By Bolatito Adebayo
joy Isi Bewaji is a social media influencer, who has used the social media to challenge the society and has been very effective in doing this. In this interview she talks fondly about her relationship with her mum and other related issues.
What is the name of your mum?
My mum is Elizabeth Ogu
What does she do?
She’s a seamstress, a tailor.
How would you describe your relationship with her?
When I was growing up, I thought she hated me – you know all those funny feelings you have while growing up. But as I grew older I realized that she’s a friend. She listens, gives advice and doesn’t push anything down your throat. When I had issues with my husband, she didn’t say anything. At that time, that was all I wanted. I did not want to go for any family meetings, I didn’t want to talk about what happened and she never asked. She took me into her house and I stayed there for up to one year before I got my place. So I’m always very thankful. I would have committed suicide if it wasn’t for her silence; I just wanted her to be quiet and she didn’t say a word.
You said you thought your mum hated you. What gave you that impression?
You know how Nigerian parents are – sometimes they can be so mean. Many of them don’t know how to communicate. For instance, every day I tell my kids I love them and we play too. Back then, Nigerian parents never said they loved us, they never hugged us but they were always screaming at us.
They always expected us to bow down, and all such funny things. Although my mum did not really hit me, she just hit me once and that was it. But like many Nigerian parents, she wasn’t just nice while I was growing up. But when you now grow older they begin to cheer you up because they are getting older themselves.
As a teenager what did she tell you about boys?
What did she even have to say to me about boys? Nothing really. I was a very different kind of teenager because I wasn’t curious enough. I wasn’t adventurous. As a matter of fact, let me be truthful, when I was 16 or 17 my mum used to ask me: ‘Don’t you have friends? Go out now. Go and meet up with your friends.” I just didn’t like mixing with people. So, nothing really happened but one major thing that I know happened was funny – that was when a boy in my neighbourhood asked me out and I didn’t like him, so I told my mum about him.
However, one day the boy had the nerve to come to my gate to see me. My mum said, ‘I will pour you hot oil, move away from my gate!’ But funny enough, the ones she liked she actually sat me down and said to me, do you like him? Is he a nice person? Then just be his friend, she was kind of not too Nigerian when it came to boys. She didn’t have any problem with me; maybe she believed I was just a good girl because I really was.
What’s her favourite food?
She likes afang soup, which is a Calabar meal, but she is Igbo. She also likes edikangikong too.
What is her favourite meal that you enjoyed while growing up?
I think it’s her afang soup. She’s a good cook and she knows how to cook Calabar soup very well because she stayed there for a long time.
What’s her hobby?
My mum likes Nollywood and African Magic to a point that it’s like torture for me. She actually analyses the whole thing and I’m like what are you saying mum, it doesn’t make sense to me? I tried to introduce her to reading magazines because I think when you are old, you should read more. When I grow old, I want to have a lot of books and magazines. But she likes watching TV, listening to Wazobia FM a lot and African magic.
What is the greatest advice she has ever given you that you hold so dear to your heart?
My mum became a millionaire as a seamstress. No man ever took care of her. Nobody took care of my mum, nobody. She didn’t get a contract or any such thing from a man. However, she sewed clothes with her machine and became a millionaire and not just two or three or five million. She used to always tell me to take care of my money. But as a young person, I didn’t take that serious until I was in a bad marriage.
Although right now, I know better so you imagine, if I did not have her back then. So, when I left my marriage, I went back to live with her and just returned to the room I had as a child. The shame and all of that made me realize that I had to be serious with my finances. As a child she was always saying that to me but I never really got the message.
What’s the greatest sacrifice she has ever made?
I think just being there for my kids. I’m a single mother, if I didn’t have a mother, who would have taken care of my children? My kids have a room in her house. Let’s just say they took over my own room. Now, I can easily travel abroad, I can work till the next day and I can go for weekends. If I’m in a relationship, I can go and have fun anytime. She even tells me to bring the kids over to her place and out to have fun and get married again. She is always there for my children. If I didn’t have her I wouldn’t be able to go for United Nations conferences to speak. So, it is because she’s always there for me that I have a life and that is a big sacrifice that I can’t take for granted at all.
What makes her happy?
Money. (Laughs). When you give her pocket money every month, she’s always happy.
What was it like growing up in a polygamous family?
It was actually quite interesting because my family is quite funny and it didn’t seem like a polygamous home. I didn’t see any of the other women because they weren’t living with us. When my mother left and my father married a younger woman, for me as a child I had two homes. If my mother annoyed me I would go to my father’s house and if my father annoyed me I go over to my mother’s house and it was just cool. Maybe because I was a good child I never went anywhere else, I didn’t lie. The way my family was structured, I could actually take a one week window travel anywhere, if I was that kind of a youth but I wasn’t. So, for me I went to my father’s house or my mother’s house; that was it and I liked it. Sometimes, if I had enough of my mum and I needed to run away, I would go to my father’s place and my father’s wife wasn’t a terrible person she was just there. It was kind of cool and there weren’t too many kids. I liked it.
Is your mum fashionable?
No, she’s not at all. She’s plain and doesn’t care much about fashion; she just sews for other people. She has never even done a proper make up before; maybe I should just do a photoshoot for her someday. She doesn’t care about things like that.