CONTACT US ON
Monsurat Sunmonu has broken many records. She was the first female to represent her state constituency- Oyo East/ Oyo West. The Oyo-born politician who reveals she wouldn’t contest future elections, is also Oyo’s first female speaker and senator. In this interview with OYOINSIGHT.COM’s Publisher, Sikiru Akinola, she opens up on why she has decided to support Seyi Makinde and life at 62. Excerpts:
At 62, what has life taught you?
At 62, what has life taught me. I will take this to be ‘this is your life’ because there is a program in the UK known as ‘this is your life,’ where you have to discuss your life with people and people will ask you questions about what they know about you for clarifications.
Life has taught me a lot of things but I will start with the life given to me by my parents. The first thing they taught me right from my young age is God. To believe in God and to hold on to God in everything that you do in your life.
I started my journey in life attending a Christian school- Cherubim and Seraphim, a children primary school in Osogbo where the proprietor and proprietress were both leaders of that Church but because of the relationship they have with my parents, my father spoke with the proprietor and said, ‘I am bringing my children to your school but if you can oblige me with one thing, if you allow me to bring an Islamic scholar that will be teaching Muslim students.
Graciously, he agreed because they had a good relationship. So every Sunday they created a place where we are being taught Islamic studies and Quran. Our father, Ajagbemokeferi, was my tutor because he was a friend of my father. My father took him from Ibadan to Osogbo. But that did not stop us from attending other congregations during school days. That has taught me a lot about the relationship we should have with people regardless of their religion.
My father was the one that brought Ansarudeen to Oyo town. So one could see that someone with that kind of status but still took his children to Christian schools, you could see that has got a long way to go in a child’s life.
So I have Christian and Muslim friends and whatever programme they have, I attend and they come to mine. So when people are religious fanatics, I tend to disagree with them. And that does not make me become a Christian or my friend to become a Muslim unless if they wish to. So that is the first thing I learned from my parents: the ability to accomodate people regardless of their religion, age, sex or ethnic.
Moving on, I attended Ilora Baptist Grammar School and Olivet Baptist High School; christian schools (smiles), before moving to working in the Housing Corporation of Oyo State.
When I was there, we were the in western. I met so many people, majority of the then footballers like Segun Odegbami, Best Ogedengbe, Kabiyesi Kola Adebola. We were all together at the Housing Corporation as of that time.
Then I had the opportunity of being voted as Miss Housing Corporation. I also had the opportunity of meeting late former governor Bola Ige because when he was commissioning those low cost houses, it was me who carried the tray and scissors for him to cut the cake. Then there was this time I met him. Before I met him, I went to the passport office at Ring road, myself and my friend, they couldn’t give us our passport. It was one Mrs. Ekpo that was at that office then and the passport officer was an ex-student of Olivet. Then we were talking to her but unfortunately they couldn’t get it.
We saw a multitude of people coming to collect their passports, and I told my friend what’s going on here, that we can’t get ours. Then we jumped in a taxi and came to the government office. We went to meet Chief Bola Ige. At first, his security details didn’t want to allow us. He beckoned then to allow us.!We told him we came to report the situation at the passport office. He told his aides and security operatives to follow us to the passport office and we were able to get it for everyone.
That taught me to always engage representatives positively. Let them understand the reason why things should be done in the right way. Let them understand that there is fire on the mountain. But how would you be able to have this courage?
We didn’t do it for our advantage. We never asked those people to give us money. These are the things we need to look into in this country. When you see somebody leading a crusade, we have to check properly to see they are actually genuine. I have done it in the past and I am still doing it.
Studying In The United Kingdom…
I mean I went to Kwara State College of Technology, from there I went to the UK in the late 70s or 80s. I have been going outside the country before my father actually agreed that I settle in the UK. I was first of all taken to Minnesota in America. My cousin, Saki, liked it and she was taken to the University of Minnesota. I preferred London so I came back to London and went to the University of London, imagine my age at that time.
Because I was the only daughter of my mother, while I was in the UK, I came to Nigeria during all holidays.
My father had more than one wife and they had to rotate the cooking. So whenever it was my mother’s turn, she always ensured I was the one who carried out that duty.
When I started having children my mother was with me in the UK, she would give them Nigerian foods.
