•How She Celebrated Her Birthday In IKENNE
In celebrating the landmark age, and the grace of God in a life that has over the years been lined with service to her fatherland and humanity as a Medical Doctor, diplomat and philanthropist, the whole world gathered on the 20th of February 2018, to rejoice with Ambassador Olatokunbo Dosumu on the occasion of her 70th birthday at Our Saviour’s Anglican Church, Ikenne-Remo, Ogun State.
Just in case you are reading about her for the first time, let’s quickly take you through the story of the woman called Adetokunbo Awolowo Dosumu.
After graduating from Bristol University in 1972 with an MB Ch.B, Dr. Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosumu worked in several pre-and post-registration teaching hospital posts before she obtained postgraduate qualifications in Occupational Medicine from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in 1979.
She worked in private practice in this capacity for 9 years; then followed a career break, which involved significant leadership and administrative positions, as well as public policy analysis and research. Specifically, she was a nominated member of the Constituent Assembly (1988-89) where she served as Vice-Chairman of the Assembly’s Committee that prepared the philosophical foundations of the new Constitution, namely, the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.
Thereafter, until late 1991, she played various roles in the emerging politics of the Third Republic and in April 1992 she co-founded the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization set up in memory of her father, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and dedicated to generating ideas for national development.
She is the Foundation’s Executive Director. She was appointed a member of the International Committee of the Council on Foundations, an umbrella body of Foundations based in Washington DC, in 1995.
She was appointed Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Netherlands and served in this capacity from January 2000 to July 2003. During this time, she was concurrently accredited as Nigeria’s Representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) where she was, at various times and in succession, appointed Vice-Chairman of the Conference of States Parties, Member of the Executive Council, Vice-Chairman of the Executive Council (Administrative & Financial issues), Vice-Chairman of the First Review Conference, ‘and Chairman of the African Group of States Parties.
She was also concurrently accredited to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) and Common Fund for Commodities (CFC).
She subsequently chose to return to her profession as an Occupational Health Physician and has continued her work as Executive Director at the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation. She is also presently charged with the responsibility for actualising the vision of the Dideolu Specialist Hospital, Ikenne. She was appointed Chair of the Board of Management of Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, in which capacity she served from April 2013 to June 2015.
She was one of the 15 delegates that represented the South West zone at the 2014 National Constitutional Conference. At the conference, she served on the committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government. Consequent upon the transition of the matriarch of the Awolowo family, Yeye Oodua H. I. D. Awolowo, on September 19, 2015, she assumed the role of Co-Chairman of ANN Plc, publishers of the Tribune titles until December 2017. She became Chairman of ANN Picon January 1, 2018. In memory of her mother, Dr Awolowo Dosumu, in her capacity as Founding Member of the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, was the moving spirit behind the founding in September 2016, of the HID Awolowo Foundation, a subsidiary of the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation.
Dr. Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosumu’s non-medical appointments, past and present, include: Member, Governing Council, Lagos State College of Science & Technology; Member, Board of Directors, African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc and Chairman of the Board since January 1, 2018; Vice-Chairman, Board of Directors, Dideolu Specialist Hospital, Ikenne: Member, UNIFEM National Advisory Board (Nigeria) and Chairman, Fund-raising Committee; Chairman, Board of Trustees, Women’s Health and Action Research Centre (WHARC), Benin City, Nigeria and 1st Vice-President, CIVITAS Nigeria. She is currently the 1st Vice Chairman of Yoruba Unity Forum.
In Church, she is: Member, YWCA and Men & Women Auxiliary Society, Our Saviour’s Anglican Church, Ikenne; Chair of the Harvest Committee of the same Church; Bishop’s Nominee to the Remo Diocese Synod; Member, Anglican Christian Fellowship, Archbishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral (AVMCC) Ikeja GRA; Member, Agape Christian Sisters Society, AVMCC Ikeja GRA; Matron, Band of Faith, AVMCC Ikeja GRA; Matron, Workers’ Union, City Mission Methodist Church, Surulere, Lagos; Matron, Choir of Christ Church Bariga; Matron, Choir of City Mission Methodist Church, Lagos; Member BOT and Patroness, Fountain of Hope Society, Methodist Church Cathedral, Sagamu; Matron, Choir of The Apostolic Church Nigeria, Remo Area Lawna Territory; and National Mother, Association of Christ Little Band. In the UK, she was DCC Secretary and, later, Deanery Synod Delegate at All Saints’ Church, Loughton.
