When the KOKO Media Team arrived Abuja from Lagos for the scheduled meeting with Nigerian activist, Aisha Yesufu, she could not be accessed via phone call.
A text message was then sent to inform her of the arrival, and that in an hour time, the team will be calling up again, before proceeding to meet her at the specified location.
She then gave a reply, relating that she was on a long call and the luxury of space to receive the team. The team, however, thought it more appropriate to let her to her time, before coming on with her, not to intrude or disrupt anything. This will also avail us the time to rest and be set for the session ahead, so in the following 1 hour as promised, a call was put through to know what time exactly will work for her.
Then came the fierceness, firmness and principles she is known for… “I can’t do that time with you, not me. I asked that you guys come around (reads the message she sent again), so what other time do you want to work for me. I have another meeting by 3pm with the University of Cambridge, and if you people do not get here before then, I will have to cancel”, she went on the phone.
It was 1:58pm, and the team was about 30 minutes apart from her given location. How does the team meet up and have the session before her next meeting? Well, well, a trial will not be bad. Oh, the race! Abuja is not Lagos where you get a bike to hastily get you where you are going in minutes for you to meet up. There are rather taxi and uber drivers who will hike their prices and still claim they are not charging you, that is prominent in Lagos too, in fact, Lagos can be said to be the headquarters of such. Once they notice you really do not know where you are going or you are new or acting new, you have to pay for not knowing or for being new.
The Graphics Director left his food unfinished, guess that is one of the prices you pay for Journalism. I couldn’t even eat, I requested a take out and packed all in my bag. A taxi showed up, and after some seconds of negotiation, we were on our way. All hell was almost let loose in my head when the taxi started misbehaving and eventually stopped on the road. We weren’t sure of illness and decided to exercise some patient for the driver to check what was wrong but after about 3 minutes, there was nothing we could do than alight and find another taxi.
We were close to a roadside park, thank Goodness, and so getting another taxi wasn’t a big deal. But no, my mobile device went missing. Wait, what? You know the feeling already, right. No, no amount of calls would make us find it, it’s on low ringing mode as it is everytime, ready to be silenced finally for the session with the Woman Of The Year. I am certain I didn’t leave it in the first taxi so if missing, it is either in this new taxi, or it fell on the road as we were getting the new taxi. Then I remembered we had opened the cameras bag in the first taxi, just maybe, I dropped it in there while were were alighting. Driver, please parkkkkkk!!! What a relief when we saw the device lying quietly in the cameras bag in the boot of the taxi. Now, we can move!!!
We arrived the location at 2:48pm, and still, met her on a call. “Have your seats”, she signaled as she chatted on in Hausa. Oh my, I can’t help but stare, pleassseeee! Is this Aisha Yesufu? Who then do we see in videos and pictures? An older version? Geeezzzz!!! A fair, radiant and beautiful being in her full regalia. Cameras have never done justice, NEVER!!! Then, I jerked back into the reason for being here, the need to create a win-win situation and ensure everything goes as planned.
“I have waited for you guys since, I do not understand why you did not come when I said. (reads the message she sent again). I do not see how this message is not clear. I said you should come at least you can set up and do all you need to do before I am done. I have even sent the address since 7am today, so that if I am not reachable, you people can be here”, she began as she dropped the call, after we had exchanged pleasantries though. The firmness and discipline is still in her voice, but seeing her physically, there is some coolness surrounding her, she is not a lion, she is a sweet but principled woman.I tendered apologies on behalf of the team, there was no need for stories or excuses, or the taxi that broke down or whatever. “I have a meeting now so I don’t know how this is going to happen”, she said. “We will wait. We have kept you waiting, and it is the price to pay, to wait till you are done”, I replied. Then came her response with another shade of herself. “If you like don’t wait naa, na you sabi”. Omoh x 10000000. I knew this case is settled already, there was not going to be any cancellation. I never saw it coming in my mind before getting here, and yes, there won’t be a need for any. I simply smiled at her reply, admiring her greatly.
As she made to leave, she again, manifested the motherly or say the accommodating part of her. Maybe that is just what is right to do but the way she relates is already away from the realms of anger or fury into a more calm and hospitable mode. “Let me put on the AC for you. Me, I don’t like AC.” She did and went out with her mobile device for the said meeting. Guess the meeting was on already, we could hear voices. Oh what a relief, that the day was saved, and the team still had some time to set up and relax away the tension that had built up from the earlier events. Now I could eat but oops, my appetite had disappeared into the thin air, thanks to malt for coming to the rescue.
