DON'T FIGHT A MAN OVER ADULTERY - OMOLOLA OYINLOLA
It was like a long marriage counseling session. Princess Omolola Oyinlola who'll be 59 next Saturday and wife of immediate past governor of Osun state, told Sunday Sun how 'Olly' swept her off her feet even when she'd vowed never to enter his car; the heart-rending story of how she cooked three times for a daughter that was missing and her husband of 33 years who promised never to have a child outside wedlock even when she couldn't conceive. She spoke from the heart in this early morning interview with FUNKE EGBEMODE.
His Excellency had always said something about his career coming before family, how did you handle that?
Well, I thank God who gave me the grace to handle it. I have always liked that passage in the Bible which says that 'when my mother and father forsake me then the Lord took me up.'
When I married him, I realized he was an orphan and prayed to God to give me the grace to do what his parents couldn't do for him; at least take him up as a son. God has given me the grace to do it. While he was in service, especially in the military, it was true that his work came first while I took the second place. I realized that he derived joy and happiness from his work and so I accepted it and ensured that he got that happiness while I played the second fiddle looking after the children. As long as he was happy with his job, so was I.
Can you remember memorable or difficult times when you felt like you wished he was there by your side and he wasn't?
Yes and there were many. As a military man in the armoured corps, we were always posted to rural places and there were many times, maybe one of the children got ill and I had to rush her to the hospital or I had to take care of the needs of the children at home. I had to move from one place to another to meet their needs but I never contacted him if he was on operation or on course for anything at all and I never told him a child was ill. I was always doing everything without consulting him and God had always been with me.
How did you manage that period when one of your daughters was kidnapped?
That was when General (Ibrahim) Babanginda (IBB) was Head of State and even he wanted to notify my husband but I told him he shouldn't because even if he was around he wouldn't have done more than what his friends did to bring the child back. Also because he had gone for a peacekeeping mission in Somalia that had to be accomplished, I didn't want anything to distract him. So, we continued to hope, pray and trust that the Lord would bring the child back. I concentrated on praying and fasting even when people suggested that I try other means. But I insisted that the only means of bringing the child back alive was through calling on the name of the Lord and I thanked God I wasn't disappointed.
Messages were sent to all the police posts in the country. It was a terrible and devastating experience; knowing that the child was not dead but there was no news of her whereabouts. Coincidentally, exactly a month after he left, he called me and it was just about the second day after the child disappeared from home but I thanked God for the spirit that He has given me. I did not mention it to him that we were looking for his child even when he asked how everybody was. I told him that we were all fine.
But after joking with him on the phone, I went before God and wept.
I exercised my faith in the Lord and prepared the child's food three times daily. I would then call her to come and eat it in Jesus name. I ironed her dresses and asked her to come and wear them in Jesus name. I believed that whatever you speak from your heart believing that you have received it, you will definitely receive it. I spoke to her picture on the television in the sitting room. I would say; 'Olayinka darling, good morning. Wherever you are, you are covered with the blood of Jesus. He that keepeth thee does not slumber.
He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep, the Lord is your keeper, the Lord is your shade upon your right hand. The sun of the enemy will not smite thee by day nor by night, the Lord shall preserve you from all evil. He shall preserve your soul for me, the Lord will preserve your going out and coming back home. Come home, darling Olayinka, I love you.' I would tell her this every morning and then follow that with praise and worship. I never allowed anybody to cry in my house because I believed my child was not dead and the Lord proved Himself faithful.
Were you already a member of Winners' Chapel then because all that sounded like what a Winners' person would do?
Yes I was. On December 31, 1992 when we went for the end of the year vigil, we were asked to ask for one thing what we wanted God to do for us. And I remembered that day that I asked for a blessing that could not be hidden. So, January came, my husband was sent to Somalia; it was not hidden, it was all over the wings and quarter. I told God that that was not the type of blessing I wanted because he was going to the war front.
Secondly, I fell ill and the family said that instead of you staying in Jos, why don't you come to Lagos because all of them got to know and they asked me to get to Lagos. I went to Lagos. I was in Lagos when they called me that my child was missing. So, I came back and everybody knew. It was all over the place that my child was missing and a newspaper reported that while Oyinlola was trying to keep peace in other people's country, there seemed to be no peace in his home but I thanked God that since we found that girl, it has been blessing upon blessing since 1993. Immediately we found her, people gave her gifts.
