By Osa Amadi
Every inch of it was a funeral turned to hospitality, arts and culture event. And it was not surprising. Other names of the chief mourner, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, are tourism, arts and culture. He was former Director-General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC, and presently National Council for Arts and Culture D-G and President, World Craft Council, African Region.
As in other tourism, arts and culture events he organizes and oversees, Otunba Runsewe was all over the place, especially at the Eagle Club Event Centre, Adeniran Ogunsanya Surulere, venue of the reception, making sure that all his guests were comfortable and well-fed.
The food was superb. The sauced stockfish, taken with jollof rice and fried plantain was for many, a star delicacy on the menu.
Expectedly, people from Otunba Runsewe’s wide circle of friends travelled from different parts of the country, possibly from across the world, to attend the funeral, making it a tourism event. It was also an occasion for the display of cultural music and dance, especially the cultural dance troupe from Ogun State.
At the entrance sat a canoe decorated with paddles and fishermen’s hats made of raffia. Inside the reception hall, sculptured Eyo masquerades and other artworks stood at different corners. It was a complete art exhibition!
Earlier, Otunba Runsewe had hinted that his mother’s funeral would be a platform for empowerment and showcasing of talents in arts, craft and entrepreneurship. And it just came to pass.
The legendary Afro-juju exponent, Sir Shina Peters, was also there on stage with his mesmerizing dance band, performing for hours. Then the traditional clothes and other costumes people wore completed the package – a truly hospitality, arts and culture event.
A brief look at the life and times of the deceased, Mrs. Felicia Adesola Runsewe (aka Mama Kaduna) easily reveals the source from where Otunba Runsewe inherited his good looks, hard work ethics, and spirit of hospitality.
The first thing that strikes you about Mama Kaduna in her younger age, even at her old age, is her stunning beauty, which she copiously passed on to her offspring. Her marriage to late Pa Bankole Ojaneye Runsewe produced three beautiful children: Ojafolarin, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe and Mopelola. Mama lived on earth for 94 years!
Beyond her beauty, Mama Kaduna was quite enterprising. She started her life working at Kingsway Stores between January 9, 1951 and May 19, 1964. No doubt, due to her spectacular beauty, she was called ‘Sisi Kingsway’. Story has it that she was among the first few women who rode bicycles to work in Kaduna in those days. What a scenic sight that must have been!
After she left Kingsway Stores, she established her own business, dealing in drinks and consumables as a retailer, wholesaler and distributor. With her resourcefulness and thrift, she was able to give her children befitting education up to tertiary institutions.
Mama anchored her life in God. She served Jesus through the Cathedral Church of St Michael’s Anglican Communion, Ibrahim Taiwo Street Kaduna, and later at the Chapel of the Healing Cross, Idi-Araba, Lagos from 2015/2016. She was active in various associations, groups and departments of the church including Young Christian Women Association (YCWA), The Bible Society of Nigeria (BSN) and others.
On September 24, 1994, tragedy struck. It devastated Mama. She lost her eldest child, Mr. Folarin, a career diplomat, in a fatal automobile accident. According to sources, Mama never really recovered from that tragic event of her life. She only managed to hang on as a result of her love for her remaining two children.
In a condolence letter to Otunba Segun Runsewe, former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo wrote: “Mama lived a good life of service to her God, her community and her family…. She was a good sister and a mentor in my early military life in the late 1950s and 60s…”
Similarly, former President Goodluck Jonathan wrote of Mama: “She was an industrious and God-fearing woman as evidenced by the caliber of children she raised who are currently doing well in their respective callings…”
Other high-caliber public officials who sent condolence letters to Otunba Runsewe are Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan; Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Head of Service of the Federation, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan; Inspector General of Police, A. Adamu; Hon. Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, Chairman, House Committee on Culture & Tourism.
Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi, Minister of Defence; Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Minister of industry, trade, and Investment; Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science & Technology; Sunday Dare, Minister of Youth & Sports Development; Dr. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour & Employment and many others also wrote letters of condolence to Otunba Runsewe.
“Of your three children, Mama,” Otunba Runsewe wrote in a brief tribute to his beloved mother, “you held me very dear to your heart; always checking on me and ensuring that I did not go astray or follow the bandwagon of loafers.”
May her kind soul continue to rest in the Lord Jesus. Amen.