•Erelu SUMBO Reveals Her Grass-To-Grace Story
On Friday, 8th April 2022, Erelu Sunmbo Famuyibo, the wife of a popular politician, Otunba Reuben Famuyibo, Erelu Sunmbo Famuyibo clocked 60. And she hosted a party to mark it. The special occasion didn’t go uncelebrated. It was done in a moderate, but glamorous and colourful manner though. There was a Church Service at the Cathedral of St. James the Great, Oke-Bola, Ibadan, after which guests were treated to a grand reception at the Ikolaba GRA home of the Famuyibos. The event, as usual, didn’t come short of expectation, as sumptuous meals, both local and continental, as well as choice drinks of all sorts were readily available. That wasn’t surprising to those who know Reuben and Sunmbo Famuyibo very well. They are fabulous and excellent hosts.
Of course, Erelu Sunmbo Famuyibo has every reason to celebrate. It’s her Diamond Jubilee celebration. She is hale and healthy. Her children have all grown up and doing wonderfully well for themselves. Her grandchildren are kicking and are always around her. She is looking radiant and as young and beautiful as ever at 60. She has seen it all as a society woman and a businesswoman. But all beneath all these, however, is a story. The Grass to Grace story of Erelu Sunmbo Famuyibo, which she revealed extensively to City People’s Correspondent, DARE ADENIRAN in this no-holds-barred interview, held shortly after the birthday celebration, at the sprawling mansion of the Famuyibos inside Ikolaba GRA, Ibadan. It is quite revealing and interesting. Below are excerpts.
You clocked 60 a few days back, did 60 creep in you or you were prepared for it? What went through your mind on that day?
I was excited and nervous at the same time, honestly. Because when I looked back at where I was coming from, where I am today and where God is taking me, I should be thankful. I’m full of thanksgiving. I looked at myself and I said God, why are you this merciful unto me? What I have really done to deserve this kind of love you’ve showered on me? I have nothing to say than to continue thanking God.
I was born at SW6/351, Agbokojo, Ibadan. Agbokojo is sandwiched between Agbeni, Orita-Merin and Foko. I was born with a spoon that I couldn’t identify whether it was gold or silver. I only knew it was just a spoon. But at the age of 5, the spoon, unfortunate, was snatched from me. My father died and I was the last child. We were 5. The 5 of us and my mother were thrown into just one single room in my father’s house. And there were several other rooms. That is a story for another day.
My mother did all sorts of jobs, the only thing she didn’t do to raise us was, prostitution. She was selling eggs, and plantain and later graduated to selling laces and damasks. She later went to London and US and even became an American citizen, courtesy of my sister who was a professor over there.
But I tell you one thing, on this particular street we now live, my mother and myself walked through the street barefooted. We were going to someone’s house near the government house. You know in those days when you are passing through this place, different things would be coming to your mind; is it police that will surface? Is it a dog? Not knowing that God had pictured that I will live on the same street.
So you can imagine my story and where I was coming from. I give glory to God. Because what God has done for me is beyond human comprehension. Some people told me that when they saw me drinking coke and eating during my father’s burial, they were crying for me. That, look at this innocent girl, what will become of her? Some of those who told me the story is still alive today. But with the grace of God, my mother, singlehandedly, trained the five of us. We have a Professor, we have a retired D.G, we have a pastor and of course, you know Gbenga Adesulure (Sultana) and myself.
My mother worked and worked; take a look at the result today. I thank God that she really enjoyed her life before she died. So, clocking 60, for me, is like crossing a long bridge full of obstacles.
Was there a kind of special gift to pamper yourself at 60?
For the past two months now, I have not been sleeping well, I have not been eating very well simply because I’m just full of thanks to God. There was a time, when I was in primary school, when my Uncle, may God bless his memory, Late Barr. Adegbembo, the wife was the Matron of Queen School, Ibadan. I think they were celebrating their child’s birthday, I wouldn’t know. He came to pick me and my brother up from Agbokojo, I just remembered a few months ago that we went to that party without shoes on. At that time, the picture was very blurry. In fact, nobody in Agbokojo would even ask what is your life ambition was. Was it the guys smoking Indian hemp and all that will care about anybody? In fact, it was just like being born in Ojuina in Lagos.
Back to your question, the truth is that, except for the fact that am the celebrant, I didn’t know anything about the arrangement until that day. It was my husband and the children that planned everything. My daughter was telling me the other time not to worry, that there were so many surprises for me. And they really surprised me, I don’t want to be mentioning what and what they did. But I will forever be grateful to God for the kind of family He has blessed me with. They are just wholesome. Also, special thanks go to those who came around to celebrate with me. You all did well, God bless you.
