Many Nigerians are interested in knowing more about you. Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Funke Awolowo. I stayed with my mother till I was five. I actually entered the Awolowo family fully when I was six; before then, it was partly.
I started living in Okebola, our home in Oke Ado, Ibadan, where I started my primary school at the Maryhill Convent School. That’s where we all went to — Funke, Segun, Kemi, Yemisi, Ayotola, even Dolapo Osinbajo and Olumide (Oyediran) –we all went to Maryhill in the custody of Prof and Mrs. Oyediran.
Mrs. Oyediran, formerly Tola Awolowo, is the second child of the sage (the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo). From Maryhill, I went to Yejide Girls Grammar School for a year. I think Papa (Obafemi Awolowo) visited me at the school and he didn’t like the school; so, I ended up going to Methodist Girls High School, Lagos.
That was the first time we would live in Lagos. When I was at the school at the Methodist Girls High School, Segun was at Igbobi College, which is the school my father went to. I think there were three of us — Funke, Kemi and Yemisi — who went to Methodist Girls High School. After about one and a half years, we decided that we wanted to go back to Ibadan.
So, we all moved back to Ibadan. I went to St. Louis Grammar School, a Catholic school. Segun went to Government College, Ibadan, while some of us went to International School, Ibadan, before I went to England for A-Levels. I went to a school called St Mary’s Gate in Bournemouth.
Then, I went to Edward Greene’s Tutorial College in Oxford. I did some more advanced studies, and then we came back to Nigeria, all of us. I started at the University of Lagos; I did Psychology for two years, then because of family issues, after two years at UNILAG, I went back to England.
That’s where I completed my degree programme. I did a BA honours in Humanities. I majored in English and History, Politics and Law.
I got a BA from the University of Northampton. I did a stint in postgraduate law at the University of North London and I did some computer studies, business studies, banking and all sorts of courses and I worked.
After about 15 years in England, I moved back with my two sons to come and have a feel of my heritage and get into the stream of things. I worked with the Royal Exchange, an insurance company.
Before that, I worked at ADIC Insurance, which is owned by someone I didn’t even know but who used to be my father’s very good friend, that is, Prof Joe Irukwu. In fact, one day at the office, I met him and he said, ‘Are you really Segun’s daughter?
I was the one that brought Segun’s result from Cambridge’; I think because my father had to fly down for the treasonable felony case (of Papa Awolowo).
I worked at a place called CAC. I did business contracts and that is what I am still doing — some personal business here and there. I’m also in pastoral ministry; I am a pastor at the Sovereign Word Church, Egbeda.
We have a church in Ikeja and others all over the world. I am one of the pastors there. I also co-pastor a little fellowship, House J. As my life graduates, I want to do a lot more of ministry, go into the nations and preach Christ.
Can you speak more on moving into the family at the age of five?
I was about eight months old when my dad died. When my mum was pregnant with me, there were serious issues in the family. Papa was in prison during that 1962 time, battling treasonable felony. In 1963, my father died.
So, there was no move towards marriage or anything. So, I think because of that gap and because of the trauma of the period, there was no real consensus.
But as the family settled, Papa, being a very responsible man, like he would always say, Segun and I are of sentimental value. He said he had to go back to my uncle, who, by the way, is Uncle Tunji Braithwaite.
That was my maternal grandmother’s brother; and he was very close to Papa Awolowo, especially during the treasonable felony.
He was one of the lawyers. He was a very close uncle. So, I think through him, they were able to make amicable plans for me to be restored back to my father’s home. Even though he was dead, Papa and Mama promised to look after me and take care of me. And so, that is why it took that long for me to come into the family.
Why have you not been so much in the limelight?
It depends on what you define as being in the limelight. I would say during Papa’s campaigns, I was always there.
You’re not the first journalist to interview me. I’ve been on TV for numerous interviews and in newspapers, and this statement always comes up. When does one get known? I really don’t know. Must you be in politics for you to be known? So, I really don’t know how to answer that.
Maybe it’s because you are not consistently in the public eye.
Maybe that is it, but I do my bit. I think I’ve worked a bit with Lagos State. When Papa died, I came out as the unknown one. When Mama died, I think I was relatively known by then: ‘Okay, there is a Funke; though we don’t see her, yes, she exists.’
Do you ever hear chatter from people saying you have never been a real member of the family?
