Sparingly describing the Queen of Diamonds, Senator Daisy Danjuma— the elegant, peerless, classy and benevolent are few of the adjectives that readily come to mind. A commanding aura announces her presence everywhere she steps- mention a stunner and we’d show you Daisy!
Wife of General T.Y. Danjuma, a retired Nigerian Lieutenant General known for his roles in post-independent military and political events in Nigeria. Recently, she joined the septuagenarian club and has only gotten more amazing with age. She is blessed with a beautiful family she holds very dear.
She is a trained lawyer who has gone on to have a successful career in the private sector and in politics. From 2003 to 2007, she served as the senator representing Edo South Senatorial District at the Senate.
Lover of good things; her penchant for collecting diamonds remains inspiring, hence her earning the sobriquet, ‘Queen of Diamonds’.
In this interview with MediaRoomHub, the Amazon takes us through the journey of her life, the forthcoming general election, advises married women faced with domestic violence, cautions ladies who engage in plastic surgery, and shares deep insights into life at 70.
Q: Your 70th birthday was remarkable. Can you share with us how you felt that day?
A: Turning 70 is by the grace of God, I am grateful to God that I am healthy and everything is fine so far. I don’t feel the symptoms and signs of an aging woman. I can say I am very lucky, I guess it’s genetic. So far so good, I’m fine, I don’t feel 70 and it’s by the grace of God.
Q: People find it difficult to believe that you are 70 yet, can you share with us the secret of this great look?
A: I have no routine. I am very outspoken; I don’t keep malice. If you offend me, I tell you off. I have a very free spirit. I am very forgiving. I am not malicious; I don’t envy people. If I like something about anyone I appreciate openly, if you look nice, I tell you that you look nice. If you have a nice dress on, I complement you. So maybe because I just live a very simple and easy life, it does not mean I don’t get angry, it’s just that I am not malicious, I don’t envy people. The main thing is that I am very blunt, most people don’t like it; I tell you as it is. If you don’t begrudge people, I don’t think you will have a lot of burden in your heart to carry and that is part of the reason I am aging gracefully. My mother aged very well, she looked very young at 85, she wasn’t wrinkled. You can see from my sisters; we all have that young ‘girlish’ looks. My brother is not that young, but he looks ‘boyish’ that is, the Minister of Health. He’s six years older than I am, and if you look at him, you would never think he is as young as he looks. It’s genetic, I think.
Q: Are there things turning 70 has denied you as a person?
A: So far, I think one should act his or her age. I cannot wake and say I want to wear micro-mini. There are many things you will not do. I am now a grandmother like you know, I have children who are married. So, there are many things you cannot do at 70—you have to know your limitations. The fact that you look good at 70, you are healthy, you are ‘sportish’ does not mean that you should behave like a teenager. I think at 70, I should act my age, I might not look my age, but I should act my age.
Q: Do you have any beauty routine, like going to the gym?
A: I have never been to the gym before. None of the known sport houses have I ever been to. But I walk around the house a lot, I am very active at home. I cook, I like gardening. I move around the house a lot—I’m very active physically. I’m not someone who sits down, press the bell to get a cup of water. I do everything myself practically. For that reason, I burn a lot of calories and fat. I don’t eat too much; I control my food and I eat right.
Q: Your skin still glows, is water part of your therapy?
A: The main thing is that a lot of people destroyed their skin when they were young using bleaching or toning creams. Most of the toning lotions/creams have hydroquinone and we are in a very hot high temperate country with the sun. The sun is the number one aging factor to the skin and when you use such lightening creams, and you get exposed to the sun it burns you and when it burns you, it gives you a lot of discoloration which ages the skin faster that unusual. As they say, any buttocks, breast or face enhancement procedures is like blowing air into a balloon, the moment the air is released, it wrinkles. So, people who have done a lot of cosmetic surgery they age faster, but if you let the aging process go naturally on its own, I think the aging process will be slow. Avoid too much direct exposure to the sun/direct sunshine. Drink a lot of water. I take a lot of coconut water because I love coconut water and it has double hydration. I have not tampered with my skin. I moisturize my skin a lot, I spray a lot of effing water. I use it about two to three times a day to hydrate my skin. That’s a routine and regularly I use my sunscreen. After two hours, most sunscreen wears off, but before I go into real sun—the garden, I put on my sunscreen. I have some as cream I use regularly in the morning; some are just spray. So, with that, I protect my skin.
