The Touching Story Of MAMA EKUNDAYO, Nigeria’s Angel Of Mercy & Compassion
How can I eat when all my children are starving?
-MADAM JANET EKUNDAYO
Nigeria is a nation full of unsung heroes and heroines. As Abiyamo, I have decided to take it upon myself to proclaim the goodness of these legends of ours to the entire world. Abiyamo is all about celebrating these Fellow Compatriots who have distinguished themselves even if they do not always appear in the spotlight as they truly deserve. In Nigeria, it can be very challenging growing up as a child with two working parents, especially if they happen to be civil servants, so you can imagine what happens to those without parents. Everyone is hustling and fending for himself or herself, eking out a living and millions are just struggling to survive, hanging on to existence.
In this hustle and bustle that has come to characterize the Nigerian society, it is little surprise that we have neglected some of the most vulnerable ones in the society -the orphans and abandoned kids. But there was one woman who did the opposite -she dedicated her life to taking care of orphans. Her name is MAMA JANET EKUNDAYO. Ekundayo is a name in the language of the Yorubas of West Africa. It can be translated as ‘tears turned to joy’ or ‘my tears have turned to joy’. And truly, this wonderful woman turned the hot, steamy tears of many kids into unlimited joy.
Some call her the Mother Theresa of Africa and she lived a life that is full of lessons for us, the current generation. She spoke no English yet she spoke to the hearts of many. She had no millions of dollars but the wealth she possessed will make the world’s richest green with envy for her wealth was intangible. Without a political connection or patronizing those in power, Mama Ekundayo managed to leave her footprints on the ageless rocks of time. Now let me tell you how her story started….
BIRTH AND EARLY DAYS
As at the time she was born, records were not widely kept but estimates put her age as at the time she died to be between 80-90+.
FAMILY AND LATER LIFE
Mama Ekundayo was married and she had five biological children of her own -four males and one female. She said taking care of children came naturally to her and she enjoyed the company of children. In Nigeria today, many people care only about their own children and give no damn about others (apologies to Mr. former President…lol!). They are much more concerned about their own welfare and economic security. Selfishness is the name of the game. But it is because of Mama Ekundayo’s selflessness that Abiyamo is celebrating her today. She is the real Abiyamo. Stay in your closet with your family and no one will celebrate you, unless you give back to humanity. Mama Ekundayo had five children but that did not stop her from adopting others and changing the lives of almost 500 children forever. Think outside the box, the world does not revolve around you or your family alone. Even the Sun revolves around another star. LOL! And I am serious about that…lol!
TAKING CARE OF THE ORPHANS
It was back in 1969, that she decided to dedicate the rest of her life to taking care of orphans and abandoned children. By the year 2008, she had cared for over 470 children. These children were from all over the country, from different tribes, size, age groups and ethnic roots. But she took them all and did the best within her ability to care for them all. On how she coped with the challenges and fed them all, she stated that God had been wonderful to her, and that in addition to her own meager material contributions, help also came from kind-hearted individuals, religious organizations and atimes, the local government authorities who made donations and gave provisions. Her orphanage, Ekundayo Children’s Home, is located in Isanlu Makutu, a rural part of Kogi State in North-central Nigeria. (Just a thought, it will be nice if Dino Melaiye and others make regular donations to the various orphanages in Kogi State, no be by Bentley or Polo T-shirts…lol!).
Mama Ekundayo stated that caring for kids was a calling she could not resist, and once she started it, she never stopped until she breathed her last. You see, some people are just phenomenal! And you begin to wonder where they get their kind of pure spirits and souls from, especially in a world that is all about ME, MYSELF and I.
She had a tiny and delicate frame, much like Mother Theresa. She loved to sing a lot and had a very charming aura. Charismatic and always full of smiles, she called on people to sit close to her when they were shy and wanted to sit at a distance. She was quite inviting and full of radiating joy. And she always had lots of prayers for everyone. Reminds you of your grandmother, innit? Interestingly, she did all she did without making any noise or calling for the world’s attention (like some people will not allow us rest with their pictures on Instagram, did I mention your name ni? Or are you Rihanna? LOL!). Mama Ekundayo just did her thing and found satisfaction and happiness in it. Is that not the essence of life?
-Emi ko, ishe Oluwa ni (meaning: It is not by my efforts but by the grace of God).
-Agbara mi ko, agbara Olorun ni (meaning: It is not by my power or might, but that of God). This sign is also at the entrance of her orphanage.
-Bawo ni mashe jeun nigba ti gbogbo awon omo mi o ri je, ti won rimu? (meaning: How can I eat when all my children are starving?
-Ayo mikun, gbogbo igbesi aye mi, ayo ni. Mi o mo idi ti Olorun fi pe mi be. Into mu inu mi dun ni ti awon omo yii. (My joy overflows, my whole life has been filled with joy. I still don’t know why God chose me thus. These children give me the greatest joy).
-Eje fogo Olorun han, ma se bo talenti mo le rara, eje fogo olorun han. (Let your talent flourish, don’t hide it). For her, her talent was caring for children. Wetin be ya own talent? Pinging? Or arguing at the vendor’s place over Champions League? LOL!
In the year 2009, death came knocking. She was travelling and a most unfortunate incident happened. The vehicle she was in was involved in a road accident. Mama Ekundayo, already old and frail, did not make it out alive. She was believed to be an octogenarian or a nonagenarian.
HONOURS, LEGACY AND REMEMBRANCE
Many never heard of her until the Nigerian singer, TY Bello made a video in her honour and even produced a song titled Ekundayo ft Olufunmi for her in 2008. It was part of her popular album, Greenland. You can enjoy the song here:
And how it was made here:
Later, she would also be featured on Mosunmola Folake Abudu (Mo Abudu)’s program, Moments with Mo. One prayer she had was for God to grant her someone to whom she could hand over the project when she is no more. Her prayers were answered. Her daughter, Grace, has graciously taken upon this task started by her mother.
ADOPTION AND THE STATUS OF ABANDONED CHILDREN IN NIGERIA TODAY
Today, Nigeria is teeming with millions of orphans, abandoned children, destitute people, mentally-challenged citizens and beggars. There is no social welfare package from the government in place so people in this category go to hell and back on a daily basis. Many Nigerians, for reasons that I find either dumb, senseless or downright selfish still frown upon adoption. Well, Madam, I am not saying you should kill your husband because he wants to adopt a child but at least making some donations is a cool idea. We should always remember the less-priviledged in the society not only because it is a charitable thing to do but because if we don’t, these evils will come back to haunt us as a society. And moreover, givers never lack. If you can adopt a child (it takes someone with the heart of an angel and the patience of a saint to do that), please do. If you cannot, try your best to assist others. That is far better than preaching ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ up and down when you are still fighting your landlord.
While she was alive, Mama Ekundayo took under her wings hundreds of children who had nowhere else to go and no one to turn to. They struggled together and they celebrated together. They shared their pains and laughter. She was their best friend, their father, their mother, their angel of mercy and compassion. Many of these orphaned or abandoned kids grew up knowing no other parent but her. She was always there for them and they also knew that even if the world rejected them, there was one woman in whose arms they could always find solace, joy, warmth and comfort. Although she could not buy the most expensive toys for them, she spoilt them with what really matter -love. In an unkind and cold world as Planet Earth, Mama Ekundayo is one of a kind, and that is why this post was made. To celebrate her life, highlight her achievements, and hopefully touch a heart or two out there. So when you are dead, what will you be remembered for?
THANKS A LOT FOR YOUR TIME.