Saturday, August 17, 2013

What people don't know about HID Awolowo - Olori Morisola Sijuwade

Olori Morisola
An amazon in her own right and a woman of many parts, the Yeyeluwa of Ife, Olori Morisola Sijuwade, wife of the Ooni  of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, in this interview with TOLUWANI OLAMITOKE, describes  her first meeting with the Yeye Oodua, Chief (Mrs) HID Awolowo. She speaks on what impact the Yeye Oodua has made in her life and Ife kingdom. She also gives an insight into her life as the wife of the Ooni of Ife.  Excerpts:

Can you recall the first time you met Chief (Mrs) HID Awolowo?
The first time I met Mama, the Yeye Oodua, Kabiyesi and I went to pay the family a visit at Ikenne, Ogun State. Papa
Awolowo was  around then. her feature was very remarkable. She was looking radiant, charming and was warm towards me. I was touched by her  display of humility which is a rare attribute among  people of her calibre. As time went on, I studied her and realised she has a kind of aura  around her which draws people to her.

What was your impression of her?
I saw her as accommodating. She’s someone who has a way of putting a smile on your face. And of course  she’s highly intelligent and has a good memory.

Can you tell us what roles she has been playing as Yeye Oodua?
Mama has been playing the role of a peacemaker in Ife. She gives counsel  on issues and acts as a  guide when a situation calls for it. As Yeye Oodua, Mama sees to the peace of the community and intervenes in any problem which may involve the palace. But to every Yoruba speaking community and even non-Yoruba  communities. Day in day out, people, that is, politicians and non-politicians, pay Mama visits, discussing or holding meetings with her on how to  run and move the country forward. These  come from different parts of the country. Edwin Clark was recently at Ikenne to see Mama, he’s from the South South. Some having reached  their wits end run to Ikenne seeking for Mama’s  counsel.

With your closeness to Yeye Oodua, there  must  be  something about her  known to you and not to  the public. Can you tell us this?
Mama  has a dress sense and she does this modestly. She dresses with a touch of taste and no matter how simply dressed she is, you can’t but admire her. And obviously, this has not changed as she advances in  age. I believe she’s  someone to beat  in terms of dressing. Again, Yeye Oodua is a Godly woman. There was an  occasion I went to discuss an issue with her. After pouring out my heart and having heard me out, she pointed at  a picture and asked, ‘Anike (she calls me that), whose picture is that?’ and I said Jesus. Then she said, ‘anytime you have a problem, look unto Jesus and He will help you. She further told me to get a picture of Jesus Christ and put it in my room. She said by so doing, I will always remember that He’s  always there, waiting for me to call unto Him for help. And this I did.

What do you consider as her strength?
I believe God is her strength. It’s obvious God has endowed her with an excellent spirit which encompass-es wisdom, knowledge and understa-nding. These are rare gifts and are found mostly in  those who have the heart for God. Anyone who has God as his or her strength will surely be successful and also excel in all his or her endeavours.

Your husband is known to be very close to Chief (Mrs) Awolowo. What do you think informed such closeness?
Ooni of Ife has been close to both Papa and Mama since he was a prince. Kabiyesi was then  the Director of National Motors and of course, people bought  cars from his company and Papa was one of them. The Bible says “deep calleth unto deep,”  when you study Mama and Kabiyesi, you will discover that they flow or get along well because they have many things in common. As  leaders, they both possess or display same qualities. One remarkable thing about both is the fear of God  and another is  the quest for the advancement of mankind. Chief (Mrs) HID Awolowo will be 97 years old tomorrow.

What’s your wish for her?
You know Mama shares the same birthday with my first daughter, Teniade. I wish Mama many more happy years. I pray the Lord almighty will endow her with good health and may she not know any sorrow.

Getting married to the Ooni has its responsibilities. Can you describe these?
There are quite a lot. But first my responsibility to my husband, kabiyesi, is to see to his well being. I  also ensure  things go on well in the palace.  As regards  the town, the palace is open to all, both high and low and I attend to different  groups. I  have a  rapport  with the different women societies which I give advice. People come for advice and make different requests and as Yeyeluwa,  I have to  be sensitive to people’s needs. if there’s anyway I can come in, I do so. and if there’s a need or problem needing Kabiyesi’s attention, I let him know.  As a Christian, I’m very much interested in the spiritual  wellbeing  of Ife. I was made the Grand Matron of the Good Women Society of the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) worldwide years back. There’s no disputing the fact that God is good and will always be our anchor and help. We  organise prayer meetings and services where we meet and pray. And this brings vividly to my mind the days  Ife was engaged in a communal clash. It was a trying period. As a Christian, I will emphasise that there was no other weapon I knew than fasting and holding incessant prayers organised by Christian fellowships. And today, we have a  testimony  that the  Lord is good, faithful and hears the cry of His people. In appreciating God for who and what He is to me, my family and Ife community, to   mark  my 50th birthday, we decided to build a chapel in the palace as  a  place of worship for the people. And every Wednesday and Sunday, I join Kabiyesi  and the people for prayer meeting and service.

