Poor parenting responsible for character deficiencies among youths — Princess Omololu-Thomas
At the age of 80, Princess Oluwafemi Omololu-Thomas’ radiance belies her age. She is articulate, looking agile and in a good state of health. While marking her birthday at the All Saints Church, Jericho, Ibadan, Oyo State, on Saturday, September 9, 2023, she extolled the virtues of her late husband, Justice Omololu Thomas, while appreciating the goodness of God in her life, among other divine benefits. She spoke with SEYE OLUMIDE (Southwest Bureau Chief) on her journey from childhood, how she met her late husband and the tragedy of losing her first daughter, Tobi in 2001, among other issues. Excerpts:
You have lived a gracious life. Give us insights into your journey from childhood…
I am Princess Oluwafemi Omololu-Thomas. My parents were Otunba Adekunle, omo Ogunkoya of blessed memory and my late mother was the first daughter of Oba Anyangburen of Ikorodu, Princess Florence Ibijoke omo Ogunkoya, nee Ladega. They were both Ijebus. My father was from the Ijebu side of Ikorodu Isanyin and my father is from a royal family, likewise my mother. By the grace of God, I am a double princess.
I attended UNC Demonstration School back in the 50s. I went over to Britain to continue with my education. In England, I became a chartered Secretary (ACIS) and I got married to my late husband, Justice Omololu Thomas, OFR, of the Court of Appeal. He died in 2018. I worked in NBC as an internal auditor. I finished up as a Principal Internal Auditor, resigning to start my own business, a fashion designing establishment where we make clothes, ladies dresses and children wears for Leventis Stores, UTC, Kingsway Stores, private boutiques. That was during the period of the ban. I made gold out of it then.
My husband later got elevated to the Court of Appeal; he was appointed to the Lagos State High Court in 1974 and he was elevated to the Court of Appeal. We moved from Lagos to Ibadan where we remained and because we love Ibadan, it was comfortable and nice, we then chose to stay. We are more or less Ibadan people.
My husband was originally from the Bode Thomas family in Oyo but Andrew Wilkinson Thomas, Bode Thomas’ brother, who was my late husband’s father, all of them moved to Lagos. They are more or less Lagos State people.
Looking at the journey from birth till now, I would say God has been extra kind to me. God chose my husband for me. I didn’t know I would marry him; I had younger boys that were running after me then and by the Grace of God and divine intervention, I ended up marrying him. He was older, but it was God who knew the kind of person to take care of me, who knew that I was brought up well and I needed to be looked after very well. My husband was indeed a good man and a chosen person for me. We were married for 50 years. He died on January 2, 2018. He died in my arms with my children and grandchildren around praying and thanking him for his goodness to his family.
God has been good and kind to me. My first daughter, Tobi, died 22 years ago; she left two lovely daughters, who are now graduates. They have returned abroad after being raised and brought up in Nigeria. I have other grandchildren. We established a school in memory of Tobi, which we called Tobi International Group of Schools. I am in good health and also serving God.
How did you combine your role as a career woman with that of a wife and a mother; how supportive was your late husband?
My husband didn’t want me to work but I didn’t also want to be useful in the other room alone. I wanted to go to work and I begged him with a promise that I will not take any job that will take my attention away from home or make me so powerful. I told him I would be so satisfied being a wife of Justice Omololu Thomas. I was happy because he took care of me and always gave me surprise presents. Every time he would buy a car gift for me. He bought me brand new cars for my 60th and 70th birthdays and I know if he was alive he would have surprised me with a good gift for my 80th birthday. He was responsible for my well-being.
It was because of my late mother that I went into fashion designing. She was a designer and a dress maker who lived in England for many years and worked in all the notable fashion outfits. Most of the clothes you see on display in the high streets in England those days, my mother was one of those who designed them. The funny thing was that before the dresses are taken to the shops for display, she had already bought my own for me. When I was in England, I was more or less the best dressed lady in our time. Whenever we go to the Nigerian Student Union or any party, I will come out with the latest dress. From there, I had a hair dressing salon, I had a supermarket and a restaurant. But suddenly, I lost my first daughter, Tobi in 2001. God saw my grieving and gave me an idea to go and found a school in Tobi’s memory.