Q: Have you at any point been scared of growing old?
A: I was always looking forward to being 70. 70 has biblical commendations. 70 is usually celebrated. I was never at any point scared of getting to 70, because I did all the right things at the right time—I went to school at the right time, I married at the right time, God blessed me with children at the right time. I have grandchildren, and I am doing well in my profession by God’s grace. I am okay. So, why should I reduce my age when I have done everything at the right time? All I do now is just thank God, because he has been merciful to me. I was looking forward to 70, now I am looking forward to being 80 too by the grace of God. So, aging is a natural process.
Q: What do you think of women who cut down their ages?
A: They have not achieved what they want at the right time, so they reduced their age. For me, I don’t need to because I have done everything at the right time. I went to school at the right time, I did everything at the right time, so if I tell you I am 60 now, that will mean I had my first child when I was 12 or what. So, some people don’t even count back. We have classmates and schoolmates who know us, for that reason, it is difficult.
Q: Despite your busy schedule, you still create time to look after your home—you cook, clean and do so much by yourself, is it something you were born with or you learnt?
A: I am from a home where entertainment is very important. My father loved to eat varieties of food; my mother was a hands-on cook who’d put everything on the table. What has also helped me in doing all these things is time management. Whatever you do, you should manage your time properly. Time management is very important. As a career woman who has children, you have to manage your time right so that you can have the right time for all the right things—time to spend with your family. You create and manage your time right. So, it’s just about time management, so normally entertainment is fun. I love cooking, I love being a good hostess. In those days, I used to bake my cakes almost every day—everything fresh and all. I still love cooking because it is just part of me. It is a hobby I enjoy—cooking and gardening are two things I enjoy very much and still love to do.
Q: In your book, your dearest husband hailed you to high heavens—particularly praising your cooking skills, is that part of the reasons he has always loved you?
A: I cannot tell you what makes a man fall in love with a woman. Some women are the best cooks in the world, but their husbands don’t stay. So, I cannot use that as criteria. It all depends. You cannot define how to keep a man or what keeps a man because I have seen women who are everything, yet their husbands won’t stay it depends on the man too. If you are married to a man who is reasonable, who has conscience and wants to stay, he will stay. There is no ideal home, marriage and situation. You just have to pray to be lucky. If you have it good, it’s just that you are lucky, not as if you have done everything right or perfect, luck just comes to play in a situation like this, not because you have everything or you are beautiful or because you cook well or a good housekeeper. You can be all, and a man still decides to leave you. It’s just luck. We can all graduate from school on the same day and start working in the civil service the same day, yet some of us would become the permanent secretary, and others won’t be. We all cannot be presidents. We all cannot be governors. So, we all have where we can all excel, as they say, God chooses rulers and gives us the best, we just pray to have the best and that is it.
Q: They say a general’s wife is a ‘general’ in her own right, are you really one?
A: Well, I don’t know about that. I am not in the army; I wasn’t enlisted in the army. I am a lawyer by profession.
Q: You’re likened to Kamala Harris by all considerations by friends, would you accept the offer to contest as the president of Nigeria someday?
A: For now, I don’t think I am interested in that. I can advise. I want to actually rest. I want to have time for my husband. I don’t want to be a politically exposed person ‘PEP’ because I know what I suffered as a senator, I had no access to funds. I had to close my accounts abroad, even the ones I opened as a student in England, I had to close them all as a senator. I didn’t have access to funds and I did not like it. For that reason, I am not interested in political positions, because they look at every African political office holder as someone who has stolen money, but that’s not always the case. So, for that reason, I don’t want any executive position or appointment. I am not interested; I just want to be off the list of ‘PEP’ because I know what it is. Even buying something important abroad, the kind of questions you go through is so much, you begin to wonder if we are all thieves. I think when somebody becomes a Local Government chairman, he comes with ‘okada’, overnight he buys all the jeeps in this world, and the people looking at it gives you chieftaincy title knowing full well that you have not earned that money properly. So, it has made every politician look like thieves who have come to acquire ill-gotten wealth. I don’t want people to complain if I wear a nice earring—they’d say it’s their money I stole and use in buying it.
