The Early Water Of The Stream Is Always Calm

Erelu Bisi reminds me of water – that essential elixir no one can do without. She especially reminds me of the early water of the stream, always calm, cool, and clear. You can tell that her wisdom formed at an early age because of her strong memory bank of the ways of old and the type of knowledge that only comes from learning at the feet of the ancient and wise. She has taken that knowledge and brought it into the modern age and fused it so well, staying rooted in the good ideals of the community, and reaching out to modern ways that complement or help us better understand what matters. Erelu embodies the piano and the drum. She is glocal, full stop.

 

That Erelu is a feminist is not news, but that she lives that principle every way possible, pushing the boundaries of opportunity and voice and hope for women and children, shows exceptional character. As we theorise about the nexus between authority and influence and how to define the role of a consort, Erelu is living an example of how; a first lady gets things done, navigating the tensions gracefully and achieving meaningful change. Erelu has worked well with the elected and the appointed in Ekiti state. Her influence is evident in the life-changing policies she has facilitated; women in public life, the sexual offender register, onje arugbo – nurture for the elderly, an endowment, and strategic support to Alma Mater and women’s groups respectively. It is the reason why Erelu will go down in the herstory of Nigeria as one of the most successful consorts to a governor we have ever had.

 

Of course, navigating power is easier when that consort comes with credentials of her own; global feminist leader and multi-award winner, fundraiser per excellence, co-founding the first of its kind African Women’s Development Fund in 2001. I first met Erelu in 1999 when I attended the AWLI (African Women’s Leadership Institute) in Abuja; she was my feminist tutor at my first formal feminism class. I am sure I speak for my classmates, many of whom have gone on to create incredible new highs in women’s rights, peacebuilding, reducing gender-based violence, and in the development sector, when I describe AWLI as a life-shaping experience.

Erelu is a writer, and what a writer – honest, fresh, sometimes hilarious, sometimes defiant, but always grounded, she lays out her blocks of thought in a neat interlinked sequence that weaves life and experience into a coherent story that stokes you. I hear her soft but firm cadence in my head as I read a profound vignette or a volume of her work.

Two things strike me about her writing; first, her descriptive ability, as she uses words to paint the hues and contours of life so accurately. You must pause to ponder upon her words as she tells stories of resilience, kindness, courage, and women’s agency, all cloaked in humour and a gripping intelligence. Second, is the fact that she consistently writes, despite her many duties. Her recent epic work, “where is your wrapper,” a story reminding women and girls to love and protect each other, went super viral on the internet. People I had not heard from in aeons, who are not your regular social media crawlers, sent the essay to me, having been forwarded across God knows what number of threads, to them. Her deep qualitative consistency leaves the rest of us no excuse not to set our thoughts down.

Erelu’s graciousness to engage and remain rooted in and connected to civil society, and especially the women’s movement, is impressive. She chats on WhatsApp, mediates differences of opinion here and there to enhance solidarity.

No stranger to conflict and controversy, her way is not to avoid the issue but to think deeply about what could have been done better and differently. The stoicism with which she bears criticism is incredible. Even if a skill horned, it has to be a gift as well, to be that calm in a storm.

She seems to say, ’I will be who I am. It is so easy to be lost in a new role, especially if you are surrounded by deceit, but if you are not Omo oju o r’ola ri, you will be just fine. You will remember whose child you are, you will not forget that everything passes and that life and power are transient, and so it is best to work hard to leave a legacy’. I don’t mean to say Erelu is perfect, nobody is, but her ability to be secure even in her vulnerability is perfection.

 

Erelu Bisi and Dr Kayode Fayemi are a prayer answered. Ki Oluwa she yin ni ore ara yin. Said in any language, it is the fervent wish of parents at their children’s weddings that the couple finds friendship; with friendship comes forgiveness, and compassion, and an endearing love and the confidence to negotiate and expect to win some, and let go of some. It is the reason why we feminists teach our daughters to negotiate, and our sons to respect women, and why we allow either to choose the partners they marry. I may digress, but imagine if Mr Governor was not feminist or Erelu was a yes woman, this essay would not be written, there would be no point of it.

 

Dear Erelu, thank you for the work you do. Thank you for the torchbearer of our generation that you are. May your path remain clear, and flow full, unrestrained, and forward, like a happy river. May your course bring more glory, more meaning, more friendships, and enduring lessons. May the Almighty continue to smile upon you, indulge you, humour you, and paint new landscapes on a broad open canvass for you and yours. Happy birthday. Have fun. Keep talking. Keep walking.

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One Response to The Early Water Of The Stream Is Always Calm

  1. Femi Diipo June 22, 2020 at 12:07 am

    It is important to commend and celebrate greatness. We celebrate Erelu now and always and wish her many more years of kind, generous and passionate service to humanity. She is indeed a role model to us all

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