I also decided to complete the house my husband had been sending money from Somalia to build because I wanted to receive him in the house; but when he came, he said my dear, I cannot stay because I have been given an appointment in Lagos. That was how he started. And I always connect it to that my request from God. But whenever you ask for anything and God wants to do something glorious in your life, Satan will come and tempt you. He will do what He says He will do and whatever we request from him, if we ask in faith and ignore all the distractions of Satan.
The child was kidnapped in Jos and found where?
In Otukpo, Benue State.
How did she get there?
According to the lady who brought her, she said she had gone to Kaduna to see somebody at the Air Force base but the person wasn't around. So, she decided to come to the Air Force Primary School. When she got to the school, she found three children playing and picked the one she liked most and that was Olayinka. I don't know what she actually wanted to do with her in Kano where she came from but she decided to go with her back to her village in Otukpo.
While she was in Otukpo, she took the girl as one of her family members and was taking her wherever she went to all around the village. But as God would have it, a cousin of hers working in Katsina State had got permission to go and see his old parents for two weeks and he came around that time. But when he got home, he saw a child playing with the old people and asked who she was. He was told that his cousin, Ada, came with her and the child didn't understand their language because they had been trying to communicate with her.
She had changed her name from Yinka to Rekiya and if she didn't respond to Rekiya, she was beaten. So, when the man asked for her name, she said Rekiya Oyinlola and that she is Yoruba: her father was in Somalia while her mother was in Jos. She also told them she was a pupil of Air Force Primary School, Jos but the girl that took her said that she was the father's last born, born for him by another woman.
The man decided to go to the police station to report the case where they showed him two pictures of children that were missing and he identified Yinka from the pictures. That was how Yinka came back to Jos. The day Yinka was brought back, I was praying as usual with the women in my church at about 6 pm.We just opened our eyes and found Yinka. My birthday is March 19 and I remember asking God to give me Yinka back as a birthday gift. Though she did not come on that day but I considered it a belated birthday gift.
How old was she?
She was four-and-a-half years.
Did you take any legal action against the person that was kidnapped her?
Yes. She was arrested but they said she was underage so they gave her just one-and-a-half year imprisonment. When she was going, I told her that she should move close to God and I presented her a copy of the Bible to read in the prison.
Did she ever get in contact with you since then?
Going back to the love story, were you attracted to His Excellency because he was a man in uniform?
That was what I hated most, the uniform. But I was attracted to him because first of all, the love that exists in his family. I knew his family before I knew him. I was a very close friend to his niece and through his niece, I knew his brother, Prince Toye Oyinlola. We were always going out together, Prince Toye Oyinlola's wife and my friend, Iyabode, who is his niece and myself. We were friends, the three of us. We always wore the same kind of dress to functions. It was during one of the functions that we met him.
The family accepted me before I even met him. So, it was not difficult when he came across me. But that does not mean he got me on a platter of gold. It was a bit difficult for him. When he approached me, I told him that I didn't like people in uniform because I thought they were arrogant; but he is a loving person.
What really attracted me to him was that unlike most men he knows when he is wrong and he apologises. While we were courting, we once broke up for a year but he knew that he offended me and he apologised. Most men want to prove that they are the head; they are in power/control of everything. But my husband is not the type, he knows when he is wrong and he makes sure that he makes up.
Is it true that when he finally called you, you were weeping at the other end of the phone. What was going through your mind when he finally called back?
We broke up for a year and met again during his niece, Iyabo's wedding. It was my first time of coming to Okuku. I was the chief bridesmaid. That was how we started again but I did not receive him warmly because I was bitter about the way he dropped out of sight.
When Prince Toye said we were going to use his car to convey some people somewhere, I told Prince Toye that I would never enter Lagun's car. Prince Toye had to give me a car to drive myself. Later he wrote a letter and I still have the letter here now. He wrote on the envelope, please forgive. I was moved. That was it; he won my heart again. Before that letter, when he came to my house at Ikoyi, I would leave him outside the compound at the mercy of mosquitoes.
For how long have you been married to him?
Almost 33 years. It will be 33 years in July.
