God Prepared Me to Become First Lady –Ekiti Gov’s Wife, Olayemi Oyebanji

Olayemi Oyebanji, Ekiti First Lady

The First Lady of Ekiti State, Olayemi Oyebanji, who until recently, was a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education Management at the University of Ibadan, tells ABIODUN NEJO about her relationship with her husband, childhood, background and other issues

Not much was known about you until the emergence of your husband as the governor of Ekiti State. How would you describe your childhood?

My early life was just like that of any typical Ekiti girl, who is nurtured to appreciate the core value of ‘omoluabi’ (responsibility) and uphold those unique attributes that single out an Ekiti person. Those attributes include integrity, honesty and self-esteem. My father, the late Prince Samuel Adedipe, was a Christian, community leader and businessman, who did not only want all his children to live Christian lives, but also imbibe basic moral principles that would distinguish us in society.

Our parents also taught us virtues such as integrity, love and being respectful to elders. Like many parents of his generation, my father believed in education and expected good character from all his children. To a large extent, I think those values have helped me tremendously in my educational pursuit, career and as a wife and mother. As I was grew older, I realised that the state being called ‘the land of honour’ was not accidental. That sobriquet is not just a nomenclature, but the truth. Thus, we (people from Ekiti) have to embody the values that the sobriquet connotes. That way, the outside world won’t only see us as a people from a state called ‘land of honour’; but perceive us as people of honour.

That simple philosophy aptly guided my early life, relationships in the workplace, and shaping me into who I am today.

As a child, did you ever imagine that your life would turn out the way it did?

Yes. I had always loved to become a lawyer, because by nature, I am very expressive, and I’m not easily intimidated. However, at the point of gaining admission into the university, the result of my Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination did not meet the cut-off mark to study Law; and, I was advised to change to another course.

I then had to change to Educational Management. Back then, I thought that when I got to 200 level, I would cross over to Law. But, by the time I got to 200 level, I had fallen in love with the course I was studying. That was how I ended up becoming an educational administrator, with my areas of specialisation being personnel management, quality assurance in education, and leadership in education. I actually did not plan it, but providence led me to it. I eventually bagged a Bachelor, Master’s and doctorate in the field.

Of course, when someone’s academic trajectory is along that line, it is natural for one to head towards being a vocational professional. I ended up being a lecturer; not because that was what I planned to be, but because fate led me in that direction. I never thought of becoming a lecturer, but I later enjoyed it.

Did you ever see yourself becoming the First Lady of Ekiti State?

It never crossed my mind that my husband would one day contemplate seeking an elective post. As a child, I had an indifferent view about politics. That was, perhaps because I was already aware of what was happening around me during the 1983 (political) crisis in the old Ondo State, when there was a lot of violence which led to the loss of lives and property. Ekiti was still part of Ondo State then. The fallout from that singular crisis created fear (of politics) in many children of our generation, and I tried as much as possible not to be attracted to politics.

It will also interest you to know that subconsciously, one of the first questions I asked my husband when we were dating was whether he would one day go into politics. His answer was diplomatic, but I followed it up by boxing him into a corner to promise me he would never go into politics. Aside from the experience of 1983, the fact that my husband had his first and second degrees in Political Science also spurred my curiosity (about his interest in politics).

Did he make the promise at that time?

(Laughs) As a lover boy then, who was determined to sweep me off my feet, he made the promise to me. You will agree with me that the question became necessary then because of my level of understanding of life, and how God works in our lives. Also, he made the promise because he was ready to do everything I wanted to win my heart. The rest is history.

What was your reaction when he told you he would be contesting the governorship position in Ekiti State?

Between the time I asked him not to contemplate going into politics and the time he eventually chose to aspire (for public office), my scope had widened, and my experience about life had changed.

Above all, I am a born-again Christian, and God had given me many signs that my husband was being prepared to fulfill destiny in the public service. When God sends His own on a mission, He empowers the person for the work ahead. My husband was a university lecturer, who later had a stint in the banking industry, before the present Minister of Industry and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, invited him to serve in his government as the first elected governor of Ekiti State between 1999 and 2003. He (my husband) served in three capacities— personal assistant, special adviser and later Chief of Staff.

In 2014, the immediate past governor of the state, Kayode Fayemi, again invited him to become a commissioner, and he also served that government in three capacities, including being the Secretary to State Government. Unknown to both of us but clear to God, he was being prepared (for a higher office). As a result of all these, when God showed me the sign that he would become the governor, I was helpless. I had no option but to support him spiritually, emotionally and morally. We thank God it ended in praise.

How did you feel when the other governorship aspirants in his party, the All Progressives Congress, kicked against his emergence as the party’s candidate?

Naturally, when one is in such situation, one would definitely be concerned. However, I was not in any way demoralised.

In the first place, politics is dynamic and complex. As a result of its complexity and competitive nature, it is expected that there would be disagreements, reconciliation and power sharing. Having spent years as a political spectator, I was experienced enough to know how the APC settled rancour (within its ranks). I was, therefore, not surprised that everything was later resolved, and all parties involved worked for my husband’s emergence as governor.

Coming to the second leg of your question that my faith must have been shaken at that time; that’s to the extreme. As a born-again Christian, my faith in God is ever strong. From day one, my belief was that if it was God’s will that my husband would be governor, nothing would change it.

Now that he is governor, what are your fears, especially looking at the humongous tasks before him, such as the state of Ekiti roads, uncompleted projects, workers and pensioners’ arrears, and other expectations of the people, in view of the limited resources accruing to the state from both the federation account and internally generated revenue?

I don’t have any fear. I know that since it is the will of God for him to emerge as the governor, he would be empowered to do the job. For instance, despite the lean resources and other challenges you made reference to, the people of the state can bear witness to the fact that in the last 100 days, Governor Oyebanji has embarked on rehabilitation of roads, paying monthly salaries to workers, among other activities. However, I may not be able to dwell so much on issues relating to many of these issues because they are not within my purview.

As the first lady of the state, how do you intend to complement the efforts of your husband in impacting the lives of Ekiti people?

Again, God has prepared me for the office and He guided my ways to actualise whatever I plan to do as the first lady. My primary area of focus is to champion the cause of women and children, especially widows and orphans.

However, that does not mean I will close my eyes to issues that concern every Ekiti citizen and resident. To raise the bar, I believe that my upbringing (experience) as a girl who attended public schools all through my educational pursuits will come in handy when it comes to tackling some of the challenges that could come with occupying such office.

I am not just a university lecturer; I have expertise in areas such as institutional administration, higher education, quality assurance in education and human resource development, and leadership in education. Besides, I have undertaken research works, either singlehandedly or with other scholars in many relevant fields that will help me address issues concerning education in Ekiti, especially that of the girl-child. For instance, I have in my library, literary works bordering on work-life balance, and teachers’ job satisfaction in Lagos State secondary schools. I also have materials on sex education and moral decadence among senior secondary students in public schools in Ibadan. This is in addition to works on the funding of higher education in Nigeria beyond the monthly government subvention. All these research findings will, of course, help in my area of focus as the state’s first lady.






Credit: The Punch

Tags : Ekiti First LadyOlayemi Oyebanji
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