Senator Oluremi Tinubu hardly grants interviews. Rarely will you find her talk about herself or her private life? But twice when she was Lagos 1st Lady, she spoke to City People about all she would naturally not talk about. Below is one of the interviews she granted City People Publisher SEYE KEHINDE then.
Every day one sees you one gets the feeling that you keep looking younger. What is the secret behind your looks?
That is the way you media people see it. (Laughter) We give God the glory for keeping us alive and healthy. And we have seen women and men living longer and healthier too. All you have to do is make sure you eat right and you exercise. For me, eating right is fine, but exercising poses as a challenge for me. It is something that I have to take more seriously. But because I know that if I take it seriously, I will just renew my youth like that of an eagle. You know about the eagle renewing its youth. After 35 years, it decides whether it wants another 35 years. So, it is almost like that. You make sure that you keep yourself healthy so that your older years will be spent with less agony.
In your own case, how have you been able to maintain a healthy eating routine?
I love food. I love to eat. And then, I remember I used to love meat a lot. But recently, I decided I had to cut down on meat. And I started eating more fish and chicken. But I still have my eyes on meat. So I tell the cooks in the house, “don’t cook meat. You know I love meat, but it is no longer healthy as you start growing old.” In any case, I am managing and I try to do the right thing.
What about exercising?
Exercising! I would have loved waking, but I can’t really do rigorous exercise. So I do something that is rather light, nothing too rigorous. But I love walking.
How best would you describe your personality?
You can ask my staff. Earlier on, I mentioned that my children advised that I should go for Anger Management Class (laughter). You see, they are teenagers now, so they used all sorts of blackmail (laughter) But with my staff at times, I see it in them that they are not too happy with me, because I drive them. It is the work, but they want me to play with them most of the time. When you joke, they like it and they are happy, but we have work to do. And you say after all, we have eight years. But eight years is too small to do so much. A staff of mine is still here, maybe he can tell you. Don’t let me appraise myself.
Those who are quite familiar with you describe you as being very down-to-earth and natural. How true is this?
(Looks surprised) Can you be otherwise?
Yes, it is possible to be otherwise.
Oh really? One of the things I do is that I cultivate the friendship of older women. And I always love the idea of role models and you have to learn from people with experience.
Aside from the reason you just cited, what really explains your down-to-earth and simple nature?
I am just being myself. But I think it is very easy to be yourself than trying to wake up in the morning and filling into someone else’s image. It will be a lot of work.
But there is a group of people who argue that power has a way of changing those who hold public offices?
I don’t think that applies in our own case. And this is because we have come a long way. We have definitely come a long way. One minute, we were in our home and the next minute, we were running into exile. There was a time we were so broke. 1 didn’t even see anybody, no friend. So for me, with the experience I had, it is quite different.
So, what is it like being Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s wife?
(Sighs) Well, you have to help me out there. I don’t think it is quite easy. He is one man who has moulded me to be who I am. And I thank him for enabling me to be independent, for allowing me to take decisions. Even when I take decisions without him being consulted, in my mind, he supports my taking that decision. He has really instilled that in me, that no matter what decision I take, it is for both of us. It is not very easy being married to him. He works very hard. And we have really sacrificed so much – family life, children and so many things. But it’s worth it, if that is what he is called to do. And as long as he does well for the people and they identity with what he does, it is okay with me.
Would you have preferred it, if he were not a politician?
No. It doesn’t matter at all. Even if he were a politician or whatever, I am glad that he is what God has called him to be. And that is what he wants to do. Marriage is about making people explore their potentials. But when you start guarding people, you cannot make them soar. You have to let people do what they want to do. It is like letting a bird go. When you cage a bird, you cannot really see how high the bird can fly or how high it can soar. But you let the bird go, that is when you will appreciate its wings. However, it takes a lot of sacrifices to do that. I will tell you that it is quite challenging to do that. But it is never boring. So, every day, you find that you are faced with new challenges. And maybe I grew into it with time.
People have tried to paint your husband in various ways. Some say he is rigid, firm and stubborn, especially when he takes a stand on any position?
If we are looking at someone with a great sense of integrity, you have to say they are too rigid. Of course, we have very few people of integrity in our society. And when you really want to change things for the better or even try to do the right thing, it can be very hard. So, I think when you are in the public eyes, people tend to have different opinions of you.
