ALTHOUGH Openifoluwa Tejuoso trained as a trademark lawyer, she has hands on many pies. Aside her legal profession, she owns a cooking school called Mules Academy and a bakery, Opindos. In memory of her late mum and former First Lady of Lagos State, Mrs Foluke Mudashiru, she throws a party for handicapped children of Wesley School for the deaf in Surulere every year. Stylish and soft spoken, Ope is the only girl child of former military governor, Gbolahan Mudashiru and she quickly tells you that she wasn’t a spoilt child and was not treated preferentially, growing up. Married to Prince Femi Tejuoso, Oba Dapo Tejuoso son, she admitts that her parents might have nurtured her inadvertently for the royal family. She reveals that the Osile of Oke Ona, Egba is equally strict and a no-nonsense person like her parents.
Why the gathering?
It all began from my late mum, Mrs. Foluke Mudashiru. This is the legacy she left behind. It was very important to her. I think she started it in 1984 when her husband was the governor of Lagos State. That was her first contact with the school for the handicapped. After she left government house, she continued to support the handicapped children. She would throw a party for them on Easter Monday. That was more than 30 years ago. Every year, she would tell us the project was important to her. She repeated it more often than normal. If I go, make sure you continue. She departed eventually but we made sure we continued. We were here 2014, 2015 and this is 2016. By God’s grace. We will be here next year. It shall be bigger and better than the years before. It’s something I have picked on. The year we started, there weren’t many children because they thought we would not come. The school felt that the families that supported them in one form or the other in times past, when the benefactor died, the children did not continue the project. So, they felt that since Mama had gone, it was all finished. So, few schools didn’t show up. Last year, the turn out was pretty okay. We had about 300 children. This year, we had more children.
Have you ever practiced as a lawyer?
I have been into legal practice. I worked with George Ikoli and Okagbue for almost two years. I’m a trademark lawyer. However, I still do a little bit on the side. Anything that doesn’t include litigation, I do.
How has it been, being an entrepreneur?
It has been fulfilling. I’m my own boss. I keep my own hours. The bad thing is that I don’t have opening time or closing time. It can be pretty odd. Sometimes, I resume office at about 5 am in the morning, and I might not close till 10 pm in the night. Sometimes, I sleep in the office, which is the down side.
What are those things you remember about your mum?
I remember her for her steadfastness and when she believed in a cause, she would not deviate from it. She would not care if she was the only person who believed in the cause. As long as she knew what it was and it was the truth, she would stand doggedly behind that thing whatever it was. You hardly find people like that. She’s not a hypocrite as well, she’s not a two faced person. Everybody knew where they stood with her. If she liked you, you would know, if she didn’t like you, you would know also. If she had said anything about you, she would say it to your face. She was steadfast, direct, hardworking. Those are the things I remember about her.
What are some of the advice she gave you that you cherish?
They are many. She would tell you to work hard as long as it was legal do so. You couldn’t be jack of too many trades for her. If you wanted to do this thing and something else, she would encourage you. She won’t tell you to just face one thing. Hers was that you did as much as you could, as long as it was legal. If you tell her that oh, I don’t want to do this thing anymore I want to try another thing, go for it. As long as you were not sitting down at home, doing nothing. She would quarrel with you, but as long as you were going to work hard, she would encourage you to go for that option.
You are one of the children born with golden spoon in her mouth, being the only girl in the family, were you spoilt growing up?
We were definitely not spoilt. We were well provided for but definitely, not spoilt by any thought of imagination. We had our three square meals, but we are not the kind of children that would say ohh we would not eaten what we were given. Whatever you were given, you must eat and you must finish it. If you ask for more as well you must finish that more. You wouldn’t just say you didn’t want the food again, if not, there would be trouble. So, we learnt to be contented. If you serve the food yourself, 100 you must finish it. So even if your eyes and your stomach were bulging, you must finish the food. They taught us only pick the portion that you would need, you would not just take what you would not finish just because the food was there. We dared not eat a little and throw away the remaining. We were not spoilt. We were taught to work very hard and be respectful. That was the watchword when we were growing up.