What would you say made your marriage work vis-a- vis what is making marriages break these days?
First of all, I will say that before any man or woman marries, they should table it before God because that is what I did. I asked God for a man that would love me, for a man that I would not be able to control, a man with the fear of God.
A man that you would not be able to control?
Yes. A man that I would submit to because there are some women who control their husbands. I know many like that. For example, during one of their friends' engagement-bachelor's night, a lady married to an officer insisted, even when all the friends came to meet them, that they were going somewhere.
She insisted that her husband was not going and that was final. You know, that sort of thing is not good for a man and the man could not talk. Anything she says is what the man will do. I don't want that type of a man. I want a man I will be able to communicate, love, understand, one who will be my head according to the Bible. And I thank God that He gave me that. But it has not been a bed of roses. Well, I can say marriage has been a bed of roses but with thorns, yes, but I enjoy the fragrance and ignore the thorns.
Marriage to a military man is not easy. A woman must be committed to the marriage and determined to make it work.
What makes military husbands peculiar?
Because everybody knows that ladies are crazy about military men, more so my husband was posted to many university towns. Girls did not let him rest; but I have always taken him as my son. If my son misbehaves, will I disown him? So whatever he did, I accepted and forgave him. I talked to him. I have never fought any girl.
I always talked to him. There were many instances I found letters of girls in his box but I would take the letter and place it on the table where he would see it when he came back from work. When he returned, he would look at it knowing that I am the only one who could have put it there. His countenance would change and he'd pace up and down. But I would just go and meet him and say darling, how was work today? Your food is ready. Let me help you with your boots. But I'd not mention the letter, never. I'd rather start pampering him.
Where did you learn that?
I don't know. Maybe it was as a result of answered prayers and my determination to make my marriage work.
How did come round to apologise, bring up the topic himself?
No. He did not but he'd change his attitude. When a man is having an affair outside, definitely, he will change a bit. The wife will know it in the house.
Why do they do so because it is a major issue in today's marriage?
Yes. Sometimes when they come home from work, when you want to discuss with them, they'd pretend to be busy or they come home late. They will tell you they have a programme in the office, late night meeting. But once a woman notices this, she should make up her mind to give him the best treatment a man can get from a woman. So that he will sit down and say what exactly am I doing? What is this lady giving me outside that my wife is not giving me?
Fighting will not solve the problem because if you fight him, you are sending him outside to go and enjoy himself. Everything you think a man needs at home to make him happy, make sure you do it especially at that time. Because most of the time, it is not these men's fault. Most of these girls go to any length to get what they want. So, the man is also in a fix; he doesn't know what to do.
The best solution is to get on your knees, pray for him and I had one prayer that I used to pray in those days. If I know the name of the girl; let's say the girl is called Brenda, I would say my Lord, please provide her a husband so that she can leave my own alone. Even if I know the girl and I see her, I never fought her. I would even treat her very well and pretend as if I didn't know anything was going on.
That takes courage.
Yes and I thank God that I am reaping the fruits of it now because I never thought I would stay up till now in this marriage.
Oh, there were times you felt like packing it up?
There were times, many times. But I encouraged myself that I am a winner because I know winners don't quit and quitters don't win. But with prayers, God just transformed him. He is so loving now. I can say boldly that he doesn't have any girlfriend now
For three years after you got married in 1978, there were no children how did you cope with the situation? Were there pressures?
There were pressures because as I have said, he is a man of the people. Then we were at Nsukka. University girls were all coming to the house and he was organizing parties because he is somebody whose social life is very colourful. So, he liked going out every time but most of the time I stayed back. But during the period, in fairness to him, he knew my condition, he knew what I was going through and he was there for me.
Throughout the period, he assured me that he will never have a child outside his marriage and that if a child does not come from me then it means God has destined him not to have one. Even there were pressure on him too from the family but he never looked there; he never yielded to the pressure. That is why I think I owe him a lifetime of gratitude. He was there for me. He phoned from all the places he was in operations to assure me that it is well and God will do it in His own time.
You were working then?
And maybe work helped you to keep your mind of it?
During the period, it was just the first year that I worked. But when we moved to Nsukka, I was not working because Nsukka was a very small place then and there was nothing for me to do and I was busy with my poultry farm.
