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My Life As A Letter Writer | Kehinde Ayoola

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No, I’m not talking about those days past when we wrote love letters with fanciful adjectives and phrases….From The Garden of Love…To the Only Sugar in My Tea…and all that.

I am writing of when I still lived with my parents in my great grandfather’s compound until we moved to my father’s house when I and Taye were about 11 years old. So I’m telling you the story of when I was about 8 – 10 years old.

I am telling the story of when I acted as the resident letter – writer for elderly people in our compound. However I am dwelling on the shenanigans of one of them who we called Ìyá Morádéké (We pronounced the name in our special Oyo way – Maádéké)!


Maádéké was my great aunt – an aunt to my father. She was about 70 years old back then.

She came back home to dálémosú! Ilémosú are married women who left their marital homes to sojourn at their fathers’ house.

It could be due to frictions in their marriages, divorce or separation. It could be a temporary thing or long term.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to ask late Samson Ayoola, my dad, to which category Maádéké fell.

It was too much for my juvenile mind to comprehend.

In my father’s compound , there were four big houses: the one we lived in, the one Pa Oladeji Akano, the Family Head lived in with our cousins like Thompson Ayoade, one at the back of our house occupied by the Ibidapos and the one to our left occupied by Maádéké and her sister, the one we called Ìyá Ònà Àká!

What would have been the fifth house was to the left of Maádéké’s building. It was the ancestral shrine which my dad destroyed upon his baptism as an Anglican around 1948 and which he donated to the Muslim community on which they built a mosque.

The mosque is still there till today!

The houses are separated from one another by just a few metres and so if you raised your voice loud enough, you could be heard in the next house.

Maádéké would shout my name loud anytime she needed me to run an errand but most times, to come write a letter to her son, her only son, who lived and worked in Ibadan then.

Anyone that watched Tunde Kelani’s Mainframe Production’s film: “Agogo Èèwò” should remember the character called Eyébà, a small boy who wrote letters for the character of late Pa Adebayo Faleti.

The difference between me and Eyébà being that while I was made to read whatever I wrote to Maádéké’s hearing, Eyébà in that film was a numbskull who couldn’t.

So I would tear off sheets from a 2A exercise book, get two stools (àpótí ìjòkó) , sit on one while the other served as my table.

Maádéké: Oya ba mi ki daadaa

Se alaafia l’ó wà. Se omo kò gb’óná?

Iyawo re nko?

(Greet him very well. Hope nothing ails the children? What of his wife?)

I would bend my head and scribble away in Yoruba. Ìyá Ònà Àká would sometimes waddle up and down the long passage and drop a greeting too for Maádéké’s son.

I must capture all these because at the end I must read it all over again to her hearing. Any omission meant I had to start all over again.

Oh yes Maádéké was such a hard taskmaster.

After she’s satisfied, I would fold the letter and put it in a small envelope. How it got posted was not my business. Whenever the reply came, I would be summoned to read it to her as well.

Ìyá Maádéké was an appreciative woman. On her way from the market, she would buy me groundnuts or Nicco sweets which I might or might not share with Williams Taiwo, my twin sister.

I was to learn years later that many years before I was born, our folks paid to secure the services of “professional” letter writers!

Thank God for GSM telephony and so many other innovations in the telecom sector, communication is now easier.

By the way, we need to go back somehow to writing.

It helped me.

It could help you as well.

Enjoy your week!

Omi Tuntun Igba Otun!

Ayoola, a former speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, writes from Ibadan.

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