Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and his adorable wife, Bisi, are 30 years old as husband and wife. The 30th wedding anniversary last Monday provided lover boy Kayode, an opportunity to openly celebrate his love for Bisi. He did it in a special way by taking to the social media to pen a thought-provoking message for the love of his heart. Ferdinand Ekechukwu digs into the 30 years old love story of Kayode and Bisi.
Celebrating wedding anniversary is a great occasion and one that should be enjoyed in true style. That was what happened with the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, and his adorable wife, Olabisi, (fondly called Bisi), on the occasion of their 30th wedding anniversary last Monday as they celebrated in their own true style. The lovebirds made their marriage vows in 1989. The marriage is blessed with a son, Folajimi. Fayemi, who has been married for three decades, took to social media to celebrate the nuptial anniversary.
In a post on social media, Fayemi gushed about his wife. He thanked her for being an amazing wife, a loving partner and a wonderful mother to their child. The governor also went ahead to thank his beautiful wife for always being his best friend at all times. Kayode shared a throwback photo from his wedding day and wrote about his jewel of inestimable value: “Labisi, three decades and still counting… Thank you for being an amazing wife, a loving partner, a wonderful mother to Oluwafolajimi and my best friend at all times. Happy wedding anniversary. JKF to his jewel of inestimable value on their 30th wedding anniversary.”
Born on June 11, 1963 in Liverpool as Olabisi Adeleye, Bisi also paid her own homage to her husband, a former federal minister and a two-term governor of Ekiti State, via her social media handle. The First Lady of Ekiti State drew from a biblical allusion that submitted that faith, love and hope were vital in marriage and that love remains the greatest of them all. “And now these three remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love’ (1 Corinthians 13:13). Happy 30th Wedding Anniversary darling! We thank God for our wonderful journey together. #30thWeddingAnniversary. #JKFandBAF #LoveStory”, Bisi wrote. The post was enhanced with a throwback photograph of the wedding and another that reflects the political life of her husband.
Among those cheering the first couple of Ekiti, is Funminiyi Afuye, a lawyer and member of the Ekiti House of Assembly. He wrote on Twitter: “Happy 30th wedding anniversary to our governor and First Lady, Dr Kayode Fayemi and Erelu Bisi Fayemi. @kfayemi @bisiafayemi. Wishing you many more years of marital bliss”.
Kayode and Bisi attended different universities in Nigeria for their first degrees. While Kayode went to the University of Lagos, Bisi, attended Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Both met later in Ife, when Kayode came for a master’s programme. Bisi also was back for a master’s programme. She once told the story about how the relationship started, after a chance meeting in the library of OAU:
“It started in Ife. He attended University of Lagos, UNILAG and came to Ife to do Master’s in International Relations. I did a Master’s in History but I did elective in the department of International Relations. I knew him in my class as someone very quiet and good looking. One day, I was in the library and I needed to borrow some books from the library and I was not with my library card and I looked around to see anyone who could help me take the books out.
“I saw Kayode sitting on the other side. I walked up to him and very politely asked if he had his library card on him and he said ‘Yes’ and I told him that I needed to take some books out and asked: “Do you mind borrowing the books for me?” And he said, ‘Of course’ and I gave him the list of the books and l told him I would come and pick the books from his room and that was it and the rest is history”.
Kayode in an interview with Saturday THISDAY last year also corroborated the story thus: “Actually, when I met my wife, I was 22 years old. We met in the library- Hezekiah Oluwosanmi Library, University of Ife (Obafemi Awolowo University). I had my first degree at 20 years and I was doing my Master’s degree at 22 years. I was a graduate student in International Relations and my wife was a graduate student in History but she was taking some courses in International Relations. We had joint courses, and I kind of knew of her in class and we related from a distance but then on this fortuitous occasion, I was in the library and she was in the library and she needed a library card to borrow some books she wanted to use for an assignment, because she had forgotten her library card, and I came to her rescue and, as they say, the story developed from there.”
Their meeting was smitten more on the beauty of intellect. This Kayode would reveal thus: “If you know my wife, you’ll know that she is very intelligent, quite attractive and pretty. We connected at an intellectual level first; I said we met in the library. For me, I cannot really connect to anyone if I can’t connect at that level. So, it can’t be the sheer beauty of a woman or attractiveness in the dressing or makeup or mannerism, it has to be something deeper, and I think that happened at the very first level.”
