They were born on the same day of the month and married on the same day to each other. It was the lady’s birthday. When the gentleman turned 40 some years earlier, the lady pulled off a surprise party that blew the husband away and got tears of joy cascading down his chubby cheeks. She had persuaded him they were going to have a quiet dinner and save the celebration for the big party already scheduled for the weekend to mark the beginning of the youth of his old age.
Yinka Laosebikan– Oh, I haven’t told you his name – was no fool at forty. Raised by a seasoned surgeon, one of the earliest and the best to come out of Nigeria, and a no-nonsense-nurse-mother, Yinka was raised with the ethos of parents who sojourned abroad in search of the golden fleece, settled on the greener pasture they found but were determined to ensure that their two sons, both of them now medical doctors of repute, were not lost in the euphoria of their relatively comfortable upbringing in a rather liberal, human-rights-suffused society, to the detriment of the strict ethics of their native Yoruba stock. Yinka was toughened by the struggle for survival in a ‘strange’ land of ample opportunities reserved for people of a certain colour. Although, a bit light in complexion, those opportunities were not to recognize him as a qualified candidate even though he was a very qualified medical doctor.
Yinka had weaned himself early from the financial feeding bottle of his parents, determined to make it on his own. He berthed in South Africa, way back in 1992. Toyinka, his wife; an ebony-black beauty joined him later. But black was not the favourite colour in the land in those early days and her arrival did nothing immediately to enhance his chances in the days when Nigerian crooner/songster, Sonny Okosuns’ anti-apartheid hit song Papa’s land still made a lot of sense.
I imagine those lyrics still reverberate even today in many old-school heads:
Sorry, where was I? O yes, we were talking about the surprise birthday party. So, Yinka was toughened by the struggle for survival and carries the mien of one who would never cry. But he was a sight to behold when the lights beamed on him that cozy evening in Centurion where Toyinka pulled off the ‘coup’.
The plot was well-rehearsed both by the coup leader and her accomplices. She had convinced her husband they were going to have a quiet evening but first they needed to go view a piece of choice property for urgent sale in Centurion, some place between Pretoria and Johannesburg. They are both astute real estate investors and she knew that was a convincing ploy, as Yinka did not require much convincing to go see a piece of choice property up for sale.
Toyinka had managed to gather us together in the dark, well laid venue of the party and instructed us …….Yes, I was there; She instructed us ahead, like little children playing hide and seek, to keep our mouths shut and only open them to shout “Happy birthday Yinka!” as soon as the lights came on during their signaled entrance into the venue. And so it was.
It was a gathering of close family and friends. Toyinka’s mum and siblings flew in from Nigeria, as did Yinka’s parents whose other son; Dr Yemi Laosebikan came in from Canada with his family. Many others from different places were there too. In the presence of them all, the ‘tough’ tall man broke down in tears – tears of joy and gratitude. Ten year-old Toyinka (Jnr) witnessed it all.
Fast forward to 2015
This time however, Yinka was not home to ‘retaliate’. He was off to Nigeria for a reunion with secondary (high) school mates, specifically those with whom he started class one (grade 8) together.
As he told the gathering later, it was an occasion for classmates domiciled in far-flung nations of the world to reunite in Nigeria and relive bitter-sweet memories of high school days; those days when garous phosphate (gari) was the real student companion. But he returned in time for the surprise party organised by their daughter.
To achieve the surprise element, we were herded upstairs from the bowl of the Oscan Buffet Restaurant, to keep us out of sight as they entered the venue. A shout of ‘Happy birthday Toyinka!’ broke the contrived silence as guests trooped down to welcome her. If anyone was expecting to see tears, they were disappointed. With a master’s degree in Business Administration, Toyin easily mastered her emotions – assisted of course by the clues she got that something of such was in the offing – as she later told the guests.
