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For H.E, First Lady of Oyo state, Tamunominini Makinde, service and impact is the goal

For H.E, First Lady of Oyo state, Tamunominini Makinde, service and impact is the goal

H.E Tamunominini Olufunke Makinde was born to the family of Songo Batubo of Buguma in Asari Touri Local Government Area of Rivers State. She is a graduate of Rivers State University of Science and Technology where she obtained a Bachelor of Engineering in Chemical/Petrochemical Engineering.

Tamunominini Makinde is an alumna of St. Thomas University in Houston, Texas, USA where she bagged a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree with double majors (Finance and General Business). She also earned a Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree from the same institution in 2017.

She doubles as an Engineer and business woman who has contributed greatly to the success of Makon Group of Companies.

Tamunominini Makinde has shown tremendous commitment to the wellbeing of the citizens of Oyo state. She is the founder of Omituntun for Life Foundation, which is a platform through which she has done various welfare outreaches and empowerment programmes for the less privileged children, physically challenged children, orphans, girls, widows and women in Oyo state.

During her tenure as the Chairperson of the Oyo State Agency for the Control of AIDS (OYSACA), she proved herself to be an advocate of people living with HIV/AIDS, by supporting them and hosting them in the State during the yearly World AIDS Day. She is also the Vice Chairperson of the Nigerian Governor’s Spouses Forum through which the forum supports Nigerian children, youths and women.

Makinde is happily married to the current Governor of Oyo state, His Excellency, Oluseyi Makinde, also an Engineer. They are blessed with three children. She is a devoted wife and nurturing mother who has continued to be a strong pillar of support to her husband’s administration.

Take us back to where it all began before getting to where you are today

I have a lot of childhood memoirs from family, school, and faith that are deeply meaningful to my life. They help guide and shape who I have become, for example, the dos and don’ts enforced in my house by my parents, the Christian upbringing, and the community lifestyle of being your brother’s keeper. My memoir establishes benchmarks of encouragement and motivation or instruction, strength, and comfort along my paths in life. Sometimes, during holidays, I get to live with my grandparents in the village, which exposed me to our cultural values as a young child, such as respect for elders. I keep these memories close and refer back to them occasionally to help me as the road gets steep, even as a wife, mother, and First Lady.

One of my most cherished memories is of my mother ensuring I get a good primary education in an excellent primary school where the teachers are accountable; she could not afford after-school private tutors.

My parents had seven children. After the loss of their first child, my sister, I became the first daughter. Hence, I have five younger ones; they are three sisters and two brothers, all two years apart. We are currently five because a few years ago, I lost another sister.

In addition to my mother’s efforts, my father being a Petroleum Engineer, helped me choose a career path as a Chemical and Petrochemical Engineer. I also furthered my education in the United States, where I achieved a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree in Finance and General Business and also earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in Finance major. All these contributed to the woman I am today, shaping and guiding me in my relationship with people around me, primarily as a First Lady.

It has not been easy for me to embrace my husband’s political journey because I never thought he could go into politics. Plus, I am not a native of his father’s land

How did you meet your husband?

I met my husband thirty-four (34) years ago when he came for his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme in Port Harcourt. Then, he was serving in Shell Petroleum Company where my dad also worked. He first saw me at a clubhouse swimming pool but we just greeted each other that day. Two weeks later, I was sweeping the front of my house one faithful morning when we met again. I just stopped sweeping to enable the person approaching the patio to pass, only to lift my head for the person in front of me to pass so I could continue sweeping. To my amazement, wow! The guy from the pool (my husband) was the person standing in front of my house, the same person I did not want to talk to a few days back. He said simple things like; “Do you live here?” I said; “Yes”, then he said; “OK, see you then”. The rest is history.

How did you embrace his political journey? Was it an easy walk in the park?

No, it was not a leisurely walk in the park. It has not been easy for me to embrace my husband’s political journey because I never thought he could go into politics. Plus, I am not a native of his father’s land.

However, I have always been supportive of my husband business, career, and vision. So for me, once I understood what his vision and reasons were for going into politics, I see it as one more duty I owe to him as his number one supporter.