Dr. Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosumu is the fifth and last child of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, SAN GCFR, and Yeye Oodua H. I. D. Awolowo, CON. She is Yeye Onibudo of Ife, Otunba Tewogbade of Ago-Iwoye, Balogun, Egbe Alafiatayo Omoleye, Ikenne, Ada Oha 1 of Aba, Ada Oha 1 of Isiekenesi and Yeyeoba Liyangu Akarigbo. She was appointed Patroness of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN, Remo Chapter) in January 2016, Iya Ewe of Our Saviour’s Anglican Church, Ikenne, in December 2016, Asiwaju Onigbagbo Obinrin (Ogun State CAN) in September 2017 and was installed National Mother, the highest honorary appointment of the Association of Christ Little Band of Nigeria, an inter-denominational society of Christian men and women throughout Nigeria, in January 2018. She is the recipient of several awards, including Outstanding Contribution to Human Development (NAWOJ Oyo State); Outstanding Role Model (Youth Focus Initiative) and Remo Woman of the Year 2018.
Dr. Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosumu is married. She is a proud mother and grandmother.
In an exclusive interview with the media team that were present on her birthday, at Ikenne town, which City People Assistant Editor, SUNDAY ADIGUN and City People Photo Journalist JIMMY ABDURASHEED SANNI were part of them, she spoke on how happy she was to clock 70 and some of the challenges she faced with her siblings when they were young as the children of a prominent man, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
The whole world is celebrating you today, how does that make you feel?
I feel overwhelmed, I feel very happy, overwhelmed with joy and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love that I can see and it’s really very re-assuring for me, it really quite wonderful.
Looking at you, it is difficult to believe that you are 70! What is the secret of your beauty?
I think it is the grace of God. I think it is the genes. Look at Mama in that photograph — she was almost 100 when she took that photo, but she didn’t look it. I think it is the genes.
In your reminiscences, (when you think about your youth, your career, marriage and your parents), what comes up topmost in your mind now?
So many things that I cannot begin to count, what I see is the hand of God shaping my life all through. I don’t ever remember sitting down and planning like Papa did. If you look at Papa’s history, from early life, he planned his life; he knew where he wanted to go. Beyond that, wanting to justify the affection and the expectations of my parents was always at the back of my mind. I felt that they were doing so much for me and that I should justify the hope and confidence they had in me. I also always wanted to be a doctor.
This was also in my mind. After qualifying, I worked for some years as a medical doctor. I stepped aside from medicine and did other things. My life has taken a trajectory I believe God had planned for me. There were so many crossroads along the way when it was possible that I could have taken the wrong turn, but there was that divine hand guiding me. This is what I really remember. God has been fully in charge of my life and He has made it possible for me to be who He has made me to be.
What were the challenges you had being a daughter of Chief Obafemi Awolowo?
First of all, the expectations were always very high; you had to be on your best behavior otherwise people would wonder how come Awolowo raised such a child? This was always a challenge. I had to set myself a standard to justify who truly my parents were. Another challenge was the fact that I had to achieve, I felt a sense that I needed to achieve something in order not to let my parents down or the people who loved my parents and me.
I remember when we were in the secondary school and the crisis began in 1962. We were taunted, we were abused, we were made fun of that ‘finally, all the money that your father stole…’ among other allegations. Even before then, people felt that no matter what we did, they felt that we were trying to be arrogant and they tried at all cost to put us down. Some senior girls did just that! I remember a story which I will never forget which is one of the reasons why you must never hurt a child because he/she will never forget. Some teachers in class would talk about Papa in derogatory terms. I understood from a very young age that being Awolowo’s child comes as a package and therefore I developed the attitude that ‘well, I refuse to reject the grace of God’.
Looking at your growing up, what was a typical day like in the Awolowo family?
Very regular. We woke up in the morning; the very first thing was prayer. Of course, Mama was always in charge of this and she made sure that we learnt some Psalms by heart. We had to learn those Psalms at all cost. I remember struggling to learn Psalms 91 because it is a long one, but I’m glad I did because such things never leave you and it comes to the fore any time I need it. So, there was prayer time and then, we got ready to go to school, then after school came the play time. At that time, the security situation was fantastic (in the country).
We didn’t have any security detail in the house, the gate was permanently opened and there were no policemen. Papa only had one police orderly that went to the office with him and came back and went back to his house after every day’s work. We used to go and play in the neighborhood. Just like every other child in the neighborhood, we went about just anywhere in the neighborhood to play. We were free to move around. We were very regular family. Sometimes, we went to play with other friends in the neighborhood and sometimes they came to us to play.
You write and speak English very well despite the fact that you are in the medical sciences. What is the secret?
In secondary school, my best subjects were English Language and English Literature. If not so determined to be a medical doctor, I probably would have been a literary scholar.
