In this interview with ARUKAINO UMUKORO, 92-year-old Gabriel Olayide Olusanya and 90-year-old Florence Olusanya, both retired civil servants, share a part of their history and the secret of their 65-year-old marriage
Where did you school?
Gabriel: I attended St. Paul’s Primary School, Odogbolu, Ogun State. I went to Ijebu Ode Grammar School from 1938- 1944, where I sat for and passed the second grade school certificate examination. After my secondary education, I sought employment and got a job to work at
the Federal Government Press, Lagos, on January 10, 1945. I went to Yaba College of Technology, where I obtained a certificate in Administration. Later, I travelled to the UK on scholarship given to me by my department at the Press. I was attached to Norwich City College Arts School between 1954 and 1956. My final certificate was the City and Guild of London, in 1957. I studied printing in the UK and did my attachment with Messrs’ Jarrod Printing Press, Norwich. I continued working with the Federal Government Press when I returned to Nigeria.
Florence: I attended St. Saviours’ Primary School, Ijebu Ode. But I did not go to secondary school.
How was growing up like for you?
Gabriel: I grew up in Ijebu Ode. My parents also brought me up to honour people and live with people harmoniously. Those were some of the virtues they taught me; they always cared for the people. My father was from a humble background and he had a lot of relatives who ensured that I was properly trained. One of my close relatives, Chief S.A Olukoya, the father of Sonibare of Maryland Estate, trained me at Ijebu Ode. He was the manager of UAC Nigeria. He was my mentor. He did a lot for me and I learnt a lot from him.
Florence: My father was a successful cocoa farmer. I lived with my half-brothers later on, where I spent different number of years with each of them. One used to work as a railway inspector.
How would you describe your working experience?
Gabriel: I thank God that I was able to serve my employers faithfully, to the extent that they honoured me with such recommendation for training in the UK because I was not the only one there. I was given that honour because of my loyal service and what they saw in me. Also then, we had a British administrator who took notice of me
and recommended me for the training. I never thought of resigning. I am grateful that I was sent to the UK, it helped me get rapid promotions. I started with the technical department, but retired as chief superintendent of the press, on level 14, in December 1984.
Florence: I worked at the Federal Government Press as book binding assistant and retired as book binding assistant. I retired with a salary of £22 10 pence. On retirement, I thought about what to do to train our seven children, who were all brilliant. So I decided to go into the
business of selling beer.
What are your favourite meals?
Gabriel: Rice is my favourite food, I like eating it with vegetables. It is followed closely by Iyan (poundo yam), not the one they labour to make. I like eating it with efo. I eat a lot of fruits too, especially banana. It supplements my protein diet. My advice to people is that they should eat good and nourishing food.
Florence: I like my Ikokore, it’s an Ijebu type of food. It is prepared with water yam. I like corn flakes and any good food.
How would you describe the Nigeria of your days?
Gabriel: The people feared God more than they do now, although there are so many churches today. Independence was good for Nigeria because the white men wanted to rule us and take our money. On Independence Day in 1960, many Nigerians had predicted that things would be better afterwards. Back then, we had a special class of
leaders like Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikiwe who did their best. Things are not working well in Nigeria now because the leaders are not helping us. What bothers me now is the lack of honesty of our leaders. They have failed to provide the basic amenities and infrastructure for our people. We don’t have leaders who are ready to make sure they help the country provide things like water, electricity, good roads and health care system.
Florence: We enjoyed the country before independence. Nigeria then was better than what we have today. Then, you could cook for your family with only 10 or 50 pence. But now, with N2, 000, you can’t go to the market to cook for your children. We used to take my children to Leventis and Kingsway stores to buy stuff for them. But now, things
How did you meet and when did you get married?
Gabriel: We knew each other quite well before we got married on August 5, 1948. I took great pains to let her know I was in love with her then. She was also in love with me. Luckily, we ended up working in the same place later on. My employers gave her the chance to join me in the service because of the likeness they had for me. We
worked together in the same organisation till she retired in 1971.
Florence: We met at Ijebu Ode. He was attending Ijebu Ode Grammar School at that time, while I attended St. Saviours’ School. Sometimes, we used to go to his school for sports competitions or other extra-curricular activities. That was how we met. Then, he used to visit me at home but my father would drive him away. Fortunately, we met again when I relocated to Lagos. When we came to Lagos, he was
working at the Government Press; while I was looking for a job. He was the one who told me to write an application and bring it there, which I did and I got the job. I was lucky to get my first job with my husband at Federal Government Press at Broad Street Lagos in 1945. So, our
relationship continued until we got married in 1948. I retired in 1971. We have seven children.
What is the secret of your 65-year old marriage?
Gabriel: The secret is love. She also gave me good children, children who are doing a lot for us today and doing well for themselves. They are based in Nigeria, US and the UK.
