By the time Princess Moji Tejuosho was the age her daughter is now, she had had her first child and had another on the way. Though her daughter Rao wants to settle down sometime in the future when the right man comes along, it is the prospect of work that seems to ring her bells.
At the fashionable Victoria Island restaurants where we meet for lunch, Mrs Moji Tejuosho points to her kids the exact spot from which her husband proposed to her more than 20 years ago. They’d been so young, the lovebirds, and she remembers with nostalgia how hard he had tried to talk her into getting married.
And obviously, he succeeded. The result was one of the most celebrated weddings in Nigerian media history, being preceded by a blitz the size and extent of which had never been seen before or since.
It would become, in fact, the flagship of celebrity weddings, and the sense of history could not be missed now as Raola, the first daughter of that famous union listens and looks on in utter amusement.
Later, as we chat, she asserts she would like to get married soon, but you get the impression it is a politically correct statement and that like today’s cosmopolitan and globalized young women, she is full of ideas and brimming over with ambition.
In the coming year, she wants to return home from her UK base to fulfil them. “I think there are basically more opportunities here for you to come and be your own boss than in England. You’re stuck with doing the 9-5 over there. This is our own country, we have more connections here. The connections you have like in London are limited. Here I can make something bigger for myself”.
But that is only one way of looking at it. What about the other side of the coin, being that structures have been established over there?
She agrees only to an extent. “The whole foundation is there, you can probably get a loan or a grant. Over there it’s experience, experience, experience. Everything’s been done over there. I have that higher standard, I expect a lot more so why can’t I come and adapt that here?”
With a degree in Hospitality and another in view in Law, Raola, 23, has run a restaurant during her university days and there, she discovered her strengths: “ I’m usually given managerial roles because I’m very good at organizing people”. She’s also the one always trouble shooting and suggesting solutions. Now, she wants to make her own money: “I’ve always been practicing. I want to get launched in the real world”.
To a layman though, there might be some difficulty understanding how hospitality and law, which she plans to combine, are related. In explaining, Raola makes it seem not as remote as it might seem.
A stint in one of Nigeria’s biggest and most prestigious hotels in every department presented the opportunity to see behind the scenes and what she saw was “shocking” from the point of view of the law, human rights and even hygiene. “You had people working till late living in far away places”
Being the descendant of two very illustrious Yoruba individuals must surely make a girl feel a little extraordinary. Raola’s great grandmother was chief Bisoye Tejuosho, Nigeria’s first modern- and to date one of the only- female industrialist; and her grandfather the indefatigable Alhaji Rasak Okoya, another great industrialist. She must either feel intimidated, or empowered.
For Raola, the latter is the case. “I have seen so many members of my family do things, including my dad. I don’t think anything is stopping me. I think I have a very very good future ahead.
Immediate to that future is finishing her law degree at Buckingham. “I want to start thinking now as an adult. It’s time to be more independent”.
Raola’s mom, Princess Moji, is unequivocal about her opinion of people who regard with disdain women who choose to stay at home to raise their children and is glad that she has spent quite a lot of time raising her own five. “I had all the opportunity, I was working for my dad, was director blah, blah blah. I gave it all up and I wanted to do that. I laid the foundation for them”.
She also calls the bluff of the famous work/life balance. “If in some way, sometime the kids need your attention and you’re not there for them…You cannot be in two places at the same time. I gave them a hundred percent and I don’t regret it. Now that they’re all out there in the unis I can come to myself, and I’m young enough to do whatever “.
Her utter pride and sense of accomplishment is palpable when she talks about her children including one of the boys, who is going to study architecture in Asia and had been given a senior leadership position at his school in England even while a student. Another son is reading Chemical Engineering.
With a father with a reputation for doting over his children, it is to be wondered how her old man bore not only losing her to marriage but also to another religion, Christianity. “You cannot stop the Lord”, she explains simply.
“I come from a sternly Moslem background and there was a point in my life I wanted to know what I truly believe, so I read the Quoran. It’s just natural. You just question everything about you, about God and that was when I questioned the Quoran. The Moslem faith says “Allah”, which is God, and the Christian faith would say “Jesus” and I used to think why not go to the Father why go to the son? And what not. That was the question that led me to start looking”.
The princess not only looked, she got completely sold, and ended up at some point running a Christian bookstore in London, from where her team also gave counselling services. She had married, in any case, into a Christian family. Still, she would not try to have undue influence if any of her children were to change religions.
“It’s a personal thing. They are the ones who know what it is they are looking for. I won’t say no, but of course I won’t be happy.”