The ‘Little Silly Girl’ Who Became a First Lady – The Story of Mrs. Victoria Gowon

TANIMOLA (Who Knows Tomorrow) was one of the popular drivers in Ile-Ife in those days. His truck was a Bedford. It brought passengers and agricultural produce from neighboring villages like Omifunfun, Gareji Olode, Aye Coker, Iyanfoworogi and Idi-Ako to Ife every market day.
TANIMOLA was not his real name. I’m not sure we knew his real name. That was however the name that was emblazoned on the rickety Bedford. It was also the signature tune of his horn. Once he entered the market, he would sound the horn: re mi do re re re mi: TANIMOLA T’OKO DE! Tanimola has arrived from the villages. That was the signal for traders to troop out.

He loved to be addressed as Tanimola. TANIMOLA! He would smile and respond: “KO SI”. Indeed no one knows tomorrow.

Victoria Hansatu Zakari was student nurse. Her tutors recognized her as a brilliant and diligent student.
One of her lecturers was the foremost Professor of Medicine, Professor Oladipo Akinkugbe. Prof Akinkugbe had taken note of the young Victoria, along with a few others in her class, as a quietly efficient student nurse. Victoria worked in Professor Akinkugbe’s outpatient department. She was then known and addressed as Miss Zakari.

Professor Oladipo Akinkugbe
Professor Oladipo Akinkugbe

On this fateful day, Victoria had paid for her examinations. On the morning of her exams, the young student nurse suddenly took ill. It was a terrible blow for the determined student who had prepared fully for the exams. She was examined and her doctors concluded that she had to be admitted.
Admitted ke? Victoria refused flatly to be admitted. Nothing, not even sickness, would stop her from writing her exams. She insisted on going on with her examinations. The doctors insisted that she must be admitted. It was getting to be a stalemate.

Prof Akinkugbe was informed of the determined student who wanted to write her exams at the risk of her health. Prof was not going to have a casualty on his hand. He sharply rebuked the young student nurse. “Don’t be silly, little girl. Your health is very important!” Victoria had no choice. She knew that Professor Akinkugbe wanted the best for her. She withdrew only to sit at a later date.

Years later, Miss Victoria Hansatu Zakari became Mrs. Victoria Hansatu Gowon – the wife of the Head of State.
As the First Lady of the Federation, Victoria Gowon was visiting University College Hospital, Ibadan. Prof. Akinkugbe had to receive her along with the chairman of the board of management and the hospital matron. Prof and his team were at the aerodrome to welcome the First Lady.
On alighting from the plane, the First Lady saw her professor. The professor who had insisted that she must put her health above all else. The professor saw his former student. The student he had insisted must attend to her health first before writing her examinations.
“Prof! Do your remember the silly little girl sir?” The First Lady asked with a glint of mischief in her eyes.
“Your Excellency, I think do!” Professor Akinkugbe mumbled. They both smiled.

Victoria Gowon & Gowon


Thanks for your time.
(Adapted from the autobiography of Professor Ladipo Akinkugbe)

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