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The Jewel in Dele Fajemirokun’s crown, By Mike Awoyinfa

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Mike Awoyinfa
Mike Awoyinfa

She is the pride of Ghana, a good ambassador from the land of gold, married to a Nigerian and has proved that love and marriage “know no reason, no boundaries, no distance. It has a sole intention of bringing people together to a time called forever.”  Without any doubt, Chief Dele Fajemirokun the Nigerian exemplary businessman loves his wife and treasures her like a precious jewel from the Titanic ship.  Because I was born in Ghana, each time Fajemirokun sees me, he calls me his “in-law” and refers to the wife as “your Ghanaian sister.”

As someone who together with my late friend Dimgba Igwe had earlier attempted an unpublished biography of Chief Dele Fajemirokun when he was about to turn 50, I know so much about the man.  So getting the new autobiography of Chief Fajemirokun titled, The Making of Me—My Odyssey in Business, the first place I turned to was the chapter on his tall, charming Ghanaian wife Edith Korantema Koranteng.  I wanted to know what the chief will say about her.  I wanted to know whether he would write about the woman who gave him so much tough time in London, when he was trying to woo her.  How he would stay outside her door for a long time and she would not open the door, not wanting anything to do with this Nigerian.  How she eventually caved in when he would not leave her alone.  Then one day, she fell sick and Fajemirokun brought her a bunch of flowers.  And the rest is history.

I was a bit disappointed not reading that bit in the book, but Fajemirokun made up for it by paying homage to the woman who brought her peace and stability at the home front, giving him three children and perfectly playing the motherly role to his older children and grandchildren.

“For someone to marry a man like me, somewhat unpredictable, with a restless and hyperactive mind, is a story of resilience, understanding, acceptance and perseverance,” Dele writes in his book.  He goes on memory lane to tell the story of how he met her as a student in London: “In the summer of 1982, I met Edith Korantema Koranteng, who was destined to become my wife.  She is the biological mother of my last three children and, equally so, mother of my other older children and a doting grandmother to our grandchildren.  A very fortuitous meeting, which has helped in bringing stability to the home front.”

“My wife is not only a paragon of beauty but also the epitome of a good wife, a keeper of the home and a partner of exemplary moral rectitude and standing.  A cut above the rest and an inestimable ‘jewel in my crown.’”

Unknown to the two of them, their coming together was orchestrated by the hand of God.  Many years ago, Dele’s late father Chief Henry Fajemirokun fortuitously met Edith’s parents in Togo at a World Cocoa Conference.  Edith’s father Pa William Koranteng was the Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board—a top shot who was once an economic advisor to the government of Ghana on commodities.  During the meeting in Togo, the late Chief Henry Fajemirokun was so dazzled by the beauty of Edith’s mother Mrs. Sarah Koranteng that he playfully and prophetically said his son would marry their daughter.  And the prophecy came to be!

“This was not known to either of us when we met,” Dele writes.  “Edith was at the Croydon College of Design and Technology in London when I met her.  Before she eventually moved to Nigeria permanently, she shuttled between our home in Virginia, where we spent many memorable Christmases with the children, and our homes in the UK and Nigeria.”

“On 11 March 1985, Edith gave birth to our daughter, Kikelomo, in Virginia, USA.  Six months after that, she relocated to join me in Nigeria, after about two years of shuttling between our homes in the UK, Virginia and Nigeria, acquainting herself with and taking charge of her new homes.  Our next daughter, Folake, was born in Virginia on 22 July 1989 and Molade, our last daughter, was born in Lagos on 21 December 1991.”

As a graduate of design and technology, she has brought her knowledge to bear on designing their home.  “If our home looks like a theme park, with all its luxuriant flora, it’s Edith’s handiwork,” Dele acknowledges.

Like all marriages, it has had its ebb and flow.  There was a point, she nearly lost her patience, but she heeded her fatherly counsel which saved the marriage.  Dele writes: “Even though in the beginning she doubted the sanity of my ways and could not understand my taciturnity and harshness, which often borders on callousness, she was assured by her knowledgeable and experienced father to put up with my ways and dictates because it was in the best interest of the children and would yield a bountiful legacy.”

The old man was right!  The words of our elders are words of wisdom!  “Today, I can give very proud testimony to the fact that, having jointly raised seven of our eight children (five from five different mothers, with the last three being her own), all my children have not only excelled in their chosen fields but are raising very fine grandchildren of whom we are proud; eleven at the last count!..

“Today, I can boast of eight children; all with Master’s degrees and MBAs, and one with a doctorate.  I am also proud of the feedback I receive about them from those who interact with them; many not realizing that they are my children. Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President of the Dangote Group, has marveled at the fact that Nike is my daughter.  Having expected a proud and vain person, especially with the kind of intimidating CV she has, he has always been surprised with the way in which Nike carries herself: her meekness, her courteous attitude and her unassuming manner, in addition to her humility and ‘below the radar’ kind of attitude…

“My only son, Babatunde, whose CV you read in an earlier chapter, is today the GED of AIICO; the leading insurance company in Africa.  Tunde is results driven, analytical and commercially savvy.  He was a management consultant for six years, both at home and internationally; first with Accenture (Lagos) and subsequently with Capgemini Consulting (UK) before reluctantly joining AIICO as Assistant General Manager IT, where he operationalized ventures and successfully delivered change programmes (process and technology) for financial services and government clients primarily in post-merger integration planning, execution and UK government e-initiatives.

“Tunde has strong expertise in strategy development and execution, corporate and operations restructuring, business process optimization, technology transformation, operating margin improvements, alternative distribution, cost reduction and capital (debt and equity) raising, and excellent knowledge of asset and liability management, economic value analysis in life (embedded value/value of new business) and non-life insurance.

“My daughter Kikelomo, apart from having an MBA, is also a law student (which she is combining with her present job in a London-quoted oil exploration company: Lekoil), while her younger sister, Folake, is a consultant with an accountancy firm in the UK: Deloitte Consulting.  My youngest daughter, Omolade, is about to complete her Masters’ programme in the USA.  I will never forget the very touching Christmas letter she wrote me; being one of many she writes.”  An excerpt from the letter reads and ends: “One year ago today, I started writing these letters to you and stated that I would do it for one year consecutively.  Although today is the final day of it, I want you to know that I will never stop showing and telling you how grateful I am for you and how much I love you for the rest of my life.”

 

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