Tuesday, October 10th, 2017 was the 40th day Fidau of the late Ijebu woman, Alhaja Ramotalahi Olatunde Asake Adejonwo, and her sons celebrated the life and times of the matriarch in grand style. Mama, who died in September would surely be missed not just by her children, but by her 93years old husband, Alhaji Adedipupo Abass Adejonwo.
This is because they had been married for 60 years and still counting before death snatched her away.
How did Mama die? Did she know she was going to die? These were questions that came to the mind when City People’s Assistant Society Editor, ABIOLA ORISILE stormed the Ondo Street, Osbone Foreshore in Victoria Island penultimate week, when special prayer was held for her. In a chat with Mama’s husband, Alhaji Abass, who is an erudite Lawyer, he explained that his wife left him that day, saying she needed to see their family doctor, Doctor Amole, at the hospital in Ikeja. Alhaji revealed that it was from there that she was referred to St. Nichola’s Hospital to seek Medical attention. He said she spent a few days in the hospital before she breathed her last.
Mama, many sympathisers believed, had the grace to predict her death as Mama documented her life in a book. She documented her life without the knowledge her husband and 3 sons. She had paid the printer and told him the delivery date.
Mama’s Birthday would be due on 31st of October. Perhaps she wanted to launch the brochure that day.
To the family members’ surprise, the printer stormed Mama’s residence a day after her death, asking after her. He was asked what he wanted and he brought out a copy of the booklet Mama’s wrote. The printer was told about Mama’s death and he was surprised that Mama could pick a day after she was buried to take delivery of her booklet. Copies of the book let were freely shared to guests at the burial.
Alhaja Adejonwo was a popular Gold merchant, Real Estate Guru and a socialite. She was a practising Muslim and she was a philanthropist. A top member of Jawadullah Islamic Society of Nigeria, led by Alhaji Ahmed Abidenu Alao Olore.
Alhaja Adejonwo was an in-law of Oba Sikiru Adetona, Awujale of Ijebu. Her son, Debola, is married to Ronke Adetona, the last daughter of Oloori Iyabo Awujale, the first wife of Awujale.
Alhaja Adejowo is survived by 5 children. They are late Tajudeen Adejonwon, Dewale Adejonwo, who is married to Natasha. The 3rd child is late too, Debola and Owolabi are also Mama’s children.
Alhaja (Mrs.) Ramota Olatunde Ashake Adejonwo was born in Lagos on the 31st of October, 1935 to the family of the late Pa Jimoh Oladipupo Sho-Sumonu and the late Madam Salamotu Idowu Ayinke Jinadu Molake. I was the first daughter of my parents-my father was from Abeokuta, Ogun State, while my mother was from Lagos State.
At an early stage, I attended Mama Gbogbo Nursery School, Ajasa compound, Breadfruit Street, Olowogbowo, Lagos State. I continued my primary education at Hamadiya School, Elegbata, Olowogbowo, Lagos and at Princess School, Abule-Nla, Ebute-Metta, Lagos.
I had an unforgettable encounter with a family, while growing up. I recall that opposite my father’s house, at no 7, Offin Canal, Lagos, was a Hausa family, whose head dealt in all sorts of art works, relating to wood, metals, leather, skin etc with the support of his numerous apprentices. I would usually go to their house to play; I was so loved by the family that they desired that I should get married to one of their sons, whom they referred to as my husband.
I got used to everyone in the family and accorded the same respect and treatment to every one of them. The discipline, values and training instilled in me by my parents, drew accolades from neighbours and in particular, the Hausa neighbouring family. They wished their children could just imbibe the values exuded by me. They prayed for and praised me.
After completion of primary education, I attended Oxford Academy of English, England. My passion for education together with the support of my parents, spurred me to seek further studies. I got trained as a nurse at Mary Dendy Hospital, Alderly Edge, Cheshire, England. At the completion of my training, I practised Nursing at Cowley Hospital, Oxford for one-an-half year.
