WHEN the light dimmed for Mr. Olatunji Okusanya (Snr) and his son, Mr. Olatunji Okusanya (Jnr.), on October 3, 2013, not a few people felt that a big vacuum has been created in funeral services in Nigeria.
This was because late Tunji Okusanya was a leading light in that area in the country. He was ahead of his contemporaries and competitors in the field.
His first son, Olatunji Okusanya (Jnr.) was already taking after his father in the profession too when the unexpected happened that October 3, 2013 and claimed their lives in the course of performing what they know how to do best.
Mrs. Bolanle Okusanya-Feyita, the first child of late Tunji Okusanya, who was based in London relocated to Nigeria and took over the business of burying the dead from where her father and brother left it and gave us the impression that the vacuum created by their death would be adequately filled.
But Bolanle was just in MIC for six months before she disappeared and we were wondering what was happening to the thriving business. She is back again, but this time with a new name, LTJ.
She told ENCOMIUM Weekly that LTJ is in the same line of business with MIC, but with different approach. She said LTJ, which was officially opened on Wednesday, June 3, 2015, is set up in memory of her father and brother.
How many years ago did your father and brother die in a plane crash?
They died on October 3, 2013. So, it’s almost two years now.
So, why are you doing this in their memory when it is not up to two years that they passed on?
I just thought it was the right time and the fact that this is when it is ready. I wanted to make sure that I did something that I thought was a befitting memorial. I thought there is nothing more befitting than making sure that their dreams did not die. I started the project early this year and now God has made it possible.
You were the one running MIC immediately after your father’s death?
Yes, when my father died in October, 2013, I ran MIC for six months.
For six months, why?
Because six months is a very long time. It was during the six months that I ran MIC, that I started thinking about this project. As you can see, this place is bigger than MIC. MIC was able to work without me and I felt it was time for me to do this.
So, who did you hand over the running of MIC to?
The family members.
Your uncles and aunties?
My general relatives.
The elderly members of the family?
Why was MIC taken away from you? Is it because you are a woman?
I ran the company for six months. So, there was no question of whether I am a woman or not. I was the one who decided that it was time for me to do the memorial project, to make sure that my brother’s dream did not perish.
Does that mean LTJ will be competing with MIC?
Not competing with MIC, because MIC does not serve everybody. When it comes to funeral services every company has its own style. There is no competition at all.
Is LTJ a subsidiary of MIC?
No, it is not a subsidiary. It is a different company on its own. It is totally different. As I said, I want something that will serve as memorial for my father. You cannot have a memorial with something that is existing.
So, what will LTJ be doing that will be different from MIC?
LTJ has a young person behind it and that is me. LTJ will be taking funeral services to the next level. LTJ will create an atmosphere that is not scary. When people come to funeral service provider, they are not in good frame of mind. LTJ will provide a friendly atmosphere to the bereaved families to the extent that they will think they are in a hotel. A place that they can come in and relax.
Are you now saying MIC don’t offer these services?
The approaches are different. MIC is not the only company that does funeral service. We just have a different approach. We work on a lot of international things as well. We do a lot of repatriation. I am a member of International Funeral Operatives. It is not just business as usual, there is a lot more to it. There are a lot of people that their loved ones died abroad that they have to bring their remains back to Nigeria. We are also looking into doing funeral plans as well for people to pay for their funeral in advance. That is something that is very rare in Nigeria. Nobody has ever done that before. You can pay for your funeral and pick a package and do everything you want. I have a body in my custody now, it was my father that put that body in the mortuary and it is yet to be buried as I am talking with you now.
That is almost two years?
It is more than two years because the person died in April 2013 and it’s still in the mortuary. If that man had a funeral plan, he would have been buried by now.
Why has it not been buried?
Because the family had a problem. There are a lot of issues like that, so, we are looking forward to ways by which such problems could be avoided. One thing about life is the fact that not everybody is going to be rich. Not everybody is going to get married. Not everybody is going to have children. But everybody is going to die, unless Jesus comes first.
So, why don’t you make sure that when you die you have the funeral that you want. That is one of the things we are doing at LTJ. People can choose their funeral plans. I have witnessed situations people will pay to insurance companies for their burials and family will collect the money and abscond or travel abroad.
Some will collect the money from the insurance company, say N1 million, spend N100,000 or N200,000 and keep the rest in their pockets. So, a funeral plan will ensure that does not happen.
So, who is behind LTJ?
You alone? Who is financing it?
God is financing it.
I am scared to check the figures because we just keep doing it. When you start a project you have an idea of how much it’s going to cost you. But when you start, different things keep coming up. It cost a lot, but to the memory of my father and brother, it’s worth it. Nothing is too much for them.
What exactly does LTJ stand for?
LTJ is a short form of Olatunji. My father was Olatunji and my brother was Olatunji as well.
What would you say you missed about your father?
I missed the friendship because my father was not just my father, he was also a very good friend. I lived in London for most of the time and I spoke with my dad almost every day. My dad will call me, ‘Mo nlo si Abuja’ (I am going to Abuja). He will call me in the evening, ‘Mo ti de lati Abuja’ (I am back from Abuja).
So, we were more than father-daughter, we were good friends. We talked a lot. We discussed business, we discussed fashion, politics and a whole lot of things. That is something I will miss very much.
What about your brother?
That is the most difficult. I keep thinking my brother will come next day, that it can’t be true that he is dead.
Where were you when the plane crashed?
I was in London. I came back to Nigeria the next day.
Are you two (with Olatunji Okusanya, Jnr.) the only sibling of your mother?
But your father had other children?
Yes, my half brothers.
How many are they?
The exact number.
Yoruba people don’t count their children.
What is your relationship with them?
Very good. They are wonderful children.
Are they part of this or part of MIC?
They are part of my family and they are in school at the moment. They are wonderful children and I believe that they are going to be great by God’s grace.
What is your relationship with your step mother?
There is no problem.
Is she part of any of the businesses?
Like I said, family. I can’t really give you the detail of who is doing what in the family. But everybody is fine.
There is also LTJ Foundation. What is it all about?
It is the continuation of all the charitable works my father and brother were doing before they died. My brother, before he died was clearing cemeteries free of charge. He called himself the ambassador for the dead. He believed that because someone is dead he should not be kept in an overgrown cemetery. My father and brother paid for a lot of people’s education. So, I want that to continue.
Also, there are a lot of people that cannot bury their loved ones because of financial constraint, somebody has to help them. Those are the things the foundation will do.
Also, the foundation will offer support to the bereaved families. When someone dies, people tell their families, it is well. But there is more to it. It is not well. The foundation will offer grief support.
The foundation will also offer free medical check. Just come to check your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar level.
What is the least amount that a client can pay for the service of LTJ?
It depends. We can work with any budget. We have caskets that are locally made. They start from about N150,000. We have casket that are in millions. It depends on your budget.
– TOLANI ABATTI