The 80-year-old farmer and former taxi driver, Pa Oyewole Oyekan, speaks to VANESSA OTULU about his growing up, family and work
You celebrated your 80th birthday in December. How exactly do you feel about joining the league of octogenarians?
I feel grateful to God. I am well and healthy, I am happy with myself and I thank God for that.
Your name Oyewole Oyekan suggests that you are from a royal family. Are you a royalty?
Yes, I am from a royal family; but my father was not a king. The royalty comes from within the family, so, I am royalty.
Where were you born?
I was born and brought up in Sagamu, Ogun State. I was born in December 1941. I am the firstborn of my parents and I have two brothers.
Where are your brothers now?
My brothers are also alive and well. They in their own different homes with their families too.
You said your father was not a king. What was his occupation?
My father was a farmer. But he is dead now. My mother is dead too.
What was your experience like growing up as son of a farmer?
It was a good experience; I learnt from my father and the knowledge became useful when I later went into farming. I do it exactly the way my father did it. But at some point, I left my parents. I travelled to Lagos and I moved in with another family and they equally treated me right. Through them I gained valuable life experiences, which exposed me to a lot of things.
What are some of the important life lessons you’ve learned over the past 80 years?
One of such important life lessons I have learnt is the value of hard work. There is no alternative to hard work. One must be hard-working, no matter where one finds himself, or the position one reaches in life and regardless of one’s occupation and profession.
Did you go to school?
Yes. I was enrolled in primary school in 1950 and I finished in 1956. Then I attended United African Methodist Church School, Sagamu in 1957. I eventually left Sagamu for Lagos with one of my uncles. He was a clergyman then under the Methodist Church. I got a job in Marina at a supermarket, and eventually got married and I came back to Sagamu.
At some point, I learnt how to drive because I had friends who drove taxis. I got funds to acquire a car and I started working as a taxi driver in Sagamu. I did this for many years before I stopped in 2005 when I noticed that most of those I started with were no longer driving themselves, instead, they gave their cars to other people to drive. So, I also decided to hand over my car to someone to drive for me.
I have a piece of land very close to town, so, I went into farming. I planted bananas, maize and cocoa when the time comes. These crops have their planting seasons and the times at which they are to be harvested.
How large is your farm?
It’s about one acre but I am no longer actively into farming. A few years ago I had to hand over the farm to someone to manage for me. I only go there once a week to see how things are going. I have buyers who patronise me and business is moving. I have formed the habit of saving part of the money I realise from sale of farm produce.
You stopped your education after primary school. Why didn’t you further your education? Was it for lack of sponsorship?
I actually went to secondary school. It was after secondary school that my education stopped and it was due to financial challenges. My parents didn’t have the money to sponsor my education further; so I had to stop schooling and find something else to do with the little education I had received.
You said you got married after moving to Lagos from Sagamu. How did you meet your wife?
My first marriage was in 1962 and my second was in 1975. My two wives had children for me. I met my first wife when I was schooling and met my second wife when I was working.
How old were you when you got married to your first wife?
I was 21 years old when I got married to my first wife. I got married to my second wife when I was 34 years old.
As regards your first marriage; why did you decide to get married at 21 while you were still a student?
My first wife was 18 years old then and she got pregnant for me, so we had to get married. Even though our families were not happy with how things turned out, they gave us their blessings because there was nothing anyone could do about it because there was a pregnancy involved already. I had good looks – I believe I still look good – and women were attracted to me; it has always been like that.
What was your wife’s reaction when you told her you were taking a second wife?
She felt bad; it was normal but she accepted my decision. She allowed me to marry again and accepted the new wife.
What is the experience of managing a polygamous home?
Everyone knows how a polygamous home can be, but by the grace of God, I am able to put things under control in my home. We live in peace and harmony and I ensure that everyone is treated equally and they are happy. Whenever one offends the other, I immediately call them for settlement in order to avoid unnecessary fights and arguments. It’s been a beautiful family.
What year did you have your first child?
It was in the year 1962.
How many children do you have?
I have a number of children and grandchildren. And by God’s grace, I also have great-grandchildren. I am happy to be alive to see them.
Where were you during the civil war?
I was at Sagamu then; that was the time I was learning how to drive, and the first vehicle I drove was the one I bought myself.
Did the war affect you in any way?
The war did not affect me; I only heard about the happenings on the radio and in newspapers.
How did you mark Independence Day in 1960?
I remember hanging out with friends back then.
What type of food do you eat now as an old man?
I eat the exact type of food I have always eaten such as ebiripo, pounded yam, semo, rice, and eba.
Are there some foods you no longer eat due to old age?
No. I have been eating fufu since my childhood and it still remains one of my best foods even now. My food from childhood has not changed; I still eat everything I have always eaten – beans, yam, eba, amala, pounded yam, bread.
What time do you go to bed?
I sleep by 9 o’clock in the night and wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning.
What is your daily routine like?
It’s nothing really much.
Do you exercise?
I just do housework, by ensuring my surroundings are clean, I engage in that as a form of exercise.
How do you relax?
I enjoy watching football and I love listening to juju music. I enjoy the accompanying traditional Yoruba percussions.
What advice do you have for people who wish to live as long as you?
The most important thing is that you should take care of your children so that you can reap the fruit of your labor and enjoy it in your old age.
Were you able to send your children to school and where are they now?
My children are in various occupations. I used to visit my children a lot, but recently it has not been really convenient for me. It’s been a while I saw them last, but we do talk on the phone.
Do you feel fulfilled at 80?
Yes, I feel fulfilled. I have always lived my life according to God’s will, and I believe in whatever God has in store for me. I have always been content with what I have. I love my life and I do not envy anyone. This is one of the reasons I am happy and healthy. I would usually tell people that I can never have hypertension, because my mind is free, I do not think of anything, I live my life as a happy man. I am pleased with all that I have and what I am today.