Dr Olayemi Oyebanji: A first lady properly so-called
By Tunde Olofintila
Social psychologists would tell us that no two people – not even a set of identical twins from the same homozygote egg – would behave alike. We are equally made to understand that history sometimes repeats itself while some persona (features) in one person in one clime at one point in time may repeat themselves in yet another person in another setting at a different time.
And that brings us to some of the qualities inherent in the Chief Executive Officer of the 27-year-old Ekiti State, Governor Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji, aka BAO and his delectable wife, the academic first lady of the state, Dr Olayemi Olajumoke Oyebanji.
For the records, BAO was sworn-in as the ‘captain of the ship’ of Ekiti State on October 16, 2022, thus making him the 12th governor of the state relishly called, “The Fountain of Knowledge” and “The Land of Honour”. It is commonplace to state that the state has a total land mass of 6,353 square kilometres (2,453 square miles), and a population of 2,398,957 (2006 census), thus making it one of the smallest states in the country with Abia (6,320 square kilometres), Ebonyi (5,670 square kilometres), Imo (5,530 square kilometres), Anambra (4,844 square kilometres) and Lagos (3,345 square kilometres) queuing after it in that order.
It is a notorious fact that since he assumed the mantle of the leadership of the state in October last year, BAO, who was the secretary to Ekiti State Government in the last dispensation, has swung into action to reshape the political, economic and welfare equations of the state for the better. Indeed, he is now known for innumerable good things in the state.
But then, this piece is not about BAO. It is essentially about his delightful, towering and most altruistic wife, Dr Oyebanji, who paid a courtesy call on the founder and chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Aare Afe Babalola, OFR, CON, SAN, for the better part of Tuesday, September 12, 2023.
The copious reference to BAO emanates from the inextricable and unbreakable “Omoluabi” cord that binds the Ekiti State first family together which manifested the moment the first lady sighted Babalola during her maiden visit to ABUAD. The typical “Yorubanness” (pardon that phraseology) and “Omoluabi” in her glowed like the bright Northern star as she went on her knees before the Aare Baamofin of Yorubaland and one of the founding fathers of Ekiti State, her exalted office notwithstanding.
For those who may not know, “Omoluabi” in Yoruba ethos means a thoroughbred person who is imbued with proper education (eko ile).
The words of Prophet Amos in the Book of Amos Chapter 3, Verse 3, to wit: “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” have found an express expression in the “Yorubanness” and “Omoluabi” virtues in both BAO and his wife. Clearly, BAO and his wife agree on most fronts!
In Yorubaland, if you behave and comport yourself in ways pleasing to the society, you are called Omoluabi. According to General Adeyinka Adebayo, the Military Governor of the defunct Western Nigeria between 1966 and 1971, “The name Omoluabi immediately conjures the image of a person who has inculcated the home, informal training (eko ile) given and is to be admired and respected.”
Most assuredly, Dr Oyebanji has imbibed Maya Angelou’s position ín Voices of Respect, to wit: “We must re-create an attractive and caring attitude in our homes and in our worlds. If our children are to approve of themselves, they must see that we approve of ourselves. If we persist in self-disrespect and then ask our children to respect themselves, it is as if we break all the bones and then insist that they win Olympics gold medals for the hundred-yard dash. Outrageous.”
Going a step further in the world of respect for others, Ayn Rand, the champion of Individualism, to the effect that every man is an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, posits that “If one doesn’t respect oneself, one can have neither respect for others”. This is because as Laurence Sterne tells us “Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guide our morals.”
After the exchange of pleasantries and the clicking of cameras, Dr Oyebanji, who was visiting ABUAD ranked by Times Higher Education Impact Rankings Number 1 University in Nigeria for two consecutive years (2022 & 2023) and Number 221 in the world in 2023, for the first time, wasted no time in intimating her host, Babalola, about the essence of her visit which was encapsulated in philanthropy, community service and giving back to the society with the ultimate aim of leaving it better than she met it.
Dr Oyebanji, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education Management at the University of Ibadan, with over 85 publications in reputable journals to her credit, offered to partner with the university by lecturing on part-time basis to impart knowledge and mentor the students and by providing community service to the 13-year-old university as a way of giving back to the university.
The renown academic who has produced six PhD graduates and several others at Master’s and Undergraduate levels maintained that she is ever ready to impart knowledge and mentor the students, thereby contributing her own quota to the best university in Nigeria, according to Times Higher Education Impact Rankings.
She also used the opportunity to canvass support for her pet project, Widows, Aged, Orphans and the Homeless (WAOH) which, according to her, will be officially unveiled in October during the first anniversary of her husband, Governor Oyebanji, as the chief executive of the state.
Like her husband, she reiterated her perpetual and unquestionable recognition of Aare Afe Babalola as a father, leader, pathfinder, philanthropist and an important stakeholder in Ekiti State whose support would be needed and appreciated for the WAOH Project.
Her words: “It is a new programme where we have registered over 30,000 active and non-active widows and orphans. The WAOH project will afford us the opportunity to touch the lives of the vulnerable people in the state.”
She added: “We have just had our Back-to-School Programme where we gave school bags and other educational materials to indigent pupils, majority of who are orphans.”
In his response, an obviously impressed Babalola commended Dr Oyebanji for her philanthropic inclinations and her concern for human capital development in a clime where most first ladies are busy championing the course of trivialities that add no value to the society.
Speaking specifically of Dr Oyebanji’s offer to teach ABUAD students and give them academic mentorship, Babalola described the gesture as a welcome development that will be of immense benefit to the students in particular and the larger society in general.
According to Babalola: “You are the first governor’s wife in Nigeria that I know that will be teaching in a university while still in office. Do you know the effect it will have? Do you know the impact you will be making? This will surely have an impact on students looking at the first lady teaching them. It will motivate them to learn.
“I am happy to note that you are not that type of first lady that will be moving about for ceremonial activities. I have known many governors’ wives who only attend ceremonies, but you are truly a first lady.”
Having regard to the above acknowledgments and accolades coming from a personality like Babalola who is not given to frivolities, Dr Oyebanji is indeed a first lady properly so-called.
The ABUAD founder lauded the governor’s wife for her level of achievements in academia through her contributions to knowledge in her field of Educational Management which is being acknowledged locally and globally by the impact she makes through her numerous research publications.
Babalola promised to support the governor’s wife’s WAOH project, saying, “I have always been interested in philanthropic activities. I am going to contribute to the pet project now personally and the university will add to it. We must always appreciate that our little giving could make a lot of difference in the lives of others.”
Babalola who has built and donated towering edifices to institutions of higher education, hospitals, professional bodies and social clubs in the country despite the fact that he did not have the advantage of secondary or university education due to paucity of funds, reiterated his age-long belief that it is not only when one is amazingly rich that he/she can help and raise other people.
Olofintila, Director, Corporate Affairs, ABUAD, writes in from Ado-Ekiti.