CHARLY BOY IS A BLESSING -LADY D
Lady Diana Oputa is an interesting personality . At her exquisite shop filled with interior furnishings at Gwarinmpa in Abuja, she courteously deals with her customers' requirements and at the same time created time to grant this interview. She bubbled with life in her sleeveless blouse and jersey jumper with her skin adorned with tattoos . This black American wife of Charly boy Oputa in this interview tells you how she is spending the Christmas, her most memorable Christmas, her love life with Charly boy and lots more.Excerpts:
What will your Christmas be like?
My husband springs-up surprises as regards gifts. He can do as he likes. He may surprise me on Christmas day or he may do that on my birthday in January but I always have presents for everybody at Christmas. This year, I didn't decorate my trees because we will be traveling. We will carry our Christmas gifts to the village and everyone will open theirs on Christmas day. I'm good at doing that and my mother in -law really loves it.
I love doing things for her, like Christmas carols. My church came over early this month and we had Christmas carols. I didn't tell my mother-in-law. I just told my boys to light the bush paths up, the Christmas lights were on, then I served drinks. I now went inside and brought her in her wheel chair. My father in-law too was there and they sat together. She was so overjoyed .
I prayed to God to spare our lives so that we both can live that long as a couple. It's such a blessing to see two people that are committed at 90 and 80 years of age respectively. My house in the evening, is lit. I've done my Christmas decorations as I always do annually . Now, we have started doing that for other people. During Christmas, we'll be in Abuja and Oguta. We go to Oguta annually. One of my husband's cousins is being given the Ogbuagu chieftaincy title and certainly there is no way we can miss that. We are also coming back for the Nigerian Idols contest. My husband has been appointed a judge in the contest which holds during Christmas and in the New Year in Lagos.
Can you recollect your most memorable Christmas?
That was when my parents came to Nigeria for Christmas four years ago. That wasn't their first time in Nigeria but it was their first Christmas in Nigeria. Someone presented a cow to my husband and we all came outside and my parents were awe-struck and wanted to know what was happening. My father was appalled at the handling of the cow and wondered why it should be treated the way it was? I told him 'daddy we are going to eat this cow, this is Christmas meat'.
They were so shocked, because they had never seen a live cow actually brought as a gift to your home and eventually slaughtered and kept in the freezer. I now carried the liver and went to my father who screamed '…this is disgusting'. They're used to seeing beef in the supermarket and well packaged but they saw it live before it was cooked. It was quite interesting. They saw so many people coming around and I recorded everything on tape. You can hear me in the background and maybe at Easter or when I go to America in July, whoever didn't come to Nigeria can watch the video. They really enjoyed their Christmas. Later, my sister came. She had never been to Nigeria for the over 30 years I have been here.
Christmas could be quite boring in America. Even my daughter is coming back to Nigeria for Christmas, because she said she will be bored stiff. You attend a lot of weddings, different people having different functions, you can imagine just being in America just sitting in your home, visit one friend, it's not the same. They do have a closely-knit family . They sit together for dinner for Christmas, but you can't compare it with the way we celebrate it here in Nigeria.
What was your first Christmas in Nigeria like?
Ohhh… I can't recollect. It's been long. I can't. That would have been in Oguta or maybe Owerri… I can't remember.
For how long have you been doing interior decoration ?
I have been doing it for some time now, maybe two years or two and a half years. I actually moved from Lagos to Abuja and I got an office about June. It's a birthday gift from my husband . On my birthday, he gave me a shop. This is the beginning of what I want to do for sometime. It's easier when you're in business and actually have a location where your clients can come and see what you do.
It enables you to market your business the way you like as well as your personality in a way. The Taakra Group of Companies is basically into corporate promotions. It comprises of Tarka and Friendship Solutions, Taakra Craft and Academy and Taakra Television Show. I just incorporated these four companies. Right now, I'm developing my circuit. You know I had to start all over again from Lagos. It's challenging but fun to do what you like to do.
How is it like relocating to Abuja, it's a different experience entirely, isn't it ?
When I first came here, I didn't think I wanted to leave Lagos, because Lagos is the centre of arts and crafts. If there's a particular item you are looking for, you can go to Balogun, Alaba, the airport…, I know there's an airport in Abuja, it's the centre. It's sort of the point of everything. I first found it difficult, I felt I was not going to leave Lagos, I said I would stay there for a couple of years and get my feet on the ground. I decided that it's about time I came and joined my family here in Abuja and whatever it is I want to do we have to do it here and that's what I am beginning to do.
I'm a little more relaxed here in Abuja. Definitely we have our issues with traffic and other things but definitely it's a smaller place than Lagos. Although, I miss the market, but I go back and forth. If I need certain things that are not available in Abuja I go to Lagos.
Why did you choose interior decoration and not fashion business?
