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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

My life as Sunny Ade’s wife - Modupe Adeniyi-Adegeye


One would naturally expect that being married to Nigeria’s Juju music legend, King Sunny Ade, would make his wife, Chief Mrs Modupe Adeniyi-Adegeye, also a popular figure. But if she enjoys any form of popularity, it will be on account of her office as the Regional Chairperson of Lions Club International. PAUL UKPABIO met her at a Lions Club International event in Lagos, where she bagged yet another ‘appreciation award’ from the outgoing District Governor of Lions Club International District 404B-2, Dr Christine Adebajo. An expert in hospitality and hotel management turned school administrator, Mrs Adegeye is enjoying life as a top but quiet socialite and grandmother. She shares the secrets of her happy home, how she met the legendary musician, the joy of serving humanity and the peace she found in marital life.

You are a staunch Lion today, giving back to
humanity. Did your early life prepare you for this?
My 93-year-old mother is a selfless person who has always loved to put smiles on people’s faces, whether she likes them or not, and I was brought up seeing that kind of lifestyle. That prepared me well. That was how I grew up. It is not a surprise to me that I chose a life of selfless service to mankind. That is why Lionism (membership of the Lions’ club) came naturally to me. I also do service to mankind through the church. I couldn’t have turned out this way if I didn’t have my kind of parents.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up on Olateju Street, Mushin, Lagos.
How was Mushin in those days?
In those days, Mushin was okay. It was not the riotous Mushin that we have today. Although in every society or place there are bad people and there are good people, Mushin in those days was a good place to live in. It was a closed society. Mushin then was made up of people who were from there or were born there. People who came to join were not many; they could be counted. It was a good place to live in. Olateju was a popular street even then.
Are there memories of Mushin you wish to recall?
I did not school in Mushin. Rather, my school was at Yaba and was called Ideal Girls School on Montgomery Avenue. For secondary school, I went to Methodist Girls High School at Yaba too. Those were good old days where four of us girls who lived around Mushin area used to meet, get on the rail line and walk through that rail to Yaba. It didn’t use to take us much time at all.
Along the line, the government introduced school buses for us, which usually picked us from school at Yaba and dropped us daily at Idi-Oro. From there, we walked home.
Why did you choose a girls’ school?
I didn’t choose a girls’ school. I did many entrance examinations but my parents felt that a girls’ school was good. Apart from that, Methodist Girls High School in those days was very high ranking. Even now, it is still of good status. In those days, it was Queens College, Methodist Girls High School and then Reagan Memorial High School.
It seems your arents were particular about education
My father was educated. He had a Cambridge certificate which was a high standard in those days, and there were some professional courses that he did. He later worked for the Post & Telegraph Department, rose to a high position as the Chief Investigation Officer for the federation. He definitely at that point must have wanted his children to be educated.
So you were comfortable…
(Laughs) Yes, we were. But we were not living in Ikoyi; we were living in Mushin.
After Methodist Girls High School, where next?
I had a stint with the Nigerian Police before I left for the US. There, I went to a college in Washington DC and later to Northern Virginia College in Alexandria where I majored in Business Management and my minor was in Psychology. Much later, I did Hotel Management from American Motel School, which was the one I used to work extensively.
What was the reason for embarking on the journey to America?
There was a lot of talk about going abroad then. I also had friends who had gone to America. We were talking regularly and they urged me to try it too. Then I already knew that studying more also meant being better off, because the more you studied, the better one became. So my mind became inclined towards travelling.
How did America turn out for you?
America was very good for me. The racism was there even then, but it was not as much as it is now.
You read three different courses. What was the attraction for those courses?
The interest was that in those days, my parents were not sending money to me for school fees. I was going to school from morning till 3pm. I had a job in a hotel. First it was a holiday inn and then later an inn. I took interest in the job. I waited on tables, learnt how to make the rooms and do housekeeping. I knew things about all the departments. That was why I decided to take a course in hotel and hospitality. However, the other courses that I did also helped a lot. That is because, no matter what anyone does, one has to have management skills, administrative skills, to make it work.
How long did you stay in America?
The first time, I stayed for four years. I came back and went back again. The second time, I stayed for three years before I came back to Nigeria. After that, I kept going and coming.
After the first four years in America, what kind of Nigeria did you return to?
The Nigeria that was much better than now. That is because then, you could present your certificate and get a job almost instantly. You would just say this is what you have done and you would get a job. I looked for a job and got one with the Nigerian Hotels Limited. They had hotels all over Nigeria. I got a job there and I was asked if I could go to Jos. I said I would go.
So I went to Jos and from there to Calabar. I kept moving from place to place because they had hotels all over the country. I worked with that organisation for almost 20 years. I worked at the Airport Hotel Ikeja as the Front Office Manager, then to Ikoyi Hotel as Front Office Manager and later to the head office as the Group Marketing Manager before I retired.
When you retired, what immediately occurred to you?
I travelled out to America. I needed to rest. So this time around, I spent three years over there before I returned to Nigeria.
You initially went to America as a youth. Was it all book and studies?
(Laughs) It was not all book, book and book. It was book, socials and everything together.
You were there as a young lady but it didn’t it occur to you to marry a white man…
(Laughs again) I would say that I am not a racist, but you can call me one if that suits the situation. I could not and cannot marry a white man for all the tea in China. That is because I am an African to the core. I am also a Nigerian to the core. No matter the situation, though we have our problems here in Nigeria, I cannot live anywhere else as it is now.
With such desire and love for a Nigerian man, you eventually got one…
Yes, and that was when I came to Nigeria after my first four-year sojourn in America.