I came to Nigeria on a purpose. I have reasons for coming into this country even though all that glitters is not gold but you will have your reasons; it was that thing that actually motivated me to say no, I must come to Nigeria and put in my own quota. I was so resolute. Whatever anybody says, I just carry on.
From House Of Representatives To House Of Assembly
We were thinking of House of Representatives but the day I knew they were going to give me House of Assembly was when we got to the stadium; I didn’t know the difference then. Some of my supporters said, ‘don’t go, don’t go, they have changed it.’ I remember Apostle Aderounmu, the then organizing secretary of the Action Congress, AC, was the one that accosted me and said, ‘Monsura, we won’t give you reps again. We will give you House of Assembly,’ I said, ‘Is my name on the list?’ He said, ‘yes’ and I told him not to worry. So when people were now running after me and asked me not to take it, I asked, ‘what is the smallest in the political system here,’ they said, ‘councilorship,’ and I told them to put my name there because I will perform. But they said they can’t do that until after elections. That was how my name was penned for the House of Assembly. I swear.
I went there and thank God, I contested the election and I won all my 20 wards. Everywhere I go they will say, ‘look at that bridge, your father constructed it. He was also able to employ a lot of people.’
Then I was bothered about how I was going to beat this nice record. To my mother, she was the treasurer of Ansarudeen in Oyo till her last day, no one ever accused her of touching a penny.
My mum and dad served as role models in my life. I enjoyed that and I will not have any excuse on the day of judgement to say I have done otherwise because they gave me everything.
I have seen a lot on how to help oneself or manage people or family. My stay in the House of Assembly where I have 31 men and one woman and they decided to make that woman their speaker. A first timer. Someone that just came into the country, a place where fraud is endemic, place where they can turn light into darkness. A place where you have a lot of Maradonas but with God… he is the most merciful. If you have God, he will guide you even in the most turbulent times and here we are today.
So I always advise people that whatever you are doing in life, leave God to drive that vehicle for you, let him be your captain and pilot. With him, everything will be possible. If you hold God, not just going to Church and Mosque, you have everything. In Islam there are five pillars, the first is to believe in God, if you don’t have that, then forget about the rest. Everything that we do is about belief in God. If you are destined to live for 100 years, you can search for God for 99 years…Even in the Bible, ‘thou shall have no other God or any splitting image because I am a jealous God’. The two books are not contradictory regarding the belief in God. I am not a fanatic but I am a strong believer. That has been my life since the time I have been in this country.
If you could see my antecedents, I always want to see that things are being done in the proper and right way. When I was the speaker, I had a very good relationship with the governor. There was never any problem or wahalabetween us but I swear that I always told him the truth
I always follow the tenets of God i.e. respect your rulers and leaders. I was not rude to him. If I lower my ego and swallow my pride, he was older than me and had everything than me. So why should I give him issues?
But there are some other ways you can work with superiors without even challenging their authorities. The prime minister of England, regardless of what the Queen does, must go to her and talk to her. So why must someone see me fighting the governor? I would go to him and sit him down. Sometimes, I would kneel down; he was older than me.
I would go to him and say, ‘Oga, this is what is happening…’ He will ask, ‘why do you act like my mother,’ but I will reply, ‘I am neither your sister nor mother but I am your blood sister who does not want you to fall,’ We were able to work together for four years without rancour. Then I used to talk to Chief Akin Oke.
Why She Left APC For ADC
What actually made me leave: one, local government election and two, congresses. And it wasn’t that I kept quiet. I kept saying we shouldn’t do things that way. If we have our people that have struggled and managed to purchase forms to express their interests, then we should give them the opportunity. If we said, we have screened them but at the end of the day, no result, it is not good. These people were coming to us, telling us to come to their aid. The beneficiaries were happy and saw nothing bad in it. But the victims? There are two sides to a coin. No result. Congresses? Nothing happened. That was my reason. It was not because of the ticket or no ticket. If anyone says it is because of ticket, I leave that person for God. God will judge me also.
You can’t blame politicians. If you have many people and only two are genuine, they will say all of you are not genuine. What you can only do is keep quiet and stay steadfast. So we left but till today, I will always be grateful to Great Lam and our father, the Alaafin because it was due to the two of them that I emerged as a speaker. They zoned the speaker to Oyo town and that was when Alaafin decided to talk to ACN leaders. Definitely, they had to contact him for his choice. Alhaji Fatai Ibikunle and others can bear me witness, Baba Lam said he will be there when they swear me in, I didn’t understand what he was saying.
