Free-styling with iconic BAF at 56, by Segun Dipe

Bisi Fayemi

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why – Mark Twain

So many authorities would be writing about Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi on her 56th birthday anniversary that I cannot risk competing with them. She has been well compensated for her meritorious life, and still will be, that whatever I write will only be like a needle in a haystack or pouring a glass cup of water in the Atlantic Ocean. BAF is made, my article can neither make nor unmake her.

There are however three caveats to this article. One is that it has neither a title nor a tilt. It only has a working headline, and it has a subject in Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi (BAF) as the “Birthday Gal.” Two, everything in it is my personal view and does not represent anything I have read about the subject. Three, in all intents and purposes, the article is unsolicited, and I hope BAF, the persona, will allow me to get away with all my assumptions.

Those who know her so well will roll out so many revelations about the iconic roles of Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi. They will write about her activism, both gender-based and political, her revolutionary role, her simplicity, good-naturedness, women development, writing prowess, comely nature, interest in popular culture, passion for dancing, her never-say-die spirit, her respect for the high and low and her comportment in all situations, to mention but few. I can only freestyle.

Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is the wife of Ekiti State Governor, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, CON, who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. BAF turns 56 on 11th June 2019. I dare say that while she fits perfectly into the First Lady role, it is not what makes her a great woman. Rather she compliments the role so well, that you would think she had all the years been preparing herself towards it.

Unlike so many others, my encounter with BAF is not plenty, but each encounter leaves me with a new discovery. Like the onion, the more you peel the uniqueness of this lady, the more there is left to peel.

In the words of Nancy Rathburn, equally a feminist, a strong woman understands that the gifts such as logic, decisiveness, and strength are just as feminine as intuition and emotional connection. BAF values and uses all of her gifts well. She has an arresting personality, which she has combined her thinking, behaviour, character, attitude and feelings to build. Everyone who comes across her likes and describes her as a good personality and that they want to be like her.

In the course of my few interactions with BAF, I discover a lot about her. I discover that she is passionate about feminism, and she is unapologetic about it. She is such a strong personality with strong conviction that you can trust her with any assignment under the sun, yet be sure she will deliver, even beyond your expectation.

My first discovery is that BAF is southpaw, and I wondered how she sailed through with that as a young girl of her generation when parents would insist that being a “leftie” is being non-compliant. To insist is to be a deviant and that may earn you serious bashing until sanity prevails on you to start using your right hand. Very few girls of her age would have dared to get away with being left-handed, which is called owo itamba in my culture.

But according to the research published in the American Journal of Psychology, lefties appear to be better at divergent thinking. Other studies find them scoring higher when it comes to creativity, imagination, daydreaming and intuition. They are also believed to be better at rhythm and visualisation.

BAF, as a leftie, is in good company with the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford. Four of the last five U.S. presidents also are. England’s Prince Williams is also a lefty. In the world of arts, you can count the likes of  Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Renoir as Lefties.

Left-handed people are said to be good at complex reasoning, resulting in a high number of lefty Nobel Prize winners, writers, artists, musicians, architects and mathematicians. This, in part, may explain why BAF is a multiple award winner.

I see BAF playing lead character in some feminist-laced movies. I see her as *Ana* in *Real Women have Curves.* Ana is a first-generation Mexican American teenager on the verge of becoming a woman. She lives in the predominantly Latino community of East Los Angeles. Fresh graduate from high school, Ana receives a full scholarship to Columbia University. Her very traditional, old-world parents feel that now is the time for Ana to help provide for the family, not the time for college. She accepted at first and was working at her mother’s sewing factory where she learnt solidarity and teamwork. But Ana found her mainstream ambition irresistible and decided to leave home to continue her education as essential to finding her place proudly in the world.

I see BAF as the *Wonder Woman,* a superhero that appears in American comic books published by DC Comics. The character is a well-known figure in popular culture that has been adapted to various media.

I see BAF as Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde. Quoting Theron in the movie: (Usually) we need a reason to become a warrior. And I have a problem with that because we really are warriors, and it’s time for us to be shown that way.

I see BAF as Fa Zhou in Mulan, a 1998 American animated musical action-adventure film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation for Walt Disney Pictures. It is based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan and was Disney’s 36th animated feature and the ninth animated film produced and released during the Disney Renaissance. The film’s plot takes place in China during the Han dynasty, where Fa Mulan, daughter of aged warrior Fa Zhou, impersonates a man to take her father’s place during a general conscription to counter a Hun invasion.

I also see her as the heroin Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. All these films keep coming back to me as I think of what to write about Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi.

BAF is a phenomenon. She is a born star. The zodiac sign of people born on 11 June is Gemini and it says that much. The ruling planet of these individuals is the Moon, which guarantees and influences an innate appreciation for art and beauty and hatred for clutter. The people born under the influence of the Moon are believed to act quickly in all circumstances and they are also able to think quickly on complicated issues of life. They are greatly instinctive and maintain their originality despite all odds. The natives of June 11 are touched with a sense of egotistical behaviour and are highly ambitious in their motives. They possess the quality of becoming great leaders. Their leadership qualities are prominent in their individuality and character.

June 11 Birthday natives are imaginative, sensible and idealistic. They are likeable people and they are capable of making quick decisions as they listen to their gut instinct. Their personality appreciates art, nature and is turned off by strife. They can be neatness freak as well.

If she is not the First Lady, BAF would have been in the league of Jeannette Rankin, her Birthday mate, born on June 11, 1880. Rankin, like BAF, was a Women’s Rights Activist. She was the first woman to ever get elected to the U.S. Congress and the only member of the House of Representatives to vote “No” to U.S. entry into both World War I and World War II. She worked for women’s suffrage and for peace. She was quoted as saying: “There can be no compromise with war; it cannot be reformed or controlled; cannot be disciplined into decency or codified into common sense; for war is the slaughter of human beings, temporarily regarded as enemies, on as large a scale as possible.” (1929)

Another of her very popular statement while at the Congress is that: “Men and women are like right and left hands; it doesn’t make sense not to use both. We’re half the people; we should be half the Congress.” I have also heard BAF using the same right and left hands analogy while advocating for women’s rights.

As a gender-based activist, I see BAF taking after Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, MON (1900–1978), otherwise known as Francis Abigail Olufunmilayo Thomas. She was an educator, politician and women’s rights activist. Her activism was pronounced during the Nigerian women’s anti-colonial struggles. She founded the Abeokuta Women’s Union, one of the most impressive women’s organisations of the twentieth century, with a membership estimated to have reached up to 20,000 women, which fought to protect and further the rights of women. Funmilayo was the biological mother of Olikoye Ransome Kuti, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Beko Ransome Kuti, all human rights activists too.

Despite all these, the Erelu that I know has no airs. She mixes freely and she is highly expressive. One moment, you take her for an ajebota, in another moment she comes to you as ajepaki. Yet in those two moments, she is a delight to interact with. But when the discussion comes to feminism, then perish the thought that she would be your friend if you are not on the same page with her. That is her true world, where she takes no prisoners and gives no hoot to whose ox is gored.

Mind you, all these remain figments of my imagination. I write off the cuff. Read, digest, but don’t quote me on any of the points. After all, it is the Birthday of our own Erelu Bam Bam. Odun lo de ta nse

Happy birthday to you, Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, Ochiora 1, Iyalode. Age with grace, Your Excellency.