Mama Wa, Felicia Akanke Obasa, nee Sodunke, passed on exactly five days after the Foundation that was established in her name about four years earlier had staged its first major public event.
At that event, held in Abeokuta on September 25, 2018, the Foundation gave out 12 academic scholarships, and made donation of food items to select orphanages and a few other things beside. All through the ceremony, a frail and tired-looking Mama Wa could be seen nodding her head intermittently in what was no doubt her way of giving approval to the occasion.
Looking back on that event now, it could not have been better timed. Mama Wa had been in poor health for much of the six months preceding that ceremony. Yet on that day, a flicker was visible in her eyes throughout, whenever she lifted her head to strain to hear a word, or made an effort to sing along with others during the programme.
Given her passage five days later, the significance of that ceremony was that it provided a good opportunity to let Mama know how she would be remembered – that her unfinished work will continue after her. When asked what he thought Mama would have made of the Abeokuta event, Lanre Oyenekan, the General Overseer of the Mountain of Salvation Pentecostal Church, the church Mama attended all her life, said politely that what would have mattered to Mama the most was not the ceremony. Rather, it was the acts that were carried out. In other words, Mama’s approval would have been that people were being lifted from the cesspit of desperation through the small but important act of giving and other similar gestures of support.
In writing this introduction, I am deeply conscious of the many kind words, the memories, and the small stories, contained in this publication about who Mama Wa was in life. In some, she appeared as what may be called a ‘social butterfly’, or ‘the life of the party’ – one who brings flavour and brightness to an occasion. In all the testimonies, she was the resilient trader, the protective mother, and the informal educator.
Yet as Dr Oyenekan suggests, Mama Wa performed all those things without thinking about how they might be seen or perceived by others. For her, what mattered was the doing whether in her domestic or public life. In the remembrances on these pages therefore, we have the moving reassurances that Mama Wa lived what is described in all human philosophies and religion as a good life. That is the act of not passing by without lifting a hand for the common good. That is the lesson we hope that all who read this publication will keep and in so doing, help us to make the world a better place for all.
The materials in this publication were put together by an editorial and production team under the leadership of Dapo Olorunyomi, with Ololade Bamidele, Benjamin Ukoh and Segun Balogun playing significant roles. Importantly, the support of the management and staff of PREMIUM TIMES made the publication possible. We are indebted to all of them.
Femi Folorunso, Edinburgh, Scotland