Oluremi @60: An Amazon Behind The Throne, By Emmanuel Oladesu

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As a teacher, she had moulded thousands of lives. Many of them are making waves in their various promising careers. That traits of a caring instructor have always shaped her thoughts and approach to issues.

As former Governor’s wife, she was formally inducted into politics to play behind the scene roles, building on her experience as wife of a Third Republic senator. Yet, in that capacity, she was not idle as the founder of the trail-blazing New Era Foundation.

Now, as politician, she has learned the ropes faster, making an impressive mark in the polity. Today, she can be aptly described as the Matriarch of the political family. Indeed, behind the successful political megastar, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is her delectable and colourful wife, Oluremi, senator of the Federal Republic.

She would have rolled out the drums, reminiscent of 10 years ago when she was 50. Then, at Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, eminent scholar and cleric, Dr. Enoch Adeboye, General Superintendent of the  Redeemed Christian Church of God, prayed for the Deaconess, urging her and others present at the ceremony to learn how to count their days in thanksgiving and never relent in good works.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there will be no elaborate celebrations for the 60th birthday. A source said Mrs. Tinubu is locked in sober reflection, adding that she pondering on divine blessings from God. “She has been distributing the Holy Books to mark her birthday,” he said.

The Senator from Lagos Central District is the chief hostess for the progressive family in Bourdillion. In both periods of peace and war, she has been the shield of the politically exposed family. Like her husband, Oluremi’s quest for service is legendary. The couple shares the same virtue with the late Chief Moshood Abiola and his wife, Simbiat, which is extending a duty of care to a neighbour.

As a public figure, Oluremi affects, and she is also affected by the inevitable forces of socio-political pressure. Perhaps, this is her greatest asset and contribution to the political family. Asiwaju, an astute politician, has the singular luck of not being detracted by the burden of any troublesome wife, because Oluremi has led a life devoid of scandals.

For the younger generation, there is a lot to learn from the lives of the Lagos Central Senator in a world that is perpetually full of ups and downs. On her lips are tales of victories, successes and sometimes, drawbacks. But, Oluremi had learned to convert difficulties into challenges. As a moral teacher, role model, initiator and cultivator of values, and exemplary leader, her experience can be recorded for posterity; for the instruction of future generations.

Her 35-page book titled: The Journey of Grace: My Faith Walk captured her life, philosophy, vision and mission, projections and essence of womanhood. Oluremi dedicated the book to God, her creator, her husband and her crown head, and her children, who remain her joy and consolation. To her, God, Asiwaju and the children have made her life meaningful.

The narrative, said Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), vice president of Nigeria, is warm and inspiring, adding that Mrs. Tinubu “is not afraid of sharing her lows and challenges, alongside her incredible successes”. Hailing the small book, eminent cleric, Pastor Folu Adeboye, the Redeemed Christian Church of God Mother-In-Israel, prayed for Oluremi and Asiwaju as they continue to advance the welfare of humanity, at home and abroad.

Life has been kind to Oluremi from infancy. She may not have descended from a clan of millionaires, but basic things of life were not in short supply. Childhood was beautiful for the last daughter and 12th child of the Ijebu chief, John Ikusebiala, who taught her the principles of focus and strong will.

Reminiscing on her early experience, she said: “The first principle I learnt from him is that there is nothing impossible, if we are determined.” Instructively, the same principle, including hardwork, spirit of commerce and service through politics, were ttaught to her husband by the market women leader and Action Group (AG) chieftain, Alhaja Abibat Mogaji, who in her early life, learned the virtue of duty and diligence from the market matriarch, Madam Pelewura.

Other virtues Oluremi learned from his father were contentment, avoidance of ostentatious lifestyles, and background consciousness; “Ranti omo eni ti iwo nse”. But, her mother complemented the domestic teaching of courtesy and etiquette. She taught her precious and promising daughter how to pray and seek the face of God at all times. Oluremi’s role models, who also influenced her upbringing and growth processes, were women of note and substance; Mama Oye Williams, Mrs. Adetoun Mustapha and the late Pastor Bimbo Odukoya. However, the greatest influence on her life at adulthood is her heartthrob, Tinubu, accountant and corporate guru-turned politician. For her, fame and pleasure are accompanied by obvious denial of time and privacy at all times by the colossus, who since his foray into politics in the aborted Third Republic, has become a national property. It is a political life she had to adjust to; her husband is alwaysalways thinking about Nigeria, politics, political parties, party members, alliances and people generally.

Oluremi takes solace in the innumerable feats of Tinubu, the most colourful Yoruba politician in post-Bola Ige era. “I thank the Lord for the partner He gave me, to walk hand in hand through life’s journey”, she said, adding: “My marriage has been quite fulfilling and I am now resting in the knowledge that we have more reward for our labour. I thank God that our labour has not been in vain”.

