Posted by Yetunde Arebi on
She has been called elegant, fashionable, a stunning beauty. But one thing you will find very striking about Chief (Mrs) Olufunke Daniel, wife of Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State is a amiable and soft spoken mien....
She has been called elegant, fashionable, a stunning beauty. But one thing you will find very striking about Chief (Mrs) Olufunke Daniel, wife of Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State is a amiable and soft spoken mien.
Fondly referred to as Yeye by her admirers, Olufunke Daniel has carved a niche for herself in the polity of the state in the three years of her husbandís government by working alongside her husband in many areas including tedious campaign tours. An alumni of University of Ibadan, Yeye Olufunke studied Agric Economics but was lured into the world of fashion and beauty at a tender age by her mother.
This resulted in the creation of Laurel Fashions, a top designing outfit for womenís clothing in highbrow Ikeja area of Lagos. Her husbandís incursion into politics however afforded her a glimpse into humanitarian work. The success of Otunba Gbenga Danielís Gateway Front Foundation, an NGO he founded in 1999, spurred her to give her full support to his political ambition. Today, Olufunke is the Chairperson of GFF continuing in the footsteps of her husband. In a chat with Yetunde Fariu-Arebi, Deputy Woman Editor, Yeye, spoke about her pet project, Care for the aged, marriage, fashion and tip to blissful married life. Excerpts:
What gave you the inspiration for Gateway Front Foundation?
I was not involved in Non-Governmental projects before we came into government. My husband was into it. He started the Foundation and when he became the governor, I took over from him. And that is what I have been doing since. I got motivated and impressed with the way people reacted to him when he started the whole thing. He was touching their lives and everybody was happy that they were being looked after. So, I thought that instead of starting something else because Iím the governorís wife, why donít I simply continue on what we have been doing before. Or what is the essence of starting another NGO, if what we want to do is to assist the people and try to give them a better life which he was already doing. So, I didnít do anything new, I just took over from him.
Naturally, my reaction to his going into politics was negative. I didnít want him to go into politics because he was doing well in his business and was quite successful. And for a person who has done so well for himself, I really didnít see the reason why he should go into the muddy waters of politics. But when he showed unrelenting interest and I knew that whatever he touched becomes gold, I eventually gave in. Ever since Iíve known him, he has never done anything and failed at it. I became convinced that the project would not be an exception. So, I just prayed over it and gave him my support. He has always been interested in helping people. I think he got interested in politics from here. He started by giving people scholarships, social amenities, providing medical assistance and micro credit to people. He was also equipping them with all sorts of trade equipment to start their businesses in a small way. With the little he was able to give, he touched lots of lives. And that was why he really went into politics. He was convinced that being in government would be a better channel to assist the people.
Why did you incorporate the care for the aged?
When I took over from him, I decided to add a few things to it. That was how the idea of Care for the aged came about. I realised that the aged are one of the most neglected group of people in our society. Especially the women. They are the ones who get dumped in the villages and homes once they begin to lose their economic and social value due to old age. In some cases, they get demonized by the society. So, I felt it would be a good thing to include these group in what we are doing at the foundation.
I thank God today that we have been able to do something for them. So far, it has been very good. The response from people has been tremendous. We started by asking the Local Governments to provide us with a few names of old people in their communities. The project took off with about 500 old people on the list. Today, we have as high as that in some Local Governments in the state. And we are still aiming to increase the figures. We provide them with beddings, beverages, rice, soap, fabrics and a little money. You know it is sometimes not enough to just provide the basics, they will still need money to buy ingredients for stew to eat the rice and so on. I was convinced that we could make a difference when we reach out to them. Let them know that they are protected, wanted, loved and cared for. It has worked well, we have been making them happy and putting smiles on their faces.
