BY KATE HALIM
Joe Okei-Odumakin’s relationship with her father remained constant with daily phone calls and exchange of messages till his death in 2010. As the first Daughter in a family of six, Joe’s growing years were spent trying to meet her late father’s high expectations.
In this interview with Daily Sun, Odumakin shed more light on the close relationship with him.
What can you tell us about your late dad?
My father was a civil servant while my Mum was a businesswoman. My father was a disciplinarian. As a civil servant he was always very punctual, defend the rights of any staff that is violated. He loves fasting and prayers a lot, he also likes extremely clean environments.
What was it like growing up and what kind of relationship did you have with your dad?
I was like a tom boy, was always a goal keeper, hockey player, I hated injustice so much that while growing up, I defend pupils who had their pencil, rulers or money collected unjustly.
My father was a staunch Catholic, I had my baptism and confirmation in catholic church so I wanted to be a nun, just to be married to Jesus. My father who was in the United Kingdom (UK) then was informed, he threatened to disown me and also publish my obituary, I was too young just 14 years to be disowned. So, when my Dad returned, he took me to school of Basic studies(SBS), Kwara State college of Technology now Kwara Polytechnic where I started A’ Levels, he insisted I must reside with Dr. Achor the Director of SBS.
After one week, I promised my Dad that I have perished the idea of being a nun, he then allowed me to return to the hostel. My father always wanted excellence, he only pampers any of his kids who came first in class, so, I studied very hard to meet his expectations. My Dad will always go through my homework with me, and also give me assignments to do. He hardly beats me but his words were like weapon. He does not tolerate excuses.
What pranks did you play on him as a child?
We always have division of labour at home, my brothers will help to wash the outer part of the car and sweep the compound but I will tell them not to worry that I will take care of their chores, so I will take the key to the car while my Dad is asleep bring out the gadgets refix listen to the radio and return in the morning one day the battery ran down, but my Dad never knew that I was responsible.
We were living very close to a staff club, so I will rush there after school to play football which my Dad had earlier seized and hid somewhere, if is almost time for close of work, I will rush back home and start reading.
Can you remember how you both felt the day you were getting married?
Oh no, my Dad’s spirit was low, although he felt the darling daughter that was married to the struggle at last will become a wife. My concern was now how the struggle will automatically become our lives but I had the feeling that I was going to leave my Dad who was the closest to me. I always prepare his food, and visit him in the office. When I was in my final year in the University, my Dad took 3 days casual leave and personally took me round some schools in all the local government in Kwara state.
Can you recall your father’s seeming feeling of losing you?
Although I had stopped living with my Dad before I got married, he still remained fond of me. He kept calling me. I was more or less like his accounting partner. So, he felt he was going to lose all these but kept saying he would not want his emotions betray him on the day I say “I Do.”
Can you still recall what it was for him when you made him a grandfather?
It was March 12, 1998 he was in Lagos with my Mum on a visit the night before I put to bed. They were on their way out when I started feeling funny so I told my Dad that I will quickly get to the hospital on my way but he insisted on going with me. That same day, I was to have a press conference at Pa Abraham Adesanya’s office at 11am.
We got to the hospital at 7:50am, the doctor said it was advance labour so my Dad was around with me, he waited outside, by 8:55am I was out of the labour room, my father ran inside, saw the baby, tears of joy ran down his cheeks while that joy was on I quickly left for Apapa for the press briefing.
How much of a father-daughter relationship did you have with your dad before his demise?
The relationship remained constant with daily phone calls, texts or e-mails until April 7, 2010. My Dad who had traveled to Ilorin for his pension verification from Asaba did not inform me before he embarked on the journey because he said I would discourage him or call people who will treat him specially. One thing struck me since I was born, I have never heard my dad say he was tired. He called me, while we were discussing he said “my darling, I am tired”, so I replied, happy night rest dad.
The next day April 8, he left Ilorin for Asaba with his driver while almost approaching Benin, he called me but his speech was inaudible, so, I asked him to give the phone to the drive, called a doctor in Benin, he was placed on admission, while I was preparing to go and check him the next day, a journalist called to express his condolence, I fell, hit my head on the wall due to the sudden news.
What is your father’s greatest advice to you?
My dad’s greatest advice was that I must be positive in life, he would always tell me to remember the daughter of whom I was. I should make myself a good example to follow and not a mistake to avoid.
What do you miss most about him?
I sorely miss his unique counsel. My dad called me daily while he was alive. Three years after, I still kept his phone.
What role did your Dad play in making you the woman you are today?
My dad made sure I had the best education, which money couldn’t buy. While on campus, my dad kept reminding me that good character and my certificate matters a lot, so despite my confrontation with government, I still made sure I read my books. I was a workaholic while growing up with the fear of God. It remains the same today, working hard round the clock. My dad made me who I am today, he tells me daily that Honesty is the best policy and I imbibed that since I was a child.