In this interview with the papermache crew, Olori Olayinka traced the beginning, how she met the Olubadan, the attraction and hos she is faring in the palace…
How Would You Describe Your Experience In The Palace These Few Months?
I wasn’t ready for that. I will say it is neither easy and it is not too difficult also. It’s been like a mixture because there are some scenarios that we are able to manage quite easily but there are some times that we also have to be diplomatic , which means you might not get your outcomes easily. So, it’s been like both sides really.
What Were You Doing Before Your Husband Became The Olubadan?
I’m a nurse I actually lived in the UK.
Before baba became the Kabiyesi, you know the lineage, they are already acting in that role, all they were waiting for is to get to that stage where they will say kabiyesi. As a high chief or a lower chief if you know the Ibadan lineage, once they come from the lineage of the Mogaji, they actually behave like high chiefs, the high chiefs are very near to Kabiyesi. They comport themselves in a chiefly way.
So from the day I met my husband, he was not a Mogaji then, I remember going to the Olubadan much later to take the Mogaji title, and from that moment you know up to this point, you are aware that he can become the kabiyesi one day. He comports himself, he attends meetings, he attends to people in his family house. So whatever he did that time and still does now we are just to complement him. We as wives too, we support the women around here, in his family and in the populace. So when women come here, we know that we have to attend to them, in solidarity and make sure that they are well relaxed. Whatever they come to seek from Baba we support them to get it done and get the outcomes.
That means you’ve been prepared for the role long ago?
How long ago was that?
He was not even Mogaji when I met him. My first son, Sheriff is now 36 years old, so it’s been a long time.
At a point I relocated when he was a senator and he moved to Abuja and then I relocated too and from that point it’s been like in and out because I took the children with me to the United Kingdom, and you know in UK you have to look after your children . vgfd
So, and being an Ibadan man, there are other women so I’ve been able to sit down with my own kids, look after them and shuttle, coming in and out, looking after him, looking after the children, looking after myself and working as a professional nurse, a specialist nurse in the UK and that’s what I’ve been doing.
Now, few years ago something told me he might become the king but I was a bit incapacitated because my work is still going on, the children are still there and I just felt I want to complete my pensionable years so that I can get something to fall on in the future. And in the UK, you’ve got to keep that 65years before you are entitled to your pension and in actual facts, there are other wives who are looking after him, so, I just said let me just finish what I’m here for. I mean the children are getting married now, so I’m having less input in the UK and more input here, so that’s why I’ve been shuttling at least once in two months, I’ve been coming home trying to catch up.
What’s the daily life in the Olubadan palace?
They don’t bargain for the kind of life here on a daily basis, it can be very busy, busy in the fact that people are coming in, coming out, they want you to come and say hello, Kabiyesi can say he wants you to say hello to some people and you have to attend to other people, guests, visitors. It’s been quite hectic, I didn’t know it can be and of course, it’s political. Inside the palace, it is very, highly political.
When he was not the Kabiyesi and I read from other scenarios coming up from other palaces and I’m like what can, why can’t they do this, you know with the British mentality but now that it is my turn, I can say it is not that easy. Yeah, it’s not easy.
How do you juggle your role, caring for the family, the women and people coming to the palace and the political part in the palace you just mentioned?
Well, I am a great multitasker, I know that myself because even in the UK, I multitask as well because you know, I run a company, I work, I still look after people. I’ve always been like that. I can’t sit down and do one thing, I do business, I do my job, I travel a lot, I love travelling, I still run after my kids though I go to them, so it’s not hard for me right now because I’ve always been all over the place.
When I was working as a staff nurse, I was running my business, I was sewing by doing read- made clothes and it wasn’t too hard. I get a lot of support from my siblings, from my sister who is in the US, Mrs Durotoye, she’s just like me and we’ve been together and I still run my NGO called the Unicorn Respite Rehabilitation Center.
What does it mean to be an Olori to the Olubadan, is it more than being a wife?
People expect a lot from you, both financially, support and in every ramifications, they expect a lot from you.