Let’s go back to that write-up (by Olasope). If you open it, you’ll see a lot of interesting things. When he wrote it, he acknowledged the children, Pastor Funke Awolowo and Segun Awolowo (Jnr).
I didn’t even know if I was in the picture from the outset, but a lot of people raised the question you are asking: ‘Who is Funke Awolowo?’
And someone said, ‘She is a pastor. She is this and that.’ ‘And we don’t know her. How come she’s been hidden?’ I really don’t know. It doesn’t mean I feel alienated. I don’t feel like a stranger.
That is my family; I don’t have another. Yes, I have my Braithwaite lineage and my sisters from the Osebanjo family. By the way, I have sisters that my mum gave birth to — Taiwo and Kehinde, Bola and Femi.
But I think my Awolowo part is the family I have always really belonged to. So, I don’t know who is trying to cover me, but I think I have been there as a child and a daughter doing my part. As you can see, I am well educated; so, I don’t know what it takes to be known.
I think it is until you do that politics thing. Maybe when I finally get my hands on politics, maybe that yearning to know me would be assuaged, so to speak.
Can you talk about your childhood and your relationship with Segun Jnr.?
My childhood, I would say, was great. As I have told you, a big part of it was in Ibadan. But I remember Segun and the rest of us were all close.
My brother and I were quite close for obvious reasons — we had lost a dad and we were in the family. We were as close as any brother and sister, even to the point that it got Papa’s attention.
So, everything that he gave us tied us together because he knew we were that close and there would be no issues. Papa was a very good grandfather. There was time when we were at Maryhill.
A couple of times, I noticed that he came to fetch us in school when we were breaking up for Christmas, from there straight to Ikenne and we would spend all our holidays, especially Christmas holidays in Ikenne.
I remember then, I used to arrange Christmas carols and plays; we would entertain him and after some time, he got us swings and slides, and people would come and play with us. He just wanted to be around us.
And it wasn’t just Segun and me, it was the entire set of grandchildren. He was somebody that loved grandchildren. I don’t know if Nigeria knows that about him. Somebody once said, ‘If you want to hurt Awo, touch his child’.
Maybe because of what happened to my dad, he had a lot of sentiment when it came to his children and even grandkids.
We also went abroad with him. There was a hospital he used to go to every year as we advanced in years. It is called the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, America. We would follow him to Mayo Clinic in groups. He would take four or five of us and we would go there.
We would go to New York and stay in the best hotels; London, stay at the Dorchester Hotel or Churchill Hotel. We had great times.
It was a time I noticed he studied each and every one’s personality and, of course, loved us for who we were. He made corrections. We went on holidays together, cooking. I remember one where Papa did something that scared me.
We were not that domesticated but at the age of 15 or 16, he was telling Mama, ‘You have to teach them how to make ikokore (water yam pottage)’.
And being the first, there was so much emphasis on me. We were in Rochester (New York) one day and he said the cook should vacate the kitchen because, sometimes, he would travel with his cooks and even his driver.
He said, ‘Baba Francis, vacate the kitchen and Funke will do the cooking’ (laughs). And my cooking skills were quite funny. Of course, Kemi and Yemisi joined me but I was the main person.
Luckily, Baba Francis was wise enough to put all the right things. I was going to do yam pottage. He had cut the yam and put the shrimps and every other thing that I had to put. So, all I had to do — and that is exactly what I did — was to put everything in at the same time.
Lo and behold, it went well and from that day on, for like two weeks. By the time we got to London, I was making fried rice.
That was how Papa was. I would be agitated in the kitchen because a lot of people were coming, the Adebanjos, the Jakandes and so on, but he would commend me and let them know that ‘Funke did that’. He wanted us to be well-rounded.
In terms of academics, he would discuss books with us. He said it was important that we read the Bible through and books like ‘Prometheus Unbound’. There were so many deep books. He said, ‘I don’t want you to be flippant.
I want you to be deep. I want it to be said of any child that comes out of this home that you are outstanding and special’. I remember I was like, ‘Where will I find such books?’ But lo and behold, when I went to the university, they were all there on the rack.
Those were timeless books, so to speak, and I got to read some of them and I said, ‘This Papa!’ His psyche about life was just unique. Some of the things I write on Facebook, people come to me and say, ‘You are like your granddad.
You’re so deep’. You could not be in that house — and I will say it about any child that comes out — without being deep, special, God-fearing and disciplined because Papa really poured himself into all of us.
Culled from: punchng