Interviews

‘I don’t feel old, but I want people to know I am 50’- Hon. Funmi Tejuosho

funmi tejuosho

HON. Adefunmilayo Tejuosho is the highest ranking member of Lagos House of Assembly.  The beautiful mother of four children who is a lawyer by profession has been a member of Lagos House of Assembly since 2003, representing Mushin Constituency 01. 

Hon. Tejuosho, who is also doing her Ph.D in Law at University of Lagos, Akoka, will be 50 on Wednesday, March 25, 2015.  She might not roll out the drums to mark the milestone because of the forthcoming general elections, the day will certainly not go unmarked. 

She told ENCOMIUM Weekly in this interview how life has been for her in the last 50 years.

How do you feel turning 50 and still looking young and radiant?

I feel good, to God be the glory.  I don’t feel old, I wouldn’t lie.  But I like people to know I am 50 because I feel they need to know.  It is something I am glad to talk about.

What will you say you are grateful to God for turning 50?

A lot of things.  I count my blessings every day and a lot of time, I can’t even finish thanking God for my blessings. I thank God for being born into the family I was born into, a wonderful family. I thank God for my siblings.  I thank God for the kind of Princess Funmi Tejuosho , Chairman Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Finance.upbringing I had.  I thank God for my husband, a wonderful and caring husband.  I thank God for my wonderful children that give me joy.  I thank God for my career.  A lawyer and now in politics, I thank God for everything.

Certainly, you must have been told you look younger than 50.  What exactly do you do to make you look younger than your age?

I give myself peace of mind.  I make sure I have sound sleep.  Aside my vitamins, I don’t take any other drug like pain killers. I drink a lot of water.  Before going to bed, I make sure I wash off my make-up and all the stress of the day.

Don’t you do any form of exercise?

I exercise.  I go to the gym at least three times a week, where I do one hour of exercise, particularly on the treadmill. I enjoy exercising.

What was growing up like for you?

It was great.  My father and mother were very good to me.  My father made sure we had the best of education.  My mother was a full time housewife and was always at home to take care of us. My father was not the type that would use cane on his children.  He would talk to you.  My mom would scream a bit.  I am the last of my siblings.

Of your parents?

No, of my mother.  My father had another child who did not grow up with us.  He was with his mom.  In the house, I was the youngest and my siblings were very nice to me.  They actually protected me.  It was a house of love and peace, you could be yourself.

Where was this?

I grew up in Surulere, Lagos. No. 45, Adeniran Ogunsanya Street to be precise.  That is my father’s house in Surulere, Lagos.

Will you say it was a privileged background?

It was good.  My father gave us everything we needed.  Adeniran Ogunsanya was not what it is today commercial.  It was residential, you knew your neighbours. They were children of other medical doctors and professors.  It was more like a close knit community where everybody knows their neighbours.  It was nice, I never had any complaint really.

What about your school days?

I went to University of Lagos Staff School for my primary education and Queens College, Yaba, Lagos, for part of my secondary school.  I finished secondary school at St. Francis High School., Morgan Town, West Virginia, U.S.A.  From there, I went to West Virginia University to study medicine.  I didn’t like the smell of blood and I couldn’t stand the smell of the hospital.

You wanted to follow your father’s footsteps?

He wanted me to follow his footsteps but I declined.  He thought because my grades were high I should become a medical doctor.  But after my first degree in Biology, which was my pre-medical course, my father said I should come and do my NYSC and think about it.  Because he really wanted me to go back to medical school in America.

But while I was doing my NYSC at Queens College, Yaba, my alma mater, I applied to University of Buckingham to study law.  When I got my letter of admission, I gave it to my father.  He said, oh, you’ve already made up your mind to study law?  I said yes.  Already I had two elder sisters who were lawyers.  They also went to Buckingham University.  He paid my school fees and I went to Buckingham University.  After that, I came to Nigeria Law School and I was called to the Nigerian Bar.

I started working as a lawyer.  Later, I went to University of Lagos to do my Masters in Law and worked at the House of Assembly.  Then, I applied for Ph.D which I am still pursuing even with the election campaign going on.  I am juggling the two.

Where did your path and that of partisan politics cross?

I think it was really by accident.  I didn’t plan it. My parents are not politicians.  My father was not too comfortable with politics.  It all started with trying to improve my immediate environment rather than complaining about what the government is not doing right.  So, I started doing things for people in my constituency.

What exactly were you doing for the people?

I was given them Pro bono (legal aid) if they had problem like court cases, police issues that would require the service of a lawyer.  I gave them free legal service.  It made me know more people because I used to counsel them too.

You have your chamber?

Yes, Smith-Tejuosho and Co.  I was running it with my team of lawyers.  We were counseling, educating and enlightening them.  It sort of reduced their getting into trouble.  From that, I moved on to offering scholarships to their children, buying textbooks and exercise books.

Later, I started attending political meetings with some friends.  Kitoye Rotimi was the chairman of Grassroots Development Movement (GDM).  He is somebody I grew up with.  We went to meetings and talked and talked.  I realized one cannot make any impact except he is part of the system.  So, I joined GDM and I won the House of Representatives seat of the party.  But when Abacha was adopted as the presidential candidate by the five political parties, I decided to withdraw from the race few days to the elections.  And we all knew what happened to that dispensation.

It was from then the interest grew and another opportunity came again in 2003, when I won in the general elections to represent my constituency, Mushin 01.  The rest, as they say is history.

Since 2003, you’ve been a member of Lagos House of Assembly.  How would you describe the experience?