Being First Lady of a state is a transitory position, but what we do with opportunities will resonate and stay with the people

How are you able to grind through the pressures of expectations from your position as First Lady?

The high expectations and demands from people are mainly due to ignorance of the actual duty of the First Lady’s office. Many people need to learn that as governors’ wives, our offices do not have any budget or financial allocation. The office operates based on the support we get from the benevolence of the state government and support from individuals, philanthropists, and corporate organisations.

First, I remain true to myself, I do a self- SWOT analysis, knowing my strengths and weaknesses in any situation I find myself in. Then, I push myself to step out of the box, the norm, and my comfort zone, beyond what I perceive to be my limit. Also, I look for a support system for any given task or assignment and also outsource what I cannot do to competent people.

What are the key initiatives you are currently undertaking to empower women and youth in the state?

My position enables me with a unique platform and opportunities to help improve the lives of the people of Oyo state, especially women and children with the support of the state government, corporate organisations, philanthropists, NGOs and relevant stakeholders. With these supports, I have been able to implement some key initiatives to empower women and youths in Oyo State. Some of those initiatives include:

Women Empowerment Programmes: Quarterly, skill acquisition training of women in sewing, professional make up and gele tying, computer training and so on is carried out in the state. Entrepreneurship workshops are being organised to equip women with the knowledge of how to manage their businesses, balance their accounts and use POS as a money-making venture. I also periodically give them start-up capital for their businesses. These allow women become financially independent to support their husbands on the home front.

Girl-Child Development Programmes: I support girl-child education by using two days in the year and some other days to acknowledge, encourage and support the girl-child education. These two days are the ‘Menstrual Hygiene Day’ every May 28th and ‘International Day of the Girl Child every 11th of October.’ Over 700 girls from various secondary schools in Oyo state attend each of these programmes annually where they learn about their menstrual hygiene, importance of girl child education and more.

Healthcare Initiatives: I organise a quarterly week long Omituntun Free Health Outreach programme in different parts of the State. Thousands of the people of Oyo state have benefitted from this outreach programme including women and youths. During the outreach, we carry out free health checkup and give the patients essential drugs.

Advocacy: Personally, I detest bender-based-violence and being a First Lady has given me the platform to speak against something I hate. Gender-based-violence is not just about the female gender alone. The young men are also survivors of gender-based-violence. No one can thrive when you are constantly molested and abused and you do not have a voice to speak. So, I stand with the new Violence against Persons Prohibition Law (VAPP Law, 2020) that has been passed in our state which prohibits any form of violence against women and girls in Oyo state.

I remain true to myself, I do a self- SWOT analysis, knowing my strengths and weaknesses in any situation I find myself in

As the First Lady, what role do you see yourself playing in addressing social issues such as poverty, healthcare, and education?

Poverty: My position has enabled me engage with individuals, philanthropists and companies who are willing to support my office to address the social issues of poverty and feeding in the state especially among our women and people living with disabilities. Food items and cash support are provided for women frequently. I also interact with crop and poultry female farmers in the state by supporting them with fertilizers, seedlings and feeds to assist them in improving their businesses.

Healthcare: As earlier mentioned, under healthcare, I partner with the state government to organize free health care outreach for our people. There is the ‘Omituntun Senior Citizens Health Care Outreach’ which is targeted at pensioners in Oyo state. It is a quarterly programme where we attend to the health needs of men and women who are aged 60 years and above. We give them drugs especially diabetes and hypertension drugs. The elderly are given food items and cash gifts to further support them.

The welfare of our children is very paramount to me, so I usually organise an event during the annual ‘Breastfeeding Week’ in August to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies. I give them food and baby items and cash gifts during the programme as incentives.

I recently collaborated with the ‘Oyo State Primary Healthcare Board’ to give HPV vaccine to girls in the state. This is aimed at reducing the rate of different types of cancer amongst our women. There is a scheme in Oyo state called the ‘Oyo State Health Insurance Scheme.’ With a token of N5,000 monthly, our people can have access to free health services.

