In Chinua Achebe’s classic novel Things Fall Apart, the question is asked: “Can you tell me, Okonkwo, why it is that one of the commonest names we give our children is Nneka, or ‘Mother is Supreme?’ We all know that a man is the head of the family and his wives do his bidding. A child belongs to its father and his family and to its mother and her family. A man belongs to his fatherland and not to his motherland. And yet we say Nneka—‘Mother is Supreme.’ Why is that?”
And Okwonko replies: “I do not know the answer.”
On Friday, February 9, 2018, Ijebu-Jesha town in Osun State witnessed the grand burial of a Mother Supreme: Chief Mrs. Lydia Abiodun Kayode-Ojo, a woman described by Pastor Sunday Odunuga of RCCG Kingdom Palace, New Okoba, Lagos, as a “mother of mothers and faithful worshiper of the Almighty God.” A woman referred to by the Archdeacon of Ijebu-Jesha Ven. G.O. Alabi as “the Dorcas of our time because Mama was generous to a fault.”
In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey urges us to “Start with the end in mind”. He asks you to imagine being in a cemetery and listening to your own funeral. How do you want to be remembered? What would people say about you before you are lowered into the grave? Mama Lydia Abiodun Kayode-Ojo who slept in the Lord at 86 would be moved to tears by the eulogies, the words of her children and the poems read by her grandchildren. Without any doubt this was one woman who had fought a good fight, run a good race, finished well and waiting to be crowned. There she lay in that beautiful casket with the doors shut on the journey to the land of no return. Her death is a reminder of the fate that awaits us all as mortals, as actors who come to this world to play our various roles after which we take the exit door in the last tearful farewell. If there is any lesson I have learnt from this woman, it is that we must live a life of service. Mama was a paragon of love for God and humanity. She was a prayer warrior extraordinaire. For her, prayer was not just a sprint. It was a marathon. It went on and on and on.
My son Kehinde Awoyinfa had done a video biography on his grandmother-in-law which was premiered last week to a full house of family members, friends, relations, church members and sympathizers from far and near. From the documentary, I got a lot of insights into a woman who was an untrained midwife yet delivered babies in a village without electricity and modern amenities. A woman with a retentive memory who knew off hand the birthday of every child and grandchildren. A woman who adopted many children and loved them even more than her own biological children. A woman of style, a fashion designer of repute in her time. Everyone has his or her unique “mama’s moment” or “mama’s story” which sheds light on this incredible woman.
Her son Pastor Tope Kayode-Ojo recalls an unforgettable day: “I recollect when I was about to finish my primary school at Gwada in Niger State. I was on my way from school and had to pass behind the window of her room to enter the house only to overhear the conversation between mum and one of our uncles that she was forced to turn to from time to time for advice because our father was in faraway Takoradi, Ghana. They were discussing my imminent entrance into secondary school and the constraints of paying my school fees and that of my siblings who were already there ahead of me without anyone coming to her aid. I remember him saying: ‘Mama Tope, don’t kill yourself. Let Tope learn a trade.’ To which you replied: ‘If I have to be an alaaru (a porter) to earn money, this boy will be educated.’ These words have forever been ringing in my ears. I am what I am today by the grace of God and that singular moment of commitment to make me a better person just the same way she did for my siblings and so many others.” Below are other tributes to a Mother Supreme:
Mrs. Omolara Adedugbe, daughter: “If there is an award for the ‘Best Mother of all times’, Maami would have won hands down. When the season of my life changed and the cloud replaced the sunshine, Maami came up as the impossible star within the cloud that made me see through the darkness of life. I was able to draw from her strength in prayers and her inspiration by words that there will always be sunshine for every storm.”
Mrs. Iyadunni Osobu, daughter: “As a sewing mistress, when we were growing up you had a God-given skill of baby delivering which you did with joy in Gwada, Niger State to every family that called you even in midnight. You told me recently that to God’s glory you neither lost mother nor child in a village with no hospital, pipe borne water nor NEPA light.”
Ajibola Kayode-Ojo, son: “As a kid I remember that your simple prayer whenever you are called in the middle of the night that a woman is in labour was: O God, they have come to call you, prove your greatness. You gave your all to serve not just your children but the community at large. Though not trained as a nurse, you successfully took deliveries of so many children.”
Alhaji Tijani Ibrahim Ojo: “I am privileged and proud to be the first child of Ojo Aburumaku that Mama took delivery of upon her return to Nigeria from the then Gold Coast. And for that reason I was her bosom. As a fashion designer, she sewed my first birthday dress when I was 4 and hid it in a basket from the reach of Pastor Tope who was troubling Mama, insisting he must wear it. Due to her retentive memory, she remembers everyone’s birthday and would be the first to wish you happy birthday.”
Mrs. TemitopelodoOluwa Awoyinfa, granddaughter: “Wherever I was in the world and I’d call grandma, she’d pick the phone and say: ‘Hello, who is speaking?’ I’d answer by saying: ‘I am the one.’ And she will exclaim: ‘Temi!!!!’ Despite her many children and grandchildren, by hearing your voice on the phone, she knew it was you. Mama had this radio. With it, she knew what was going on everywhere. She would ask: ‘Have you heard what is going on in Kwara?’ She was so current. There are no words to describe her but if I am to describe her to someone who never met her, I’d say she was a good storyteller, a big-hearted and strong woman, someone who was resilient and never backed down from what she truly believed in. She was everyone’s mother and grandmother.”
Oluwafunpe Osobu, grandson: “Sad I’ll never get to cover your 99th birthday. I am glad you had a happy ending. Your last word was Hallelujah!”
Ven. G.O. Alabi, Archdeacon, Ijebu-Jesha: “Her passion for God’s work was unequal. God used her to build children’s chapel/church hall. Her sojourn was not too long but full of blessings to whoever came her way. Adieu Grandma, till resurrection morning.”
’Latunde Ojo, son: “Thank you for what you represent, your memory will spur us to living in the consciousness that there is life after death.”