By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Somehow exclusively, the life of Prof Remi Sonaiya traverses two complex and energy sapping fields of endeavour- academics and politics.
While academics is her natural calling, the game of politics is her latter day adventurism. On one hand, the erudite scholar has distinguished herself as a scholars’ scholar. On the other hand, she is largely seen by many sideline spectators as a political neophyte.
Engaged as an Assistant Lecturer by the Department of Foreign Languages of the Obafemi Awolowo in 1982, she became a professor of French Language and Applied Linguistics in 2001. Barely some nine years after, she took a bow out of academics in 2010 and dived into the murky water of Nigerian politics without testing the water.
Though the motive behind her new drive for political engagement still raises some curiosity, her profound contribution to the whole body of knowledge for the ultimate good of humanity is replete in literature.
One major interesting thing about her love of adventure, however, is the novelty she brought into politics with her KOWA party, a platform on which she contested the 2015 presidential election. According to her, KOWA denotes everybody’s party. But she couldn’t go far with it. And yet she is not resting on her oars.
Even in retirement and with the residual energies left in her, she seems to find more fulfillment in political engagements, reading, writing, mentoring and travelling than any other human activities. Her words: “I don’t know which I call leisure and which is work. Everything seems to be mostly intertwined.
Apart from all political activities, meetings, I get a fair number of invitations to speak in different fora. And then, I do a bit of writing. I write for a newspaper. I have a column in a newspaper called The Niche for publication every Sunday. I do personal mentoring for young people and I read. I have to read newspapers to know what is happening in the country. I spend a little time on social media so that I make my comments on issues that are being discussed. I love to travel to discover places, interesting things.”
For the renowned former university don, book is everything-the light, the motivation as well as mentoring. “I get my own mentoring mostly from books that I read. We have a book club in our house. We meet every Monday evening.
Six of us will sit around the table and choose a book to read together. When we see a point of application, we stop and then we discuss. We are constantly thinking about how what we are reading applies to us. And we’ve been doing this like for 10 years,” she said.
Other than motivation derived from books, she also described her husband as a great mentor in her life. “I must say that my husband has been a mentor in my life. He has played the role of a mentor. I get a lot of inspiration from reading about great leaders like Gandhi, Mandela, and some Christian authors,” she explained.
All this, she says, is without losing sight of the importance of physical exercise to the overall good living: “I do exercise.
I walk like 45 minutes every day except on Sunday. Every day, my husband and I will take a walk for 45 minutes,” she said.
There is no gainsaying that body and soul blend well with good food. “Of course, I love to cook. I cook, I bake. I like to try new things. I like cereal in the morning. I am not too particular about food. But I like it to be nicely presented,” Sonaiya further stressed.