The Matriarch of Ajayi Family, Madam Christiana Ozofu Ajayi in an interview with Olanrewaju Adesanya while celebrating her 89th birthday spoke at length about her life’s journey, the challenges while growing up and how they were surmounted. Excerpt:
Mama can you give us background information about yourself?
I am Madam Christiana Ozofu Ajayi, I was born in 1929,89 years ago to
the Yaya royal family in Igarra town,Akoko-Edo local government area
,Edo State, my father earn himself the title ‘Akpeji’ a great royal
son of the land, I had my primary education as one of the privileged
few back then whose parents could afford to send to school although, I
had to stop schooling to take care of my siblings who are barely at
the infant stage of life, as the first born of the family my parents
especially my father had high hopes and expected so much from me, I
had to tidy my younger ones for school, grind pepper, go to farm, I
was responsible for so many things at home, this made me so hard
working and ready to take up challenges, back then my siblings can
attest to loving, kind heartedness, being a friendly person, I also
took good care of my mother. I am a regular caller at the Anglican
church, where I was born, I’m a church person till now because I have
believe so much in God, I later got married to Late Chief Jacob Sanu
Ajayi, the Oshemdase of Igarra in Edo state, many of my siblings for
whom I had to stop schooling for them to go are heading big positions
now like my sister who is now a consultant to a reputable corporate
firm Mrs. Adeleke, so I stop schooling for my younger ones to forge
ahead, as a quite beautiful damsel I got betrothed to my husband early
in life and he has been a loving and caring husband till he died, he
never wanted me to do anything than stay at home to take care of the
home front, this I coped with for so long and became somewhat an
authority, there are no amount of stress I had that would make me
transfer aggression, maybe it was due to my upbringing really.
Challenges are basic pillars of life, how did you pull through to this
ripe age of 89?
I am an optimist with very deep believe in God, I know that
perseverance is key, yes challenges will come but they end up making
one strong, I don’t celebrate challenges by complaining or murmuring I
rather face them as they come and at the end becomes victorious.
What do you do for a living early in life Ma?
While young I had my hand in so many things, I learnt sowing even
before I got married , I know much about tie and dye ‘adire’and Aso
Oke and many of my relatives do place order for it and I supply them
the quantity ordered, very quality fabric for the festivities and
celebrations, had it been that I continued my academic pursuit maybe I
might have been an industrialist because my sense of industry is huge,
even at 89 my memories as still quite alert, I reach out to relatives,
far and near, my children, grandchildren across the globe at least
once in a while to know about their welfare. I celebrate people a lot,
I keep records about good memories of my loved ones and people with
whom I have relationship, if check my shelf there, you will see
programmes of events held to signal one feat or more achieved by my
children and in-law, I am liberal and selfless, I am a blunt person
who says the truth always caring not whose ox is gored. Though I am a
full time house wife and the first among the three wives of my late
husband, I had the privilege of moving across Nigeria with him while
he was working at the African Petroleum AP then; from Igarra to Lagos
to Kano and later to Warri. My stay in Warri was however, longer than
in other places because when he retired from service he came back to
Igarra leaving me behind. I later joined him in Igarra before his
demise. After that I have stayed with my daughters at Benin and now
with one of them who is a staff of UNIBEN.
What is the secret of your healthiness at 89?
I am a joy mixer, I don’t keep malice, even as a woman, the two other
wives my husband had knows so well that I am tolerant, I and my late
husband are good at helping people even those we really have no direct
link family wise, we trained so many, I have seven surviving children
all doing well in their different fields, with 19 grand children, God
has been so faithful to me and seeing them thrive brings me lots of
joy. We accommodate lots of people that inform why you see many of
them here, even my biological children barely knows many of them, but
they see me as their mother having impacted them positively while
growing up. That is the secret of my wellness.
What is your favorite food and what turns you off?
I don’t like proud people; my best food is Oka and vegetable soup.
What are those things you had never wished to encounter that later
came to be? I don’t like referring to this but my senior daughter’s
death really hurt me but I assume God knows best, because she was my
confidante with whom I share many similarities. (Near tears). I hardly
discuss my issues with friends, I rather take it to God and he has
been there for me all the while, in all I am grateful.
How has it been, having Madam Lucy Ajayi, your fourth son’s wife in your family?
Oh! Lucy is a darling, she has come to fill that gap my late daughter
left, she really is a darling, very comely and enterprising, I mean
she also was instrumental towards having this birthday party
celebrated but I invited many and they all teamed up to make it grand
for me, from the house to the church and reception it was awesome. I
share a lot with Lucy because she is also my amiable daughter and I
know she and her husband and all his siblings would continually remain
Mama as a repertoire of what life has thought you, what lessons do you
want young women to learn?
Life is filled with many challenges but they should know that it is
not meant to mar but make them, growing up my routine chores was
routed from home to farm, laziness is really not virtue, they should
eschew laziness and embrace hardwork, women are doing fine all over
the world now like my sister, now Mrs. Adeleke, a renowned geologist
with NNPC rose to a very high position due to hard work and being
focused all women can be great not minding the visible obstacles they
might have, I for one has impacted many because my live really is
built around them.
Being an octogenarian who has seen many political dispensations in
Nigeria’s evolution, will you say our politics is any semblance of
what obtains in your youthful years?
In my family we have no politic leaning, we are the churchy type, all
we know about politics were the names of major players, like late
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa, politics is
really not our thing, I cannot say really if the past politics and
politicians are better than those of this era, because politicians
back then and those that doing politics now have to grapple with
conditions and situations that varies, we are now in the space age and
that of computer, back then there were no telephones, though we feel
life was easier compare to now, I can’t say one is better than the
other, but that the politicians back then were lot’s more honest, it
was just as difficult as it is now for those ones doing politics then.