Education: I am passionate about education because of its ripple effect on generations yet unborn. Through my office and NGO (Omituntun for Life Foundation), I have collaborated with the state government and NGOs to provide students scholarship, pay JAMB fees and also provide free study materials.

How are you working to improve the healthcare system and access to healthcare services for women and children?

I am advocating for improved healthcare infrastructure which aligns with the state government’s core objectives under the leadership of my husband, Governor Seyi Makinde.

There are three hundred and fifty-one Primary Healthcare Centres in Oyo state that are equipped and adequately staffed to provide free quality health care to women and children. Periodically, I and my team visit these Primary Health Care Centres to ensure that pregnant women, breastfeeding women, children and elderly people have access to treatment and drugs when due. Oyo state is a big state, you can travel for seven hours from one end of the state to another, so I usually embark on constant monitoring.

Furthermore, I support and promote programmes and campaigns for maternal and child health by the state government. I advocate for women to breastfeed their children very well as well as for child immunisation to reduce maternal and child mortality rates.

In addition, the Omituntun for Life Foundation collaborates with the Ministry of health and other healthcare professionals to organise periodic healthcare outreach programmes in different parts of Oyo state.

What efforts are being made to promote women’s rights and gender equality?

Promoting Women’s Right and Gender Equality: Presently, in front of my office, you will see a banner advocating against sexual and gender-based-violence.’ This is one of the ways that I pass the message to the public. Quarterly, I pay a visit to law enforcement agencies in Oyo state to ensure that they are doing the needful in the aspect of supporting survivors of gender-based-violence and bringing perpetrators of this act to book. In addition, I encourage them to ensure that the sexual and gender-based-violence desks in their agencies are functional and accessible to the public. Bi-annually, I also organise programmes where I meet with a handful of girls who are survivors in my office to encourage them, and I give them financial support. I must tell you that most of these survivors are usually minors who are as young as 3 years old.

In addition, I am actively working to promote women’s rights and gender equality in Oyo state by collaborating with the ‘Oyo State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Inclusion’, ‘Oyo State Ministry of Justice’, local community based social organisations and community leaders and implementing programmes and campaigns that empower women to know their rights, address gender-based-violence, and advocate for equal opportunities for women in all sectors. By fostering a supportive environment and championing gender equality, we aim to create a more inclusive and equitable society for all residents of Oyo state.

I stand with the new Violence against Persons Prohibition Law (VAPP Law, 2020) that has been passed in our state which prohibits any form of violence against women and girls in Oyo state

How are you collaborating with other stakeholders to address issues such as gender-based violence and discrimination?

Raise Awareness: I collaborate with NGOs especially UNFPA, community leaders, government agencies, and other stakeholders to address gender-based-violence and discrimination. Together, we observe the annual 16 days of activism campaign against sexual and gender-based-violence in November, when I organise sensitisation seminars and campaign walks in public places such as markets, motor parks and state wide against it.

Support survivors: I collaborate with the Oyo state ‘Sexual and Gender Based Violence Team’ to identify and support survivors as well as to ensure that perpetrators face the wrath of the law. We have a free toll line (615) in the state for the public to report and raise the alarm about it in Oyo state.

I work with the state government, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice to ensure that survivors are given the necessary support they need to get justice and start a new life by taking them away from the environment where the incidences occurred, to homes and shelters where they are rehabilitated. I also ensure that the survivors are taught and re-oriented on how to cope with the health and emotional trauma the incident they went through may have caused them.

What measures are being taken to promote education and skill development opportunities for women and youth in the state?

There is a free education policy in Oyo state for primary and secondary school students. However, my office is passionate about campaigning and supporting families, so that they are able to allow their children to use this opportunity by enrolling them in schools. As mentioned earlier, my foundation usually supports some secondary school final year students with funds to buy Jamb forms and in addition, I give them study materials to prepare them for their final exams.

I use my office as the First Lady to collaborate with the community leaders, religious leaders, philanthropist and other stakeholders to ensure that our skill acquisition centers at the grassroots level are open to the use and training of the women.

