Ekiti First Lady: Dr. Olayemi Oyebanji From Classroom to Governor’s Lodge

The First Lady of Ekiti State, Dr. Olayemi Abiodun-Oyebanji is an accomplished scholar. Long before the media attention following the inauguration of her husband, Mr. Abiodun Oyebanji, as helmsman of Ekiti State, she was a senior lecturer at the Department of Education Management at the University of Ibadan. Determined to make a difference in the life of Ekiti people, especially the women and children, the Ado-Ekiti princess has since embraced her duties as a supportive wife, mother and lover of humanity. In a recent interview with Funke Olaode, Dr. Oyebanji delved into her aspects of life trajectory from lecture room to the government lodge

Her simple disposition, unassuming personality, down-to-earth nature, coupled with her intellectual prowess distinguish her from contemporaries.
With a robust resume, the governor’s wife caught a picture different from her humble and gentle mien. Of all her achievements in life, Oyebanji’s teaching career as university lecturer and her status as born-again Christian, are two things that influence her life more than anything.

Dr. Oyebanji’s career trajectory has always revolved around the classroom as a teacher. Reflecting on this new status, she couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of her marital journey to Governor Oyebanji that he would one day seek elective post.
The past political unrest in Ondo in the 1983 elections that claimed lives and property still sends shivers down her spine. As a result of this, the then young Olayemi resolved not to ever be emotional about political activities.

“It didn’t even cross my mind at the beginning that my husband, Governor Abiodun Oyebanji, would one day contemplate seeking an elective position. Growing up, I had an indifferent view about politics, perhaps because I was already aware of what happened around me during the 1983 crisis in the old Ondo State. Don’t forget that Ekiti was at the beginning part of Ondo State. The fallout from that singular crisis created fear in many children of our generation in this part of the world and I tried as much as possible not to be attracted to politics. It will also interest you that unconsciously, one of the first questions I asked my husband when we were dating was whether he would one day go into politics. His answer was diplomatic but I followed it up by boxing him into a corner to promise me he would not go into politics. Apart from the experience of 1983, the fact that my husband had his first and second degree in Political Science also spurred my curiosity,”

As a lover boy who was determined to sweep a beautiful angel off her feet, Abiodun Oyebanji, then a Postgraduate student at the University of Ibadan promised Olayemi but God’s will prevailed.
“That question of him getting involved became necessary then because of my level of understanding of life and how God works in our lives. Also, he made the promise because he was ready to do everything I wanted to win my heart. The rest is history,” she added.
Between the time young Abiodun assured Olayemi about his disinterest in politics and the time he was drafted fully; many things have changed in the lives of the couple. Among other things; they have advanced in age, built a network of friends and have worked with decent political leaders.

“When I asked him not to contemplate going into politics and the time he eventually chose to aspire; my scope had widened and my experience about life had changed. Above all, I’m a born-again Christian and God had given me many signs that my husband was being prepared to fulfill a destiny in the public service. Don’t forget again that when God sends his own on a mission, he endows him. My husband was a university lecturer and later had a stint in the banking industry before the present Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, who was also the first executive governor of Ekiti State, invited him to come and serve in his government between 1999 and 2003. He served in three capacities: Personal Assistant, Special Adviser and later as Chief of Staff. In 2014, former Governor Kayode Fayemi again invited him to become a commissioner and he also served in three capacities. In 2014, Dr. Fayemi again invited him to come and serve as the Secretary to State Government. Unknown to me or perhaps to him but clear to God, he was being prepared. As a result of all these, when God showed me the sign that he would be governor, I was helpless. I had no option but to support him both spiritually, emotionally and morally. We thank God it ends in praise.”

Looking back at the last 100 days since her husband came on the saddle and the fact that the country’s economy is currently troubled, Dr. Oyebanji said she hasn’t for a day allow anything to bother her because she knew that since it’s the will of God for her husband to emerge governor, he would be endowed.
She pointed out that despite the lean resources and other challenges facing the state, Governor Oyebanji has, within the first 100 days, embarked on rehabilitation of roads, fixing of electricity, paying monthly deductions to workers, among others.