It was in the build up to the 2011 election.!Remember that was when we had 9 governorship aspirants. The first day I met late former governor Abiola Ajimobi was in Iseyin, during a campaign. I went to him and greeted him. After securing the ticket, I went back to London to apply for my career break. And we started talking but he was fighting for his own ticket, I was fighting for mine. So who gave the two of us tickets? Lam. Who made me speaker? Lam and Alaafin. But there is a caveat, at one point we went to IITA where they held a training for new lawmakers. They were grading us and late former governor Ajimobi was there. I believe he spotted me then. And later when Baba Ladoja said, ‘who do you want to use as speaker? He replied that the only female lawmaker has the support of Lam and others and Ladoja said ‘I am satisfied with it. Her uncle, Prince ‘Jibola Afonja, is my person.’
But an adage says, ‘give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar’. Throughout my term as a speaker, Governor Ajimobi was very supportive. We never worked together as a speaker and governor but we worked together as brother and sister. Anything I believe he should not do, I advised him and we were able to bring that success to Oyo State. We thank God and I pray that his soul rest in perfect peace.
From Oyo Speakership To Nigerian Senate
Then I moved up to the Senate. At the senate, considering all I have said about my background that I will not let anybody push me, on the day of judgement, when God will call me; that is the way I walked throughout my period at the Senate.
‘I’m Fully In Support Of Makinde’
Here we are today, giving glory to God for sustaining us. I am in full support of Seyi Makinde’s administration. I am not going to mince words.
Nothing is being corrected in the APC. Nobody can cajole me at 62. You can’t tell me you will put this on the table while it will not come to effect. I have seen good things in Engr. Seyi Makinde, as an individual, as a governor.
I am praying that my own children will also succeed in life. What I am looking for is somebody that will operate in a way that the masses will enjoy. I swear to God, I am not doing it for my own self. And may God judge me.
If I see something that is good, we should say it. We pray that we will live long in good health and receive abundant blessings from Allah. Our Prophet Muhammad died at 63, Jesus Christ died at 33. Their names have never been forgotten. So why is it that at this age, I will now be chasing life about? Even if the government set a retirement age to be 60; I am 62. If you haven’t achieved what you want at 60, there is a problem. But to be running around? No. That is why I said, I am not contesting any election again.
What If Makinde Asks Her To Contest In 2023?
He won’t ask me. He won’t even tell me. Hilary Clinton; she tried it. At one point during her campaign, she collapsed. They had to carry her away with an ambulance. When a woman reaches menopause and she does not know where to sit, it will continue. If we are saying we want our children to succeed in our presence, when?
Yes, we are leaving the stage for the younger generation. When youths want to contest, they should come to us for advice. That is what elders should do. My son is with Seyi Makinde now. Does it make sense if he goes to Egbeda and I am in Kisi making noise? No. That is what it means to be a stakeholder.
If you give the youth the opportunity, they are well educated and exposed. 80, 84-year old people are still at the senate while youths are running about for them. When will the youths also have their own chance? It is quite different from the American system. Nobody should quote Joe Biden. It’s not the same. Those running their states are young. It was during one congress that the Kennedy family identified Barack Obama- that this man is fit to become American president. So when will we start to identify our own youths? We must start from somewhere and give them the opportunity. We must build them. Enough is enough. Had it been that during our time, all resources were well utilised, what are old people doing in the senate?
I left the senate two years ago. With God’s permission, I am still in vogue with times. The time has come for everyone to talk to themselves. Our conscience must not be bought again. Politicians buy people’s conscience for a day but the effects may last eight years.
This book with me. When anyone brings an issue to me, I write it and when I see the governor, I table before him. Look at this for example, ‘reinstatement of FIBAN,’ – all of them have been reinstated. When they came, I called the governor and explained to him. He was in America then. When he got back, we went to him. The governor said he was not even aware they were sacked. When the governor comes he will ask for my book. I ask him for nothing.
The reason why I came to Nigeria is not to steal. If I should do that, the purpose of me coming to this country has been defeated. The house I left in the UK, if I sell it, I will get at least £500,000, am I not a millionaire?
