The former wife of the Ooni of Ife, Queen Silekunola Naomi Ogunwusi, who recently clocked 30, shares with SAMSON FOLARIN some of her life’s experiences and how they have shaped her into who she is
Queen Silekunola Naomi Ogunwusi is a woman of different parts. Can you provide a highlight of your journey so far?
I started ministry at a very young age, or let me say that I started to have a good relationship with God at a very tender age. Before I got to know the Lord, I was having some supernatural experiences. However, at the age of nine, I gave my life to Christ, and got baptised with the Holy Ghost with evidence of speaking in tongues. I went through primary and secondary schools at the Akure Academy before I got admitted to Adekunle Ajasin University. I became popular there.
I was going to 18 years when I got God’s call to start my ministry formally, and I went into evangelistic ministry. For some reasons, I could not continue at the university at that time; that was because of the call. I was doing fine academically; I came out with flying colours in anything I did at that time. However, one was stronger than the other.
I continued full-time until I was 25 and got married. I am still in ministry; many assumed that I got married and stopped ministry. I had several crusades while in the palace, and I have gone on outreaches; we have videos to back it up. I am currently back in school, studying at the Elizade University.
You started ministry at 18, what was the reaction of your parents and why start at such a tender age?
The hand of God upon me was very evident. I was born into a very strong Christian family. My parents have a background in ministry. It wasn’t strange the things happening around me and to me. The manner in which I was operating at that time; you know when a child tells you, ‘Daddy, don’t go out today, this and this will happen’. And it would happen exactly how I prophesied it. For a child at that time, I am talking about the 1990s, to wake up and say I am going on a seven-day white fast, dry fast for three days, you will know that it has to be the hand of God, nothing else.
Giving my life to Christ was very evident. Those who went to school with me can tell that there was something different about me. I was always acting like I was older than my age. Some people think I was not born in 1993, but if you doubt it, you can find out at the State Specialist Hospital, Akure, Ondo State.
What gave birth to your NGO, ‘Women in Need of Guidance and Support’?
By the time I was born, things were good and that was why I was named Silekunola, because truly, there was wealth. I was named by my parents for those who still doubt and think that it was a name I acquired with my position. No! It has always been on my birth certificate. However, along the line, things happened and it wasn’t as rosy as it used to be and that happened quite early. My mum braced and started to hustle. We were six children – three boys and three girls. And you know that a woman in Nigeria has to stand up and fend for her kids to make sure that they all look good, eat well and grow well. I am a mother now and I know what it feels like to support a child.
I started to see all those things, and I saw the kind of things that she also faced; the challenges. How they will say no to a woman for a thing they will naturally do for a man. My mum did the hard work; my father was into that at some point. She would do anything just to make sure that we were okay. She had done business that only men should be involved in, and I also saw that if she got certain help, it would have reduced her stress.
With the way a woman is configured, she is not expected to do any work because the process of just giving birth, carrying a pregnancy and having a monthly menstrual period is enough work. And then, you carry the burden of children, husband and marriage, and you still have to go outside and work because there is no support.
So, if women get the needed support, how beautiful will it be? Women have more time with the children than men: from breastfeeding to weaning to schooling, and everything. So why shouldn’t a woman be supported?
That was where that vision came from and I have been able to support a lot of women; started businesses for them, pay their hospital bills, and put them where they can learn a trade. I have been doing that quietly for many years.
When did you start the organisation?
It was registered officially in 2019 although work had been going on before the registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission. We have spent over 100 million naira on empowerment of women and children. I have had an occasion where I actually empowered a man so that women could be empowered through him. At the time I actually empowered that man, his hometown was being ruled by a regent and he was a shining star there. He was empowered with equipment worth N14m; we have a video of that on YouTube. We have an office in Akure.
You are naturally beautiful and attractive, how do you ward off men?
