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Thursday, 23 May 2019


- Chief Mrs, Dupe Jemibewon (Top Socialite and Businesswoman)

Seeking an appointment with Chief Mrs. Dupe Jemibewon could be an uphill task. Not because she hardly sees people, but because her schedule is just as busy as that of her husband Rtd. Major General David Jemibewon, the ex-Military Governor of defunct Western State, Governor of Oyo State and later Minister of Police Affairs.
Last year, her husband took ill and the couple were out of the country for a while. But Chief Mrs. Dupe Jemibewon bounced back to the social circuit news pages, when her daughter Omolola, got married to a British Officer in England. The second part of the wedding ceremony took place a few weeks ago, which gave us an opportunity for an interview with her. She spoke to Paul Ukpabio.  
You have been out of town with your husband, can we safely say that you both took time off for another honeymoon?

(Laughs) I wish it was. But it was a recuperating time for my husband. So we took time to go out of the country for a while. We were in America.
How long did you stay there?
Oh, it was quite some time.

Your friends tease you that your love with your husband is ever-waxing strong. How have you been able to keep the love aglow all these years, what is the secret of your marriage?
That is a very big question. The secret is grounded in accepting the inevitability of life and believing that there is good in every human being that God created. When you are involved with a man, pray that you will be able to accept his assets and liabilities, because there is no perfect human being. The only perfect person is Jesus Christ, who stays in heaven not on the earth. So we earthly people come with our assets and our liabilities.
So can one say that your love with the General is love made in heaven?
I don’t know how love made in heaven looks like, but I know that my love with David, my husband, is a relationship made on earth here. The love made in heaven is celestial and I haven’t reached that level (laughs).
Yes, there was concern about your husband’s health last year, how is he doing presently?
We give glory to God, just like you noted that I was not in the scheme of social things a while ago, it had to do with his health challenges which God took care of, with the benefit of the best scientific hands in the world, he survived it, and we give God the glory.
What advice would you give to women about how to take care of their husbands and marriage?
Not just to women, but to people in general. A relationship is a two dimensional thing. The man must also take care of the woman. A marriage relationship is not a slave-master thing. You have to treat each other equally; the two of you must stand on an equal pedestal. But that is not to say that you must not respect your spouse. It works in a two way system because respect begets respect. That is what I will tell any woman. Respect your spouse and your spouse will respect you. And you must seek to know who you are involved with. And I say this often, a perfect human being doesn’t exist in the world. The only perfect people are celestial and we humans have not reached that level yet.
So how about the issue of women in business, career women who also have to battle with the home front, do you support that women should be at work, or pursue careers and so on?
If you want to know the truth, I will tell you. I am not liberal by any means but I don’t think that God that created the brain created women’s brain different from that of the man, and I do not see why women should not actualize themselves in life because of matrimony. A nation would be unfair to itself if it discourages women to go into the world with confidence to excel. Fortunately for some of us, we had men who prepared us to excel. 
I was a career person, and I worked with the Nigerian Airways at a time, and I can recall that there were times when I used to be on night duty, and I must tell you that even then, my husband encouraged me. A husband must take pleasure in what makes his wife happy. Women are not just like goats or sheep just to rear children. There’s the intrinsic value in a woman and any country that wants to develop or value development, must take cognitive recognition of its women population. The Queen is in England, you can see how many prime ministers that we have had in women around the world, from Benazir Bhutto to Indira Gandhi to the successful women we have known in this country. Chief Mrs. Alakija, even before our generation, the Oyagbolas of this world, even before that, the Moremi’s of this world, the Queen Amina of this world, and so on. History is replete with women that have excelled one way or the other. 
One even remembers the woman Queen Sheba, who met with and drilled King Solomon with wisdom. So it is not new that women are capable it is just the practices that have been brought into religion which sometimes are not really religious practices that seems to limit the capacity of women. A woman’s role is not limited to the other room.
You live in Kogi, Abuja and Lagos and that is when you are not outside the country, how do you cope with business and life when you shuttle like that?
Whatever makes you happy in life must have its other side too, and also have its ups and down. I took cognizance of the fact that my husband is a country person. His village roots never left him though he worked in the capital of Nigeria. But by and large, he has always been a country person. That is why I say, in every relationship, you must accept the liabilities and the dividends of good relationship. With proper planning, we have been able to manage wherever we call home. 
