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darlin Osayanmo Kayode Sofola



June 5th 1955 – January 17th 2021


It is an exercise in futility to try and summarise the powerful presence and purposeful life of Darlin Osayanmo Sofola in a few short paragraphs. In truth even several books would not do her story justice because she lived a life that was layered, nuanced, riveting and full of joy. A moment though in her presence was enough to understand the gift of the journey of her life, her conviction in the love of God and her trust in the gift of Jesus Christ. She was a blessing to everyone she came across, people often felt like they were the most important person in the world for the time they were with her. 


Papa’s ‘Darlin’ was born in the early evening of June 5th 1955 at the family home on 4 Cunliffe Close, in the government Residential Area in Kaduna, Nigeria to “Papa”, Chief F.S. Giwa-Osagie and “Mama”, Madam Margaret Etotan Giwa-Osagie. As the sun dipped into the evening sky, Mama’s efforts were rewarded and she delivered her precious Darlin into the world, supported by Mrs Ukponmwan a mid-wife from Calabar. Papa, her father, a prison officer, sat waiting in the living room during her birth, with his good friend the late General Aguiyi-Ironsi sharing a whisky while they waited for the impending arrival elsewhere in the house. Mr and Mrs Ogundeji and Mrs Garrick would be appointed as God-parents to Osayanmo - God’s own child. 


We wonder whether the world knew the next morning how much new life had been born into it, wrapped into that one little girl. That this little lady would take no moment for granted and would set every minute alight with her unique vision and her boundless quest for life. From her early days in Kaduna, Darlin moved with her family to Cameroon and then on to Port Harcourt. The family moved to a hilltop home in Enugu where Darlin started school and in an early testament to her fluency in languages and the unspoken language of people, she learnt basic igbo attending St Mathias School. Darlin had fond memories of growing up in family homes filled with siblings and cousins and members of the broader prison service milling through the home. Darlin moved to Lagos just in time for Nigeria’s independence, the beginning of the life of the nation coincided with the beginning of the life of Darlin in the city she would immerse herself in and truly love. She started school at St Mary’s School Broad street, before being moved by her father to Anglican Girls School Broad street. She often described building forteresses out of mud in her family compound as a child with an attention to structural integrity and detail that puzzled her siblings but were early signals of the love of buildings and architecture, which she would develop later in life. 


Darlin loved her life and her childhood in Lagos. In January 1967 Darlin left home for the beginning of her secondary school years in Our Lady of Apostles catholic school in Ibadan. She was not happy with this situation and in typical Darlin style she made her feelings known clearly and emotionally to Papa over a year. In 1968, Darlin would get her way, Queen’s School would move from Ede to Ibadan and Darlin changed to Queen’s School alongside her sister Sweet. Darlin loved her time at Queen’s School, boarding school satisfied her inquisitive nature, her appetite for adventure and her extroverted social countenance. She made many close friends. Darlin would perfect her famously proficient native yoruba language skills, greatly enjoy the chance to learn french and explore her natural creativity with fine art classes. Over the last few years along with a love for whatsapp connectivity and groups, Darlin would reconnect with many of her classmates from this time. 


Darlin’s mantra was to do good by people and never wish them bad. She believed that in all things only God was the true helper and you should also do right by people and wish them well. She was a firm supporter of every person she met. Indiscriminately wishing people well and showing them God’s love, which she felt was the minimum we should all do. She believed we were all flawed and in seeing those flaws we should accommodate and forgive others where it wouldn’t cause anyone harm. She remembered from childhood reading the Rotary 4-way test on her father’s wall and embedding it in her subconscious: “Is it the TRUTH?, Is it FAIR to all concerned? Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?"


Darlin joined university of Ibadan in 1973 to study Zoology. She settled into a fun and fulfilling time making more life long friends and memories that would last a life-time. After completing her NYSC at Anglican school in Surulere, Lagos from 1976 to 1977. Darlin loved teaching and would return to this passion at intervals. Darlin joined Coopers & Lybrand in 1976 as a graduate. She loved the pace of the role and the chance to keep on the move meeting a wide variety of people through work. After meeting her husband Kayode Sofola, she would transition from her accounting role to teaching at the Federal School of Arts and Science. Darlin founded Start-rite school a nursery school in Lagos with alumni who have excelled in the best universities and colleges across the world. She was renowned for her business acumen, seeing opportunities, realising them and executing with dogged determination. Darlin was a serial entrepreneur whose business interests cut across sectors as diverse as real estate, education, catering, textiles, trading in fast moving consumer goods and hospitality. Each of her business pursuits provided an outlet for the voracious energy and enthusiasm for challenges that was innate to Darlin’s character. 


Darlin was a problem solver. This stood her well in identifying opportunities, exploring them astutely and executing them decisively. Darlin applied this same clarity of thought and discernment to guiding and advising all those around her. Helping others identify opportunities for new businesses and to expand their existing businesses. A mentor to many and a supporter to many more, she advised friends and strangers alike on their business interests. 


Darlin is survived by her husband Kayode, who she describes as God’s own gift to her; her answered prayer, and her children Kolade  & Shekinah Sofola, Juwon & Nathalie Sofola, Bukunola and Lanre Alakija, Ladipo Sofola, and her grandchildren Ladipo Alakija, Tireni Alakija, Kolapo Sofola and Koyinsola Sofola. 

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