Nigeria’s first female professor of philosophy, Prof Sophie Oluwole once told me an interesting story of her first encounter with former First Lady, Mrs Maryam Babangida, with whom she later forged a close working relationship. Both ladies have since passed on leaving their families, close relations and those they impacted positively with fond memories to continually cherish.
Mrs Babangida had started The Better Life for Rural Women initiative, with a team comprising eleven persons as some kind of think tank for her. She wanted them to be twelve persons and she had decided that Prof Sophie Oluwole would be the twelfth person. The challenge was she did not know where or how to get to her and she had begun to worry about the situation. Thankfully, the stars aligned for her as on one of the evenings while she watched the news, she saw an interview Prof Oluwole had granted. Her first concern was solved. She knew where to find Prof Oluwole. She lectured at the University of Lagos.
The following day, her secretary, Mrs Adaranijo, who incidentally, had studied at the University of Lagos with Prof Oluwole, told her she could get her. “Don’t come to the office until you get her for me,” the former first lady charged Mrs Adaranijo. Who went immediately to see to the task.
Prof Oluwole was in her office the following morning when she heard a knock on the door. Her former fellow student, whom she had not seen for many years since graduating from the Department of History, while Prof Oluwole graduated from the Department of Philosophy, had come to her with a request from her boss who had been looking everywhere for her. Prof Oluwole felt she must have ruffled some feathers by some things she said in the interview under reference so she went into some kind of panic mode. She agreed to go with Mrs Adaranijo but on one condition: Mrs Adaranijo must first follow her to see one of her in-laws. “My sister had a son whose wife worked at NTA Tejuosho. You must follow me to her office so I can leave a recording with her and the rest of the world that if they do not see me anymore, the world will know where to look,” she concluded. Of course, Mrs Adaranijo laughed at the idea, and nodded her agreement. They went together to NTA Tejuosho and made the recording. When they came out of the premises of the television station, she stopped to buy plantain chips, groundnut and a bottle of Coca-Cola, saying, “I didn’t want to go hungry to heaven if the end had come.”
Then she got into the saloon car with registration number WH State House 7 and they drove straight to Mrs Babangida’s office. As she stepped into the corridor leading to the office she saw Mrs Babangida coming towards her. “Madam, your gele is very beautiful,” she told the first lady, forgetting immediately all her earlier apprehensions. The small talk started, then Mrs Babangida told her of a West African Conference for Women that she was planning to organise and why she needed Prof Oluwole’s participation.