Cover Stories, Interviews, Politics

‘How my life was turned around’ – MRS. MAYOWA IKUFORIJI @ 50 on the sickness which changed her perspective forever

...With family

…With family

MRS. Mayowa Ikuforiji is the wife of Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, the Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly.  The mother of four and Education Officer, Amuwo Odofin Local Government Council, turned 50 on Monday, October 7, 2013.

She told ENCOMIUM Weekly in this interview the journey of her 50 years on earth and the twists and turns of being married to a politician and public office holder.

How do you feel turning 50?

I don’t feel any different really.  Seriously, I don’t.  I feel like I have always felt.  No difference at all, for now at least.  I am even slimmer.

How did you achieve that?

When I turned 48, I made up my mind that I needed to cut down on some things that I eat.  For two years now, I have not eaten any beef.

So, what do you eat instead?

I only eat chicken, guinea fowl in particular and any type of fish.

Not even Ileya ram?

No, I don’t. I cook it but I don’t eat it.

What informed you not eating beef again?

I have always been size 16 but anytime my mom sees me, she is always complaining, “Mayowa, you are fat.  You are too fat.”  That played a role in my aim to slim down.  As I am now, I am the fattest among my siblings.  My elder sister is 53 but people think she is my younger sister because she is very slim.  My mother is also very slim.

What will you say you cherish most turning 50?

I cherish the fact that I am still healthy at this age and I thank God immensely for that.  I thank God for my children too and for my husband despite the ups and downs. I cannot thank God enough for this.

What is it that you are surprised you can still do at 50?

I am on the treadmill every morning. I can still do that.  Sometimes my husband will say, you need to slow down, you know you are not that young. I can still dance for long hours, like I did on my birthday.  That is why I said, I have not felt any difference.  So far, I thank God.

At 50, are there things you still want God to do for you?

I have never been a wealth acquisition person.  All I wanted to do was to feed the poor.  If I can feed the whole of humanity, I will gladly do that.  I like to help widows a lot. I have not been able to do enough.  I am just doing the little that I can do based on my income because I am a civil servant.

That is one question we will love to ask you.  You are still working as a civil servant despite the fact that you have been the wife of the Speaker for more than five years now.

It’s eight years now, since 2005.

We thought that you would have resigned your appointment to become the Speaker’s wife on full time.

I really don’t want to do that.  In my little way, I have contributed to whatever is going on in the education sector of the local government and Lagos State as a whole.  So, what would I have been doing at home?  Just sit down at home doing nothing?  No, I am not cut out for that.  I like the impact I am making in the development of education of children.  I am a very quiet person. I like my own company and that of widows because I feel for widows a lot.  My mother became a widow early and I know what it meant to be a widow.

How old were you then?

I was very young.  At night she (my mother) was always crying herself to sleep. Widows don’t only need material things they also need someone to be around them.  People to talk to and encourage them.  I love to do that for them.  There is a testimony that I have always shared with people.  My husband became Speaker in 2005 and in 2006, he was attacked.  There were some widows in Amuwo Odofin then.  They met every Tuesday and I would go there, give them things, play with them, I would sit in their midst.  My husband was attacked on a Sunday.  The Tuesday before, I joined the widows as usual.  One of them called me.  She said she dreamt that I sat with them like a widow too. That I dressed like a widow too and that she was shouting, ‘No, you are not one of us.  You only come to play with us, take your child away.’  That she was struggling with me that I should not sit down and she woke up.  That day, all of them (widows) said I should kneel down and they prayed for me that I will not be a widow. The following Sunday, my husband was attacked.

By?

By gunmen, along Aswani Road.  It was God that saved him. It was God.  God saw that something wanted to happen and showed it to somebody and we prayed over it and it was averted.  Aside this incident, as I said, I know what widows go through because my mother became a widow very early and so I have always made my widow’s mite towards uplifting their plight.  That is the only thing that gives me joy.

What would you say is the best moment of your 50 years of existence?

All the moments have been best.  Even in tribulations I have held on to God, knowing that God will do something.  When my husband was to return for the third term as Speaker, there was turbulence.  I knew it was going to be difficult because all other members would be interested in becoming Speaker.  I prayed and made a vow to God that I will praise Him on this land and I am going to call Evangelist Tope Alabi, if He makes my husband Speaker again.  I fulfilled this on my birthday.  Every time I tell my husband that I want Tope Alabi to come and play for us he will refuse.  He will say we are not doing any party, we will just call somebody to play for us.  He didn’t know the vow that I made with God.  I then promised myself when I turn 50, I will call Tope Alabi. I will roll on the ground to praise the Lord. I will roll on the ground and everybody will see me. That was what I did at my birthday party. I wore my best clothes and rolled on the ground to praise God because God is awesome.

I think my best moment was that day (Monday, October 6, 2013).  My husband’s emergence as Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly for the third time taught me a lot of lessons about human beings and friends.  Some people that you call your friends might not really be your friends. I learnt a lot from that experience.  God is the only one that you can depend on.

When will you say was the most challenging period of your 50 years?

It was when I got married because some years after marriage, I could not conceive.

Like how many years were you unable to conceive?

Five years.

Were you under any pressure?

Not from my husband and sincerely not from his family.  The mom was my best friend.  She lived with me and she would always say, me too, I stayed for seven years, don’t worry.  I really can’t forget her.  I had a mother-in-law who was my best friend.  Nobody gave me stress but it was challenging if, as a young woman you are married and for five years you are unable to conceive. At the end of five years, God answered me.

So, how many children did you eventually have in all?

Four.

Biologically yours?

Yes, biologically mine.

