Friday, 28 February 2014

Ibadan: The beginning and the End. Tribute to My Late Wife, Oluwakemi Fadipe (Nee Jaiyeola)

Beautiful Angel: Kemi Jaiyeola Fadipe

Ibadan: The beginning and the end. Tribute to My Late Wife: Oluwakemi Oyenike Fadipe (Nee Jaiyeola)

There was absolutely no reason for me to be in Ibadan on that day. It was sometime in January, 2003. I’d left Lagos intuitively for Ibadan, which in retrospect was ordained. I wanted new buyers for some goods my company had numerous willing buyers back in Lagos. I made the journey in public transport.

After a disappointing negotiation, I hurriedly went back to the motor park for a cab back to Lagos. I, however, headed to the Ojo Park rather than the traditional Iwo Road Park. There was only a bus loading while I wanted to take a cab. After some hesitation, and much pleading from the passengers and driver, I decided to join the bus since there was only a passenger more needed.

There was this young lady who sat at the far end of the second row in the bus. She was by the window and looked the other way in disgust as other passengers begged me to board. At some point, I would think she hissed and pouted at my attitude.

As our journey progressed, I stole a few glances at her. She looked beautiful; apparently unaware of my stares, lost in her world. I longed for a talk with her, but it was impossible, we were at the two different ends of our rows. And I couldn’t possibly initiate a talk over several heads.

I sat silently, pained by my handicap. And then, I uttered something that seemed like a prayer, I wished something would make the bus stop. A fault - just anything would do. Whatever would make us alight from the bus and give me a chance to talk to her. I didn’t want to risk waiting till we got to Lagos. She probably would snub me.

Low and behold, as people would say when sharing testimonies in church, a few more minutes into the journey, the bus jerked vigorously and we had to stop. Because I was by the door, I immediately pulled it open, jumped down, asking everyone to come down as well. My intention was to get everyone down and have a chance to sit with her in the rearrangement I would create when we are done. God had answered my prayer and I was ready to play my part!

As the driver fumbled with the engine and tried to fix the fault, we stood by the road side. Passengers formed into groups and I moved to join hers. I made an attempt to talk to her, as she later stood alone, but was careful not to make it appear intended for fear she could rebuff me. I didn’t want to spoil my chance with desperation. I waited for the right moment.

The chance soon came; we got talking, lightly at first. The ‘disappointment’ of the journey provided a topic. After his trial and error, the driver finally announced the bus couldn’t make the trip to Lagos. We would have to get another bus. “Another bus on this lonely part of the Ibadan-Lagos Expressway?” she said, terrified. I was happy.

We were however lucky as another bus came around quickly. This time, I wouldn’t need to struggle for a space by her side as I had planned in the old bus. It came easy. I’d helped with a few of her luggage and earned an automatic seat by her side.

Kemi had finished her course at the University of Ibadan late 2002. By January 2003, she needed to move what remained of her things back home in Lagos, in readiness for NYSC. She therefore had a few bags with her on this journey.

The remaining journey to Lagos was all we needed to be friends. Our talk centered on common interests. I found her to be eloquent, intelligent, brilliant and very knowledgeable. The connection was instant.

After about two years of friendship, and a year of courtship, Oluwakemi and I were wedded as husband and wife on the 10th of December, 2005. To me, being married to Kemi was a dream fulfilled. It was God answering my prayers. She was the perfect woman for me. The beauty of our union was seen even in the littlest things. We were absolutely compatible.

We lived a modest life, completely absorbed in each other’s company. She loved me passionately and could, most times, not bear my absence. There was fire of love in our eyes and it burned tirelessly.

We had our first child, Iremide, a month short of our first wedding anniversary; and, two years and five months after her, our second daughter, Idera, came. They are the beautifulest of girls, and their arrival made us more joyful. It was delightful watching ‘Kay’ transit from a young wife to a mother of two adorable girls. She took to the role quite naturally, spreading love, equitably, among us. We became her life.

A month before our wedding, I had started out as an entrepreneur. Because I deal in agricultural commodities, travels around the south western part of the country were rampant. Kemi had been mothering our girls, while she sought opportunities that would match her career expectations. In the interim, she had picked up writing. She wrote poems and short-stories; seeking avenues for publication.

Much to her pain, I would spend many nights out of town, unable to make it home from up-country. At some point, the idea to relocate to Ibadan was conceived. I would pass through Ibadan regularly on my travels. I love Ibadan for its perfect blend of ancient and cosmopolitan living. It is a city rich in history. The easy and peaceful way of life match my long held desire for serenity. Kemi and I hardly ever disagreed over critical issues, so when I shared the ‘Ibadan Idea’ with her, she supported it easily. She had schooled at UI, and, to a certain extent, was acquainted with the city.

Ibadan is geographically located at around the middle of South-West Nigeria. You can reach it easily from most of the major towns. We therefore had reasoned that it would be easy for me to make it home, irrespective of where I was, unlike Lagos.

Deciding on Ibadan was easy, but relocating took another two years. We had waited on the idea, wanting to be certain, planning and testing waters. We started final relocation plans toward the end of year 2011. Through some difficulties, we got a place in January 2012, and moved in on the 4th of February.

