Ronke Fatile nee Adebiyi is the second child and first daughter of The Rt. Rev Bishop Awelewa Adebiyi. She works at the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency. Incidentally, she is also married to a priest, Ven. Dr. Femi Fatile, Vicar of All Saints Church, Yaba. She shares fond memories of her late father. Excerpts:
What are your early recollections of your father?
He was a father in words and in deeds. He loved his children and would do everything to ensure they get the best. He was so caring that when I was posted to the far north for my youth service, he insisted I was not going to go because of the security situation in the country. But I wanted to go.
He said if I have my own children I could allow them to face danger, but as long as I was his daughter he would not allow me to face the risk of doing my youth service in that part of the country. That was the extent to which he could go to protect us. He was simply loving and caring. He took care of all of us and gave us the best.
So what practical lessons did you pick from him while growing up?
I think his humility was one thing I find intriguing. He had regard for everybody that came his way. He did not despise some of the people who grew up with him in the village despite the fact that they were not as educated as he was. He would interact with them and find time to share views with them.
Another practical lesson from him was his generosity. He could give anything and he was very accommodating. He did not discriminate between his biological children and those who came to stay with us. We all got the same treatment including the domestic staff that worked with us.
What does being the daughter of a priest mean to you?
It meant a lot. It meant I can’t live my life like any other person. I have to carry that consciousness anywhere I go. As a matter of fact, people believe children of priests have to be perfect. I remember when we were young one of my siblings was quite active and a bit impetuous. A man in our church then used to beat him and rub it on his face that he is a priest’s child and that he was expected to be upright.
It got to a point that my father had to step in and told the man that being the child of a priest does not make him a superhuman being. While he did not condone my brother’s unruly behaviour he had to make the priest understand that the child of a priest is also a human being.
But back home, my father would make us realise that we can’t afford to misbehave because much is expected of us. That helped us to keep our heads when in the public space.
Given the fact that he was always busy, did you have any concern for him?
At a point especially towards the end of his ministry, the work was so much on him. He would leave home very early and would back for a brief moment and off he goes again. He would not even sit down to eat. He probably takes a slice of bread and off he goes again. By the time he comes back its late in the evening.
That was when we began to have concerns about his health and the fact that he needed rest. But he was so involved with the work. Rest was secondary. What we did was to just pray for him that God would help him.
So how did you receive the news of his death?
I was there when he passed on. He didn’t do as if anything would happen. It was like a normal day. I was chatting with him and slept off by his side. By the time I woke up, he was gone. Efforts to revive him failed. He was certified dead in the hospital.
What kind of discussions were you having with him?
Just the normal discussions we used to have. There was nothing he said that day that he had not been saying. He always said to us that he was willing to go and be with the Lord. He said he has had enough of this world and was ready to go. So that particular day he passed on, he was repeating those words again.
I did not attach any importance to it. Later he asked after some of my siblings. That was our discussion before I slept off.
Did he at any point mutter any regret?
He was a fulfilled man. He took solace in the fact that God used him to bring up good children who did not bring shame to him. He was fulfilled in the sense that he was a great instrument in the hands of God. He was a lover of the church and was so passionate about kingdom assignments. There was no regret. He was never afraid of dying because he was so sure of the kind of legacy he was leaving behind.
How will you recommend that he be immortalised?
His books were dear to his heart. His thoughts are in his books and if those books are pushed out to the public, that will be a great way to keep his memory alive. He used to say he would not like the things he wrote to be forgotten.
You’re sure going to remember him all the rest of your life. What are the things about him that will always be in your memory?
His love for God. I will always remember the kind of passion he had for God’s work and how he wanted all of us to love God. I will also remember that he would not want us to live at the mercy of people. I remember going to see somebody and the person did not treat me well.
By the time he got to know I was a bishop’s daughter he quickly changed his disposition and said to me that I ought to have told him I was the daughter of Bishop Adebiyi. I said to him, must I be introduced as a Bishop’s daughter before you do the right thing? My father never liked the idea of throwing up his name to get favour. He always wanted us to merit what we get.
I will remember the fact that he honoured all men and he wanted us to give honour to all. He used to say the youngest among us could be the richest but that being the richest should not make him lose his head.
You are married to a priest. Is that by design?
Not at all. Well, I think it’s by God’s design. God arranged it.