Excerpts: Obasanjo’s First Wife (Mama Iyabo) in A Book Narrates Her Ugly Experiences with Obasanjo
‘When former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir El-Rufai told us in his book, the Accidental Public Servant how cunny the man Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is, many people gave it a wave of the hand. Well, someone who is apparently more closer to Obasanjo than El-Rufai, his first wife Mama Iyabo has given an account of her own experience which seem to corroborate Elrufai’s assertion in TAPS that Obasanjo and his lifestyle is not as straight as we are made to believe.
Mama Iyabo in a book on her experiences with Obasanjo narrated the former head of state high handedness and brutality in the domestic front amongst other. We bring you excerpts of that book.
He told me to wait for him. When he emerged, he was in shorts and a short sleeve shirt. He slapped me twice and ran after me as I fled down the stairs.
As we were preparing for bed, I heard a knock on the door. I queried to know who was knocking. A female voice replied that she was from the National Security Organisation.
I told her I had no business with that organisation and she should leave me alone to sleep. Playing the gender card, she pleaded that I should give her a hearing as she knew how I felt.
I opened the door and she spoke politely to me that she had come to arrange a more commodious accommodation for us. We returned to Lagos next day.
The NSO lady, Mrs. Eso, became a good friend. From that night, Obasanjo reached an agreement with me, which allowed me to have better access to the children. He allowed all of us to take annual vacations, albeit, to African countries with Mr. Agwam accompanying us.
The children and I visited Cairo in 1978 with the ADC. We lodged at the residence of Nigeria’s ambassador to Egypt. We also visited OAU headquarters in Ethiopia and Prof. Bayo Adedeji, head of the Economic Commission of Africa, gave us a wonderful time. Adedeji wrote a report on our visit, giving details of our programme.If he thought he was doing his job, Obasanjo did not think so.
He was annoyed that we had been so warmly received; he asked me what I did to them to merit all that attention. On another visit to Cotonou, he complained to Mr. Ihama for a similar reason. It seemed he always wanted to prove that his family was undeserving of any decent treatment. Throughout his tenure as Head of State, Obasanjo also ensured that I was not given any allowance as his wife.
What he gave with one hand, he retrieved with the other. Life after Dodan BarracksIt rained cats and dogs the day Obasanjo handed over to Shagari at the Race Course, Onikan, Lagos, October 1, 1979.He asked me to move to Abeokuta with him but I declined because of his extra-marital indiscipline.
When he was being drawn out of the Army, I was in the same car with him. When we went for thanksgiving at Owu Baptist Church, Abeokuta, I was also in the same car.
At the church, I sat with him on the front pew. During the reception I was in control of events and sat his mistresses with other guests as their importance demanded.I made Stella take one of the middle seats with her friend, Julie Coker.
After the ceremony, I told my husband that I had risen to the top with him by the grace of God. Now I was giving him a free rein to misbehave with his mistresses as I would not stay with him at Abeokuta. He begged me earnestly not to leave him alone.
He said he had not finished his house at Victoria Island, Lagos, wondering where I would stay. I still kept my flat on Lawrence Road, Ikoyi.As an enterprising woman, I occupied myself with how to make ends meet, without depending on Obasanjo for everything.
When President Shehu Shagari introduced import licence, I applied to import frozen meat. I forwarded my papers to the Ministry of Commerce and completed all the necessary conditions. Finance was the only thing outstanding.
So I approached Chief MKO Abiola, who had become a close family friend, notwithstanding the poor treatment he meted out to me during Enitan’s pregnancy. He recommended me to the United Bank for Africa. Alhaji Umaru Muttalab, a former federal commissioner, was the managing director.
Also in the bank that day was Gbolade Adewusi, Obasanjo’s classmate to whom he gave my Volvo car after removing me from the company we both formed. His sight angered me as I had come to associate him with bad luck. So I started to abuse him.
He went to inform Obasanjo of my mission at the bank. Obasanjo went to the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Oyebade Lipede, to report that Chief Abiola was interfering in his affairs. He wanted Alake to instruct Abiola to withdraw his recommendation to the bank. Alake duly briefed Chief Abiola who said Obasanjo was being petty and should allow me to forge ahead.
