Oba Saheed Elegushi and Olori Sekinat
In this interview with Sunday PUNCH, the queen of Ikateland, Olori Sekinat, opens up about her philanthropic activities, businesses, fashion and relationship with her husband, Oba Saheed Elegushi.
What are the most important lessons you have learnt over the years that have helped you in the course of your life?
I have learnt that it is very important to be patient.
Ever since you became a queen, what are some of the things you have had to unlearn and relearn?
I learnt how to be more accommodating and patient. As a private couple, it was just me, my husband and our children. Though it had always been a royal family and we used to come to the palace to visit my father-in-law who was the king then, and also attend functions. But back then, it was not compulsory. If I did not want to attend, I would not. But when my husband became the king, those things became necessary. I did not like going to parties but now, I have to attend them regularly.
Also, I have to see to the affairs of the community, especially as regards women, chiefs and siblings of the king. Before we came to the palace, we did not usually have lots of visitors in the house. Even when he was going into politics, he did not bring it to the house. He had a campaign office and that was where he conducted his political activities. But now, I have to accommodate everybody and make sure they are well treated in the palace.
What are the innovations you have brought to bear at the palace and Ikateland in your capacity as queen?
I give God the glory for all we have been able to achieve. One of the most important things we have done is the Quality and Selfless Empowerment Foundation. We care for mothers and their children. We have also been able to help many women in the community. The face of the kingdom has really changed. We have been able to introduce some modernity into the way things are done.
Are there things you are no longer able to do as a queen?
No. There are even things I was not doing before that I do now. Before becoming a queen, I did not like attending parties or applying make-up. But now, I have to do a lot of that.
Are you enjoying that new side of you?
I would not say that. It is a lot of stress having to do make-up and tie gele (headtie) from Thursdays to Sundays. And one cannot say no. Anytime the king is invited to an event, I have to go with him.
What led to the set-up of the QSE Foundation?
I had been engaged in philanthropic activities silently for about eight years without funds from anybody. However, some of my friends were of the opinion that I had to let people know what I was doing. So, in April 2019, we started reaching out to more people and visiting orphanages and hospitals. Since then, we have visited a number of hospitals including Massey Hospital, Island Maternity Hospital and our health centre here in Ikate. We have also visited an orphanage in Ajah.
What are the most pathetic cases the foundation has dealt with?
When we visited the Mother and Child Hospital in Ogombo (Eti-Osa Local Government Area) on January 1, 2019, we met a one-year-old autistic child who was in so much pain and I was really touched. I went there with my three daughters and we almost shed tears.
Also, at Massey Hospital, we saw some children in the incubator. I did not have an idea of what was going on in hospitals until I started the foundation. In some of the hospitals, there were no beds to put the newborns, so in some cases, they put about four children on one bed. The mothers would sit on chairs because there were no beds for them.
Some people could not also pay their hospital bills and we assisted them in doing that. I saw so many things that were touching.
You started your career at Marbell Nigeria Limited. What can you recall of your time there?
The company is owned by my dad and it is into importation of printing paper. I worked there as an accountant. That was also where I underwent my one year national youth service. I worked there for about three years and stopped after I had my first child.
Why did you decide to study Accounting?
I initially wanted to study Business Administration but my dad wanted me to be his accountant. He wanted me to go further and be certified by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria but I said I did not want to.
Considering that it wasn’t your initial choice, did you love being an accountant?
Yes, I liked it then because I love handling money. My background in accounting has helped me over the years because I am prudent and know how to manage funds. That is why my husband can entrust so many things in my care.
What were some of the challenges you faced while setting up your company, SekSah Nigeria Limited?
I did not really face any challenges because my father helped me out. I operated a boutique and it was an interesting experience. It is something I could still consider doing in future.
One major challenge I faced in the business was in the area of importing the items we sold. Customs gave us a lot of stress by asking us to pay different fees and levies. That did not help the business at all.
How would you describe your experience running the Queen’s Park and Lounge?
I love children and like having them around me. I also hadn’t seen any recreation centre in the area, so I thought of establishing one at the Elegushi beach. I got equipment from the United States of America and China. I later stopped that particular business venture because the weather at the beach was not favourable. The roller coasters and other equipment were constantly getting spoilt by the salt water. Majority of the people who use those equipment are children and I did not want to put anybody’s life at risk, so I decided to close the park. Perhaps, if I get another good space, I would resuscitate the business.
You have often spoken fondly about your mother. How would you describe your relationship with her?
My mother was my small god. I don’t like talking about her because it gets me emotional.
What was the first impression you had when you met your husband?
I thought he was one of the ‘boys’ in the area then but he proved himself to be different.
You mentioned that he persuaded you to take your first molue (public bus) ride. How did that experience shape your relationship?
It did not go well with me at the time but because I loved him, I agreed to do it. He said he just wanted me to have the experience of boarding a public bus. I also told my mum and she encouraged me to do it. Unfortunately, I lost my gold earrings in the course of the ride. There wasn’t enough space in the bus, so I had to sit on his laps. We sat very close to the entrance and I was so scared that I would fall off. After a while, a passenger alighted and I was able to sit properly.
That experience was profound and some weeks ago, I told my daughters that I would give them that experience. I want them to feel what people who use public transport go through. Though they are privileged to be born into a royal family, I want them to understand that life is not a bed of roses.
