Ìyá Ni Wúrà………. Mrs Ronke Kila @ 64
Today is my mother’s 64th birthday and I would like to share this woman with you. She is Ronke Kila but if you call her Ronkus Baby or Princess K., you are likely to get a big smile and maybe a hug. There are so many interesting sides to my mum and I almost don’t know where to start but as they say, perhaps the beginning is always a good start.
My earliest memories of mother must be of this beautiful, beautiful woman with almost translucent fair skin who is always laughing about something or making people laugh. I have to say that as I grew older, she very quickly became my rival in the competition for my father’s attention. Till today, she would laughingly call me ‘orogún mi’ (i.e. my rival). Another early memory must be the dawning of the realisation of the great influence this woman seems to have on my father (a known disciplinarian) in ALL matters. My father known for his knack to thoroughly think through issues and painstakingly make a decision would sometimes defer to my mum within minutes of her making a case or plea depending on the matter. People (including us, the children) very quickly learnt to go through her to prise the most impossible requests from my father.
My mum is however more than just a pretty face. She started out in business very early in life, 18 years old. I used to play a game of ‘name the enterprise, and my mum is likely to have done it’ with my friends and family. She started merchandising on a bicycle at 18 years old and went on to build a chain of industries which at some point dominated an entire local district in Palm Grove, Lagos. Without an MBA, she created her own business models, set up a complete and integrated inventory control systems which became the focus of one of my own academic theses later on in life. I just had to find out how someone without any degree to her name at the time could set up air-tight systems that were comparable to industry-bests.
In all of these, she found time to be fashionable and very active on the social scene. My mum would go with her friends to Milan and Spain to shop for just one party and boy, can she party. She would sometimes arrive from her shopping sprees with the same shoes in 4 or 5 different colours. She loved jewellery but they were unkind to her, always getting lost or stolen. She would then buy more explaining it away as investment. When I was old enough to have an opinion – i.e. disapprove, she would jokingly hush me up by saying “don’t frown; in the end, they are yours” to which I would shake my head. It is one of her greatest shocks that her I, her first daughter is such an antithesis to her in the areas of fashion and all things beauty. I respond to her by happily declaring that I am my father’s daughter. The truth though, is that I am also her in a lot of ways. I wonder if it is true then what they say about people with similar personalities clashing because when we disagree, it can get hectic. We would tussle back and forth whilst working towards a compromise. Depending on who is giving in, we would jokingly call ourselves names. She would call me ‘Thatcher’ and I have been known to laughingly call her ‘Wicked Mum’. When we can’t agree to disagree, the matter goes to dad and it’s just a matter of whose argument makes the most sense to him. He never enjoys those moments because we both accuse him of favouritism depending on whose side he’s swayed to. My mum is 14 years younger than my dad and sometimes the lines can get blurred and she seemingly becomes one of his children.
Sweet mother… I have always been intrigued by her. She is effervescent, a bit unpredictable yet dependable. In my teens, I had to ask: ‘why did you marry daddy; you are so different?’ She laughed and said he was the best the world had to offer and she took that offer. The thing though is that they are quite complementary. My dad is quiet, introspective, a bit of a recluse and very ‘family-oriented’ whereas mum was big on people, fairly extroverted and a risk-taker really. I enjoy how she brings out a side of my dad most people never saw. For instance, she would make my dad sing for her and then dance whilst we the kids just watched… and learned ;). My happiest memories include listening to my dad sing in his beautiful voice, with that teasing smile looking at my mum. My favourite of those moments was him singing ‘Omo pupa oh… Omo pupa le’mi fe; Omo pupa o, jowo mo fe’ran e o…” And oh yes, she can dance and I would watch my dad watching her as she danced and laughed. My love for music from the ‘60s and ‘70s came from both of them. My mum taught me by herself to do the Twist, the YMCA and other super-cool dances. My dad sometimes stepped in to correct her on techniques. Those were the days…
But my mum has some real brawn in her. Some people would famously recall how this seemingly delicate woman calmly took off her heels and got into a trailer (abandoned by one of her drivers for some stupid reason) and drove it all the way to where they parked other trailers. I had begged her not to drive the monster and she had laughing asked me to come for the ride and keep a watch on her if I was worried. I was worried sick, literally. I did go for the ride with my heart in my mouth thinking: why is my mum (my own mum) driving this beast of a vehicle? To my mind, it was actually vibrating!! But she drove it, talking to me all the way… showing me parts of the vehicle I didn’t even bother to look at. I just wanted us to get out safely. We got out safely (well, jumped down really) from the trailer at the parking destination. My mum then called for her heels and shakara’ed away from there. I realised now that she must have thoroughly enjoyed doing that! I was quite impressed though when people were clapping and hailing her as we walked out of the park But my mum, she was giggling through it all, like ‘why are they clapping, what did I do…?’
There are two big things about my mum that I will always treasure. The first is my mum’s spirituality. She is such a woman of faith. I envy her lack of conflict in matters of spirituality. She has a deep, unshakeable, unquestioning faith in Christ. Her quiet confidence in the all-resolving powers of prayers is the greatest bequest I already and will ever have from her.
The second big thing is her fighting spirit. Right through her working days till now, my mum would not give up on anything she believes in without fighting for it. Perhaps she’s lost a few battles but she’s had many victories too. She’s worked very hard for everything she has and fought even harder to keep them. But her biggest fight till date was against the big C. in 2009, my mum was diagnosed with stage 4 non-hodgkins lymphoma and the cancer had spread. She was probably the only one who insisted she would beat it. She looked into my eyes at her weakest point in a hospital bed in London and tried to whisper “This is not how I am going to die”. I didn’t want her to exert herself so even though I initially didn’t hear her, I pretended to and responded generally. She cottoned on and insisted I came closer and repeated what she had said earlier – this time, fiercely. For the first time in 6 months, ironically at her lowest point, I believed she would make it. She did. On the day she got the all-clear, I recall falling to the ground in relief and thanksgiving. She is now a counsellor for cancer patients.
I could go on and on about my mother. Ronke Kila… Wife of the great H.R.B. Killa, Mother, Friend, Businesswoman, Humour on heels, Stunningly beautiful woman inside out, Philanthropist, Christian, Survivor, Ronkus!
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