Her Life

Childhood & Early Life: Lagos, Ibadan & Imesi-Ile

Florence Bamidele Makanjuola (nee Familusi) was born on December 18, 1921, in Lagos. She was the first child of Leah Oretipe Familusi (nee Fagbo) & Gilbert Ifajaiyeyomi Familusi, both of whom hailed from Imesi-Ile (Ile Akeegun family compound) in modern Osun State. Oretipe was a renowned dressmaker and Alaso-oke , Gilbert a shoe designer and cobbler who produced Opekete Shoes; both lived at 12, Bamgbose Street, Lagos.

Florence had a loving, happy and communal childhood where good graces, a high sense of integrity, prayer and the love of God were instilled from birth. She was the first of ten surviving children within a polygamous family consisting of her mother and step mother. Her father, Gilbert, was soft- spoken but commanded much respect; he was loving to all his children, especially gentle with his daughters and had great expectations for their education; this was extremely progressive for that time. Her mother Leah was slight of build and a disciplinarian, especially with money - Florence was to emulate this sense of thriftiness, industry and financial independence her entire life. 

Education: Teaching or Nursing?

Once Bamidele could put her right hand over her left ear as was customary in those days, she enrolled in primary school. She attended Methodist Primary School Tinubu and Ebute Meta Methodist Primary School. Such was her brilliance that upon completion of Primary 4 she was admitted to the prestigious Queens College, Lagos. 
Early inspiration for Bamidele’s eventual career as a nurse and midwife was found in Florence Nightingale, the famous British noblewoman and founder of modern nursing. Nightingale was horrified at the injuries and treatment of soldiers during the Crimean War, serving on the front lines to offer them food, medicines and asking for support from her wealthy family. Because Gilbert spoke admiringly of Florence Nightingale, Bamidele was quite enamoured of her and held a lifelong passion for the nursing profession and the care of others. 
At some point, however, Gilbert urged his daughter to pursue a career as a teacher instead. Obediently, she left Queen’s College Lagos and proceeded to Home Craft Center, Ilesha - founded by the British couple, Mr & Mrs Ludlow – to train as a vocational studies teacher. She later enrolled for full teacher training at United Missionary College, Molete, Ibadan; she was elected as Head Girl at both institutions. Following UMC, Bamidele returned to Home Craft Center as a teacher. She taught for five years in fulfilment of her bond to the government, but never forgot her dream to one day become a nurse. 

England: Foundations for a Career in Nursing & Midwifery

After the Second World War, Florence accepted a scholarship from the British Government which was arranged through one Miss Blunter to study Nursing and Midwifery in the United Kingdom. Ahead of her departure, she worked as a nurse-in-training at Jericho Nursing Home Ibadan. She departed for England in May, 1946 on the HMS Almanzora Battleship, an armed merchant cruiser. She finished her nursing course in 1949 and served as staff. During the course, she stayed in ‘hospital quarters’ as hotels were quite expensive.  Florence studied midwifery between 1949 and 1950 at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and proceeded to postgraduate studies in obstetrics and gynecology at Chelsea Hospital for Women in 1950. She worked at the Mild May Mission Home Hospital in England and at the Women’s Hospital, Toronto when she and husband Tunde lived in Canada for a year in 1962. 

Destined for Leadership

Florence’s teen to young adult years was spent at school in Lagos and Ibadan with many holidays spent at Imesi – Ile. She could often be found preaching the word, organising church activities or staging community youth plays. These initiatives and her leadership roles at Home Craft & UMC showed a natural predisposition for leadership, which was solidified following the death of her beloved father Gilbert at the prime of his life.  Florence, then only in her mid-twenties, took on a formal leadership role within the extended family.

Finding Love: From Imesi to England

Bamidele met her dashing future husband, Dr Olatunde Olaribigbe Makanjuola in Nigeria. The Familusi and Makanjuola families were close, with connections to Imesi-Ile royalty. The elder Makanjuola, a successful businessman desired that his son marry a decent Ijesha lady and so actively encouraged the union with Florence. He sent emissaries for this purpose, including Dr Odeleye Fadahunsi, Premier of the Old Western Region who visited Bamidele and other Ijesha sons and daughters in the UK in 1950. 
Mutual presence in the United Kingdom pursuing their respective medical training provided the perfect opportunity to get to know each other better. Bamidele and Tunde pursued a formal courtship and eventually got married, raising five biological children, fifteen grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren.
Whilst they had huge prospects and made many friends in England they decided to return home. A one year stint in Canada in 1962 where Tunde pursued his postgraduate studies was also quite pleasant. However, their strong ties to Nigeria, particularly ageing parents was impossible to ignore.
Upon return from the UK, Florence served briefly as the Nursing Sister in Charge at the Adeoyo General Hospital, Ibadan, whilst Tunde worked at University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan. When Tunde secured a position at the General Hospital, Broad Street, Lagos  (he later rose of the position of Head of the Chest Clinic), they moved to Lagos. 
To create flexibility to pursue her nursing career and also raise her children, Bamidele set up and managed the Makanjuola Nursing & Maternity Home situated behind their family home in Idi-Oro, Mushin Lagos. She worked there as a nurse and midwife caring for many patients in the community for over two decades. In the late 70’s, the clinic was leased to the late Beko Ransome Kuti following the destruction of the Kalakuta compound on the same street. 
Bamidele and Tunde built a successful marriage grounded in love, friendship and true partnership. They shared many interests. Dances at Hammersmith Palace in the UK, movies and theatre, restaurants on birthdays and anniversaries and a love for football (she - Nigerian Railway FC, he - Stationery Stores FC). They also jointly contributed to the financial responsibilities, scrimping and saving together to build their home on Oremeji Street, Palm Avenue, one of the loveliest in the area at the time. 