The marriage has not been a bed of roses. At 26, she jumped into the life journey, which she did not plan for. She was only optimistic about eventual success. She put her heart into it, leaning on the promise of God which never fails. Today, it is not a story of multiple sadness and little joy. The wear and tear, she pointed out, were joy, sorrow, death of a child and surprises.

Power has added value to the couple’s life, just as it has imposed some burdens and constraints. When her husband became the governor of Lagos State, the couple had to send the children to boarding school. That adjustment to the requirement of motherhood was dictated by the compelling need to assist in state duties. But, the glamour of office did not becloud her sense of judgment. Neither did it alter her sterling qualities as a simple and modest woman. For her, the corridor of power is not a convenient avenue for primitive accumulation.

Throughout the eight years, she conducted herself with grace, decorum and decency. Her life as the First Lady was devoid of scandal and controversy, and this has endeared her to many people. “I grew and matured”, she recalled, pointing out that being born again assisted her to cope.

Her husband has remained her pride. Mrs. Tinubu spoke with fondness about Asiwaju Tinubu, saying: “My life with my husband, in reality, is too fast for my pace. My husband has such a great mind, that it takes someone who could sacrifice everything to have. Despite the fact that he is a Muslim, I found in him so many qualities expected of a good Christian-forgiveness, love for people and blessing your enemies”.

Oluremi’s initial preference for a private life, reminiscent of when her husband was in the corporate world, was annulled by politics. It is difficult for one to eat his cake and have it. What was required then, was adaptation. She recalled: “With politics and its diverse needs and expectations, one’s life becomes public property. Sometimes, one feels like a morsel of food waiting to be shared by many. I do not mean to sound offensive, but it feels like that tiny piece of meat with so many hands tugging at it. Your life is no longer yours and what belongs to you belongs to all”.

It is an under-statement. When she mounted the rostrum as a senatorial aspirant, street urchins, popularly called “area boys” swarmed her. Women encircled her. Youths bombarded her. How many requests would she meet? Her entreaties to them that she came out to serve fell on deaf ears. The chorus was: “give us money”.

Oluremi had parted with more valuables in the furtherance of her principle of service. Like her husband, she hates poverty. As a giver, she had put smiles on the faces of many. Worried by the plight of people in war-torn Liberia, she built a school for the devastated capital, Moronvia. Her pet project, New Era Foundation, survived her ‘tenure’ as the governor’s wife. Today, the Spelling Bee Competition is waxing stronger. Winners are still accorded the privilege of being “one day governor”. All the money she realised during her 50th birthday were channeled to the non-government organisation to advance the cause of education, social development and wellbeing of youths. The foundation’s Centre along Ibeju-Akodo Road is a masterpiece; a home away from home with recreational facilities for youths on holidays.

When Yeye Asiwaju finally entered the soap box, other hidden qualities unfolded. Oluremi became a researcher, party leader, effective political and public speaker baring her mind on national issues, including electoral reforms, integrity of the ballot box, increased roles for women in democracy, voter registration, women empowerment and social security for the elderly.

As a senator, she had pursued these goals in the interest on Nigerians. In the hallowed chamber, Tinubu’s wife is not a bench warmer. Having placed her hands on the plough, she is not looking back. She had served on many committees in the senate, including Education, Employment and Productivity, and Transportation. Her bill on social security for the elderly passed the third reading. She is active during s and oversight functions.

It is lamentable that her bill seeking a special status for Lagos has not seen the light of the day. But, the bold effort has raised the bar of consciousness. Reflecting on this, Tayo Ayinde, Lagos State Chief of Staff, said in a congratulatory message that Mrs. Tinubu has offered quality representation to Lagos Central District and done Lagos State proud by raising fundamental issues that are germane to its welfare and progress. “Your legislative contributions have marked you out as a humanist, a core progressive ideologue and defender of public good,” he added.

In Lagos Central District, Mrs. Tinubu always hold Town Hall meetings to render her accounts of stewardship. At the Muson Centre, Onikan, and Balux Events Place, Yaba, Etiosa, Apapa and Surulere, he also collated views on aspirations and needs of the district. These would shape her representation of the zone in the Upper Chamber. She has also not forgotten her pastime, the care for the needy. On the many occasions, she gave scholarship to indigent students and cheques to assist petty traders. These acts were lauded by the Lagos Central ACN leader, Prince Tajudeen Olusi. The Second Republic House of Representatives member said: “Lagos Central has produced many senators; Oba Musediku Adeniji-Adele, Sikiru Shitta-Bey, Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Tokunbo Afikuyomi, Musiliu Obanikoro, and Adekunle Muse. Oluremi is the first senator from Lagos Central to hold a town hall meeting to render accounts of her stewardship.”

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