When Obasanjo was unrelenting, Chief Abiola finally backed out. I lost the licence, broke down in health — depressed, disoriented and in despair. I temporarily lost faith in God, wondering why He allowed misfortune to dog my footsteps.
After the incident, I decided to leave the government flat at Ikoyi. So I went to Obasanjo to provide accommodation for me. He said he had two bungalows in Government Reserved Area, Ikeja and gave me a note to one Chief Angus Ilozue, chairman of Angus Construction, who was caretaker of the properties, to allocate one to me.
I found my way to Oduduwa Crescent, Ikeja. Chief Ilozue gave me some keys to the house. I later found out that he hadn’t given me all the keys as I couldn’t enter some of the rooms. So I returned to him to ask for the remaining keys.
He refused, saying he was acting on Obasanjo’s instructions. I left, determined to assert myself. So I called my driver to get me a carpenter. I got him to change all the keys to the house. I then brought my children from Lawrence Road to Ikeja. Chief Ilozue was not amused.
He was hostile to me until he died. His young wife also supported him but after her husband’s demise, she changed. Her older step children were tussling with her for control of their father’s estate and she turned to me as a friend she could lean on, until she too passed away.
I began to rebuild my life again. I was pre-occupied more with how to raise my children to be good citizens and properly educated to hold their own anywhere in the world. Obasanjo kept his distance; so much that he was surprised to see how grown his children had been when he attended the wedding of one of the Sodeinde sisters, Sade, who had lived with us since the 1966 coup.This was at Ibadan in 1985.
My son, Olusegun, was one of the ushers. Obasanjo arrived and was received by his son. He marvelled at how his son had grown. Before he left, he sent for me and was short of words to apologise.His action confused me. As I pondered on his unpredictability, I recalled my experience after he edged me out of the shoe manufacturing business and gave my Volvo car to Adewusi.
I had bought a Mercedes Benz car as replacement from the five years’ rent that Hans Meir Limited, a German company, paid for my property at Ilupeju, Lagos. I was very liquid and was not sure what to do with the cash. During a visit to Dodan Barracks, I told Obasanjo about the development and he advised me to go into poultry business.
I told him I had no land for such a project; he volunteered to provide his land on Aiyetoro Road, Abeokuta. He called Alhaji Adenekan, who held the land in trust for him, and informed him that I would visit Abeokuta to inspect the plot. Eventually, I met Adenekan at Abeokuta and he took me to the place. Adenekan, however, told me that I could not run a poultry as the state did not allow such a business there.
. I did not argue with him. On my return to Lagos, I bought 5,000 birds and started the poultry from Dodan Barracks. I later moved the project to Abeokuta after clearing and developing the land and obtaining the necessary approval.
I devoted considerable time breeding broilers and other types, sharing beats between taking my children to school in Lagos and running the farm at Abeokuta. It was hectic but I enjoyed it. I bought plants, barbed wires and other building materials to erect structures. The business thrived. I sold eggs to Leventis Stores and other leading stores. Obasanjo, too, took time to visit the farm; he was impressed and praised my efforts.
But later, I found out that he really used me to get his land from Adenekan. Obasanjo did not forgive me that I did not live with him in Abeokuta. He stopped taking care of the children, probably thinking I had a lot of money. He only sent N400 a month. Iyabo and Busola were at Queen’s College, Lagos; Segun was at King’s College.
I was now torn between raising my children and running the farm. Sometime in 1981, Gbenga and Enitan were due to return to school at Corona after the long break. When the school fees were not forthcoming from their father, I went to the late Simbiat Abiola for assistance. She prayed that God would help.
I later sold off my gold bangles to Alhaja Abdulraq, a jeweller, to raise the fees.My topsy-turvy relationship with Obasanjo continued. He would drive past Oduduwa Crescent without checking on his children, who were progressing in education. Iyabo, Busola and Segun were making excellent grades at school. I was struggling to make ends meet.