You will notice that there is a generally sharp increase in the number of aged destitutes on the streets. Something that was unusual a few years back in the South-west. But the situation is not so in Ogun State because of what we are doing. In terms of providing an old peopleís home, it is something we have looked at the possibility of trying. But there are some problems to be thoroughly considered here and it will take a lot of resources to go into such a project. My husband does not allow us to make use of government funds for the NGO because it is our private initiative. He is particular about accountability. He believes that anytime the authorities come around, we should be able to present our documents and not be found wanting. That is why we have fashioned this programme out in a way that we would still make an impact without too much problems.
Apart from the aged peopleís project, I do a whole lot of other things. I reach out to market women, giving them medical assistance, and micro credit to our indigenes who need it. For the children there is the de-worming exercise. We have an empowerment scheme where we teach women crafts such as tie and dye, catering, e.t.c. We also provide free eye screening and we give out reading glasses to those who need them. The less privileged and physically challenged persons also have a welfare scheme where we have been helping them set up businesses.
What are your beauty secrets?
I must tell you that there is really no beauty regimen for me. I think it is just the glory of God, and the fact that I am happy doing what I am doing. Today, I have been out all day working with my husband. Whatever makes him happy, makes me happy too. And the fact that we are able to touch the lives of people positively in this State, is something that gives me joy. But one thing I donít joke with though, is my sleep. I like to sleep well. Even when something is bothering me, by the time I go to sleep and wake up, I would have gotten over it. I donít use anything spectacular or special. A good bath is good for the skin, light make-up and good clothes, those are the important things to me. I like good clothes and the colours black and white combined. I believe that beauty comes from the heart, it comes from within.
And your fashion sense should stem from what suits your personality. When people say I look good and all that, I just say thank you. But honestly, I donít really think
there is something special about the way I dress, or the way I put my things together. It comes natural to me. I imbibed most of my fashion sense from my mother. She is a very good looking and fashionable woman. She knows how to combine things and she has eyes for colours. I have learnt a lot from her in this area, even in the way she ties her head gears. I grew up watching and learning from her so much that it comes naturally to me now. And this is one of the reasons why I went into fashion designing. I felt I could design things that will look different from what other people would do. Once a while, I still sit down and do some designing because I am still operating the outfit.
Can you give us your winning formula on marriage and building a happy relationship?
I met my husband in Lagos at a party. We saw each other and the chemistry just clicked. We started seeing each other and later got married. That was 20 years ago. When we met and he spoke to me, I realized that he was a very intelligent and focused person. After our wedding, I discovered he is very diligent, hard working and dependable. He is somebody that I think is God sent to me, Ogun State and Nigeria. And Iím being honest here. So far, he has done so well for himself and the people around him and for me too. The truth is that he has added spice into my life. I am a very reserved person, an in-door person.
I would not have been into anything we are doing now on my own, but for him. He has brought out the positive things in me. That is part of the attraction. I must say that I am a very lucky woman. It is natural for any couple to have the initial teething problems, there will be one or two things. But it depends on how the problems are handled. So far, so good, we have been able to sort ourselves out. If I am not happy about something, he is willing to listen. And he does not insist on having things done his own way all the time, nor dismiss that my views are not important. He will think about it and somehow, we will meet at a point. I have not had any major problem with him.
As you can see he is a very busy person. Because of the pressure of the work, it is not often we see him around. So, I appreciate him when I see him by making the best out of the few moments he has for the family. And I must say that my children have been co-operative, supportive and very nice. They have learnt to understand that this is the time he has to reach out to the people, it is a State assignment and he has to serve. When he has time to spend with us, we play table tennis together. We also watch films and visit places.
What advice can you give young couples?
The main foundation on which anyone can build a marriage is God. Both of them should give each other mutual respect. If you have a wife, you should respect her because respect is reciprocal. Men should not treat women like animals. If a man treats his woman with love and respect, he will bring out the best in her. A happy woman is an asset to the whole family. The same goes for the man. They should always have the fear of God at the back of their minds. Give serious consideration to their actions against each other. How would I feel if my wife were to do to me, what I am doing to her? That way, it is easier to gauge when either of the two is stepping out of line. They should not be selfish in any thing they do. I think that will help them.
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