But which do you enjoy most, is it living in Kogi, Abuja or Lagos?
At heart, I am a Lagosian, The people that I grew up with are all mostly in Lagos, but that is not to say that I have not made a lot of good friends out of other parts of Nigeria. I am very much at home in the different villages of this country. You see, working with Nigeria Airways in those days, made me to realize that, there is Nigeria and there is Nigeria. And we city dwellers fail to realize that Nigeria is more than Lagos or Abuja. I grew up in Ibadan. But today, I realize that Nigeria is more than the cities.
So do you really enjoy staying in the country side?
Yes, I do,
What do you do when you are in Kogi at the country side, especially for a social person that you have been over the years, how do you get your socials there?
Ofcourse, there is social life in Kogi. A good social life to me does not stop only at tying wrapper and going to parties every other day like it is done in the cities. There is so much social life in Kogi with these women that I have come to know and develop relationship with. And let me tell you I have traversed many parts of this country while working with the Nigerian Airways. I worked in Jos, Uyo, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Benin and other places. So I have been a country person, as a matter of fact I am a country person and I find pleasure anywhere I am because I get to know the people wherever I am. And don’t forget that in Kogi, we run a secondary school in the village. So that also keeps me very busy. We haveJemibewon International Academy and we are in our seventh year now. We had our first graduating students last year. And they did well. Those are the things that keeps me happy in the village or countryside.
How about the funding of the school, and the cost of maintenance?
It gets to a stage in someone’s life when you just have to give back to society, what society had given to you. My husband and some of his friends were lucky, the society was involved in them. On my part I am a Yoruba person, I grew up in the days when the Western region was an independent entity in this country, and we knew who was who in Western Nigeria and education was key to us. We had free education, free health system, so our view is a bit different from what we see in present day Nigeria. I am quite comfortable wherever I am. And giving comes natural to me.
It’s obvious that not all the students in your school can afford the standard of educational system availed them at your school because some of them are from the local community where the school is located, how do you balance that?
(Laughs) We are not very expensive. We have to take cognizance of where we are located. But the school was not created for children in the community where the school is located alone. We have children coming in from fifteen states of this country. Some of my students now are in America and they are doing well. The foundation was laid here before they went back to America because they were born there. So, you can’t create a school and say it is limited to one geo-political area. It is an international establishment. We have teachers coming from different parts of the world, to spend time in the school. Things will even get better. We can’t get worse than we are, because I think Kogi state has reached the bottom, the state cannot go inside the ground; it would have to come up. Yes, a lot of parents that value education, as poor as you think they are, they struggle to give their children that kind of utopic education that they have been looking for. So they struggle. When bad times fell on some of them, we couldn’t push their children out of the school. Those are some of the responsibilities that we have to take on to make this country work the way we knew it as children. We are not saying that we are Father Christmas or Salvation Army, we definitely are not, but we get by through His grace.
What do you really derive from being a proprietress?
There’s a lot of joy in it. That is because, a child comes in at age 10 or 11 and when they are leaving they are already 16 or 17, and you can see their picture when they came in newly as timid little children (laughs), when you now compare it with their graduating picture, you see young men and women that are ready to take on the world, you can’t be happier than that!
How about the challenges?
The challenges are that, the school is in a rural environment. But we have been able to create a pristine environment an enabling environment where children can be nurtured and developed into all round personalities. That gives me the joy. I do not dwell so much on the negativity that I do not live in the city. The school is I.T, what we lose from the national grid, we gain from solar. Occasionally I feel guilty because when I am expected in the village, they go all out to make my life comfortable there. I am always very at home with the children at the school. The children are fed and people are sometimes surprise when a child that came in timid is graduating with a masculine voice, chest out and you can see that they can be on their own. I put their resumption picture side by side with their graduation picture and one of them called my attention to his picture, “Mommy that cannot be me!” “Yes, it is you my darling,” I replied. He continued, “you mean I was this small?” And I replied again, “Yes, you were!” Oh, it is a beautiful story.

