Tamunominini Olufunke Makinde: Being First Lady Hasn’t Changed My Personality

As an accomplished engineer, Tamunominini Olufunke Makinde is one of the most brilliant and educated  First Ladies in Nigeria. After earning a first degree in Petrochemical Engineering in Nigeria, she later obtained  a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration  and Master’s degree (MBA)  from St. Thomas University, Houston, Texas, United States, graduating with a First Class.  Mrs. Makinde would rather jettison a personal ambition to play a supportive and doting wife. Inside her office at Agodi GRA, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, she told   Funke Olaode why she is passionate about girl-child education and women empowerment

Her background is far from being humble having come from a noble family with a solid academic pedigree. Her father was a field engineer with Shell Nigeria in Port Harcourt where she was raised and eventually met her future husband. With a comfortable background, an outstanding academic laurel and now the wife of a politician who is constantly in the public glare, nothing has changed. A first encounter will leave you with a lifelong impression: relatable, hospitable, down-to-earth, jovial and accommodating. Though cosmopolitan in outlook, having lived among the Oyo people who cherish tradition, she has mastered it all. And intermittently, she displays that Yoruba outward of respect. Welcome to the world of Tamunominini Olufunke Makinde, First Lady of Oyo State.

Looking regal in orange Ankara with embellishment, she exuded elegance as she dazzled among the pupils and top echelons of the Oyo State Civil Service. It was her pet project tagged ‘A Day Out with the Girls of Oyo State: Your Menstruation Hygiene Matters!’ The well successful programme drew secondary school pupils from local government areas of Oyo. Apart from learning about personal hygiene, the participants went home with personal kits consisting of pants, sanitary wares, deodorants and more.

In all of this, Mrs. Makinde maintained her simple disposition without drawing unnecessary attention to herself. And back to her expansive office located in Agodi GRA in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, her hospitality and humility once again were on display. Is this a reflection of who she is?

“Yes, I would say this is a true reflection of me. I have had friends from way back at high school up to university. They are still my friends. Some of them were worried that if I become a governor’s wife, I will change. But after the election, two years, three years, and I happened to meet some of them at the airport in transit, nothing has changed about me. Although I have lost my privacy. I am still who I am. I still love local braiding and small hair. It is an honour to be in the forefront which has allowed me to advocate for causes that are close to my heart. Important issues such as women empowerment, sexual and gender-based violence and girl-child education,” she said.

Mrs. Makinde may be the first woman today, she is well grounded. Her background rooted in Christ, education and professional experience has equipped her with strong communication skills, diplomacy and the ability to engage with diverse groups of people to navigate her roles. Also, various community initiatives have allowed her to understand the needs and concerns of different classes of people in society irrespective of their religious affiliations or political beliefs.

It has been over four years since she came into the saddle, but Mrs. Makinde has been able to combine many roles as a wife, a mother, an accomplished engineer as well as a First Lady.

 She explained: “Well, balancing multiple roles can be quite challenging, but with careful planning and support, it is possible. First, I prioritize my responsibilities and allocate time accordingly. This helps me stay focused and organised. I believe strongly that effective time management is important, so I create schedules and set reminders prioritizing urgent and important tasks so as to optimize my time and make sure all my roles receive the attention they deserve.

“My primary role is that of a wife and so, I always ensure that I have time to attend to my husband and his needs. Similarly, by the time my husband became the Governor of Oyo State, two of my children were already in the university and the last was in high school.

“Importantly, I maintain open and honest communication with my husband, family, and coworkers at all times. This helps me align expectations and seek support when needed. I also believe in delegating tasks whenever possible, both at home and at work.

“Finally, I make sure to prioritise activities that help me relax and recharge. Whether it’s exercise or spending quality time with loved ones, these activities rejuvenate me and enable me to bring my best self to all my roles without one affecting the other.”

An Ijaw woman married to an Oyo man, Mrs. Makinde said she feels at home. “As a leader in a setting where the culture and language are different from my own, I have had to navigate the complexities of communicating with the Yoruba people. Nevertheless, I have dedicated myself to learning the language.

“In addition, my role as the first lady has given me the privilege of meeting and working with extraordinary individuals who are dedicated to making a difference. These interactions have broadened my perspective and enriched my understanding of the world, thereby creating a better scope on how to help my people, especially the women in Oyo.