You are married to a big family, Oba Dapo Tejuoso son?
Funny enough, it’s very similar to my family. We are very, similar in value. My father in-law is not a push over. He reminds me so much of my mum. He is very strict. You can’t just wear anything to his house it’s the same thing in my own house too. I could not just put on anything, if not, my mum would talk. Once in a while, I would try, thinking they won’t notice, but my mum would shout, ‘where do you think you are going?’ I knew what was allowed and what was not allowed. It’s the same in the family I’m married into. My father in law is a stickler to time. If they say something is at 9.0clock, he will be there on time. You can’t just stroll into an event 10 hours after it has started. He won’t tolerate that, he won’t tolerate bad dressing; he won’t tolerate a liar, bad behavior. Infact, it’s as if they trained me for him.
What of his son, your husband?
He is a wonderful man. He often reminds me of my parents. All the qualities in my parents are in my husband too.
How did the two of you meet?
I met him at my older brothers wedding. He’s my brother’s friend. We met and we courted. We’ve been married for almost 20 years now. We will be 20 years next year. He has been wonderful, he’s my mum number one champion and she was his number one champion, she will defend him anywhere. He was her child. She loved him very much and he accorded her with the same respect. They had a bond between them. He’s very supportive, very similar to my parents as well. Whatever you want to do, as long as it is legal and you are ready to go the full hog. The only time I will have problem with him is when I sit at home and I don’t do anything. That might be when I will have issue with him. But if I tell him I want to do ten jobs, he will encourage me.
Who do you take after, is it your mum or your dad?
It used to be my dad. I look like my mum but in character, I ‘m 100 percent my dad. These days, not quite so much, I remind myself so much of my mum. I said I had nothing in common with my mum but these days, when I do certain things and would say, men, this is how mummy would have acted. Behind her, we call her mummymuds (muds is shortened for mudashiru) I think it’s a balance between the two.
You are a stylish person, you have grown up boys, how do you maintain your shape?
They are the ones that male me maintain this shape. They don’t allow me to get out of shape. Those boys, as they are coming back (they school abroad now) the first is 19 years and the other one is 17 years and I have a 5 year old boy. Whenever they are coming back from school, I’d start watching what I’m eating because when they come back, mummy what’s this, your eyebrow has unflicked, your lipstick, is this and that. Those boys keep me in check even more than their dad and I’m grateful. Boys noticed everything much more than girls. They want you to always look nice, they want to be able to show you off to their girlfriends, see my mum. (Laughter) I think it’s more of that. Also, I keep them in check too. They watch me and I watch them.
What about your style?
High heels. The first thing you see when I walked into any where is my shoes. Someone saw me today and said you are not wearing high heels? Even though I wear high heels, they are very comfortable. I wear comfortable clothes. I wear a lot of dresses. You hardly see me in trousers. Going back to my upbringing, my mum didn’t allow me to wear trousers until I was like 19 or 20 because she had all boys and she didn’t want people to mix up her children. If you see the boys, you would know they are boys, if you see her daughter, you will see me in my full dresses. By the time I got into the university, she said now, you are a girl. Immediately she allowed me to wear trousers. I wore trousers everyday. After a while, I got fed up. I went back to the training that I had. So I wear dresses all the time.
What has life taught you?
Life has taught me not to take myself too seriously. This is your one shot, do it well. Enjoy your life but in enjoying life, don’t become a nuisance to people around you. Do your best in whatever you can, lend a helping hand. Everybody needs a helping hand. Life has also taught me to be thankful for little mercies, large mercies, for everything. People should also be thankful for the bad things that happened to them. There’s always a lesson to be learnt from it. I’m 24 hours in a constant state of thanks and my name; I think that is the best thing my parents ever gave to me. My name is openifoluwa. It just means gratitude to almighty. Life has been kind and I just thank God almighty.