Nike Adeyemi is the Deputy Senior Pastor, Daystar Christian Centre and the founder of the Real Woman Foundation. In this interview with BUKOLA BAKARE, she talks about her calling, her role as a pastor’s wife and why she is passionate about the plight of the vulnerable in the society
What inspired you to set up the Real Woman Foundation?
The Real Woman Foundation was an inspiration I got as far back as 1997. I encountered prostitutes on the streets of Lagos; particularly my area in Ikeja/Oregun. You’d see them moving about aimlessly at night. I began to notice them and became concerned. I would say to myself, ‘‘This is someone’s daughter or sister selling her body.’’ I wasn’t even so concerned about the kind of clothes they wore, but the thought of them selling their bodies made me cringe. At that time, people had just begun to become aware of HIV/AIDS and many people still thought it did not exist. I was genuinely interested in their welfare and that was when I noticed that I had the gift of compassion. One day, someone told me that he discovered a brothel where some of these girls lived and I asked him to take me there. I wore my jeans and without holding any Bible, I went into this brothel which was a face-me-I-face-you bungalow. I walked in there and I was looking for someone to talk to. The first girl I met said her name was Sandra, and I told her that I was looking for my sister. I began to describe an imaginary person and when I saw that I couldn’t go any further because I am not an expert in telling lies, I had to come out with the truth. I asked her what she was doing there and I began to talk to her. A little while after, she opened up to me and the rest is history. She invited me into her room and my heart was further broken when she told me that she pays the owner of the brothel N100 daily. That means in a month, her rent was N3, 000. They paid on a daily basis, so it was quite a flexible arrangement for them. I remember telling her at that time that around Ogba/Iju area, she could get a three-bedroom apartment for N30, 000/N36, 000 per annum. Sandra became my first friend and from that day onwards, all of them there became my friends. I went back there in December 1997 because I had my second child in February of that year. I went there after church on Christmas Day after my husband had gone home with our two kids. I cooked rice, put it in a cooler and went there with drinks. I told them, ‘‘I’m not here to talk to you today, just enjoy the season, eat and keep my mineral bottles.’’ They became my friends and it started a whole new career path for me because I remember going to the United Kingdom shortly after that to be part of a four-day conference which dwelt on trafficking and I met with people from other parts of the world.
What are some of the ideals that your foundation seeks to promote and how have you been able to do so?
In the Real Woman Foundation, we are literally here to bring healing and empowerment to women and children. Some years after we were established, we adjusted our mission statement and added children to it and later, I set up the Love Home Orphanage. That created a vision in me to do more than run the Real Woman seminars and I began to look for an apartment that I could turn into a hostel. We wanted to be able to take these girls in and work with them and that’s what we did. We began to take them in and today we have what we call the Peace Villa, where they live. We also work with NAPTIP, an organisation that rehabilitates people that are repatriated from other countries or those involved in prostitution. NAPTIP has its own rehabilitation centre which is a government-owned institution, but they feel that we are a private centre with a special touch. Subsequently, my staff and I developed a curriculum and participants are supposed to partake in the programme for six months or more and afterwards, their families are traced and we help them to be reintegrated back into the society.
How do you fund your activities?
Initially, I started with my own funds when in December 1999, I went to look for a venue and got the Big Chef Restaurant on Allen Avenue, Ikeja. I wanted just a small place for a seminar and I was already a pastor’s wife at Daystar Christian Centre, which was just about four years old then. I paid for the hall with my money, one or two friends contributed something and we printed flyers as well. In my spirit, I realised that I must conduct seminars in a non-threatening environment because each time I invited these girls from the brothels to church, they never showed up. I now realised that maybe they were threatened by the church environment and that was how I started the Real Woman seminars which was our flagship before the actual foundation started. When they came, some of them put down addresses such as Dragonera, which is the name of a brothel in Lagos. From there, I set up an outreach called The Lord’s Angels, and today, we’ve been running for about 18 years. I can boldly say that Daystar has been my greatest partner and the members also give funds as well as people out there; organisations, schools and others too numerous to mention. When we started theLove Home Orphanage, the Lagos State Government demanded that we put up an affiliated signage and people started to visit and give. It was as though the orphanage had not existed before. I’ve realised that when it comes to issues that concern children, Nigerians are very compassionate, caring and loving. Today, many people don’t even know that Love Home Orphanage is the same as Real Woman Foundation because with the Lagos State Government, we are registered as Love Home Orphanage. We also have a girls’ shelter known as the Peace Villa, and we also run a life skills training centre.