What do you wish for yourself at 60?
As I always do, I look up to God, the author and finisher of my faith. Human beings would always be human beings. I want God to grant my husband good health and his heart desires. Another one is for my children to excel (mo fe ki won lo pase nibi giga). I want my grandchildren to be well. I don’t want any unnecessary stress. I just want to be on my lane and be worshipping my God.
What is the greatest lesson life has taught you at 60?
To be contented and be grateful for every little favour from God or man.
If you should take deep accounts of your life, would you say you are fulfilled at 60?
I’m more than fulfilled. But I still pray to God, am 60 now, and I still have 46 years more. I know whatever I so wish my God will do it for me. I will grow old, my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will surround me and they will call me a blessed woman.
Are there things to change about you now that you are 60?
Absolutely nothing. I remained my humble self. There is nothing bad I have been doing that I will now have to change. My own 60 is continuity. If Jesus’ coming tarries, I will live up to 100 as I said. I don’t bother myself over anything. I’m on my own with God and my family. I don’t care what people say about me, I rather care about what God thinks about me and what my children think about me.
What gives you the greatest happiness in life?
My family. God, my husband, children, grandchildren and my in-laws. There is a great joy in my house. I can’t describe it. I’m so grateful, I’m not owing anybody and not struggling with anybody over anything.
You look as young and as beautiful as ever, what is the secret behind this your youthful looks?
It’s the grace of God. I don’t bother myself over anything in this world because life is vanity. In having and in not having, if I don’t have food I will fast, if I fast and I don’t have food to break, I will soak gari and turn it to white fasting. And it has never even gotten to that level. But just to tell you that nothing can freak me in this life anymore. I flashed back at my background, where I am, where God has promised to take me, my husband, my children and their spouses, I’m blessed.
Apart from the grace of God, are there routines you have adopted in maintaining your looks and keeping fit?
I do everything normally. I walk and exercise my body regularly. I eat normally. I take a lot of water, there is nothing more.
What would you say really motivated you to be somebody in life, having come from the kind of environment you grew up in, Agbokojo?
Like I used to tell someone, I really suffered while I was young. I know what it means to be hungry and I know what it means not to have cloth and shoes. In those days, at our house in Agbokojo, faeces collectors would be passing through your house and you dare not squeeze your face. They may just use the broom to splash the faeces on your face. That was the kind of environment I come from. So when I looked at all that and my siblings, despite the fact that they were born in Agbokojo, they all attended the best schools around. My sister went to St. Monica Secondary School in Ondo State in those days.
Another brother went to St. Joseph, my immediate elder brother, TEGO and I went to St. James. When he passed the entrance examination into Government College Ibadan, my mother didn’t have money. He was the only one to have been admitted to GCI from St. James. The headmaster had to follow him to our house, that is Tona Adesulure, popularly known as TEGO. He was well known in GCI then, a very brilliant and eloquent man. The headmaster volunteered to pay for a term and for my mother to look for the rest. I can’t say precisely whether it was the headmaster or my mum that eventually paid. But I know the headmaster definitely contributed. It was as bad as that. I went to St. Margaret High School, Ilesa.
In those days, there was a vendor who would give me Daily Sketch whenever he was passing through Agbokojo and collect the paper when coming back. My mother would be like, “you are buying paper when we don’t have money to eat”.
So, at St. Margaret, I was the one representing my school in the literary and debating society. Despite coming from Agbokojo, we did perfectly well. Apart from my sister, the professor, who got married in Kano, who did a white wedding, I was the first to ever did a white wedding in Agbokojo. The car couldn’t even get to the front of our house. I had to trek a few metres in my wedding gown to enter the car. So all those things really pushed me to say Sunmbo, you must be great in this life.
You used to be one of the top society women in Ibadan who rocked the social scene back then, being married to a great socialite and businessman. Is it age that has really slowed you down?
God has been so good, six times I was terribly attacked by armed robbers. I give glory to God, He’s been so good. All my children are believers. Like I used to tell my children before I knew God He has been taking care of me. So, knowing Him now, He has been performing excellently well. All my children are all grown, my husband is taking good care of me, to the glory of God. My children are taking care of me as well. Everything is going on as I want and am now closer to God. Then I have seen it all so what again? It has nothing to do with age really. It is a person that I have taken.
How would you describe those days, are you missing anything about the good old days?
I had the best. My husband has taken me everywhere that matters. We have been to Aso Rock, we have been to governors’ houses, and I have met a lot of people. I don’t think people are doing anything extraordinary that I have not done. That is why, most times, when I read stories about some celebrities nowadays, I will just laugh. We have passed that level. My husband has taken me to many A-list parties both home and abroad. I have lived abroad. I had the best of everything; good cars, the best houses. So what again?
