By Agatha Emeadi
If Olori Margaret-Mary Ayoola Badejo (JP), 89, is called the Queen Elizabeth of our time or Florence Nightingale, because of her nursing profession, one would not be wrong.
Olori Margaret has remained the cynosure of all eyes wherever she steps out as people usually gather around her to tap the anointing of graceful ageing; be it in church, airport, shopping malls or her other environment.
She is a distinguished, dignified personality of a woman. Recently, her children gathered and made her a gratifying poem: “The silver of your hair, the gold of your heart, the bronze of your skin, the diamonds in your smile keep us like humble lambs in the palace of the king.”
For a woman who is almost 90, one would agree that she has special anointing and blessing from God.
In this interview, Mama, an ardent Catholic went down memory lane to share her experience as a professional, a happy wife and queen-mother who had worked and now enjoying the fruit of her labour.
She is a typical example of that song that says, “My marriage shall be a blessing with my children surrounding me.” Today, she is surrounded by her children, grandchildren and great-grand children. All these she has lived to see at 89.
Stylish Mama Badejo at 89!
She walked into the meeting room in her rhyming white, pink and black combination. Mama was dressed in a decently fitted black short skirt that revealed her straight smooth legs. A perfect loose on her skirt was her white blouse adorned with a pink trimming that runs through the collars and the edge of the short sleeve and finally capped with a pink-tone pashmina. There was also a sequined pink Barret that stood stylishly on her head. Then, on her feet, Mama wore a pair of flat pink sandal that contained her feet as one could see her decently polished nails that stood comfortably, all these, including her black hand bag gave her a rhyming scheme. She looked so graceful and glowed in a perfect mood for a woman that has seen it all at almost 90. Gracefully, the Queen mother announced her presence with an infectious apologetic smile, though in a low tone: “I am sorry I kept you waiting, I went for the evening Mass.”
Graceful ageing as she looks so good, what has kept you glowing at 89?
Quite sure, she has heard such comment over and over because of the way she chuckled. With her wrinkle-free face, no-fine-lines, smooth skin, she says: “First of all, it is the mercy and blessing of God that have kept me. Old age has been friendly with me because I am not the only 89-year-old, but when I look at myself on a daily basis, I give glory to God Almighty. So many calls me Queen Elizabeth of England because I have not lost my sense of memory, I am not battling any ailment, even though I do not have the strength of a teenager. I bath and does my sanitary myself. I dress my bed with my all-white bedsheets when I wake up. I maintained a healthy lifestyle as a professional nurse. I still have all my hair intact, including the hair lines. I have complete set of teeth and have not visited a dentist all my life. Most importantly, I worked hard every day to be close to my God. I try to let go things that are not necessary off my heart; and rather live like a baby. Though one cannot please all, but act of charity is a top priority in my life.
“As nurses, we were on our feet at all times especially when I rose and became a Nursing Director, a lot of responsibilities rested on my shoulder which I must deliver. There were meetings, addressing issues, general supervision, travelling etc. I became so busy. That up and doing assisted me to be smart and fit. In all these, I had a near-perfect marriage. I enjoyed my husband from the first day till the last day of our 60-years living together before he passed unto glory at 90.”
Mama’s graceful ageing!
One would never believe her age as she carries herself with class and dignity. She opens up and speaks: “Old age has been friendly with me because I still bath and sanitize myself. Through the mercy of God, I have not gone to a dentist all my life, my set of teeth are complete; none has fallen which is one of the signs of old age.”
Pointing to her hair, she says, “you can see that my hair is still full including my hair lines, all are intact. Again, through the mercy of God, I have no ailment even though I am not as strong as a teenager, but through effective discipline to healthy lifestyle, my approach to life, nursing services, letting off what is not needed on my mind, being close to God with full attention on my family were the things I focused on as a young nurse and wife. These factors were my watchword as I journey in life before I retired as a Nursing Services Director. If I am travelling to the US, I would first go see my friend and colleague who doubles as my daughter’s mother-in-law, I would go visit her, we cook together, sleep on the same white well-dressed bed, shop together and have fun generally as old retired women.”