Very good.  In politics, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly.  There is nothing in politics that will trip me anymore.  There is nothing anybody will say or do that will give me sleepless night anymore.  By now, I have paid my dues in politics.  I am more and better experienced.  I have become an authority in legislative matters to the extent that I now assist new legislators.

It is like you have made up your mind to remain in the legislative arm of government.  Do you have any ambition of going to the executive arm of government?

Not really.

What would you say is so fascinating about the legislature?

The fact that you are elected by your people.  When the people vote you in more than once, it’s because they believe in you.  They appreciate what you are doing.  There is nothing wrong in being in the executive arm of government depending on your calling.  Right now, my calling is in the legislative arm of government.  Making laws that will better the lives of the people.

Let us talk about your marital life.  How and where did you meet your husband?

We met when I was a student at Queens College, while he was in Government College, Ibadan.  I think he came home to visit his family and he was with some of my friends.  It was like who is that girl?  Because I was young.

What class were you?

I was in Form 5, my final year and getting ready to go abroad.  Even when I went abroad, he was still calling me.  I was in West Virginia, USA.  I used to hear that love across the ocean does not work. Ours worked because he was always there for me.  When I came to Nigeria, he was always around.  He would call me or send messages.  He actually nurtured the relationship to the time we got married.  He did everything to convince me he wanted to be with me as my husband.

Was he your only suitor or toaster then?

Of course not.  Many people came asking me to go out with them or marry them but I told them I already had the man I was going to marry.

At what stage of your relationship did it occur to you he was the man you want to spend the rest of your life with?

I think from the first day we started dating I realized he is a wonderful person.  He is a good listener.  I talk a lot.  With him, I was doing the talking and he would listen to me even till today.

Were you aware of his parental background then?

When we were growing up, nobody cared who your father was as long as he is a decent person.  Don’t forget my father was not a poor man.  I was not lacking anything while growing up.  There was nothing I asked my father that he did not give me. So, I was not the type that would have a relationship with a man because of his parent’s wealth.  My husband wouldn’t even tell you his name is Kayode Tejuosho.

How long did the relationship last before you got married?

We dated for 18 years.  I told you we started dating when I was in my final year in secondary school.  You know all those poppy love.  All the boyfriend and girlfriend things.  It later grew into a serious relationship.  He’s always been very attentive to me and he still is.  I think that is what has kept us as a unit till now.

How many children has the marriage produced?

Four children – a girl and three boys.

What would you say has been the happiest moment of your 50 years of life?

Having my children and seeing them thriving, they are doing well.  It gives me pleasure.

What would you say has been the saddest moment of your life?

Losing my mom.

When did she die?

30 years ago.

Which means you were 20 when she died?

I was 19 and in my final year at West Virginia University, USA.  It was traumatic for me when Mrs. Bellmeir, who was in charge of African students, called me and my sisters to inform us of her death.

Were you the closest child to her?

My mom was close to all her children.  Everyone of us (her children) felt the loss.  That was one time we thought we were going to fall apart.  But we survived it.  She was a very nice woman and caring mother.  She lived for us.  Losing her was hard because my father was a workaholic.

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

A lot o!  We always pray to God to catapult us to the next level.  So, I am asking for more.  I am asking God for more blessings in my job, marriage, on my children. I want blessing galore.

In essence, you are saying that you are not fulfilled at 50?

I don’t think anybody should be fulfilled at any age.  You should never be fulfilled until you die.  There is so much to do.  There are so many lives to be touched.    Yes, I thank God for where I am but I am not satisfied with where I am presently.  I feel I can achieve more.  For instance, I am just a House of Assembly member with a small constituency.  I can still aspire to be a senator with a bigger constituency and impact on the lives of more people.  I think satisfaction and fulfillment is derived from the greatest number of people that one has impacted.

There is this rumour that you are also aspiring to be the next Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly. How far is this true?

Hmmm, rumour.  I don’t really want to comment on this rumour because as far as I am concerned, it is like putting the horse before the cart.  You will need to win in the general elections first and become a member of the assembly before you start thinking of becoming the next Speaker.

So, after the elections, we will know who will be the next Speaker.

How has the electioneering campaign be so far?

It’s been good though it is been long with the postponement.

So, to you the postponement is not a blessing, it is a curse?

No, it is not a curse for us.  I think the PDP needed it.  We didn’t.  But with it, we can cross the T’s and dot the I’s.  They (PDP) are just writing their own T’s and the I’s.  We have always been steadfast.  We have always been working.  Like lawyers will say res ipsa loquitur (the fact speaks for itself).  We’ve been working.  Look at Lagos State for example, Fashola is working.  Lagos State is working.

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu laid the foundation that Governor Fashola is building on.  So, it is a solid foundation and the building is solid.  We are waiting for Ambode to do the roofing and plastering of the building.  We believe in continuity because we have seen things happening.

The reason we need a change at the federal level is because we are not seeing things happening.  We are seeing dollar moving up to N225 and pounds to N350.  It is sad.  Things are getting expensive.  Businesses are suffering.

What are your chances of winning in the April 11, 2015 elections?

Very, very bright.  I must thank my constituents for appreciating my efforts over the years.  It is not easy to continue to win an election over and over again.  The people must want you. I am grateful to God.  I am grateful to my constituents.  I am grateful to my party members that voted for me during the primary.

How did it go?

It was peaceful.  I had 254 votes.  The person that came second scored three votes and the third person scored nil.

–   TOLANI ABATTI

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