- Talks About Her Over 20 Yr Marriage
Truth be told, you couldn’t possibly spend just a few minutes with the pretty and charming Honourable Funmilayo Tejuoso and not fall in love with her. She’s incredibly articulate. And she is by far the most accomplished female Lawmaker in Lagos. She is also very knowledgeable. Bring up any subject under the sun and she will engage you intelligently. And if any of the foregoing does not faze you, then her gorgeous look certainly will. Even as she has advanced in age from the time she first emerged the Lawmaker representing Mushin constituency 1, in 2003, the rigours and pressure of politics have still not taken away her beauty. She still has that charming look plus her lovely smile that has endeared her to many. And yes, she’s still got those beautiful and assured eyes that could rattle you if you lack the confidence to meet her gaze. She also hasn’t lost any of her elegance by one bit. Recently, City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL, got her to talk about her love story. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Going by the sort of ‘sheltered upbringing’ that you had, how and where did you pick the passion for selfless service, offering people free legal services and lending a helping hand to the needy around you, all of which subsequently led you into politics?
It was my mum. I got it from my mum. My father used to call her Salvation Army. My mum was a very lovely, wonderful person. I think that’s part of why she died so early. My mum was the kind of person that, she’ll wear an outfit, and somebody comes to the house to greet her and says. ‘oh, I like your outfit,’ my mum will go inside, change, take it off and give it to that person and I’m like, ’wow, this is amazing.’ I couldn’t understand it. I’m the last of 5 children, but my siblings could not understand it either.
But that was who my mother was and that was my father called her Salvation Army. My mother would go to the market to buy food for the house to take us through the entire month, by the time she gets home, you’ll see all these aunties and cousins that are married come and share the food and take to their house. So, at the end of the day, there’s very little left and my dad would have to give her more money for more food because we have to eat.
I guess that was who she was. We couldn’t really grudge her. She went out of her way to help people, to make people’s home stable. She used to make other people’s problems her own. And I think that’s where I started learning to help people in need as well. My mother was very blunt. She’ll tell you the way she sees it. Maybe that is another trait that I took from her. My dad also was a very kind person, but very strict. My daddy never beat me, ever.
Will you say you were daddy’s little girl at the time or mummy’s little girl?
I think both, really. Being the last child, of my mother, for a while I thought I was the last child of my father (breaks into laughter). So, being the last child in the house, I easily got my way quite often. My father would dialogue with you, and you have to be talking sense. My father is the kind of person that would always tell us, Think before you talk, don’t just talk. If you notice, when I’m on the floor, at plenary, I jot down points. I don’t just talk. You make sure that you collate what you want to say, think about what you want to say, don’t just speak. I loved my dad. He was a very nice person. I remember one day while I was in the university in America and there was some event I needed to attend and the dress I would’ve loved to wear was back in Nigeria, I’d worn it for my sister’s wedding in London and I called my dad and he ‘DHLd’ it to me in America which I thought he would never do.
You have been very flamboyant, enigmatic and very fashionable. But lately, you seem to have slowed down a bit, preferring to look simple most times. Is it age that’s making you shed a bit of the flamboyance or what?
I’m a very, very simple person. You see, there’s something my mother always told me. Your appearance is your letter of recommendation. You dress to suit where you’re going. If I need to dress up, I do dress up. If I need to dress down, I do dress down. It depends on where I’m going and my mood. But I’m not really the neck jewelry person, I like my little earrings, though I have big ones too, but I’m more of a bag person. I like my handbags, but then I could carry one for months without changing (laughs). So, really, I’m not materialistic. I think I look more than I am, really. I feel people think, oh, she dresses up a lot and whatever, but the truth is, things don’t excite me, let me put it that way. I don’t get carried away over material things and I guess that’s the way I’ve trained my children as well. They will dress up when they have to dress up. For me, I could wear an Ankara that I love for months and still feel good because as long as it’s clean and decent, I think that’s what you need. And once it’s properly matched and you look tidy, I think that’s the most important. But when I want to dress up, I do dress up.