I was looking for something that would be more profitable .I was looking for an opportunity to sell other people's products as well. We market some artistic work here, but we are very selective about what we distribute because I try and blend the cultures together . I call it 'culture in the mix' because you can see western furniture and Afro-centric pieces here. We try and diversify to make it unique because I can never leave-out cultural things . People are actually asking for these things.
We have different things and when you show them how they can blend them together, they appreciate it more. You can see the hand made duvet made with African fabric . We also have exotic beds . We create and design. It doesn't matter if it's clothing or interior decoration, at the end of the day, your designing technique comes in and that was why I incorporated Tarka Solutions. It still allows me display my creativity. If you see my house this Christmas, everywhere is lit. I also did Christmas decoration for the whole street.
We have started doing that for other people too. It's surprising when someone just comes and says ' I have seen your adverts of facebook and some said their friends gave them fliers . Still others go with a piece and if they are not taking anything they like the place and definitely want to come back and pick-up something. Our shop is in Gwarimpa and people ask me why I chose Gwarimpa. I tell them it doesn't matter where I am, if it's good, people will definitely come to where you are.
What's your impression of village life?
Village life is quite interesting. I lived in the village for 5 years. I lived in Owerri for two years and in Oguta for three years. I had my first child, my son there. I will do it again. It was different, coming from America, coming from Boston to a more serene lifestyle and I used to make jewelry . A very local girl I am and I travel to sell merchandise at Aba, Owerri and Onitsha . I used to take a flask to buy my favorite food, Edikang Ikong from Oguta. I also love African salad (Ugba).
…it's not boring in Oguta ?
We used to have a restaurant … a joint and everybody came to eat pepper soup. It was interesting, something to remember. People would ask if that's possible to do… to leave city life, Boston and New York City and come to Oguta , Imo state to live. It was fun. I'm in love and anywhere he takes me, I'm ready to go. It was fun. I got to sit down and try to do a few things I like to do. Of course we try to build for the future. See where we have gotten to. You have to start somewhere. It may not always be from the top, you have to work your way up. I think that's a stronger foundation really, starting together and growing.
As a foreigner you blended so well. How did you do it?
I tell my daughter, who is now ready for marriage and has American friends, you need to look at the situation carefully because you can't do what I did. It's a lot easier for a Nigerian man to marry a black American woman and come and live in his country, but it's more difficult for a Nigerian girl to bring an afro American home so you need to weigh your pros and cons.
What's your advice on life and living for women?
I need to say you need to think about what you are doing, pray about it and ask God to guide you, because it's your life at the end of the day. You don't advise someone wrongly and you don't want to not advise at all, because you should as a parent. I'm saying this because the picture is not always clear and it's not always a bed of roses. I would say honestly, you should take your time before you leap. We tend to say 'we are getting older, men are not coming to me', but living happily or happily married is a challenge already. Look at the person's character, how do they treat their father and mother? How do they treat their sisters? These indicate how they will treat you as a woman. So take your time. What works for me may not work for you.
You really love your husband, don't you?
It's my husband that makes me love him, because of the way he treats me. If you come into a family and the family is a family that takes you in, they welcome and love you, it's inevitable that I love him. My mother-in-law is my friend and my-father-in-law is my dad. If you are fortunate to have that , there is not so much to say, because you are comfortable . You don't need to spend much to make me happy . It's the small things we do for each other that's the magic, but sometimes we forget these small things too. My husband never forgets.
The first day he proposed to you, did he tell you are coming to Africa?
I was already in Nigeria . I stayed for like a year before I went back home.
You met your husband in school?
Yes, he was in Emberson College and I was in Changelin College studying fashion designing. I met his parents in the US. We actually had a function for his father and mother. They are judges. At the end of the day, his parents just invited me to Nigeria to come and visit. I came in between 1979 and 1980. I stayed for a year, and I went home and came back again. One day, I asked him, what was happening , you need to do something, and we need to know where we are going in this relationship. I can't be coming to and forth to Nigeria and no commitment? He now said okay let us go to the registry. That was the way it happened. Some people don't do it the romantic way I guess. At the end of the day, we women want more than commitment because our clock is ticking.
What kind of husband is he?
He is very good . A good provider and father. He's hardworking and he is also understanding. He always allows you to do what you want to do in life. He's not like 'you sit here in this corner'; no he's not like that. I always say, he is not a typical Nigerian and he's been a blessing to me. You can't just come in anyhow, he tells you this is my family, this is what I want, not many men are like that. I admire his gut . He knows what he wants. He's easy going and allows you to be yourself. That's how our relationship has been over the years. This shop is my birthday gift. He told me '…my wife here is the key to your shop', not many men would do that. I don't know what to expect on my next birthday in January, maybe he will pay the rent for two more years.