Married to the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Her Majesty, Olori Wuraola Ogunwusi, speaks to KEMI LANRE-AREMU about her pet projects and life in the palace
Why was the House of Oduduwa Foundation established?
The House of Oduduwa Foundation was established to be a platform that seeks to bridge the gap between the expectations of a proper African society and the realities of our current society. It is a platform seeking to serve as a catalyst in the quest to improve social balance, economic empowerment and cultural conservation. At the House of Oduduwa Foundation, we believe that government cannot do everything. Just as there are roles for government to play, so there are roles for individuals to play. We have taken it upon ourselves to be a platform where all the parties can be properly harnessed towards achieving socio-cultural and economic progress. The House of Oduduwa Foundation is the answer to the myriad of problems in the society.
Is this a self–funded project or how do you generate funds to actualize the foundation’s objectives?
We are a link between those who have and want to help and those who do not have and need to be helped. We facilitate the exchange and create balance. Thus, we accept donations from donor agencies and channel them towards supporting those that are facing one challenge or the other. Take for instance, the Give Back Concert was sponsored by some organisations and we are using the funds raised at the programme to renovate orphanages. Of course, a lot of personal funds also go into executing these projects.
Why have you chosen domestic violence and sexual abuse as some of your areas of concentration?
It is all in the effort geared towards creating a positive society. A lot of people frown at domestic violence against women. But in Africa, it is regarded as a ‘family matter’ implying that outsiders are not expected to interfere, and women are not expected to speak out. Many young girls who saw their mothers being abused will end up being abused and beaten because somehow, they have gotten used to the silence and society’s indifference to the act. Meanwhile, this has resulted in several loss of lives and self-esteem. Just because they are victims of domestic violence, many women have even forgotten the purpose for which they were created
You recently led a star-studded march in Lagos against domestic violence, how effective is this mode of activism?
On Friday, June 30, we marched from Falomo to Bar Beach on the Island. Many A-list celebrities joined us and we condemned domestic violence against women. We called it the #1in3inAfrica campaign march. The name came about as a result of the United Nations’ statistics which shows that one out of every three women in Africa is a victim of domestic violence. This form of activism before now has always been effective. It was through this form of activism that great people like Martin Luther-King engineered a paradigm shift towards racial equality in America. We are taking this message to other cities in Nigeria, so expect to see us in places like Abuja and the rest.
How will you be assisting victims to get justice as well as rehabilitate them?
With the helpline we are establishing, victims can reach us without difficulty and we can also reach them. We also have an Instagram account, @1in3africa, where you can send us direct messages, and we immediately act upon it with the help of the police and our legal team. The kind of help to be rendered will depend on the prevailing circumstances and the severity of the crime. We don’t plan to complicate issues by encouraging women to leave their marriages. That is why we would also be counselling couples. It is only where this fails and we realise that the woman’s life has become endangered, then we have to save her life first before any other thing.
How supportive is your husband, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, of this initiative?
My husband has been supportive. Apart from the Ooni of Ife and the Emir of Kano, other prominent persons have also shown interest and support. It is a bold move considering my status as a queen, but someone has to do it. I am grateful to people who have also supported and joined us in the struggle.
How has it been transiting from a normal life to royalty?
It has been fairly smooth. The important thing is that I am married to my husband. Even if he is a royal, that doesn’t change the fact that he is still my husband. Of course, certain things are different and there are certain expectations. But overall, no two lives or homes are the same. We just accept our peculiarities like everyone else and live with it.
What are the challenges you face as a queen?
There are no challenges attached to being a queen. If anything, there are privileges and I am grateful. Sometimes, I like going to the market to shop because I love being around regular people. We learn so much about life through them. Life is such a long stretch of time and as much as I can, I try to live a normal life.
What do you consider to be the most fulfilling aspect of being the queen of Ife?
The fact that I have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people and women is quite fulfilling. Playing several roles in people’s lives is a big responsibility and the only time I feel fulfilled is when I see great results.
You wear only white attire. Does this have anything to do with your royal status?
Wearing white is significant to me on a personal level. I wear white not because I am married to the Ooni who also wears white. It is just coincidence. White signifies purity and I consider that to be momentous.
How do you unwind in spite of your busy schedule?
A very good book comes in handy. I also like ‘thinking on paper,’ writing down my ideas and strategising all by myself. It helps me to settle all the confusion and remove the stress of facing so many things head on. I also ensure that I spend time with my family.
How do you stay in shape and maintain a flawless look?
I do everything in moderation. Even though I love good food, I am picky. My schedule does not allow me to exercise as much as I would love to but I try to restrain myself from doing things that would affect my physique. Above all, I just live.
How will you describe being married to the Ooni of Ife?
Before any other thing, being married to the Ooni of Ife means I am his support system in addition to being his spouse. It means taking the responsibility of being a voice for the voiceless. It also means an opportunity to be a part of history, and contribute positively to people’s future.
As a Benin woman, how well have you adapted to the Yoruba culture, particularly that of Ile-Ife?
The kingdom of Benin and that of Ile-Ife have a strong link that is established in history and can never be broken, so I have a strong Ife cultural background and there are no challenges there. The position of the Yeyeluwa of Ife as I am also known comes with a lot of responsibilities. The Ooni’s throne is highly revered and I do everything to create a balance between my responsibilities to my husband and my responsibilities to the women, youth and children who depend on me within and outside the palace.