The other day some people came to see him and they were talking, talking, going back and forth that I had to step in. I just said let’s go women, so I brought them to the balcony and I started begging them because they were not making way with Kabiyesi, I took them and I ask them what do you do. Most of them are just looking for money to set up their businesses and I’m thinking okay, but for me, I need to soft pedal sometimes because they are coming for Kabiyesi, but me that I know that we are running an NGO in the side, we could do something for these people but I can’t just hijack them, you understand, I need to work in partnership with him to say okay we are doing this on your behalf so that is the kind of thing that I’m able to do because they must be able to see that it is Kabiyesi that is doing it but it is coming through another means.
So, most time we are looking at how we can support him to make sure that the people get what they want from him. He’s very magnanimous, he gives money a lot but sometimes from the way I see it, the people that really need the money, they are not getting it. You might have come two or three times and he is still saying oh come back, then somebody is just coming straight. I don’t know what is causing that and I just felt there is a kind of imbalance. So sometimes, we have to make sure that we speak to him “Kabiyesi, this person been coming twice or thrice please attend to them’. So these are the areas where we are working together with him.
Is there anything that being an Olori has taken off you?
Yes, a lot! I can’t wear my jeans again, I like trousers a lot.
Even in the UK, you can’t wear trousers anymore?
I don’t because you don’t even know who you would meet.
But sometimes when we meet for our NGO , I might get to be on the field, I might get away with that by wearing my jeans because it’s going to be part of the uniform for everybody T-shirts and everything. But the way I dress has changed, but you know in the UK, nobody looks at you, I wear my mini, I wear my shorts but now I can’t because if you do that, then somebody is going to say you see, people just know you and in my community there are so many Yorubas there, they know you.
Again I can’t leave my hair, I don’t know why because people just say ‘oh you are not suppose to do that’, It is the tradition.
When I’m going to church I put on my wig, I dress like a British but now I can’t so it has taken a lot from me but those are not too difficult to adjust to really, but I’m a free dresser .
Apart from you being trained in the way of royalty, you seems to be many things rolled into one, what actual part of your background prepared you for the woman you are today?
I come from a very good Christian home, both my parents were Baptist so right from childhood, we were trained in the Christian way that is one, then being a professional, as a professional, you can’t slap around, working in the UK, you can’t slap around. If you see me on the street where I walk around, you know it’s as if I’m running. So, all these things, the British background, the professional aspect of my life and just a lot of people when I met him, we meet a lot of people and even he has moulded me, you understand. What attracted me to him in the first instance was his phonetics, the way he speaks, I loved it and I started to emulate him and then travelling too now fired me up, so I just love you know good English and you can’t be in the UK and slap around, no.
At work, you might be on your toes at all time, you are expected to work hard for that penny that you make in the UK, you have to work hard for it. So, all these things and then from my mum, she is a multi-tasker, she was a teacher, she is retired now, she sells, she sews and those are the things that I’ve been doing too. All my sisters they know how to sew, they know how to do buy and sell.
I actually taught myself how to sew, I didn’t learn from anywhere I just picked it up from the patience on the bed, on night duty and it came at the time my car was stolen so I couldn’t even move around, the next thing I got a sewing machine and there I started sewing.
Then, after my husband became the Mogaji I started a fashion place, but because of visitors and everything, he told me no, you can’t be working and then I’m looking for my wife to attend to visitors, so I retired from UCH, and then I started my sewing and my salon back then before I travelled, so I recruited a lot of tailors and I was watching. I know how to sew female dress well but I didn’t know how to sew male dresses, so I got male tailors . We are all artistic in my family and my brother is a graphic artist, he was working with Wole Lagunju, he is now in the US, everybody have that flare for arts, we are all artists. So sewing didn’t take me too long to learn.
Kabiyesi means different things to many people, for you that have been with him for more than 36 years, how well would you describe him?
Kabiyesi is not stubborn, he is highly disciplined and that’s one, he is very very brilliant and he is very funny, he could be childish sometimes, he loves cuddling a lot, he likes to be like petting you know and touching, sometimes when he is free, he likes pulling his toes and if you really want to get something from him, I think those are the times you target. You work on his toes, massage it and then you ask for anything. Sometimes, if he could be saying something in a funny way and he means it, so it depends on his mood. Now, he could get a bit irrational sometimes and irritated, that is if you are not doing something right. He does not like people stealing around him, especially his workers, drivers and everything, he doesn’t like it. He loves reading, he use to read a lot before, all those British books and everything, he is always carrying them around. And you know your Kabiyesi likes women, you know that? he can’t deny that.
you have mentioned his eloquence, his brilliance, these are things that will easily attract women to him, you also stated he likes women, how do you cope with that?