Sweet Mother and Friend for All Seasons

She was a caring and protective mother, an unapologetic disciplinarian, perhaps given her teaching background. She disliked telling lies, telling tales (eke), stealing and being prideful most of all and instilled these values in her offspring and younger siblings. 
Punishment was designed to fit the crime and corporal punishment later eschewed for creative penances like writing ‘one hundred lines of things you promise not to do again’. She never forgot birthdays and ensured her grandchildren and great-grandchildren got cash gifts way into their adulthood. She sponsored her siblings’ secondary and tertiary education ensuring all built successful careers in medicine, accounting and academia. 

Florence also opened up her home to many others for whom she was a foster mother, taking responsibility for their feeding, accommodation, moral instruction and education through to adulthood. There are numerous testimonies of her thoughtfulness,  kindness and generosity. Her home was a haven and succour for all needing help. She turned away neither family nor strangers and was always welcoming with food and frank advice.
She believed that a brave smile and faith in God could solve any problem no matter how big, often saying ‘chin-up’ when someone was sad or expressed worry around her. Bamidele was a committed alms-giver throughout her life - she would often ask for brand new currency notes to hand out just when you needed it. She was a hardworking woman of modest means, yet her generosity new no bounds.

Spirituality: ‘Igbagbo mi duro lori Jesu’

Florence had a special and constant relationship with God throughout her life. She was a very active member of Methodist Churches of Odi-Olowo and Palm Avenue and was Life Patron of Good Women Christian Society where her charitable work was lauded by church elders. From her early years being brought up and preaching the word – serving as a lay preacher both in Nigeria and England - she remained steadfast in her belief in prayer as the solution to all problems and the word of Jesus as her only rock and salvation. Bamidele fully lived and espoused these values, taking communion at every available opportunity. She especially loved to sing Christian hymns, one of her favorites being ‘Igbagbo mi duro lori Jesu’ or My Faith Rests on Jesus’. She continued find refuge in prayer, psalms, praise and worship, singing hymns until her last moments. 

Advocate for Women’s Financial Independence

Florence was a strong believer and advocate for women’s rights and gender equality. Her life example of hard work and the pursuit of educational attainment and financial independence demonstrated her personal conviction that women should contribute to the family finances and not rely solely on a man’s income. Whilst she had a number of marriage proposals during her training in the UK, she rebuffed them, insisting on completing her studies before getting married. 
Florence did not want to be a liability to her husband and was determined to build a successful career at a time when women were expected to marry early. She encouraged her children and female wards to save, invest, build businesses and achieve the highest levels of educational and career attainment. Florence was very concerned about lifting people from poverty, especially women. 
One of her dying wishes was to see her foundation for the education of indigent girls in Imesi-Ile kick off & flourish. 

Shrewd Investor: A Fool and His Money are soon Parted

Florence was a keen and disciplined investor, owning land, homes and rental property across the country including many stocks of blue-chip companies. She was meticulous at managing and monitoring the income from these investments and involved her children & grandchildren in her business affairs. Bamidele earned a pension from her work in the UK and was diligent about collecting and investing it. Once, well into her eighties, she insisted on going to the British High Comission in Lagos to in her words ‘confirm she was still alive and able to collect her pension due’ as the payments had stopped coming!

Lifelong Learner: Intelligent, Articulate & Witty

Florence had a sharp mind and excellent memory, she could hold a conversation on almost any topic and remember the minutest of details about events from childhood. She was patriotic, with keen interest in governance and discussed national and world affairs, envisioning a prosperous Nigeria that offered opportunities of a decent living standard for those willing to work.
Florence was also quick-witted with a sharp tongue and a no-nonsense but comical attitude to life’s twists and turns. A lifelong learner, she read newspapers well into her late 90’s only stopping when she lost her eyesight. She also kept abreast of popular culture and digital trends; recently asking to join Facebook when she learned that it was a platform for connecting with old friends! 

A Study in Contrasts: Strong, yet elegant, gracious and beautiful

Though strong-willed and fiercely independent, Bamidele was also distinctively feminine. She was the quintessential ‘Lady’ and was so nicknamed by her peers. She took great care of her skin with a simple regimen of ‘soap, water and coconut oil’, ate wholesome food and was always excellently dressed. Her favorite color was green - perhaps because it is the color of life. She loved cotton night dresses, fragrances and enjoyed little pleasures like salmon, chocolate, wine, cheese & biscuits and ice-cream. She had a can do spirit, lively personality, loved to sing and danced well into her centenary year.