You still wear your wedding ring after your husband had passed on over 10 years ago. Even the Bible and marriage creed say, ‘till death do us part?”
By the grace of God I enjoyed my 60-year-old marriage with my late husband, Pa Badejo from the first day till the last day until he passed on at the age of 90. My husband loved me from his heart and upheld that love until he passed on. To me, such a good marriage is till eternity, not because death has not separated us. I know the man I married, we trusted each other. My full trust was when he died, I told my children that I would know the kind of man I married today because, I thought I would have seen anyone coming to claim he fathered him or her, but till date none of such have happened. He was a king and a graceful man. He believed and maintained the doctrine of Catholicism that says, one man, one woman. My husband was the only man in my life and he pampered me with love until his last day on earth.
How did you thrive because then, parents were not keen on girl-child academics, most of them believed that such moves would only end in the kitchen?
My father loved education and I happened to be his first daughter who he loved so much. When I was enrolled in school, no classmate of mine takes the first position, except I am not in that class. I was known as the leader of my class until something happened one day. When we were in secondary school, I had a classmate called Ibidun who comes second in my class, one particular term, there was an error in my result which robbed me off my first position and Ibidun was announced first. I did not believe it as the news has spread like harmattan fire of how Ibidun has come first position. I boldly marched to the principal and requested to see my scripts and result. We discovered there was an error, they corrected it and the principal apologized to me. It did not end, I walked to Ibidun’s house and asked her to bring her result so we could crosscheck. In the process, I told her that I have sorted it out with the principal, we exchanged words and fought. School authorities invited us with our results and corrected the error for me to be on top of my game again.
How did you meet the husband of your youth and kept him to yourself for 60 years?
I did not keep him, God kept him for me. Then, my parents lived in Kaduna. I was about 17, and a student nurse. My father had a shop in front of our house along the street. My husband then had just returned from England and had a Theater Arts troupe where people act films and sing. I was one of the singers, and he kept praising my voice and myself while other girls were jealous of that remark. His studio was on the same street with my father›s shop, but a little distant. When he closes from his studio riding back home, he would stop at a point and walk pass gently with his bicycle in front of my father’s shop. As soon as he gets to my father’s shop, he would prostrate to greet my father while holding the bicycle with one hand. When he crosses over, he would climb and ride to his house. My father loved his humility as a young man, not knowing he had other intensions. This he did regularly, he became the 15th suitor that sought for my hand in marriage, when he finally proposed to me, I told him to go and tell my father, which he did and my father insisted I must complete my Nursing School, we all agreed and as soon as I graduated with my State Registered Nurse (SRN) certificate, we got married.
Living with a man for 60 years, what were the good and bad times you can remember?
I have said that I enjoyed my marriage from the first day until the last day. I was very sure my husband loved me very well. He was a strong Catholic who believed in the teachings of Christ. When he started working with National Cereal Research Institute (NCRI) we lived at Moore Plantation then at Ibadan in Oyo State. My husband taught me ballroom dance, because he was a better dancer. He would hold me by the waist and say, take three steps forward, take two to the back, we turn and meet in different ways while dancing. We could dance from the foot of the staircase towards the kitchen, just like that. When I complain of fatigue, he would boil hot water to massage me, as hot as the water was, I used to urge him to cool the temperature with additional cold water as I saw the pains, he went through to take care of me. He would rather say, no that I needed the effect of the hot water.
At 89 you are still a beauty to behold, how did you handle male admirers then?
My husband was sufficient for me. I needed no addition because I was fulfilled, contented, happy, have my children, had comfort with a loving man, what else do I need?
Are you one of those women who use sex as a weapon to fight back when there is a quarrel?
We were not fond of quarrelling at all; though there were times of misunderstanding, but when we get to our bedroom, we settle things without a third party. Even when I was on transfer to other neighbouring states, he permitted me to go, but must come back every weekend which I also obeyed. Then, he took care of my home effectively.