How many obituaries will I write in my life as a newspaper writer? How many times will I cry and put pen to paper each time the bell tolls?
For so long, I have been writing about deaths involving others, but this is personal. The bell tolls for thee my blood sister, the firstborn of my parents, the lovely, motherly and Godly Mrs. Moyosola Dorcas Sokunbi (nee Awoyinfa). My very own Sister Moyo who died on the night of Saturday, October 2, 2021, leaving behind her husband Mr. Agbo Sokunbi, a veteran broadcasting practitioner and guest lecturer at the FRCN Training School, Lagos, and her children: Mrs. Bola Adedayo, Bode, Biodun and Bose.
It is easier to write about other people’s death but when it involves your family, it takes all the pains in the world and extraordinary efforts to muster the courage to write. This is the first time I am losing a sibling, losing somebody from the same family tree, somebody who came into this world through my father’s seed and my mother’s womb. My sister Moyo was born in the then Gold Coast on July 17, 1944. Her husband, Agbo Sokunbi, whom she shares the same birthday with, was also born on July 17, 1942. Just two years separated these inseparable Romeo and Juliet whom William Shakespeare would have found an interesting subject.
My parents had to travel far away to another country when child after child kept dying in a bad case of infant mortality. Dad first left Nigeria for the Gold Coast and later sent for his family. In the Gold Coast, the baby girl Moyo was born and she broke the jinx of death, living up to 77 years on earth. She was followed by my immediate elder sister, Juliana Ebun, who lives in the U.K. Then I was born on July 23, 1952. After me came my junior brother, Otunba Waleola Moses, the last born. We were the four children of Gabriel O. Awoyinfa and his wife Sinatu, my mum, both of blessed memory.
“A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost,” says one sister quote I came across. I never spent my childhood with Sister Moyo because my parents sent their two daughters at an early age back to Nigeria to live with relatives. I never knew Sister Moyo in person until I came home to Nigeria for the first time around 1970 when the government of President Busia of Ghana gave aliens marching orders. Even though we didn’t spend childhood together, Sister Moyo’s name was a household name which kept sounding as everybody called my parents by her name. Dad was Baba Moyo and mum, Mama Moyo – names that stuck with them till death.
Growing up in Ghana, I knew my big sister Moyo through letters. I was the official letter-writer for my parents who never went to school. Their letters would be dictated to me in Yoruba and I would write them down to be posted at the post office. Thanks to the Yoruba I learnt through reading books like Alawiye by J.F. Odunjo and D.O. Fagunwa’s Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmale (Forest of a Thousand Daemons) which my mum bought and brought from Nigeria. Long before Gabriel Garcia Marquez won the Nobel Prize in Literature on the ticket of magical realism, Yoruba novelists like D.O. Fagunwa and others were masters of that literary genre and style.
In secondary school in Ghana, I had a mentor in my late sister’s husband, Agbo Sokunbi who introduced me to T.S. Eliot and other literary masters in the course of exchanging letters by post from Ghana to Nigeria and Nigeria to Ghana. Such a fine writer, he inspired me and I learnt a lot from him in those early days. He helped to hone my writing and literary bent just by studying his letters. Each letter I wrote him, I aimed at impressing him, such that he would proudly show my letter to his late wife, saying: “See what your younger brother has written.”
I know how devastating his wife’s death has hit him. I pray that the Holy Spirit will comfort this wonderful man whom I am proud to have as my first in-law. His wife Mrs. Moyosola Dorcas Sokunbi, an Evangelist, Matron at Home Science Association Secondary School, Lagos, beautician, a writer and a prophetess spent the best part of her life on her knees, fasting and praying to her Maker. She left behind two books: VICTORY IN HIS BLOOD and WAITING UNTO THE LORD. In her books, she shares her experience in travelling within Nigeria and spreading the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. She used commuter buses—LMTS, Danfo, and Molue—as her main pulpit. Like a female John the Baptist, she woke every morning at dawn, trekking many kilometres preaching the gospel of repentance and the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God. As an itinerant-evangelist, she got the appellation – “Mama Gba Jesu”—Jesus Woman.
My dearest sister was a woman of God who loved God and served God with every breath and every moment of her life. She was always on the “mountain” waiting unto the Lord. Now, I know the Lord is waiting for her at Heaven’s gate.
So long, my beloved sister, rest in peace in the bosom of the Most High. I will forever remember you with this iconic picture of you proudly admiring me, your brother, shortly after I graduated in 1977 from the University of Lagos with a degree in Mass Communication. So was I proud of you too when you wrote two books which I edited. Like our children, may our books outlive us. That is the prayer of every writer. Sleep well Mama Bola, and may God be with you till we meet again at the feet of Jesus to part no more.