The school was supposed to be a daycare only so that I would be surrounded by many children; the idea was to give me joy but along the way, the school developed into a Nursery School, into Primary and later High School. It was the work of God. I couldn’t have founded the school without the support of my late husband. He was the one that bought the property on which we founded the school for me at Jericho in Ibadan. We gradually developed and we have raised wonderful children; some are now in American universities. It was named Group of Schools because it started as a crèche play group.
How did you manage to attract notable personalities as Directors of the schools?
A former Minister of Industry, Chief Mrs. Nike Akande, for instance, has been a friend since we were students in England. We have known each other back in the early 60s and we used to go to the library and engaged in sporting activities together. We got to Nigeria and our friendship continued. She is a lively and lovable person, very kind and gentle. When you choose a chairman of an event, it is always someone very close and that’s the reason I allowed her to be the chairperson of my 80th birthday anniversary. I could have asked the Publisher of The Guardian Newspapers, Lady Maiden Alex-Ibru; she was to be the one to cut the cake but she couldn’t attend.
My parents were prominent people in England in those days and any of the dignitaries from Nigeria who visited England, must pay courtesy visit to my parents. The likes of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Adisa Akinloye, the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, the Okorodudus and all the dignitaries used to visit our home while my late brother, who was Oba of Isanyin and me would serve as waiters.
While they are eating the delicious food prepared by my late mother, we were the ones who served them. But look at us today, it is to the glory of God. And through all these connections, we were able to achieve fortunes and through the Grace of God. Even when Chief TOS Benson got married to Chief Mrs. Oprah Benson, they came to England to visit my mother who was his cousin.
The children of those personalities were also in Britain as at then and we used to attend private schools together. We always gathered during holidays, including Professor Bunmi Ogedengbe. Mama Solanke was another popular person in those days; she was running a hostel for the children of those dignitaries. My late father was into real estate. He was in charge of the Nigerian Hostel meant for very senior government officials, who travelled to England to do extra studies. It was a luxurious hostel for them and that’s where I met my late husband.
The first time I saw my husband, he was staring at our building and my father was standing outside and saw him. My father then invited him to come in and have a proper look.
Daddy also invited him into our own apartment, and while sitting inside the living room, he was staring at me while I was standing with Dupe Akinloye. When I observed he was looking at me, I started saying all sorts of things, not knowing that he was going to be my future husband. Although I didn’t say those things to his face, I was whispering to the person beside me. From that day, he never took his eyes off me.
When he wanted to date me, he told my mother first. He took permission and told my mother that if she doesn’t mind that he would like to take me out for lunch. My mother said they don’t dictate to me, that if he talked to me and I agreed, fine. Otherwise, there was nothing they could do. He finally got the opportunity to talk to me and I said to myself, this elderly person wanted to go out with a younger girl, I will show him pepper. I showed him pepper. I will invite him to my college, which was far away from London. He will come but I will still take three friends along with me whenever we are going out. He spent a lot of money to entertain us. I thank God who gave him to me and at the same time I played to my own rule too in the marriage.
Can we say poor parenting is responsible for indiscipline among the younger generation of today?
Yes, the deficiencies in character in our youth today is principally as a result of poor parenting. The Bible says, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it.’ Parents of today are not like our own parents. My mother concentrated on training, disciplining, instructing, directing and showing us the right way.
There was no house help; your mother cannot be cooking while you are playing with phone or watching television, it will never happen in those days. You will be there inside the kitchen with your mother. The parents of today have spoilt their children with househelps. Parents of today are so money conscious such that all they want to do is to make money. They devote less time to really discipline their children. We have departed from the traditional ways of children upbringing.
Then, we buy expensive phones for those children. I want to say that mobile phones have ruined the relationship between parents and their children. Everybody is busy doing one thing on the phone. For instance, my late husband was fully involved in the upbringing of the children and he never compromised discipline whenever it was necessary.
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