Our house was a bungalow in a mini estate, sited on the high lands of Elebu, Oluyole Estate extension. It is one of the most beautifully designed places I’ve seen. It is cozy and cute; and matched our taste and pocket. We fell in love with the place, our relocation, made the more worthy. Everyone who visited thought it was splendid abode. I will never forget our first night in the house. Kemi and I clung to each other, enjoying the miraculous realization of our dreams. The air was different. We felt at peace, and our joy was unquantifiable.

Within days, our girls were registered in a magnificent school, a walking distance from home. Kemi had always desired walking her kids to school and this was the perfect opportunity. She turned down the option of a school bus. It was a sight, seeing them depart in the morning, or arriving in the afternoon. The bond was magical.

We settled in quickly, acquainting ourselves with places for our basics. We often drove around, soaking in and enjoying the fresh breath of air. That period was arguably the happiest of our lives. It was the life we wanted to live. We were back in Ibadan, the place we first met, as a family, and living life!

On Sunday, February 26th, about three weeks after we moved, Kemi had woken up in high spirit. She was tinkled pink, radiating same around the house. Dressed, she had asked me to snap pictures of her. We later worshipped at Global Harvest Church, Liberty Road, our home church since relocation. Subsequently, we had what would be our last lunch as a family at KFC, Ring Road.

She was happier than I’d seen her in recent times. We retired late to bed, after some research on the internet on a deficiency we thought our daughter had.

The following day, Monday 27th, would turn out to be the saddest day of my life. She had woken me up early in the morning, to help her prepare the girls for school, and also take a look at the newly-repaired fridge. Apparently she didn’t get much sleep due to the noise that came from fridge. If I knew what calamity was waiting to befall me in the next hour or so, I wouldn’t have woken up from that sleep!

If you asked me, I’ll describe the events of that morning as one from the smartest mind of fiction. We took a look at the fridge and concluded to call in the repairer later since he had just returned it the previous evening. Ironically, we had brought the fridge along to Ibadan because my brother, who I had given it to, delayed the removal to his place. We had given out our old freezer as well and intended to buy completely new ones in Ibadan. We decided to repair the fridge on a second thought and as a backup plan, pending when we’ll buy new ones.

I busied myself with business emails on the dinner table while she continued with her chores. Soon after, she asked that I help with the girls. I quickly polished their sandals and joined her in the girls’ room. She left the room a little after, and that was the last time we saw her alive.

The next minutes were quick. I’d stayed back in the girls’ room a little longer, after asking Idera to go and join her in the kitchen. I’d gone to check up on her later when I saw neither her nor Idera . As I pushed to open the door that lead to the kitchen from the bedrooms, I caught Kemi slumped on the floor by the fridge. Idera stood and stared at her. She had gone into coma from an electric shock. Hysterically, I removed Idera from harm's way, running around for help.

My neighbours were helpful. Within the shortest possible time, we got her to the nearest hospital. While the nurses struggled to revive her, we tried reaching the doctor who was said to be on his way. He came later, did some examinations, and pronounced her dead. As I reached for her, I knew that at once; the cold finality of death is unmistakable. One just knew it.

When you see movies, or read books; people in such circumstances as this would give agonized cries of: "God please no! No! Oh please no!" That's exactly what people did in real life. That, and more, was what I did.

I was heart-broken. The emotions of that period are hard to describe. I felt a complete sense of desolation and unbearable grief.

That was it, like a scene from a movie, she was gone. The union that originated in Ibadan had also ended there, in the most dramatic of ways.

Kemi feared death, but wasn't afraid to die. She would say: "I don't like death because of the pain people are left to bear. But I'm not afraid to die; I know I'll be going to heaven." It seemed she knew the pain and anguish her death would cause, while she rests in heavenly glory.

To say Kemi was beautiful, is to say the sky is blue; there for all to see. Her inner beauty, however, far exceeds the outer. She was exemplary in grace, confidence and charm. She could wear the least, or, in another instance, the most expensive of things graciously.

Kemi loved people. She was the mainstay of her friendships. Widely regarded for her plain speaking, she was sought for counsel. She pursued happiness, not only for herself, but for friends and family.

She feared and loved God. A strong and virtuous woman of faith, the best a Christian can be. She preached more with her ways than her words. She was dignified and had strength in her countenance.

Kemi was satisfied with little. Her needs were basic. She wasn't vain, and arrogance was far from her. She derived happiness from people, rather than things. She wasn’t impressionable.

Her smile would warm a heart. She laughed heartily and infectiously. Her anger was quick and fleeting. When you see her ‘supo’ (pout), you knew there was a problem.

Kemi loved me. She loved me completely in a way that is difficult to express. Like R. Kelly sang, "When a woman loves, she loves for real". She stood by me through thick and thin.

She was my soul mate, my best friend, my lover, my beauty, my children's mother, my wife, my fan, my encourager, my gift, but most of all, she was my life. It's an immense tragedy she had to leave shortly and suddenly.

I count it a privilege and an honour that God entrusted me to be the husband of such a beautiful and lovely person.

Kemi, the lovely memory of your beautiful life lives on. Continue to rest in the glory of heavenly places.

Adesina Fadipe

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