•Dr. Mrs. GRACE OLABANWO BRAITHWAITE
In the next few days, Mama Dr. Mrs. Grace Simisola Olubanwo Braithwaite, the widow of late Human Rights Lawyer, Tunji Braithwaite will be 90. And she will be celebrating 90 years of God’s Grace upon her life. She was born on 27th March 1933, so she will be 90 on 27th March, 2023.
Recently, City People got to talk about the story of her life and how her path and that of her late husband crossed. We also wanted to know how she feels hitting this landmark age. “First, I thank God for granting me the Grace, that is my name, to be alive, even though I would have liked that my husband, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite was alive and here with me. But then, it is the Lords doing. And I have nothing to do about it.”
“When I look back all I can say is that it is has been long journey ooo. This journey you are asking me about is a long journey, because I left school in 1953. And my father said he wanted me to go to England to study Medicine to save me 3 years of studying the course. But he did not know that the same thing happened in England. I went via a ship. In those days there were no planes, and it took 13 days from Apapa Wharf to Liverpool in England. No planes. The water was rough. The ocean was rough. Many people don’t like the experience. My father was there with me. My mother was there with me at the Apapa Wharf. My husband to be was there with me. My parents didn’t know that we were that serious. But between the 2 of us we had made arrangements that if everything went well, we will do this and that. He was still in Nigeria. He had not travelled, he came to join me later. It was 13 days on rough waters.”
“I found out after I got there that the British people did not want us to study Medicine. They wanted us to be nurses. I got there in the middle of Winter. I didn’t like the weather. It was very cold. Once you tell them you were there to study Nursing they will encourage you and attend to uou quicly. So, I started with Nursing. I was in the Nursing school. I knew what I wanted. I really didn’t want to study Nursing. I wanted to study Medicine. After 6 months. I got to England in December 1954. Everything went well. It was through God’s Grace, I used Grace. That is my name. That is the name my father gave me. So, we had an exam after 6 months and they said we passed. I then told them that I am not interested in Nursing anymore. They said, haaaaa! You must be interested.”
“I said No. I must not be i nterested. I am not interested in it any more. I don’t want to continue studying it. They said, but they won’t take you! They don’t take those in Nursing into Medicine. I said please leave that to me. So, I left, I went to see what I can do about my desire to study Medicine.
At that time, my husband had not come to join me. He came to join me later in England because he wanted to study Law. And Law is a shorter course than Medicine. I left the hospital. I looked for my friend Prof. Odutola. He came to join us also. After I left the place, we looked for a College where we would study Science. We got a College. And we stayed there for 3 years. After the 3 years, I passed all the subjects. By that time, my husband had come then. So, he had entered Inns of Court for Law. His Law was short. But mine was very long. He finished, he got his Law degree after 18 months of study. They were supposed to do a 3 years course. But he took the exams and passed. Its usually a 3 year course. But he finished in 18 months. So, what are we going to do now?
We got married along the line, before he did his course. I had a child. I had my A levels. So, I applied into Medical School in England and they took me. And I said now that they have taken me, you mean I will stay here for another 5 years? My husband had finished his Law. What are we going to do? So what we did was to apply to University Medical School in Nigeria. And they took me. I entered the University Medical School in 1960 at UCH, Ibadan. That was how we managed. I started my Medical Course and I finished after 5 years.”
“So as she turns 90, whats on her mind? “As I turn 90, I have been wondering, was it I or somebody else? How could this have happened in the life of somebody? You know, because it wasn’t a straight forward thing because it wasn’t I that did. Look at all these years and what I went through. If it had been I or another individual, I could have given up. And I was not so special or whatever. But I know what I wanted. And what I wanted, God gave it to me. I didn’t want to be a nurse. I didn’t want to be a Teacher, I wanted to be a Doctor. It took Gods Grace. Then my husband was there. He finished quickly from Lincoln’s Inn. He had to complete what they call dinners. Every 3 months they had dinners.”
What is her reflections about life at 90? “My reflections is that: How did it happen? It couldn’t have happened by my power. But only by the Grace of God. You will read a lot of my experiences in my Memoirs. The children want me to write about my life, my autobiography. It’s been a long journey. It has always been a long journey. When I finished I had my problems, problems upon problems that you couldn’t even begin to imagine.”
So, what are the lessons and the message? “That you should not expect anything to be smooth sailing. If you have really decided on what to do, with God, its not you, because you cannot do it alone. I couldn’t have done it alone. It was God that helped me. The lesson I have learnt is that if you want to do something, do it, whatever it takes with God’s Grace, God’s help, you will be able to do it. There is no short cut to success or any achievement in life. There is no short cut ooo. What is the truth. If you do short cut you are just deceiving yourself, because you don’t know what that short cut has for you. If you want to do something, do it with God’s help. If you have the ability to do it, ask God to help you. Its not by MY might. It’s not by power. But it’s by the spirit of God ooo. It is there in the Bible. Why can’t you do it, if other people can do it? You too can do it. I am talking about genuine ambition, plan or goals. There is nothing easy. It wasn’t easy for me also.
At the end of the day, I could have been a Nurse or a Teacher. But I didn’t want that. I wanted something much more than that. You must know that with what you want, it is not going to be easy. Its not by your power, life is not that easy. Its got ups and downs. There is nothing smooth. Ko si nkan kan to smooth if you are really determined and you have the fear of God in your life, and you know there is somebody there who is looking at you, even though we don’t see him face to face, but you can feel him. Don’t let anybody discourage you. God is the omnipotent.”
Does she have any regret in life? “Not really. It was what I wanted. It was what God wanted me to do. It wasnt easy for my husband also. It wasn’t easy because of the many battles my husband went through, fighting for the people. I know it wasn’t easy for him, because I was there. It is not a question somebody will come and tell me. He is an extra ordinary person. We believed in Togetherness. If that is what he wants, then well in togetherness, I have to do it to, to help. He fought with the government too.”
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