By Gbenga Osinaike
She slipped into eternity quietly on July 19, 2018. She was 83. She was a midwife, a humanitarian per excellence, a community leader and a lover of God.
Her influence transcended the whole of Badagry and Ajegunle; a development which earned her several awards from within and outside the country. That, in one breath, is the story of Chief Dr. Mrs. Olufunmilayo Hannah Oshodi.
You probably need not ask more than five people in Ajegunle before you’re directed to the imposing two-storey building coated with olive green colour on 42, Mba Street, Ajegunle-Apapa where she spent the greater part of her life. It is called Olufunmilayo House.
While alive she made giant strides in many areas of life starting from the backwaters of Badagry where she was born and bred, the nursing profession, in the jungle of Ajegunle, the field of politics, the church and then in the broad spectrum of the society.
At 20, Chief Dr. Mrs. Oshodi had already carved a niche for herself. She had bagged grade 2 certificate in Midwifery at the Sacred Heart Hospital, Abeokuta and was set to practice midwifery. Before the training she had earlier secured employment with the then Native Authority (Egun Awori Council), Badagry as a student midwife. She later earned her grade 1 also in midwifery and several other certificates in the nursing and medical profession.
But two years after her Grade 2 she was transferred to Awori Ajeromi District Council now known as Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government from her Badagry base. Ajegunle, which some derogatorily called Jungle City has been a major town in Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government.
Going to Ajegunle in those days was like going on a suicide mission. Life was rustic, rural and rash. People were victims of armed robbers and suffered disasters at random. The vast portion of Ajegunle was thick bush. There was no road linking Ajegunle from Badagry. Rather, anybody coming from Badagry to Ajegunle would have to first go through Owode end from Badagry; link Sango before coming to Mushin and then Ajegunle. So coming to Ajegunle was like embarking on a rather long and tortuous journey.
When she got her letter of transfer she was determined to influence a change of the posting. But her father, who had a reputation for being a disciplinarian encouraged her to take the posting, assuring her she would make a success of her career in the jungle city. That was the tonic she needed for her to excel. And she did excel. After shuttling between Badagry and Ajegunle over a period of time she finally settled in Ajegunle.
Indeed, it will be difficult to erase her footprint in that part of Lagos. The Olufunmilayo House, the architectural signature on the famous Mba Street would continue to be a memorial edifice.
“For 42 years Olufunmilayo Maternity Centre was home for safe delivery for many women in Ajegunle,” Said Dr. Tope Oshodi, her medical doctor son who is a consultant at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. Dr. Tope told this writer that midwifery was more than a profession for his mother. “It was a calling and she put her entire being into it. The maternity centre was more of a humanitarian centre than a profit making venture.”
Surely, the impact she made in the lives of the less-privileged will continue to resonate. The first baby that was born in Olufunmilayo Maternity Centre, Nduka Ndupu enjoyed great support from mama who sponsored his education from secondary to university. The young man who read Petroleum Engineering at the University of Port Harcourt now works in Port Harcourt.
The maternity centre was so unique that patients on admission did not pay for bed space. They only paid for treatment and medications. By the time they gave birth they were given a free ride to their homes. Her compound was home to a lot of people. She treated everybody as though they were her biological children. Her domestic staff were forced to learn a trade if they were not inclined to academics.
Mama Oshodi as many loved to call her had distinguished herself in many respects. Though she did not get much of national attention, she was the beacon of hope for many people in Badagry and Ajegunle. She had met almost all the heads of state starting from General Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo, Mohammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida and Gen Sani Abacha during their visits to Lagos and had proudly represented the people of Badagry during those visits.
She was a Supervisory Councilor for health during the three-year transition program of the first coming of Olusegun Obasanjo as a military head of state. During her time she toured all medical facilities in the whole of Badagry area including those in the riverine communities covering the entire Badagry and present day Ajegunle. She ensured that the facilities got needed government attention.
Mama was a midwife with the heart of a lion. Her greatest success was perhaps when she dared all odds to face the seeming danger in Ajegunle when the place was still a jungle. Her joy knew no bound each time she heard the cry of new born babies in the government owned maternity centre where she was the head. The present Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Secretariat was the spot that housed the first maternity centre in the LG area. Indeed, she worked her heart out under despicable conditions.
Her first child, Engr. Tunde Oshodi a retired director and permanent secretary in Lagos State who was born in that maternity centre in 1956 attests to his mum’s legendary feat in midwifery. “I can still remember a bit about the maternity centre. Then it was nothing to cheer. But mama would make do with the available materials in the hospital and still render quality service. Her heart was sold to the profession and that was why it was easy for her to make a success of it.”
