Senator Fatimat Raji-Rasaki, representing Ekiti Central Senatorial District is very unassuming. As three times First Lady, she’s not given to material things that her counterparts would probably hold in high esteem. In this interview, she spoke with EFFECTS recently about a couple of issues.
You were three times First Lady in Ogun, Ondo and Lagos state, how was it like?
We are more disciplined, not like now that you do whatever you like as First Lady. That time, as soon as they appoint your husband as the military governor, the wife would get invited for security coaches like, training, lectures on protocols and security, because through you they could get your husband. So, they teach you your roles, they would explain everything to you and you do things moderately. Then as First Lady, you don’t go visit market women and put on your gold accessories and makeup. The gap between them and the First Lady would be too wide and we don’t want that. We want the local women to have a sense of belonging. I can’t deceive you, where there is no discipline, the nation will not grow. If you make any law now, the response is ‘No, No, No, we are not under the military’. We should be guided. As military first ladies, we did our things in moderation. We were conscious of the fact that we were just complementing our husband’s roles as a governor. My husband did not believe in packing too many staffs. He told me the life he would live outside the government house was the life he would live as a governor. We didn’t live extravagant life. That boils down to the word discipline. It’s not the way you see things that you talk about it. Everything you do must be moderate. I do things moderately. I’m a social person but I’m not the party type, my husband is the outing type. Maybe, because I’m too busy. I occupy myself with house chores. Sometimes, and even till now, I come to this house with a car hire. I won’t tell my driver that I’m coming home. I can ride in any car. I like good things, nice things, but I don’t like stressing myself. I like to be myself.
How is it like to marry a military man like your husband?
Military, especially my husband’s set? They call them the Third Course in NDA. All of them in that course are tough men. And the wives knew that. God is helping us. David Mark was there, Tunde Ogbeha was there, the late Mike Akhigbe was also there. They were all coursemates. They are real soldiers. They don’t know anything outside their military life. Some of them that are in politics today is just a stroke of luck because they are so disciplined, they don’t like this rubbish played in politics, when you say Yes a while ago and another two minutes you are singing another tune. They are tough. God just selected us (their wives) as their perfect match. They don’t know any life outside the military. All of us have stories to tell. They are good men, but they are disciplined. They can’t tolerate rubbish. That is why you see some of us, we are very strong. They taught us to be self-reliant because they believe that life is not rosy, that anytime they are no more alive, we should be able to carry on.
When you told your husband you were going into politics how did he feel, because you didn’t start from the local government before the Senate?
I told you that as a military person, they don’t see anything extraordinary, because they prepared us. They have given us that background that whatever situation we find ourselves, we should march forward. So, it’s not strange to him at all. The only area where a man cannot support the woman is where there is no trust. If there is trust, they believe you want to make them proud. But where you don’t trust yourselves then you give room to bickering and nagging, because there is no trust. If the trust were there, the man would support you. In the course of their service, when they were posted to any barrack, the wife was going with them. As far as there’s never a time they catch you with any shady or doubting deal, you are covered. As military men, they nurtured and built their wives. We were very young when all of us married them. Some of us were 18 years old, some of us 20 years. I was 18 years old when I married my husband. He was already a major in the army. It wasn’t the time they became governor that we got married. They brought us up, we lived in the barracks and we moved from one posting to the other. When you are doing something for yourself as a wife, they feel elevated and they knew it’s our turn now and we need their support.
Does your husband support you as a politician now?
Apart from God, my husband is my pillar. I say that anywhere. When I’m abroad and they want to do something in my senatorial district, I just call and tell him about it. He would look for the money and send to them. He doesn’t want that lacuna at all because I’m not around. If I want to go somewhere and my driver is not with me, he won’t mind staying indoors for two or three days, so that I could use his driver. My driver is in Abuja. Anytime I have a program in Ekiti, he would come and also bring some of his friends along. He supports and also gets adequate security for the function. When I wanted to decamp to APC, he was aware. I spoke to him, and I knew that once my husband agrees to my decampment I don’t have any problem. Whatever he tells me to do is what I would do. Even though he has his own reservations, he wasn’t happy the way Governor Fayose was behaving and troubling my life but he doesn’t want to tell me to quit.
What has life taught you as a person?
Life has taught me so many things. When there’s life that’s when you can plan to do many things. It’s not how today is that tomorrow will be. We should always plan for the rainy day and whatever situation you find yourself, you should be contented. Don’t stress yourself, just obey God and leave the rest to God. Don’t help God to do what God is supposed to do. Allow God in your life and listen to his voice. Also, life has taught me to be humble and be a good ambassador, so that the people behind will see something good to say about you.
Who influenced you growing up?
My dad. Everybody knows that. My father inspired me a lot. He was my role model when I was growing up. He was a very hardworking man. You wouldn’t know my father was not educated due to the way he carried himself. My father calls me more than four times a day, when he was alive trying to know where and what I was doing at that point in time. He died five years ago. I missed him a lot. When Governor Fayose was giving me trouble, sometimes I’d tell myself, if my father were to be alive he would go and meet him. He would ask him, who is your father, is your father part of the people who developed Ekiti? I missed him so much. Everybody in my state and in my town knows how much I missed my dad. He was a peculiar person. He was not educated but he didn’t mingle with the locals and they tended to see him as arrogant. His friends were Permanent Secretaries and other enlightened people. He didn’t eat or drink outside his house. He was a contractor. He signed his signature and spoke little English, he read the bible and yet we knew he didn’t go to school. And he didn’t have a private teacher at home but his mannerism and carriage still baffled us. May his soul rest in peace.
What do you like to wear?
I like to wear beautiful things but that depends on the occasion. Occasion dictates what I wear. I give glory to God because God has given me what I wanted. I just pray to God to give me good health and let my children be more successful than I am.
You studied Law at the University of Lagos as First Lady of the state; did you do that because of your ambition to go into politics?
When we were in government house, (Lagos) I said to myself that when we leave office, I would want to remain relevant. I don’t want to be called ‘former this and that’. Reading law at that time was very stressful. Then, we’d go for ‘Better Life For Rural Women Programme’, and when we came back, I’d be getting ready to go to UNILAG. My social life was on the average, so I was able to cope. I didn’t look at the university environment then, I was looking at the future. I was not carried away about the office. When I told my husband, he couldn’t believe it.
So you are going back to the Senate in 2019?
It is God that gives position, it is God that gives promotion, and if it is the will of God, so be it. This is my second term, if God helps me to get my ticket and I sail through my election, at least I would really sit down to my bill. In the 8th Assembly, I was having a lot of distractions. My governor and I have been on a rat race since 2015. He was instigating all sorts of legal actions. He encouraged the opposition then to take me to the tribunal. I won. He said we should go to appeal. I won the appeal. He went back to the 2014 primary and asked the contestant to come and challenge me. The case is still in the Supreme Court. So, I won all the litigation. I think about four months ago, he encouraged the boy to go to appeal. He likes pulling people down. I could say it to his face, because he derives joy from other people’s downfall.