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118-year-old Bayelsa ‘special adviser’ prays for unity, wisdom

Mama (left) and her daughter at the dilapidated zinc house where she resides

She sat at the entrance to her old dilapidated zinc house with one of her daughters, eating fufu, a local delicacy made with cassava, traditional soup and iced fish. The arrival of our correspondent didn’t stop the slow and steady movement of her hand to her mouth.

On a closer look, Mama Dani Orogono, the supposedly 118-year-old woman who was catapulted into national fame last week after news broke that she had been appointed as special adviser on elders matter by the vice chairman of Kolokuma/Opokuma local government area in Bayelsa State, looked younger than her age. Though her frame looks like a woman in her 80s or 90s, her voice, which is almost non-audible, shows she has seen many more years on earth.

Though she still has a clear vision as she can still find her way round the house and recognize her kith and kin, she can barely walk on her own without a stick or assistance.

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When our correspondent demanded for interview, he was told the old woman could barely speak or remember things in the past. So she was unable to tell us the year she was born or her childhood experience.

At the supposed age of 118, Mama would have been born in 1902, breaking the world record and making her the oldest woman living on earth. If her birthday records are kept and verified, Ma Orogono will beat the record set by Kane Tanaka from Fukuoka, Japan, who was officially confirmed as the oldest person living at 116 years 66 days old as at March 9, 2019.

Kane Tanaka celebrated her 117th year birthday on January 9, 2020, which would have made Mama Orogono the oldest person alive, but she cant claim to be that no thanks to lack of records.

Speaking with The Guardian after much effort at her home in Sabagreia, Ma Dani Orogono, who spoke through one of her daughters, said that she would be doing her job from her home in Sabagreia. She said though giving advice to people in the community was not new to her, Ma Orogono, who spoke in her dialect, said everything given to her for the people will surely get to them.

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“All the elderly women, I will give them good advice that will take them to where they supposed to be. As I am alive to see this day, other elders I pray will get to my age. God should protect them and provide everything that they need.

“I am praying for the politicians including the one that gave me the appointment that God should protect them so that there will be in unity in the land. God will give them wisdom so that they will carry the state forward.

Also speaking, the last daughter of Ma Orogono, Sarah Iko, who helped to translate mama’s language into English, said Mama is actually 130 years and not 118 as speculated. She said the super-centenarian before her appointment has been giving advice to the elderly women as they gather at her house for any information or advise.

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“She is the oldest woman in this community. The council gives us the message and we tell the town crier to let everyone know. Her house is her office. When we renovate this place, she will use it as her office. It was God that did it. All these while people have been calling us suffer-suffer people but God still remembered us through this mama. I give glory to God.

“She gave birth to 13 children with my father. She didn’t marry another man since he died. The person that gave her the appointment is her brother’s son. He said he is going to ‘zinc’ the house. I pray for him that anything he needs, let God give it to him. This God that remembered us in 2020, we are grateful to Him.”

Meanwhile, the Vice Chairman of Kolokuma/Opukuma, Mr. Brian Alagha, had denied media reports that he appointed the aged woman as his special adviser. In a statement by his aide, Mr. Woyeingidipamo Victor, the vice chairman never appointed Ma Dani Orogono as his special adviser, but included her in his empowerment scheme with monthly stipend, which he uses in supporting aged men and women in the council.

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