Being The Wife Of Governor Fashola Is God’s Blessing  – Dame Abimbola Fashola | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Being The Wife Of Governor Fashola Is God’s Blessing  – Dame Abimbola Fashola

Posted: May 23, 2015 at 12:20 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

For eight eventful years, Dame Emmanuella Abimbola Fashola has served tirelessly as the wife, mother, home-builder and pillar of support to one of Nigeria’s most celebrated governors, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola and their children. She also chaired the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO) organisation and as the CEO of a youth-based NGO, Lagos Empowerment and Resource Network (LEARN), which she founded. As the family counts down to the expiration of their tenure, this affable and highly resourceful woman, whom many have described as love, compassion and integrity personified, shares her experience as the First Lady of Lagos State with ARAMIDE OIKELOME, reminiscing the pains, the gains, the challenges as well as the achievements of her tenure, amongst other things. Excerpts-

It’s been eight eventful years of leading the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO). How has the experience been?

Dame Abimbola Fashola, First Lady of Lagos State

Dame Abimbola Fashola, First Lady of Lagos State

It’s been wonderful and I give God the glory. It’s a bit challenging when you think about sourcing funds for executing the projects we have; but aside that, it’s been a wonderful time.


Looking back, what would you consider your highest point with COWLSO?

I guess completing the Retirement Villa. That’s because we had to commit proceeds from three of our annual National Women Conference into completing that villa. I call it my highest moment as Chairman of COWLSO because we conceived that villa, not knowing how we would start or even finish it. The budget also was very scary but today, not only is it completed but it has brought so much joy and fulfilment to our aged people. That is one thing that gives me utmost joy whenever I remember it. In all, I would say the last eight years has been about impacting lives positively, giving joy to people and making sure everyone around me is smiling.


What was the greatest challenge as COWLSO chair?

Sourcing funds. You know, every year, we have to think of topics that will be catchy and inspiring for our women conferences. Also, we have to do a lot of hype to get people to attend. And then, for our sponsors, we must be on top of our game for them to continue to believe in us and remain with us. In the last eight years, I must confess that it has not been easy.  We have had to deliberate wisely on a theme for each of our conferences, on the speakers and all other logistics.


How have you coped with being the wife and mother to the children of a governor that is one of the most celebrated of our time?

Well, I guess because I already knew that for eight years he had a calling and that all that is expected of me is to be the suitable help-meet that God has made me to be, it was not an issue for me to adjust. Left to my husband, he doesn’t want me doing most of the things I have done; he believes I should be keeping the home front. But so far, I’ve been able to multi-task well with keeping the home and being there for the children at school as well as at home, attending government functions, leading COWLSO and executing infrastructural development projects across the state. In fact, God has been good to me.


And how has it been funny coping with the hardwork that comes with the office of First Lady?

Well, I guess we have both always been hard-working. He was working in his law firm while I worked in the British Council for 19 years. There, I resumed at 7.30 and closed officially at 4pm, but I don’t leave the office till 10pm. That’s the way I work because I had a lot of task to do. I was in charge of examinations, conducting 10,000 exams in a year, hence I needed to be on my toes to do the right thing because the English people would not take any excuse for failure.

With them, when something goes wrong, you must always be able to explain. So, I was always on top of my job. I personally do not like people faulting me, so if I cannot do anything, I tell you straight out the moment you come to me. I do not know how to say “Let’s see what we can do” when I know I cannot.

So, coming from such background and with my husband also having his own law firm where he worked, both of us have always been very hard-working. I guess that is why we can’t say we are sitting down idle. Even when I’m not going out, I always find one or two things that put me to work in the house; I’m a restless spirit.


What has been your guiding principle?

My guiding principle is to learn to prioritize. You can’t be at every place at every time, so, you need to decide which is most important that should take your time for any particular day

Would you say being in this office has cost you anything?

It costs me my boli (roasted plantain). It costs me my corn because I love to eat corn with ube (African pear). I now rely on people to go buy them for me. And then it costs me going out freely because now, everybody identifies me. In the first four years, I could sneak out. But these last four years, there’s nowhere I go to that people will not shout “Abimbola Fashola”. Even when I try to conceal my identity, you’ll still find people that will say I look like Mrs Fashola and they would follow me until they are convinced that it is me.


Would you say the office affected your marriage in anyway?

