Last week Friday, 103-year-old Pa Israel Oluyemi Akojede and his wife, Esther Abake, 98, who were married for 72 years, died on the same day in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital. Our correspondent visited the family and reports.
Like characters in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, they were knitted together in the bond of love, which they shared for 72 years in matrimony. When their final moments on earth came, death could only separate them for seven hours.
Last Friday, death sneaked into 13, Mufu Alabi Street, Gbonagun-Odo Eran, Abeokuta and took away Pa Akojede and Esther. They were blessed with six children.
What could be the mystery behind the death of the aged couple on the same day? No one could provide an answer to this question. The incident is a surprise to the children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and many others.
Until they passed on, they were fond of each other, usually in the same attire, especially while going to church. They shared many other things, including a mobile phone.
Two weeks ago, Akojede, a farmer who later moved into carpentry, called his children and hinted them of his imminent passing on. Afterwards, he stopped eating and drinking, seven days into his exit.
“Our dad was very old. He gave us an indication that he was going to pass away. So his death didn’t come to us as a surprise. In fact, he had been passing the message since last year,’’ Joseph Akojede, the 70-year-old first son told Daily Trust Saturday.
The lovely couple married in 1948 and lived at Odo Ona, Elewe area of Ibadan, Oyo State for more than 70 years. They, however, relocated to Abeokuta in August this year.
Barely three months after they relocated, the couple bade the world farewell, perhaps in a grand and unusual manner. This has kept tongues wagging.
About 3am on Friday, October 30, the patriarch of the Akojede dynasty passed on. His first child, Joseph, a pastor, was the first to discover that his father was no more. He broke the news to others. But how to extend the information to the wife was a herculean task.
“It is very true that they died the same day. A day earlier, I noticed that Baba was ‘going.’ When I woke by 3am on Friday, he had already passed away. The next thing I did was to wake my wife up and we repacked him and adjusted the position. We started making phone calls until 6am.
I went to her and told her that she should allow Baba to go and wait for her turn. We consoled her, alongside some pastors who were the first callers in our house,’’ the first son said.
Joseph told Daily Trust Saturday that his mother momentarily responded to greetings from those who came to console her; they did not know that she would join her husband in few hours.
“My wife and those caring for her tried to clean her body. They gave her a brush and toothpaste to clean her mouth. That was the beginning of her journey to the great beyond. That should be past 9am,’’ he said.
He said that at the age of 70 and a grandfather, one of his fears was the possibility of dying before his aged parents.
“Growing up with my parents was quite exciting and inspirational. It was a combination of several factors. He was a man of discipline and high integrity. He was a Christian to the core, a godly man. Two of them were godly,’’ he said.
Another son of the late couple, Julius, 60, who was a vice chairman of Abeokuta South Local Government, told our correspondent that after depositing the remains of his father in a morgue and printing flyers to announce his death, he never knew that his mother would also pass on almost immediately.
“When I took my father’s body to the mortuary and came back, I saw how she was breathing and asked what was wrong. But she said, “Don’t worry, the Lord will be with you.
I told her that I wanted to go and print flyers for my father and she said I should go, but warned me not to stay long.
It was at that place that I got a call from my wife, telling me to return home immediately. When I got home I discovered that my mum was gone. It was not up to an hour I spoke with her. It was painful.
I wept because I didn’t believe she could just go like that. More so, I asked her and she said she was not going anywhere, that she would be with us,’’ he narrated, adding that he deposited his mother’s body in the same morgue.
“When I took my mother’s body to the mortuary, they asked if I forgot anything. When I told them I brought my mother, they were shocked,’’ he said.
Julius described his parents as godly, caring, cheerful givers and highly spiritual. He said, “I thank God that they lived good lives and left a legacy behind. My parents were Christians. Right from my youth they were teaching us the word of God. They taught us so many things about God. They taught us godliness before they left this world.
I will miss them spiritually because they always prayed for us, even till their last day on earth.’’
The first grandchild of the late couple, Mrs Oluwayemisi Obadina, described them as disciplinarians, loving and caring.
“Baba was a disciplinarian. He taught me the way of the Lord. He was the one who taught me how to read the Bible, especially the Yoruba version.
During my stay with them, they woke us up early in the morning to observe morning prayers by 5am. During my secondary school days, I stayed with them for some years. Baba was a caring, loving, accommodating and gentle. Mama and papa were just the same; they were wonderful.’’
A son-in-law of the family, Obadina Olusegun, a lecturer in the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) said, “Baba and Mama were examples of how someone should live his/her life. They were caring and Christians to the core.”
The couple’s funeral will hold in December, subject to the approval of the church, their first son said.