Cover Stories, Politics

ERELU BISI FAYEMI SPECIAL @ 50: ‘I have had more cause to rejoice than to cry and regret’

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...with husband, Governor Kayode Fayemi

…with husband, Governor Kayode Fayemi

Erelu Bisi Adeleye Fayemi hit the golden age in June 11, 2013, but due to the untimely death of her best friend, Funmi Olayinka and former deputy governor of Ekiti State, she postponed the celebration still October 2013.

The five day 50th celebrations began on Wednesday, October 9, 2013, to Sunday, October 13, 2013. The colourful events held inside the Government House was attended by political and social big wigs.


The high point of the celebrations was the launching of her books which were presented on Friday, October 11, 2013, at Adetiloye Hall,Fountain Hotel, Ado-Ekiti. Entitled Speaking Above a Whisper and Speaking for Myself, the two books were reviewed by Professor Abena Busia (Chair, Department of women and Gender Studies, Rutgers University, USA) and Kunle Ajibade ( Executive Editor, The News Magazine).


2011 Nobel Peace prize winner, Ms. Leymah Gbowee was the guest Lecturer. The Liberian activist dazzled with her brilliant presentation and guests couldn’t but help compliment her combination of beauty with brains.


Helen Paul, popularly known as Tatafo, was in her elements as compere of the top function. She thrilled with her unique voice and act. The high point was when she commanded the amiable governor of Ekiti, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, to come up stage, and ordered his wife to sit on his laps and kiss as husband and wife. The rule was they shouldn’t stop till she gave the order. Guests were thrilled to see that the first two citizens of Ekiti were after all good kissers.


Rivers State governor, Rotimi Ameachi showed what it takes to be the leader of AGF. He was an early caller at the event. He came in the morning during the church thanksgiving before the party. He grooved with the celebrant till the end.


The Anesi Ivharue led Sharp Band thrilled from highlife to pop, juju and fuji. And top functionaries danced.


Top event manager in Ekiti, Mrs Debby Daramola was complimented for doing a wonderful job with Delectable Ushers. Semdar Events was in charge of the decoration.


Several first ladies were on hand to usher their colleague into the exclusive club of 50. Dame Abimbola Fashola (Lagos), Mrs. Florence Ajimobi (Oyo), Mrs Olufunsho Amosun (Ogun), Mrs Sherifat Aregbesola (Osun) and their counterpart from Kwara (Mrs. Fatah Ahmed) stayed till the end.


Malas Food was the brain behind the menu. She ensured guests were treated to sumptuous African and intercontinental dishes. It’s as you want it. And drinks were handled by maestroes and party pillars, Bonix Drinks.


Deputy Governor of Ekiti, Prof. Modupe Adelabu co-ordinated the cutting of the cake. The celebrant and her hubby were called upon and at the spelling of G-r-a-c-i-o-u-s, the golden age cake was cut.


Former first lady of Ekiti state, Erelu Angela Adebayo led her Erelu Fayemi into the initiation rite of the exclusive club of 50s. She beckoned on members within 50 to come on stage and inducted her.

IMG_4172fssHow does it feel being 50?

The journey has been full of ups and downs, full of challenges, triumphs and travails. And looking back now, I just thank God that I have had more cause to laugh and rejoice than I have cause to cry and regret. I just pray that God should continue to grant me good health so that by the time I clock 60, I would still be strong and able to run around to achieve my desired goals.

Are you where you envisaged you would be at 50?

What I have always prayed for was to be in a place where I could say I have achieved things I am proud of and fend for myself, no matter what happens to me. That I have a name that I can be proud of and that people would respond to and that I will be able to impact on the life of others. That has always been important to me. And, of course, that I have good health to be able to live the good life and so on. Those are the things that have always been important to me more than the golden age, I hope I have a house, I hope I have a car and I hope I have X amount of things’. That has not been an issue for me because I have always believed that anything money can buy can be replaced. Nothing can replace good health. Nothing can replace peace of mind. Thus, I have hoped that by the time I’m 50,I will have peace of mind and that I would be happy. Also that I would be in a position to give back to the community and I give thanks to God that I am in that position .

What are those things you would have done differently at 50?

It’s always easy for adults to think that they are wiser after the fact. As human beings, we all do things that we feel we could have done better or done differently, but everything happens for a reason. All the good decisions you have made, even all the poor decisions you have made. So, looking back, I’d like to think that I’m happy with all the decisions that I had made, but there are things I wish should not have happened the way they had happened. But those are things I absolutely have no control over. I think the most important thing is to focus on the blessings that I have received and they are many, I think all that makes up for the things I think I could have done differently.

Learnt you also donated 16 Hummer buses to the 16 local governments in the state, why?

