My father asked us to dig a large grave for him and my mother — Daughter of man who died during wife’s funeral

Popularly referred to as Manager Olora (Manager of celophane bag), Pa Sunday Ayodele Odukoya to everyone’s amazement died during his wife’s funeral in Ibadan. IFEDAYO OGUNYEMI who visited the family at the mortuary this week, writes on the incident.

Three scores and some years ago, two young Ijebu-Igbo-born youths began their love life which produced seven children. Little did anyone who witnessed the union then know that the end of the duo, Pa Sunday Ayodele Odukoya and his beloved, Olufunke Alice Odukoya would be intertwined and be such a shock to family and friends.

The 81-year-old mother and Pa Odukoya’s caregiver died on February 25, 2020 during a brief illness. Her funeral rites were delayed as a result of the lockdowns and restrictions on movements occasioned by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Her husband told their children to prepare a grave large enough for him and the late wife. The children prayed against such. They waved it aside.

But when the final rites of Mrs Odukoya were ongoing, Pa Odukoya made good his pledge. He bade the world farewell. Death didn’t choose any regular date to take Pa Odukoya away, it chose the night of his wife’s Christian wake in Ibadan to strike.

On Wednesday, September 9, 2020 when Pa Odukoya breathed his last, the family, friends and well-wishers were just bidding his wife the last goodbye in Ibadan. It took courage and grit for the family to inter her remains and conclude her final rites in the days that followed in Oke-Agbo area of Ijebu-Igbo in Ogun State.

Uneasy calm enveloped the Ibadan-based private mortuary where Pa Odukoya’s remains were deposited when Saturday Tribune approached the family on Wednesday. The hearse which was used during Mrs Odukoya’s burial majestically sat at the entrance of the mortuary bearing posters of last week’s burial ceremony of the wife.

As the empty casket which would be used to convey Pa Odukoya to his hometown laid on the floor, Oluwafunmilayo, the second child of the deceased, told Saturday Tribune that following the matriarch’s death in February, Pa Odukoya always said that it was impossible for him to survive for long, the death of his wife.

This claim was substantiated by Pa Odukoya’s younger relation, Oladipo who noted that “baba told his children and family after mama’s death that they should dig a large grave because he would also follow mama very soon and that he can’t be left behind. He said we will put his coffin beside mama’s own.”

Pa and Mrs Odukoya during their last child’s naming ceremony about 39 years ago.

This was no surprise to the family because the love the couple shared was beyond comprehension and description. “We are not surprised by those statements,” Oladipo, who is also aged, said. “We know Baba and his relationship with mama. We believed he was talking about his lover who had just left him.”

Pa Odukoya was so much fond of her first love. Some of Pa Odukoya’s relatives regarded her as the opomulero (pillar) of the family. Oluwafunmilayo noted that: “As one of their children, I was always amazed at how they usually got along with each other, because marriage is not easy nowadays. Their union was just beyond human imagination.”

While others were surprised as to why Pa Odukoya would die on his wife’s wake day, the family was not. Rather they were surprised by Mrs Odukoya’s death. They wondered why God would at that time take away a loving and caring soul whose presence and wit unified all.

As Oladipo put it, “mama was a good and hardworking person who was free with everybody. She brought the family together and no matter the problem you brought to mama, she would solve it with ease for you. She did not want anybody to suffer for any reason. These traits were also potrayed by baba who was equally a good person that loved and trained all his children.”

Also eulogizing the mother, Oluwafunmilayo said: “My mother was a caring mother, who loved her children. Words can’t describe how good she is. If I am to choose a mother in my second life, I will choose her. She drew families and friends closer. She was a good person with a good heart. She was ill for just two days and she died shortly after that.

“Her death was like a mystery to me, because we did not know she was going to die. She said she was sick and I took her to the hospital. I informed my brother, he was around then. Mama usually said that whenever she wanted to leave this world, she wanted people to be surprised by her death. She always mentioned that she won’t get sick to the extent of using diapers before leaving this world. It actually happened the way she pictured it.

“Baba’s reaction after his wife’s death was not good. He told us he was dead already. He queried why he wasn’t dead too just like mama. He said to us so many times that he cannot survive without his most loved wife. Mama died on February 25, 2020 and baba died last week. Mama was 81 years of age while baba was 89 years of age when he died.

“After mama’s death, baba always went around the house saying he was either ill or weak. We took him to the hospital regularly for checks but he had been sick since the death of mama,” Oluwafunmilayo said.

Oladipo added that all of mama’s children were already back home for her burial ceremony and they planned to visit baba at the hospital after the wake service, then baba died overnight.

“I was surprised by mama’s death. Baba was also surprised about mama’s death. He claimed mama shouldn’t have left him behind. They were married for long time. This got him in deep thoughts for a while and I think that was what led to his death. He was taken to the hospital up to about one week ago before he died.”

Further eulogizing Pa Odukoya, Oladipo said, “baba was the first who introduced factory producing celophane bags used for packaging bread into Ibadan in 1979. He was initially in Lagos, from there, he brought the business into Ibadan. Back then, he stayed at Gege, his shop was at Agbaje road, opposite the filling station beside Agbeni market. He later moved to Dugbe where he supplied celophane bags and people came from all over to Ibadan to get them.”



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