Does your foundation reach out to disadvantaged women and children in Boko Haram-affected states?
We haven’t physically been to areas affected by the activities of Boko Haram but we support Bukky Shonibare’s Adopt a Camp and she is based in Abuja. We give funds and we try to also support her from the little that we have on a personal basis and as an organisation. I also linked her to Daystar to raise funds as well because she has credibility and what she is doing is very huge.
How are you able to provide mentoring and quality leadership, yet remain dedicated to serving God?
I just have to trust God for grace. Many times, I take an appraisal; not only at the beginning of the year, but from time to time, especially when I feel overwhelmed. I bring out my pen and begin to scribble. I do that a lot and I write down all the things that I think I am and reorder my priorities. Sometimes, I try to delete certain things, decide to focus more on others while some items will take a back seat. That way, I don’t burn out or stress myself. I try to figure out my target audience and say to myself, ‘‘Nike, you can’t be all over the place.’’ When you get to a certain age, you begin to tell yourself that you can’t do everything. In this season, I’m beginning to consider certain things. For instance, I co-founded Daystar Christian Centre with my husband about 21 years ago, but in this season, we are now apostles. For me, I received that as a personal message from God and after a while, I said to myself that I am not going to be involved in direct pastoring so much anymore.
Why is that?
You cannot do everything and as leaders, we have groomed many people. We have raised up many pastors; both male and female. Some have gone on to set up their own churches and are doing very well while some have yet to set up their churches and they don’t plan to. So, we are grooming them to take charge. Three years ago, we appointed a chief operating officer for the church. It was a position that wasn’t there before but it had to be created. He is a top pastor and he is doing a lot; maybe a lot of what I would have been doing before. Again, you should go where you are needed most. It’s not that I am not needed in the church but you’ve got to let other people do certain things and then, readjust yourself. For example, my kids are much older now so, the way they needed me 10 years ago is not the same way they need me today. The season has changed so, for people generally out there, as you age, do an appraisal and see what you need to shed, what you need to take on and concentrate on part-time so that you don’t burn out. That way, you’d be appreciated and your target audience will know you. If I over-pamper my children now or help them to do some of the things that they can do for themselves in the name of being a mother, they will resent me. Therefore, I’ve got to calculate and be wise. That’s why these days, I’m very visible on social media. I drop messages and conversations on YouTube because a wider audience need to hear me; not just those in the Real Woman Foundation or Daystar Christian Centre.
Some people have argued that your church is all about preaching prosperity. What’s your take on that?
I hear that a lot and I don’t agree with that notion. Maybe the people who say that only hear about prosperity preaching in their churches. From the word of God, pastors understand that He wants us to prosper and God didn’t really design for anyone to be impoverished because it doesn’t glorify Him. He expects us to be His hands, feet and by extension, His emissaries. As such, when you want people to prosper, you preach to them about why God wants them to prosper. On your part, you should help them to do so and set them up. You should give them the necessary funds or whatever they need to set them up. Give them the know-how and trainings. At Daystar, we organise leadership trainings and skills acquisition trainings for free. For me, my life is more than the church. I wasn’t born in the church and since my husband is already a pastor, I told him to take the four walls of the church while I’d take the exterior part because Jesus did not say, ‘‘Stay ye in the church.’’ He said, ‘‘Go ye into the world.’’ I am the ‘going’ type. I’ve slowed down a bit because when we started the church, I joined him to serve despite the fact that I am an architect and our first child had barely turned one. I was running Newman Bookshop in Yaba but it has been moved to the church and is now known as Family First Bookshop. People don’t know that I am a businesswoman and I don’t bring that to the forefront because I don’t necessarily have to be branded as such. Enterprise is something at the core of my spirit. How do you explain that you are studying architecture and baking cakes for people, designing cards in school and selling it to bring in some income by the side because you know that you are a giver and people will always ask you for money. When I talk about enterprise for women, some people think that I’m leaving my lane. They just don’t know that it’s a not-for-profit lane and the ministry is where I’ve chosen to stay because how do you explain that you are a giver and you don’t have money? I believe that having money is like eating a meal. I don’t have to tell you what I’ll eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner so, making money and taking care of your financial life is like that, but some people have chosen to make it their full life assignment to teach other people how to make money. Some people teach us how to eat the right diet so that we can be healthy. Others are financial coaches that will teach you that you need to have a hobby that will bring in money. Making money for me, is part of life and it is supposed to be a ‘given,’ but people don’t know that. I shy away from preaching the prosperity message because I don’t like to be branded as such. My husband preaches leadership and success principles but some people have tagged him a prosperity preacher. I am not from a poor or rich family; I am from an average family. My parents are educationists; my father is a professor emeritus so, I took for granted that there’d be money, but my husband has helped me step up to the next level. When I came to Lagos before I got married, I began to see that there was real poverty. Nonetheless, I am touched more by what we can do for those who are poor and not to leave them where they are. It is better to teach people how to fish than to give them fish.
