MRS. Sherifatu Aregbesola is the beautiful wife of Engr. Rauf Aregbesola, the ACN governorship candidate in Osun State and former Commissioner for Works in Lagos State. She turned 50 years on Sunday, September 26, 2010. And celebrated the day by donating generously to orphans and widows in the state. She also granted ENCOMIUM Weekly audience where she revealed the joys of being married to soul mate and other issues…
How does it feel to be 50?
I feel good, I feel my usual self. I don’t feel any different aside the fact that my age has increased in number. I am okay.
Do you feel lucky turning 50 in a country where the average life span is said to be 45?
Yes. I know God has been merciful and loving to me. In short, I have His mercy. With more of His mercies, I will celebrate my 60th, 70th and 80th.
Why 70, don’t you want to reach 100?
No, that is too much.
You are looking young and well trimmed at 50, what is responsible?
Alhamdullilahi, I will say it is by the grace of God and my husband, my children and all the people that make me happy.
Is it not because you exercise by going to the gym?
Honestly speaking, I don’t even have any gym. I do exercise just once in a while and not every time. I think like it is just God Almighty’s mercies in my life.
What will you say has been the happiest moment of your 50 years of existence?
There are two of them. The first one is the day I met my husband and the second one is the day I had my first baby.
The day you met him or the day he proposed to you?
No, the day I decided to marry him. I had been dreaming of somebody who will take me for whom I am, who is trustworthy, because I was a little tough and I was looking for someone who is tougher than me and can handle me. Fortunately, I found that someone in him.
When will you say was the saddest moment of your 50 years of existence?
I have not had any sad moment because I married the man of my dreams. Alhamdullilahi, I have my children, I love my husband and he loves me.
Are you saying there has never been any occasion when you were psychologically down?
The only time that I can remember was before I got married. That was when my late uncle (may his soul rest in perfect peace) initially was against my marrying my husband then. But my father and mom were able to convince him that he should let me be.
But why would your uncle be against marrying your boyfriend then?
Maybe he has a grudge against Ijesha people. He probably married an Ijesha woman that didn’t end well for him. I don’t know.
You grew up in the North, what was it like growing up there then?
It was beautiful then growing up in the North. There was no problem, no stress.
For a Yoruba person?
Yes, there was no stress. I was actually born and bred there. I got married there. In fact, it was marriage that brought me to Lagos.
When we met, he did not have any religion according to him. He was an atheist. He said his name was Rough, I asked him what is the meaning of ‘Rough.’ He said that was what his friends called him. I asked him, are you a Muslim of a Christian? He said he did not have a religion but his mummy was a Muslim and his daddy was an Alhaji. That gave me the confidence that he was a Muslim and I made up my mind there and then that I was going to turn him to a practicing Muslim. He also told me that he did not want friendship but marriage. I asked him why the rush? That such was not possible. He said he had earlier made up his mind not to marry, but now that he had seen me he had changed his mind. That he was going to marry me, straight off.
What will you say was the attraction then? Was it the beauty? Because he said he usually pass the front of your house and he sees you at a particular spot?
That was what he told me. He said anytime he was passing by, he was always seeing me at a particular place in front of my parents’ house. I told him later, I said if you want to marry me, go and bring your parents to come and meet my parents. He said no, that he will meet my parents himself. I told him then, don’t tell them you are Rough (his nickname). Tell them you are Raufu. He said he does not tell lies, that he will tell them the truth. And true to his words, when my daddy called him and asked him his name, he said his name was Rough. I told my daddy he should not mind him that his name is Raufu. My daddy asked me, are you sure he is not Raphael? I said no, his name is Raufu. Alhamdullilahi, I was able to gradually change everything.
Your husband said you made him a devoted Muslim, how did you do that?
Right from the word go, he had told me he did not believe in any God. That he is a Marxist. I left him to his belief but I was doing my praying and fasting. I was always praying for him. I was also teaching the children all the tenets of Islam and I was going to the mosque with them.
What was the circumstance that now changed his thinking towards Islam?
I don’t know. One day, he just asked me, Do you know that all these things you are doing I know how to do them? I said, ehn? He asked me again. He said, can I read the Quran, I said yes, I can read it but not fluently. He said, do you know I have finished reading the Quran. I said, ehn! He said I have finished reading the Quran and the Bible. I said there is no problem then, why don’t you start praying. He said it was not yet time. But one day, I just saw him in the middle of the night praying. The second day, he said he was going to lead us in prayers. Then, I already had two children. I said okay, you can lead us. I was very happy that time and I knew my prayers had been answered. That was how we started praying together particularly in the morning. When we got here (Akowonjo in Alimosho local government area), there was a mosque there. It was named Abdul Lasisi Islamic Foundation. He started going there and that was where he met Abdul Rahman Ahmad, the Ansar-ur-deen missioner now. He became so close to the man and that one started enlightening him more about Islam.
Did you ever have the impression that he was going into politics?
