05 Nov SHE TOOK A BOW
|ABIYAMO TOOTO JOURNEYS HOME|
The announcement of the passing away of Mama Francesca Emanuel came to me as a rude shock. It was not that her demise at age 86 wasn’t a short-lived one but the fact that this heroine of humanity had her spell of love on many generations. It would indeed, take me more than a lifetime writing about her unrivalled contributions towards the development of the nation and the world at large.
Born on September 19, 1933, in Lagos into the prominent family of Francis Eugenio Aderinkoye Pereira, who was then a Chief Clerk in the Governor’s office, and Honoria Folashade Pereira (nee Caulcrick), a celebrated seamstress, the young Francesca showed outstanding brilliance and talent at a tender age. A gifted singer, her talent for music flourished as red rose in the sun having been nurtured right from cradle.
Starting out her academic pursuit at the Methodist Girls’ School, between 1938 to 1940. she later proceeded to attend primary school at Princess School, Lagos, from 1941 to 1945. She proceeded to Holy Child College, Lagos in 1946, and later on obtained the coveted Cambridge School Certificate in flying colours. She was admitted into the University College, Ibadan (now University of Ibadan) where she studied Geography and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A): Honours degree in Geography in 1959.
As many others, her musical gifting was nurtured right from the Sunday School and later enlisted with the Little Star Band of Hope Meeting of the Methodist Church, Olowogbowo, Lagos Island. Mama Francesca won several prizes as best soloists in many concerts, which includes the Soprano Solo at the first Nigerian Festival of the Arts in Lagos in 1950. It is noteworthy that she was an all-rounded lover of the arts as she excelled also an actress being a member of the defunct Steve Rhodes Voices, acting in some of the Nobel Laureate-Professor Wole Soyinka’s drama series in the 1960s.
She joined the civil service in 1959 as an Assistant Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing becoming the first indigenous female Administrative Officer in the Federal Civil Service. She meritoriously served the nation in the civil service as she rose through ranks and files. Between 1960 and 1975, she was posted to different arms of the Nigerian civil service. In recognition of her steadfastness and dedication to public service, she was appointed
as the first female Permanent Secretary in the Public Service Department of the Cabinet Office, in July 1975. Holding onto the post for an uptrend of over thirteen years as well as maintaining décor and decorum. She was distinct by her exemplary leadership styles, good virtues and grace.
To Footprints of David Arts Academy, she was a mother indeed— Abiyamo tooto!!!! She bore the burdens of the group as her own, cared for the children with selfless passion and showered on them all, a taste of motherly fruits that they never had elsewhere. She descended her throne of many accomplishments as Commissioner of the United Nations International Civil Service; Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) (2000); the Retirement Award for Brilliant Performances and Outstanding Achievement by the Federal Directors-General (Permanent Secretaries), 1988; Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Management (1991); Most Distinguished University of Ibadan Alumni Award for Excellence in Service to Humanity (2000); induction into the Hall of Fame, National Centre for Women Development (2004); and the Glover Memorial Centennial Award for Services to Arts and Culture in Lagos State to mention a few; and doted on FOOTPRINTS OF DAVID ARTS ACADEMY, eternal gifting of love.
When she was appointed as a Grand Patron of the group, Mama Francesca accepted this appointment with warmth and honour. The deep-hearted smiles upon her face radiated her inward loves for children and the less privileged. Before our encounter with Mama, she had been Grand Patron of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Lagos Chapter (Since 1995), Patron of Nigeria Guild of Dancers since 2001, and chaired the National Film Festival, 2002 to 2003. A woman who excelled in areas many failed, Mama was Director of the Board of many corporate organizations.
As loving as Mama was, she never spared the rod for any erring child of FODAF. She scolded in love and still drew to her side, any of such children. She laughed and danced with children of the group. On her numerous visits to the slum area of Bariga, she would sit down to lecture the children on morals of life, the disadvantages of going astray and pampered the very little ones with such care that made me want to grow very small in her tender arms.
It is true that death is inevitable and life is transient. Mama lived a life of legacies, who always gave herself to the common good of the greatest number. A loving wife, a kind-hearted woman, a devoted civil servant, an intellectual par excellence, and workaholic. At this point, I drop my pen knowing fully well that every single page of book in the world cannot contain the impacts she had on my life, FODAF, and the nation at large.
Mama Francesca Yetunde Emanuel.