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Why I Still Can't Believe I Am 60 – MD NORDICA Fertility Centre, Dr. ABAYOMI AJAYI

Not many people know that Nordica Fertility Center Medical Director, Dr Abayomi Ajayi will be 60 in few weeks. The reason is simple. He looks young, agile, active and very fashionable too. He is a happy husband, father and grandfather who has achieved so much in the field of fertility health.

Of course, his name is very synonymous with battling infertility in Nigeria and his outfit, Nordica Fertility Center is one of the best fertility centers in the country. He has really done a lot for many families in the last few years.

Last week, City People Magazine Team ably led by the Publisher, Dr. SEYE KEHINDE, DAMILARE SALAMI and Videographer, OLAOLUWA OGUNTOYINBO met with Dr. Ajayi at his Lagos office for an interview and there, he opened up on many things about his life and why he is so grateful to God at 60. Below are some of the excerpts from the interview, read on.

How do you feel being 60?

Well, I find it so difficult that I am going to be 60. Let’s look at it from so many angles. The first thing is that I don’t feel 60, the second thing is that maybe I don’t believe I am going to live up to 60 years.

Why would you think like that?

Ok, my father died when he was 45, so I think in my mind, I just did not think that I can be up to 60. I am happy, I am pleasantly surprised but again, now maybe I don’t feel 60. Again, I am not what I used to look like but I am not old either. So, I count every day as a blessing. It’s an opportunity that must be used but let’s say because I didn’t plan for it. I am grateful to God that I am going to be 60. I think it’s my wife that used to remind me that I am going to be 60, she calls me Baba 60. It’s a wonderful thing to be alive and be able to add one or two things. It makes me to seem as if I am in a hurry because I want to accomplish as much as I can while I am still here and fortunately, I have very good health not because of anything I’ve done but because of the grace of God. I have wonderful children and grandchildren so there are so many things to be grateful to God for. Nothing that I did make all these possible but the grace of God.

Sir, in the last 60 years, you seemed to have accomplished a lot. Was it deliberate, was it planned?

I don’t think anybody can say that I planned anything. I mean, you could plan but God has a way of sorting things out. But for me, I didn’t plan anything. I was just a regular guy trying to live life and an opportunity came and here we are. So, I will be stupid to say that I planned it. But just as the Yoruba adage says that a deep thinker will always be full of gratitude because you ask yourself that how many gynecologists are in Nigeria and that why did God allow some things to happen especially for somebody like me who has nothing and nobody. I think it’s just the grace of God that you are in a particular place at a particular time and then it works out. I think that is what has shaped my way of life. I don’t see that I have achieved anything not because I have planned to do anything, not that I have the pedigree; and well… my father was successful during his own time but he died very early. I was an orphan at 14 and people used to pray for me. That’s why I don’t joke with prayers. I remember when my father died, people used to pray for me that I will enjoy life in such a way that my father could not. I will never forget that. Sometimes you ask yourself why you in life but it is what it is.

I would like to take it up from where you stopped. What was growing up like for you having lost your dad at 14?

My mother died when I was nine, my father took the two roles to an extent. Of course, he remarried but for me, I don’t think I really missed my mother’s absence. Well, maybe I was too young. My father died when I was 14 and I had to go and live with my uncle. But tell you what, seriously, except for maybe some few things, money was not an issue and I don’t know how, it was not just an issue with me. When I was in the university and I tell people that I was an orphan, they will be like that’s impossible, you’re enjoying life. That was how my life was. I think God intentionally patterned my life that at every time, everything I need will come up and that’s why for me, God is so important. I entered Unilag at 17 and I remember that in those days, between the gate and the main campus, there were no many busses but you just stand there and people will give you a lift; it was almost taken for granted that somebody will give you a ride. So, I took that ride one day and I started a chat with somebody saying I’m a medical student and bla bla bla… and he said why are you studying medicine? That was the first time anybody will ask me that question and you know what? I didn’t have an answer. That day, I also asked myself the same question but it was as if I couldn’t study any other thing, that’s the way my life was always patterned.  You know we were the first set to write JAMB and my first, second and third choices were all medicine; that now took me back to why I am studying medicine but I still don’t think I can answer that question till now. But it was as if there was nothing else for me to study. It was just like when I was training to become a Gynaecologist and somebody else asked me why I am becoming a Gynaecologist and my answer was ok, what else is there to become if not this?

But what made you gravitate towards medicine and gynecology?