Thereafter, I returned to Nigeria in 1957 and gained employment at the then Standard Bank -now First Bank of Nigeria as a Manager Receptionist. I later secured employment at the Central Bank of Nigeria in 1960 as a Note Counter. Mr. Okotie Ebor was the Minister of Finance at that period. He would organise dinners and invite members of staff of CBN to the dinners (who dared refuse to attend).
As I made my way to the Federal Palace, venue of one of the dinners, I saw Shehu (the man who lived and worked in front of my father’s house back then), spreading the collections of his art works, carvings – made of woods, metals, leather bags, slippers and ornaments. It was a time of re-union. I loved his goods, but I hadn’t enough money on me to purchase many of them. Shehu sold quite many goods to me on credit based on mutual trust, arising from our previous relationships. I gave him my address and he agreed to come for the balance. Thereafter, he would always offer to sell his goods to me, which I usually bought.
Shortly after I started buying goods from Shehu, I saw the need to rent a shop and I secured one closely opposite the CBN, which was situated at No 187, LSDPC shop, Ali Street, Lagos.
Opposite my shop was Olaiya’s house and the next shop to me then was Victor Olaiya’s music shop.
I had a friend, who we both lived at Tokunbo Street; she was the first of 6 siblings, with aged parents. Her siblings were dear to her, but she couldn’t afford the requisite assistance to train them in school. As a spinster, I accommodated one of her siblings, called Kayode, who was their last born and gave him the needed support to go to school. He was glad to live with me and was very helpful in taking care of the home chores. At the time I got married and left the area, Kayode was already done with school. He moved with me to my husband’s house and fortunately secured a job with an airline company – Nigerian Airways.
He rose to be a man of influence in his career. He would attend to most Europeans, traveling to Nigeria.
During the course of Kayode’s service, a European tourist visited Nigeria and wanted to visit some places. He had requested that whenever Kayode was off duty, he would accompany him on the visit. During one of the days, the tourist requested to meet Kayode’s parents. Kayode brought the man to our house and we entertained him very well.
While it was remaining two days to the tourist’s departure from Nigeria, he requested some African art works, carvings, Aso Oke and Adire/Kampala (obviously, he had seen some of the items, which I bought from Shehu, displayed in my house when he visited us). It was very difficult to get the items requested, considering the limited time at my disposal.
Fortunately, I had some goods, which I had bought for personal use. I had two options: One, to allow him depart without a souvenir and soon forget the memories of Nigeria or to turn out the items, bought for personal use and give him some long lasting memories of Nigeria. I struggled with the choices, but eventually took the bold step to settle for the latter. He would have bought all the products I had, but for financial constraints. He promised to buy more when next he visited Nigeria.
Thereafter, I contacted Shehu, briefed him of my contact with the tourist and the new business opportunity that had just presented itself. I also informed him about the items the tourist had bought from me and the huge-new-special-orders, he had made. I requested a wholesale supply of the items from Shehu and he gave assurances he was going to supply them (even though on credit). Shehu was particularly glad for new business opportunity and fortune that was going to attend his way. He supplied all the goods to me.
The white man (tourist) soon returned and kept his words. He bought all the items Shehu had supplied to me. The business relationship continued for several years during which he would patronise me and make request for special orders. I became his agent in buying some other goods at more affordable prices in Nigeria. I made sure I carried Kayode along in the transactions and I made huge profits, which I gladly shared with Kayode. That was the beginning of my wealth. That was how I made it.
After gaining some years of experience at the financial institution, I decided to take a bow to enable me concentrate fully on growing my business. I had also ventured into trading in some other quality products such as brocades materials, shoes, gowns, etc. While doing business, Shehu introduced me to wives of some eminent Hausa-Ministers, Senators etc, whom I sold to and I would make deliveries of the goods at their houses. Most of the wives were in Purda (Elehas).
