LOUD WHISPERS: Precious Gift

One evening in November, I received several WhatsApp messages, drawing my attention to the plight of a 13-year-old girl, Precious Sodeinde. I know Precious very well. Her father Gbenga Sodeinde, a journalist, served in my husband’s administration during the first term (2010-2014) as Special Assistant Media, attached to the State House of Assembly. In December 2018, as we were planning the first Christmas Carol Service for the new administration, Gbenga sent me a message, asking if his young daughter could perform at the service. Precious is a talented saxophone player, and I did not regret agreeing that she could perform, she was magnificent.

When I read the reports that Precious had gone blind in one eye and was losing her sight in the other, I was alarmed. There was a post from her mother on Facebook about the deterioration of Precious’s sight, and in her account, she called out to Governor Kayode Fayemi and me to come to their assistance because we are well acquainted with her family. I must admit that part of it irritated me a bit. I was not aware that Precious needed help, I had not heard from the family about it and here they were calling me out on social media. I set those feelings aside and made enquiries to see what could be done. The family had been referred to Afe Babalola University Teaching Hospital, Ado-Ekiti. They were told that Precious would need an operation and that it would cost something in the region of N2,000,000. ABUTH is certainly not cheap. Last year an Aunt of mine had heart problems, she needed a pacemaker. The device was fitted for her at ABUTH, I bit my lip when I saw the bill, but I was impressed with the surgery and her recovery.

I am used to handling cases of medical bills for indigent patients. I have an understanding with the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital (EKSUTH). I have an ‘account’ at the hospital that we use to help patients who need modest amounts for their treatment. There is this scenario that plays itself out every time I visit EKSUTH for one event or the other. Some patients would have somehow got wind of my visit and would show up, literally rolling on the floor, pleading for my help. The most common issues are to do with detention of patients by the hospital for their inability to pay hospital bills. I would turn to the kindly Chief Medical Director (CMD) Professor Kayode Olabanji and ask for them to be added to my ‘account’. I settle my account with the hospital quarterly (at least I try to!), though they know and I know that the account is almost always in the red. With private hospitals such as ABUTH, I have no such credit facilities. For obvious reasons it has to be pay as you go.

A few months ago, a desperate husband approached my office for help with his wife’s treatment. She was in a critical condition and she was at ABUTH. My first instinct was to turn down the request because I knew it would involve a significant amount of money that would need to be paid upfront. For some inexplicable reason I agreed and we paid the hospital for her surgery. The night before she was supposed to be taken in for her operation she passed away. The hospital refunded the money for the operation, minus the fees for the surgery preparations. I asked them to pay it to the husband of the deceased. In November 2018, I paid for the surgery of a two-year old boy who had a hole in the heart. The surgery was scheduled to take place at the Obafemi Awolowo Teaching Hospital. The surgery was postponed and the little boy died while waiting. I was very angry, but no amount of anger brings back the dead, so I gave the refund to the parents of the boy.

With all this in mind, when the case of Precious Sodeinde came up, to be honest, I had little reason to be hopeful for a different outcome. The diagnosis from ABUTH was that she had a brain tumour. A brain tumour! This is what was pressing on her optic nerve, affecting her sight. As was to be expected, the fee was going to be steep. And I had no ‘account’ with ABUTH. The money was paid and Precious went for her surgery. I heaved a sigh of relief when I was told the surgery went well. I asked about her eyesight and was told there was hope, but we would have to wait and see. Then I got the message last week that Precious had regained most of her sight and that she would be discharged from the hospital. On the day of her discharge, one of my aides went to the hospital and he sent photographs of a smiling Precious and her mother. When I saw the photographs, I burst into tears. Unlike the previous interventions not only did Precious survive, she will thrive because she has regained most of her sight. A big Thank You to Professor Fola Esan, the first Nigerian Professor of Haematology who is the CMD at ABUTH and the wonderful Neurosurgeon Dr Abiodun Okunlola.

The oral history project I started recently which is called ‘Memories of the Living’ is meant to celebrate elderly citizens in our midst who have lived full and interesting lives, but might not be celebrated in their lifetime. My team spent four months going around Ekiti State to document up to 75 elders, and we launched the first phase of the project during the recently concluded Ekiti State Festival of Arts and Culture with a photo exhibition and photo book. We also showed clips from the forthcoming documentary.

 In the spirit of the Memories of the Living project, I hereby acknowledge our very own Chief Afe Babalola, founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti and Afe Babalola University Teaching Hospital. Baba Afe, as he is fondly known, is a famous legal luminary, philanthropist, entrepreneur, education advocate and elder statesman. Baba is motivated by two key things – service and giving back. Even though he is over 90 years old, Baba devotes almost every hour of his day to overseeing his excellent university, one of the best in Nigeria, and the first-class hospital that bears his name. A few years ago, a business man and publisher, Chief Ogunniyi Morakinyo (who publishes a local magazine called Kayegbo) started a forum for people who have benefited from Baba Afe’s generosity in one way or the other. The forum is known as Afe Babalola Beneficiaries WorldWide (ABBW) and every year on Baba’s birthday, December 12th, they organise a public event to celebrate him. The first President of the forum was the late King, Oba Ademola Ajakaiye, the Oluyin of Iyin-Ekiti who passed away in September 2019. A few months ago, Chief Morakinyo asked me to take over as President of Afe Babalola Beneficiaries Worldwide. I said no. I told him I had too many obligations, and even though I was honoured, I wanted him to approach someone else. Chief Morakinyo then said, ‘Erelu, we don’t want to wait till Baba is dead before we honour him and tell him how much he means to us’. That got to me, considering the drum I have been beating with my Memories of the Living project. I accepted the position.

