Akande: 100 Years Of Joy And Accomplishment
It’s not every day one meets a100-year-old woman that comes across as engaging and inspirational. Such was the encounter with Madam Regina Olayinka Akande recently. Sitting regally on a shiny black velvet settee, and adorned in a light blue lace with flowery star designs was Mama Akande, who clocks 100 years today.
When the writer was told she would spend her own birthday interviewing the old woman, never did she imagine it would turn out to be such a delightful experience. Little did she conceive that the experience would leave her with good feelings about growing old. The interviewee was simply adorable, an interviewer’s delight.
After the initial pleasantry, the writer couldn’t help but admire the strength, resilience and courage that this matriarch exudes, as she sat elegantly on her seat. Her ears were adorned with blue earrings and a gold chain hung loosely on her neck. A blue gele was sitting comfortably on her head. With a gold bangle, silver wristwatch and three of her fingers spotting gold rings, it was obvious Mama is fashionable.
She is also smart, witty, funny, intelligent and really deserves to be celebrated at 100. She looks so comfortable in her skin.
When asked how she felt at 100 and still counting, her face brightened up with a sweet smile, as she said excitedly: “I am overwhelmed with gratitude to my God. Although I am advanced in age and cannot do the things I used to, but I have every reason to celebrate. I never knew that I could attain this age considering all that I had gone through in life. I feel good, happy and truly fulfilled.”
At Orita-Merin in Ibadan, the Akande family is well-known and respected for the sales of chewing stick, which is the family trade. She recalls that she had a good, balanced and very happy childhood and a sound Christian education. Her parents gave their children the best they could and she owes a huge part of her successes in life to their counselling and guidance.
Born to Mr. James Dina and Victoria Morenike Dina one cold beautiful morning amidst great joy, her birth was greeted with great celebration. The second of seven children, her parent saw her coming as very promising. Growing up as a young child, she enjoyed a cherished relationship with her father, which was responsible for building her self-esteem.
“At every point, my father was involved in my personal growth, decisions and development. He convinced me that I was special and I believed him. He loved and cared for all of us his children. He was a great inspiration, a devout man of great standing. He was well loved and respected by all,” she recalls.
Her parents lived in Yemetu Ibadan, where her father built a church. Her childhood memories are filled with images of how together with her siblings; they carried sand on their head to the site, where the CMS Church (Anglican) was being built then. Her parents were attending Iremo Church, being pastored by Rev. Okusanheinde then. Because the distance from their house to the church was quite far, the Reverend felt concerned.
“He advised and convinced my father to build his own church, which he did. It also served as the school. The church grew rapidly to the extent that the Reverend again advised my father to build another church for worship, which my father did. This was a welcome development, as it helped the people greatly and contributed to the development of the area,” she says.
Initially, the family was known and addressed as Dina. Later, however, the family adopted their grandfather’s name, which was: Olagoke. They imbibed the principles of hard work, tolerance and the fear of God inculcated in them by their late father. This paid off, as it gave them the right outlook to life, work, as well as peaceful neighbourliness, which she also passed on to her kids. Her father had remained steadfast till his death.
Mama recalls how all through her life, her hands have known nothing but hard work. “These hands have toiled, but certainly not in vain,” she says. “I have gone through many adversities in my lifetime. Yet the Lord has kept me. What is due me is in the Lord’s now. What more can I ask for? My reward is with my God. The Lord has indeed done wonderful things well before I was formed. When I see how He has helped me to train my children, I feel accomplished and blessed seeing my children impacting their space in their own unique ways. I’m particularly elated that my last son, the late Dr. Bolaji Akande, founder of the University of Health Science in Antigua and Puerto Rico has contributed to humanity an educational initiative that would last for all time. His wife and children are now in charge of the school. I say what more can I ask for? God has adorned me with great jewels. I am happy today.”
Herself was a successful businesswoman and contractor. Listening to her, one cannot but admire her free spirit and amiable personality, which have affected her world and her surroundings so positively. A woman of many parts, she is a great singer and pianist. She lived at Ile Ife for one and a half years. She served as a choir leader at the church of Ilaro in Ilesha, where she lived for many years before coming to Lagos.
