…Says he fought many battles
…‘We thought Covid was going to be another passing moment’
…Relives sad moment news of death was broken to her
By Olayinka Ajayi
Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, widow of the late Afenifere spokesman, Mr Yinka Odumakin, reflects on life and times with her late husband. Excerpts:
Amid activism and agitation for a better Nigeria, how would you describe the life and times of your late husband, Yinka Odumakin?
The life of Yinka cannot be described within the limited space available here and this will definitely be done in detail as the time becomes ripe. But I can only say he lived one of the most impactful lives anyone would have wished to live, going by his well-defined roles in the growth of humanity and his untiring commitment to nation-building in which he made his voice loud and clear at every chapter of its evolution. Yinka was a firm and resolute man while fighting for a cause. He knew how to demarcate spiritedly between what the masses desire and the interest of the few.
You described him as a part of you that is gone. How do you mean?
Of course, for a man I have spent every day of my life with for over two decades, a man I met within the walls of prisons, who shared all my pains and struggles without hesitation, he was definitely a greater part of what constitutes my spirit, soul and existence.
You also mentioned that you are still in shock of his death as he survived severe medical conditions worse than Covid-19. Can you recount at least one or two of such conditions because we gathered he was already getting better before events took a dramatic turn and he passed on?
Yinka fought many battles and one of such was when he had challenges with his health arising from a major injury on his hand, which nearly got him amputated, but with God and the fighting spirit of my husband, he defeated the condition in a successful surgery to the surprise of many. Also there was a recent accident he suffered while I was away from home, when he was rescued after losing so much of blood, yet God saw him through again, which was why we had hoped that his last health travail (Covid-19 infection) was going to be another passing moment.
You mentioned how someone in the US was the first to break the bad news to you. How did it happen?
I had spent the greater part of his last days monitoring his condition in hospital and, in close contact with the medical team whenever I was away from the hospital. But having done that till the later part of that Good Friday, I retired home hoping to follow up the next day.
Then at about 3am, an old friend of his called from the US, asking to know if the news of Yinka’s passage was real. I didn’t take his call with any seriousness neither did I hesitate to drop it as I merely thought he was unwell with such thought coming from him.
That was how unaware I was until few hours later when the doctors’ team from the hospital got across to me, asking that I send one of his caregivers over, for certain issues, and this had been a normal thing since he was transferred to the ICU of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital. It was when the person got to the hospital that the news was broken to me, something that still sounds like a dream till now.
What part of Odumakin would forever remain part of your life?
Everything Yinka lived for will forever be memorable, every part of his life was impactful and unforgettable.
What do you think Yinka would have loved to witness if he had the chance?
His biggest aspiration had always been to witness a new Nigeria that is built on equity, fairness and justice, which he strongly believed is achievable if the country is restructured. This was one crucial thing Yinka spent the greater part of his latter days working on.
You described him as multi-tasking to a fault. How do you mean?
Yinka was dutiful just like you heard President Buhari described him. This I can say is because Yinka never gave an excuse for not doing whatever had to be done, no matter how inconvenient it was. His ability to combine several responsibilities distinguished him and this was a matter of lifestyle for him.
What lessons would you advise young activists to emulate from him?
It is very simple, people must be committed and known to be associated totally with whatever they profess at all times. Yinka was a man of deep conviction. He never compromised whatever is right, for the sake of his personal comfort to the detriment of others.
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