By Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode
On Sunday, May 23, 2021, Dr. Ajoke Murtala Muhammed the wife of the late Head of State, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed, was 80 years old.
She was born on May 23, 1941 and started her professional journey as a Dental Therapist before she married late Murtala in 1962 and they settled down into matrimonial life. On Friday February 13th 1976, life dealt a fatal blow and death claimed the life of Nigeria’s beloved hero General Murtala Ramat Muhammed and the Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at a prime age of 36 years old, in a failed coup.
It was indeed a challenging mantle left on the shoulders of a young 33 year old widow now solely responsible for the welfare of her children and their many adopted nieces and nephews. Many of which have gone on to be extremely successful in their professions and careers. Since General Murtala Muhammed, Dr Ajoke Murtala Muhammed, like a trojan has been determined and relentless in her pursuits.
She has become one of Africa’s most renowned conservationists. She established and runs Nigeria’s only two botanical gardens in Lagos and Abuja, where many plants going into extinction are conserved. For the last 30 years, she has travelled the world to find and import endangered plants as seeds with the aim to conserve, propagate and disseminate forgotten indigenous plants. She organizes plant expeditions to remote villages in Nigeria and has the largest private collection of palms in West Africa.
She founded the green belt movement in Nigeria and continues to expound the importance of exploring the commercial value of our indigenous plants. She also serves on the board of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation.
She is currently the Vice President of the Murtala Muhammed Foundation, an institution set up to formulate policy and advocate for girls education, human rights, women empowerment, provide disaster relief and generally support the betterment of the lives of Africans.
Her passion does not stop with environmental preservation. She is passionate about education for all and has spent her life committed to serving humanity. She is a bridge builder; across tribes, generations and socio-economic divisions. She has overcome many challenges including the loss of her first son, and has become an epitome of dignity, grace, and equanimity.
On the softer side, she is an avid reader, writer and linguist. Her greatest talent till today yet undiscovered though, is her exceptional voice.
As she rocks the octogenarian age, one can only wish for ‘’Mama” a consequential Matriarch the best wishes on attaining eight decades of life! And wish her many more happy years of good health and happiness!