The Highs and Lows Of Seven Decades: Bummi Sofola – In Her Own Words
Hurtling towards the biblical three scores and ten does leave you with mixed feelings.
Where did the years go? More important of all, what have you achieved in those decades?
People say age is a number’ – but that’s not right. Ageing is all too real- the total of our experiences. And if those include fuzzy days at the primary school with a five-pence coin for pocket
money ( a lot of my schoolmates didn’t even get half as much!); chanting times tables in a
class of say 30, then before you realise it, hearing all about Elvis and the Beatles when you
hit your teens; then you’re cracking on in years.
I’m glad to have live through exciting times – and relish the new ones.
Age is a state of mind – that’s for sure. If we can’t be ‘forever young’ ( as Dylan Sang), we can be forever sparkly. One of my peers dreads her imminent 70th because the thought is utterly depressing. But another friend, Iyabo Kule, four years older finds the zippy 70s ‘no problems.’ No guessing
which attitude I admire. I mean the worst aspect of ageing is not in the years on the body clock, but
the cumulative toll on the mind and heart – if you allow it. Is there a choice? That’s what I plan to spend the coming years I enter my seventh decade, examining.
Once in a while, I look at the mirror and mutter ‘70’! Yes, it’s daunting, but we must embrace change. Otherwise, you congeal. I won’t pretend I like wrinkles or the thicker
waist, or the fact that most often – coloured hair is thinner than 20 years ago.
I didn’t judge women who succumb to the ultimate vanity of spending hours at the hair
salon, experimenting with tons of hair extensions and crazy braids that leave their hair even
thinner! I believe in constant maintenance, being determined to make the most of yourself is the outward sign of actively with life. Why give up because of wrinkles – become one of those women who’s ‘let herself go’? Why not take pride? Like my mother, I shall be slapping
on the ‘pancake’, ( a reference to the foundation in those days), until the end.
Over the years, I have adopted a few beauty tips which are:
NEVER go to bed without cleaning and moisturising, no matter how late or how much wine you’ve drunk!
DON’T think you must use expensive products. Experiment with locally manufactured
ones, which are lots cheaper and get the job done.
MOISTURE Top to toe after every single bath or shower. It takes two minutes, but the
results are uplifting.
EXERCISE at least twice a week and eat well. My greatest regret is that I didn’t realise the
importance of this until I was in my 40s
FOR a morale boost, choose one quick, natural beauty product to use each day, even if you’re
not going out.
TREAT yourself, and I have facials and message whenever I’m down in the dumps, which isn’t often! It isn’t ‘pampering’. No, it’s sensible, wise and celebratory to proclaim: ‘this
one body I have is a gift’.
Most important though, you should live the life you have, not the life you have imagined.
Even though journalism found me, it has remained my first love. Right from the time, I joined
the stable of the Punch publications as a features writer in 1971 till date. After I became the Editor of the Happy Home Magazine in 1974, I started having itching feet convinced Editor was
the furthermost I could go. It was at this time I had a fantastic offer with Great Nigeria Insurance Company to head its new Public Relations Department. I left active journalism with great
trepidation, only to discover it was one of the best moves I ever made. In a financial institution,
making legitimate money and commission on top of your salary was the icing on the cake of a
Over the years, I’d built a tidy clientele as an insurance agent and was vain enough to
believe I could run a successful insurance brokerage firm with my impressive portfolio.
With journalism, one is used to being conceited; It goes into your head at times. As a
business person, however, I had to do hustling. I wasn’t used to that, and a few years later, I
concentrated on publishing my first book – a collection of some of my write-ups under ‘Yours Sincerely,’ which I launched on my 50th Birthday, The copies sold out.
A decade later, a second book: ‘Yours Sincerely’ – The Vanguard years followed, and that too
was even a more significant success.
“Do you plan on launching something for your 70th? Friends have asked as the D-day draws near.
What else would I want to launch than relax and enjoy the rest of my working days? 70? I still
can’t believe it! I’ve indeed come a long way. In between my years at the Punch and the Vanguard,
I’d also written columns for the defunct Trust Magazine, Indigo Magazine, Lagos Weekend, under Cleopatra, and Dear Aunty Gina. A stint of broadcasting with the then Radio Nigeria 2 on their ‘Woman To Woman’ Segment, and recently Jimi Disu, my boisterous ‘younger brother’ had talked me into an ‘Agony Aunt’ belt on the Lagos Talks 93.1 Studio, where he still holds sway along with his Discuss Programme on Classic FM 97.3.
As Age 70 beckons, I believe it is the time to mediate on blessings: family, friends, career, good food, books, music, home. All the glories of the world which bring me more joy than I’d have imagined as that callow -20 something- city- girl that made her fresh-faced debut on the pages of Happy Home Magazine-with Uncle Sam asking me; ‘How does it feel to see your name for the first time on the pages of a national Magazine?’ That city girl wanted to sit up late, boozing and smoking, now I care only about tender moments. Then I was restless, now I want to stay at home and have quiet moments with my thought and family. Death comes into those thoughts a lot – which is not surprising. Some of my peers have died – and that lends urgency to each minute. It said that the sight of blossoming and the withering – and there is something glorious in accepting that we’re all a part of endless cycles of growth and death. So the old greed for life (wanting to do and have everything) is tempered by a new sense of calm. So be it.
Of course, I’ll have to slow down as the years take their toll, but I shall use the time gained to celebrate the continuous, proud and defiant beating of a battered heart. I may have changed in some ways, but not in essence. Deep down, I still feel like that young writer who needs to work hard and prove herself, and who dresses up to face the world. Retirement isn’t for me because I have too much to do. I feel lucky – that’s why whenever there’s a chance, I will always pop a cork in celebration. Thank goodness we do a lot of that these days at the monthly get together of the Amala Group. Life, after all, said and done is what you make of it!
The Amala Group is something else. It morphed from monthly gathering our dear Uncle Sam organised at the Vanguards ‘Canal’, a watering hole for current and veteran journalist to rub shoulders together and exchange banters on the various experiences. Could be nostalgic. Unfortunately, the horrible traffic at Apapa Port put paid to all that. In the meantime, myself, Myiwa Adetiba, Kenny Adamson, Yomi Onoshile (who fancied himself a writer, after publishing two ‘pamphlets’ on jokes!) Gori Ogunyemi and Agnes Otsemobor had already formed a group that met regularly every month to savour piping hot bowls of Amala and the delicacies that went with it.
The group had since grown, and Uncle Sam remains our exalted Grand Patron. General Alabi Isama is the chairman. Other members include Uncle Biz Law! (Bisi Lawrence) Dr Bimbola Ogunkelu, Ibidun Allison, aka Amebo, Steve Omojafor, Dele Adetiba, Folake Marcus-Bello, Iyabo Martins-kuye, Bayo Odulana, Bimbo Oworu, Titi Ojikutu, Paullo and Funmi Amoje.
I’d wanted a private get-together for tomorrow, but the Amala Group wouldn’t have any of that. We’ve all joined forces to ‘make a joyful noise unto the Lord’ tomorrow to mark my 70th birthday. Wherever you are, Please raise a glass of whatever you fancy for my day. ‘Aunty, are you going to start winding down?’ Remmy Diagbare had asked when she learnt of my 70th. Only, there’s nothing to wind down.
Never say ‘never again’!