Aituaje (a.k.a Waje) & Emerald Iruobe – Us Against the World
Being a parent is one of the greatest gifts life has to offer. It’s one of the biggest accomplishments in a woman’s life. Every girl dreams of the day she will hold her child in her arms. Pop and R&B singer, Waje, became a mother at a tender age and although a single mother, she gives props to her family for standing by her through it all. She is not only a musical inspiration but also an inspiration to mothers everywhere. This interview is dedicated to mothers everywhere. In it, Waje talks about her relationship with her daughter and more.
AITUAJE IRUOBE (a.k.a WAJE)
Eighteen years ago, you were a single mum at a young age. Can you take us through the challenges you faced and how you pulled through?
I would say that that time was, perhaps, the most difficult time in my life. I was young, still in my teens, vulnerable, confused and scared. The most important thing and the luckiest thing I had was the support of my family; that made life a little easier.
How did you cope with parenting, seeing you were a young girl yourself?
The first time I carried her in my arms, I knew there was nothing that would be able to take me away from this innocent, beautiful soul that I had brought into the world. I embraced it and, naturally, the instinct of a mom came. But I was also learning from my mom’s sister, Mrs. Amaka Ikwueze, a.k.a. big Mommy, who was also a mom to both of us.
What lessons did you learn bringing up your daughter alone?
I would like to say clearly that I didn’t bring my daughter up alone; I was incredibly blessed to have my family. It’s not like I was an abandoned teenager with the burden of an offspring. What I learnt in those early days, as a mother-to-be, was that being a mother meant taking responsibility for your actions.
You look like sisters. How do people react when you tell them that she is your daughter and not your sister?
It’s such a sweet and funny blessing to be called your daughter’s sister. First, they say ‘Oh what! How old are you?’ In replying, I find that I smile sheepishly like I have just won a lottery. Maybe, now I should find an appropriate answer to the observation! (Laughs)
So, how do you relate with your daughter? Do you have the typical mother-daughter relationship or are you friends?
In many ways, I am a typical mom. I have my rules and I also try to bring her up in God’s way so no matter what happens, she will always find her way back.
We don’t often know how strong we are until we play the role of parents.
I try to strike a balance between being the giver of rules and an ear to turn to. It’s important to me to be both a mother and a friend. It’s important that she understands she’s under authority and, at the same time, it’s so important that when she needs an ear or a hug, she can find that in me and not somewhere else.
This edition is dedicated to Children’s Day. We chose to speak with you because, we wish to explore the mother-daughter relationship and bringing up the girl child. So, in terms of the issues of life, tell us how a parent should school her child about feminism.
First, I think feminism is usually misunderstood. I am a Christian so I try to be careful when speaking of it. Every mom wants her children to be the best they can be; identify opportunities as they come, understand their strengths, be confident in themselves and learn to improve on their weaknesses.
I think this generation of parents should teach their children the value of the next human being other than themselves, regardless of gender. The Bible says ‘love your neighbor as thyself’. If we teach our kids about that, maybe some of the difficulties surrounding the girl child will be extinct. So, the question is: what are we teaching our kids? Are we teaching our boys to not clean themselves because they are men? Are we teaching our girls to think of themselves as objects rather than what God has already made them to be? Plus, every mom should go read “12 Extraordinary Women”.
Essentially, in my philanthropic work, one of the biggest discoveries we have made is in the area of the lack of opportunities. That’s what our focus is; that’s what the feminist conversation should centre around. Are girls getting the same opportunities as the boys? The same rights to an education? To a career? To equal pay? Are they allowed to aspire to whatever goals they have?
As a mother, do you think society has failed the child? Have we adequately catered for them?
Yes, we have failed and not catered for them. Children are malnourished. For more than a decade, education has become luxury. Even in simple things like spending time with our children, we can’t afford that anymore.
The security of our children is no longer guaranteed; not many recreational centres for them. How many libraries do we have that the average parent can afford – that do not cost an arm and a leg? Our girls are sexually harassed; our boys are intimidated. Yes, we have failed but that’s something we can change.
