On her 70th birthday in 2010, Reverend (Mrs) Omotola Oyediran, who died on Friday, gave a rare insight into her self, her philosophy and her disposition to life. It was a deep probe which unearthed some areas of her life that were hitherto unknown to many. Preparatory to her 80th birthday, she transited peacefully on Friday, leaving many people in shock and mourning. The interview to commemorate her 70th birthday is hereby reproduced:
WE want to know how you feel, now that you are 70
First and foremost, I want to thank God Almighty who has spared my life for the past 70 years. He has been very faithful to me. He gave me the best parents that one can wish for in the world, a very devoted and loving husband. He has also given me very loving husband. He has also given me very loving brothers and sisters, wonderful children and grandchildren, for which I am, indeed, very grateful to God.
When I was seeking the face of the Lord concerning my 70th birthday, He gave me the theme from Psalm 116 vs 12 (What shall I render unto the Lord, for all His benefits towards me?) And I believe that sums up what the Lord has done for me. He has kept me; I have been through trials and tribulations. I have suffered some business reverses and I came out of them as a better person. When I cast my minds back to 70 years, it is filled with joy and wherever there are joys there are bound to be some pains. I thank God for the pains because they made me a better Christian and a better person. The problems have also taught me how to relate better with the people around us. Yes 70 years, it is, indeed, amazing, it is the grace of God and I keep asking, ‘What shall I render unto the Lord?’ He has blessed me with many children. Very recently; I was blessed to be at the graduation of one of my grandchildren. She graduated from Oxford University and she made a second class upper in Law. I was privileged to accompany her when she was going to resume at the university, and for God to have spared my life and the rare privilege to attend the graduation ceremony. I believe this is a great birthday gift from the Lord. I see now that indeed, the blessings are innumerable. To witness my mother turning 95 is also a thing of joy for me, because I didn’t know that when I would be turning 70, my mother would still be alive. It has been a very challenging year for me and my family and the testimony is that in all these we are more than conquerors. But for Christ, I didn’t think I would be able to talk about my 70th birthday, let alone witness it. So when the Lord said the theme is what shall I render? Now, every day, it is unfolding, I remember when one of my daughters was waiting on God for a child, it was a very challenging period for me as a mother. I knew my joy would not be complete if I have a child who is barren. So over the years, I spoke to the Lord, and He gave me personal revelation concerning the issue, He strengthened me, and gave me the grace to be able to fast for 310 days, within one year and at the end of seeking His face He blessed my daughter with a child. I keep asking, “What shall I render unto the Lord?” There was a time I was sick, I couldn’t walk and I had to go abroad for treatment, but here I am today moving around as if nothing ever happened to me. I am so grateful to my parents, my husband, siblings, children and grandchildren. I have many of them; in fact, the Lord has been so faithful. Two of them are graduates and one is an undergraduate.
As the first daughter of the sage, how was your growing up like?
I wasn’t that exposed as the first daughter, because my brother was around for 23 years before he died in a car accident over 40 years ago. He was always in the forefront and always covered up for any errors; and if we needed anything, he would be the one to make a representation. I wasn’t so challenged and I didn’t feel the role till he died. It was again interesting, because of my siblings. I don’t know if it’s confidence they have in me… I don’t mean to be proud about it, they have confidence in me, they think I have the ability to be able to organize things and it has really over the years helped me to organize things.
In what way did the sage affect your upbringing?
He was, indeed, a father in a million. He taught us so many things, his life as a disciplinarian is something that was so challenging to us. As a father, he could not bear to see us go through any form of pain or adversity. He was always there for us, just like Mama. Growing up was normal for us, like any normal child. There were no excesses and no extra places of chocolates. Growing up was interesting because Papa would find time out of no time to play with us. I remember over the years that when Christmas was coming, he could arrange to have Christmas crackers for us his children. He would also arrange to have Christmas parties, and then there would be a gramophone to play music, he would tell us to act plays, and invite his friends to come and watch us. In fact, growing up was very interesting. He related with us as if we were mates.
Ma, you came through politicians, your father was a great politician, and even your mother, but why are you not toeing that line?
Well, I am not interested in politics. We suffered more and I don’t know if we gained anything from it. If we did, it is because my father left a vast legacy. It was very paintful. The death of my brother was during the political crisis. Papa was imprisoned for many years and even when he came out, we didn’t have much time with him. If he wasn’t in politics, we would have had better moments with him and probably he might still be alive. So I don’t like politics at all.
Now that you have stated your opinion about politics, would you encourage any of your children to go into politics?
No, I won’t… (laughing).
But if people like you are running away from politics, should we leave it to those who are less capable, do you think we will have a better Nigeria?
I agree with you, I believe there are other better people who are more disposed towards politics than I am. And there are some people who also have the tendency, but I don’t have that tendency. It’s not my cup of tea at all.
What informed your choice of man?
First, I believe that you have to be in love
What attracted you to him?
He is a handsome man, he is also very clever. I think it was the will of God.
Before you decided to say ‘yes’, was he the only man in your life?
He was quite the most loving person among them all.
What has been the secret of your staying together for this long?
God has been faithful to us. But there are moments you disagree. But as a woman, I think one has to be tolerant. I can’t afford to walk out of my marriage and spoil my children’s future. It’s challenging to me that I came from one of the happiest homes in this world.