Early enough, I took some measures even before I came into the limelight, and some people started seeing them as excessive, awkward and off. However, those things I structured helped me. A pretty young girl, it does not matter if you spit fire, you walk into a space, they don’t care if you are coming to minister. The first thing they are seeing is not what is coming out of you, but what is outside of you. And would you blame a complete man? Because once a man is complete, he is attracted to anything beautiful. Would you blame him if he started making advances? Those who are uncouth and ill-mannered will even want to take it by force.
I was always going in company with people, especially family members. I had older siblings and I had my mum. Every time I went out to minister or see people, you would never see me alone. It was like that and it was so difficult that people wondered, ‘Who’s going to marry her?’ Because, how are you going to approach me? You’re never going to see me alone.
I always have someone, and my phone is always on speed dial. So, once I press it, they will get me in a matter of seconds or minutes, and you will also know that I am not alone even though we are together in this room alone, there is somebody waiting outside.
So, that was a kind of put-off for people who would have loved to do something. They don’t really find me that attractive; they find me as, ‘This one must be old school, why will she be going around with people, why can’t she just walk alone?’
You clocked 30 recently, what do you consider as your greatest achievement?
Ah, there are quite a lot. You know, for a 30-year-old, people who are three decades ahead of me may not have achieved the things I have achieved in this little time I have spent on earth.
I am super excited to be the proud mother of Tadenikawo. It is a whole lot; that’s a great achievement that will take precedence over all other achievements I have had.
In ministry, if we need to put together records of the things I have done, including gathering thousands in the presence of the Lord; many souls and lives have been touched, changed and transformed. I have been instrumental to a lot of people’s successes. You will see 50-year-old people calling me their mother. They are not calling me mummy because I was married to a king, but because of the impact I made in their lives. It is quite a lot.
Financially, I am not in a bad place. When you look at me spiritually, career-wise as a public speaker, I am a voice; that’s huge.
Let’s go to your birthday message that you posted on your Instagram page. You stated, ‘I gave the devil a punch right back in its face. Isn’t that grace?’ What do you mean by that?
Yes, I think even the devil knows that it’s true it got a punch right in the face. You know the devil is actually not a person as we look at it. The devil is a bunch of evils and when you are hit in a way that; imagine somebody shoots at you but you have a bulletproof vest on. Having a bulletproof vest doesn’t mean you won’t have your back on the ground due to the impact of the hit, but you’re going to bounce right back up, and the shooter will be wondering how did this person rise again. That’s what I meant when I said that. You know when you stand up and see your shooter, what do you do? You shoot right back.
In practical terms, can you share instances or life experiences of giving the devil a punch?
I’ll speak briefly. There are certain things that happen in your life that are extremely private; they happen behind the camera. Because of the way my life has been out there for a couple of years, people assume that they know everything going on with me. But that’s a lie; you only know what we put out there.
It’s alright even for men to cry. And you know, somehow, people know that it was a big hit when I announced my divorce, because it was breaking news all over the place. And the devil must have thought that it would be the end, but look at me. I am still here right up in the devil’s face. As I said, the devil is not a personality; the devil is a bunch of evils. It is huge for someone who is not even up to 30. Because I have a ministry and all, it is giving me fuel in my lamp and it keeps me going.
Is there anything you will like to share about life in the palace?
I am hesitant about speaking on my experiences in the palace. But in my usual way of talking, it was a bittersweet experience. Details, I will not be sharing, but it was a bittersweet experience. There were really sweet moments and there were really bitter moments. It is not yet time to talk about it because some things are meant to just teach you by yourself. I believe the messages are just for me at the moment, when God wants to enlarge and expand on it and make it a message for the whole world, then I will hear his words and talk about it.
Lessons learned are personal and they have helped in shaping me. I am enjoying 30 so much; 30 makes me really strong. I am too innocent; I think I entered the palace too innocent and soft, but life is not like that, you have to be strong, bold and courageous.
How does it feel to produce the crown prince of Ife?
(Sings a praise song) It feels beautiful and the greatest miracle I have experienced in three decades of my life. You can’t take that away from me. Ask me to drop everything; the crown he has given me, my son is my crown, Ademide. He is not going anywhere; it is a precious gift, and my shoulder pad is high. I am holding it like a priceless, untapped, natural resource. I am very excited about it.