How do you reconcile your Christian status with the Yeyeluwa title  which symbolises tradition?
Ife tradition is that which respects other people’s faith and beliefs. And you must remember that Kabiyesi as the ultimate custodian of all tradition is father of all—  Christians, Muslims and traditionalists.

Can you tell us how you met Oba Sijuwade?
I met kabiyesi on one of those  days  I went to pay  my uncle a visit. That was at Ife in 1976. He showed interest in me and I just felt that he didn’t really mean it. Then he was a prince. But you know when God ordains a thing, nothing  can change or stop it. I presented the matter before God and was settled within me I was not making a mistake.

Were you a hard catch?
The relationship was actually on for two years before we took steps to finalise the whole thing.

What new things did you learn about him when you got married?
I saw more of his display as a philanthropist. he has a large heart and he’s a giver. He doesn’t hold grudges. He forgives easily. I must confess that in the past, I found it difficult to forgive, but I learnt from him the act of forgiveness. The way kabiyesi reacts to  issues and people has rubbed off on me. I’m  hardworking, but since I met my husband, I  have learnt to be more hardworking. By 5:00a.m, he’s out of bed and doesn’t go to bed until sometimes around 1:00a.m. Through him, I learnt to be focused. I’m a prayerful person, but learnt to be more prayerful after being with him for years. When he wakes up at 5:00a.m, he will kneel down and pray before uttering a word to anyone. Then, he will sit on his chair, observe a time of praise and worship and go through the Bible.

How do you know when the Ooni is pleased or angry with a situation?
Kabiyesi  does not  hide his moments of excitement neither does he cover up his annoyance. He does not pretend.  If he’s annoyed, you will see it visibly on him. You will read it on his  face and in his  reaction. Same goes for  when  he’s pleased with you. And immediately you read this on him or he tells you he’s annoyed with you and you apologise, he forgives and takes the issues off his mind.

 Does he react same way  if  displeased  with you?
No. He would call me  and tell me,  “My dear I don’t like what you did”, and I would apologise. But one good thing about him is that even in that state, he would never shout at you. He has never done that to me.

 What other activities are you  engaged  in  aside your roles in the palace?
I have a fashion design  outfit which was formerly called God’s Grace Fashion House, but which I later changed to GT Fashion, a shortened word for ‘God I thank you.’ I’m also into events  and decoration.

Did you train for these?
I actually studied business administration at Brooklyn College, Birmingham and   also at West Bromwich College of Commerce and Technology at a higher level. I’m a member of the British Management Association.

Going into fashion designing and decoration business requires creativity. How did you get the inspiration?
I believe it’s inborn. My father was into sewing business before he  later became a  merchant of Peugeot cars.  sometimes  I could be sleeping and some thoughts or designs  would  come to me. When this happens, I would immediately  stand up and put  them down.  Apart from decorating halls, I design the upholstery,  curtains and many other things that  have to do with interior decoration. I come up with the designs and give  them out to be worked on. Same  goes for my fashion outfit. I love putting a touch of taste and class on everything I do.

Kabiyesi’s outfit is unique and peculiar to him...

I was actually coming to that. I shop abroad for the lace materials used in sewing Kabiyesi’s   attires. So also  are  the walking sticks, shoes and crowns. I  work on  them, design them and also ensure the colours match. This make him  look unique.

Can you tell us how  you relax?
I relax more when I’m in the presence of God. When I’m in  church, I sing, dance and clap. And if I’m at home, I can watch television or listen to music. If my children  are  around, we dance together. I also read my Bible as well.

What kind of music do you love listening to?
Christian music. But I do  listen to hip hop music sometimes because of my children.

Can you tell us your favourite perfume?
Chanel and Paris.

Do you have a favourite colour?
Yes, royal purple, royal blue and gold.

When outside Nigeria, do you still wear your traditional outfit?
It depends. if I’m travelling with kabiyesi, I dress like a Yoruba woman. And if there’s any function to attend there, I wear my traditional iro and buba with my gele and ipele aso oke as the Yeyeluwa of Ife. This is to  preserve and display my culture. I do wear English outfit as well. But as I said, all depends on the occasion I’m attending or which place  I’m visiting.  But then, if I’m  on a  holiday trip with my children, I dress formal to blend with the system there.

Is there an outfit you can’t be caught wearing?
Yes, that’s mini.

Do you wear trousers?
Of course, If I’m abroad.

Who does kabiyesi’s  cooking?
I do, but then we have cooks as well who assist in the kitchen.

What does he love eating most?
Curried rice.

You look radiant. How do you pamper your  body?
I cleanse my face with clean and clear cleanser. I’m not much of a make up person. The occasion on ground dictates if I will make up or not.

Can you recall a memorable day in the palace?
That was the day one of my daugthers got married. I felt fulfilled.

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