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Impeccably dressed in sky-blue lace which rested perfectly well on her slim frame, she exuded confidence combined with oratory strength as she wrapped up her third term in the Senate during the valedictory session last week. The First Lady of Nigeria, Senator Oluremi Tinubu is not new to the corridors of power, having served as the first lady of Lagos State when her husband was governor for eight years. She would later serve in the Senate for 12 years before moving to the Presidential Villa. Funke Olaode chronicles the political journey of Senator Tinubu to the Aso Rock Villa, Nigeria’s political seat of power.

From her heyday as the number one woman in Lagos State to becoming Nigeria’s First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu’s imprint in Nigeria’s political landscape is revolutionary. Without mincing words, she has become a permanent fixture in the socio-political path of Nigeria. Asides from marrying a powerful man, Senator Tinubu has carved a niche for herself as a supportive wife, mother, pastor and politician.

As the wife of Nigeria’s President, Bola Tinubu, she may be one of the oldest first ladies in Nigeria. The educationist who hails from Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, is neither a new kid on the block nor a greenhorn when it comes to political power. Senator Tinubu has been hobnobbing with power since the advent of democracy in 1999 when the current president was elected governor of Lagos State under Action for Democracy (AD). She was barely 39 years old.

Eloquent, beautiful with an impeccable minimalist fashion sense, Senator Tinubu captured the hearts and souls of Lagosians, particularly the youths and women.  Quite frankly, the office of the first lady is one which many critics believe is ‘unconstitutional.’ Still, it was popularised by the late Maryam Babangida through her Family Support Programme (FSP).

Since then, subsequent first ladies have followed the tradition with the introduction of various programmes targeted at empowering women.

As soon as the mantle of First Lady fell on the then Mrs. Tinubu, she swung into action without trying to ‘outdo’ her husband by playing a supportive role.

As Lagos State First Lady, Senator Tinubu carried out various humanitarian programmes targeted at youths and students. Here, her career as a teacher played a critical role. Her New Era Foundation projects had impacted the lives of Lagos State students irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds. The Spelling Bees Competition has produced the First Day Governor in Lagos State and several other students through this life-changing experience have moved to conquer their world through outstanding career exploits. The legacy continued long after her husband’s exit from the corridor of power.

Apart from being the founder of the New Era Foundation, she is also the Grand Matron of the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO).

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When her husband’s tenure ended in 2007, Mrs. Tinubu was playing the doting wife, mother and supportive ally to the husband who had become a ‘big political’ figure in the history of Nigeria. As Tinubu himself is known as the Lion of Bourdillon, his wife is named the Lioness just as their home in Ikoyi has become a mecca of sorts for those seeking political office and relevance.

But in 2010, Mrs. Tinubu was again in the spotlight. Her 50th birthday celebration staged at Eko Hotel and Suites on Victoria Island was so grand that she even claimed that it was a political launch pad.

Less than a year after, Mrs. Tinubu was seen at the centre having won the primary under the APC to represent Lagos Central in the Senate. This was in 2011. And for three consecutive terms, Senator Tinubu was in the Senate calling the shots until May 29, 2023, when she moved to the higher realm as her husband was sworn in as President of Nigeria.

In her political journey, Senator Tinubu gave kudos to her husband for his support. At the valedictory session, she said: “My thanks will go to my husband for giving me the support. He gave me the freedom to be myself and to be able to make the contributions I felt were necessary for our people, especially the women and the youth.

She continued: “I did all that was required of every legislator, motions, bills, and even some bills that were passed into law. I can only just be grateful to God for what he has done and for the people I met here even though we might not understand each other. I believe that we can build a nation that even our young ones will be proud of,” she said.

She also acknowledged God in her 12-year journey at the upper legislative chamber.

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“God sustained me for three consecutive terms, from the 7th assembly to the 9th and I wonder how I did it. At the time, I even thought that let me retire and face my family because serving the nation takes a lot of sacrifices from home, your children, and even your better half. It is a privilege to serve the nation.”

As a staunch Christian, Mrs. Tinubu further immersed herself in the works of God by enrolling at Bible College and was ordained as a Pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church.

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Her ordination took place in 2018 during the church’s 66th annual convention themed ‘Dominion’. Since then, she has carried the mantle of her faith as a Pastor preaching the gospel.

Senator Tinubu’s pastoral effort came to the front burner during the presidential inauguration church service held at the National Christian Centre, Abuja. It was a gathering that drew dignitaries including past heads of state, Christians from other denominations, members of different government agencies and parastatals, and outgoing and incoming government officials. In what could be termed a sermon rather than remarks, Mrs. Tinubu quoted the bible intermittently and ended her speech with her devotion to the nation thus: “I promise you on this altar that with your help, with the help of God, we will set this nation on the right path.”

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Born on September 21, 1960, Nigeria’s First Lady began her educational career at Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School Ijebu-Ode where she obtained her West African School Certificate (WASC) in 1979, and Post Graduate Diploma from The Redeemed Christian Bible College in 2010.

Senator Tinubu received a Bsc in Education from the University of Ife. Prior to that, she had earned a National Certificate of Education  (NCE) in Botany and Zoology from the Adeyemi College of Education.

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As first lady, she established the New Era Foundation, dedicated to establishing centres for all round development of young ones and promoting public awareness on environmental health and community service.

In 2011, she joined politics and was elected to the Senate during the 7th assembly.  Senator Tinubu was one of over 100 senators elected in the 8th Assembly in 2015. Six of these were women. At the 2019 general elections, she retained her senatorial seat representing Lagos Central, making it her third tenure in office.

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Her contributions to nation building haven’t gone unnoticed. She was listed alongside Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Tony Elumelu and other prominent personalities for the Eko Excellence Awards in 2019.  She also received the award for the most impactful female senator at The Guardian-organised International Women’s Day Summit 2021.

She is a firm believer in investing in society’s human capital. Her Youth Empowerment and Skill Acquisition Scheme in collaboration with Good Boys and Girls Empowerment Scheme (GBGES) has produced 1,172 beneficiaries. About 164 youths were trained on various skills and received start-up kits and capital of about N40,000 each.

While in the Senate, she introduced several bills. In March 2021, Senator Tinubu proposed a bill to reform the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) to make it a more viable entity. 

As Mrs. Tinubu resumed at the Aso Rock Villa as First Lady on June 5, 2023, all eyes are on her as she rolls out her pet projects which many believe would revolve around women empowerment, financial inclusion, curbing violence against women, girl-child education and the youth.

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Many are also wondering if she would replicate the First Day President in Abuja just like she did during her tenure in Lagos? Fingers crossed!

Source: THIS DAY

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