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Dame Titi Ajanaku, former adviser on Women Affairs during former President Obasanjo’s tenure, is a nurse by profession who retired many years back as a midwife tutor. She is a knight of John Wesley Methodist Church and patron of National Council for Women Societies. She started her political career as a member of Local Government Management Committee during the administration of Chief Olabisi Onabanjo in Ogun State. A stalwart of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), she contested with 10 men as chairman of Abeokuta Local Government and won the election. This political activist is also former director of Arts and Culture in the old Oyo State, former board member of Coco Industries was later appointed as a council member of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri. She tried her hand on becoming the governor of Ogun State. Senior reporter ANTHONIA SOYINGBE was at her home where the septuagenarian opened up on her life and the experience she garnered while she was under military incarceration and other sundry issues.
What is the secret behind your good look even at age 70?
It is nothing but the grace of God and my attitude to life. Maybe if death is not the end of every man probably my attitude would have been different. The things of this world don’t bother me; when I have I praise God and when I don’t have I still praise him. God has been ever faithful to me. I don’t envy people, what matters most to me is affecting lives positively. Maybe my calling as a nurse also contributes to it because I love putting smiles on the face of people.
It seems you have waved farewell to politics
(Cuts in) I didn’t.
You are rarely seen at political gatherings even the last PDP special National Convention, you weren’t there
I was a delegate and I didn’t go for two reasons; firstly as a Knight of John Wesley Methodist Church of Nigeria and I am also the Lay president of Diocese of Egba/Yewa of the Methodist Church. Our prelate is stepping down and we have to have an emergency meeting to elect a prelate which by position I must be there. Secondly going to Abuja for the conference is a waste of time because they have already penciled down those they want. This singular anomaly caused the split in Abuja
You are very brave politician who is well known for her unflinching stand on issues, has this act of yours ever gotten you into any problem?
Whatever one becomes in life is surely by God’s grace. I was a tomboy. I am in politics for two reasons; to improve the lot of my community and to act as a catalyst for women who are interested and those we can teach by using my own experience. I will confess to you that it is not a bed of roses but it is unfortunate that most people don’t learn from history as they tend to forget things. You have to be bold especially when you know why you are there. Men will try to discourage you but once they see that you have integrity, they will respect you. I also tell women whenever I have the opportunity, that they should carry their immediate family along in whatever they do. In all these things, we should always remember that our integrity and honour are important because I don’t believe in politics of deceit. My attitude is I want to be in that position because I have something to offer and if people say they don’t want me then that is not a problem but I always remind them that we will always get the kind of government we deserve.
What is the greatest lesson life has taught you as a politician?
I have no regret for doing what I am doing because I am not in politics for monetary benefits. I am very happy especially when I see those who have gone through me. My bravery, determination and believing in anything I lay my hands upon almost caused me my life. I was incarcerated for more than five months during the Abacha regime and I went before Aziza tribunal. We were accused of planning to overtake or upturn the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I thank God because I went to that tribunal and I came back alive but most importantly, I came closer to God. God is wonderful because I don’t even have any soldier as a relative, I didn’t steal, I didn’t kill and yet they incarcerated me because I was with Shehu Musa Yar’Adua. When they put you in a small cubicle that they call a room, you have nobody to talk to except God who is the maker of heaven and earth. Because God is Omnipresent, I got closer to him even in the prison. I never knew there are so many women in prison who are accused of one thing or the other. Some are even there with their children. I thank God I went there and I came out to tell the story. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua was there and he never came out. That experience was a lesson of a lifetime.
Would you say this informed your being more committed to Church activities?
I don’t know but I know this is the wish of God.
How is your immediate family?
We are doing fine, I have a son who is a medical doctor and also married to a medical doctor. I have two wonderful grandsons. My parents are dead likewise my wonderful husband is also deceased. I have close siblings whom I am very close with. I am enjoying life because I am at peace with myself and those around me.
What are some of the circumstances that led you to embrace politics?
I went to Ilesha with my husband when I came back from abroad and I was employed as a Nurse at Wesley Guild Hospital, Ilesha. There were more maternal mortalities and other avoidable deaths. I became so concerned and few of us came together and we decided to have a program for rural integrated development scheme. I resigned and we got a mobile clinic just to enlighten the people. I went back to London to get certain things for the clinic and it was purely philanthropic. This was in 1977 and so we decided to take the mobile clinic to Chief Obafemi Awolowo and see how he will react to it. He was stunned and he said that was the first time some youth will come to him not demanding for money. He said if he had access to the mobile clinic when he was the premier of Western region, it would have gone round the Western region. He uttered a statement while charging us that the reason he is in politics is to change and affect lives positively. He advised us to join him because if we have idea and we want the idea to materialise, then it is better to be at the corridor of power. We took up the challenge and that is how I became a politician in 1977.
One of the few things that really scare women away from participating actively in politics is sexual harassment. Can you relate your experiences to us in this regard?
Which man will look at me and say he wants to harass me sexually? Such man, I can boast, doesn’t exist on this planet. Politics is not an excuse to being wayward.