Erelu Moji Adams is the wife of the leader of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams and the initiator of OASIS Women Organisation. In this interview by YEMISI AOFOLAJU, she speaks on her humanitarian activities, life as the wife of the OPC leader, among others. Excerpts:
What is OASIS initiative all about?
The organisation has to do with womanhood, especially the less privileged and widows. Looking at it from the Yoruba or Igbo culture, there is a harsh treatment meted to a woman when she loses her husband, as she is held responsible for it. But if it is the other way round, there is always sympathy for the man. At the end, the woman is asked to drink the water used in bathing the corpse! This harsh culture is against womanhood, but I believe there is a way to fight it, if we cannot totally eradicate it. There are some widows who are doing better than those who are still with their husbands and yet not enjoying their matrimony because the majority of these men are not responsible for the upbringing of their children. I am enjoying being a woman, not because I am married or fortunate to have some things, but that I love the way I have been created. I encourage women that there is a way we can enjoy ourselves without any tradition or culture hindering us.
I don’t believe in being a full house wife. Though when I got married, my husband wanted me to be a full time housewife, but it was not funny at all for the first three years. I was uncomfortable carrying out some obligations that required money, and even asking my husband for money when it affected my family. I didn’t enjoy such a lifestyle until I decided to start working. In the process of being a full time housewife doing nothing, you lose your shape, focus, status, feeling inferior to ones contemporaries because you are at home cooking and taking care of children most times. But a woman who goes out to work will know how to plan her finances without being a burden on any man; will learn new things and be abreast of what is happening around her. The quest to assist widows and the oppressed prompted this initiative.
How old is OASIS?
We are about 10 years old.
How do you know a genuine widow?
We rely on our feasibility study from our links. There are some I pick myself, having seen that they are in dare need of help. Though some other women come to us for assistance using the language of being wives to oku aye(living but dead) husbands. But we tell such to come directly to us and not through the widows’ forum in proving their case. Some of the women would have failed after many attempts to break even in their businesses. We ask them how far they have been able to help themselves so that we can know where to come in. We give widows sewing machines, grinding machines, among others. There are some who we take care of their children’s education and vocations. During my husband’s birthday celebration, OASIS gave out working tools to some widows as our contribution to his celebration. Sunday’s programme was specifically targeted at widows’ welfare, as the beneficiaries went home with food items and money because of the prevailing economic situation.
Who are OASIS’ partners that make things happen?
We have some members who have the spirit of giving and are into charity in their own little way because it is not a matter of compulsion but voluntary. Our patrons and matrons have always been there for us. As a matter of principle, I earmark a certain percentage of my proceeds for charity on annual basis so as to get the dream going.
What do you do for a living? What can Otunba give you to make you a full time house wife?
I am a fashion icon. I supply Aso Ebi, bags and shoes. We have a family water bottling company. If I am to be a full time housewife, Otunba will have to settle me with a very big investment…laughs. It means I will have people working for me who I will be supervising, then, I can relax at home.
How are you coping with Otunba’s female admirers?
To be sincere, it has not been easy. The first four years of my marriage saw to my having to wait for him before doing anything, even eating, because of the understanding of doing things together as a couple. I was always calling to know where he was at every point in time. To him then, it appeared I was monitoring him. When we started dating, he was declared wanted and I knew nothing about OPC and I was in Ilorin, Kwara State. A friend of mine called my attention to his status as a dreaded appearing and disappearing OPC leader. I then asked her, ‘Are you sure of what you are saying? ’There was no way I could reach him to confirm my fears. I waited till he came to Ilorin and I asked him ‘are you an OPC man?” he said ‘yes’ and he told me more about the group. I didn’t really pay attention because people were always around him. I was told that he is a ritualist, kidnapper and many other names, but I have never seen him disappear and nothing to confirm all the names he was being called then.
My parents’ reactions to his proposal were with mixed feelings. My dad gave me six months to consider my decision because he never believed in making choices for us while my mum was not too convinced because of her calling as a prophetess. But, anytime Otunba was in Ilorin, he prayed the Christian way. He was brought up by a Christian mother who was a prophetess in Kogboregbe Church, so he is used to praying in the Christian way. I told my mum that he is a culturalist and believes so much in tradition. My mum stood her ground that I would not marry him because of his tendency to be a polygamist. I never saw anything in him to scare me. When he was arrested, people started saying all kinds. His arrest became the talk show in the media, ‘can you marry Gani Adams?’ Watching respondents scared me a bit.
Some of my friends who knew about our dating abandoned me when he was arrested. Some of my uncles and aunties also warned me against marrying him, while emphasising my Christian background. Some of the ladies who warned me then later started sending him text messages. I told my mum this and she warned me not to touch his phone again, even when it is ringing if I wanted my marriage to work, and that I should avoid staying with him whenever he is receiving any call. This was the last instruction my mum gave before she died. There were times women called to abuse me. I have learnt overtime to block my ears and focus on my home, children and career. My take now is when he is at home, he is and when outside, I let him be.
What religion do you practise?
I am a Christian to the core, though Otunba is a Muslim, but mostly he practises Christianity.
Does Otunba go with you to church?
No, he goes to Evangelical Church of Yahweh. He believes so much in Primate Olabayo, who has been his pastor for ages.
So, he is not a traditionalist to the core?
He is not. He has a special seat in his home church.
Are people not afraid of you as Adams’ wife?
The belief of people is that being the wife of Gani Adams, I cannot but be a wicked woman. At times in church, people look at me fearfully. This has informed the reason I don’t offer things to people anyhow. Even in my shop, when customers keep calling, I always hear my neighbours say; ‘how would she not record high patronage? Is she not the wife of OPC leader?’ But I am used to this way of life now.
Can you give an estimate of those you have assisted?
We have assisted over 200 people.
Is it on local government basis?
No, it is not a tribal thing; it is regardless of age.
Are the beneficiaries only from Lagos State?
No, we have moved to Ogun State, the next port is Ondo State.
What is your favourite colour?
I like anything bright. I love gold, pink and green.
How is it to be married to Otunba?
I thank God for the grace. I have made a lot of sacrifice and overlooked some things.
If you had another chance, would you still say ‘I do’ to Otunba?
Why not? I will.
What specifically attracted you to him?
Love for looking good at all times.
Does he appear in any other colour?
No, he does not.
In case he joins active politics, what would be your reaction?
His lifestyle is similar to that of a politician. If he wants, I can’t stop him. I believe we all have our choices to make.
If you are called upon by your constituency to represent them at the National Assembly, will you give it a trial?
In case of any argument, does he apologise if found guilty?
He believes he is the man. I apply wisdom.