Periodically, I work with the Commissioner for Youth and Sports in Oyo state who is a woman, to see how we can provide skill acquisition training for youths in the state. There is an ongoing youth empowerment training programme for five hundred women organised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Oyo state where they are being taught different skills including soft skills. The Omituntun for Life Foundation is about to commence another round of empowerment programme where sixty women will be taught basic tailoring skills and given tailoring items such as sewing machines and startup capital.

By investing in education and skill development, we are empowering individuals to realise their full potential and contribute meaningfully to the society and economy of Oyo state.

How are you engaging with local communities to address their specific needs and challenges?

I have a good and interactive relationship with the community leaders, religious leaders, local government leaders and other stakeholders in Oyo state including their spouses. I engage with them through:

Meetings: I meet periodically with the local government chairmen and their spouses in my office to discuss the needs and challenges of people in their locality especially the ones pertaining to the women and children. Where need be, I reach out to relevant ministries and agencies in the Oyo state government as well as philanthropists who can assist in meeting the needs of our people. We have a WhatsApp platform which serves as a means through which we communicate about urgent issues and information.

Outreach to Local Government Areas in Oyo state:

Through the feedback I get from the community leaders, I am able to make informed decisions on the specific needs of women and children in the various local government areas we have in Oyo state and then, use my office to advocate to Philanthropists, NGOs and relevant agencies to help provide support to meet those needs. Also, yearly, hundreds of women are empowered with equipment such as sewing machines, grinding machines, hair dryers, industrial gas burners and cylinders and many more at community levels.

What strategies are being implemented to promote economic empowerment and entrepreneurship opportunities for women?

Aside organising training programmes for women where they are taught skills such as sewing, make-up and gele (head-tie) tying, after the training, I provide them with startup equipment and capital.

Furthermore, I am passionate about supporting women in agriculture. So, in collaboration with the Oyo State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, we are ensuring that women are not left out but benefit from all the state government initiatives for farmers and that they have access to credit facilities provided for the agricultural community. Also, with the support of the Renewed Hope Initiative Support for Female Farmers, female farmers in the state have been supported with fertilisers, seedlings and cash grants. With these, women in farming are being economically empowered.

Widows are most times left alone to cater for their children after the demise of their husbands. Having recognised this challenge faced by the widows in Oyo state, I usually organise an event yearly during International Widows Day on 23rd June to encourage them not to give up and remind them that they are loved even though their husbands are gone. The widows are being provided with food items, cash gifts and other resources to help them to start small businesses to sustain them and their children.

What are your plans to improve the overall well-being and quality of life for women and families in the state?

As the mother of the state, I am committed to enhancing the overall well-being and quality of life for women and families in Oyo state through the following means:

Continuous free healthcare outreach: A healthy nation is a wealthy nation. I understand the importance of having good health because when you are healthy, your quality of life will be improved. So, I plan to continue organising periodic free healthcare outreach for our people to benefit from. Once they are healthy, their well-being is assured to a large extent.

Women Empowerment: When you empower a woman, you have empowered a nation. My plan is to organise skill acquisition training programmes for our women using my office and the Omituntun for Life platforms. This will improve the quality of their lives and families when they have a stable source of income.

How are you using your platform as the First Lady to advocate for positive social change and development?

Advocacy: I use my platform to advocate for implementation of policies in Oyo state that will create positive change and development. Examples of the advocacy initiative include the passage of The Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law (VAPP Law, 2020). This law was put in place to protect the rights of women, children and vulnerable people in Oyo state as well as to ensure that perpetrators of violence face the wrath of the law. Another advocacy initiative of mine that has brought positive social change and development is the passage of the six-month maternity leave for nursing mothers in Oyo state. This has undoubtedly helped mothers’ bond well with their babies and we have more healthy babies in the state because their mothers have time to breastfeed and take care of them without any distraction in the first six months of their lives.

Collaboration: Also, I collaborate with ministries, agencies and other stakeholders in Oyo state to campaign against social ills such as female genital mutilation and sexual and gender-based-violence. Furthermore, adequate supports are provided for survivors by ensuring that they are rehabilitated.

