Late Ekiti State deputy governor, Mrs. Funmi Olayinka, spoke with Senior Reporter ANTHONIA SOYINGBE, shortly before she and her principal reclaimed their mandates. Here is the interview which was first published in Sunday Independent December, 2nd 2007.
As a woman who has everything going on well for her, why did you venture into politics, which many see as dirty?
If you are trying to say women in politics don’t have stable home, I think I will disagree to that because politics means different thing to different people. People often ask me how I am coping now that I am a politician, and I am always quick to respond that we are all politicians; everywhere you go, you play politics. If you are married and if you have more than a child, you must be a good politician to survive. We play politics everywhere- at home even at work place. For a woman to be a politician, I don’t think it should affect the home negatively. You need the support of your spouse and every member of your family before you can venture into it, but that doesn’t say it should affect your home negatively.
If we must face it, why did you venture into politics in the first place?
To me, I think it was a call to duty. I got the call from home to come and serve my people and I felt honoured. I believe they have honoured me because there are several women out there who are qualified as I am. I also know I will perform because I have something to offer Ekiti people. Ekiti people are known for certain values and customs and I believe in my coming into politics and joining the party, Action Congress, knowing the vision of the party and I share the vision and values of the gubernatorial candidate of the party in Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, stands for. My teaming up with him will bring smiles on the faces of Ekiti citizens and residents.
What were the initial reactions of your children and your husband when you informed them of your decision to go into partisan politics?
My children thought I was joking. One of them said, ‘ Mrs. O (that is what they call me when we are playing) are you really sure of what you are saying’. When I told my last child, she rolled from the staircase down in reaction. My other child said it is impossible. One of them went further to remind me that there are no good roads in Ekiti, regular power supply, basic infrastructure and the taps don’t run always. But I told her that so is Lagos. My last child looked at my husband and said, ‘daddy, your wife said she is going into politics.’ My husband told her that there was no problem since we have prayed and discussed it. He further enjoined them to pray and encourage me. My children laughed when they saw my pictures and that of Dr. Fayemi on the internet and I educated them that one of the best things they can do is to serve their community. My husband was initially bothered and he reminded me that he has always supported me in all I do and he reassured me then that he would always support me.
During those days when you are not at home probably during campaigns or late political engagements, who takes care of your husband?
As a woman, you have to play the balancing role, I believe as a woman we are naturally balancers. We can do lots of things at the same time. Whenever I am in Lagos, I make sure I visit my daughter in school. As for my husband, he often goes around with me when duty permits him because he has to also attend to his business in Lagos. When I am not here most times I do the cooking before I travel, and I preserve it in the refrigerator so that whenever he wants to eat, he warms it. I must also note here that my husband is a very good cook and he loves cooking a lot. When he is not there with me, he is here to earn a living for all of us.
You have all the confidence that he is always for you and for you alone?
Yes, what do you expect from eight years of dating and 21 years of marriage? All believe is that whether you stay with your man or not, if he is not your man, he will cheat on you. I am pretty sure my husband cannot do that. Like I said 21 years of marriage and eight years of courtship, we are just like siblings. I have all the confidence in him and he has all the confidence in me.
Since you became a politician, how has your immediate family encouraged you?
My husband was a Muslim but he got into Christianity by accident. I am from a Christian background and he didn’t become a Christian via me. I can call my husband a prayer warrior today because he is always there interceding for me before the Lord in prayer. He encourages me always and he is always abreast of what is happening in Nigeria and in Ekiti State; he informs me of new development in Ekiti. As for the children they remind me of their prayers and their supports.
What attracted you while you were still single to a man of different religious background?
I grew up in a very strict Christian home; my father will have nothing to do with the other religions. Then you dare not have a friend from another religion. When my father knew that I was dating a Muslim, he was against it; it took us so long before my father gave us his consent. My husband agreed to all the terms my parents laid down; he accepted to become a Christian. He told them that all he wanted was me and that he can go to any length because of that. We met in America not wearing religion on his forehead; he is from a Muslim background and attended Christian school maybe that partially influenced him to become a Christian. For me, it wasn’t an issue. This may be because we were abroad, if we were both at home people might have discouraged us from day one. Before we got married, it was a very big family issue. People were appealing to my father. When everything seemed not working, I stepped in and things worked out fine. His relatives are not fanatical, they went with us to church and they performed all the normal Christian wedding rites with us. It was a big deal but we were able to cope. My husband at the initial marital stage would stay at home while the kids and I will go to church, he was neither a Christian nor a Muslim but eventually one thing led to another and he met with the Lord through his friends. He is more Christian than most of us who were born Christian and he now believes that Christianity is the best way of life.
How will you describe your relationship with your in-laws since you joined politics?
They are wonderful people, they are very proud of me. They supported me all through the campaign; they even went as far as distributing some campaign materials. They contact me from time to time. My in-laws are trouble free and loving.
Who is an ideal female politician?
She is a woman of integrity, she is competent; she is a woman of good character; and she is not afraid of men. She is that woman who is ready to make an impact on the grassroots, she is a mother to all and a woman who is not wayward because of post. She is an upright woman; a woman who is not ready to be seen as a man before she achieves anything. She needs to manage her life as a mother, wife and a politician effectively. If she is not an embodiment of all aforementioned, she will definitely be down.
Some female politicians in the past have come out to accuse their male counterparts of sexual harassment. Have you ever been sexually harassed since you became a politician?
Not at all; I believe that when you talk about sexual harassment, it takes a bit of maturity. What some people see as sexual harassment may not be so to others. You can’t compare what sexual harassment is in this part of the world to what it is in some other part of the world. Sexual harassment does not only mean that a woman was dragged behind closed doors and raped, there are various ways a woman could be harassed sexually. Some throw lewd remarks that could pass for sexual harassment of the highest order on a woman. Woman, being what and who we are, enjoy some of the sexual harassments.
This article was first published in The Daily Independent
Last modified: April 14, 2013