I’ve always coped with that right from when I met him. He is into politics as you know.
So how do you handle all these women?
Even when he is with all his girlfriends, I just say hello, I do as if I don’t know. That is if you want to have peace, it is not only about Kabiyesi but as a woman, because they are all men. Even if when women meet with other women or side chicks, you know there is always something, we will feel each other. Really, if they cannot marry him, why are you going to stress yourself or die, you understand. It is a free will, there is no point stressing over it. Secondly, when an Ibadan man is a politician, trust me there will be women, it’s only by God’s grace that you will not follow women. There are some they are coming for something else but they actually pretend as if they are looking for something, what do you want to do? So for me, the only thing is health , you’ve got to protect yourself and I as a professional, I can’t open my eyes you understand, you just have to advise, awareness of you know STD and all these things.
But people think I’m weird, but I think it’s wisdom because sometimes when people know that I know, then they run away. Once they know that, so this woman knows that I’m dating baba, they disappear, so sometimes it is wisdom. Some of them will still know and still hang around but you know, the main thing is the respect, if you want to enjoy yourself, just move away to a very far place.
But the only thing is that we women, we sense each other and sometimes there is something like that going through us when we see each other, we size each other, I know you are one of them. So if they feel uncomfortable, you don’t see them again, they don’t come near you. So that is the way I’ve been able to cope. And kabiyesi, with politics, he has always had women around him, how many do you want to start sizing up or looking at?
Despite him having all the women, definitely there will be competition, but at the same time you are the favourite, what qualities do you possess that made it easy?
Why did you say I’m the favourite?
Kabiyesi doesn’t have any favourite, you see when the first wife gets to a point, we are like a mother, he doesn’t even see you as a wife, we are like a mother, we oversee things, you advise and if you want something go. Now, the younger ones, it depends on the relationship you have with them, if you have respectful relationship with everybody, you respect me, I respect you, then there is no problem, you understand. Now, I am a professional, I can go to kabiyesi maybe when I need one favour or the other, so there is no competition per say. Now, every woman knows how to dress up, how to make up, we look beautiful so really there’s no competition, and when we do this, we might not be wearing the same clothes to go out, it’s just because you know, we are all professionals. Everybody has a choice on how we want to dress up . I have a British background, I have a sense of how I want to dress and some people might not want to do what we cal ‘and co dress’ and then truthfully, baba is a bit comfortable around one or two women at a time if not three and so there is a balance because not all of us are in the palace, when I’m here or out, my Abuja sister will hold fort, when I’m not here my Abuja sister may be here and when the two of us are not here, because you know baba moves around a lot. He was in Abuja for sometime and that’s how he met my sister in Abuja and they started another family there, and she too she is a professional, she works with NTA . I’m in and out, she’s the only one that is constant there in the palace, so she’s the one doing everything for Kabiyesi. So when I come, I support her, sometimes doing his personal care and everything or putting him to bed. Most of the times in the evening, I join them, we sit down, we have a chat and then we chat together and embrace him and sleep. And when I’m in the Uk, if I hear anything like rumors or something, I call her and say, what is going on? And she will update me. So, we’ve been managing like that and by God’s grace, there is no problem. We are only looking forward, you know the set up in the house too, because the real palace is not ready but when the palace is ready, then, obviously the set up and everything will be a bit better.
You mentioned that you grew up in a Christian home, but you are married to a non-christian, so how was it at that time, how were you able to convince your parents to allow you marry him?
It was moderately hard, not too hard, it was moderately and I will tell you when I met my husband, I’ve never dated a married man before but he was just stubborn, when he wants something, he just have to get it. So I met him when I was working as a staff nurse at the UCH and when they discharged him, I was not on duty but I know when he was on admission because as a senior staff nurse then, they always allocate me to look after him, and his food, medication and personal care t. So he started making me to laugh because he is quite funny. When he left I said thank God that man has gone and then there were always too many visitors we had to manage the visitors coming to see him.
