Professor Ibiyemi Olatunji Bello is an excellent package of brains, intellectual brawn and beauty. She belongs to that breed of women with passionate drive to achieve goals and set themselves apart through sterling achievements. This perhaps explain her intellectual quest for academic laurels that eventually led to her becoming the first Professor of Physiology in the Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM). Later in the course of her progression in the university system, she briefly led the Lagos State University, LASU, as the Acting Vice Chancellor.
Prof. Ibiyemi Bello, who is the wife of Mr. Tunji Bello, the current Secretary to Lagos State Government (SSG), was a key speaker at an event organized by the Women Empowerment and Legal Aid (WELA), to mark the International Human Rights Day, recently.
She had a brief chat with Sunday Sun at the end of the event just before leaving the venue, and expressed her thoughts on how to advance the cause of the Nigerian woman and emphasized that she had always wanted to create her own identity as a person and wife.
What is your perception of WELA event?
In one word: Great! It was an opportunity to let people know again that we are not yet there as women. It is also a cause of concern for us, especially when we are talking about the socio-economic status of understanding in this country we are not there yet. We still have so many social issues in this country pertaining to the girl-child and women; we have many problems. Women want to be in high places but they are not empowered. They have very low income, they are not well educated. Really, very few women are well educated in this country. When you go to the rural areas, you will know that we have problem with women in this country. I really appreciate this topic that is why I researched and looked at what others, the UNICEF, World Bank and others are saying about the socioeconomic status of this country, especially as it pertains to women. It is nothing to write home about. We need more advocacy against the issue of early marriage among very young girls and child labour. We need more advocacy on so many other social issues from prostitution, domestic violence to female circumcision. These things must happen quickly and kick off soon. The situation is that bad and terrible. We should keep talking until our government does something about these social urgent issues.
What would you say about the level of women participation in Nigerian politics?
We want to participate, we want to be part of the decision making but do we have money empowerment? We don’t have the money the men have. We are not empowered. Apart from our income and the little that our husbands give us, the men just want to suppress women. The men just want to keep the women behind. They don’t want the women to be up there; that is what the women need to work against. Women need to participate in politics and when women are in government because they are mothers, they are caring, and they will ensure that our hospitals will work and our schools will function properly and everyone will be happy.
As a mother and an educationist, what is your take on the rate of suicide rate in Nigeria among the youths?
We need to stop our children, we need to counsel them; we need to know the website they browse and as mothers we should be our children’s friends. We should know what our children are going through. Let us talk to them, let us feel what our children are feeling. These children have bullies in the classroom, they may be fat and the bullies in the class will continue to harass them. And that’s why they begin to visit websites where they find friends, friends that would lure them into suicides.
How can civic education be used to curb moral decadence in the Nigerian education system?
Civic education has been re-introduced into the school curriculum. So the curriculum has already taken care of that. All aspect of human behavior, such as respect, proper conduct and the like are already embedded in it. Whatever we need to do, civic education is important. However, we need to look at the curriculum, to see if there’s anything we are missing concerning all the social issues, and if anything is mission, we need to include it and then begin to actively profess the solution.
With your busy schedule, how do you relax?
My relaxation will be maybe at parties. From this event I’m attending a party. What I am wearing now (referring to the day of the interview) is the aso-ebi (uniform) to the party. I have to be there, even if it means just showing my face, sit for a while and leave. I don’t think I relax that much. I work, work, and work.
What is the secret to your good looks?
You know I’m a pastor. I’m an area pastor with Redeemed Christian Church of God.
Does that make you look fine?
Yes. It is God. I’m wonderfully and beautifully made.
You also have good dress sense, does your growing up have anything to do with that?
I always look moderate. Yes, my growing up says a lot about my looks. My mother is a real Lagosian. She’s someone that is very particular about her dressing. It may not be loud but she stands out even at 87.
What has life taught you as a person? You have seen so much in life, as regards your career and being the wife of Tunji Bello.
I have refused to be described as wife of somebody. I must have my own identity and that was what I have always wanted in life – my own identity. That’s why I strive as much as possible to create my own identity and guard my own integrity and so on. As a wife, I’m very privileged to be the wife of Tunji Bello but then Prof. Yemi Tunji Bello is different from Tunji Bello. I know I have seen a lot in life but God has been everything to me. I put everything in His hands and he makes everything perfect in his time.
Your humility does it have anything to do with your growing up?
It is a gift and a virtue. I am just an ordinary tool in the hands of God.
How was life growing up in Lagos State?
I didn’t have much exposure. I was born in Lagos Island but grew up in Surulere. Then you had so much of peer pressure and social vices in the society and you were scared. Parents didn’t want their children to associate with neighbours’ children but then every parent on the street was regard as our parent, they were watchful. You couldn’t hide from them because they were ready to report you to your parents if you misbehaved. But not these days that people mind their business.