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The Rare Diamond: A Tribute To Gloria Ogunbadejo At Sixty

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Saturday, June 10th, 2017

Many times, we wonder why it takes the finality of death for people to get the appreciation they so richly deserve. Perhaps it is because in death, all sins are forgiven and achievements are extolled over and over, all so we can give the dearly departed a befitting send off.

Today I am delighted to pay tribute to someone who is very much alive and well, and who I pray will celebrate many more years on earth before a eulogy is written for her.

Gloria Ogunbadejo, a dear friend of mine, turned sixty on May 31st. Gloria is a Psychotherapist, Life Coach, Holistic Counsellor and an Ordained Minister. She is based in London with her family, and she comes to Nigeria often. People of a certain generation will know her husband, one of our most famous cartoonists and satirists, Bisi Ogunbadejo.


I call Gloria Ogunbadejo Auntie Gloria, but I will use her first name for the purposes of this article. I first met Gloria in 1991 in London, when I was working for Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA), a development organisation for African women. At the time Gloria was working for the Africa Center in Covent Garden in London. I knew her when we were both back in Nigeria in the 1980s, but we had never met. She was a journalist and broadcaster, and also did a stint of acting, before she relocated to London. I remember seeing her on the screen in an episode of one of the best soap operas ever to be produced for  Nigerian television, Lola Fani-Kayode’s  ‘Mirror in the Sun’. Gloria was very beautiful and had an amazing screen presence, with a lovely voice.

When I met her at the Africa Center we connected immediately, and thus began a friendship that has spanned many years. In 1994, there was a vacancy at AMwA for us to take on an additional Program Officer to work on outreach and advocacy programs for African refugee women in the UK. I encouraged Gloria to apply for the position and she got it. By the time she resumed work, I had taken a maternity break, so I was not present in the office when she started. I was away for nine months, and in my absence the office had grown with additional staff members. Unfortunately, one of the staff members who had been around longer than the others, had spread stories about me being difficult to work with and overly demanding. The new staff had not worked with me and did not know what to expect, so when I resumed, apparently they expected a hurricane to hit them.

One day, approximately one month after my return, Gloria asked to have a word with me. During our conversation, she told me that she had been watching and listening to me since I got back, in order to draw her own conclusions about me. Her verdict? She called me an Omoluabi. This is a Yoruba word that stands for integrity, decency and character in thought, word and deed. She said in her opinion, I was firm but fair, and that I should keep on doing what I was doing because I was on the right track. I was deeply touched, and even though I was hurt to find out that someone who I thought was a friend had been peddling stories behind my back, I knew it was all to do with office politics and positioning. From then on, I stopped apologizing for being the youngest woman in the organisation who also happened to be the most senior person. That day, I learnt the first of many lessons from Gloria over the years. Observe, listen and form your own opinions  about the people you work with, ‘they say’ is not good enough.  I also learnt the value of loyalty.

Even though I was the Director of AMwA, Gloria never undermined me because she was older than me or because we were both Nigerians. It was never about ‘country solidarity’ for us either. It was simply mutual respect. We brought out the best in each other. I never wanted to be anything less than an Omoluabi in her estimation of me.  Due to our unique circumstances in AMwA at the time, it was an opportunity for me to put feminist leadership theory into practice. Most of us had young children, so we took advantage of the flexible working conditions in the UK which guided most public and social sector institutions.  I made sure Gloria felt supported as she dealt with the pressures of full time employment, professional training as a Therapist and bringing up two young children. She was also there for me as I tried to manage being a new mother with a demanding job.

Gloria is a case study in everything good and decent. I have spoken about her external beauty which makes her ageless, and she has always been effortlessly elegant with an ‘on point’ fashion sense. More importantly Gloria has wondrous internal beauty. With a deep commitment to social justice and an ardent defender of the voiceless, Gloria has such a positive and generous  spirit, that after spending time with her in person or over the phone, you are left to wonder if people like her still exist. If God placed angels on earth to mingle with mere mortals to keep us on the straight and narrow and to guide us (surely, there are enough devils in our midst) Gloria is certainly one of them. That is probably the reason why over time, Gloria’s primary calling became helping people deal with keeping a healthy body, mind and soul. Gloria Ogunbadejo became one of the first African women in the UK to qualify as a Psychotherapist. She used her skills to help hundreds of women through our community health programs before she moved on, not too long after I left AMwA. She has a great writing gift, and has continued to use it to help people. She writes a weekly column for the Sunday Punch in Nigeria, and when I started Above Whispers last year, she became our most consistent columnist. It was also not a surprise to me when Gloria decided to train as an Ordained Minister. She told me that she saw it as a logical step in enabling people allow their spirituality play a role in their lives and healing.

Even when we don’t get to talk for a while, the moment we find each other, it is as if we were together the day before. Many times when I have truly needed to talk or be advised, Gloria has been there. There was a day I woke up feeling a bit out of sorts, and I promised myself that I would reach out to Gloria to talk. That evening I got a text from her out of the blue. Was it mere coincidence? Or is she truly a guardian angel? I don’t know. What I know for sure is this – we need more Glorias in this world. In this universe of tricksters, hustlers, opportunists, users and hypocrites, we need a lot of light. Gloria is one of those people who shine a light into our lives so bright that all the ugliness fades away, even if it is only temporary. In these times when almost everyone with a social media account is a therapist and counsellor, rendering verdicts and passing judgement on the lives of others, it is assuring to note that we have trained, thoughtful, honest, open and sincere people who know what they are talking about.