“I have been married to a Yoruba man for the past 27 years and I have lived with the Yoruba people, so I understand the people and their ways of life. That makes it easy for me to relate with them. And though I cannot speak the Yoruba language fluently, I have basic understanding of the language and I am able to relate with the people easily because relating with people is beyond the language they speak or where they hail from.”

How would she describe the people of Oyo? “The people of Oyo are known for their warmth, resilience, and rich cultural heritage. I can describe the people of Oyo as hardworking, loving, accommodating, jovial and generous. They possess a strong sense of community and are deeply rooted in their traditions and values. I have found the people of Oyo to be incredibly welcoming and hospitable. They embrace diversity and are always eager to celebrate their cultural differences. Whether it’s through music, dance, or cuisine, the people of Oyo take pride in showcasing their unique traditions to the world. Let me add that, the people of Oyo do not play with their amala and ewedu, owambe and asoebi.”

Through her pet project: Omituntun for Life Foundation, and programmes organised by her office,  Mrs. Makinde has brought immense happiness to orphans, less privileged children, girls, widows and women in society.

“I see this as directly impacting the lives of the people around me and it gives me joy that I can contribute my own quota to the development of humanity.

“One particular instance that also stands out to me is when the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act was finally domesticated in Oyo State to help deal with perpetrators of Rape and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the state.”

On her second tenure as first lady, she reiterated her commitment to do more. “My primary focus is to continue uplifting and improving the lives of women, girls and orphans within the state. Building on the foundation laid during my first tenure, I have identified several key areas that will be the focal points of my efforts which are in line with the road map of His Excellency, Governor Oluseyi Makinde: They include education; education is the key to unlocking opportunities and empowering the girl child. I will continue to advocate for quality education and access to educational resources. Additionally, I will focus on promoting digital literacy and ensuring that our girls have access to qualitative education by providing scholarships to indigent students.

“During my first tenure, the women and widows that we have given empowerment items are doing well in their different skills. So, I know that the intervention programmes have yielded positive results and I hope to do more in this second tenure.

“Agriculture is a very vital sector that plays a significant role in the economy and livelihood of the people in Oyo State. I will support and promote initiatives to support women in agriculture, which will focus on enhancing their knowledge and skills in sustainable farm practices and value addition.”

Praising Nigerian women for their resilience and resourcefulness, Mrs. Makinde said they contribute significantly to their families, communities, and the nation as a whole. “Nigerian women are involved in various sectors, including education, healthcare, entrepreneurship, politics, arts, and sciences. They are breaking barriers and achieving remarkable milestones in their respective fields, driving positive change and empowering others.

 “However, it is important to acknowledge that Nigerian women also face challenges and inequalities. Gender-based discrimination, limited access to education and healthcare, and cultural norms can hinder their full potential. There is a need for continuous efforts to promote gender equality and address issues such as gender-based violence and harmful practices so we can create a more inclusive and equitable society that benefits everyone.”

Mrs. Makinde is 52 years old and has been married for 27 years. “I met my husband at age 19 in Port Harcourt by the poolside.  Ours wasn’t love at first sight because I didn’t give him face.” But he was persistent. He is also a very likeable person who was and still loved by my entire family. Ethnicity is never a barrier in our love story.  33 years later here we are.”

Mrs. Makinde’s middle name is Olufunke, a Yoruba name.  She explained, “I think it was the second year or so when I started visiting his house. Friends would shorten my name and just call it Omi.  So, when we got married, unknown to me, he had already foreseen the gap that would happen in pronunciation. He decided to call me Olufunke and insist that I publish a name change with my full name and additional name, Olufunke.  And I asked him, what does Olufunke mean?  He said, ‘one that God has given me to pamper.’”

With three grown-up children and a tight schedule because of the demand from the office, the flame of love between the Makindes is still waxing strong. This they do by maintaining a healthy and fulfilling relationship with an intentional effort to create time for romance amidst their responsibilities.

With four more years to go, Mrs. Makinde wants to leave a worthy legacy. “I want to be remembered for my service to humanity. I aspire to leave behind a legacy where many women in our state feel empowered, valued, and have equal opportunities to succeed. I believe that by uplifting women, we uplift society as a whole. Also, I am committed to ensuring that every child in orphanages receives the support and care they need to thrive,” she said.

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