IT was celebration of life in the household of Alhaji Prince Jimoh Akanbi Kareem Laka Orelope, the father of Lagos State Deputy Governor, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, when the patriarch died on Thursday, December 18, 2014, at the ripe age of 101.
Though the children, 13 of them, cried when their father was being lowered into the grave, it was because they were going to miss a father who had not only impacted their lives but the lives of so many people.
ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke with one of the deceased’s children and the most prominent, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, who told us how he died and what they are doing to immortalize his name.
Thank you. I think it’s more of celebration of life than condolence. It is a gratitude to God for a life well spent. My father was a great man. Though, I wept when he was laid to rest, it was not because he died prematurely. Rather, it was because I will miss him as a father.
Where were you when the information of his death came to you?
I was with him on Sunday, December 14, 2014. Usually, every other Sunday, I will go to him. We will crack jokes. For instance, when I became deputy governor, he was very happy. He made a statement then that so, I will become a deputy governor in his life time. That touched me. I jokingly told him then that I have an office for him in the deputy governor’s office and anytime I go to see him I give him an envelope as his salary from the deputy governor’s office. And each time he will ask when will I take him to the office.
So, it was in this line of my every other Sunday visit that I went to see him last Sunday. His countenance on that Sunday was not pleasant to me at all. He was not his usual jovial and ebullient self.
Usually, he would tell us one story or the other, make jokes with us (children). But that Sunday, he didn’t utter a word. We (children) did everything to make him talk and make jokes with us. Nothing, he didn’t say anything. Every question we asked him he just shook or nodded his head in response. I even threatened to go if he was not going to talk, he just smiled. Later, he agreed I should prepare something for him. So, I prepared Milo for him. Prior to this Sunday meeting, something happened that sort of gave me the impression that he will soon pass on.
One of my younger brother’s wife gave birth to a boy three months ago. That boy was a complete look alike of my father. When I saw that boy, I knew it was just a matter of time for my father to go. Because that boy and my father cannot co-exist. It was since then that I started preparing my mind for his demise. It was since then we started planning for his final resting place. That made it easy for us to prepare for his death.
So, you had a premonition that he would soon die?
Yes, I had a premonition that he would soon go. We thank God he died a happy man. That Sunday, before I left, I prepared bitter leaf for him to drink. He started eating again. A day or two later, my mother called me again that he has refused to eat again. I then called his personal doctor who told me he was there in the morning and that he left him around 2.00 p.m. I told him to go back there because someone just called me that he was not talking or eating again.
When the doctor called me back, he just confirmed our worst fear. He said Baba was no more. That he had left us.
What will you say you will miss in him?
He was a good man. He was also a great man. I saw in him God’s goodness and mercy and that gave me the inspiration to impact on the lives of people. The man, Orelope was not his family name or given to him by his parents. It was a nickname given to him because of his philanthropic gestures to many. I will continue to cherish that name. That name brought a lot of goodness to him and to we his children too.
Is that why you never dropped the name?
I told you I cherish the name a lot.
Is there any of your siblings that is also using the name, Orelope?
Of course, all of us. That is the most popular of all his names. In fact, nobody knows all the other names. The moment you mention Orelope, everybody knows whom you are talking about. If you mention his other names, I doubt if many people will know whom you are talking about particularly outside Alimosho area.
What lesson would you say he personally taught you?
He taught me that hard work pays more than any other thing. He also taught me to be focused, loyal and honest to myself first. He also taught me that whatever I do must be something that will impact positively on other people’s lives. He said I must leave a footprint that will outlive me. When I won election into House of Assembly in 1992, he told me I would either promote the name, Orelope or destroy it by my actions in politics.
Are there some of your siblings that are also in politics?
Not really, because we don’t want to take advantage of that name. He did so much for Nigeria as a whole and Lagos State in particular. My going into politics was not prompted by him personally. It was his associates that encouraged me to go into politics. Recently too, one of my brothers was appointed the secretary to Alimosho Local Government Council.
Will you say his name has opened doors for you?
Yes, God has used him to provide a platform for me. I must thank God for his life. I am praying to God Almighty to give me the grace to do just half of what he did in impacting lives so that people will speak well of me too.
Each time I go somewhere and people make reference to my father, I feel elated. This has been a sort of encouragement to me to impact on people’s lives. I just want to make sure people around me feel happy. I know when they are happy I am also happy.
Are you aware of the rumour that in 2011, you took your father in a wheelchair to Bourdillion to meet Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to plead with him to make you deputy governor?
I was not the one that took him there. I didn’t even know anything about it. In fact, I was not in Lagos, I came back from Ondo State and I learnt that some people…it was not in a wheelchair. My father was never on wheelchair. That is not correct. He was brought in a vehicle to see Asiwaju Bola Tinubu by some of his political associates. What happened was that in 2007, I was to be the deputy governor. It was already a deal signed, sealed but it was not delivered. Something happened and it did not come to fruition.
In 2011,it came again. It was a divine grace that it came again because we were told that once an opportunity is lost, it can never be regained.
But this one came again. My prayer has always been let the Will of God manifest in my life. I have never lobbied for anything, I have never manipulated anything in my favour politically. Like I said, my prayer has always been let the Will of God manifest.
So, when it (deputy governor appointment) came back and it looked like some people are trying to block it, I was told they brought him (my father). I was told he asked Asiwaju why I was not given the appointment the first time and now for the second time some people are trying to block it.
Was she not loyal to the party? Has she offended you personally? Is she not qualified? He was said to have promised Asiwaju that if I was given the post, I will do well and not disappoint him. That was it. He was not in a wheelchair. He came in his own vehicle. Somebody drove him there. I was not part of it. I heard all about it when I came back from Ondo State.
Will you say your father’s meeting with Asiwaju Tinubu eventually led to your appointment as deputy governor?
Yes, it might. But I think it is only God that makes things happen. Even with my father meeting with Asiwaju, if it were not divine, it would not come to pass. It is divine. That is my belief.
Also, the fact that I have been diligent in my work. I have been a loyal party member and I have not disappointed my father politically also gave him the courage to stand for me.
How many are you? I mean Papa’s children.
We are 13.
How many males and females?
Five females and eight males.
In what way do you want to immortalize your father?
I thank God for a life well spent. The only way we can immortalize him is to continue to promote and preserve his legacy of good works, particularly in the area of philanthropy. We will continue to do this within our immediate community and in the state.
I personally will continue to do my best to help the less privileged and the downtrodden. That I know will make him happy.