Lagos — The humming sound of the aircondition penetrated the silence that pervaded the entire house. Soon, the sound of her slippers announced her arrival. Clad in a fishtail chocolate skirt and blouse to match, Mrs. Hafsat Adebisi Kuye welcomed Glitterati into her expansive Ikeja GRA, Lagos home.
Bisi as she is popularly known is in a festive mood. Last Friday, she marked her 50th birthday having been born on September 21, 1957. In the Lagos social circle, she stands out as a woman who cannot be easily ignored. Pretty and stylish, this computer scientist turned businesswoman has held her head high in public life as one of the best dressers. Her style is unique. She is always the and cynosure of eyes at every party in and around Lagos over the years. In defence of thrust for parties, she believed. "I am a woman of people. I like associating with people and anywhere they are celebrating, I identify with them".
But living a celebrity life has its downside. A few years back, the rumour mill was agog over the alleged collapse of her marriage to the then former Minister of State for Finance, Chief Jubril Martins Kuye. How true? Her response was quick. "I wouldn't want to talk about it." But since then things have been on a free fall. Well, the marriage has finally packed up. "It is unfortunate because I didn't plan my life that way but when you find yourself in such situation life goes".
And the rumour about her re-marrying. "I have somebody that I am dating right now and we are still watching. I pray that by God's grace everything would work out well. But it is not something that I would announce to the whole world". She spoke to FUNKE OLAODE.
Who is Bisi Kuye?
Bisi Kuye is a mother, a businesswoman and above all, a God fearing woman. I was formerly Miss Hafsat Adebisi Cole who later got married to Chief Jubril Martins Kuye, former Minister of State for Finamce. My late father was from Abeokuta while my mother is from the Oloto family of Lagos. My maternal grandmother was from Efon Alaye in Ondo State. I was born at Coker Street in Lagos where I grew up. I had a good parental upbringing, though I am the last born of my mother from eight children. I remember while growing up, my father was a bit strict while my mother was a little bit soft. I could remember each time they teased me that my mother was going to have another baby, I would start crying. I was about three years then. So, I had a pleasant childhood
Can you take us to your educational background?
I started schooling at Ereko Methodist Primary School, Lagos. I later proceeded to Bishop Oluwole School. From there, I went to Premier College, Yaba and ended up at Marywood Grammar School, Apapa Road, Ebute Metta. After my secondary education, there was this urge to equip myself further; I enrolled at Rimax Computer School, Yaba where I earned a diploma in Computer Science. I was in this school when I met my former husband, Chief Jubril Martins Kuye. We got married in Nikkai ceremony in 1983. And that time, he wanted to go to Harvard. So, he asked me to go to London. In London, I enrolled at London School of Fashion, Oxford Street where I acquired another diploma in fashion. We came back and he set me up and I had a fashion house called BK Fashion where I produced undies and made things for myself and clients.
You celebrated your 50th birthday recently, how does it feel to be 50?
I really thank God for taking me this far. Turning 50 is significant in my life because people say age is a number, but when one is a fulfilled person, it calls for celebration. So, I thank God Almighty for His blessings, mercies upon my family, my business and me. Secondly, age they say, is in the mind but I still feel young within me and I don't feel the age.
What has been the secret of your youthful look?
I don't have any beauty routine. And if you ask me I would tell you that it is the peace of mind. And if you have Christ in your life, you have absolute peace. You know my ways tend to the Lord's direction and since God is my guiding angel all the time, I feel peace around me. I also do little exercise and I allow contentment to reign supreme in my life. I am somebody who doesn't aspire to what I cannot get. I do what I can do to keep myself free of any trouble. I don't malice with people. I do thing as it pleases God and suits my spirit.
You are reputed to be a trendsetter in the world of fashion. Did your involvement in fashion design influence your dress sense?
Well, Nigerians are good dressers. And if you have that passion for fashion coupled with international exposure, it enhances and dictates one's fashion sense. For instance, I have some people in the fashion business that I admire a lot. So, apart from my training as a fashion designer, I like good things. I like to call attention anywhere I am, not necessarily notice me kind of. Though most of the times, I make some sketches and call my designer to bring something out of it.
