Erelu Mariam Iyadunni Bola Yusuf’s names conveniently ring bell in the Kwara State business and social circles. The amiable Deputy Managing Director, Kam Industries Ltd is usually an interviewer’s delight. In recognition of her contributions to the development of humanity, the woman of substance holds several chieftaincy titles which include the Yeye Bewaji of Ijara-Isin and the Yeye Oba of Oro kingdom. In this interview with Akinlolu Abayomi, the humble and beautiful wife of Kwara State biggest investor and employer of labour, Alhaji Kamaldeen Yusuf touched on issues of interests.
Nigeria became an independent country in 1960 and we are yet to have a female governor or a female president more than five decades after independence, what do you think the Nigerian women should do to work towards getting such a feat achieved?
That is an important question but one has to hesitate and be mindful of the choice of words in answering the question because it is like being torn between facing the reality or having a wishful thinking, the dictates of our religions and that of the African culture does not promote the idea of having a woman as the head of the society or the one that will lead the society. For example in Islam, a woman cannot be an imam, there are so many other features that will help in making it clear that men are designed to be the head and the leaders. Imagine a woman as a female Imam in prostration during prayers and having the men queuing behind her the distraction will be more than what they can bear. This does not imply foreclosing the dream of having a female governor or a female president and it does not also mean that I am against those dreaming to achieve such political power. I only state my personal opinion that by designs, it is clear God made men the head of the family, the head of the society and the head of the country. In the Biblical accounts available, Deborah led the Israelites to the war but was never made the king. Dorcas was also a virtuous woman but she was never made a king ditto for Esther.
In the recent times, a good number of female students have recorded exceptional academic excellence and the number seems to be higher than that of the men, does it mean women are really aiming to take over from the men?
Well, I am not really sure about that because I don’t have the data, it is good news anyway but it does not in any way imply that women are taking over from the men, a man is the head of the family and the one to give the wife instructions. I know about a particular family where the wife is a medical doctor and the husband is a very junior civil servant and let me tell you this, the woman still shows loyalty and honours the husband because he is the head of the family and the wife must obey him and take to his instructions. It is well stated in the Holy Bible and the Quran, a friend of mine did refer to a verse in the Quran which says ‘Arijalu qawamuna alanisai’ I also want to note here that though Khadijat was older and richer than the prophet, she still had a hundred percent loyalty to Prophet Muhammad as the head of the family, the Yoruba speaking people also have a common saying that ‘obeti bale ile kiije iyale ile kiise’ the import implications of the saying is to establish men`s authority over the women.
It is important to note, however, that a good number of women have excelled greatly in business, politics and the other callings and still maintain a peaceful and blissful marital life, some are very intelligent, calm and focused, some have creative minds and are quite industrious which also goes to confirm the common notion that ‘what a man can do a woman can do better’. We have some women as National Assembly members, ministers and they have contributed greatly to the nation building project. What is important is to ensure your career, business concerns and other callings do not affect your home.
Among the women in the political circle, who are the personalities you could consider as your role models?
I don’t really devote attention to getting them assessed but I respect the late Dora Akunyili; she was agile and intelligent. What she did in NAFDAC and her records there remain unbeatable, indeed she was an achiever. I also admire Dr. Okonjo Iweala though in my own view she was never a politician only that she took up political appointments. Dr. Sarah Alade is also another woman that I doff my cap for and hold in high esteem. The only person I can single out among the real politicians is Senator Gbemisola Saraki. She is pretty and calm, she is also quite good when it comes to politics, Senator Remi Tinubu too is strong-minded, intelligent and tough. I also appreciate the woman some people do describe as my look-alike Hon. Ayo Omidiran of the House of Representatives. She has been up and doing too. Mrs. Toyin Saraki is not a politician but I can say she has done well in using her Wellbeing Foundation to touch people’s lives. I do see her on television traversing countries, sparing time and resources all in the name of making her foundation record positive touch in the lives of the people. She is amiable and nice. Behind a successful man, there is a responsible and a good woman, without Toyin Saraki, there can be no Bukola Saraki. I know she has really supported her husband, she is also very strong but she is not a politician.
You are well-known in the society circle and very popular, as a woman celebrity, does the status come with challenges?
Well-known and popular? That is your opinion anyway. I don’t know about that, I am Bolanle Iyadunni Yusuf and I am a housewife, you are the one just informing me that I am popular but I don’t think so because I am not a politician. I am a house wife and a business woman but anyway if you say I am popular that could be among my people and in terms of challenges that come with being a known face. The truth is that with divine support, there is no qualm, God has made it easy for me to handle things and issues. I hardly go out, I am a very private person and not someone that loves going out without restraints but I attend parties because as a woman the ‘Owanbe’ thing is there, it is an every Saturday affair and you can’t avoid it because you have family members, friends, religious group members who would definitely invite you to events that you must attend. One of the challenges is that people take you for granted and you dare not complain because different meanings will be read to your reactions. There are challenges from different quarters but it is a normal thing you learn lessons from such and can’t ever stop learning because life is like a teacher. You learn everyday in different ways, what you need to do is to adopt, ‘What ganna be ganna be’ as your watch words. I will turn 50 soon and I have seen a lot, what goes up must come down, there is nothing new under the sky. What we should pray for is God’s protection and guidance, so that one can have the strength to face challenges, once it comes, you face it, thrash it and get well- prepared for the other one that will teach you a new lesson. However whatever the form or the nature of challenges, prayers solve them all.
Could you share the secret of your beauty and how you have maintained your skin?
The secret is God and having a loving husband in the person of Alhaji Kamal Yusuf. Whatever I have achieved or things I have done, it has been with his support once you have rest of mind you will definitely look good actually ,the secret of every woman’s beauty is enjoying peace of mind at the level of the domestic front and enjoying divine support