My Love Life With Tinubu —Remi
When her husband was celebrating his 60th birthday, The NEWS magazine came up with a special publication titled ‘ASIWAJU—Untold Story of the LEADER.’
According to the Sun, in the magazine, Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu, now the First Lady of Nigeria, told the story of her love life with the man who today is Nigeria’s President.
Excerpts from that interview are creatively adapted for this column.
It starts with a question: How did the love affair begin?
I know that is what most people want to hear, and it’s quite strange. Initially, I felt like an alien from another planet. It was my sister who introduced me to him. He was a friend to the family even before he travelled abroad. Then, I had already graduated from the Ife university and had started working.
My sister became worried that I was keeping to myself; I am naturally not an outgoing or social person. I love fashion and love to dress well. She match-made the two of us and we didn’t really have a long courtship before we married.
I realised that it was a relationship that required seriousness and not one to play around with. For me, it’s either a relationship is working from the beginning or not. He saw me and thought I was a wife material. I was interested too, and realised that he had a good job.
I saw his eyes and thought he has very kind eyes. That was one of the things that attracted me to him. I believe that from the eyes, one can know the mind of a person. I think he got me with the eyes; they were very kind and penetrating eyes, and that was how we started. He was very serious about his jobs and had lofty plans about the future.
He didn’t say things you would hear from most guys when he met me. He just said: “I don’t have a lot of money, but I love to help people.”
So I thought we had to cut the chase and was ready to settle down for the real business. I just thought somebody was trying to introduce me to a journey and I concluded that it was a journey I wanted to be part of. I am generous in my own little way and from that angle, I thought it would be quite interesting to go along with.
At 25, I was quite confident of myself. There are a lot of tricky things when going into a relationship. Yes, I thought to myself I was gorgeous and all that, but as time went by, I realised that those things didn’t really matter when both parties settle down to a real relationship.
I am quite homely and not the jealous type and I think it really helped. I believed that it was enough to feel love for him. He was really an outgoing type and a disc jockey. He was telling somebody some time ago that he was really ‘bad’ in those days.
I didn’t compete for his heart. I don’t do competition. I am very confident of who I am. I think he had some people he was dating, but he felt he had met the right woman when he met me. I wouldn’t say I really competed with anyone to have him.
If there is anything I hate, it is fighting over a man and an environment where such is happening. I always believe that the way a woman presents herself to a man is the way the man sees her.
He showed some respect at the time and I felt that was adequate. I wasn’t the type that would barge into a man’s house uninvited. So, whenever I was going to see him, he usually knew I was coming. My mother equally warned me about barging into a man’s house without invitation and that was the advice I took from home and applied in my relationship.
Though I was born into an Anglican family, I wasn’t a born-again Christian and wasn’t really the church-going type. We were raised as Christians. One of the things my dad told him when we visited him was not to stop me from being a Christian. I am a better Christian now because of my relationship with him. I would say that I know God more now than before. Maybe I would have been drawn from the things of God if it had started as a lovey-dovey affair.
He was a man who is set in his ways and knew where he was going; unlike myself, who was just playing with life and didn’t know my right from my left. With that, one needs a balance and I can say that it became a plus for me to know more about God, which has helped in stabilizing my home.
I met him with a lot of people. His house was always full of people and he told me from the beginning that he loved to help people. He married me when he was in the corporate world, which was steady and peaceful. It was fun attending banquets with him.
He was moving up the ladder in his career and the future was bright. But with a lot of political inclinations and mama’s influence, you would know that anything could happen. He was always sponsoring politicians before he eventually joined in. It was very difficult for me to adjust to the fact of people coming into our house when he became a politician.
But it didn’t make much difference because I met him with a lot of people at the beginning. So it became my duty to welcome people and he would always remind me to make them comfortable. While I did that, I was never scared of new challenges and that is one of the things that have made the marriage quite interesting.
One of the traumatic experiences was during the 1993 elections, when men of the State Security Service invaded the house to pick him up. They surrounded the house. I was ill, but managed to look out from the window and I had never seen such terrifying men like that in my life. I was about 32 years old then and I wondered what kind of life that was.
Quickly, I dismissed the thought, when I considered that he was fighting a noble cause. I supported him since I knew he was fighting for truth and justice. We fled into self-exile for five years. The trauma of that time affected me psychologically and I had problem remembering names and faces of people I knew before we went into exile.
He has always called me Remi, but now, he calls me mummy and I call him daddy. He is a soft man, though he hides his emotions. On several occasions, he forgets my birthday. Asiwaju would purposely forget my birthday. It was not like that before he became a politician.
He would always remember my birthday and other important events. We don’t have a private life anymore because he is always surrounded by a lot of people.
He is a very busy soul, who always finds something to do and believes there are needs to be attended to in the society.
He wakes up early to read his newspapers and listen to the news. During our days in exile, he would always mention to me that I wasn’t reading the papers, but I didn’t know how to convey it to him that I was still traumatised. With him, I have found the love of God and the concept of love in its totality, and I can say that I have found a place of rest and fulfilment.