Like I tell people, I’m not envious of those who see their husband 24/7. Before coming into government, he had already told me that for eight years, this is what he will be doing. It was a bit tough initially, you know, when you’re used to having him at home every evening after work, sitting and chatting together. That has not happened in a long while, so, I’m looking forward to that.


And night rest…?

We go to bed at about 4a.m. or even 5a.m. sometimes. I hardly sleep well and women who are close to me know. I’m not complaining, though. All I have done is support him, and I thank God for giving me that energy to be there.


Would you say you are fulfilled, considering that you came into the office with a strong passion for women and children?

One, I’m someone who does not really say this is what I set out to do. It depends on the functions that I attend and letters that I get. Through these, I get inspired on what next to do. It’s what really happens in the society that determines what I do.


But can you look back and say you have done well?

I should not be assessing myself; that will be wrong of me. But of course, I know I‘ve done the bit that God has enabled me to do.


Any regret?

I will simply say “It is well.”


Come June 1st, is there something you can look back to and say “while my husband and I were in office, we did this and it gladdens my heart?”

I wish I’m someone who thinks like that but I’m not. What is past is past and I’m moving on to new things. You know I have an NGO which I’ve not had time for in the past eight years. So now, I’m looking into my NGO and taking it to greater heights. I do not look at the past and say “Oh, I didn’t do this or that.” It makes you wish you had done things in other ways and I don’t like bothering myself with the past because I know I can’t amend it. Instead, I like to focus on the future, so I face what is in ahead of me.

Having worked so hard for eight years, you sure need some time for rest and bonding as a family. Are you not thinking of vacation with your husband as you step out of office come May 29th?

That, I do not know because going on vacation with your husband is not really the best. I always say it the way it is; two days, you’re tired and everybody wants to mind their business. He won’t let you go shopping and I would want to do shopping because that’s how I enjoy my vacation.

But really, being the wife of Governor Fashola is God’s blessing and design. I guess when God calls you into something; he gives you the strength to withstand whatever comes your way. I’m someone who believes so much in God and I cast everything unto him. If anything comes like a challenge, I tell him to carry His problem because He is my creator. I challenge my God every blessed day; I’m never afraid to challenge Him because I believe He is my creator.


So, what is your aspiration beyond May 29th?

I’ll continue with my NGO, which of course you know is imparting positively in the lives of teenagers and youths. I have however changed its name from Lagos to Leadership because people from other states are clamouring that we extend our activities to them. Now, it is Leadership Empowerment and Resource Network, LEARN.

My passion is helping youths to be greater, better leaders because democracy really does not guarantee good governance. It is only when you have good leaders that you have good governance.


What will be your advice to other women whose husbands are in leadership positions?

My advice to other women is to always be themselves and to always remember to keep their husbands on their toes in prayers. Usually, when your husband is having such role, your own duty is to be the third eye so that when things are really not working, you will seek the face of God and be able to advice him. This is because it is not all men that like criticism— whether positive or negative. But I thank God for the friend (husband) I have; he listens when I say “this is what is happening and this is what people are saying.” However, we should always hand them (our husbands) over to God because He is the one that put them in any position they are.


Having left a lot of legacies for your successor, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, what specific success tips would you want to give to her?

She should be herself. Secondly, she should look up to God. She should always do those things that are passionate to her, and not what the society tries to impose on her. She should remember she will be accountable for her life. So, she should always determine what society should see, not what they try to put on her.


Having interacted so closely with the children in Lagos State, what would be your parting shot to Nigerian women, especially parents?

Let us be the best we can be and love every child around us. Let us always say the truth to them and learn to appreciate when they do good things; commend them. When they do the wrong things, let us scold them so that they can grow into good leaders. Above all, women must always learn to say the truth and help their children to be the best. Also, we should learn to support every woman who is doing good and insightful things.


Any message for Nigerians in general?

We should keep contributing to nation building. We should strive to do the right thing every second of our lives; not only when people are watching. More importantly, we should learn to keep our environment clean.

I notice these days that we have a growing prevalence of obesity among our children. We need to go back to the basis; Let us give them healthy food and do away with junks. Let us always be positive. Negativity will not take us anywhere but will destroy us. Also, we should walk in unity; let us always support whatever good thing government is doing. And like I always tell people, ‘you do not need a title to be a leader neither do you need a title to do great things in life’. Contribute from your own community and see how it is going to transform the country itself.