So what makes Gloria so special? We were all created with unique gifts and we are special in our own way. Gloria is always telling us never to stop trying to be better. From the things I know about her, and from the deep wisdom she shares in her prolific writing about life skills and mental health, a good start would be appreciating who and what we are, and using our gifts to bless other people.

To mark her 60th birthday last week, Gloria wrote an article for Above Whispers called ‘Sixty is the new Forty’. This is a quote from the sixty things she is appreciative of,

  • My present situation- For allowing me to understand that life is a gift (a present). I have survived all that life has thrown at me and I am in a good place (despite the roadblocks)
  • Health – for being in relatively good health
  • Family -for my wonderful loving husband and exquisitely amazing daughters
  • Joy- for having the ability to have been and continue to be joyous
  • Challenges- for living through all my challenges, and sorrows as painful as some might have been. It has helped me to grow and appreciate the value of life.
  • Courage and strength- For the ability to reach deep within myself and not let despair, failure, stop me in my tracks. For the ability to find enough motivation to build new goals and embrace life.

Maya Angelou, one of Gloria’s favourite writers once said, ‘my mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style’. Maya could have been talking about Gloria.

Rare diamonds are called flawless because the stones radiate so much beauty, strength and power, you are blind to anything else. All you see is awesome brilliance. That is what I see when I look at Gloria or listen to her. Auntie Gloria, thank you for being a wonderful big sister, friend, colleague and confidante. May the rest of your days be filled with all the beauty and inner peace your heart desires. Happy 60th Birthday!


Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of, an online community for women. She can be reached at



23 Responses

  1. Happy birthday once again to Mrs Gloria Ogubadejo. I’ve been blessed and motivated several times by her articles on May she continue to grow in strength and wisdom

  2. It is always a blessing to know one of the angels among us and celebrate them. I may not have met Mrs Gloria personally but I’ve met her through her words and writings and I’m confident she’s indeed a great woman. Happy birthday to an icon

  3. The essence of Gloria is truly captured in this article. An amazing multi-talented woman. I fondly recall her motherly support towards me as a new mum too. She said “this how you do it girl”. She has bundles of energy and is ever willing to share her warmth with others. There’s always lots of laughs in her company.

    Warm birthday greetings to a wonderful woman. LLP too.

  4. Happy birthday ma. You inspire a lot of women and your articles bring life to a lot people.

  5. Mama Gloria. Happy birthday ma.
    You are such a wonderful woman and I always look forward to making life better right here. God bless you and bless your works.

  6. To sixty ma! Happy birthday ma
    Longlife and prosperity. God bless you and thanking for making such a large impact on mama Fayemi.

    You are great women.

  7. I love this. Thanks for appreciating her. Thanks for your support and thanks for making loads of impact.

    This article explains the love you share in your articles. You are a very great woman and God will bless you tremendously this year.

    Cheers to sixty!

  8. Wow. Mama is sixty! A great woman you are. Thanks for the impact. You look so young though. I really need to get tips o. God bless you ma’am.

  9. I am awed. This is great. Thanks for being a great support here. This shows that women can actually support themselves. I am so happy to know these women, it shows that there’s a great future for the African society.

  10. Happy birthday once again ma’am. I have so much been blessed by your articles. You are a woman of high and great value. May God grant you long life to bless us with your presence.
    We love you.
    60 hearty cheers to you ma’am.

  11. Am seriously blushing seeing this long epistle written just for one person. I must confess you are a woman of integrity Mrs Gloria, better days ahead ma’am. Bon annivasaire!

  12. Happy DIAMOND ANNIVERSARY mama Gloria thanks for always being there for momma Fayemi. Your seed sown is multiplied and your fruits of righteousness is increased. Be blessed ma’am!

  13. Happy Bday Aunty Gloria…… Indeed she has shown all the qualities of proverbs 31 woman. God bless you
    ma. Your articles has been a blessing to us all. Many more glorious nd fulfilling yrs to celebrate in gud health nd sound mind ijn.
    Cheers to sixty nd many more yrs.

  14. You are all my people my family and I feel truly blessed.
    We are collectively doing something extraordinary here. Our voices are strong, whispers are loud, we are all making our lives and those around us better, we are bringing light through the dark cracks and working hard at speaking our truths. Our community at Above Whispers is growing and our intentions to be hopeful, loving in our communications is something we can all be proud of.
    We don’t have to all agree on everything and our different views help to expand our thinking and make our interactions interesting.
    We can do this with respect, compassion and integrity.
    I am honoured and truly feel blessed!
    Bless you all

  15. Happy birthday ma. You have been a blessing to our generation through your articles. You shall celebrate 70, 80, 90 and if you wish to celebrate 100 and more the lord shall grant you the request in good health ma. Amen.

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