I made friends with them and they engaged me to do some domestic contract and other contracts for some of them. I also sold customised gold to most of them. I usually bought the gold from Talbet, who was a foremost goldsmith. I would always dress very well, well composed and packaged. The wives saw a true friend in me.
One of the ministers assisted me in having a telephone in my office to ease communication and business. The device turned out to be a huge boost to my business and distinguished it from others.
The civil war affected my contact with the white man and consequently, my business with him. I stopped selling the products he used to buy, but I kept the shop.
I was also a sub-contractor to Agip Oil through S.O. ALI, a major contractor with Agip. I supplied gravel, sand, terrazzo stone and other building materials which I would usually transport by rail, trucks and tippers from Lafenwa, Abeokuta, Ogun State to Apapa, Lagos (where AGIP was building its headquarters at that time).
During the period, I retained my shop at No 187, Ali Street as my office for my sub-contracting job with Agip. The contractual job opened to me some measure of knowledge in building/construction; I also made substantial wealth that I invested in developing properties such as a four-flat storey building (which I’ve sold) situates at No 17, Awolowo Way, Ikeja, Lagos, now Brooklyn Hotel, a 6 flats at No 15, Awolowo way, – Ikeja (which I’ve sold) and a residential building at Alamu Close, Surulere, Lagos (which I’ve also sold) However, the Nigerian military by a decree in 1975 took the 6 flats from me and in turn, consulted me to help seek more land to develop to provide shelter for growing number of returning soldiers from the Biafra war.
I was given Military Signal (an authority/guarantee by the military) to empower me acquire requisite resources for the development of the land that I acquired for them.
My transparent dealings boosted the military’s confidence in me and strengthened my relationship with them. The military paid me all the arrears of the property acquired by decree. I was given further authority to seek more land and develop to provide more accommodation for military personnel. At that period, I had had 5 children.
In 1973, I became seriously ill as a result of my rigorous business activities that I sought medical attention abroad. In 2003, 2005, I lost my third and first sons, respectively. These were the most awful moments of my 1ife.
Growing up as a child, the plight of the indigent or less privileged in the society had always irked me; perhaps, my experience as a privileged child, among a vast less- privileged children, instilled such discontent in me. I had my eyes on young children; my mind was very clear as to what life I wanted to lead – to be of help to humanity generally and young children in particular. It has always been my passion, desire and dream to be of help to the less privileged in the society. I would want to leave such act as my legacy on the sand of time.
Accordingly, in 2015, I translated the dream to reality with the formation of Imole Noble Educational Foundation, which was formed for the award of scholarships to brilliant, but indigent students in the society; to promote girl-child education and empowerment for women.
I had been awarding scholarships to some pupils before the birth of the foundation, but the need of the foundation was propelled by my desire to see that my dreams and passion outlive me. The foundation is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
At my 80th birthday, having trained all the children of my late son, Mr. Mutiu Alexander Adegboyega Ajao Mobee, I have decided to give them their father’s gratuity which I obtained on their behalf to mark my day.
In conclusion, it is with great delight and appreciation to my Creator that I share my story with you all before I exit this world. It is a duty I owe all of you. It is my desire that no vacuum is created in your minds about my sojourn here on earth. It is my greatest prayer that you will all live much longer than I have lived, in health and in more wealth.
Looking back, I ask myself; what if I had not accommodated Kayode in his most indigent state, what if my parents had not been diligent in instilling the right values in me and ensuring I imbibed them? I wouldn’t have got this favour from Kayode, I also wouldn’t have been so admired by neighbours let alone that a neighbour from another geological zone of the country would have trusted me with his goods or connected me to his benefactors.
My request is that after my departure, whatever you see in the document that I have left behind, kindly accept it as it represents my desires. That is how I want it. My mind is sound and I am not mentally impaired. I pray you all do much more than I have done.
I thank you all for all your support and prayers. I would want you all to remain united and love one another. I love you all.