By DELE MOMODU
This life. I was tremendously busy in Port Harcourt this week when the news came in, like a thief in the night, in the now familiar fashion. “I have not yet confirmed but someone told me Mrs Duduyemi has passed on to glory!”, my friend thundered. I told him I had not heard or possibly that in the whole bedlam surrounding her passing, no one would have remembered to call me. I prayed it would turn out to be one of those cranky rumours and that there was still a lot of life left in the old Amazon.
I left everything I was doing and started working the phones. I knew the right contact to call who would confirm my worst fears. I dared not call Daddy, the Asiwaju of Ife, Chief Alex Duduyemi lest the story turned out to be true and we would both end up inconsolable. I therefore called her daughter, Mrs Funmi Ajose-Adeogun but she either did not pick her call when it rang, or her phone was permanently engaged when it didn’t. I started to believe that indeed, the worst had happened. Then I called Chief Alex-Duduyemi’s eldest daughter Lulu, who told me that the story was true and asked me to hold on for Daddy, which had been my worst nightmare scenario. However, Chief Duduyemi put on a brave face and was quite reflective and sombre. He made things easier for me and I offered my condolences and prayers to the beautiful family I can confidently call mine.
I have been richly blessed in my life with many wonderful benefactors. The Alex-Duduyemis have been of a rare breed and extremely kind to me. Daddy and Mummy were always there for my wife, Mobolaji and I. They always encouraged our marriage to succeed through their occasional lectures and admonitions, they blessed our business by several miraculous interventions when things seemed dire.
The last time I saw Chief Mrs Stella Shola Alex-Duduyemi was August last year as we prepared for the 85th birthday celebration of Daddy. Ovation International was saddled with the honour and responsibility of managing some technological operations to mark the occasion. Mummy looked frail but her spirit was high, and her voice was as nice and sonorous as ever. She was happy to see me and vice versa. Like the selfless and loving person that she was, Mummy practically sacrificed the celebration of her 80th birthday about three weeks later for her darling husband’s 85th.
Ovation International had produced a special edition on Daddy’s 85th birthday in which the famous couple disclosed their love stories and how they met and got married. According to Daddy: “There was a party hosted by Chief Yinka Rhodes and her elder sister who was married to late Chief Yinka Rhodes was there. He was my friend, and we were both lawyers.
“When she came from England before heading to Law School, Chief Rhodes and his wife held a party for her, and I was invited. That was the time I met her. We danced together, and that was the beginning. I went and met her parents. I used to drive her to and from law school. That was how the whole thing started and it worked out very well…”
Mummy also spoke about the month of mega celebrations in the family: “August is a very significant month in this family, it is a time for great celebration. My grandchild will be celebrating, my daughter will be celebrating, of course my husband will be marking his 85th and I will be 80 on the 29th. We thank God for every-thing he has done for this family.
“Regarding my husband, Asiwaju Oyekunle Aremu Alex-Duduyemi. This is something difficult for me to do because he has so many good points, and I don’t want him to be even more swollen-headed than he is.”
She continued, “he dresses like a peacock, I used to call him my catalogue boy, but you can’t call an 85-year-old man a boy anymore. So, from now, he is my peacock. Prophetically, she said I pray that God will continue to bless him with good health, you can see that he is very strong, and has many more years.” Her wish was that “may God keep us safe to continue to enjoy ourselves for a long, long time…” This was not to be as the end came a few days ago for Chief Mrs Stella Shola Alex-Duduyemi and the sun set for a beautiful, loving, devoted and doting wife and mother.
May her soul Rest in Perfect Peace…