Florence: We love each other. We go for outings and come back together. Marriages break up today because the wife or husband has no patience. Two people may fight, but a wife should stick with her husband in good times and bad times. They should also have patience in training the children. No matter the amount the husband
gives the wife for home keeping, she should be able to manage it, whether it is a penny or £100. But nowadays, some people do not have the patience for that. We never fought. If he gave me a penny, I took it. If he didn’t, I was all right with that. We were patient with each other.
Your husband said he went to great pains to let you know he loved you. What did he mean?
Florence: When my father drove him away, we couldn’t speak with each other. But, we spoke to each other whenever we saw outside. I gave him assurance that he shouldn’t be worried, that I would marry him. My father kept driving him away for about two years, until we came to Lagos. Then, my uncle, whom I was staying with in
Lagos, never allowed him to come into the house whenever he came visiting me. We used to live on the second floor. So he would stay outside until we closed the gate, then he would go home. I guess my father refused to allow him visit me then because I had not introduced him. By that time, I was still in school,but I was already working
when I was living with my uncle, who said that my husband was too black. But I didn’t mind him being dark in complexion. My husband was patient enough until we got married.
When you finally got married, what did you father say eventually?
Florence: Well, he got the dowry and everything required, as tradition allowed, before our marriage. So he was very glad. I got married at the age of 25.
How was it like training seven children?
Gabriel: It is another special grace of God. They are all successful. We have a doctor, dental surgeon, laboratory scientist, petroleum engineer, optometrist, senior special assistant to Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola; another is also a doctor and an assistant director at Federal Industrial Research, Oshodi, Lagos.
Their mother was helpful in a great deal also because when she retired in 1971, she went into business and had more time to plan for herself and the family. She got favour from friends to expand her business. God helped her to make some fortune, which helped to train the children up to the university level. She was able to help me pay for their tickets to the UK. There is nothing better than the blessings of God. We now have ten grandchildren.
Florence: I started my business three years after I retired from the service. It is very difficult to train seven children, even up to secondary school, not to talk of university. I spent the little profit I made to train the children and support their education in the UK and US. One of my sons in the US got a scholarship after he had secured admission
into the university. The university later refunded the one year school fees we had paid for him. I gave it back to him to travel to do a summer holiday in London. Another one also gained scholarship to study in the US. I thank God I was able to train my children. Every year, I bought clothes and shoes for them and organised Christmas parties for them. Some of them attended boarding school then, like
Mayflower School, Ikenne. But they appreciated it and did very well in school.
What are your fondest memories and things you are most fulfilled about?
Gabriel: I was not a socialite. I liked staying indoors. But I was successful in my career. Also, my achievement is to see the grace of God upon my children. God has helped me so much and also gave me a wonderful wife to support me. I have no regrets. Rather I thank God.
Florence: I remember we used to go dancing at Forrester, Lagos Island club and other places. But now, you need to have a lot of money to go to such places. I like dancing, even before we got married, I used to go to these places with my uncle. I like all kinds of music. I was once a
leading dancer for the late Hubert Ogunde when I was much younger. I did it for a few years on a part-time basis. I can’t remember all the performances I featured in, but I remember Yoruba Ronu, Strike and Hunger. Also, my husband and I loved to attend the Miss Nigeria pageant show every year. We didn’t miss it. We are too old now to
Is there anything that brings unpleasant memories?
Gabriel: That was when I lost one of my daughters a few months ago. She has been one of the most loving to me. That is the only thing that saddens me.
Florence: Our daughter was one of my most beloved, which was why I didn’t want to celebrate my 90th birthday. But my children prevailed on me to. They said, “Mummy, you are a good mother.” They came from the US and UK to celebrate with me in Nigeria. Losing her was
What are your hobbies?
Gabriel: I was not involved in sports. Now I cannot walk well. Because of the inconvenience walking causes me, I hardly go out nowadays; although, in my younger days, I was not a party crawler. But I loved watching television. Today, I watch when I feel like watching.
Florence: I like travelling. Before now, I used to travel to London or the US every year. Sometimes, I stayed six months, a year or two years. I celebrated my 78th birthday in London, 79th in the US and 80th in London. My husband and all my children were there and we had a
What’s the secret of your long life?
Gabriel: I give thanks to God that I celebrated my 90th birthday and added two more years to it. The secret is God Almighty. I don’t know any other secret, but that it is the grace of God Almighty which has sustained me until today. It’s not by just eating good food or living comfortably.
Florence: I didn’t live a wayward lifestyle. I don’t drink. I only take soft drinks. Even though I sold beer, I never tasted it because I didn’t like beer. I eat Ijebu food (laughs). But I don’t want to live up to one hundred. To grow old is not easy. I have arthritis now and can’t hear
properly, but I thank God for my life. My advice to people who want to live long is to pray to God and He will give them anything they want. They will live long if they can also exercise patience in life.