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Adieu Mama!

What is the right time to die? I grew up in my home town, known as Ife Olukotun, in Yagba East Local Government of Kogi…

What is the right time to die? I grew up in my home town, known as Ife Olukotun, in Yagba East Local Government of Kogi State. While growing up in the early 70s, I was fond of my maternal family members. This is to an extent that many people both in the country home and Abuja didn’t know I had a paternal family member, even though I happen to be the fondest child of my father.

My mother, who died in 2012, happened to be the first child of the family of my grandmother and my grandfather. My mother was loved by all and sundry in the country home, this was confirmed during her funeral in December 2012. The country home stood still and it was enveloped by tears and cries by both men and women as well as young and old.

My grandmother, Late Hajiya Fatima-Yusuf Ajibola, who had six children, three men and three women, died on a special date of January 30, 2024 at a ripe age of 110, leaving behind only three children and many grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.

In December 2023, my grandmother lost one of her children, Late Alhaji Ghazali Akanbi Ajibola. This sad incident took me to the country home to commensurate and console her. I got home and went straight to see my grandmother, she was sharp and loud in her voice to welcome me, but with tears and emotions. She welcomed me with the family’s praise poems and sobs. At this point, I pretended I was not listening to her because of her age and the determination to discourage her from crying over the loss of Alhaji Akanbi. After turning away from her, tears rolled down my cheeks and I needed to support myself with a clean handkerchief. Although many women and men had converged in the house, ostensibly to express their condolence to the centenarian, the expectation was to ensure she stabilizes and recovers from the shock of a son, who died at about 70 years of age.

After the required three days Fidau Prayer for the late Alhaji Akanbi, I had to return to Abuja, where I work. I went to see my grandmother, in her house. While I was with her, bidding her farewell, which ended to be the real farewell, I lost my emotion as she continues her usual prayers for us, her children, grandchildren and people around her. While the prayer was ongoing, my immediate younger sister named Ramota, who lived in Lagos, was seated beside her. All of us were crying amidst prayers of farewell from my grandmother. Few days later, when I got to Abuja, my uncle, His Royal Highness, Alh. Isiaq Ajibola, who was formerly the Managing Director of Daily Trust, called me to inform me of the health condition of my grandmother. It was a case of almost hopelessness. I picked my phone, called my aunty, who was left with my grandmother in the country home. She confirmed what HRH Alh Ajibola had told me. I became so worried and ensure she was called every other day.

Cheering news started coming to me that my grandmother was recovering and had started recognizing people around her. However, those of us who were close to her had known that she was probably getting close to the end of the road. Few years ago, my grandmother had requested that she should be buried in the family compound, instead of the cemetery, the reason for this, none of us asked her, till date.

On this fateful day of January 30, 2024, I was around the Central Bank of Nigeria Headquarters, at about 7.05pm, I got a call from my aunty, Hajiya Aishat Lasisi, I didn’t hesitate to ask her if my grandmother has gone. She responded in the affirmative. I placed a call to HRH Ajibola, and he confirmed with a voice of complete gratitude to Almighty Allah, who gives and takes life. The following morning, we set out and headed to the country home of Ife Olukotun, where she had died. On getting to the town, I headed straight to the house, which was filled to the brim with sympathizers and her acquittances. I headed directly to her room, I saw her lifeless body on the bed, waiting for movement to the point she requested should be her last home. We prayed and tears uncontrollably rolled down my cheeks. I became the centre of focus for other mourners. Possibly because I happened to be the first grandchild she had or because of the thought of her last prayer for me on the 26th day of December, 2023.

After leaving the room, I found myself crying and sobbing over the passing away of a grandmother, who died at the age of 110 years. I had to ask myself, what is the right time to die? Was I expecting her not to die? Has she not lived long enough? When I remembered that she had seen her children give birth to their own children and the children give birth to her great grandchildren and the great grandchildren have started giving birth to great-great grandchildren, I told myself that it was time for her to take a bow and proceed home to rest in Aljanah Firdous.

My grandmother was a mother, a mentor and a peace lover. She preached peace and love. I remember she always tell me, “Take care of your siblings, draw them close to yourself, don’t leave/abandon your brother (in reference to HRH, Alhaji Isiaq Ajibola). Yeye (grandma) you will be missed for so many reasons. We pledge that your legacy will be sustained. We will continue to pray that you will be rewarded with Aljanah Firdous.

Rasheed Yusuf writes from Abuja

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