Dr. Oyebanji represents humanity not by secular education but now in public service.
Speaking on her responsibility and preparation for the office of the First Lady, the University of Ibadan scholar admitted that God had prepared her for the office and guided her ways to actualise whatever she planned to do as First Lady.
“My primary area of focus is to champion the course of women and children; especially widows and orphans. However, I will not close my eyes against issues that concern every Ekiti citizen and resident. To raise the bar, I think my upbringing as a girl who attended public schools all through and my educational pursuits, would come handy in tackling some of the challenges that could come with the office in the area of my focus.

“I am not just a university teacher, my forte is in the field of Institutional Administration, Higher Education, Quality Assurance in Education and Human Resource Development and Leadership in Education. Besides, I have undertaken research works, either single handedly or with other scholars, in many relevant fields that will help me address issues concerning education in Ekiti, especially the education of the girl-child. For instance, I have in my library; literary works bordering on Work-Life Balance and Teachers’ Job Satisfaction in Lagos State Secondary Schools, Sex Education and Moral Decadence among Public Senior Secondary Students in Ibadan Metropolis and Funding of Nigerian Higher Education: Looking beyond the Monthly Government Subvention. All the research findings of these studies will of course help my area of focus as First Lady. Now, I am ready to work with relevant authorities in the education sector.”

As part of the steps being taken to actualise her dream, the First Lady spoke glowingly about her planned collaboration with relevant stakeholders and organisations. She also dropped the hint about the launch of her pet project -Widows and Orphans Hope Project (WAOH).
“We are currently at the consultation level and I have started meeting the stakeholders. I have held meetings with teachers, I have met the management of the Ekiti State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), led by Prof. Femi Akinwumi, a distinguished Professor of Educational Management. I have expressed my willingness to collaborate with all the educational institutions in Ekiti with the sole aim to impact our students. Of course, we will not also shy away from issues around Gender Based Violence, which is already at the front burner in Ekiti. Just recently, my office organised a one day training on data collation procedures of the WAOH Project which is an acronym for Widows and Orphans Hope Project. The project has been designed to reach out to those in the aforementioned categories,”

In retrospect, Dr. Oyebanji paused and suddenly exclaimed; “May God continue to bless my predecessor in office, Erelu Bisi Fayemi.” Of course, that statement aroused the curiosity of this reporter but before she could probe further, the Governor’s wife opened up on how the background laid by Erelu would help her protect the interest of women and the girl-child.

“Erelu Bisi Fayemi did a lot to raise the bar for our state and we were far ahead other states when it comes to fight against rape, women abuse and other such vices in the society. The former First Lady had designed a good template for us to leverage on. In identifying with this and working in the same direction, I have met relevant stakeholders and sought their cooperation.
Dr. Oyebanji who disclosed that her ambition at the beginning was to become a lawyer, revealed how fate landed her in the Department of Education Management, University of Ibadan but she thought she would change to Law in 200 Level only to fall in love with her education courses.
Out of the passion she had for Education Management, she moved up the ladder over a period of years and acquired a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Management and returned to U.I. as a lecturer.

Reliving on how she met her husband, she said it wasn’t love at first sight. They met as friends through an older friend of Mr. Biodun Oyebanji and the relationship blossomed into marriage. She later discovered he’s also from Ekiti like him.
“I didn’t meet him in Ekiti and so didn’t know at the first meeting that he was an Ekiti man. I was an undergraduate at the University of Ibadan and he was a Postgraduate student in the same institution. Funny enough, I was just in 100 level, so it’s like an undergraduate versus a postgraduate student. I met him through my elder sister. My husband had a senior friend in his Master’s class who was a friend to my sister. In those days, people that went for Master’s degree programmes were most times elderly people. You would see big shots in various fields of endeavour cladding their books and running to catch up with lectures.

“We met and I found out later that he was also from Ekiti. But even at that, it was not a ready-made answer. I was a good Christian, therefore his Ekiti origin notwithstanding, there was still need for prayer and that was what I did. Let me add though that he had the first qualification because my mother had always wanted me to marry a Yoruba man. She would not say it expressly but in parables but we got the message. That was the norm during our generation and not like that now. Today as a Christian, what matters is for God to choose for our children. It doesn’t matter if he or she is Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa or Ibibio. Just be sure it’s the will of God. I got in contact with my husband, we became friends for a very long time before we finally got married,” she stated.
Ekiti First Lady is less than three months in office but has already immersed herself into her duties as a supportive wife, mother and humanist whose milk of kindness continues to flow ceaselessly.

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