You are one of the few Nigerian women who remain very consistent in their schemes of fashion. What dictates your fashion style?
Oh, there you go again (Laughter) But one thing I can tell you is that I am not fashionable. I have my own style. I don’t look at what people are wearing. I do look to see what is there and when do I come in.
I have my own style. My children made me understand that it is one thing to be fashionable it is another thing to have style. To me, style is a timeless way of expressing yourself. And I don’t think I am fashionable. I don’t deal with fashion because fashion has its season. But style has no season. For instance, what I am wearing today, I have worn it times without numbers, because it is comfortable. You can see that it is a timeless frock. So I can wear it until it is old and tom before tossing it aside. And it is also cheaper to have your style. Fashionable? I don’t know, but I try to make sure that I fit in.
How does your penchant for simplicity come in, in all of this?
(Sighs) Simplicity. You see, I always try to get things that will suit me. The biggest or most bogus jewellery that most people wear may not be meant for my neck. Even when I wear bogus jewellery on my neck, you will see that there is something fragile about it. So my body cannot even take so much. Thus, I have to wear what my body can take, not because people are wearing it.
What would you say constitutes as a source of great passion for you, in your quest for achievement in life?
Funny enough, I don’t have a passion for any of those things. My passion is to make life better for other people in need. You see, I count myself lucky. God has blessed us greatly. And there is so much around
and there is so much we can do to help other people in need. If we can take one person at a time, I think the wealth in Nigeria could go around. Just take one person at a time. Yorubas do have this adage that when you eat three square meals, you are no longer poor. But most people are so caught up in the things of this world that we want to keep up with the Jones. And that is not it at all. And for me, what really drives me is how I can be of help to those in need. At times, it can really be overwhelming. You want to do so much with little. And that is when it gets to me and I become sad. I find that I want to do so much but I have so little. And I will say that is where empathy comes in. And that is when I feel like running away because I now weigh that problem, and at times, it is so much for me. That poses a great challenge to me. I always feel pained when r realise that I can barely satisfy someone who really needs help. And at times, you don’t even know which one is real and which one is not. You just have to go with your heart.
Can you relieve your childhood years?
Wao! My childhood years were very eventful. My dad who is late now, was from Ijebu-Ogun State while my mother is ltsheriki from Delta State. And any Itshekiri woman will have a very great influence on you. But the person that really helped in shaping my life was my father. He was a very wonderful man. Of course, my mother is wonderful as well, but we girls tend to love our father because We believe he is the first man we know. My father helped me to build up excellence in my life. He taught me to have integrity, to be contented and he taught me to give to others and love human beings. I came
from a very humble background. We were not super-rich, but we were of a middle-class family. My father trained me and gave me a good education. I am from a polygamous family and one of the things he told us, his children was that good education was the only inheritance he was going to give us. He taught us never to really rely on any inheritance. And he was always willing to train us in good schools. And he always listened to what we had to say. My father made me feel I could conquer the world. He was always full of optimism for me.
For instance, when I took a chieftaincy title at the age of 33, my mother was like “You are too young!”. But when I told my father, he said, “You are not too young!” And whenever, he wrote to me, he would
address me as “My dear Chief”. He was so positive about my life. He was a wonderful father. I really do miss him. And he was my finishing school. So if you think I have little taste or little class, my father helped in grooming me to be able to do that. My father groomed all his daughters to achieve and be the best. He had nine girls and four boys. He groomed us in a way that made us excel in our rol 5 as wives, mothers and career people. So, he was always teaching us how to be the best. In fact, he taught me beauty. So it was really wonderful having that kind of a man for a father. When we lived in Ibadan, I went to school in Ibadan. We came down to Lagos and I went to school in ljebu-Ode. And from there to Ife. And after I graduated, I went to Kano for my Youth Service. So, you can see why I love travelling a lot. All those are just the little experiences that I had and which helped me to widen my horizon about life. And I taught for a while. But I had to stop when my children started coming. You see, my husband has always been a very hardworking and busy man. And that is one of the reasons why I love him. He is never a lazy man (Smiles). He taught me how to work hard as well. He taught me how to discover myself, discover my talent and discover who I am. And anytime I need help, he is always there. At times, when I get confused, I just need five minutes with him and he puts me straight back on the path. And I thank him for him.