Mrs. Olubisi Osinbajo, the 85-year-old mother of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, shares pleasant memories of raising her children in this interview with the PUNCH. Read excerpts from it below:
How did you feel when you first became a mother?
I had my first child, Femi, on July 29, 1955. I was delivered of Yemi on March 8, 1957, and I had Akin in 1960. Tunde came in 1962 before Tolu (the only girl) came in 1970. When I gave birth to my first son, Femi, I was so happy about it and everyone in the family was happy too. My mother-in-law was a very nice woman and she knew God; she was a prophetess.
How was the experience like bringing up four boys?
It was a tough time. When you are dealing with boys, you don’t sleep with your two eyes closed, and I would give you some instances to buttress that point. One night, I went round the rooms to make sure they had all slept. However, there was one empty bed and I wondered where the occupant of the bed could be at that time. I took a chair to the front of the house and I was there till about 4am, when one of my sons drove into the compound in my car. I didn’t even know that he could drive. He changed into his pajamas and tip-toed into the house; immediately he saw me, he shouted “mummy” in surprise. We held each other and began crying. He asked me if I had sat there the whole night, and I told him that I couldn’t sleep, knowing that one of my children was not in his bed. He prostrated and begged me not to tell his dad about his escapade. I told him that I wouldn’t inform his dad only if he promised that he wouldn’t repeat the act. On another occasion, one of my sons drove in someone else’s car and he had an accident in it with his girlfriend. When I was informed, I rushed to the scene and took him to the hospital; and the parents of the girl also did the same. I asked them to x-ray his head to make sure that nothing was wrong with him because he hit his head on an object when the accident occurred.
As a mother, you have to be active. Sometimes, you have to put on trousers and show them that you can act like them. When they jump, you jump too; and that is why I am called ‘Mummysco’. I thank God that everything is alright today. Parenting is not easy; it takes the grace of God to succeed at it. You cannot train children on your own; you can only pray for God to help you.
You had to sacrifice your career to be able to train your children. How did that make you feel at the time?
I didn’t think much about it because my husband was very loving. He always did whatever I wanted and there was no cause for anxiety. I took to his words and concentrated on training the children. When they became grown-ups, I started a nursery and primary school because that is what I was trained in.
Did you have to use the cane or were there other forms of punishment you adopted?
There are so many things you can do without using the cane. Once, when one of my sons was making trouble, I threatened that I wouldn’t refer to him as Mr. until he changed. I told him that whenever I wrote him letters, I would just write his name without adding Mr. He cried and begged me to call him Mr. You may think it is insignificant but that threat changed the boy at that time. He began to do well and I finally called him Mr. You can achieve a lot by praying. I used to wake them up at 4am every day to pray. God is faithful and he always answers prayers of parents. I advise those still actively raising children to pray a lot for and with them. If your child does not do what you like, call on Him and He would answer.
Some people believe that boys should not do household chores. When raising your boys, did they do chores?
Of course, they did. Everyone had something to do in the house. They can cook very well and some of their girlfriends, who couldn’t cook, ran away because they felt they wouldn’t be able to meet up. They can do a lot of things. Their father always told them that whenever they wanted to greet an elderly person, they should prostrate. One day, Yemi prostrated in court for his friend’s father and the man really appreciated the gesture because even his own son didn’t prostrate in the courtroom. We always emphasised to them that they should be humble at all times.
When you eventually gave birth to a daughter after four sons, how did you feel?
One day, I was attempting to fix something on the wall and my daughter, Tolu, said to me, “Mummy, be careful; don’t fall.” I was surprised because I had never heard anything like that from my boys. Those ones weren’t concerned whether you fall or not. That incident struck me and I was very happy that I had a girl at last. She helps me in doing a lot of things. Even though the boys can try to tie my headgear, she does it better.
What’s your advice for mothers in this generation?
I pray for them. You cannot train any child unless God helps you. Sometimes, I cry when I’m praying for them because they need our prayers.