So when I left, I came back one day and I was working at the ward, , this gentleman came and said oh, he is asking for staff nurse Lagunju and then they called me, I said oh can I help you? He said I’m from Dr this and I said what for? He said oh he said I should come and meet you and ask where you stay. I said sorry, he can’t, he started pestering, pestering and I said second gate UI, just ask for the nurses there, I live there. I thought I’ve pushed them away, both Dr and the errand person. One day I was in my house, the bell just went and he was standing there and I’m like, who told you this place? So apparently what happened is that because I just gave a hint that I lived around UI and you know there are nurses all over the place and by the time he was looking for UCH nurses those ones just sign posted me and said oh ,Yinka lives on that JKIC road, bla bla blah. So he got my address through another person and then he came. And sometimes I look back and I’m like why didn’t I just tell this man that I don’t need you in my life like you know go, but the thing is that having or coming from a Christian home, we should show respect that is due to one another so i just and then I was staying in a house with two other friends. We rented the house, so and because he is so funny, you can’t just push him away, and from there he started coming, coming and I even told him please don’t come, I have somebody I’m dating but he wouldn’t. He would say oh, I’m just passing by and when he is coming he will be bringing hampers of meat pie and he will say oh that is for you, I’m just passing by and it came to a stage that the person I was dating started getting annoyed because they started jamming and when I say please don’t come, he will still come. So, after a while, me and that one stopped seeing each other because he kept coming, he will pretend as if he was passing by and the other one will flare up and he too had a British background and you know this kind of thing doesn’t really match well at all. So, now he had access, full access to me, morning, afternoon, day. Sometimes he will come and ask in the ward oh is she working? And they will say no then he will know that I’m at home. Anything and then because of you know his accent, he speaks good English I started to like him. My parents, they didn’t like it, one, he is an Ibadan man, two, being a Muslim, three, When I got closer he said he has been married, but explained what happened, he also said there is nobody that he only had another Igbo lady that he was dating and he didn’t want to continue with that person. she has her own shortcomings and from there we started and I had my first child, my parents were still not taking him until I told them I had my second one. Then, my aunty started saying do you think you picked a woman on the street and then she doesn’t have family, you are just going to start playing her, bring children, you don’t know you need to go to the family and ask for her hand. And he said, but he wanted to ask for her hand and you people are acting funny, so from there we arranged and we went and so that was it.
that was after you’ve given birth to your second child?
Yes, So religious wise, he is not somebody that imposes, he is not rigid. He is not a rigid person at all, very flexible and he would want to make you happy. So we started talking about what am I going to do and he said you can practice your religion, that was the first thing. Me, I cannot become a Muslim oh at least to show respect to my parents. So he said no, no, no, don’t worry. He served on the altar, on a catholic altar when he was young and then he knows the Quran, so he is like that, so he said I don’t feel like disturbing you just do whatever you want. So, I started going to church and then he was doing his own but the only thing is that when there are Muslim festivals we do it together. I go to yidi, I go to prayer ground. I tried to learn a bit at a stage but the whole thing is from your heart and then at a point I started to realize that Islam and Christianity, they are very much alike. There is Mariam in the Quran, there is Mary in the Bible, other things, all the names in the Quran are in the Bible and I’m thinking what is the two religions, they are the same thing. It’s only, is it Prophet Mohammed and Jesus Christ or whatever. So I started to, he didn’t disturb me. The only thing is that what are the children going to do? So at a stage the children were going to Quranic school…
how many are they?
I’ve got three. Sherif is my first and the other two, they are in the UK. So, all of them went to Quranic school and all of them went to church. So he said they should just follow whatever they want to do. He could be a bit judgy because at the end of the day the children are not going to church, they are not going to mosque but Sherif picked Islam at a stage but he doesn’t even do actually any of them and the ones in the UK, they go to church. So that is how we have been able to manage. But I, I’m a full Christian.
Can you share a bit of your background?
I’m from Iree in Osun State, my parents are from Iree and my parents live in oshogbo and I grew up in Aiyetoro in Ogun state. I went to Aiyetoro Comprehensive High School to a stage and then I went to Baptist High School, Ede because my aunty that brought me up is a wife to a lecturer in Comprehensive High School, Aiyetoro and because all these people they move around a lot, the WAEC inspectors they live around so I found myself in and out of schools too. And then from Baptist High School Ede, I came into school of Nursing to do my Nursing. I did my midwifery in School of Nursing, UCH, then I went to U.I I did my advanced Diploma in Health Education. And then I went abroad where I also practise nursing, now I do light job, looking after older people in the nursing home in the UK.