How many boys and girls?

I have only one boy and three girls.  The last one is the boy.

Another challenge was when I was seriously sick. When I was in my 30s, I was sick to the point of death.  I will also give this to God. I went for the first Holy Ghost Night by Pastor (Enoch) Adeboye at Lekki.  I went with my daughter.  We walked a bit and rested until we got there.  Immediately I got there, I said, ‘God, I am tired, I want to die here.  If you cannot heal me today just let me die. But if you can heal me, I will serve you until the day I die.’  You cannot believe that since that time, I have not had cause to go to hospital, except when I go for routine check-up. But for me to be admitted, it has not happened since then.

What was the nature of your sickness?

Nobody knew. I will go to hospital everyday to do one test or the other yet they didn’t see anything.  But I was sick and I knew I wasn’t my real self.  Every day, I will appear at St. Emmanuel Hospital, Isolo.  Sometimes in the midnight, they will take me there.  It was a terrible time, but God was faithful. If you really have faith in God, He still heals.  He is a healer.

How easy has it been for you as a staunch Christian living with your husband who is a staunch Muslim?

I think my family is an example of what Nigeria should be. If we (Nigerians) can tolerate each other to this level, I think the country will move forward than it is today.  There is really no reason to quarrel over religion.  We all serve the same God, the Most High God.  Whichever way you choose to serve God, it is still the same God you are serving.

My husband has never really troubled me on the issue of religion.  Initially, he wanted me to be a Muslim but then the sickness came. In fact, I had wanted to go to Mecca. I went to lesser hajj (Umrrah) in 1986, with his sister.  Before the sickness started, I had wanted to go to Mecca.  That was in 1996. I had already gotten the Ankara and all.  But, there was outbreak of meningitis and it was cancelled.  We couldn’t go to Mecca that year.  After that year, I fell ill.  I already had a Mallam that was teaching me.  That is why when they (Muslims) are reciting any verse in the Qu’ran, I join them because I know everything.  I had a very good and lovely Mallam who was very patient with me.

Seriously, I had started praying the Muslim way and I wanted to go to Mecca, but I couldn’t and then the sickness came. I got healed and I made a vow to God.  My husband understands everything.  Muslim  Ulama comes here regularly to pray and I still join them.  That is the way people should live. My children are Muslims anyway.

They are?

They are.  They all learnt the Qu’ran and they are very good at it.  Most especially the boy who has been to Mecca with his father several times.

None of them chose to join you as a Christian?

None yet.  Maybe when they get married.

So, you are the only Christian in the family now?

I am for now.  They are practicing the religion of their father and I can’t force them against that.  They love their father very much.  They love me too but they believe that they should follow their religion. Most especially my son.  The ladies (her daughters) are at times flexible but my son is a staunch Muslim like his dad.

You did not marry your husband a politician, he later became one.  Did you like it?

No and I still don’t like it.  Politics is so…I don’t know, it’s not been easy.  Politics and the negative things that come with it.  You press people are not really helping matters.  All the negative reports. Sometimes I read something in the papers and I begin to ask myself when did this happen? It’s all lies.

What exactly will you say you don’t like about politics?

I like politics but I don’t like the way they play politics in Nigeria.  We are all political animals.  In my little way that I help the people is a sort of politics too. But the way we practice it here, politics of do or die is what I don’t like.  We have to change our mindset, we have to know that whatever position a man is, it’s God that has put him there. A man cannot get anywhere unless it has been ordained by God.

But politicians don’t believe in this. They believe they can rewrite their destinies.  I must get this and if I don’t get it, I have to kill the other person.  If you don’t like somebody, you tell journalists to write negative stories about that person.  It is really not good.  I once read it in a publication that I am fighting my daughter because my husband is dating her friend.  My daughter is a medical doctor.  They said my daughter is doing Masters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  She is a medical doctor, she is not doing Masters.  She did not go to Home Science Secondary School.  They wrote all that.  My daughter went to Queens College, Yaba, Lagos.  I didn’t have any daughter that went to Home Science Secondary School that is doing her Masters.  They are all lies.  They just write a lot of lies.  Ikuforiji did this or that and the two of us will be wondering when did this happen.  I guess the politicians are used to it. I am also used to it now.  Whatever you like you can write, I know whom I am.  It doesn’t bother me anymore.

What is it about politics that you like?

I like the fact that with politics you can help more people. That is very important.  When you are a politician, you have the wherewithal to help a lot of people, unless you don’t want to help.  You will be able to talk to some authorities on behalf of some people. You are the people’s voice wherever you are as a politician, because not everybody can be in politics.

How does your boss, the chairman of Amuwo Odofin Local Government Council, where you work relate with you?

Very well, he is my boss.

When he calls for anything, how do you react?

I will answer Sir. He is my boss.  He too respects me a lot.  If I enter his office, he will say, ‘Aunty’ and he will get up and introduce me.  ‘That is the wife of our Speaker.’ I will respond by saying, Thank you, Sir.  Whatever position you are is not permanent. He is Speaker today does not mean he will be Speaker forever. I have been a civil servant before he joined politics and later became the Speaker. Is it because he is Speaker now I should leave my job?

What if he becomes the governor?

I know that I cannot work again because I will have more responsibility.  That one is understandable.  But as Speaker’s wife, what am I doing that I cannot go to work?

But you are the chairperson of LASLEWA?

In LASLEWA, we are just wives of honourable members of the Assembly.  We don’t do anything than to just pray for our husbands.  We are all members of COWLSO (Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials). It is COWLSO that is doing different activities. That is headed by the first lady.

 – TOLANI ABATTI

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