Two days ago, Precious and her mother visited me in my office to thank me. As I held Precious in my arms and stared into her bright, smiling eyes, the full impact of Baba Afe’s living legacy dawned on me. This child can now see, she has a bright future because Baba Afe built a hospital that has world-class surgeons and facilities. The hospital is expensive, no question about that. Yet we have many elite and middle-class patients who mobilise resources for treatment in South Africa, Dubai, India and other places in Europe and the United States. Now Afe Babalola University Teaching Hospital can be thrown in the mix as one of their choices. In these days when global travel is being curtailed due to COVID19, this makes a lot of sense. There are many great things happening now in Ekiti State, the small but mighty State nestled in the midst of scores of hills, the land of the many Doctors and Professors, the place where great ideas and innovations are taking root and bearing fruit, the home of great men and women of honour from the Land of Honour. The Afe Babalola University Teaching Hospital is one of these great things. Thank you, Baba Afe. We are grateful that we can celebrate you while you are still with us. Thank you for your precious gift to Ekiti State and the world. May your great legacies live on forever. As President of Afe Babalola Beneficiaries Worldwide, I will endeavor to draw attention to the power of local philanthropy and the true meaning of legacies. To my daughter Precious, I thank God Almighty for you. One day, may you too be in a position to give others the opportunity that was given to you. Viva Baba Afe! Viva Ekiti State!

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She is the First Lady of Ekiti State, and she can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

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13 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: Precious Gift

  1. N. Charity December 28, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    Thank you HE. You are a light to the world. I appreciate you

  2. Funmilola A. December 28, 2020 at 8:53 pm

    Thank you for your good work ma. May God continue to strengthen you. Congratulations to Precious and May God grant Baba Afe good health in Jesus name

  3. Adeniran Adenike ifeoma December 28, 2020 at 9:33 pm

    Good evening mummy,am Adeniran Adenike ifeoma am from ondo state and my mom is from Delta State,I reside in ibadan I lost my job after the lockdown am a single mother with two kids and also a young widow pls help me I really need help pls no food to give to my children,no money to pay my house rent my landlord has sent me packing out of the house no where to go pls help me things are not working for me,I feel like ending it all,pls help me mummy pls I don’t want my children to pass thru what am passing through pls help me ma, God bless your kind heart mummy

  4. Azeez Munirat Ogundele December 28, 2020 at 10:28 pm

    Thanks for been a good hearted ma, God will bless Baba Afe and his generation,
    Please forgive precious mummy for call you out, that only means she can get your attention quickly she know you are a busy person, am happy that precious can now see very well, God bless our small London, thanks ma.

  5. Mary December 29, 2020 at 8:33 am

    Oh what a great piece! This is an inspiration. Reading this makes me more proud of Ekiti. Thank you very much for not relenting in helping ma.

  6. Makanjuola Blessing December 29, 2020 at 11:24 am

    Makanjuola Blessing
    December 29, 2020 at 11:02 am.
    I am saying a very Big Thank you to you ma, for the kind of person that God made you and a special thanks to God Almighty who gave you this great privilege to affect life positively, Thank God for the life of precious for a successful surgery glory be to God. Mummy Erelu Bisi Adeleye Fayemi, may you live long to reap all your good works and to see your great grandchildren doing good and eat out of your good works in Jesus name. Long live Ekiti State.

  7. Oluwabusayo Edun December 29, 2020 at 12:26 pm

    God bless your kind heart for these you are doing your Excellency. I’m so Happy for Precious.

  8. Josephine Damisa December 29, 2020 at 3:34 pm

    You are really doing a great job ma,My God will bless you massively, my God will keep you in good health and plenty of wealth.thank you ma.

  9. DSEED December 29, 2020 at 5:14 pm

    Thanks for all you do ma. And thanks to our very own baba Afe you are indeed a rare gem to Ekiti state.

  10. Adeyinka December 29, 2020 at 6:06 pm

    Glad it turned out well. Thanks for the good work ma’am

  11. Agunbiade Abosede Mabel December 30, 2020 at 2:15 am

    God will continue to bless you Mama, you are indeed a mother, keep up the good work, God is by your side

  12. Femi Diipo December 30, 2020 at 9:55 am

    It is a wonderful news that we have such a word class facility in Ekiti. May the founder and the establishment continue to prosper. Thank you for all you do ma’am, the heavens will surely reward you.
    Baba Afe is a role model to us all and will be always celebrated

  13. Olakunle Olajide March 2, 2021 at 9:01 am

    So emotional..May God continue to guide and enrich you. You are truly a blessing to this nation and the world at large. Thank you for all you do ma’am.


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