twin sister and i became blind after policemen tear gassed
Mrs. Kehinde Ola-Oni, the blind widow of the late fiery human rights activist, Comrade Ola Oni, recounts her agonising experiences since her husband died about 19 years ago
Your husband died in December 1999. How have you been coping with life after his demise?
Life has been so tough for this family since he died. Financially, it is difficult. You cannot compare a burden that is shared by two people to one that is solely shouldered by one person, especially when that person is a completely blind widow. My eyes are open but I cannot see with them.
We have received help from some neighbours, comrades and other people who identify with us. For example, Comrade Sanya Laoye, Moshood Erubami, Comrade Oluranti, Prof. Akin Ojo, Baale Adesokan, Governor Rauf Aregbesola and a host of others still familiarise themselves with the family. They pay us visits and offer support as God puts it in their minds. I cannot forget Aregbesola for his help.
If you have a chance of marrying again in the next world, would you marry an activist like your husband?
Ola Oni was more than a husband to me. He was like my father. He was not rich but he took care of his family. He carried everyone along. He did not discriminate in the choice of people he associated with or helped. When he died, he was proclaimed as the hero of the masses.
The market women, civil servants, students, civil society organisations, human rights campaigners and activists, farmers, the young and old, labour unions and even his enemies rained eulogies on him.
He trained many people in governance and leadership and they all assumed big positions in life. He started democracy in our sitting room. People would resume here every day to hear from him what direction to go. I handled the women affairs throughout the 33 local government areas of Oyo State. Ola Oni was so supportive. So, if I had another opportunity to marry, I would prefer to marry him a million times over.
What special trait did you see in him after you got married to him?
I lost my father two months after my twin sister and I were born. I did not know what fatherhood was all about until I married my husband. You could see that our mother, Deborah, did a lot to raise us. She taught us how to be active. It turned out to be a good blend with my husband.
You were an activist like your husband. Did his death kill the morale in you?
Like him, I was and still am an activist. I am the life president of the Action Women of Nigeria. For four years, I was the coordinator of Women in Nigeria. We did not receive a salary for the service. I was a retired civil servant but I remained strong.
We would bring women together and train them in leadership so that when they found themselves in a big position, they would stand out. Today, many women in government lack that training so the position they find themselves in is strange to them.
I began activism in the 1970s and attended the Beijing Conference in 1995. My husband trained me in activism and I became a library to other women. In the kitchen, he would come and lecture me on political education, world history and so on. When a book is published, he would summarise it and discuss it with me.
I had a typewriter in the kitchen. When he spoke, I would type it out. He was a book seller, magazine publisher and well known among