You are very humble despite your background, what informed your humility?
I think it is largely my upbringing because Papa and Mama never made us feel as if we were any different from other children. They never encouraged us to feel elitist. We played with the children of the washer man; we went to the washer man’s house (to eat) because his wife cooked very nice stew. We used to go there because he lived behind our house at Ibadan Boy’s High School.
So that is the kind of upbringing where we were encouraged to relate equally with the high and the low. At the same time, we used to go to Governor Rankine’s house for tea. The governor’s wife taught us how to play games. She was the one that taught me Rounders. We also related with other staff’s children who lived in the house with us. That has stayed with me. I am just as comfortable relating with the rich as well as the not-so-rich because everyone is rich at one level or the other. The only thing that makes me uncomfortable is when people are not sincere or when they are nasty.
Between Papa and Mama, Who have you taken after in character?
I think I am more like Papa in character but now, I am trying to adjust to being like Mama too. In my last conversation with her, which somebody described as her handover notes, she said some things. I remember feeling irritated at the time and at a point wanted to end the conversation, I asked ‘Are we done? I want to go.’ But now, I realize that she had a point. After her passing, the words she left behind, apart from everything else she left behind, show me very clearly that she had a point. There are times when you can be rigid and say no, like Papa used to.
But Mama’s methods work better in some situations. I am trying to adjust that and I am trying to ignore a lot of things. I am trying to not only ignore, but refuse to be drawn into certain conversations. There are some conversations that are actually worthless, they don’t go anywhere, they don’t change situations neither do they make you feel any better. It is just pointless having those kinds of conversations. I have been able to discern the kind of conversations that I want to have and those I don’t want to have, then, ‘peace’ can reign. The most important thing is to find out who you are, know where you stand, know what makes you happy, what does not, what works for you and what doesn’t work and decide to avoid certain things, certain situations, certain people. Once this is done, you are okay.
What is your concept of happiness?
My concept of happiness is being at peace with myself. Being comfortable with what I do with certain situations, or certain people or certain things; knowing my limits with certain individuals and staying within those limits. We give ourselves a lot of heartache in this world when you feel you have to be accepted by everybody or loved by everybody. It just does not happen.
The moment you get to the point where you decide to actually identify the people that are happy with you and you are happy with, and identify with the people who feel that there is nothing in this world that you can do that can make them happy or that would make them love or like you, then you are okay. You have your boundaries clearly set, and you stay within those boundaries.
In 70 years, was there anything that you wanted and chased after that you did not get and each time your mind goes there, you feel a bit down?
I tried to go into politics, I didn’t get anywhere with it, for many reasons. It was not a life and death thing. But this was never something that I wanted above and beyond. It was for me an opportunity to offer service but clearly, some other persons were preferred. It just did not happen. I was quite happy to step away from politics. Actually, my attitude to life is that if I want something and it does not happen, then it is not God’s time. This is my attitude to disappointments. I believe that is the way God wants it. At every point and in my trial, I ask God ’Lord, what are you saying here? Where do you want me to go?’
Was there a point in your life that you felt there was something you could not get, but somehow God turned it round for you and you got it miraculously?
I got so many things. Most of the things I have achieved in life have been offered to me at least in public life. Privately also, even though I had delays, eventually, I just got it on a platter of gold and I know that there is a divine hand that guides my life, that orders my life.
Things happen for me at the time God wants. Even though I don’t realize it at the time, looking back I know that the best things happened at the best times. I am at a point now in my life where I have never been as confident of God as I am right now. I have no doubt whatsoever, not even a shadow of doubt. I used to fret a lot. I used to worry a lot, but not anymore.
How do you keep fit ma?
Now you got me. I hate exercise. I dislike it intensely. I don’t know how I keep fit. When I’m in the UK, I go for walks. I don’t like missing the opportunity of walking. But here, I don’t have the chance for walks. Many years ago, I had a gym in my house in Lagos with all the equipment, but I never used it. I invited some of my friends to come and use the facilities in the hope that would encourage me, but it was a lie.
They were coming at 3 o’clock and I would deliberately have my lunch at 2 o’clock. I would in turn tell them that I was not supposed to exercise immediately after food. I would then sit, watch and chat with them while they exercise. In the end of the day, I dismantled everything. It is something I just don’t like. As a doctor, I should not be saying this.
You are just been installed has Iya Ewe of Our Saviour’s Anglican Church Ikenne-Remo, what does this connote, and what were the expectations?
A lot of expectations, basically it’s to help and to assist the young ones, give them a hand to excel in life, to assist them morally, to empower them, to help them to acquire skills and to help them live right.