And it is with a sense of pride and accomplishment that she announced she is a true and noble Ibadan daughter, from the Oluyole descent. With her right fist beating her chest, she said: “I am iya ataka, iya gidi” meaning a wonderful and responsible mother. What followed was a session of delightful songs that thrilled the reporter and Mama’s grandchildren.
The first song, affirming her love for her Creator is a Yoruba hymn titled: “Oluwa mi, moo feran re,” which means, “My Lord, I love you”. The other is a song that speaks about the magnanimity and faithfulness of God in her life.
But if watching her sing gives a happy feeling, then watching her talk so passionately about the piano is even better. As a young Christian girl, she had taken advantage of her Christian upbringing to become very active in the church choir; the piano, which she plays beautifully, is what she took from there.
“The technique of playing the piano is what makes you beautiful as the player. After my husband died, it was the piano that healed me. Once I started playing it, I forget my trials. Those were very difficult years in my life. But I learnt to sing away my sorrows and challenges. And I was happier for it. My tenants love to see me play those popular notes,” she says. She is an alto singer and a choir leader.
“ I have a way with songs. Sometimes, I just feel like a song and I just sing. Singing is my hobby. When I sing, I do so with the whole of my being. That is why people enjoy my songs, which help me to commune with my God. It helps me to reflect, cast my cares and burdens on the Lord. It is a form of expression of one’s desires to Him. In those trying moments of life, those spirit-lifting songs opened up my heavens”.
She has an interesting eating pattern. Everything is palatable to her, except meat and chicken, which are conspicuously missing from her menu list. But she loves fish a lot and has been eating it for 30 years. So, what exactly is a good menu to this likeable old lady?
“I like pap and bean cakes. I also like beans, bread, pancake and moi-moi. All these help me get all the necessary nutrients I need. I take vitamins all the time to keep me nourished, although I eat very little now unlike before,” she explains.
Academically, she was very bright and was always leading her class. She never came second. Her elder brother wanted her to be a seamstress.
“For reasons best known to him, he didn’t want me to pursue my education. He wanted me to learn sewing. I even attempted to run away, but I failed and found myself in Lagos. I learnt how to sew at 105, Broad Street, at Mr. I. B. Williams’ house. Many suitors were coming for me, but I rebuffed all of them based on good character,” she recalls.
But when the love of her life, James Afolabi Akande, who was her brother’s friend came along, she knew he was the one because she saw in him good character, love, devotion, and the fear of God. He attended Grammar School, Ibadan. He loved her and wanted her as evidenced by his proposal, which she gladly accepted. He was the only Christian in his family and they had a court marriage.
“We had a beautiful marriage and lived together happily until death came,” she says.
She was an active politician in the Action Group days. As a seamstress, she had a lot of apprentices, whom she taught sewing and housing.
“I was the organising secretary in Ibadan, while Habibatu Mogaji was the organising secretary for Lagos. HID Awolowo and I are good friends although I am older. She is one of those that hold me in high esteem. We were like sisters, as we related very well and worked very hard for the progress of the Party. Looking back now, I can say that those were very interesting moments for all of us,” she says smiling.
In spite of her old age, she still remembers everything vividly. She is able to give precise description of how life was in her prime.
“Life was good. Children obeyed their parents. You couldn’t do what you liked. You were sanctioned, corrected or caned. Unlike now, that parents have thrown the cane away and are pampering children.
“We stayed at home, as mothers to take care of our families; unlike now that women go to work all day, leaving the children unattended to. Then, mothers took care of their children and were responsible for them. But today, things have changed for the worse and this is why children no longer respect their parents”.
She urged parents, especially mothers to train their kids in the way of the Lord. According to her, a mother’s role is God-ordained. Thus, they are to conceive, nourish, love and train. Like Hannah, they should pray and be good mothers. In her view, a good mother must show her children the way of the Lord by giving them back to Him.