Outreach to NGO’s, Corporate Organisations and Philanthropists: I believe that the government cannot do everything. Therefore, my office enables me to engage with corporate organisations, philanthropists and NGOs in Nigeria. During these interactions, I always advocate for aid to support the women and children of Oyo state. I am thankful to all those who have given their support and positive feedback thus far.

Tell us about Omitutun for Life Foundation

Omituntun for Life Foundation has been in existence for more than ten years. It was officially registered in 2019, so that I will be able to support the vision of my husband, Governor Seyi Makinde. The foundation is committed to promoting the welfare and empowerment of women, widows, children and orphans. Our activities include empowering women and children in Oyo state to improve their family’s standard of living through economic empowerment, skill acquisition, medical outreach programmes and financial management education.

As former chairperson of Oyo State Agency for the Control of Aids (OYSACA), do you feel People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWA) are treated properly in Nigeria?

I was the chairperson of the Oyo State Agency for the Control of Aids (OYSACA) from year 2019 to 2023. During my tenure, the agency campaigned and educated the people of Oyo state about HIV/AIDS, how it can be contracted, how to avoid unsafe sex, importance of the use of condoms and how to live with people with HIV. This campaign and education was done through sensitisation walks and TV/Radio sensitisation programmes.

There is a weekly programme called ‘Awilele’ that we air live on some television and radio stations in Oyo state. During the live programme, medical doctors and social workers from OYSACA sensitise members of the public about HIV/AIDS, how to stay safe and how people living with AIDS can access drugs and stay healthy.

My message to the people is that People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWA) should not be discriminated and HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence. Studies have shown that if appropriately managed, they can live a normal and long life. In Nigeria, a lot has been done to ensure that People Living with Aids (PLWA) are adequately treated and it is still on going. There are clinics out there and drugs are available for their use.

I think the discrimination is less than what we have now. Gone are the days when people will not want to touch or move close to someone because he/she has HIV/AIDS. However, I will plead with people living with HIV/AIDS to go for regular medical checkups and take their drugs as prescribed.

When you are not being First Lady, what are you doing? How do you relax?

When I am not a First Lady, I wear other hats such as being a mother, wife, daughter and sister. I love to spend time at the spa to pamper myself a little. I normally start with a yoga, then a steam, massage and sometimes manicure and pedicure.

Reading books by the pool is also something I enjoying doing as well as taking walks in the countryside. I also enjoy baking, watching Korean movies and gardening, I take pleasure in tending to my small herbs garden and snail farm at home.

What Oyo state do you hope for?

I hope for an Oyo state that will be a producing state in the areas of agriculture and mining, so that Oyo state can be self-sufficient economically.

What day will you never forget and why?

There are many days one will never forget, but I will cite the one that flashed in my mind as I read this question. Kemi, you should have seen the shock on my face, the day my husband told me his aspiration to be the Governor of Oyo state. Prior to that day, I was sure there was no room for politics in my house, after coming out twice as a senatorial candidate with no wins.

Concluding words

Being the First Lady of a state is a transitory position like any other official position that will come and go, but what we do with opportunities will resonate and stay with the people.

My position as the First Lady of Oyo state has exposed me to many societal issues that require intervention, and I am happy to have contributed my own quota. Hence, by understanding the needs of the people of Oyo state firsthand, I have been able to influence policy decisions that directly benefit the citizens, empower them, and represent them by contributing my own quota to improving the lives of the women, girls, children, orphans, and elderly in Oyo state.

Through my office and the Omituntun for Life Foundation, I have been able to shed light on crucial societal issues such as women’s empowerment, sexual and gender-based violence, and girl child education. This journey has been deeply rewarding, as I have seen the transformative power of my voice in the lives of Oyo state people. The tangible, positive changes brought about by our empowerment projects and other initiatives have given me intrinsic satisfaction. I am determined to continue using my platform to bring hope, development, and relief to the people of Oyo state, particularly women, girls, children, and orphans.