Hon. Adefunmilayo Tejuoso is the stunningly beautiful mother of four children who is also a high ranking member of Lagos House of Assembly. The lawyer, presently pursuing her doctorate degree in Law, turned 49 on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.
ENCOMIUM Weekly met her on Friday, March 21, 2014, in her office where she opened up to us about her life, career and the lessons life has taught her in 49 years of her existence and much more.
Happy 49th birthday.
Thank you very much.
Do you feel your new age?
I always say age is a state of mind. I am not feeling old. I feel strong and alert. Life, they say, begins at 50. So, I am looking forward to more good time and more success in the coming year.
Don’t you feel any trepidation that you are getting old?
No. I am excited because when people meet me, they don’t believe I am turning 50 very soon. I don’t feel anything. Rather, I am more excited. I am happy that I am happily married, have children who are getting older. I have a 19 year old daughter, I have a 17 year old son, I have a 13 year old son and I have an eight year old son.
Are you not worried that you are getting to the age where you wouldn’t be able to do those things you used to do?
Like what? I think when you get to a particular age, there are things you will not do again. For example, I wouldn’t attend my children’s inter house sports and be running with 20 year old mothers. I wouldn’t do that. One should act his or her age.
Is there nothing you were doing that you can no longer do anymore?
No. I still wear my high heels. I still hang out with my children to movies, beaches, etc. I think with exercise you don’t really miss anything. Once you are fit, you are fine. Maybe when I am turning 60 or 70, then I might be thinking of, “Oh there are some things I was doing that I can’t do anymore. I don’t think at 50, there is a big difference to 40.
At 50, you are old of course, and wiser, but I don’t think there is anything you will really say you miss. There is nothing you want to do that you can’t do.
How do you cope as a wife, a mother of four children, a politician, a lawmaker and a student pursuing PhD in Law?
I have always been a very active person. When I started as a lawyer, I had to wake very early to get to court very early. Sometimes, you have to be at the Lagos High Court or Federal High Court in Ikoyi. You have to get to court early so that your case wouldn’t have been heard before you get there.
So, if one has been used to a pattern of hard work right from youth, then it wouldn’t be a big issue when you grow old. I was doing all these and I am still doing them now. It’s even easier now because the children are getting older.
My husband is an adult. He knows what he wants and he will demand for his rights which are always available for him. So, there has to be that balance in all your responsibilities.
Nobody said it is easy. Life itself is not easy. Everything you want to achieve you must be ready to work hard to achieve them. The good thing about life is that when you are younger you work very hard for your old age so that as you get older you relax.
Is there no time you felt like giving up because the stress of doing all these multi-tasks was becoming too much?
I am someone who doesn’t give up. I don’t believe in failure. I am used to working hard and it is not a bother to me. It’s even when I am idle that I feel uncomfortable.
What lesson would you say your 49 years of existence has taught you?
I have learnt that you cannot trust everybody. I have learnt that the fact that you are upright doesn’t mean the next person is. Basically, I have learnt to be more careful with people. I learnt to accept people for who they are and not try to change them.
You’ve just lost your father, who had been your only parent in the last 30 years. How much influence did he have on you?
A lot because when my mother died, I was 19 and my father took over the role of my mother and father and he did a brilliant job. He was always available. He was always giving me advice and he was always supportive. He never for once criticized me. He was even ahead of me in current affairs.
He would read newspapers and called me to know my opinion about certain issues discussed in the newspapers. He was like my encyclopedia. He would advice and pray for me. Of course, I am missing him already. I still haven’t deleted his number from my phone. I still read the text messages that he sent to me.
If he couldn’t get me maybe we were sitting (plenary session of the Assembly), he would send me a text message. I guess you are sitting, in case they ask you question about this, I wonder what you will say. He was always monitoring me, making sure things were going on right for me.
You said during the burial that everything he told you would happen to you in politics have come to pass. What were those things?
He said they would betray you. That I am too trusting and they betrayed me. He told me about the pressure in office. He told me about telling people your secret and the same people using it against you. He described traits in people that I would come across in politics and these descriptions I have seen in many people.
Were there things you planned to do for him before he died that you could not do?
