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I Was In ‘NAOWA’

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Chief LekanWhat? Did you exclaim? I envisaged that exclamation from wives (and their husbands too) of retired and serving officers of the Nigerian Army.

Why? Because their own NAOWA stands for Nigerian Army Officers Wives Association, whereas the ‘NAOWA’ above means Nigerian Army Officers Workers Association – an unregistered association formed by me while a Press Secretary to the three gentlemen officers who ruled the old Oyo State (present Oyo and Osun States) as military governors between 1984 and 1989 – retired Major-General Oladayo Popoola, retired Brigadier – General Adetunji Olurin and the late Brigadier – General Sasaenia Oresanya.

I remember that I first pronounced ‘NAOWA’ in 1984 during a social evening of the 2 Mechanised Division of the Nigeria Army at its Officers Mess, Agodi GRA, Ibadan, Oyo State.

The occasion was chaired by the then General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Division, the late General Sani Abacha, who later became a military head of state.

The Army PRO who was the compere of the event had, according to the programme, invited guests who wanted to enhance the social gathering with jokes to feel free and step out.

The then Commissioner of Police in Oyo State, Mr. Archibong Nkana, now a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, belled the cat. His joke went like this – the wife of a public figure was to express her family’s appreciation to guests who attended her husband’s birthday party when it was time for the vote of thanks. But, rather than say that “my appreciation goes to all our guests for attending this party from the bottom of my heart”, she turned the statement upside down!

So, what did she say? As the Yoruba will say, “Enu mi ko le o ti gbo pe iya Baale l’aje (you will not hear me say that the chieftain’s mother is a witch).

Two or three other guests followed Mr. Nkana’s hilarious presentation after which the MC recognised me and gave me the microphone. I cleared my throat and said, “Good evening sirs and mas, I am ’Lekan Alabi, the press secretary to the military governor of Oyo State and a member of NAOWA.

I had hardly uttered the last word when the GOC, my boss, other officers, their wives and guests dropped their glasses and everyone fixed their gaze on me! “A member of NAOWA or what did he just say?” popped out.

I smiled and calmly said “No, not the formal NAOWA o, but the Nigerian Army Officers Workers Association!” Of course, the audience roared in laughter and spurred me on with claps as I regaled them with two jokes from my heavy bag of ‘fabus’ (fabu is an idiom for jokes).

Till he departed Ibadan for higher positions in the army, the late General Abacha (who preferred to call me “press”) always demanded for jokes from “the only male member of ‘NAOWA’. Well, that is how far the hilarious aspect of this piece goes. I now wish to say that while I cherish my five long years of service as press secretary to the three military governors mentioned earlier (six years in total though, if my 1983 stay with the late Govenor ’Bola Ige is added) I thank God for the military ethos of discipline, bravery, loyalty, honour and nattiness, among others, imparted by my former bosses on me and other personal staff of theirs.

As a result of the above – quoted values, I cannot and will never stand indiscipline, cowardice, disloyalty, corruption and sloveness. Whenever I come across serving or retired members of the force, I look forward to those ethos. And I dare say I have never been disappointed, at least by those officers and other ranks whose paths have crossed mine. In our beloved Ibadanland, resides a retired Major of the Nigerian Army, who celebrated her 80th birthday on Saturday, 18th April, 2015 with a modest (church) thanksgiving service and reception. She is a private person who shies away from public glare and noise.

The “pretty young lady”, to quote the words on the invitation card, who turned 80 is Major (Mrs) Victoria Bayonle Ladipo (rtd). She is an epitome of beauty, culture, etiquette, knowledge, discipline etc. Even though she is self-effacing and reserved, the fact that Mama Ladipo is a role model and beacon of orderliness, hardwork, patriotism and style, has compelled me to “expose” her virtues to the public in this article.

Following is a tribute of Major Victoria Bayonle Ladipo (rtd) in the words of her lawyer – daughter, Temitayo. Please savour it. “Victoria Bayonle Ladipo (nee Adedeji) was born on Sunday 17th March, 1935 to Mr. J.O. Adedeji of Balogun Kobomoje compound and Madam S.O. Adedeji of Bota compound, Kudeti, Ibadan, both of blessed memory. “She started her primary education at Wesley School, Port-Harcourt.

After her father’s death, she moved back to Ibadan and completed her education at St. David’s School, Kudeti in 1950. She started her secondary school education in 1951 at the prestigious St. Annes School, Molete, Ibadan. “A nurse by profession, she started her training in April 1955 at the Preliminary Training School, Eleyele, Ibadan (PTS).

She did her practicals at Abeokuta General Hospital, Sokenu. “In August 1957, she travelled to England to continue her training at Queens Park Hospital, Blackburn, Lancashire and Sefron General Hospital Liverpool, Lancashire. She finished her General Nursing training in June 1962 and became a State Registered Nurse after which she proceeded to St. Luke’s Hospital Bradford, Yorkshire for her midwifery training. “Upon her return to Nigeria, she worked with the Ministry of Health (Western Region) at the Jericho Nursing Home.

She joined the University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan in 1965 and in 1969 she joined the medical corps of the Nigerian Army. “She retired from the Army in June 1982 and went into business, during which she took time off to work in Saudi Arabia as a midwife. “She got married to Engr. Adebiyi Ladipo of blessed memory in 1957.

She is blessed with children and grand children.” Dear reader, that is the profile of the world’s latest octogenarian, Major (Mrs) Victoria Bayonle Ladipo (rtd), a woman of virtue. May she celebrate many years in good health, joy, honour and contentment. Amen. Alabi, D. Litt (h.c), Aare Alaasa Olubadan of Ibadanland


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