When you met your husband, you didn’t know he was from a royal family. When you eventually knew, what impact did that realisation have on your relationship?
I was already in love with him so it didn’t really change anything. It was only when they told him he was going to be king that I expressed reservations.
Did you try to convince him not to become a king?
Yes, I did. But he constantly told me that everything would be alright.
What were the qualities that endeared you to him?
He is a very jovial, nice and lovable person.
Is he still romantic even as a king?
Yes, he is still very lovable and romantic.
Some people say that African men are not romantic. What are your thoughts on that?
My husband is different. He loves me and his daughters like he has always done. He is still our hero.
What are some of his romantic gestures that have stood out for you over the years?
There have been so many of them. He takes us on boat rides. Also, our vacations are usually memorable and we always look forward to them.
You once said that one of your fears about your husband becoming a king was that he would take a second wife. How did you feel when he eventually took that step?
It was one of my fears. However, it has been okay. We are happy.
You have three daughters. Are you under pressure to have a son?
No, I am not under any pressure― not from my husband and not from the family. I have wonderful daughters and I thank God for having them. They are a blessing to us.
Do you advise him about certain decisions he takes as king?
Yes, I do. People also ask me to talk to him on specific matters. When I do, he would tell me if the request is one that can be granted or not.
Do you think traditional rulers are doing enough to speak truth to power?
Yes, I think they are doing well. I can speak for me and my husband. In Eti-Osa Local Government Area, he helps the people to pass across their needs to the government.
You come from a privileged background. How are you able to connect with the grassroots in Ikateland?
In the kingdom, we are all like a family, so I don’t see anyone like lower-class people.
You and your husband came into the palace at a relatively young age. Was there any sort of pressure from older traditionalists who wanted you to conform to certain norms?
No, there was nothing like that. As a matter of fact, they were happy to welcome us and they were ready to put us through.
What are your thoughts on the recent #EndSARS protests?
I think the demands by the youths were legitimate. It is something the government can do. The disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad did not do well to our youths.
In the aftermath of the protests, some public properties, including the palace of the Oba of Lagos, were destroyed. Did you harbour any fears that the Elegushi’s palace could be attacked?
No, I did not have any such fear. Elegushi is a good man and he is a man of the people in Eti-Osa. The people love him so much.
You support the Nike Arts Gallery. What fascinates you about the arts?
I love works of arts. I love the adire products of Nike Arts Gallery. I wear adire, ankara and aso oke a lot.
Why did you decide to set up an events centre?
I like to plan parties and host people. A lot of people come to the palace and I have to make them feel comfortable. Whenever we have parties in the palace, I am usually the one that plans them. At one point, I told kabiyesi I wanted to become an event planner but he refused.
The idea for the events centre came when we had the fifth year remembrance of my father-in-law, which was six years ago. We had a big party that was attended by about 3,000 guests. We rented a marquee which cost millions of naira. I then thought of having my own marquee since it is very expensive to rent one. I then spoke to the king about it but he did not agree. A year later, I spoke to him about it again but he still refused. However, two years ago, I discussed the same topic with him. I think he then discussed it with some of his friends and they probably told him it was a good idea. I told him I would have a marquee on the vacant piece of land we had close to the palace and would rent it out to people. He then told me to bring a proposal.
The initial plan was to put a marquee on the land but the one I wanted to buy in England was very expensive. Kabiyesi then spoke to one of his friends who is a builder and the latter said he would give an estimate of what it would cost to have a building on the land, and we would compare it with the cost of the marquee. When he did the costing, the building was a lot cheaper than the marquee. However, the king was still a bit skeptical because he did not want a permanent structure on the land. He wanted something temporary that could be removed if he wanted to use the land for something else. However, some months later, he finally agreed.
What are the most memorable moments of your childhood?
When I was in the University of Lagos, I recall that I used to go to the shop with my mum and I found it very interesting. I had a wonderful childhood.
Do you still have relationships with your childhood friends?
Yes, I still have relationships with a number of them.
How would you describe your style?
I am a simple person.
Many people would find that hard to believe.
I consider myself to be a simple person, though some people looking at me from afar may not think so.
What clothes are you most comfortable in?
I like maxi dresses, jeans, native attire and basically anything that suits me.
What are your favourite colours?
I like bright colours that ‘pop’ on my skin.
What kind of jewellery do you like the most?
I like diamonds.
How often do you go shopping?
I do that anytime I feel like. I don’t have to wait till any particular time. However, I do most of my shopping whenever we travel for summer. I buy about a year worth of clothes.
Are there any Nigerian designers you like?
Yes. I like a number of them including Deola Sagoe, Lanre Da-Silva, Tiffany Amber and Funke Adepoju. They do quality work and I am always proud to wear them. I have not been able to go shopping for the past one year, so most of what I have been wearing are by Nigerian designers.
How do you unwind?
I relax by sleeping. My husband says if there is a sleeping competition, I would win. I can sleep for 12 hours straight. However, if there is work to do, I don’t feel sleepy.
What is your favourite food?
I am a very picky person when it comes to food.
Do you like to cook?
Yes, I do that a lot. I still cook for my husband.
Source: Sunday PUNCH