What fashion accessory really excites you?
(Laughs) Maybe because when I was growing up, my mother took care of me along with my siblings. My dad was the bread winner but my mother made sure that everything was available. Growing up, I knew that if I needed anything my parents would get it for me so I don’t get excited over things. I could drive the same old car, my 2007 Camry, if the president invites me to a party and still feel fine going to the party. I think my family were like that. That’s my upbringing, that’s who I am. People see me in a different light, but I will not dress to impress people, I dress for myself. They’ve given me awards like Most fashionable legislator. Yeah, I can be fashionable. My mother was extremely fashionable, if you ask people like Chief (Mrs.) Fowler, Chief (Mrs.) Adebayo, all these women are grandmas now, they will tell you my mother was a very fashionable woman. They all grew up together and were very close.
At your son’s wedding, you barely sat down, you were dancing all through. Do you l ike dancing?
When I’m happy, I dance. My best way of expressing myself when I’m happy is by dancing. I like dancing. I enjoy dancing when I’m happy and when I’m comfortable in that environment, otherwise, I will sit and observe. And I come from a family of reserved people, remember that I am the most vocal in my father’s family, plus my mother’s. My siblings are very private people. When you grow up in that kind of environment, you tend to be more of that person. But my ‘bubbliness’ cannot be suppressed by anyone or by anything. I have a son like that, he can dance and he’s my most quiet child. He can dance this place down, he’s a fantastic dancer.
I got to speak briefly with your husband at your son’s wedding, a very calm, cool gentleman…
(Cuts in) He’s very tough o! He’s the soldier of the family. My husband is very reserved, but he is also very tough. Where I would let go, he might not. So, he’s the disciplinarian of the family because me, once I shout a little bit and they say, mummy, I’m sorry, that’s it, I’ll say, oya, let’s forget about it, but my husband will say no, that thing you did, go and think about it and come back to tell me if you did the right thing. He’s more of the disciplinarian and its good because there must be somebody in the house who disciplines them. But me, do I discipline them? I do, but I think as mummy you let it slide a lot of times, but my husband is tough o, I won’t lie.
I don’t think you’ve shared this publicly before, can you tell us how you two met?
(Her face brightens up even more as she beams with smiles) Ah, my husband. I met him many years ago. We’ve been married for over 20 years now. We dated for like 13 years before we got married. I met him at my final year in Queens College, and you know all that boy friend, girlfriend by mouth stuff kids used to do back then, that was in my final year. Then I went to finish in West Virginia, he’ll come and visit me in America. Then I did Buckingham, he’ll come and visit me in Buckingham. I’ve known Kayode for ever. He’s my darling, he’s my friend, he’s my high school sweetheart (She looks shyly away as her eyes glow with emotion and her voice laden with unbridled excitement). Kayode is a truly wonderful person.
What’s that one thing that has kept the marriage going after all these years?
We’re different people. I’m very Bubbly, ‘dancy,’ while he’s very calm, cool and collected. But one thing I’ve seen about him is that he’s so sure of himself that he holds the family together. He’s like my own rock, he’s my pillar of support. He’s the one that helps me. As strong as I appear to people, he makes me strong because when you have a solid person behind you, you can withstand anything. Because you know when you get home, your rock is there waiting for you. He’ll ask, what happened at work today, don’t worry, I’m here for you. He’s fantastic. I’m so glad I met him. He’s strong. He’s strong for me, he’s strong for us. I think he’s also a very determined person. Initially, when I met him, I didn’t want to go out with him. I didn’t know too much about him. He went to school in Ibadan, I went to school in Lagos. So, I’m like, I don’t even know him, I don’t know what to make of him. But he will always come to my house and be waiting for me and I’m like, what do you want? But when somebody is persistent, when somebody perseveres, when somebody shows good intentions, all of these fears disappear. When we started dating he knew immediately we would get married. That’s all he talks about. He would say when we get married, we’ll have a daughter and three boys and here we are. So, it’s like we sort of planned all this while to be together forever and I believe that’s what it’s going to be by the grace of God.
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