I want to be myself and do whatever I want to do without the stigma of people saying I have taken government money to acquire anything because they will not know the difference between what you have earned properly and what you have misappropriated from government funds. The whole system of accountability and a lot of corruption has made me not to be interested in political positions because people no longer know the difference between people who have come to serve and people who have come to make money. If I have come to serve, why should I be classified as those who have come to make money? So, I rather just focus on my private sector, make my money and be myself rather than come to serve and then get all the blame for all the things going wrong. So, for that reason, I don’t want to hold any political position. Even if you want me to be president of Nigeria on a platter, I will not accept, I can tell you that for free, because if they see this ring, I am putting on in my finger today by tomorrow when I have become the president, they will still say I stole it—it’s government money because they see everybody as people who have come to make money in politics.
Q: The political terrain in Nigeria does not favour the women, what advice do you have for women aspiring to join politics?
A: I still believe that if women are given more opportunities our country will be better, because if you notice, in all the countries in Africa that have women in politics, policy and decision making have done very well because as women, we run the homes—the economy of the house is run by us generally as the wife. Men just come, you put food on the table and they eat, but a woman ensures there is water, there is electricity to cook—the grinding of pepper, the vulcanizer, the tailor, the hairdresser and all, women take care of all this and a woman understand what it takes, a woman understands that they need electricity to work and for that reason, we cannot compare your prices with imported goods because we have to buy the generator, buy diesel and inface everything. So, it increases our cost of production which affects the goods. So, if women are in position—let’s say a woman is the Minister of Health now or Minister of Education or in any sensitive position, she would make sure that things work, because if your children fail, they will say they fail just like their mother. Women go out of their way to go do things—they take their children for medication when they are ill and more. So, women handle most of the responsibilities at home. That’s why when you ask some men what does your wife do? Most men would just say my wife is a house wife, but she does all the job.
So, the biggest job is being a wife. You make everything possible even for him to go to work—it’s by your grace and the things you do that make it easy for him to be productive. So, women should be given more responsible positions, they should be more involve in policy and decision making, they should be more active in politics, in fact the Beijing platform that requires 35% of women to participate in policy and decision making of countries all over the world has not been achieved in Nigeria—even 5% is not achieved here in our country. Angola, Rwanda, and South Africa have done more than that and that is why they have gone beyond us. The day we have up to 25% of our women in our policy and decision making in this country, you will see the improvement in our economy. Most economy is run by women from the back, but the policy and decision making that forms the major core of government is in the hands of men. So, I believe that more women should be encouraged to participate and given more legislative duties, executive positions and should be involved generally in policy and decision making. Women should be more involved. It should be 50/50 not just 35/65.
Q: Do you think there is hope for Nigerian women politically?
A: Definitely with time. Like in the north, they mix religion with culture. On the other hand, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan became a president in an Islamic country. So, when you talk about politics there, the issue of religion does not even arise. Most people just want women to be indoor and not be heard, but that is not right—and we have grown beyond that in Nigeria—we have had competent women ministers in the past, so we are getting there.
Q: If you are offered an international appointment like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, would you accept?
A: I am not looking for such. She accepted the position of Minister here. It’s a job she vied for, and she got it. She is very competent, and we all can’t be in such positions. I am now in the private sector and I am quite pleased being here.
Q: You’re are a complete family and career woman; how do you balance the both of them without neglecting your husband and family duties?
A: Like I told you, time management is the most important thing you do. I have time to work, and when it’s time to look after my husband, I will not give another person that time. There is time to play as they say all work and no play makes jack a dull boy. Like I told you earlier, time management is very important, you have to manage your time right—when it’s time to play, you play, when it’s time to work, you work, you must give priority to what is important. When you come to visit me, we have a good time, but the moment comes back from work, you have to excuse me, because I will not sit there and be playing with you, I have to give my husband the time he needs. I can even tell it’s time to go because I have to look after my husband now. I don’t joke with things like that. All my friends know that, if they come to visit/play me, and my husband comes back that play would end immediately he enters the house. My focus will change, I will give him the attention he deserves. When my husband travels, you can come and we’ll gist the whole day, but when he’s around and he comes back from work, the play has to end.