No. I think he started when we came to Lagos. But before then, I was aware that he used to attend the Marxist Movement meeting every Sunday in Kaduna then. But when we came to Lagos, I just assumed that the Marxist thing is gone forever. But to my surprise, later, I started seeing different people coming to see him. I asked him, who are these people? He said they are politicians. I asked him, are you joining politics again? He said no. I was just holding meeting with them. That was when he started political career. He started during the SDP/NRC days. That was 1990/91. He contested then for House of Representatives, he lost by a vote. After that, I told him let us leave politics alone. He agreed and we faced our business. We did that until towards the end of 1998, when he came home one day and told me that somebody wanted him to be his campaign manager. I asked him who was that, he said Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I said, Sebi it was just to manage his campaign and after that you will come back home. He said, he had not given the man an answer yet, that he told him to let him discuss it with his wife first because he has decided to quit politics. I said if it is just to manage his campaign, go and do it and come back home. He said okay and that was how he started all over again.
And that was how he became a Commissioner in Lagos State?
Yes, that was how after the election and everything he was appointed a Commissioner and he was given the portfolio of Ministry of Works.
For eight years that he was Commissioner for Works in Lagos State, how will you describe the experience?
I really didn’t find it easy then. Someone who usually comes home latest by 10 pm, started coming back very late. I couldn’t bear it, I had to tolerate and manage the situation and adjust.
Was there a time you were fed up with him because of his coming home late?
Really, I got fed up at a particular point, but I had to seek for help. I felt that if I showed any sign of being tired of the whole thing, who will manage the children and other wives of politicians who looked up to me for advice and help? First, I decided to go to big daddy’s wife, I call her big mummy.
Chief (Mrs.) Remi Tinubu?
Yes. I went to her and told her I was tired of the whole thing. She said, you are tired? What do you want me to say, you don’t have to be tired o. She strengthened me. She prayed with me and advised me not to give up. She said I should continue to pray and fast. With the encouragement given to me, I was able to console other politicians’ wives who usually come to me to tell me that their husbands told them they are with my husband or with the governor. I said it is true, just believe whatever they tell you.
Did you have any cause to doubt your husband then that he was not with the governor but with another woman?
No, no, because I know him very well. I know him in and out. He does not tell lies. People say politicians tell lies a lot, but he doesn’t. He would rather keep quiet than tell lies. I know him for that.
A lot of politicians’ wives suspect that their husbands keep other women outside their matrimonial homes. Did you have any cause to suspect him?
Not at all. Even when I read it in ENCOMIUM sometimes ago that I fainted somewhere because I heard that my husband had impregnated another woman, I just laughed because I know one thing. He is from a polygamous family and I am also from a polygamous home too. If he wants to marry another woman, he is entitled to it. If he wants to marry another woman, fine. I know he will tell me. The Quran says he should tell me that he wants to marry another wife. If he couldn’t do it directly, there is a way of doing it. Maybe, buying an expensive gift for me but by the time he buys me such gift particularly if I didn’t ask him to do so, I will know that somebody is coming home. He didn’t do that and he didn’t tell me. I just know that what you people wrote was not true.
He said something when you were donating to the motherless babies home that he had not slept with another woman since he married you…
That is him (laughs), he said it.
Do you believe him?
Yes, I did. I believe him because when we were courting, there was a day I asked him aha, aha. You know when you are going out with a man you need to see another woman or girl so that there will be a competition. There was never a day like that, I won’t even tell him I was coming and I don’t meet anybody. I had to tell my sisters that look oh, this man anytime I go to his house, I don’t see any other girl or woman. It was only me, no other person. I believe him.
You’ve never had any reason not to believe him?
No, I don’t. If you don’t believe a man you won’t have peace of mind. That is what I tell other women. Whatever he tells you, just believe him, even if you know that what he is telling you is not the truth, believe him. If you believe him, you will have rest of mind. And if your husband offends you, find it in your heart to forgive him, no matter what. If you catch him on top of another woman, don’t do anything, don’t fight that woman. You don’t have any business with the woman. The person you have business with is your husband. Let her go with her palaver. Then, call your husband and ask what you have done wrong? Is it that I am no longer beautiful? Am I no longer the girl you married? Look at the girl that you caught with him, what is in her that is not in you. Try to see what is in her that you don’t have and keep it. Because if you say your husband do this or that and you are going to do this and that, do you know what your son is going to do? And what will you tell your son’s wife? And what do you want your son’s wife to hear that you did to your husband. So, we just have to forgive,
If you say it was tough when he was a Commissioner for Works in Lagos State. What was the experience like when he was contesting for governorship in Osun State?
I know already it cannot be worse than what I had gone through because I know that his position in Lagos was a big task. So, I knew going to Osun State cannot be worse than what I had already experienced in Lagos. It cannot be worse than what I am going through now because he is combining his position in Lagos with that of Osun State.
Looking at what is going on in Osun State now concerning his ambition, was there a time you asked him to give up the whole ambition?
I have said it once, but a lot of people told me I can’t back out now. It is too late. That it would be unfair to the electorate. That was after the last judgement at the Electoral Tribunal. I was very disturbed that if our judges cannot give justice then we should forget about everything. That was one of the two occasions that I almost gave up on the situation. The second time was during Osun/Osogbo festival when he was attacked and there was bullet everywhere.
Are there goals you set for yourself before turning 50 that you have been able to achieve?
I don’t think I have ever thought of that or set any goal for myself. But I have asked God to give me the strength to be able to help the orphans and widows. Few days ago, I was happy because of the crowd that came to honour me and my husband at the orphanage home in GRA, Ikeja. I thank God Almighty and I thank all the people that came. God will bless them for raising such amount of money for the orphans.
Will you say at 50 you are fulfilled?
I am fulfilled because I am a contented person. I am really fulfilled.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, October 12, 2010