Papa and Mama were role models of what a family should be like. They were the true definition of what a father and mother should be. Each time, I remind myself that if my mother could stay with my father and if my father could stick with her, I have no reason to be separated from my husband. My father was an apostle of early marriage. I got married at 23 and have been married for 47 years. I have spent more time as a married woman than I spent as a spinster. I think as a woman, you have to grow with your man. As you grow, love would grow. I recommend that young ladies should grow with their man.
At 70, you still look very beautiful and firm, what is the secret?
It’s the Lord’s doing. I believe in the word of God which says seek ye first the kingdom of God and every other thing will be added unto you. I think God has added every other good thing for me. It’s not my making, because I eat like everybody else, I don’t have any special diet. I eat anything I want, if it is eba or amala, I will take it. And if it is Ikokore, fish, chicken or meat, I am always free to eat whatever I want. If I want to drink a bottle of Coke, I will go ahead and take it.
But over the years, I have trained myself not to eat too much. I take one meal a day. It’s about 12 noon now and, I haven’t eaten since morning.
That must have been the reason you could fast for 310 days.
Yes, it really helped me. In fact, when I knew I had 70 days to my anniversary, I started fasting. I have just completed it, and that has helped me, because each time I do that, I feel humbled. I thank God for everything.
How did you come about fashion designing?
The idea came from God. I inherited the African Press Limited (APL) and when I was there, part of the encouragement to have a fashion and designing house came from my father who advised me not to neglect my own business. But when I started it, the Lord told me there must be no advertisement.
So, did you advertise the outfit?
I actually had an interview with one of your titles then just like I am doing today (Monday) when I spoke about the business. Lo and behold, for nearly six months, I didn’t get a single customer. I had to go back on my knees and ask God what I had done wrong, and He told me that He warned me not to do any advertisement. But I said if I didn’t advertise, how would people get to know about it? We started in a room, and today, see what the Lord has done.
It is no longer a room, it is now a factory and that is the advantage of obedience, without a signboard, see what God has done. Even the carrier bags we use for customers have no inscription.
Before you went into fashion designing, what were you doing?
I was a secretary trained abroad. I had a very good grade. I started work with Shell and the company really appreciated me and wanted to transfer me to head the Lagos office, but I said my home was more important than my job. I gave up the job and then I started working with the University of Ibadan.
Was that where you met daddy?
No, I was already married with kids then.
If one takes a look at the outfit at Oke-Bola, Ibadan, one would discover that most of your designers are not Nigerians, why?
The only problem with Nigerians is that they are not honest at all. Sometimes, if you deal with them on that scale, you will discover that they would be looking after themselves rather than the business, once that happens, the next thing is collapse.
These people, the Senegalese, are very honest and very creative. I remember there was a day one of my customers arrived from the UK and brought clothes filled in a Ghana-must-go bag, and left some money, but I wasn’t around. Lo and behold, he handed over the clothes and the money to me immediately I got there. Also during the course of my interaction with the Nigerians that I have there, I discovered that they go behind me to collect clothes from customers. This happened times without number. So I made up my mind that there was no way I would succeed using Nigerians, so I decided to make do with foreigners. It’s a very challenging issue and this doesn’t make me happy.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
Well, I wake up at about five in the morning for my private devotion with my husband. We sing from the hymn book and pray and later study the Bible and after that, I make sure that I prepare his breakfast.
So you still cook, you don’t have a chef?
I do. I still cook for my husband. I love cooking anyway. Then I get myself ready for the shop at about 9.00 a.m. and get back at about 6.00 p.m.
Though you have told us that you don’t have any special food, there must be a favourite.
Yes, my favourite food is beans. I can eat it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… Friday. That’s my weakness.
Who is your role model?
My parents are my role model. I pray that at 95, I would still be as alert as my mother.
What would you love to be remembered for?
I would love to be remembered as someone who fought as a Christian. Most of the things I have been through, I can’t recount. The theme for this anniversary is ‘What Shall I Render?’ So, whatever I am, was, or would be, is dedicated to God, because this life is full of deceitful people, and if you are not careful, you will fall prey. People don’t want good things to happen to others, so they seek for information that is not correct, and even when they get, they add to it. So, to live a good life, stay away from controversy. You are challenged because you want your husband to be a success. I married my husband as a student, not because of money or position, but purely on genuine love. If I did, people would talk… so I have a name to protect. On the political scene, people would also start saying Omo Baba lo n se eleyi, so one has to be careful. I have learnt to be contented with what I have and don’t forget that my maternal grandfather was a tailor. Maybe I got this innate designing talent from him. And he was fond of saying that whatever you do that your child cannot inherit is not worth it. I’ve tried to encourage my son to be interested in the business, and one of my grand daughters abroad is interested in designing. I make sure I get a sewing machine for each of my grandchildren when they clock 10.
What advice do you have for women?
Women should be devoted and disciplined. These days, people do things they ought not to do because of money. A good name is better than silver or gold. Women, especially must ensure they get close to their children, irrespective of their gender, so that you get to know what they are capable of doing and at the same time, get to know their friends. Don’t forget that they are our future. Parents should aspire to maintain a balance even as career officers. The girl-child must be closer to God and her parents.
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