His birthday. He was to turn 85 on April 4, 2014, and we were already putting plans together for what we were going to do for him to mark his birthday when it (death) happened. We thank God he did not die on the street or a miserable death. He died peacefully.
Did he ever like your joining politics?
Initially, he wasn’t too happy about it. He wasn’t really sad but he was worried. He said to me, politics is a dirty game, you can’t do it. You that can’t lie and you are too frank.
A lot of people wonder what a beautiful woman and a lawyer like you is doing in politics?
I wonder myself why am I in politics? That is why I sometimes ask myself this question, Funmi, are you a politician? Because, I always like to tell myself I’m a professional in politics and not a professional politician.
How did partisan politics start for you?
I used to criticize government a lot that they have failed the people. But later, I realized that we (people) just complain and go to bed to sleep. That was how I decided to do whatever I can to make a difference.
I never knew I was going to get this far. I am the kind of person that when I start something I work hard to make sure I succeed because I do not want to fail.
What will you say you like about politics?
I like the fact that I am impacting on the lives of greater number of people, particularly women and children. I touch them in different ways. I have contributed in making laws that impacted on the lives of children, women and my constituents.
All these things become a thing of joy for you when you realize the number of people you have touched their lives positively. It makes me feel better.
For example, the domestic violence law which I sponsored when I was the only female member in the House. It took me four years to get the bill passed into law. But today, I am happy that the law is having positive impact in the lives of women and children.
What is it you don’t like about politics?
Deceit. There is a lot of deceit in politics. I don’t believe in sycophancy or hypocrisy. I think that is another problem I have in politics. I don’t follow anybody. I give my leader utmost respect, I am loyal to my party. I am respectful but I don’t believe in following anybody.
We all must contribute to make the House of Assembly a success but you don’t need to backbite anybody. You don’t need to bring anybody down. We need to work as a unit, as the broom of APC. It is difficult to break a broom when they are together. I believe in that. It’s difficult for me, like my children would say, to kiss an ass (laughter).
What is your beauty routine?
I drink a lot of water. I am not the type that does cleansing of your face. I feel some of these things dry the skin. I think it’s better to use simple soap to wash your face. I eat healthy. I take plenty of vegetable, salad and very little rice. I eat candy but very little these days.
Unlike before, I could eat candy for the whole day. But I realized that is not too healthy for me.
What determines what you wear?
I think it is my mood and not what is in vogue. I realize that sometimes when I am angry, I dress better because I don’t want people to know I am angry. My mother used to tell us that, “Never let your enemy see you sweat.”
So, I won’t be sad and because of that dress shabbily. My mother also used to tell us that your appearance is your letter of recommendation.
Do you have a favourite designer?
Deola Sagoe. We went to Queens College, Yaba, Lagos, together. She is a very good designer. She makes most of my clothes like skirts and blouses, etc. Nelson Mclair is also very good. Lanre Da Silva is good too. She is a very innovative designer. My daughter loves all these designers as well.
What about foreign designers?
Foreign designers as in you go to a store and buy, yes I do. I like Maximu, Budu, Chanel, Feragamo. I like them because they stay well on your body. They don’t droop all over the place. Even in Nigeria, my designers are those whose clothes stay well on your body.
What would you say is your favourite accessory?
Bags and jewelry.
Your most favourite vacation spot?
Philadelphia (USA) because my brother lives there. Every year we go to Philadelphia because my brother who is a medical doctor lives there.
This is your third term in the House of Assembly?
We thank God.
What will be your next political move?
I leave everything to God and my constituents. My returning to the House of Assembly was as a result of my constituents’ request for me to come back.
So, if your constituents tell you to come back for the fourth time and become speaker, will you?
Yes, why not? I am capable and I am entitled to it. Every member is a potential speaker. If my constituents say I should come back and become speaker, I will say go ahead and campaign for me, I am ready. By now you should know I am not afraid of anything. I am not afraid to contest and I am not afraid to compete. We are all equal, men and women.
What about if you are asked to go for the governor?
I will go. Me, I am not afraid of anything. I am not the type that would say I have to go to House of Representatives, or I have to do this, no. It’s whatever the people want. We are representing them, not ourselves.
– TOLANI ABATTI