One morning at about 7 o’clock, while I was dressing up, preparatory to taking the children to school, my daughter, Enitan, walked into the room, announcing, “Mummy, one man wants to see you.”As I turned, wondering who the man was early in the morning, I saw Obasanjo strolling in behind her. Shaking his head, he said, “So I am one man. I am one man now.”He was obviously pained that his daughter did not recognise him. He carried her and asked after the children. He looked around the premises and left. Soon after, he started visiting frequently.
He was behaving like a good person and our love was rekindled. In no time he put me in the family way. Stella and I were often engaged in telephone battles. She would call to abuse me and I would reply to taunt her.
Two days after I gave birth to my last born in 1982, I phoned to tell Stella the news; she told me I was delirious.“Were, were,” she screamed, “you see that you have really gone mad. You are beginning to imagine things. How can you be pregnant, much less have a baby for Obasanjo? I’ve told you, he’s mine for good.
”“It is you that is mad, not me oh. I know the truth hurts but I’ve told you the latest development.”On the day of the naming, Obasanjo came with one Mr. Kosemani, an operative of the National Security Organisation attached to Obasanjo, and performed all the traditional rites. Obasanjo named his daughter Olufunmilayo (God has given me joy) but I called her, Damilola (the Lord has blessed me). After he left, I called Stella to give her the news. She repeated her line that I had lost it and was imagining things.
“Where did you see Obasanjo, mad woman? Obasanjo is at Ota attending a meeting with Heinemann officials. He is doing productive things and doesn’t have time to waste on you.”I later wrote our church, Owu Baptist Church, Abeokuta, to inform the pastor about my safe delivery and sent money for thanksgiving. Unfortunately for Stella, she was in church that day when the news was announced. The news was so disturbing, she fainted. Obasanjo had travelled outside the country.
When he returned to Abeokuta, I learnt that Stella challenged him. In return, he beat her, wondering what right she had to query him. Not satisfied with just beating her, Obasanjo drove her out of the house in her nightgown. Stella had to seek refuge in Ibadan with Mrs. Morakinyo, Obasanjo’s cousin.
The good time with Obasanjo was short-lived. He became unreliable again, concerned only with his interests. In 1983, I made up my mind that it was better I relocated the poultry business from Abeokuta to Lagos so I could conserve my energy in one place. I transferred Gbenga and Enitan from Corona, Victoria Island to Corona, Gbagada.
By this time, Obasanjo had inched his way into the poultry farm and was claiming it as his own. I decided to remove my birds and other items from the land. One Friday, I went to the farm with two lorries; I was in one while Sina, my brother, was in the other. We removed the birds and headed to Lagos. Sina arrived in Lagos without any hitch. Not me. When I reached Lafenwa Roundabout at Abeokuta, I was stopped by Mr. Kosemani, who had attended Damilola’s naming.
He told the police to arrest me because I had stolen Obasanjo’s birds.I made great fuss before the police could arrest me. People gathered to watch the spectacle. While this was going on, an old woman urged the crowd to leave Kosemani alone as anyone who allowed his head to be used in cracking a coconut never ate of it.
I was clamped in jail at Lafenwa Police Station. I was placed behind the counter at the police station, where I had been stripped to my underwear.
Obasanjo left his place at Ota for my Oduduwa Crescent residence in Lagos to retrieve the poultry products with Sina. Satisfied, he came to Abeokuta where he directed that I should be taken to court the following Monday. When the DPO arrived, he asked me to dress up. I told him I was only acting on the police instructions.
Late Chief Olanrewaju and Chief Niyi Adegbenro visited me at the station, pleading with me that I should go home. Both had visited Obasanjo at home in Abeokuta to tell him what he did was wrong. It was he who directed them to come to me at the station.
Bad news travels fast. Simbiat Abiola waded in; she brought her elder sister and offered to bail me. I refused, opting to sleep in jail as Kosemani had directed. I spent the night in police cell, a guest of mosquitoes.
As I spent the night in cell, Stella phoned my children at Oduduwa that their mother would not be coming home because she stole birds. On Saturday, Mrs. Abiola took me away. 22 days exactly after that disgraceful episode, Kosemani died in a car accident.
His car collided with a trailer in Ibadan and he died instantly! The old woman’s words came to mind.
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