Every year, I go round the state to interact with women. In 2011, I did a senatorial tour of the state, visiting Ekiti North, South and Central, interacting with women. In 2012, I did a tour of all the 16 local governments. When I did those tours, the market women approached me and asked me when I would do something for them? And from my experience of supporting market women for initiatives, I know that you cannot lump the needs of market women with those of everyone else. They are very key to our informal economy. They are very powerful stakeholders. A lot of decisions are made in markets, and politicians come to them when they need their support and their votes, you never go to them again. They are the ones who would be coming to meetings in your office and they never get to hear from you until the next election. Thus, I wanted to ensure that support for market women is seen as a standard feature of the ongoing work that I am doing to empower women in Ekiti State. I have Ekiti Development Foundation which supports women on issues that have to do with economic empowerment. That is the basis on which I decided to sign the market outreach programme. And I sought a partnership with the Ministry of Women Affairs and all the caretaker chairmen in all the 16 local governments, and we all pooled our resources and decided to respond to the needs of the market women because we did a feasibility study to find out what their needs were. So, we were able to provide them with grants for them to organise unions in their markets and we gave them a bus and the state government is going to build ultra modern markets throughout the state to ensure that those markets have the facilities that are lacking in the traditional markets like water, toilets, lock-up shops and so on. The market outreach tour was very successful and I am happy about that. It’s something I hope I’d be able to continue in some shape or form.

You have authored two books to commemorate your birthday. What are the two books, Speaking Above a Whisper and Speaking for Myself, all about?

Speaking Above A Whisper is my autobiography. That was the hard one to write because it involved a lot of reflections, trying to go back memory lane, putting important documents together and so on. Time was, of course, a very important issue and considering the things I have to do here in Ekiti State, it was difficult to find the time and space I needed. When my husband, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, wrote his book, Out of the Shadows, he went on sabbatical to North Western University in Chicago. I, unfortunately, did not have that opportunity. So, I had to find time here and there to be able to accomplish that. Speaking For Myself is a collection of essays and speeches that span 23 years. The book is a reflection of different identities that I have had over the years as a women’s rights activist, as a culture studies scholar, as a political activists and thinker and as somebody involved in the field of social change and philanthropy.

How would you describe your marriage?

My marriage has been absolutely wonderful. My husband is a very good man; a deep and very private person. He is absolutely brilliant and as far as I am concerned, he is everything that every woman would pray for. He has everything that every woman would pray for and I don’t think it would have been possible for me to be married to any other man.

How much of a politician have you become from 2007 to now that your husband has been the governor?

Any woman who is married to a politician that says I am not a politician is not telling the truth. The fact that you are in the house, even if you are not politically active, deciding who gets to see your husband, who to cook for, who to offer a meal to as opposed to who to offer a drink, that is politics. I know that I am very politically active because I am interested in the political processes and in democratic norms and values. I’m interested in pushing agenda and the agenda I am interested in pushing is the participation of women and ensuring that women earn their rightful place.

How do you unwind?

I like to dance, listen to music and watch television. I love older generation acts like Ebenezer Obey, Sunny Ade and Lagbaja. I love Asa’s music. I’m a huge fan of Kwaito and South African street music like Malaika, Mafikizolo and Ringo.

What would you say about your late friend, Mrs. Funmi Olayinka?

You never stop mourning someone you love. We had so many things in common. We were Gemini, my birthday is June 11th and hers was June 20. We were both Anglicans. We both loved purple. We loved snails. We were both extroverts. We loved fashion. We had the same shoe size. We loved to dance. We both slept late, and reserved our long conversations for late at night until that had to change when she was too ill to stay up so late. We both loved organising and co-ordinating things, paying attention to detail. We also had quaint opposites, she loved her fried plantain soft, I liked mine hard, I drank Nescafe Gold Blend regular, she drank Gold Blend decaffeinated. She wore low heels, I like high heels.


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  • Bosede Jaiyeola

    Congratulation to HE Mrs.Erelu Bisi Fayemi,a Gem@ 50,Woman and First Lady of Substance, a feminist who is passionate about Women’s Right Issues, She cherished to defend respect and Integrity of Womanhood, An activist per excellence. When I read in one of the dailies someone saying that ‘She was honoured being at your birthday celebration, that even though she did not know you as a person but knows your work and Ekiti is honoured to you and your husband’ I was moved and longed to express my mind that those of us who have had the privileged to come in contact with you in the course of your work across African and all over the World can testify that you are indeed a very active and hard working career woman, a mother, a social change campaigner and a philanthropist.
    As you celebrate your 50th birthday celebration, wishing you long life and prosperity in good and Sound health in Jesus name (IJN). You shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season whose leaf also shall not wither and whatever you do shall prosper IJN.
    Happy 50th celebration, the Lord almighty shall continue to uphold you. Auntie, continue to flourish IJN, the Lord is your strength.