You hear of abuse of children and the youth. How do you think society can better protect children, particularly the girl-child?
I don’t know if there is a fool-proof way of protecting our children but there are steps we can take: let’s start by showing interest in our children’s lives and the people in them; choose care-givers carefully, ask questions, know the warning signs, teach children about boundaries and teach our children in schools and homes to speak up. Explain what’s in the media and build a system where we can trust the people who have sworn to protect us.
You were named the brand ambassador for Bailey’s Mother’s Day Competition. How do you feel – that after the struggle and shame you felt, reward and fame have come your way?
Hmmm! Well, I will say it was God’s favour. I have an incredibly close relationship with my mother. Having Bailey’s support our bond and help spread the message of a mother’s love meant the world to us.
Let’s talk about your music. How is your new album doing? And, what challenges do you face as a female artiste in Nigeria?
My second album is still in the making and we hope to release it in the final quarter of the year. It will be my most personal work yet and I cannot wait to share it with the world, by God’s grace.
The challenges I face are the same every female entrepreneur in Nigeria faces. I own and run my own label and other businesses. Challenges would include access to funding, balancing my business and family life, building a support network etc. but I intentionally do not focus on those. I fix my focus on what I have working for me and I am always willing to learn.
Are you in a relationship? Any wedding bells soon?
That would be telling! Having said that, I am very private about my personal life as I believe the same way a 9-5 professional separates business from personal life is the same way everyone in entertainment should be allowed the same distinctions.
Talking about marriage, celebrity marriages don’t seem to last. Many marriages break up within two years. What do you think is the problem?
Celebrity marriages? I know some that have worked out. I also know some that haven’t. It’s not easy to live in the full glare of the public’s eye. The pressure to present perfection is very hard to maintain. We are all human; while some people can deal with personal life with a little more patience, some cannot. Everyone is different.
Finally, a word to children who look up to you.
My words will come by quoting Maggie Pitman’s poem. It says:
Her hands held me gentle from the day I took my first breath
Her hand held helped to guide me as I took my first step
Her hands held me close when the tears start to fall
Her hands were quick to show me she will take care of it all
Her hands are not twisting with age and years of work
Her hands needs my now needs
Her gentle touch to rob away the hurt
Her hands are more beautiful than anything can be,
Her hands are the reason I am me.
How was it like growing up with just your mother?
Growing up with my mother is normal. She is my friend. She plays the roles of a mother and a father. She is always going out of her way to make me comfortable. Sometimes, I don’t get what I want but I just take it in like a ‘G’. She is such a strong woman; I have learnt a lot from her and I get her pain most of the time. She is always busy but even at that, she makes time for me.
Did you feel the absence of a father? Did you ask her about him? What did she tell you?
Yes, at some point, because I had friends asking me about my dad and I didn’t know what to say. I did ask my mom and she told me about my dad. Also, I got used to it because I had full attention from my family. Lots of love from my uncles, grandma and my mother.
Did you miss that aspect of growing up? What impact has it had on you today?
No, it didn’t. It has helped me so much because now, I’m very independent.
How do you relate with your mom, seeing she is not so much older than you?
She is much older than me. My mom is so relatable. She is very strict but fun at the same time.
Your mom is a famous woman now. How was life back then before fame? Compare then and now; what has changed for you?
Oh! There’s never been a famous or a non-famous time; before people started seeing her as famous, she was famous at home.
How do people react when they hear that Waje is your mum?
People tend to be surprised but I see it as normal.
Growing up, did your mum listen to you or she always wanted to do things her way? Generally, do you think parents should give children more credit?
Yes! I think parents don’t trust their kids as much because when we ask for little freedom, they blow up. They are too paranoid. (Laughs)
What is your career path? Are you going into music?
No. I want to be a medical doctor but I also enjoy dancing and fashion.
As one who grew up with a single parent, would you say you had challenges as a result of that?
A word of advice to children and mothers who are reading.
For children, your parents are the best friends you should confide in before any other because of their wealth of experience and love for us children. For parents, be patient with us kids and trust that you’ve taught us well.
By Pamela Echemunor