That’s what I’m trying to say. It’s as if my life has been patterned for this without my knowledge because the first day I was taught gynecology in school, I knew that that was what I wanted to specialize in. it’s so bad that there was somebody whom we served together. She was my senior, she served one year before me but now worked together at the same office where I served. So we didn’t see each other for about 10 years and somebody who knew the two of us but didn’t know that we know each other and then told her about me. When I heard, I picked up my phone to call her and asked why she thought I would be a gynecologist and she said when we were corpers, all you talked about was to be a gynecologist. So I think that is how my life has been patterned without my knowledge. Everything will just fall into place at the right time. Why did I do IVF? The first day I heard about it, I knew that I was going to do it. I had never seen IVF before and then I finished my O and G and I said I wanted to do IVF. I remember I went to apply for a scholarship and I went to see Alhaji Alhaji who said Dr Ajayi, infertility is not a problem in Nigeria. I was working in a Lagoon hospital and one day, somebody who I had never seen before wrote me an email asking if I was interested in setting up an IVF clinic in Nigeria. It didn’t take me two minutes to answer the question and I think that the way I did, the guy at the other end got it that he was talking to the right person. The guy was the one who paid for me to travel to see how IVF was done for the first time in my life. I just believe that whatever God says will be, will be so that’s it.

That was how many years ago sir?

2001. immediately after that, everything just started happening. I came back and we started Nordica in 2003. Although I had to resign my appointment in Lagoon hospital even though I wanted to do this there with them, we just couldn’t get a headway so I left them in 2002 and started this in 2003.

One can say that in your case, you’ve been active for like 25 years, seeing patients and attending to them every day. What has that done to you in terms of helping you understand what you do better? What has changed in your view?

Not only have I been doing this for quite a while, but I’ve also attended many conferences in almost every part of the world on infertility. Yesterday I was just going through a bag in my study and when I checked what was inside, it was a conference I attended in 2011 and I said oh! This was about ten years ago and that has opened my mind to so many things. That is why we have been at the forefront of some of the things that are new in this part of medicine in this country. It has made us to also be able to partner with some of the top people in other parts of the world on the job. Don’t forget that research is not a part of one of our foretastes in Nigeria. We are probably one of the private hospitals that have published over 50 papers in Nigeria because we also think that there is a big gap that needs to be filled for us to be able to represent Nigeria in this space. Before now, when you say you are from Nigeria, people used to look at you and say is there infertility problem there also? I thought you guys are dealing with overpopulation already, what are you doing here? But I think that is changing now because Nigeria and Nigerians are also in that space now and that’s why we can say that there are some clinics that can hold their own in the international sphere.

Looking at the efforts that you have put into this, what has kept you going? I can imagine you doing the same thing day in day out, year in year out…

Cuts in… I’m not doing the same thing year-in, year-out at all.

I guess everything you are doing is around infertility.

That’s to you now, every day I have new challenges. For instance, now look at this fibroid project that I talked about, it is different. Look, the industry we are is a young industry, fertility industry in Nigeria is a very young industry, so, there are changes. And those are some of the things that you need to keep yourself abreast of. Why it is difficult is that you can’t do control in reproduction. For example, now, they have been able to get a vaccine for COVID-19 in nine months because there is control. The biggest problem we have is implantation. We know how to get fertilization because we can get 75 percent success rate of fertilization but implantation is still at 25 percent.


Because you can’t go to the uterus to dig up what you have put there; so, we have limitations also. Somethings will pop up and you say oh! This is it, the success rate is at 80 percent but after 2 years it will no longer be so. There are always new things, it depends on how much of your time you want to dedicate to it. I know many people don’t have time in Nigeria for whatever reason but for me, the only thing I know how to do is to be a doctor.

So how come you are not distracted?

Focus is the most important thing that somebody should have. I’m sure that you are focused, that’s why you are still here. Why have you not left in 25 years? I’m sure that people have given you all kinds of ideas but you are still here. Focus is what will get you through when things are tough. So for me, the only thing I know how to do is to be a doctor. It does not mean I have to give injection but if you give me anything in medicine, I can understand. I don’t invest in anything that is not medical because I must be able to understand what you are explaining to me. There are so many obstacles on our way that we need to overcome in a country like ours. So, there’s always one challenge or the other, some of them are mundane while others are self-inflicted. But there’s always something new in Nigeria especially. But seriously, if you want to excel in any endeavor in life, focus is a very important element. Jack of all trades normally don’t succeed.

Has there been a time that you got disappointed on the job especially since you set up Nordica Fertility Center?

When we first started, we were in VGC, and in our first 30 treatments, there was no pregnancy. We had staff quarters there then in VGC and one day, when everybody had gone home, I locked myself up in the staff quarters and I was asking myself so many difficult questions. Are you sure this is what you wanted to do? And I remember one of my bosses, the first time he came to check me at VGC; he said Dr. Ajayi it’s either you are mad or you mean business. But I know that you are not mad, the man is dead now. Because he looked at me and wondered how someone can just decide that this is all he wants to do. But that period, I started having a rethink and was asking myself if I was sure I was not going to add some normal obstetrics and gynecology into it. But immediately after that, things just started happening, there was a mistake we were making and we now saw where it was. I think that was the only time that I ever thought about going back. Since then, if anything comes, we will solve it.

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