As told by a nonagenarian with 65 years marital experience
BY ’TUNDE THOMAS
It is incredibly curious that in an age when many of her peers are already bent, and can only move around with the aid of a walking stick, Madam Omitore Aduke Alice Olayinka is still moving about with the gait of a young woman.
If her age had not been confirmed by clergymen, her husband, children and by her contemporaries who surrounded her recently when she celebrated her 91st birthday at Idimu, Lagos, you would have raised eyebrows thinking her age might have been inflated.
While exchanging banters with well-wishers, her children and grandchildren who milled round her, Mama Dayo, as she is fondly called, offered thanksgiving and praises for God’s mercy which has seen her weather the storms of life in the last nine decades.
“What else can I say than to thank my creator who has not only been my pillar of support, but has also spared my life to attain this ripe age,” she declared.
Recalling her journey in life which she described has been anything but rosy, Mama said she was not born with silver spoon unlike some of her peers who had it easy during their early childhood.
“I have a humble background. I was born to a peasant farmer in a community called Erin-Oke in the present day Osun State. Although I was not born into a rich home, ours was a happy family. My father, despite being a polygamist, never took the welfare of his children with levity,” she said.
The nonagenarian who didn’t have formal education said when it was time for her to enroll in school, her father decided that she along her other siblings join him on his expansive farm.
“In those days, neither my mother nor her children had the effrontery to challenge or question any decision taken by her father. When my dad announced this decision, it took my mother and other wives by surprise but they took it with equanimity. Expressing a contrary opinion on the matter would not have helped in such situation. Thereafter, he equipped us with hoes and cutlasses. I still remember vividly that by the age of 12, I had my own little farm. That was in addition to my father’s farms where all of us used to work.”
Initially, farming was fun to mama. But the fun soon petered out. And the quest to escape the monotonous of life on the farm soon set in. Hence her decision to take an action that shocked her father.
Asked what kind of action she took, Mama quickly replied:
“Very early one morning, I ran away while my father and other children and their mothers were still sleeping. I had become tired of farm work. Each day we used to walk 10 kilometres from our house to the farm. I was no longer comfortable with such routine. I wasn’t happy again. To add more to my woes, my mother, late Florence Fabareje, had a minor misunderstanding with my father, and the squabble finally led to their separation.
“When my mother packed out of her matrimonial home, my brother and I were left to suffer in the hands of other wives. We were regularly beaten and maltreated. It was only one of the wives, Mama Mariatu that took the two of us like her own children. This miserable situation at home eventually forced me to run away from home.”
As precarious as her decision to run away from home was, Mama says she owes God debt of gratitude because that action did not derail God’s plan for her life.
“It is not everybody that is as lucky as I am. Some who ran away at that time ended up being kidnapped, and no one ever heard about them again. But in my own case, I survived all these crises and live to tell the story before this august gathering.” She enthused
Citing her own case as an example, Mama advised young couples of today to learn how to accommodate one another, stressing that there is unity in diversity.
“With the benefit of hindsight, I have come to realize that couples’ separation can have a harmful effect on the growth and development of their children. With my own experience, I decided that I would make endurance and perseverance my watchword when I got married. There is no relationship without its turbulent period. Couples must learn to imbibe the principle of give and take; they must also have spirit of contentment and above all let the fear of God reign in their family. I thank God for giving the grace to make these principles my motto when I got married. Today, I’m marking my 65th marriage anniversary. I have seen a lot if not all, but I thank God for his grace that has kept me,” she declared.
Love and mutual respect for one another, as Mama noted, are yet other vital recipes for successful marriage. Although it is important each of the couple plays his or her role effectively in the family, mama opines that women have a more prominent role to play in their marriage.
“Women are home makers. They are the ones that stay more with their children at home. They are the ones that build the foundation for the children. Although it is a joint task between the wife and the husband, since women stay more at home, the responsibility of inculcating the right morals in the children falls mostly on them, and this is why a woman should strive harder to stay in her marriage in spite of challenges that may come her way. “There is no perfection in marriage” she said.
No life is without its own challenges. On what were some of her challenging moments, the nonagenarian revealed that she didn’t find it easy at a point when she started raising children, and her husband due to the nature of his work would not be around.
“Initially, at the early stage of our marriage, my husband was a textile dealer, and was involved in what was popularly called Osomalo in those days. He was an itinerant cloth seller who moved from one community to another hawking his wares. Although, we settled down at Erusu-Akoko in Ondo State, he was always on the move. When we had our first child, I had to move in with my baby to stay with my husband’s younger brother and wife in order to get proper attention and care. Later, as more children arrived, I got used to his not being around some of the time. He later became a contractor and had more time for his family, but coping alone initially was not easy,” she declared.
What would she ascribe as being the secrets of her longevity? She quickly replied:
“I owed everything to God. It is God that has spared my life. I have remained healthy and fit because I still do some exercises. I still trek while I also eat a lot of vegetables and fruits. I don’t stress myself. I’m always contented in whatever situation I find myself. The Bible says we should not be anxious about anything, but through prayers and supplication, table our request before God.”
Revisiting the issue of broken homes, Mama said many relationships and marriages nowadays crumble like packs of cards because would-be couples no longer engage in deep courtship before consummating their union.
“Courtship is an essential ingredient in every relationship. Not only that, parents and relations of both parties must also play their roles accordingly during this important stage. But what do you have today? We now have cases where young men and women would start living together like a husband and wife without the knowledge of their parents, guardians and relations. This is wrong! Courtship is a key element to any successful marriage. Then couples should not live above their means, they must learn to cut their coats according to their clothes. Strive to be your normal self. Don’t imitate others or try to impress somebody. Let people know you for whom you are.”
Asked if she has any special wish on the occasion of her 91st birthday, Mama said her wish is to see her children and grandchildren excel in their chosen endeavours. Not only that, her other wish is for Nigeria to become one of the giants in the world.
“I still remember vividly that in those days, Nigeria was great. I had fond memories of the beautiful environment. We had leaders that were genuinely serving the people. There was nothing like corruption. There was also fear of God among the people. But today, I hear a lot of stories on radio, and also watch on television, strange happenings. I pray that Nigeria will not turn to Sodom and Gomorrah of this age. I pray that the peace of God will continue to abide with us. I pray for our leaders that God will continue to give them the wisdom to steer the affairs of this nation in the right direction.