered him his personal car during his wedding.