Alhaja Tai Montai Elemosho – Okesanjo is a popular socialite and businesswoman in Lagos. Her One – Stop – Shoe – Shop On Toyin Street, Ikeja, is a regular place for ladies who have good eyes for good and lasting shoes. The mother of two who is also a devout Muslim turned 50 on Saturday, December 23, 2017, and told us in this exciting interview (conducted by Tolani Abatti) the story of her life…
Q- We will like to congratulate you on your 50th birthday.
A- Thank you very much.
Q- How does it feel to turn 50?
A- I feel so good, am happy, God has been merciful.
Q- How will you describe your growing up, will you say it is a privilege one or just there?
A- My growing up was a privileged one. Though I wasn’t born with a silver spoon, I certainly was not far from it. Because I lacked nothing while growing up. My parents provided everything I needed as a child.
Q- What memory of childhood do you still cherish?
A – I remember very well that every time I closed from school, I joined my father in his shop where he sells bowler hats to his customers then in Lagos island. Being his first child, I was always with him in his shop helping out.
Q – You are the first child of how many children of your parents?
A- First child out of 24 children.
Q- 24? That must be a polygamous setting?
A- My father has five wives.
Q – You mother position is the first one I supposed?
A – Definitely.
Q – How many are you from your own mother?
A – We are five.
Q – Are your parents still alive?
A – Very much alive and kicking. My father is 77 and my mother is 72.
Q- What would you say you are happy most about turning 50?
A – I thank God for sparing my life. Some lost their lives as a child. Some lost it when they were in their 20’s. But God on His throne has spared my life for 50 years. I thank God for this. God has been merciful to me, He has been kind to me, He has been honest with me because when God fulfilled His promise to you that means, He has been honest with you. I remember my first time to hajj, I was four years old. My father carried me on his shoulder there then. So, I became an Alhaja at age 4. Maybe the prayer that my father prayed for me then is what has sustained me till now.
Q – Since you went to Hajj at of four, how many times have you gone to Hajj on your own?
A – I have been there on my own for 14 times and Umrah (lesser hajj), 10 times, making a total of 24 times.
Q – When will you say was the happiest moment of your 50 years of existence?
A- Every moment is a happy one for me. But I will say my first breakthrough in life came when at 24 when I made my first million. I was barely 21 when I left university. I started working with NTA. From NTA, I moved to a merchant bank. So, I started saving since then. I was doing business and I was working.I was targeting one million naira. Shortly before I was 24, I was able to make that N1 million. My friend then, Folake Amoo, who was my account officer, in Crystal Bank called to say, Tai, it is now one million. I was very happy. I remember I went to Oniyanrin then in Victoria Island to celebrate it with my friends. That certainly was the first happiest moment of my life. Then, when I had my first child at 28, I was happy too. Every time I go to Hajj, I am always happy too. I am always happy when I am close to my God. I remember 10 years ago when I went to Saudi Arabia, my prayer to God then was to give me enough money to have a place in Saudi Arabia that I will stay each time I come to Mecca. He granted it. Right now, I have an apartment in Mecca. Each time I go, I just open it and stay there to worship my God. Those are the things that one is happy about in life.
Q – When would you say was the saddest moment of your life?
A – Never. I have never had any sad moment. Never. God has been good. It is not as if everything is 100 percent rosy but there has never been anytime I asked God why did you have to do this to me? God has been at least 80 percent faithful.
Q – At 50, what major lesson of life would you say life has taught you?
A – I have learnt that in life, you must be humble, you must be accommodating and you must worship your God.There is nobody except God. You cannot trust anybody except God. That is why I find time always to worship God because it is only in Him whom I can trust.
Q Tai Montai is synonymous with Ladies shoes. When did it all start?
A – When I was at the University of Lagos, I had a lot of shoes. I used to travel to London during the long vacation and I usually come back with a lot of shoes. Sometimes, when I am cleaning my room in the hostel then, I will line up the shoes outside my room and that of my two or three next door neighbours to the extent that my neighbours will be shouting come and pack your shoes oo. From then on, I became popular among my student colleagues on the issue of shoes. So, from there I started buying and selling shoes to many of my colleagues. Even when I started working at NTA and the bank, I was still trading in shoes. So, when I left the banking hall, I went straight to the business of selling shoes. My first shop was at Apapa Road, Ebute Meta. But because it was far from Ikeja where I was living with my husband, I had to move to Toyin Street, Ikeja. We ‘ve been in Ikeja now since 1999. We thank God. I can’t ask for more.
Q – How and when did you meet your husband?
A- I was coming from Savannah Bank ,where I was doing my NYSC then and going to my father’s shop in Lagos Island, when a car stopped by my side and I looked inside I saw friend of another friend who greeted me very well and now introduced his friend sitting beside him in the car as Mr Biodun Okesanjo from Chicago, America. Later they started looking for me through another friend. Like they say one thing led to the other and we started courting. I was 22 when we started courting. So, we ‘ve known each other for 28 years now. We thank God.
Q – How many children has the marriage been blessed with?
A – Two lovely children. The first one is 22 and the second is 11.