Wife of the Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Mrs Oluwaseun Ogundipe, speaks with GRACE EDEMA about her family, business and related issues
How does it feel to be wife of UNILAG VC – UNILAG being one of the foremost universities in the country?
I don’t think it’s anything special to me maybe because of our background. Most times, when people see us, they say, “Oh, UNILAG VC!” because they see it as something really big but maybe because of Jesus in us (it doesn’t get to our head). It’s a temporary thing – you’re there today, somebody else will be there tomorrow. So, I don’t feel anything special. It’s just by the grace of God. I think I’m still my normal self – I go to work, I do my business, I take care of the home; I’ve not changed from who I have always been.
Were there adjustments that you had to make when your husband became the VC?
I just have to be a little bit more cautious because you can never know who is looking at you or who is around you trying to tape what you’re doing and read meaning into it. Being wife of the VC has put me in the position of a mentor and a mother to the community. I just have to be careful. As I tell people, there are some things I would ordinarily have done – not anything bad though – if I were not the VC’s wife; but I have to control myself.
There was a crisis in 2020 and your husband was suspended as the VC. What impact did that have on your family?
As I tell people, I thank God. During that period, a lot of people were scared and calling us. I thank God that He gave us peace and I saw it as a period of rest for my husband because he works from Monday to Sunday. I was like, thank God, I have this man to myself and because I know my husband, I know what he can do, despite all the allegations, I wasn’t moved because I know him. I was even joking with him that even if he stole all the money, I was not seeing the money because our lifestyle had not changed. We’re very simple people. Thank God for our children, they trusted and believed in their father. It was a joke in our family. Thank God for the strength and all the people that prayed with us, people that we didn’t even know and had never met in our lives. People would just tell us that, “We’re praying for you.” A customer of mine even sent me a message, saying, “Madam, we’re praying for you.” I said, “Do you know my husband?” She said she didn’t and explained that she was a customer to me; that I had worked for her before and that “we saw what is happening, so we’re praying for you.”
So, I think we got comfort from people around us but above all, God gave us peace. My husband was able to have siesta, which he normally never has. So, it was a time of rest and peace for him, if I’m allowed to say that. At least, he didn’t have to rush out for any meeting. I had him for that period. I think for me, I wasn’t moved.
Even with the recent report again?
You know as a human being I wasn’t really moved but when I was listening to one of the people on YouTube I really got annoyed and I just put off the YouTube channel and didn’t listen again. But through it all, God has been faithful. It’s all about Jesus because He is the one that gives peace when there is a storm.
As I told someone, my husband had three years of struggle. It was really a tough time and I thank God that He has been God and hasn’t changed. It’s just one of those things. In life, we will experience storms but thank God for He is in us and we’re able to weather the storm and come out triumphant.
Is it true that you have multiple Master’s degrees?
I only have two Master’s degrees. I finished from Obafemi Awolowo University; then I tried to do my PGD in Education. Then I did a Master’s in Organisational Behaviour about 18 years ago. I worked in the Junior Church department. As a junior church teacher, I said, “Let me do something in Education,” so I decided to do Counselling but because my first degree was in Economics, I had to do PGD in Education, then I had my Master’s. By God’s grace, I’m planning to do my PhD.
Do you work in the university or lecture?
I don’t work in the university. I run a business, I’m a business person.
Why business and not academic like your husband?
Before I got married, I was working and even after I got married, I was working in the Lagos State civil service. My mom had a shop where she sold household things. So she said to me: “Why don’t you resign and work with me?” So, I resigned to join her and in the process I ended up doing another business. I started selling soft drinks. She actually opened a Coca-Cola depot for me at Makoko, because that was the trend then. But sales were poor in Makoko, so somebody advised me about supplying drinks at parties. And that was how I found myself supplying drinks at events. I still run the shop and I supply drinks at event/parties.
How did you and your husband meet?
I think God kept him there for me because I met him in OAU. When I came in for my first degree, I think he was doing his Master’s or PhD. The only thing I remember was that when he was graduating for his PhD, I was graduating for my first degree. We met in University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
When did you get married?
I got married in October 1992.
How will you describe him?
He is a very calm person, a good counselor, he is caring and he pushes everyone to succeed. Long after we have said something and even forgotten, he will bring it up and remind you to make sure you achieve it.
What is your advice to women in business and career, especially during this period in Nigeria?
Get your husband’s support because once you have his support the sky is your limit. As I told you, I supply drinks at parties and I run a business. So, sometimes I have to go out. At the initial stage of the business I had to go out late; and sometimes I had to sleep out and return home the next morning. I had to even see some of my customers that were male. If he didn’t give me that support, imagine I come home late and he asks where I have been since morning. I might have stopped the business. But once you have his support, whatever you’re going through in that business, stay calm once God has told you it is His plan for your life. I went through a lot of challenges at the initial stage and I even thought of quitting but thank God for my husband, my late brother-in-law and everyone in my family that encouraged me to stay on course. The main factor is God because God is the only one that can make a way for people, it is not by our connections, it is not what we know how to do. I think we should also maintain our integrity, let your customer trust you; that is very key.
Do you have any advice for career women?
It’s good to be a career woman but you must always remember your home. That’s one thing; the home is basic. To the glory of God, by virtue of being the wife of the VC, I oversee the affairs of University of Lagos Women Society Nursery and Primary School and sometimes the way parents handle their children, to me, is not too good. You must always plan and have time for your family because that is key. The family is the bedrock of society and if you don’t get it right in the family, then society is in big problem. So, as much as you want to be a career woman, your family is important. Wherever they are as career women, they shouldn’t look down on themselves. They should see themselves as being equal to the task. The home is very important because after you’ve done all the work, you’re going back home. Our children are our tomorrow so we should make sure we build a very sure foundation for them so that later on in life we can have rest because career is not going to be forever. As much as we want to pursue our career ambitions – I love women at the top – we have to be careful so that we don’t leave our family behind. Let’s move with them.
What were the biggest challenges you have faced in your business?
Initially when I started, it was a relatively new field. I think I’ve the right to call myself the pioneer because nobody was doing it the way I started then. There was nobody to learn from or seek advice from. It was like I was doing something entirely new. There was the issue of workers, that is, the waiters, drivers etc and then because it was relatively new it was difficult getting people to really use your service. But by the time I started and the words of mouth went around, people would just call me, “Oh, I heard that…” My family background also helped me. The challenges were about staff mainly and getting people to patronise my business.
What year did you begin the business?
It was in 2000, after I had my last child.
How many children do you have?
I have three children, to the glory of God.
You were talking about your background. Are you a Lagosian?
No, I am not, but my parents lived in Lagos all their lives. In fact, for my father, I can say he was a Lagosian. My paternal grandfather lived all his life in Lagos, died in Lagos and was buried in Lagos.
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