Some people came here and asked, ‘Is this all your house,’ and I replied that what else should remain? I can use the money for a bigger house to help people. I made money I could have used to get a bigger house in the senate but what of those who sent me on errand? If I should do that, it is haram. Anyone who does these things will be punished for it. The best thing is to do good.
We must all recognise God and believe everything that is incomplete will soon be too much. I am grateful to my parents for training me well. Everyone who tricks another person will be punished by Allah. That will always be my advice. Who can take care of your needs if not God? Anyone pocketing people’s resources, would be punished.
Go and ask Seyi Makinde, apart from the loans he is taking, where is he getting money? I am not his radio but I swear to God, I was convinced by what I heard and saw.
Remember my son was not hungry before going into government. If you check his CV, you will see what he was doing. I told him that if he should mess up, I will punish him. I told him not to taint my name. Nobody has chased me before for stealing. Neither, my parents didn’t leave behind bad names for me.
Always put God first in everything you do and he will bear your burden. I know the amount I used to buy food for people during COVID-19.
Ensuring Women Participation In Politics And Governance
We were 7 at the Senate. Myself, Remi Tinubu, Stella Odua, Binta Mercy, Rose, Okone, Olujimi, and Fatima Raji-rasaki. We fought for 35 percent affirmation… We had problems. The southern Senators joined but the northern senators? Some of them joined us but others did not. Maybe because of religion or cultural values . So we said let’s start with 20 percent.
So if you look at the principal officers at the Senate then, there was no woman until when Akpabio resigned, then Olujimi became minority leader. To get that opportunity, we supported her despite party differences. The problem women have is that we don’t always support ourselves. Operation pull them down starts with women. That is why we see more men supporting us than women.
Through my MOSWEF, Monsura Sunmonu Women Empowerment Foundation, I have continued to empower women. I have a file for the payment of medical bills of women at UCH. But my advice for Nigerian women is that we should hold on to ourselves and support each other, otherwise, it will be very difficult.
We should praise Seyi Makinde. It’s part of the reasons why I am supporting him. In the caretaker committee, there were women in all local governments. Even disabled people were present across all local government areas.
The ex-caretaker chairman of Ibadan South East was a woman. Now for the election, there are two women candidates in Okeogun, one in Oyo and Ogbomosho. That means he has started but it has to be gradual. So if I see that kind of thing, I will support the person regardless of the party.
You are in ADC, the governor is in PDP but if by 2023, the governor is seeking re-election on the platform of the PDP and your party also has a candidate, who has your support?
(Cuts in) No, we don’t have a governorship candidate. This current administration is on the basis of coalition. Remember it is a coalition government. Had it been that the coalition groups still remain intact, then people would have seen… the local government election is also going to be a coalition. I always advise people that we should exercise patience. Both the Quran and the Bible tell us to be patient. Everybody agrees that Governor Makinde is a first timer. It is just like you being on the airplane, when the plane starts, it will be shaking until it reaches its required altitude. When a woman is pregnant, the first few months will be troubling, that does not mean we will terminate the pregnancy. We did not allow the plane to take off when we started fighting. Rome was not built in a day and all that glitters is not gold. When Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was angry during the first two years of Buhari, he did not fight. I stayed because I was trained to always be patient.
Why must we get there and after three weeks, they are saying let’s share it. Some people will say it’s because my son is a commissioner. But if that’s it, I should have gone back to London but I am still here struggling to ensure everyone gets what they deserve.
Some of them have now gotten vice chairmanship and councilorship slots. Those who left the ADC were unfair to their supporters. They just dropped people in the lagoon, people who have family. I won’t just leave people alone like that because I am a mother. I am fasting today and I am very conscious of all I am saying.
When I was Speaker, I never really knew what it meant. I had a note and I named it idiot guide because I want clerks to treat me as someone who knows nothing. That was what we call ourselves in the UK. I will write, ‘the clerk enters, sergeant at arms enters. Clerk will say, madam speaker, and principal officers will follow. On getting to the floor, I will remain standing until we start praying.’ I took myself to be an idiot and I took the glory.
Makinde has never been there before. We have to give him time and those of us knowledgeable in the coalition are supposed to sell ideas to him.
With his calibre, it won’t take him time. That’s why I don’t capitalise on people’s errors and I won’t encourage it because we want the best for our government, community, state, and country. So all those differences will be put into consideration. You don’t embarrass them; there is no need to do that.