Vice president Yemi Osinbajo’s mother, Mrs. Olubisi Osinbajo, 80, shares her challenges as a mother and how she successfully trained four boys in this interview with GBENGA ADENIJI of PUNCH.
- What was your childhood like?
I was born in Ibadan, Oyo State on February 16, 1933. My father, Thomas Aiyegbayo, was a ranger from Osun State. He was one of the earliest rangers in the Western Region. My mother was from Ilaro, Ogun State. I attended Durbar School in Oyo for my primary education. Then, I went to Methodist School in Oyo and from there, I went to Sagamu Girls School, Remo, Ogun in 1946. We were taught by teachers who emphasised cleanliness, hard work and seriousness. It was later that I proceeded to Teacher’s Training College in Sagamu. After I completed the programme, I went back to the school to teach. I taught in that school for two years. It was while I was there that I met my husband, Opeoluwa Osinbajo.
- Was he also a teacher in the school?
He was not a teacher in the school. He came on a visit and he saw me. I knew him before that day and when he saw me, we exchanged greetings and he began to visit me in the school. It was later he told me he that wanted to marry me. And because I had known him before, I did not refuse his proposal. He was from Ikenne, Ogun State.
I actually agreed to his proposal because I knew him as a gentleman. He was a very good person. Besides, he was a friend to my sister’s husband. During that time, he was a student at the Federal School of Surveying, Oyo State. He was not rich then but I admired him for his other qualities.
- What did your parents say when you told them about him?
I told them that I knew him very well and could vouch for his character. They told me to invite him to our house and I did. When he came, they were impressed with his behaviour and they endorsed our marriage. But our wedding did not hold immediately after he met my parents because it was not long after that that he travelled to England for further studies. He actually travelled abroad to be trained as a civil engineer. When he was there, he kept in touch. It was when he returned from England that we got married on December 28, 1954.
Our living together was very nice. It was a splendid union. He took me as his daughter because he was about 14 years older. He took very good care of me. God blessed our marriage with five wonderful children. We first had four boys and I prayed to God that I needed a girl. God graciously answered my prayer. I gave birth to a girl seven years after my last son.
- What was the experience like bringing up four boys?
It was very tough raising four boys. That is why I am called ‘Mumisco.’ A mother with all boys will have to behave like a boy herself if she intends to train them properly. When they started growing up, I made it compulsory for them to say their prayers every morning. Whether they liked it or not, it was an activity that must be done. They would grumble but I did not budge. It was not easy training them. But we knew that someday, everything would be okay. And it turned out that way because all of them are doing well in their chosen careers. Two of them were once Attorneys-General and Commissioners for Justice in Ogun and Lagos states.
- Can you recall any of the tricks they played?
One of them went out one day. I did not know but when I went to his room, I discovered that he had gone out. He returned the next morning. My husband was upstairs sleeping when I came downstairs to wait for him. He came in later wearing his night dress and holding his clothes in one hand. When he opened the door he saw me and I asked where he was coming from. He was surprised to see me and started crying when I said I would tell his father what he did. If his father knew what he did, he would beat him and refuse to send him abroad for further studies as he had promised them he would do after their university education. He prostrated and begged me. Since then, he did not do such again.
- Did you influence the career choice of any one of them?
We did not influence the choice of careers of our children. Our duty was to guide them in making their career choices. My husband believed in allowing his children to do what they have capacities for. When he returned from England, he established the first electronic sawmill business in Ebute Metta to show what he had interest in. By the time we got married, I had stopped teaching. It was the sawmill business that we jointly ran. We would buy timbers and mill them for sale. The business flourished until his death in 1996.
He was just slightly sick and doctors advised that he should have some rest. He was at home resting all the time and one night, he called me that I should lead the prayer. I saw that he was dressing and I asked him where he was going. He said he was going nowhere. As I was about to round off the prayers, he shouted Halleluiah, became silent and died.
- What happened to the business?
It is no longer in operation because my children are not interested in it. And I do not intend to leave it without somebody to manage it.
- What do you do each time you remember your husband?
Sometimes I cry, but most times I pray because we were so close. When he died, I thought everything was going to end. But God has been holding me.
- Is there any difference between the moral training during your days and what we have now?
Let me start with the way ladies dress today. During our days, we never exposed any part of our body. We wore dresses such as gowns but they never exposed sensitive areas. Our shoes were not as high as we have today. One thing I have noticed is that most of what we wore then is now common today, but worn in a different way. We had our ways of dressing. Everything has changed. We didn’t stare at an elder’s face whenever we were being addressed. Today, children don’t respect elders again. I warn my children never to look me in the face whenever I am talking to them. But if you are looking in another direction while an elder talks to you, it shows a sign of respect for that person.
- Do you have any special food?
I do not have any special food. I eat whatever I know is well-prepared and delicious. Also, I go for medical check-up regularly. I prepare my meals. I do not allow anybody to do that for me. My husband, until his death, never allowed house maids to prepare his meals. It was something we agreed on long before our marriage.
I go to England every year to relax for some months. Another form of relaxation I engage in is by going to church. I also attend weddings and birthdays but I do not attend wedding receptions. I only attend receptions if the host is my close relative.
- What special training did you give your children?
I trained them to have the fear of God and be responsible children.
- Do you still see some of your childhood friends?
Some of them are dead. But I still see some. One of them, Stella, also clocked 80 recently. There is another one, Funmilola, who will be 80 soon.
- What is your advice to parents?
My advice goes to the mothers, especially those who have boys to train. They must be very vigilant because sons are full of tricks unlike daughters. If she is sleeping, she must not sleep with her two eyes closed because they can sneak out. I ensured that I always went to their rooms to check on them and pray for them. Mothers must pray for their children always. Also, they should take care of their husbands because they are like children to us. Men are like children and any woman who wants to enjoy them must behave like mothers to them. Even when a man is 40 and he marries an 18-year-old, the wife is his mother. That was how I treated my husband.