Would you say that it’s been easier to make a success of your marriage because you are married to a pastor?
I don’t know because when you get married, the success is not determined by the fields you and your spouse are in. I think it’s about two friends coming together and deciding that they want to grow together for life and that is huge. One thing that my husband and I have in common is that we love helping people, though maybe in slightly different ways but many times too, in common ways. I am very hands-on and he is also a giver and has a large heart. That is our weakness and it keeps us growing and keeps our relationship aglow too. We are always talking about people and God knows that it is such joy to help. I am very happy to be married to a pastor.
How did he woo you?
He felt that there was something special about me, and of course, he began to gravitate towards me and we became just friends. At that point, I didn’t even think that he’d become my husband but at some point in time, I knew that there was some serious chemistry going on and God kept telling me to pay attention and that’s likely the person for me. I paid attention and I liked the idea. In those days, it wasn’t a flashy thing to marry a pastor and I was a corps member at that time in Lagos because I deferred my youth service programme by a year. I was a member of the church that he was pastoring. A year and a half after our marriage, we moved out and started Daystar Christian Centre together. I must tell you that marriage is serious work but it has also been fun at the same time serving God with him and now, we are wiser and make out time for ourselves. Sometimes, we are just ‘missing’ and you just don’t see us in church or we are abroad. It’s still part of the ministry, but when we are away, we are not only ministering, we are able to take out time for each other. I can sometimes walk on the streets of a certain city without anybody recognising us and that is bliss for us. Even though we may have ministrations lined up, we have one or two days where we are just all by ourselves, but here in Nigeria, we can hardly walk on the road together or go and watch a movie together. In all, I’d say I’ll do it all over again with him.
How would you describe your husband in three words?
My husband is independent, he is a firm thinker and very humble/simple.
Are there any differences between his life as a pastor and that of a husband/father?
There isn’t much difference because what you see is what you get. At home, he is still that same simple and firm thinker. It’s just that at home, he is more laid-back while in the ministry, he is more hands-on, so if you don’t know my husband very well, you will think that he has a choleric temperament because he loves knowledge and he must impart and share it. You’ll also think that he is a workaholic. When we got married, he came across as an ambitious man to me, but now, I know better, that he is just passionate about what he does. The children are very free with him and many times, they don’t see him as that pastor high up there because he is very simple and he helps around the house; especially if you ask him to. I also have to allow him to focus more to be able to hear that message or write that sermon. We are always studying at some point in time and I prefer short certification courses and just finished one recently while he is studying for a PhD right now and he’d be finishing this year. The last four years have been very busy and I’ve had to bear with him, tolerate and, sometimes, understand the non-availability of time.
Was training as an architect your childhood ambition?
I can’t really say. A few years ago, when I was talking to my father, he made me understand that he kind of nudged me in that direction without me knowing it. He told me how he inspired me and I was surprised because he didn’t force me to read that course. But when he began to talk about the times he took me abroad and showed me the Empire State Building in New York and asked if I liked the high-rise building. I realised that he was trying to tell me that he knew I could do it because there were many things I could do but he didn’t force anything on me. I would say that I chose the course myself because I’ve always liked challenging things but if I look back and I was to choose again, I wouldn’t chose architecture. Even though I am not practising my profession, the training helped me because we were taught to be very detailed. I’m also a creative person so, I like to draw, scribble and that’s what the course offered me. They taught us about aesthetics and in the defence of your project, you must be able to explain the functionality of your building. If there is no power, you must be able to show how your project will work with natural ventilation. You must show how the windows would be positioned. It’s easier to design something if you don’t have to consider ventilation so, the training was very hard and long but I am glad that I went through it. While I was on campus, I began to grow as a believer and have responsibilities in the fellowship. I was in the prayer group, and I even led the choir. There was also a time that I joined the village evangelism team, but I didn’t know that I was going to be in ministry eventually. When I look back now, I know that it was a training ground in disguise for me. Even though I started my undergraduate studies at the University of Ibadan, the programme was cancelled and I got a transfer to Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Some of my mates stayed on in UI and my mother urged me to do same and study law instead but I didn’t listen. I look back now and I realise that maybe I could have studied law but I didn’t think I was an art student. Today, I have a lawyer working with me in the Real Woman Foundation and she goes to court with the children when their cases come up for hearing.
