In Nigeria, where, according to experts, life expectancy is barely 54, attaining the age of 90 is a no mean feat. It underscores a rare survival, victory over life viscisututes and triumph over predictable stress of city life. It is also a manifestation of divine blessings.
Alhaja Sadiat Abeke Erogbogbo, a frontline teacher, has cause to thank God as she joins the nonegenarians club today. Her admirers believe she has good tidings to reel out on her birthday.
“I feel fulfilled attaining the age of 90. I never knew it will come. Therefore, I am grateful to God, the giver of life,” she said.
Alhaja Erogbogbo was resplendent in her green lace and headgear to match. She is not lacking in her old age. Surrounded by a retinue of domestic attendants, she issued motherly commands. “I have no regret about life.
Everything seems to have worked for me perfectly,” she said as she went through a number of photo albums detaining her private life, teaching career, marriage, motherhood and service to Islam. “God has been kind to me in life,” she stressed.
Mrs. Erogbogbo was born in Kano in 1930 to the legendary family of Alamutu. She was indeed, born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Recalling her childhood, she said her parents were very caring, although they were also strict disciplinarians.
Her illustrious father was from Ogun State. The celebrator also has Ijesa, Osun State, roots. Being born in Kano and able to speak Hausa fluently, her children and relations often call her “United Nations.”
Unlike other peers, Alhaja Erogbogbo had the advantage of western education as a child, which she combined with the compulsory Quranic education, particularly the recitation of the Hadith, the teachings of Prophet Mohammed. It is significant that those religious teachings were influential on her upbringing and adulthood, her dispositions and pattern of relationship with people in her environment.
The nonegenarian had her primary education at St. Brighton School, Ebute-Meta. Up to now, she retains the fanciful memory of the colonial Empire Day, characterised by the waving of tiny flags by pupils at representatives of the King or Queen of England. “Those days were wonderful and we children were usually full of anticipation for the event,” she reminisced.
Later, she proceeded to the Ansar ud Deen School and Hope Higher Institute, Lagos. She worked as a teacher for many years in Kano, Lagos and Jos, where she gave birth to her beloved daughter, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, reputable broadcaster, three-time member of the House of Representatives and Chairman, Nigerian Diaspora Commission.
Many ex-pupils of Mrs. Erogbogbo have retained an external picture of a dutiful and motherly teacher, and a moulder of lives. Fondly called “kind teacher” in her days as a tutor, she impacted positively on students from diverse backgrounds who passed through her tutelage.
“I taught at Anser ud Deen, Okepopo. It was fun assisting in raising children in thd school. Some of them are important people today,” she said.
Also reflecting on those old good days, she said her hobby was athletic; running hundred meters and relays because she was always agile. Then, she paused, reflectively, adding:”It is unlike now that I am on a wheel chair.”
Remarkably, it was in the line of duty that she met her husband, Alhaji Ashafa Ajibola Erogbogbo. For Alhaji Erogbogbo, who hails from Ikorodu, it was love at first sight. The man was captivated by the lady’s grace, elegance, etiquette and magnetism.
He was determined from day one to marry a damsel; an Ebony black young girl, who was also full of courtesy in the public.
“He kept following me. I didn’t take her serious. But, he persisted. I couldn’t decide on my own. He came to visit my parents and later, we married,” she recalled.
Mrs. Erogbogbo had a criterion; a standard she did not want to compromise. “I made up my mind that I will not marry a husband who had married before.
I did not want to be part of a polygamous arrangement,” she said. Based on the firm assurance from her suitor, she agreed, and the marriage was sealed by parental consent. That was in 1952.
Howevr, in later years, the wind of marital change blew. Certain things do happen in life that fall into the framework of destiny. Her husband later married another woman, who gave him two kids, one of who is now a lawyer.
To Mrs. Erogbogbo, there is no cause for lamentation. Urging young couples to learn from how she managed the unexpected conflict, she said separation or divorce was not a better option. Rather, its temptation should be avoided by all means and at all costs.
The old woman called for tolerance, understanding and adjustment in marriage, advising young mothers who had run into marital turbulence to endure for the sake of their children.
“My advice to young couple is to love one another. My advice to young women is that they should stay with their husbands.
The devil you know is better than someone you don’t know. If you leave a marriage, do you know what will happen in your next point of call? People should endure and persevere,” she counselled.
Behind a successful Alhaji Erogbogbo, who is 94, is his devoted wife, Alhaja Erogbogbo. People knew that her was destined to be a great man. In fact, he became a household name in Ikorodu, his cradle, Lagos and many parts of the country as a pioneer Shell Petroleum staff.
After their wedding, the young Erogbogbo couple were traversing the country on occupational engagements. “As they transferred my husband, we moved together. We were in Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Jos and Benin. I had no choice than to move with him,” she recalled.
Mama Erogbogbo is grateful to God who has been kind to her and her husband in their 68 year-old blissful marriage.
The foundation was erected on pure love and undiluted affection. Alhaja Erogbogbo relished being called by her initials, S.A ( Sadiat Abeke), by her highly romantic husband, who also like describing her as “Figure 8.”
She said:”I am comfortable in his arms. If I come back to this world next time, I will still marry my heartrob, Alhaji Ashafa Erogbogbo.”
With great elation, fondness and gratitude to her Creator, she described herself as a proud mother of seven successful children; four women and three men; 23 accomplished grandchildren and 11 promising great grand children. None of them has brought a reproach to the family. They are top fliers in their professions, she said.
Her first child, Mrs Latifat Kofo Kassim (FCNA), an accountant, is Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, New Dawn Cleaning Services Nig Ltd. Another,
Alhaji Abayomi Erogbogbo, is a successful Information Technology consultant.
Others are A.T. Rotimi Erogbogbo, an engineer and Information Technology System Consultant, Mrs Ajoke Gbeleyi, a retired director at the Lagos State Civil Service, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, prominent politician, Mrs. Mojisala Williams, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, ‘Momentum Decor, Gifs and Beyond,’ and Olusola Habib Erogbogbo, an IT consultant.
A committed Muslim, the celebrator performed the holy pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in the fifties. “It is unlike these days. Then, we really went their to pray,” she said.
Why did she not participate in politics by joining a political party? Mrs. Erogbogbo believed, like many people, that politics was dirty.
But, she recalled that she was a fan of the indomitable legend, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, leader of the defunct Action Group (AG) and Unity Party of Nigeria(UPN).
“I supported Awolowo. I wanted him to be president. I also followed Lateef Jakande. We held the presidential election in 1979. Obasanjo was military Head of State. But, some people scattered the outcome of the poll,” she said.
Alhaja Erogbogbo said she was sceptical when her beloved daughter, Abike, wanted to cross the bridge from journalism to politics. “I didn’t like politics. But, people appealed to me to allow her to try her luck; that she will make an impact. I thank God for her,” she added.
Now, at the advanced age of 90, she offers advice to politicians to serve the people diligently. She showered encomions on Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for living to expectation.
“The governor has been helping us in Ikorodu. He has been fighting the infrastructure battle here. We want him to do more. I wish Olusola Sanwo-Olu success as he continues to serve Lagosians ,” she said.
A successful business woman , Mama Erogbogbo is also a community leader. She is a committed member of the Ansar ud Deen Society and an award recipient and respected leader of the Ansar ud Deen Ladies Branch.
She has been a mother and mother figure to many.
Her advice to the younger generation:”What I taught my children is the value of contentment; a great virtue; and kindness. It is what I will recommend that others, particularly the young people, to do. Be hardworking, love your neighbour and serve your creator.”