The Minister's name was Dr. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti. He had big sleepy eyes and seemed to come from another time in the past when old-fashioned integrity was easy. His simplicity surprised my father. He was not interested in the usual carousing of the powerful, no late nights and drinking and trysts, and my father did not have to guard any secrets for him. He ate breakfast with his family every morning, and took walks with his wife in the evening, and played tennis with his children on weekends. He listened attentively, those half-closed eyes so intent that my father, at first, felt uncomfortable when they were trained on him.
The Minister asked my father about his family, and my father told him everyone was fine. The Minister asked how many children he had, and my father said none yet, but that his wife was pregnant and due in a few weeks. (My mother was pregnant with me). Then the minister asked a question that startled my father. "How many of your children have died?"
My father stuttered and said 'two sir, but we are praying that it will not happen again."
The Minister told him it was good to pray, but there was something else he had to do.
"Our children are dying of simple illnesses and that must stop. I want you to take me to your village. I have started a program in Lagos but I want to start others in different parts of the country. We will go to your village next week."
It took my heavy-tongued father a while to find his voice and say, "Yes sir."