Microphone checked, camera checked, angle checked, lighting checked, sitting position checked! We are ready to delve into the conversation with our Woman Of The Year.
After about an hour and some minutes, she came in, looking a bit tired and needing water but the beauty still captures my eyes – I guess it is because we never saw it in pictures and videos. “I should be going home now, I am tired and having sore throat already”, she said, gulping down some water. “Thank you for making out time ma’am, we apologise once again. We’ll make it as fast as possible so you have some time to rest”. “Okay are we set? Can we start? Is this where I will sit?” Yes, yes, and yes, were all of our responses at this moment, and then, this is the perfect time to admire her with my full chest to her face. “You are soo beautiful, far beautiful than we see in pictures, in videos and on TV. You look so young too, other than what we see. I am so amazed and I admire you”, I said. Wearing her microphone already, she admitted that she is not photogenic which is why she looks older in the media. “I am a baby girl ooo, my husband’s baby girl”. We all laughed and the session began.
She described herself to be crazy, fun loving, goofy and making people laugh. She recounts how she dances in her home without beats and how her daughter always compliment her for cracking them up always. “I am an active Nigerian citizen. I don’t see myself as an activist or any of that because basically, I don’t do labels”, she added. The session, which we thought should be short but qualitative, lasted over 1 hour, and DID YOU KNOW? Aisha Yesufu speaks so fast that with the first question, she had spilled hundreds of words and could go on and on and on. She thoroughly enjoyed the session, recounting some events in her childhood, school days, shooting her shots at her husband first, her family, activism and the state of things in the nation.
When the session ended, some more discussion ensued off-record about social media trolling, people’s perception of how an ideal woman and family should be, Rahama Sadau’s dressing case, her perception of people and a few other things. Overall, her mantra is that people are at the liberty of their choices and opinions, and should be allowed to live according to their choices. We asked to meet her husband but he wasn’t around at the time. “You think my husband will be around and he would not have come to check on us since. He would have been coming to check what we are doing.” Sweet and romantic, isn’t it? Who says you can’t have a great marriage because you are an activist, or can’t be romantic with your spouse because you are a person of faith?
Now we see she is truly tired and can’t even go ahead with any photo shoot, so we asked for a reschedule for the next day. “No o, let’s do it today oo, tomorrow is not possible.” Giving reasons of the time of the day and her tiredness, we insisted slightly and she agreed to check her schedule. Her submission about the costumes we wanted her to use was legit but she made it sound so funny that we couldn’t help but laugh. “In this COVID-19 period, you want me to wear somebody’s clothes? When I have lots of hijabs? You should have told me, I would have brought my hijabs”, she said. Well, that was another reason to shift the photo shoot till the next day. “Oh my!! I have mixed things up, how did I?”, she exclaimed, going through her schedule, thinking she was supposed to have something else during the period she spent with us. “Okay, let’s see tomorrow then, I will get across to you on the time and location”, she finally gave her word. Yayyyy, the day is saved again! Well, well well, let;’s have some reference pictures in the cool and serene environment for the saved day.
A reminder was sent in the night but got no response from Aisha Yesufu, guess she is ensuring her safety not divulging her whereabouts ahead as she said in the interview. Another reminder was sent in the morning of the next day and boom, just about the time the team was freshening up and having breakfast, she asked that we start coming. We made it to the location after losing our way in the confusingly numbered area and it was time to shoot the amazing Woman Of The Year. She had prepared her hijabs in many colour, neatly ironed, and asked after each mood, what to don next. She was in her comfort zone and showed us the goofy, fun and loving part which the social media never gets to see, especially of dancing without beats or sounds, and it was lovely to watch. Poses, shots, quality snaps and we were done! “You guys are making me feel like a celebrity oooooo, thank youuuuu!”, she couldn’t hide her excitement.
“We’re done now Ma’m, let’s take pictures together. Fun mood”, I said. “Wait wait, let me change my red hijab, I need to shoot this fun mood with her (referring to me)”, she told the Shoot Director. That was another lovely moment in the journey, as you can see from the snaps.
When it was time to leave, just as we were about presenting her our gift, she presented us a wine. “Awwn, thank you Ma’am. We didn’t want to add to your weight so we didn’t bring eatables”, I said. Her excitement and appreciation of the gift made the moment so memorable. She affirmed she loved the gift compared to eatables as she wouldn’t want to jeopardise the achievement she’s made on her weight in the year.