Of course, I enjoyed the best of the moment but I’m not missing anything really. There is no regret whatsoever.
What about your friends in the social circle?
I’m not into friends. When my mother was alive, her business was her friend. Once we leave the house as early as 5 am in the morning, we won’t come back until 6:30 pm. The next thing was always for us to eat and sleep. So that has been part of me since I was young. My husband is my best friend, he took most of my time even in those days. Most of his friends are my friends because we know them together. I got married about 37 years ago, we courted for 5 years. So if you deduct that from my age, you will realize that my husband really caught me young (laughs). That is why we are very close and one another’s best friends. Again, I don’t like gossip. I want peace of mind and that is what I’m enjoying.
You have been with your husband for 42 years, what has been keeping the marriage going over the years?
God. Tolerance, perseverance and endurance. I never knew my mother with any man. My husband was the first father figure I would ever have in my life. He caught me when I was young and we became very close. And to be honest with you, he took good care of me and still taking care of me. I have been taken to England on holidays since I was in the school of Nursing. People say he is tough but he is not. He is only a principled man. I know what he wants at any particular point in time and I give it to him and that has been the greatest ingredient that has been doing the magic. Another thing is the fact that I have zeroed my mind totally that, I’m in the marriage till death do us part. He manages me, I manage him. He is my door and I’m his key.
Your husband is, again, contesting the governorship race of Ekiti State. Some people think he should slow down, politically as per age and all?
I have never heard much about Ekiti until I met my husband. But when I got to know him, I realized how passionate he is about Ekiti. Don’t also forget the fact that my husband worked through thick and thin before he became what he has become today. He doesn’t want any citizen of the state, especially the youths, to pass through what he passed through. The Bible says, “there is time for everything under the sun.” I believe this is his time. Human beings may think otherwise about their aspiration but the Bible also says that “God chooses the foolish things of this world to put the wise to shame.” I won’t ask him to slow down because he is enjoying it. He is talking to his people and they are listening to him, and I believe God is going to do something for him. God is going to grant his heart’s desires. How He would do it, I don’t know. He is still a young man. What time did late former Governor Lam Adesina become governor? What age did Kolapo Ishola become governor? Even the immediate past governor of Oyo State, our late daddy Ajimobi, what age did he become governor? So there is no age barrier, it is all about what is in your brain. If your brain is still active and you have so many plans for your people, then go ahead. I just pray for God to strengthen my husband and empower him. His strength lies in God, not human beings.
Tell us more about your background and how you met your husband?
I went to St. James Primary School, Oke-Bola, Ibadan. In those days I had just one khaki, the one that has two pockets by the sides. And that was what you would see on me like 24/7 without shoes. All you had was your slate. All of us attended St. James and it was fun going to school with my siblings. When you eat Eba to school, no pocket money. I used to hawk egg and plantain for my mum. A brother of mine was telling me, some couple of years back that Sunmbo, there was a day there was nothing to eat at home and you hawked plantain and within 30 minutes, you sold everything. That mum really prayed for you very well. That he is so sure that the prayers must have manifested in my life.
So, from St. James, I went to St. Magarret College, Ilesa. I was a Prefect and I was representing my school in the literary and debating society as I said. Our principal was Mrs Alalade, a strong and highly disciplined woman. There was a day and Sade Adejuyigbe came to represent our school at NTA Ibadan (WNTV then) in competition with Christ High School, Ado-Ekiti. So during the debate, I told you I used to read newspapers a lot, we were at tie with Christ High School. And the question came about who was the Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). I mentioned Edem Kodjo and that was how we beat our opponent in the competition. Christ High School, Ado-Ekiti then was a posh school. Our principal was so elated and proud of us. After St. Margaret, I attended the Federal School of Arts and Sciences, where I did a year remedial course. I came back to Ibadan after then and was following my mum to the shop. That was where I met my husband. My husband and his friend, Gbenga Obembe came to our shop to see my brother, who is their friend, now Pastor TEGO. Honestly, I was just comfortable running the shop because I was making money. But Reuben insisted that I must go to school. Before then I had sat for JAMB but I didn’t meet up with the cut off mark because I wanted to study law. I wasn’t bothered after the JAMB, I was making money in the shop. He was the one who purchased the Polytechnic of Ibadan form for me, he wanted me to study Secretariat Studies. But I preferred Nursing instead and I went to UCH. Where I did my Nursing course. I later practiced in the UK.
Reuben is my destiny husband. Our marriage was never by mistake. He is a God-fearing and very hardworking man. His mind is clear toward people. He’s generous as well and above all, he’s a family man to the core.