The cerebral couple two years after they met had consummated their relationship. They got married and left for England. Bisi and Kayode also went for further education in the UK. Kayode got a Doctorate in War Studies from King’s College, University of London, England, specialising in civil-military relations. “I married at 24 years. We were both in England; we arranged to go to England and in fact, she went ahead of me. She was working and I was a graduate student at first.
“So, you could say that she was fending for the family when I was doing my PhD. Then we both started working and we didn’t have any kids at that period so we can concentrate on, at least, taking care of ourselves, surviving and I also did all manner of odd jobs to keep the family going. Even though it was part scholarship, you never have enough, when you have to live in a society where there are no handouts, you don’t have uncles and aunties who will give you support, you just had to fend for yourself.”
The attractions that got both hooked still remain and never waned. Years after, it’s still aglow as same as when they met. According to Fayemi, “She is still very bright; you only need to listen to her to know that she is. That often gets me into trouble in politics, because when you’re a political leader, you are supposed to have a sedate, quiet wife who is only seen and not heard. I wasn’t fortunate to have that kind of wife and my people can be quite conservative, even though we are well-educated in Ekiti, some found my wife challenging… because she was very resolute in pursuing causes she believed in and she spoke loudly, she didn’t speak in whispers.”
True to Governor Fayemi, “My wife could be very argumentative; she is very passionate about her beliefs and her views and she expresses them in a very convincing manner. So, our home in those early days could be quite stormy. We were both young and we could argue from here till tomorrow morning, and then our house also became the centre of not just intellectual engagement, but also political struggle. So, all of our friends would gather in our one-bedroom flat where we were doing all of our political work.
“We had a newspaper called Nigeria Now, a very popular newspaper in the UK at the time and we were producing it from there – a couple of us, my late friend, Tejudeen Abdurahman, Olu Oguibe, who is now a Professor in the United States, and Tayo Oke, among others, were involved in our pro-democracy work at the time. So, that must have made an impression on me. She is very bright, very passionate, she is an unapologetic feminist.”
But being the wife of a politician would naturally espouse you to learn to be all things to all people as Bisi once declared about the role of political spouses are expected to be the main support system of their husband. “You are a hostess, adviser, philanthropist, mobiliser, campaigner, counsellor, mediator, spiritual intercessor, the list is endless. The responsibilities draw on every mental, financial and emotional resource you have. I learnt to take everything in my stride and never complain, because I saw it as a duty and opportunity to serve.
“I always tell people that I consider myself to be a politician because I am concerned about the world around me and how decisions are made. Any woman married to a senior politician who tells you she is not a politician is in denial. The seemingly benign philanthropic activities that spouses of politicians engage in are all political strategies, and it is entirely legitimate. The level at which we engage might be different, I must admit I was very active politically, especially in policy advocacy”, she posited.
Bisi received an MA in Gender and Society (1992) from Middlesex University. While Kayode plunged into politics, Bisi faced areas that interest her most- feminist activism, writing and policy, social advocacy and philanthropy. She serves on the Executive Boards of the African Women’s Development Fund, and the Global Fund for Women. She is also Chair of the Advisory Council of the Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund and also serves on the Governing Council of Elizade University in Nigeria.
She is the author of Loud Whispers (2017), Speaking for Myself (2013), and an autobiography, Speaking Above a Whisper (2013). She also co-edited Voice, Power and Soul. She runs an online community called Abovewhispers.com, where she writes a column called “Loud Whispers”. She is a UN Women Nigeria Senior Advisor, and was recently appointed as a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King’s College, University of London.
On marriage and women living their dreams, Bisi holds that it is difficult to advice on this because women are in different situations. However, as a general principle, she would advise young women who are not married yet to think carefully before they choose their husbands.
She mentored: “A man should not just choose you as his wife after having met his own laid down criteria. You too need to have criteria for choosing a husband. Marriages flounder when one party has to minimise their own dreams in order to boost the ego of the other.
“A marriage is a partnership. Have a clear understanding with your partner about the kind of life you will have together and what dreams you both have and how you will support each other. This way you build a marriage based on love, mutual respect and support. Responsibilities in the home can be negotiated so that you have time to pursue your interests. Sacrifices do have to be made at certain times; especially when there are young children, but there still should be a level of understanding that does not leave you bereft of your bearings in life.”