How did you meet?
Well, we first met in the US when he (King Sunny Ade) came on a musical tour. The meeting could be said to have been arranged by destiny because though I was a socialite, I was a quiet one. Even now, I am not a loud person. He was already a popular person, a popular musician for that matter. So in that regard, we were more or less opposites. We were in somebody’s house, where we got introduced to each another. We however lost touch after that time. But since it was God’s will, when I returned to Nigeria, we met again.
How has marital life been with King Sunny Ade?
I would say that it has been excellent. It has been good. We have children who are all fine and doing well. Though he has remained a popular musician and I have been on the quiet side, that has not affected our relationship and married life at all. It has been a smooth ride.
You have been a socialite for almost all of your life, even working in environments that are related to socials and recreation. What motivated you to join the Lions Club?
Joining the Lions Club came through an aunty. At the time, we were in another NGO. She invited us to come over to the Lions Club. I went with another lady, a friend. We liked what they were doing because the Lions Club is a place where we do things that the Bible talks about: things like helping the needy and the under-privileged in the society.
When we see people that are blind, we assist to restore the sight. We see somebody that is hungry, we give him food. These are the things that Jesus Christ came to the world to do. It is not good enough for somebody to say he is cold and you replied by saying ‘get warm in Jesus name.’ That cannot make the person warm. So we give such a person a blanket to cover himself. That is what the Lions Club does.
It is a large organisation that originated in the USA. Even now, we are affiliated with the US where we have the capital of Lions Club. However, we are also here as Lions. The Lions Club in Nigeria has grown in leaps and bounds. We take on all activities and projects that can touch the lives of a community, ease people’s problems and make them laugh or smile. That is what Lionism is about, and that is why I am there.
How about younger women joining the Lions Club, how do they manage their marital lives vis a vis motherhood?
Younger women in the club handle that situation successfully. Being a Lion is a calling. If it is something that your heart is tuned to doing, you will do it joyfully. There are couples in Lions Club, but most often, it happens that the husband may be a Lion and always returning to the house to tell his wife of the different things they do at the club, the woman may develop interest and decide to join. And others join from the younger Lions Club which is Leo. Some young men and young ladies meet themselves at this Leo club, grow up together and then get married and move into the main Lions Club.
So in that regard, one can say that the Lions Club is a good social platform?
Yes. But I would rather say that it is more of a service platform than social. That is because Lionism is not particularly just about socials. Lionism does not encourage religion or politics at its meetings. What we do at meetings is to talk about service to humanity.
What about the fears by some spouses that they may lose their husbands or wives to other club members in the long run?
No, that doesn’t happen at Lions Club. When we are at a meeting or at a site for a project, all we discuss is how we are going to serve. We ponder on the project on hand or project intended to be done, like organising operations for people or eye-sight project. So at meetings, we are always thinking and discussing how to raise money to carry out projects. Nobody has time for somebody’s husband or boyfriend. And no man has time for some other person’s wife or girlfriend.
Can one consider Lions Club to be elitist?
No, I do not agree that it is elitist. You can join whether you are rich or not. Socialites can join, so also those who are not social. Farmers can actually join. Teachers, doctors and anybody can join. As long as you can pay your dues! When we know that a person is Lion hearted and for certain reasons maybe unable to pay dues because of a sudden problem, some other persons within the club can volunteer to pay up the dues for such a person, especially if such affected person has been serving well in time past.
