"How My Bishop Dad Endorsed My Marriage To A Muslim Husband" - Ogun First Lady
Last week, the First Lady of Ogun State, Mrs Olufunsho Amosun, clocked 50. In this interview, conducted at the Government House, Abeokuta, she explains why, as a staunch Christian with a bishop as a father, she is married to a Muslim even as she shares the memorable moments of her over 25 years marriage to Governor Ibikunle Amosun.
What don’t you like about being a governor’s wife?
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 crowd around me – in terms of having people around me, but maybe, being in second term, the people around 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 the 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 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.
How do you feel at 50, even when you look much more younger than that age?
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 the issue 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 to really 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 thankful.
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 have found that the opposite seems 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 have 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 my 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, ‘Ok, 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, ‘Ok, 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 people 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…
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 Oyo State School of Arts and Science and then I went to 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.
Is your husband really the local boy we think he is? Or is it all about packaging, compared to you who is sophisticated…?
Well, I think that’s a kind of funny as well as a complex question. However, everybody is entitled to his 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 I’ve answered your question…
Can you share some of your memorable moments together?
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…?
It doesn’t have to be the bedroom (general laughter). The cap, I recall, emerged in the days of the 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 (the late MKO Abiola) used to be. That is 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 I can. In that regard, I don’t have a pet project tailored to, ‘Oh, ok, I am 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…
You are a Christian. Not just that, your parents are 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. And that was when I began to give it a thought. It didn’t take much time before I joined them. The rest, as they say, is history.
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