Today, May 2, 2016, is the 50th birthday of Ogun State First Lady, Mrs. Olufunso Amosun – and in celebration of that milestone, YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, AZUH ARINZE, brings you a riveting interview with the charming mother of five who unarguably is one of the most beautiful First Ladies in Nigeria. A true embodiment of beauty and brains, the elegant and electrifying woman opened up to us on Friday, April 29, 2016, inside the Government House, in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Shedding light on a pot pourri of issues, both private and otherwise, the Master’s degree holder in Guidance & Conselling (from UNILAG) was simply fun to be with. Excerpts…
Your Excellency is 50, but she doesn’t look 50…
I will take that as a compliment. Thank you very much, and I will give all glory for that to God. But yes, I have the birth certificate. I am 50 (laughter).
What’s going to change about you now that you are 50?
I think when you attain that age, you become more reflective, you realize that you are privileged to attain the golden age and I guess that things that might have been so unimportant to you start becoming important – like issues of health. I don’t think I’m there yet, to be honest. I mean, I haven’t really started worrying about, okay, maybe physical strength and things like that. But you are just sort of becoming more reflective, realizing that, okay, this is the second half, by God’s grace. That is the only aspect that I can think of. Not that I’ve really processed it or maybe I haven’t attained it yet. It’s still forthcoming. But just really to be honest, I just know that I’m thankful to God, reflecting on where I am, the grace that He has given me, the opportunities, the privilege of good health and things like that. I’m just more thankful as I realize maybe looking at some peers; realizing their situations and where I am now. God has been kind to me. Even in terms of husband, lovely children, I mean, I can’t stop counting my blessings. So, I’m just so thankful to God.
Well, I would’ve said that I don’t like not being able to be myself, but I am myself. I would’ve said I don’t like the fact that I always have a large shadow around me – in terms of having people around me, but maybe being a second term, the people round me have come to understand that I’m my own person and that they can’t always follow me around, even if it’s their duty. So, I think now, I like being a wife of the governor, especially because, to the glory of God, and I say this with all sense of responsibility, my husband has done a good job as a governor and I feel proud to raise my head up high that I’m his wife. With the on-goings in Nigeria now and without being particular or putting any focus on anybody, I mean, sometimes when you are in this privileged position; it could be due to circumstances or whatever, you don’t deliver what the people expect of you. But I make bold to say that to the best of my husband’s ability, he has fulfilled his promises and I feel proud and that makes me happy to say that I am his wife.
What are some of the things you share in common with your husband?
After 25 years, I think the question should be what are the things we don’t share in common? (laughter). However, I’ve found that opposites seem to attract and so where he’s a hands-on people person, and he wouldn’t mind jumping into a crowd and just taking people on by way of speaking to them, I sort of do it by delegating. Like through lots of my UPLIFT (Understanding People’s Limiting and Inhibiting Factors Today) programmes, I kind of…but let me take it from the softer aspect – Spouses of Ogun State Government Functionary Association. I’ve come to realize that sometimes members of the association might want to bring things to my attention, but might be a bit reluctant about it. However, I found out that sometimes they find it a bit more easier to speak to second in command. So, even though I reach out to people and I impact positively on them, I am in my opinion approachable, I tend to work with people by allowing them to find whichever avenue is comfortable for them to reach me and to feed them back as opposed to me jumping up and saying okay, you can walk through my door. Well, I will say my door is open, I say you can send me a message; anybody who knows me know that I’m not very good with picking phone calls. So, I said okay, if you want to reach me, you can send me a message; that I will respond that way. Like recently, we had a meeting and I said I have a suggestion box that if you want to send any message or get any message across to me, you don’t necessarily have to write your name; that I will hold the key of the suggestion box. So, feel free to write anything; that I need to know what’s going on in your mind. I understand that they might not be able to tell me to my face; I however want to know the true position of what is going on in their minds. So, that’s another way that I sort of reach out to people. I’m like an open door, but I have other avenues through which you can reach me such that you can be honest with me without holding back.
Could you please just give us a brief flashback on your growing up years, etc?
I guess I will flash back to the beginning of marriage years…
(Interruption) – Before marriage?
Okay! So, do you want me to run a documentary on my whole life? (general laughter). I was born on the 2nd of May, 1966 to a humble family of Bishop Michael Ayoade Odesanya and Elder Olushola Odesanya. I did half of my primary school education in the United Kingdom (at James Norland School); I did the second half in Ayodele Nursery and Preparatory School, which was in Iyaganku, Ibadan and then I went up to Yejide Girls Grammar School, I attended the Oyo State School of Arts and Science and then I went to the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, where I studied English Education, and then I fell in love! (laughter). I met His Excellency, who then owned an accounting firm, and I guess the rest is history. We have five wonderful children, who we are very proud of.
Well, I think that’s a kind of funny as well as a complex question. However, everybody is entitled to their own opinion. My husband is the most loving, practical, responsible and hands-on person that anybody could ask for. And I think this is what transcends in the way that he goes about his duties and in loving the good people of Ogun State. I don’t want a man who is so sophisticated that he’s tuned out. My husband is in tune with reality. I don’t see him as a local person, I see him as a compassionate hands-on and responsible husband. I don’t see myself as packaging him, I see him as packaging me. And like we said a while ago, they do say that opposites attract. So, maybe you can blame it on that if you see any difference in our dispositions. However, after 25 years, I don’t even see where the lines are anymore. I believe we are one and the same, we complement one another. Maybe we don’t always see eye to eye, however, we always reach a compromise. I don’t think we’ve ever slept on an argument, because he won’t let you anyway! Even if you are annoyed, even if he’s upset you, he will still speak to you. That just happens. So, I hope that I’ve answered your question…
Any regrets? Any event that ever made you cry or regret?