You are retired now. What do you do these days?
I am an administrator of a school located in Ikorodu. It is not a very big school but it occupies my time. I am usually there to oversee things and ensure that the school is running smoothly.
What kind of lifestyle appeals to you now?
What appeals to me now is a lifestyle of service: serving my children, my husband and family, serving in the Lions Club, running the school and giving time to the little ones.
Any regrets?
No regrets. I thank God for everything He has done for me, and for taking me to where I am today.
Being married to King Sunny Ade, does that make you a music freak?
He makes me like music. I love my husband’s music. I love gospel music. Oh yes, I am his fan. I have always been his fan from way back.
How about your children, is anyone of them taking after their father?
Yes, there are some of them who have shown that they are talented in music. We have also been able to encourage them. We let them be, especially when we see that it is their calling. Music has to run in the family by virtue of their birth.
Let’s talk about your fashion sense; has it changed over the years?
(Laughs) It has remained the same. One has to change with the times though. But because I have been a quiet person over the years, I have been able to keep my privacy, so only some sections of the society know about my fashion. I wear clothes that fit me, such that appeal to me. I am usually not interested in the vogue or cloths that trend. Anything that I feel comfortable in, which also looks good on me, is what I wear.
Which accessory would you not do without?
I wear accessories but I don’t make them too loud. I can wear gold, silver and I love beads too. But as a general rule with me, I do things in moderation. In those days, I wore high heels and so on. But these days, I wear mostly flat shoes. I am more particular about what gives my feet comfort. And I wear any colours for shoes. I am not much of a hat person. But if the situation warrants me to wear a hat in church, I wear it. Even then, as a lay reader and evangelist in my church, I robe all the time. As such, I do not have to wear a hat in church or do any extra fashion in church, because we wear cassocks.
At what point did church come into all of this?
Church has been there a long time ago. I love church right from my youthful days. But when I was in active service, I couldn’t give as much time to church because my job involved me being on shift. And most times, I was usually at work. But when I retired, I concentrated more on church. I attend the Holy Trinity Anglican Church. I read lessons, conduct bible studies, lead prayer sessions and conduct the sermon.
To combine this with Lionism is the same thing, because the two are all about service. Whereas in the church you talk to people about helping one another, in Lionism, you do not just talk, you act the talk. If somebody is sick, you do not just say God bless you, you try to solve his problem.
What do you do with your free time?
In time past, I used to read books from big authors. But these days, I read more of the bible. I read magazines and newspapers too.
How about exercise?
I walk around.
Do you have a memorable holiday experience that you want to share with us?
There have been so many holidays. My brother lives in the US, so I am usually shuttling. I think I can say that one memorable holiday for me or even for the family was when my husband took the family, you know my husband has other wives, so he took us to the US for a holiday about two years ago. We went to Atlanta, and it was great fun.
Are you still shuttling Nigeria and abroad now?
I still do because I have two children in England and one in Ireland. There are also two in South Africa. They are professors. I go all over the place. But right now, I am stuck here because of my mother. It’s difficult for me to trust anybody with taking care of her. So I am taking care of a grandmother and at the same time taking care of grandchildren.

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