Doyin Akinrinola (nee Apata) is the big sister of Teni Apata, the chubby singer who stormed the Nigerian and African music scene with the danceable hit song ‘Case’ which has this memorable line: “Cause my papa no be Dangote or Adeleke but we go dey ok.” It’s a song that Aliko Dangote danced to with Teni singing for him at a public function.
On November 4, Doyin, a fashionista who goes by the brand identity of Doyin Sweet Fabric clocked 40. In a 40-minute telephone interview, she compresses the story of her forty years on earth in our chat. “When I was young, I used to look at people who are forty as old. Now, when I look back and look at myself, I’m like: ‘Really? I am now 40?’ It’s been God’s grace so far,” she tells me.
Like every story, there is tragedy and triumph, sadness and joy. Starting with Mr. Olufemi Akinrinola, her husband who is the President of Embryologist Society of Nigeria, she thanks God that he is around to witness her 40th birthday. “My husband has been through a lot,” she says. “A lot of people have not gone through half of what he has gone through. I am happy that I am not celebrating 40 without him. He is alive today hale and hearty. My kids are doing well. It’s all God’s grace.
“What hurts me is that my dad is not alive to see how great his children are today. He was a great man, an educationist, an ex-soldier and father to many, too caring to a fault. Originally from Iye-Ekiti, his name is Simeon Olaosebikan Apata. He got shot during the Nigerian Civil War. That’s why he left the army. He left as a Major. He got shot and that made him limp. He used to limp before he died. But he was smarter than people who walked very well. He was a teacher at Ajumoni Secondary School, Okota. On September 1980, he started private lessons for kids around the area. That was how he started the school. He started with nursery, primary and later set up the secondary school. I am sure if he was alive today, he would have had Apata Memorial University because he was clamoring for that but didn’t get the licence.
“I was 13 when my dad was shot on January 8, 1995. It was a Sunday, a terrible day because we never expected it. My dad was a free-spirited man. We never used to lock our home. Even when the killers came, they never knew he was the one. He dresses very simple and that confused them. They saw his cousin there and they first attacked him thinking my cousin was the one they had come for. I think the problem they had was he was always after robbers in the area. He used to work with the police in Okota-Isolo area to go after the robbers. That was why they came after him. They didn’t come for money because they were offered money and they refused. It was a shock. We were about to open the school newly when this tragedy happened.
“On that unforgettable day, they were all in my mum’s room. I wasn’t there with them. Myself, Nini and one of my younger brothers were in a room together. Teni was two years old. She saw it all. She could vividly narrate the whole story because Dad was killed in her presence. Our last baby was 16 days old.
“My dad was married to three wives. They raised us after his death. They took over the running of the school, the running of the house, they lived together, work in the same office, share the same room, share things in common, eat together. When you come to the house, you won’t know whose child is this or whose mother is this. I am blessed with three great mothers, beautiful, loving. We are all very close. I can go to any of them anytime I go home.
“We are ten children in all. My mum had four, the second had four and the third had two. I have never seen a family like ours before. Dad was a singer and a music lover. All of us play musical instruments. All of us used to sing together. I didn’t just have the flair for singing. Whenever there was no light, one person could just sing from upstairs and the other person will just take it from downstairs and that’s how the music will start flowing. That’s how they started singing: Nini and Teni.
“My favourite Teni song is Uyo Meyo. She did that song when she graduated from school and I was so happy. My dad would have been happier, seeing her graduate. She was just a baby when he died. She was my baby right from when she was born. Seeing her grow up made me happy. I am happy that my sisters are great and doing fine musically.
“Nini is also doing well in her music. We are all very close. In fact, as I am speaking to you sir, I am in Nini’s house. We visit each other regularly. If I don’t tell you we are not from the same mum, you won’t know. We thank God everyone is doing well in their field.
“My husband is an embryologist. He is in the business of giving life through artificial insemination. He injects the sperm into the egg and keeps it in the incubator till it is ready and is given to the doctor to take it back to the womb. Life indeed is a song. I am thanking God for my life, for my mother, for my husband, for my wonderful children. God has been faithful and good to me Adedoyin, the daughter of Simeon and Gladys Apata.”