How do you feel as you prepare for your 55th birthday? What is your state of mind?
I am somewhat of a kid at heart when it comes to my birthdays. They have always been kind of a big deal for me, and I start making noise about my birthday from a month ahead! There cannot be anyone who does not know my birthday is coming. My state of mind as I approach 55 is that of thanksgiving and pure gratitude. For some strange reason, I never thought I would see my 50th. But today, I am preparing for my 55th! Also, when you think that we have just been through a global pandemic with millions of people dead, to be spared and kept alive is a great gift.
Do you feel fulfilled and accomplished at 55?
It never really matters how much you accomplish; you always feel like you could be doing more. In the past year, to the glory of God, I did my MBA, retrained as a data Analyst and last month, I became the 1st Vice Chairman of the Central Association of Nigerians in the UK (CANUK) And of course like many others, outlived COVID. But as soon as you accomplish one achievement, you are looking forward to the next. But my greatest fulfilment comes from my 3 children – Ololade, Mobolaji and Motolani. I have been the only present parent for most of their lives and to see them all grown up and doing so well now, that makes me feel so proud and fulfilled as a parent. As an individual I feel fulfilled in the charity and community projects I am involved in. I also recently realised my dream of working in the UK-NHS. I recently started as a Healthcare Strategy & Policy Analyst. My dream job.
How do you plan to celebrate it?
My birthdate falls on a weekday so I might have a few friends over for dinner. It is also possible that some of my sneaky friends are planning a surprise. That will be nice actually.
Tell us about Baronessj Olajumoke Ariyo. What has changed about her and what has remained constant?
Seye remember we were in the same class together at Ogun Poly. There is still so much of that Jummy in me. The playful, friendly, fun loving chick. But life experiences over the years have made me much calmer, matured, focused, tolerant and understanding especially of the pains and struggles of others.
You do not get to this age without your own fair share of pain, disappointment, relationships failures, health issues, financial problems and even the sorrow of bereavement. All these are enough to humble you and keep you focussed on God and not so much on yourself or on others who mostly let you down. But I keep a very small circle of old and constant friends that I can trust and depend on.
That limits the occurrence of betrayal. It is usually strangers and new acquaintances that you do not really know who disappoint and let you down. Also, nowadays, I refuse to allow myself to be moved, or influenced by the opinion of others. I think that kind of arrogance comes with older age. Kind of a right….
Where were you born? Where did you grow up? Are you Ijebu?
Oh, I am Ijebu to the core, from “the main Ijebu” – Ijebu Ode. My parents are from Imupa and Ishado townships. I was also married to an Ijebu Ode indigene. I actually founded the Central Association of Ogun state Indigenes in the UK (CASSOGI UK) However, I was born in Hackney, London. A real original Eastender. Although I was brought back to Nigeria with my parents when I was 8 and had all my education in Nigeria (Ogun Poly, Uniben, National Service at Ibadan and a stint as a Presenter/Newsreader at OGTV before returning to the UK in 1989). In the early days, with my parents being civil servants, we moved from Lagos to Ibadan before settling in Abeokuta.
Tell us about your success secrets. How have you been able to remain focused and consistent career wise?
My greatest success secret although it may sound cliched, is my deep faith and strong relationship with God. I go to Him when I am feeling low, confused, stressed, overwhelmed or happy. However, you need to know what you want from life. You need to have a purpose and know exactly what it is. Until you identify your purpose in life, you will simply be floundering about in circles. But the moment you discover your true purpose, you will settle and become more at peace with yourself, with the world, and even if you are not making a lot of money, you will be much more contented. And you must also be a hard worker and a giver.
That could be your time, your compassion, your efforts. I have met some of the most incredible contacts and personalities through my unpaid community works and charitable activities. And those contacts help me walk through doors I would never have been able to even knock on.