Are you happy with the quality of education presently in the country or could it be better?
I’m worried about the quality of education in the country. That is why you see the private institution is all out to re-create what we had as a child growing up then in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We all can’t leave it to the government. Although private universities are just too expensive but we asked for it and we are getting it, because the country abdicated its responsibility in providing a balanced education, a rounded education that can lead our children to the next century. See what is happening in Asia. See what the Chinese children are doing. See what is happening in Korea. It is the same world that we live in. There was a time in this country that you took your result abroad and you were accepted. But that doesn’t happen anymore. You now find people spending eight years to get a degree! But we can’t all be complaining. We all must take responsibility to restore this country to its lost glory. It is not a government thing alone. How do you describe where I live that is Kogi state, where primary school teachers do not receive salaries for months? And teachers stray away in government primary schools. The teachers are on the farms to grow what their children will eat because they are not paid. That is jeopardy, a sorry state.
You once worked with the defunct Nigerian Airways, in what capacity were you working then?
I was in the passenger services where I retired as a Passenger Services Manager. It afforded me opportunity to move around. But I had always moved around a lot because my parents were able to send us abroad on holidays even before I went to school. One needs to know the world to be able to talk as a citizen of the world.
Can you tell us briefly about your parents?
They are of blessed memory, John and Mary. They were teachers in places that was unimaginable. Like I tell people, I am the least educated among my siblings. Others are doctors of philosophy and medicine, Pharmacist and lawyers; I am the only one with degree in French.
Who influenced you most between your mom and dad?
I must say the two of them influenced me. They were great people who gave their children an ambience to develop.
Tell us about some of your fun moments in the defunct Nigeria Airways.
Oh, that will take another whole day to talk about (laughs). It was a beautiful organization. We were like a family. Just yesterday I was with one of my bosses then in the Nigerian Airways. We were doing conference telephone call with our other colleagues. We laughed and laughed. That is what Nigeria Airways did to us. We all are like families. That was the company that made you to grow until the Nigeria factor took over and killed the company. There was a trip I did few weeks ago. I was on an Emirate plane going to Washington DC and the pilot spoke. I was sitting in the first class cabinet and the pilot kept speaking and I thought that was a familiar voice. So I asked the cabinet attendant to take my card to him. I wrote something at the back of the card. A short moment later, the pilot ran into the first class cabinet and we shouted and laughed and laughed! Ofcourse he was a former Nigerian Airways pilot and was flying the 707 one of their big aircrafts. We went down memory lane.
The present government in Nigeria had instructed that all Nigerian Airways ex staff being owed should be paid. What is your take on that?
Well I got mine, we all got our money! But it didn’t have to result to that level. When you disengage, you get paid. And when you dis-engage the whole company, you must be prepared to pay. People worked in that company till the last day; you must be prepared to pay all. And that it failed wasn’t because the people didn’t do their part, it failed from the top. People were sent to their early graves. When we came for verification recently, it was a very sober moment for me. I saw that some of my colleagues have aged. We saw the physical strain on people. There were people who came and their children had to hold them in between. It was a sorry sight. They paid us 50% and promised to pay us the remaining 50%. Whatever it was, even if it was one naira that we looked forward to collect for so many years, we should get it. Do you know how many of my colleagues died out of penury? Yes, the government paid, but it is a civic responsibility for any government to show that it has the interest of its people at heart. It has not been only Nigerian Airways, but there are ex NEPA staff, there are NPA ex staff and others.
But other governments did not pay until this government came along to do so.
Well, somebody someday would pay! That is my take to it: Like it became a very political issue. No, it shouldn’t be. Getting your entitlement should be a political issue. It is the duty of a welfare state, and that is the least that the government can do. When I saw what happened to pensioners during the verification exercise, I became an unhappy person. There were old men and women who couldn’t even climb the steps. Do you know that even during the verification exercise that people died, people came in from the hospital? Must we be reduced to that? It is a good thing that this present government has corrected the negligence of past governments towards its workers. It is a plus for the government and shouldn’t be seen as a political gimmick.
Do you believe that the rest will be paid?
I hope so, we all have the hope because, I don’t expect that any government will jeopardize its standing by not delivering on its promise.
Do you advice that Nigeria invest in another carrier?
Ofcourse yes! Nigeria Airways was not a bad company. There’s no way that Nigeria will not have a national carrier. It’s becoming a huge embarrassment that Nigeria does not have a national airline. In my days at duty, Ethiopian airline was just a small airline they didn’t even have a seat in IATA or they sat behind us because I was also on the team representing Nigeria Airways at IATA in Geneva. They waited for us to talk before they could ask for paper to write down their position on issues. It is a commitment of government to guard what they own. They pillaged what this country owned. That is what happened to Nigerian Airways. It happened to Nigeria National Shipping Line, instead of developing what was handed over to a generation, the generation decided to sink it. That’s what happened. There was a time that flight ticket was N3 and N7 in Nigeria but N7 then is like N70,000 now.
What makes your fashion stand out?
I wear what makes me comfortable. You must have a sense of comfort ability with whatever you put on. I don’t think I am a trends person, but I know what I should wear and when I should wear it. That comes natural with me. For me, the function determines what I wear.
How about your colours?
My favorite colours are: shades of blue and shades of pink. Look around us now and you can confirm yourself.
What fashion accessory do you not do without?
There’s none! I am not a slave to anything. But my wrist watch is always with me because I always want to know the time. Though these days the wrist watch is no longer an essential stuff because the phone tells you everything you need to know about time.
Last year, it was your daughter’s wedding and a wedding train left Nigeria for the United Kingdom and just recently again, another train left the United Kingdom for Kogi state in Nigeria, what can you say about that?
(Laughs) Normally we should have done the recent one first because the Kogi event was actually the traditional wedding. But my daughter’s husband’s grandmother is a 92 year old medical doctor and she wanted to be alive to see the wedding happen because my daughter’s husband is the first grandchild in their family: So we conceded it to them to have the official solemnization in the village where the grand mother lives in Lois, England last year May. But we made it known to them that there would be another ceremony which is also very important to us. So April this year, we had the traditional wedding here in Nigeria in our hometown in Kogi state. They came and enjoyed our village in Kogi 27 of them.
How did they feel when they got to Kogi state?
I don’t know, but from their reactions, I think they were happy. Immediately the vehicles that brought them entered the compound, there were shouts everywhere from children around ‘haa awon Oyinbo ti de’ meaning Europeans have arrived (laughs). But making them secure was more important to us.
So how did you do that?
God was with us. And the police did a good job. At a point during one of the nights, I came out into the compound and I was shocked at the number of policemen that were around. To God be the glory.
Did you attend the solemnization in England with your husband or alone?
We were both there. And in addition, there were quite a number of family and friends that accompanied us to England. Tokunbo Abiola, Funke Lashman, Bukola Adeniran, Kemi Oni was there, classmates of mine in my college days in England, in fact a chapter of St. Theresa’s College in England was there. I was dumbfounded to see them, some with their children who are now married, Nike Williams, Esther Ogbeha, Ngozi Are and many others.

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