The event promptly took off with opening prayers by Bishop Adeduni David of the Church of God’s Love World Outreach. It wasn’t meant to be a colourful outing and guests were clad in smart casual attires but it did turn out to be a very lively one. The host, Toyinka Jnr with her bosom friend, Ayofe Olagoke, unwittingly set the mood for the get-together when in their welcoming remarks they greeted the guests with “Hi Guys”. That immediately elicited laughter and protests from the parents present. Subsequently, though, almost everyone jokingly injected “you guys” into their remarks as the evening progressed.
Nevertheless, it was a stark reminder of how far the present generation has drifted from civilization although they think the reverse is the case. In our days, if you greeted your dad with ‘Good morning’ without adding ‘Sir’, he would serve you a hot breakfast of stars-counting-slap to remind you of your manners. But these days, ten-year-olds say ‘Hi guys’ to their parents when they wake up in the morning. But it’s ok……or is it?
Toyinka and Ayofe recounted how caring and supportive Toyinka (Snr) was, and expressed their appreciation to her for being ‘the best mummy in the world.” The guests followed with complimentary remarks detailing the enterprising, inspirational, supportive and humble nature of the couple.
Mrs Funke Okunlade, Toyin’s younger sister, speaking on behalf of the family recalled how Toyin was always the very caring and the very neat one in the family. She thanked her for the way she had been taking care of their mother’ describing her as, “A wonderful daughter to mummy”.
The playback of the recorded booming voice of their teenage son, Fifunmi, tracing the footsteps of his father and grandfather as a medical student overseas, added an emotional dimension to the proceedings, as he thanked his mum for her love and support, and wished her the very best in life.
In her remarks, the celebrant expressed her appreciation to everyone after jokingly threatening to sack one of her employees at the restaurant for colluding to surprise her. Amid laughter, she evoked memories of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar when she asked her, “Et tu Yasha?”
All the while, the in-house DJ dished out scintillating tunes on his guitar.
The amiable Director of Education at the South African Department of Basic Education, Mrs Priscilla Ogunbanjo, who superintended the cutting of the birthday cake, tagged it a double-edged cut, as the couple shared the same birth date.
“You may now kiss the bride.”
The family’s long-term friend, Dr Aderinto Alagbe proposed the toast. He recalled how Yinka had insisted consistently that he and other close friends should start thinking ‘laterally’ – a reference to Yinka’s counsel that they look beyond the stethoscope and use a telescope to explore business opportunities.
The traditional toast song was thereafter rendered in two different versions:
The photo session was another fun event.
Guest couples took turns to pose with the celebrating couple while guests whose spouses were not in attendance were advised by the ever-hilarious MC, Dr Yusuf, to borrow spouses for the exercise. Some of us, whose spouses were either out of the country or at work, ended up participating as ‘independent’ candidates.
The vast array of exotic cuisines left no one in doubt that the venue, Oscan Buffet Restaurant, owned by the Laosebikans, is in business to make a difference. Approaching the buffet tables left one wondering, like a mosquito in a nude camp, exactly where to begin from. What was designated as Starters comprised pepper soup, other soups, chicken livers, potato chips, onion rings and fish fingers. There was beef and lamb carvery and the Main Course boasted of beef and lamb curry, fried chicken, jolof rice, pap, chow main, macaroni, white rice, spaghetti, samp, prawn, and T bone, among a range of African delicacies. There was Stirfry of chicken and lamb strips, green pepper, mushroom, cabbage, lamb chops and wors; Veggies including juice carrots, roast potato, green beans and pumpkin, and close by was Greek salad, coleslaw, potato salad and beetroot. For Cold Dessert we had peaches, jelly and peppermint crisp while Malva pudding and custard made up the Hot Dessert.
The waitrons on duty besieged guests with various kinds of soft and not-so-soft drinks to wash it all down.
The event which started with prayers and ended with prayers was a memorable one indeed!
Hmmm. Are you salivating? Take a trip to Oscan Buffet Restaurant; Directions below.
DIRECTIONS TO OSCAN BUFFET RESTAURANT