I feel very proud and honoured by God. I still can’t tell what I did; I still can’t tell why God loves me this much because I tell you, God has to love me to give me that golden child. I am the golden goose that lays the golden egg. That is how it feels. It is a special gift. I am still going to talk about that in a few years to come. I can’t get over the miracle.
Why did you say the child is a miracle?
The birth of my son, the boy himself, everything about him is a miracle. I know his father used to tell me that his children were coming and he said, ‘They chose you.’ He would talk about that, and I thought it was one of those things that men would say to make you happy. But, however, for that boy to have chosen me…Take everything from me, you can’t take away this crown. Don’t call me Olori, call me Ayaba, Iya Oba. Because how can God choose this little me that does not know anything? I was a complete novice who did not even have a period calendar. If I go to the hospital and the doctor asks me, I don’t know what to say.
I am a very small girl with a very big God that is always on my side. No matter how people feel about me, or they may think that, oh for some reasons they are aggrieved, their grievances cannot stand. How can you be angry with Iya Tadenikawo? You have to consider the crown (laughs).
Do you have any regrets?
Hmm….regrets? You know, even when people talk about regret, I see it differently. If I say I don’t have regrets, people will think that I am proud. How can you live 30 years of your life and after everything you have been through, and you don’t have regrets? But God makes it hard for me to have any regret because in the midst of the storm, I feel blessed. There is always something to look up to.
There is this song I used to sing, ‘Lord, you have been good to me, in all circumstances, in all circumstances, in all circumstances’. I’m not perfect. The only thing I should regret is if I were to be God Himself.
The things that you will say I did wrongly as an under 30-year-old, you, who is 60, can you do them right? If you were to wear my shoes, can you strut the runway? Can you walk and catwalk the way I have in these very odd shoes? If you can, then talk about regret to me. So, I’ve got no regrets.
But for lessons, I’ll say; don’t be too trusting, don’t see life as black and white. There are many colours to life. Hold on firmly to God. In my experiences, I have learnt practical faith. Everything that is standing before you today is a work of faith. My journey has been the work of faith and endurance.
The things that you expect to break me cannot break me because for every mistake that I have made, there is insurance. You can run anyhow if your car has insurance, you will be doing it anyhow. But if there is no insurance, if you drive anyhow, you will know.
For my life, there is insurance; for my marriage, there is insurance. Every aspect of my life is insured. I am that girl whom God has given the grace to eat her cake and have it.
You are out of the palace at the moment. Are you single and ready to mingle?
It’s a different thing to be single and it is a different thing to be ready to mingle. But what I can say for sure is that I am a bride waiting to be dressed up.
Can you clarify that?
You know, ‘Eni ti won gbe iyawo bo wa ba ko kin garun’. I don’t know how God plans to do it because He is my event planner. But there is a big event waiting to happen (if you are) talking about that aspect of my life.
Hmmm, you see this queen, it will take a strong king to get me; I am single.
Is there a possibility of reconciliation with the Ooni?
I am going to answer that question with a question. As I have been speaking to you for the past one hour, do I look like someone who can survive in the midst of six mature and strong women? No! She is but a soft, strong, gentle woman and I can’t be a square peg in a round hole.
What will you tell your younger self?
I will say to my younger self, ‘Naomi, be fearless, be careless, enjoy your innocence’. Oh! The state of being innocent is beautiful.
I’m a perfectionist; my temperament enjoys being perfect, and I love it. But I realise that the greatest of men and women are not perfect; they are imperfect. Yet, God is doing perfect in their imperfections. So, why are you scared?
When you calculate the danger involved in taking a bold step and giant strides, you will not take it and you are never going to know if you will come out victorious.
That’s what I will say to my younger self, ‘Naomi, be free, explore, jump, take a leap’. And that’s it.
What plans do you have for the future?
I love surprising people. I want it to come and let everybody just wow! The world should just wait; there is something huge and beautiful. I am launching a business soon and quite a lot of other things. I will love to just announce it when it is here. Crusades are also coming.