You have daughters, what five things should mothers teach their daughters about what to expect in marriage; something to provide them the kind of shock absorber for the challenges ahead?
Marriage is not a bed of roses and if it were, there are thorns. Marriage is not
a straight road; it is a road with many curves, roundabouts and potholes but your determination is to get to your destination. You have to determine to make your marriage work; that no matter what, my marriage must work. You are two different people from two different backgrounds and you don't know the behavior of your spouse.
Even 50 years after your marriage you might not know everything about your spouse. You'll learn every day. But if your determination is to make the marriage work, whatever he does that is not pleasant to you, take it to the Lord in prayers; ask God to show you the way to go about it and as human beings, we cannot be perfect, only God can be perfect. If you know this, you will accept your spouse for what he or she is. Make sure that you communicate as much as possible because if there is a communication gap, you'll give room for the devil. Whenever you know you are wrong; we all have conscience, we know when we are wrong, make amend.
A man should not say because I am the head, I cannot say sorry to my wife; no. A woman too should not feel that way. If he doesn't say sorry, talk to him at night; don't let any grievance stay till the following day. At night call him: my dear, what you did today is wrong, I don't like it. If he is angry, leave him, pray over it again and go back to him. By the time you do it three times, he will yield to what we you are requesting.
Women should be submissive, prayerful. We should accept the fact that we are not God and because we are not God, we cannot be perfect. We should be forgiving, learn to say sorry and appreciate each other.
Do you still cook his food?
Yes, I do most of the time.
What is his favorite food?
That is eko (corn pap) and efo (vegetable) in the evening. Every evening, since I got married to him, even in London I will do efo and eko for him.
You carry eko from here or ogi?
I carry ogi and put it in the freezer and make eko for him.
How would you describe yourself?
Well, I can say first of all that I have the fear of God and I always believe that anything I do, God is always beside me watching me. I am such a reserved person; I don't like all this exposure. I like to be myself. I am an introvert.
You are nee-Majekodumi, how could you be an introvert?
Even children of the same parents cannot be the same, cannot behave the same. I know of many, even my sister, she likes party and everything and likes talking but I like to be myself. Even when I was single, I didn't like going to parties as such; it was when I met my husband I started going to parties with him. Then, my friends and I were just going to family parties not disco. My friend, Iyabo and Toye's wife we were going to parties together and Toye was the one taking us to family parties.
Are the two of you still close?
Yes, we are still close.
As an introvert, you have successfully been a governor's wife for 10 years, what is your passion something that you want to do, that you were doing then and you want to do now that he is no longer governor?
I think what I was doing was not because I was a governor's wife or because I was the MILAD's wife. I was doing that because I wanted to touch people's lives. Touching people's lives is one of the things that make me happy. I do not like to see suffering around me and my mother told me that I have been doing that since I was very small; that if she gave me anything, I would take it out and distribute it to other children outside.
So, I think it is inborn to touch people's lives. But leaving office doesn't mean that I am going to stop. I will continue to do it with the little resources available to me because God has given me so much. So, what is left for me to do now is to appreciate Him with whatever is available to me and there is no how I can appreciate Him other than to give to the poor and the less privileged and that is why I decided that one of the programmes for my husband's birthday would be the distribution of gift materials to the poor.
When were you ordained a deaconess?
That was in 1996.
As a MILAD's wife, were you able to be a full time deaconess. I mean do participate in your church activities as you should?
Yes, till I left; even up till now. The Winners' Chapel in Oshogbo will testify to that; I was still doing my work as a deaconess. I was still doing my work as an usher. I was taking offering till the last minutes.
What do you do to keep the youthful look?
I think it is God Almighty that is at work even though I think the stress is still much for now because we still receive visitors from morning till evening
You don't have a favourite cream, soap or work out?
I don't. My children have tried to drag me to the spa but it's not my kind of thing.
You just have your bath?
I bathe with black soap. My husband says it is because I'm Ijebu. I said it is cheap because if I buy one thousand naira worth of black soap, mix a little bit of shea butter, I can use it for between six months and one year.
Do you exercise?
Not every day. I don't have time to do it every day now but I used to do it every day. I go on the treadmill or walk around for about 30 minutes to one hour and I go on the bike.