David Kola Daniele author of Olufunmlayo: A legend of our time an authorized biography of the matriarch notes in the book that the beginning was not only rough for mama Oshodi but was quite frustrating. The small building that was set apart as a clinic cum maternity centre had only one bed. There was no rest bed after delivery, no water, no light coupled with the harsh environment
Daniele notes further in the 128-page book published about 10 years ago that mama Oshodi who married on August 23, 1955 to Mr. Adekunle Bolaji Oshodi at the age of 20 was blessed to have had a great husband who stood solidly behind her. It was a case of a successful woman who had the full backing of her husband. Unlike some men, her husband was not threatened by the rising profile of his wife. Rather he gave her all the needed support.
In the dark days of her practice, her husband who was a teacher by profession and the first headmaster of LA Primary School, Ajegunle would help carry lantern while she handled delivery cases. He also assisted in fetching water for use at the maternity centre at a deep well close to the centre since there was no pipe borne water in Ajegunle.
The bad situation then in Ajegunle was accentuated by the growing poverty of the inhabitants. Some of the women who came for delivery could not afford money for drugs. Mama Oshodi would use her personal funds to procure drugs and injections for the women. She went out of her way to assist families despite her meagre earning. Her communal outlook to life informed the stream of people that lived with her family per time. Several generations had passed under her care. Some were acquaintances, some church members while a vast majority were members of her extended family.
She had nothing to hide while alive. She gave minute details of how she made a fortune in Ajegunle. Being a nurse who was good at her job, she began to undertake circumcision services for children born in Ajegunle. That period coincided with the upsurge in the population of Ajegunle. So it became apparent that her services enjoyed great patronage. The bulk of her money in those days came from circumcision of male children. By May 31, 1976 after putting in about 26 years with government she voluntarily resigned to run her own enterprise. That was the year she also ventured into politics thus becoming the supervisory councilor for health in the LG where she worked.
She and her husband who passed on in 2000 maintained simple lifestyles even when God had smiled on them. They lived in a rented one room, then two-room apartment for many years in Ajegunle before they finally moved to their own house. Even at that they did not increase their taste for material things. That simple lifestyle have since been reflected in their children who have turned out to be their greatest legacies.
Mama’s first born, Tunde Oshodi is an engineer by profession who has distinguished himself in his chosen field. Her second child, Mrs. Toyin Bamgbose is also a nurse of great repute who worked with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. Her third child, Dr. Bisi Fanimo was a lecturer at the Lagos State University before she travelled out of the country with her family while Dr. Tope Oshodi a consultant pathologist at the LUTH followed after.
These priced legacies in her children have also extended to all those who passed under her tutelage and have in fact informed the way the family is viewed at the Christ the King Anglican Church, Ajegunle where mama Oshodi worshipped. The church community perhaps benefitted more from her golden heart. For Mama Oshodi, Church comes first. She was matron to many societies in the church and would readily give support without blinking an eye. The bond with church members was so strong that it was hard to differentiate between her blood relations and her church acquaintances. It was one big family with C.K.C members.
She was a pioneer member of the church. Following after the Anglican tradition, she was confirmed in 1960 along with the first set of those who were confirmed in the church. Upon their return from the confirmation exercise which took place at St. Jude’s Anglican Church Odi-Olowo, they formed the Grace Society known as the Egbe Ore-Ofe.
The Bishop of Diocese of Badagry, Anglican Communion, The Rt. Revd. B.J. Adeyemi describes mama Oshodi as a devout Christian who used all the resources at her disposal for God’s work and to help humanity. “The body of Christ indeed needs the likes of Olufunmilayo in this part of the world” he said; as stated by Daniele in mama’s biography.
A Jerusalem Pilgrim, mama Oshodi’s relationship with clergymen in the Anglican Communion and several other denominations was legendary. She treated clergymen with utmost respect and would go the extra mile to make them comfortable whenever she had the grace to support them. She bagged a honorary doctor of philosophy in leadership from the US Evangel Christian University and several other awards while also being matron to over 50 Christian societies from different church groups and denominations.
It’s not gainsaying. For a long time Olufunmilayo Hannah Oshodi will live in the minds of people whom she impacted in her life time. Even before her passage the Lagos State Government as far back as 1983 had named a secondary school after her in the Tolu Complex in Ajegunle. The school called Oshodi Secondary School was so named to honour her family for their impact in the educational sector in the whole of Badagry and Ajegunle. She had donated several trophies to schools in those areas in support of sporting activities and had given scholarship to several outstanding children in the community.
On September 14 her body will be interred at Trinity Cemetery, Olodi Apapa after a Church Service at the Christ the King Church. That ceremony would mark the end of an era. But it would nonetheless be a spring board for the fruits of that era as epitomized in Chief Dr. Mrs. Olufunmilayo Hannah Oshodi.