Monday, June 09, 2008


I suppose the Yoruba have a saying for every situation , they say 'Iya ni wura , Baba ni digi'. Your mother is gold and your father is a mirror.

24 years ago yesterday my mother died at age 38. At that time I assumed a life that I live till today , open , difficult, challenging, dutiful , disruptive, intellectual all to honour her. She was quite a difficult person for me to get along with . She was truly a natural force whose humble beginnings led her to an arranged marriage with my father, one which blossomed into an unexpected love on her side and a certain one on his. My mother started her working life as a trader in the tradition of Muslim women in Ibadan. She always dreamed of being a doctor but getting married unexpectedly at 18 was not a good preparation and having myself just a year after compounded any such thoughts. She parlayed her start in the open market stalls of Gbagi to being a expert of all locations for lace in Austria, gold in Beirut amongst many other international travels. By the early 70s she was lifting oil out of Nigeria for sale in Korea ( saw a bill of laden/ invoice amongst her papers) an incredible rarity in those days. She started a road haulage company with over 300 trailer trucks carrying motorcycles, rice, generators across the country she still managed to be distributor for Lever Brothers amongst others. She never gave up her medical fantasy poring over medical books and throwing dinner parties with eminent surgeons and doctors at the head of the table so she could argue into the night about different medical procedures. The amazing thing is that she did most of these things in her late twenties, early thirties. Now that I am well over forty I can marvel about how quick and phenomenal her achievements were.

She was for quite a time secretary of market women's association but that was not a feminist position it was in the footsteps of extraordinary women many of them muslim but by no means exclusively so. The great and terrifying Efusetan Aniwura the famous Iyalode of Ibadan, Iyalode Abimbola, Iyalode Abeo or others like her contemporaries and mentors, Late Alhaja Simbiat Adedeji or ever present Alhaja Humani Alaga. I met a friend of my mum by a few years ago and she proceeded to tell me the story of how they met. She had been rear-ended by a Danfo driver (local bus) who are notorious as thugs and vagrants . She was completely intimidated by the drivers aggressive behaviour in spite of his culpability so she locked herself in her car as chaos rained around her then there was a sudden lull. My mother had apparently got out of her car and proceeded to slap the danfo driver who reacted by prostrating himself immediately and asking for forgiveness. she proceeded to bang on the window of this poor woman's car and berated her for letting herself down and women to boot. She told her this was a result of too much westernisation. My mother made an habit of extraordinary acts of kindness as such there were never less than 30 people in the house at any given time and sometimes up to 50 depending on how many poor people she chose to pick up for looking after. When many people see your mother as a saint you quite unconsciously rebel against it all.

For me the loss of my mother was the beginning of my manhood and it was the realisation that something unique had left my life that shaped it. Somehow I have moved from a depression about the loss to a rationalisation that includes a true abiding disrespect for death. Also as I saw other people's mothers grow into melodramatic and self absorbed 'nuisances' i imagined my powerhouse of a mother in a similar role and grudgingly said it must all have been for the best having married a woman with a similar temperament. I could not imagine the fight for primacy that would have occurred. I also love the man I had become because of her absence in my life. Yesterday it was different, I woke up and I missed her and my eyes have not stopped stinging with tears that are reluctant to step out or settle down to their home in the ducts. I am now older than she ever was but Apeke was more in many ways larger than life itself . I still strive to be the shadow of the person she was no matter how much we fought.

Sun re O! Apeke iti gbongbo Iyekan Isepe.


Anonymous said...

Touching tribute to your mother. She would have been proud of the man you've become.

Indeed, Iya ni wura.

ijebuman said...

really moving, stay strong my brother

30+ said...

Wow your Mum was a formidable woman.

Death is one inevitability of human life.

I am sure you would have heard by now that Death has also sent Adedibu on a journey of no return.

omidanbellafricaine said...

WOW she really is incredible...

Onibudo said...

I thank you all and incredible she was but with usual feet of clay. I do miss her even if we would have been fighting. i honour you as you do her.

Anonymous said...


I am impressed with your story, and wanted to know if you can help me with some research too. I am the great-grand son of Alhaja Humani Alaga of Ibadan. I am doing an extensive research on my great grand mom and i have heard so much great things she has done during her life especial in the history of Nigeria and Europe. I am trying to put her name in the history books because this is one piece of history that should not be forgotten. You can reach me at there are some info I would like to ask you about her thanks