Over 100-year-old Mrs Morenike Owomoyela is the mother of the late popular musician, Chief Oladipupo Owomoyela, better known as Orlando Owoh. The centenarian speaks to PETER DADA, who visited her in her Owo country home, Ondo State, about her life, family, and youth days, among other things
How old are you now?
I am over 100 years old.
What date exactly were you born?
I don’t really know the exact date that I was born but I will be over 100 years because my first son (Orlando) was over 70 years when he died 12 years ago.
We learnt that you are educated; which school did you attend?
Yes, I am educated. I attended St. Patrick’s Primary School and St. Andrew’s before I went to teach at St. James’ Primary School, all in Owo (Ondo State).
Can you remember the exact years you were in school?
I can’t remember the years again, both the years that I went to school and when I was a teacher. I was a teacher for many years.
Which town did you grow up in?
I grew up here in Owo and later in Lagos.
Where did you meet your husband?
That is a very long story. We met at my uncle’s place in Lagos. I was living with my maternal uncle then in Lagos. He’s from Ifon (now the headquarters of Ose Local Government Area of Ondo State), just as my mother.
Before going to Lagos, I knew him and his family and he knew mine too but it was in Lagos that we started our courtship.
What were you doing in Lagos then?
When I was in Lagos, I was into tailoring, sewing clothes for people. I usually took my machine to the Lagos market where I sewed.
What was your parents’ reaction when you introduced him to them as your suitor?
My parents did not object to him at all. They actually gave their blessings to the union. After our union was solemnised, we left for Osogbo (Osun State) where we settled down for a long time.
What year did the two of you get married?
I can’t remember but I’m not his only wife. He married me as the third wife and he later married others after me. He had many wives.
What was your husband’s occupation?
He was a carpenter.
How was the relationship between you and the other wives?
There was no issue at all among us. We were always relating like sisters of the same parents. Even up till now, all our children are seen as one because you can’t differentiate which particular wife gave birth to who in the family in the way we relate.
At what point did you notice that Orlando would be a musician?
He had been exhibiting the traits of an entertainer right from when he was very young. Even people around us did tell me about his talents. It was later that he got a link with someone in the entertainment line whom he moved about with before he created his own band.
Where were you during the period?
It was here in Owo before we later moved to Lagos and then relocated back to Owo. After a while he (Orlando) moved with his band back to Lagos where he made up his mind to settle.
What was your reaction when he chose music over education?
Initially, I was very furious. I asked him why he would take such a decision because I could not understand why he would abandon school and be singing about. But later people came to appeal to me to let him pursue his dreams, that he could also make it in life through music. After much thought, I stopped discouraging and I allowed him.
Was Chief Orlando very stubborn when he was a young child?
Not really; he was not a troublemaker, he did not fight about. When he was young, he moved with those who were much older than him. They liked him a lot and they did take him out.
How did you feel when he later became famous all over the world as a result of his music?
I was always overwhelmed with joy. There was a particular time I went to watch him performing for the first time, I still could not describe the kind of joy I felt inside of me when I saw the crowd that had come to watch him. Up till now, anytime people see me, the same love they have for Orlando is the same they do show to me. Some even go to the extent of giving me money.
Since the demise of Orlando, do his lovers still extend the same gesture to you?
Since the death of Orlando, some of his friends are still taking care of me, particularly, his friend, ‘Die-the-Matter’ ( a former NURTW Chairman in Ondo State, Chief Obayoriade Oladutele), who has never left me for once. He does everything for me. He has never let me lack anything. Even my contribution in the church, ‘Die-the-Matter’ has always been paying it. Also, his friend Apata, the monarch of Ipe-Akoko, has always been doing the same thing. He brings me food and money every time, as well as ‘Ade-the-Tailor’ in Akure, a friend of Orlando.
Since the demise of Orlando, have you been given something from the proceeds of the royalties on his works as his mother because his works are still being produced and reproduced, even till today?
There is a man known as Saanu Oluwa who sent something to us once or twice, but after he died we have not been seeing anything again.
At over 100 years, you’re still healthy and walking unaided. What is the secret behind this?
It’s God’s grace which I cannot even explain myself. I do everything by myself. I don’t have any ailment associated with old age. I don’t take drugs or herbs. I don’t have any terminal disease. I believe it is God’s grace.
At over 100, do you still pray to God to spend more years in life?
Please, I don’t want that kind of prayer. I’m done with life and I want to exit at this stage. I think I am done with life; the only thing I want now is for God to take me away. I don’t have friends anymore; most of my friends are dead while those who are still alive can no longer do anything freely like the way I still walk around.
But you have your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren around you making you happy?
Yes, all of them have been wonderful. They are taking absolute care of me, including extended family members. They do come around to see me. But I can no longer go anywhere. Only three of my children remain (alive). But when the current Olowo, Oba Ajibade Ogunoye, was installed, I insisted that they must take me to the palace, that I wanted to witness the enthronement. When the king saw me, he was very happy and he even took photographs with me.
What do you pray to God to grant you?
What I am asking from God is to grant me a peaceful death. I shouldn’t be sick before I die; when it is time, I just want to go inside my room, sleep and go. I wish to die in my sleep. I don’t want to give my children any trouble when the time comes.