What are some of the misconceptions women who are married to pastors have to deal with?
That’s a huge one. From the little that I know, some people think that your life is all rosy because you are married to a pastor. They think that everything is blissful because pastor makes them laugh on the pulpit. He teaches them so much and they grow spiritually. The misconception is that you are an angel and you should be as angelic as your husband looks on the pulpit. If you have a pulpit ministry, they judge your message and think that it is not as deep as pastor’s own. Others resent the pastor’s wife because they wanted to be in her shoes when the pastor was still single so, the resentment continues. There is also envy and jealousy for no reason and some wives of pastors have also become bitter because they now pay some women back in their own coin. When a woman marries a pastor, people think that she is mature all of a sudden. When I married my husband, we were both 25 years old and he is just two months older than me but we’ve grown together. Other people think that the pastor belongs to the church, while his wife should be at home with the kids or they complain that she doesn’t dress well. Sometimes, I just go and hang out with my friends, so that I can keep my sanity in check and run away from the expectations of some people. That’s why I love social media today because it is a huge platform for me. My word to people who judge pastors’ wives is to let them be.
Now that you are 50, what are some of the highlights of the last five decades of your life?
Turning 50 in this season is quite fulfilling for me because my husband turned same about two months ago. I just feel that it’s been a graceful journey and people have asked me if I am going to throw a party to celebrate the milestone and I told them that I am not doing anything. There may be snippets of things here and there though and it’s not because I am not grateful, but honestly, I feel so full and grateful. My life has not been a smooth sail altogether and I will take a cue from my husband’s own. He didn’t have any obvious celebration when he turned 50. He was just with his family privately but I remember that day, social media was agog because he is popular and people love him. In the same vein, I am grateful to God for my life and for the opportunities that have come my way. When you don’t have opportunities, people will not know that you have the capacity to be a blessing unto others around you. I am just grateful and content. I am in a happy place but I trust in God and I want to do more if He spares my life. In the first 20 years of your life, you really don’t know what you are doing. By 30 to 40, you are trying to find your feet. At 50, you just want to multiply. I want to be a coach and I don’t want to stress myself about anything. I just want to be a mother and help those I don’t know. I am comfortable in my skin and in the next 20 years, I want to be a blessing to others and I want to see my children rise and be blessed. I can see God helping them already.
How do you create a work-life balance?
Some people say that I am the chief of work-life balance, even though I don’t quite get the balance all the time, but I preach it. I am not that much of a workaholic. I draw strength from talking to people so, I can be busy working and trying to write a book or I am getting ready for a studio shoot but I allow myself to be interrupted at any time. I am very active on social media. Even though there are things that I tweet myself, I also have scheduled tweets that go out at specific times during the week. Sometimes, I also try to switch off and I know my mentees who are the fun-loving ones, same goes for my biological children, and I try to hook up with them. I also love watching clean and good movies and unwind with music too, so, I play music and dance all alone in my house. These days on the Nigerian entertainment scene, I like watching Jenifa’s Dairy and I must really commend the creative space in Nigeria—the comedians, actors; especially those who do clean movies. I also like to swim but one doesn’t do a lot of swimming now because of hair issues. Other times, I just want to be alone because that is when I can get my strength back.
How do you love to dress?
I don’t consider myself a fashionable person but people tell me that, in a little way, I am. I think I am simple and I love to dress in a casual way; put on my jeans and I’m good to go. However, because I am on TV shows and I’d have to do photo shoots and all that, I have to be deliberate by wearing make-up and I also try to be particular but normally, I am down-to-earth. I don’t really go with the trend but I opt for timeless pieces.
What are some of the values that you learnt as a child and you are passing unto your own children?
I thank God for my parents and feel grateful that I was born into that family. I grew up in a university environment; University of Ibadan to be precise and I was a daddy’s girl. He made it clear that he loved me and although he was a very busy man, I have fond memories of him going abroad to give one lecture or the other and he was always with students. He is a retired professor of chemistry, a scientist who is world renowned now. I think I imbibed dedication and hard work from him. He got married to a Princess because my maternal grandfather was the Olubadan of Ibadan several years ago so, my parents had strong values and I took after them in a number of ways.