What was your initial reaction when you heard that your husband was going to be nominated as All Progressives Congress (APC) vice presidential candidate?
My initial reaction was that of apprehension.
Because I knew I would have to share him with others, I mean political associates, official functions and all the likes. And I would rather have him to myself alone. So, that was my initial reaction.
So, how were you able to overcome that?
I guess I realised that the handwriting was always on the wall; that this was what he is being prepared for. If you look at what he has done over the years, you will realise that the Lord was preparing him for a time like that. I realised and remembered that. That put my fears aside and I told myself I had to allow the Lord do what He wants to do with him.
I shouldn’t be selfish but release him to accomplish for Nigeria what God has been putting in his heart. His works, like I said, over the years and his experiences in public life have all pointed to the fact that he is a man for a season like this.
So, are you comfortable so far?
With how the campaigns have gone so far and how the APC is moving on?
Comfortable is not a word you can use at this point, considering what the nation is right now. But in terms of the campaign, yes, things are being done in a noble way. Things are different from what they used to be in the past. I believe that things will take a turn for the best for this nation.
Do you believe he is up to the task ahead?
I don’t think I am in the best position to answer that (laughter). But I think he is the best man in the whole world. One thing I can say is that we have been married for the past 25 years and every day, I get to respect him the more. He is very kind and lovely. I have never met a man more caring than he is. He is the most caring person I have met.
There are things Nigerians don’t know about him that only you can tell us about. What are some of these things?
Well, I will just say he is a lovely and kind man. He loves to a fault. He cares a lot. His life is all about caring and giving. When he was Attorney-General of Lagos, he proved that over and over again. Our church currently runs two free schools through his initiatives because we are interested in people.
One has run for a year and the other one just started. In the school, there is no tuition, registration or any fee. They are entirely free. They don’t pay for books, stationeries, uniforms or feeding. One of the schools is in Obanikoro, while the other is in Okota in Lagos.
We also run a soup kitchen in the church that we run now and the one we ran before. The soup kitchen provides food for the students every day. No child gets to the schools except he or she is poor. So, these are some of the many things he does for people to show his love.
Won’t these stop if he gets elected as Vice President?
Not at all. If you know my husband, he is a thorough and meticulous person. He doesn’t get into something until he has figured everything out. What will happen is that he would be able to do more as a Vice President on a larger scale.
The ones that he is going now, he has structures in place to handle them whether he is around or not. They are not just about him because other members of the church contribute. He has people everywhere running stuff that are from his heart.
I believe if he is elected, he will have more opportunities and platform to do much more for the people.
As a very private woman, how are you preparing for life as a public figure?
Honestly, I can’t tell. There is nothing I am doing or intend to do. I just trust God for grace. I am in His hands and I believe He won’t take me there and leave me stranded. I am just in His hands for whatever He wants to do with me.
Your book, They call me Mama, details your activities with street urchins in Lagos Island. What on earth was driving you to have anything to do with such people?
(Pauses) I don’t even know how to answer that question. That was just my life at that time. That was my own expression at that time. I am really thrilled I could reach those people in many parts of Lagos. When we started, they started introducing us to their friends in other parts of Lagos.
They were really my family members at that time and for me, Under Bridge was the safest place in Lagos. I felt so safe there that you couldn’t just move any close to me once I was there. The boys loved me so much they wouldn’t allow even a fly come close to me. For me, it was the safest place in Lagos.
Do you still get to see or meet some of those boys?
Of course, I do. For the book presentation, I asked two of them to come so that people could see what we have done. One of them just got married in Benin and introduced his girlfriend to me before they married. He is now such a gentleman. He couldn’t even talk the way he used to before. The other one we took under the bridge at 11. Today, he has graduated on scholarship. We had many of such transformation stories coming from these boys. They were good guys who only found themselves in situations they couldn’t help and I am glad God used us to lift them up.
When they finally realised who you are, how did they feel?
Well, they just knew I was their mama, someone who cares so much about them. They didn’t know my background or husband’s status in the society. I was only giving them lunch, releasing them from police stations and visiting them in prisons.
So, I was just someone who loved them. Then, one day, one of them came across a newspaper cutting of a picture we took during the presentation of a book written in my husband’s honour when he left as Attorney-General. The function was at Muson Centre. So, one of them saw the picture and they couldn’t get to believe it was me.
That Sunday, they showed me the newspaper and wanted to know if it was me. I had to persuade them that yes it was me but it has not changed anything. Immediately, they started feeling uncomfortable and I assured them that I care for them, regardless of the differences in our status. Until then, they just called and saw me as mama, a church pastor that they could talk to and run to with any challenge or trouble.
Supposing you become the First Lady to the Vice President, what new initiatives will you bring to the office?
There is no office of First Lady to the Vice President.
But you will be playing some roles, won’t you?
The only role I will play is to look after my family, especially my husband, so that he can concentrate and do the works committed to him. That, to me, is the only assignment expected of me. There is nothing more. As long as I can help my husband to do a good job for the nation as a mother and wife, I am done.
What is happening to your legal practice?
I studied law but never practised. Studying law helped me to understand my husband’s stories and cases when he returns home.
How can you convince an ordinary, average woman out there that your husband is deserving of her vote and those of her family members?
All I will just say is that he won’t let them down. He is a good, caring man. If he could take care of me well at a personal level, he will look after women more than well if he is elected.
If he succeeds in becoming Vice President, what do you imagine will happen to Nigeria?
I sincerely believe there will be a great turnaround. He will do Nigeria and Nigerians good. He will change things and will never cheat or shortchange them.
Do you believe he will win this election?
I believe so with all of my heart.
Not minding he is contesting against the incumbents?
Yes, not minding that. I believe change is coming and Nigerians will witness it through the APC.
How is your typical, average day like lately?
I don’t have an average day because what I want to do determines how the day runs. I have now two shelters for battered women and victims of sexual abuses. One is on the Island and the other on the Mainland.
It is a non-governmental organisation called Women’s Helping Hands and we get to hear heart-breaking stories. One is that of a woman whose husband held down and battered with hot iron. She was so scary when we saw her.