When Tokunboh Giwa-Amu clearly heard the Almighty tell her to start writing a daily devotional book, she was not a pastor but a simple woman who loved the Lord. She kept asking, why me? She never knew peace until she obeyed that still small voice. Recently, she held a public presentation of the devotional, Sounds of Joy, in the cozy comfort of her home in Parkview, Ikoyi, Lagos. In this interview, she talks about her growing up with a military dad, Col. Tunde Akogun and fashionista mum, Lady Tumi, among other things.
How did your friends receive the news of your writing a daily devotional, given that you are a sociable person and not a pastor? And how has it affected your lifestyle?
My friends have accepted the fact. Now, they tell themselves, that if they want to go out with Tokunboh, they should give her enough notice. She would come and when the event is supposed to starting she would tell you that she’s going to sleep. It is who you are that preaches, it is not the name they are calling you. Remember the Lord loves everybody. If there’s no love in what you are doing, it’s not going to sell. I’m not a pastor, I studied Economics. I have been engaged in public service as a Special Assistant to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara. I believe this is the level God is taking me to.
How do you get inspiration to write?
From everything I see, hear, and feel, something comes to my mind. It comes to me in a positive way to make me relax and to know that God is involved in it; even if it is a bad thing. Let me give you one example: assuming I went to the gym with three of my friends and we all wore the same colour. Life is so funny; yes, we all wore the same colour, but have different sizes even though we are all in the gym and doing the same exercise. Some people lose weight some people don’t. That’s how we are in the sight of God. God loves you the way you are and he uses you that way. I believe this book will bring a lifting in the soul of anybody that uses it, wherever the person is.
Would you engage in politics later in life?
You never know. You just can’t say never! If I will engage in politics, I will start in my state. Personally, I don’t think my impact would be felt so much in the House. I will probably be in the House of Assembly in my state or start in my local government (Akoko Edo in Edo state) and after that, I will probably be Speaker and you never know, the first female governor of Edo state.
Are you aspiring to get there?
Not really. If yes, why not there?
You have been dealing with politicians for long while; your dad was a politician and you have worked with Yakubu Dogara. What would you say about Nigerian politicians?
I don’t know whether to use the expression, ‘Nigerian politicians’ or just Nigerians. Nigerians are Nigerians because you can take a Nigerian who is nobody and put him in a position, only for that person to change and exhibit something different. I always tell people not to forget where you are coming from and remember who you are, because by tomorrow there’s no guarantee. So, as a politician, be careful in all your ways. Remember the people that put you there.
Then what would you say about your boss, Yakubu Dogara?
My boss is a calm person. He is a very intelligent man, he is analytical and relates with everybody well and we love that. He knows what he stands for. When he wants to do something he sticks to it. That is what I realized. He is open and transparent about what he does. He is sure and confident and carries himself well.
Give us a snapshot of your growing up?
My dad is a military man. So we lived in the barracks when we were young for some time. I told my children that was an interesting time for me. I am the first among five children and only girl. I have four brothers. Really I grew up as a tomboy. My husband has helped me to realize that I’m a lady. Of course, I went to Queens College, so definitely, you cannot go to Queens College and not know you are a lady. But my husband helps me a lot. Growing up, I played football in school.
My mum had poultry, she had a salon. We had eggs. I used to sell eggs. I used to carry those eggs on my head. I hawked the eggs in the barracks (Ikeja cantonment). I was very plump and they teased me in the barracks. These days, plump people are called ‘orobo’ but back then the description was ‘obrokoto Nigerian football.
I will put the eggs down and start throwing the eggs at them. It was all fun. I went to command children’s school before heading to Queens’s college. In Queens College they taught us how to talk nicely as ladies and queens. That helped me a lot and my mother is very happy for that. I went to University of Ibadan, tand studied Economics. In UI, they wrote about Tokunboh Akogun at that time, they called me “Iya gbogbo won’. This was because I was always warning my friends not to be this and that. We went to parties, we would play but I would tell my friends to be careful I didn’t want to have a bad name. Back then at UI, I was everywhere but they didn’t have anything to say about her. I got married in my final year in school.
Which of the Giwa-Amu are you?
My father-in-law is the first solicitor-general in the old Midwestern region, from which Edo and Delta states were carved out. He is very popular and Giwa-Amu is one family. Rev. Bishop Amu has a church. We are a family of lawyers. My husband is Kayode. I met him before I got into UI.
What lessons has life taught you as a person?
Life has taught me to be very strong. You can’t get everything you expect and then it makes you feel down or low. If you don’t come out of that you won’t move on. Another thing is, show love to everybody, which I believe I got from my parents. When I was growing up, there were so many people in my house.
When my dad was in politics, anybody came to my house and I had a cousin who got a position once and I couldn’t just get into his house. I was confused. The truth is, don’t discriminate against anybody. You just never know if you just need them as a cushion or if they maybe somewhere else they could help you, so you must show love. It doesn’t cost you anything to show love. Showing love brings strength and of course God is love. I have realized that with God in my life it gives me peace. The peace I can’t understand.
Was it your dad or mum that influenced you more growing up?
Both of them I would say. My dad is such a peculiar person. He is in the army. Outside he’s feared and dared and I never saw that. My dad is the reason I say love is what will help you in life. Till tomorrow, my dad has love within.
My mum is stern, she’s a fighter, she’s in business, and everything has to be result-oriented. Even the friends you have, what is the reason you have that friend? My dad took me to school when I was resuming school in UI. He gave me one advice and I kept thinking about it.
He said: ‘When you get to university, don’t ask anybody for anything, especially men. If they give you don’t take it. Anything you need, ask me. Even when I got married, I couldn’t ask my husband for money. It is still a struggle. In school, you can’t toast me because of money; instead I will take you out.
You look stylish. What does style mean to you?
Am I really? My mum is the stylish one. She will probably give you a phone call to hear that from you because she is very fashionable. I’m a very free person.
I’m not very formal. I like a lot of mix and matches. Growing up, we had a lot of mixed dresses, party dresses, you dress for every occasion. By the time you go to Queen’s College, you know you must appear smart and bright. You must look decent and neat.
However, if all of that makes you stylish…that’s fine. My children help me with my makeup. They feel I don’t do it right. Without them I do my makeup and they hail me outside. I’m a last minute person, I put it together and it works.