The inspiration for today’s title is Milan Kundera, the Czech novelist, author of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” My Kunderan parody is titled: “Unbearable Irony of Death So Surreal.”
Wednesday January 27, 2021. What a day! A day that started on a joyous note of celebration. Celebration for the matriarch Chief Mrs. Margaret Afolashade Akande who was clocking her 80th year on Mother Earth. The Mrs. Akande about whom I wrote on Saturday, January 23, four days to her 80th birthday, in a piece titled: “ADENUGA BROTHER’S TOUCHING TRIBUTE TO BELOVED SISTER @ 80” which was massively quoted by the media, particularly online.
On January 27, 2021, exactly 11.31 a.m., I received a surprise Whatsap message from the “birthday girl” Chief Mrs. Afolashade Akande. It simply read: “Thank u very much.” She had read my piece and my birthday prayer which goes: “As you age, you will grow in God’s special grace. Like Moses, your eyes will not dim…God bless you and your heritage.”
It was for this that she replied with a “thank u very much” message. Hardly did I know that this was her swan song. The last “thank-you” message of a grateful woman who was leaving the world with an attitude of thanksgiving for a good life on earth, serving God and mankind to the best of her ability.
You can imagine my shock when I heard the news of her death on her birthday. “So fair and foul a day” as William Shakespeare put it in his tragic play Macbeth. Now, Chief Mrs. Akande has something in common with William Shakespeare. They both died on their birthday. Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564 and he died on April 23, 1616 at the age of 52. Mrs. Akande was born on January 27, 1941 and she died on the same date in 2021.
It has been such a great honour to be the only journalist Chief Mrs. Akande shared her life story with. And when she was leaving, she managed to scribble a “thank-u” message to me.
The interview was for my book on her billionaire brother Dr. Mike Adenuga, founder of the Nigerian and African telecoms wonder brand: glo. The interview covered her life story, parentage and reminiscences of her brother Mike. I remember her sounding Shakespearean while reflecting on life and death—the painful early death of their father at 69. She told me: “I believe there is no armor against fate. When it’s your time to go, you go.”
Virtually all the Adenuga children are well versed in their family history, knowing every detail, every fruit from their paternal and maternal family tree. And they have this amazing historian’s ability to remember dates and events just like griots. For example, Mrs. Akande told me: “My father’s father was by name David Oba Adenuga. They used to call him David Oba. My father’s mother was called Eunice Banwo Adenuga. The mother was the first wife of David Oba. Our father was the first son but second child. From my mother’s side, the father was Ogunshilu Onashile. The mother’s mother was Rebecca Dorcas Onashile. The Onashiles were known for their enterprising spirits. From the Onashiles is the present Awujale of Ijebuland Oba Sikiru Adetona. Awujale’s mother was my mother’s elder sister of the same parents. And then my mother’s younger brother was late Justice Folarin Onashile. He was a retired Judge of Ogun State Judiciary before he died in 2000. On my father’s side, my father’s younger brother Jonathan Adegbite Adenuga attended Fourrah Bay College with the late Governor Adekunle Ajasin. Another younger sister of my father, the late Mrs. Josephine Ayoola Lawore studied at Harvard University. The Adenugas are very academic-minded.
“My mum and dad met at Ijebu Igbo when my father was a teacher. And they married at St. John’s Anglican Church in January, 1937. It was a happy marriage because it was one man, one wife. My father was not polygamous. So we all had happiness in the house. No problem. Nothing whatsoever. It was a very happy marriage.
“I was born on 27th of January, 1941. I am second in the family. I am over 12 years older than Mike, so the gap was always there. My immediate younger brother is Demola and after him comes Mrs. Bunmi Adegbola. She and Mike were very close, being his immediate elder sister. So close that you will see them protecting each other. Because of the age gap, there was a gap between me and Mike. And by the time they were growing up, I had already left home and I was already married. So it was just a matter of coming to Ibadan occasionally to see my parents. Mrs. Adegbola was born on 26th of June, 1950. Just three years in between them. So they were really very close.
“I was a chartered secretary. I went to Northwestern Polytechnic in the UK. I met my husband in England at first and we again met in Nigeria. When I came back, I first worked with NEPA in December, 1997. I left to start my own business as a beer distributor as well. My mother really helped me on that. It was through her that I got distributorship. The breweries didn’t want any distributor as at that point in time because they couldn’t meet demand. So I had to use my mother’s name to get the business, using my mother’s name to trade as at that time. I have retired now from business.
“My mother was very enterprising. And she was very helpful. If you go to her for any help, she would render it. Every Christmas, she used to give us very heavy envelopes. When I say heavy envelope, I mean very heavy. She will give the money in the form of bank draft. She did that for so many years. With a mother like that, you cannot but acquire business skills. She could tell me: “Shade, you are the one going to the shop today. NBL is coming. Guinness is coming.” The five of us were so close to her and we were able to run the business for her. It was something she taught us and it was a thing we were willing to do for her. She became a distributor for Nigerian Breweries, Guinness and other big companies for beer distribution.
“My brother Mike was born on the 29th of April 1953. And then shortly after, January 1955, I gained admission into secondary school and was in boarding house. Being the last born, he was our parents’ favorite. He was more or less given some sort of laxity. But growing up was very interesting. As a baby he was very healthy. We were all healthy as babies because we had healthy parents. I would not say there was any sign that Mike would be great when we were young. All I can say is that as a child, he was very enterprising. He travelled to America in 1972 and when he came back after his studies his mind was into business right away. So my mother gave him money and he started little importation. And then, with his Midas touch, he turned everything into gold. Like Dad, also called Mike, Mike is a good disciplinarian. If he is not tough, he would not be able to manage his financial empire.
Life is one big puzzle. Nobody knows when the end will come. Only God knows the beginning from the end. That’s why He is Alpha and Omega. Papa’s burial was very grand. He was not destined to see everything that his son would achieve.