her Life

The Biography of Chief (Mrs.) Christianah Oni Deru (nee Ogunkoya)

Chief (Mrs.) Christianah Oni Deru (nee Ogunkoya), an indigene of Isonyin in Ijebu, Ogun State, was born on January 26, 1940, to the family of Late Mr. Ezekiel Jolugbokoyi Ogunkoya and Late Mrs. Elizabeth Abosede Ogunkoya, as the fifth child of eight children. She was born into a family of educationists. Her father was a teacher who served as the headmaster of various schools, while her mother initially worked as a teacher and later ventured in trading in general provisions. 

Because her father was posted to different schools to serve as headmaster, her primary school education was at different schools as her family moved to different towns in Ijebu and its environs according to the dictates of her father’s job. She started her primary school education at Christ Anglican School, Odosenlu and continued at St. Mary Anglican School, Ijebu-Imushin and St. Barnabas Anglican Primary School, Okun-Owa, where she completed her primary education in 1954. Prior to St. Barnabas Anglican Primary School, she attended a primary school in Kano, during a one-year stint in Kano when she went to live with her beloved aunty, Late Mrs Felicia AdekunbiOnasanya (then known as “Mama Kano” and later as “Mama Jos”). 

Upon completing her primary education, she continued in her family’s teaching tradition. Through her father’s influence, she secured a position as a pupil teacher at St Paul’s Anglican Primary School in Odogbolu, Ogun State, where she taught from 1955 to 1957. Thereafter, she proceeded to the Teacher Training College in Okun-Owa in 1958 and obtained her Grade III Teaching Certificate in 1959. From 1960 to 1961, she taught at Emmanuel School, Isonyin, where she also served as the head of the primary school section. In 1961, she decided to further her teaching career by enrolling at St. Mary’s Teacher Training College in Owo, Ondo State, where she obtained her Grade II Teaching Certificate in 1962. With this new qualification, she went on to teach at St. Paul’s School in Offin, Sagamu, from 1963 to 1964. 

While spending Christmas in Isonyin in December 1955, she met Samuel Olufemi Deru (now Otunba Deru), who would later become her husband in a happy and blessed marriage spanning more than 50 years. Mr. Deru, whose family house was opposite that of the Ogunkoyas, had been asked by Pa Ogunkoya to escort Oni and her sisters to a couple of the Christmas Youth Dances. That began the friendship that quickly blossomed into a bond of love. In the summer of 1965, she left Nigeria for London, England, to join Mr. Deru and further her studies. This was following her engagement with Mr Deru through a traditional engagement ceremony. On August 5, 1967,Oni and Olufemi got married in London. 

In London, she trained as a Secretary at the Princeton College, Holborn, from about September 1965 to the summer of 1967. While in London, she worked in secretarial roles at Her Majesty Service Tax Office, Grosvenor District, London, Thorn Electrical Company and YMCA Tottenham Court Road, London. She also learned how to drive a car in London. Driving and teaching others how to drive would later became a life-long passion of hers. She taught her children and a few friends and relatives how to drive.

In 1968, she and her husband had their first child, Tolulope. In 1971, she and her husband moved back to Lagos, Nigeria while she was pregnant with their second child, Akinwale. 

In 1972, she joined A.G. Leventis at Iddo House, Lagos, as a Secretary to the Executive Director - Finance. In February 1978, she attended a course of study at the University of Lagos that developed and enhanced her new responsibility in personnel management. In 1983, having served various directors and risen to the position of Personnel Manager and following discussions with her husband, she retired from A.G. Leventis to have more time to care for her children, a decision her children are forever indebted to her for. During her years at A.G. Leventis, she had her last three children, Babatunde (1974), Adekunle (1976) and Bisola (1980).

About a year or two before she disengaged from A.G. Leventis, with support from her husband, she established Coni Trading Company through which she operated Coni Trading Supermarket, a store selling general merchandise and some baked goods, in Obanikoro, Lagos, for several years. She thereby followed in her mother’s enterprising steps as a trader. She was also a distributor of Coca-Cola and other soft drinks for several years. In later years, about the time of her husband’s retirement from Berec, Coni Trading Company’s business metamorphosed into the distribution of Altak plastic furniture, the production and distribution of boxer shorts and the rental of tables, chairs and canopies for parties (under the “Coni Rentals” business name).   

Chief (Mrs.) Deru derived so much pleasure from cooking, baking (a passion her daughter, Bisola, inherited) and entertaining guests. She was so hospitable, so much so that in some quarters, her home was fondly called “Hospitality Inn”. Motivated by these passions, in or about 1985, she decided to enroll in a catering school, which was followed by an internship period at the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos. Various guests at her home were customarily treated to various dishes and an assortment of pastries. 

She was also active in the community and in church. She was a President of District 911 of the Inner Wheel Club, during which term she spearheaded the floral beautification of the Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way in Ikeja, Lagos, among other projects. She was a member of the Meji Circle and Kobodeclubs of Isonyin. She was a congregant at All Saints Anglican Church, Yaba, where she was a member of The Torch Bearers Society and served as Vice President, at Emmanuel Anglican Church, Isonyin, her hometown church, where she was a member of The Ladies Progressive Society, matron of the Girls Guild and Iya Ewe (Mother of the Youths), and, in a last years, Archbishop Vining Memorial Church, Ikeja. She was also the matron of the YMCA of ST. Andrews Church, Ipaja. She was the Yeye Otunba Gbadero of Isonyin. She and her husband were recipients of the Best Couple Award by Christian Unity Band of Nigeria.

Chief (Mrs.) Deru was called home to The Lord on Monday, January 13, 2020 and is survived by her husband, five children, twelve grand-children, two sisters, several nephews, nieces and other relatives and in-laws. 

Fondly called “dear mi” by her husband, a name by which she also called him, and “C.O.D.” by her children, she will be remembered in so many ways, including as a woman who was completely devoted to her husband and children, a deeply loving, caring and supportive wife and mother, a mother to so many, a supremely warm, welcoming and hospitable lady, a woman of strong and Godly character, a lady with exquisite taste, a lady that portrayed elegance with simplicity, a lover of quality, a witty lady with a witty sense of humour, a perfectionist, a woman with an extraordinary work ethic and a lover of all things culinary – a true darling.