I’ve been lucky and I know I’ve been lucky and I know it’s the grace of God, because I don’t think I can recall any moment like that. But I know about several times where I’ve looked back and said oh, that’s the grace of God. Just to put things in perspective – I know that in this genotype or blood group years; my husband was AA and we got married at the time people didn’t really ask questions, you didn’t find out. So, what if my husband was SS? But that’s just like a practical example of how God has been kind to me. I walk in, God perfects all. But then, when I look back, I realize that I could’ve made a mistake, but God has spared me. So, in answer to your question, I do not recollect any moment of sorrow and again I give glory to God and yes, sometimes I do get a bit worried that ah, everything is so smooth and everything is so nice. I hope that, that is God’s plan and wish for me, and I pray that it continues like that.
Everyday! Everyday is different and I don’t know why – my husband is just so real. My husband will tell you I don’t believe in flowers, I don’t believe in saying I love you, but what do they say? Action speaks louder than voice.
Your husband’s unique cap, what’s your opinion on that and when was the first time you saw him wearing it. Also have you ever had cause to discuss it, maybe in the bedroom…
(Cuts in) – It doesn’t have to be the bedroom (general laughter). The cap, I recall, emerging in the days of senate, I believe. So, that will put it to predate 2003. I think his cap changed somewhere around 2001, and it was just a kind of identity which people sort of like took to and I believe that the most minimum relevance I could give to it is like pre 2001 when he will tell me jokes about MK Naira – that’s how Baba’s cap (late MKO Abiola) used to be. That’s just the barest relevance I could give to it. Aside from that, it just became something that he was comfortable with and if I were to say anything about it, I would always say, ‘Aren’t you fed up with wearing the same style?’ Because even if he’s on Buba and trousers, it’s the same style…So, I guess his tailor’s job is very simple (laughter). But I always ask – ‘Aren’t you fed up with just wearing the same style?’ Again, that just shows the kind of person he is – he’s consistent. Once he’s comfortable with something, and once he believes in something, he sticks to it.
Can we talk about your pet projects? And your contributions to the administration of Ogun State?
It’s to help the needy. Then the needy now falls into the category of a woman, a man, the physically-challenged person, a child…once an opportunity opens up to assist, then I go for it. And I try to; the best way that I can. In that regard, I don’t have a pet project tailored to oh, okay, I’m just doing this. In anyway it manifests, anyway that I can complement what His Excellency’s administration is doing, anyway I can use the platform as the wife of the governor to improve or assist people that I can, then I just go for it. So, I don’t have a specific pet project. But if you were to say what is my pet project, even though I don’t have one, it is reaching out to the vulnerable. That category…
Is it easy for the real vulnerable to access you?
I would like to believe so. Because my approach is hands-on. We don’t have middle men. If you’ve ever been to any of my programmes, even if it involves lifting a sack of rice myself, moving chairs, pulling tables, I don’t just sit there and say okay, move this. If it’s not even going fast enough, I guess as they say, when you’ve lived with someone for so long, it rubs off on you; I jump up and get the thing done myself. So, in terms of your question, take for instance, if a company has donated a trailer load of rice to me, I don’t just sit there in my office and say ah, okay, go and give it to the needy. You do a needs assessment to kind of ascertain that these people truly have a need, then I’m out in the sun with them, physically, handy…distributing, because this is an outreach programme; to the people that need it. Because I don’t want it to get lost on the way. So, I’m a hands-on person and I cut out the middle men and we go out there to achieve, to reach the people ourselves.
Through this programme, what are the major things you have identified as the problem of our people?
I can’t say that I’ve identified anything in particular, because we know that one of the general problems in the nation as a whole is unemployment, and this is why through the Green Initiative, I’ve tried to preach to our youths that while we are sustaining the environment and turning back the dial on global warming and climate change, we can actually earn a living. There are so many jobs while sustaining the environment and I’m trying to teach them to be creative, to be innovative and stop holding the handle and sitting on the fence and saying that we can’t get a job. It might not be a white collar job, but there are jobs out there if you are ready to apply yourself.
You are a Christian. Not just that, your parents are also ministers of the gospel, yet you married a Muslim. How easy was it to convince your parents then?
The first person I told I wanted to get married to a Muslim was my mother. First, she burst into tears. And then she asked me whether I had told my dad and I said no and I could see that mischievous smile (laughter). But today, my mother and my husband are like the best of friends and of course, I get my pound of flesh back sometimes when they are joking and she has forgotten! I will say, ‘Eh! Muslim lo fe fe’ (meaning, you want to marry a Muslim). And she will tell me get away (more laughter). You are just lucky! Thank your God. So, that sort of worked itself out. When I told my dad, he said ah, okay, well, we just have to pray about this one. But somehow, they hit it off very well. The thing about it is, my husband believes in God. My husband, I will say, is even more religious than me. He truly believes in God, he has faith in God that all things are possible and when you see somebody that is so committed and you see that based on his faith; not challenging God, but telling God that I believe in you and you see time and time and time again those things manifesting… it started from me having faith in his faith. I have faith in his faith, God and that just made it so easy, because I could see that God did not fail him and I know that my husband doesn’t believe in anything else, except God.
Was there any deliberate attempt to convert you to Islam?
Not really. But yes! I pray the Muslim way because we are a very close-knit family and in the beginning, I will tell my children oya, time to pray. ‘But mummy how come you are not praying with us?’ ‘Does that mean daddy’s God is not a good God?’ My children will ask me. I told them that He is. And so, I joined them to pray as a family…and that was how it started…
Culled From theyesng.com