How do you feel when people walk up to you and say you look beautiful?
I feel happy within myself.
You also love jewelries?
I like jewellery. And I remember when I was very young; I would gather some ornaments and take them to a goldsmith at Museum Kitchen on the Island. He would tell me that if I had a small amount we could buy gold and make some chains out of it. Wearing good jewellery is not something I stumbled on now. I have been doing that since when I was young. Apart from the fashion aspect of it, having good jewelery (most especially gold and diamond) is a good investment.
Though you dress well why is that you cover you head all the time?
To glorify the Almighty Allah in your life as a Moslem lady, you have to cover up your head. But now that I am a Christian I still dress moderately. I can't imagine myself dressing provocatively. To impress who? I have to do things that God Himself would be happy about. You don't have to dress somehow to get what you want. And that is why we women must dress responsibly all the time because as role models, some people are looking up to us. As for the covering of head, I was born a Moslem, lived in a Moslem home and grew up a Christian because I went to a Christian school. I later got married to a Moslem.
There are celebrities even older women who dress half nude. What's your view?
Well, I am not here to condemn anybody. Dressing is a matter of choice. Some like exposing themselves to show off their smooth skin. If it pleases them it is okay.
As a celebrity how have you been able to avoid scandals?
When you are living in a glasshouse you don't throw stones. Life itself is funny because some people may want to destroy you but when God is by your side and you ensure you do things in moderation, you will definitely prevail. And Nigeria is a sensitive place where people always write or talk about your wrong doings.
Life has been good to you do you have any event that has made a lasting impression on your life?
Life is full of ups and downs and problem is a pathfinder in human's life. And if there is no problem there won't be any solution and if there is no solution there won't be testimony.
Is there anything you ought to have done differently?
You mean better than this? I give God the glory for every step I take in life. Honestly, life has been good to me and I don't think it could be better than this. I am into private business. I deal with ceramic, I am into car business and I still do my fashion business. And when I look at God's work it is marvelous. So, life has been good
You said you have been married for 24 years. How did you meet?
I met my former husband when I was doing my diploma in computer science at Rimax Computer School, Yaba. We courted for five years and did the Nikka ceremony in 1983. The marriage was blessed with one child.
Three years ago there was a speculation that all was not well with your marriage that it has even collapsed. How true?
Well, it is true. Though marriage is for better for worse. I don't know, one thing led to another and we just had to pack it up. It is unfortunate because I didn't plan my life like that, but when you find yourself in such a situation, life goes.
Are you his first wife?
Not really. Before we met he had a wife whom he got married to at University. But she is late now that automatically qualifies me to be his first wife.
You parted when?
We went our different ways in 2003.
Talking about the marriage what actually went wrong?
I wouldn't want to talk about it because it is a personal issue. Having a misunderstanding in one's life is not peculiar to marriage alone it happens in all facets of life. And I don't think mine is different. Marriages collapse everyday and may be because one is a little bit known that is why all the furore about it. Like I said, I don't want to talk further on it.
But there was a counter accusation of infidelity?
I have never heard such a thing. In fact, I am hearing it for the first time. Like I said the other time, life itself is funny and sometimes people may go out of their ways wanting to destroy you. And when something happens people must weave around something. In my own case, the question of infidelity did not arise. It just didn't work out and I have since moved on with life.
What qualities do you look out for in a man?
My man has to be God fearing, honourable, upright, caring, loving and humble.
Though you are no longer married to him (Chief Jubril Martins Kuye) but everything can't be wrong totally?
Like I said, it didn't just work out and that is how God wants it. Honestly, I don't have any hard feelings against him. Remember he is the father of my son and somehow one is still connected but this time on a plain level.
Personally, do you feel bad that the marriage didn't work out?
No woman on this earth would want a broken home. Not that I am happy about it but there is nothing I can do about it because life goes on.
How true is the rumour that you are planning to remarry on your 50th birthday?
I don't know where the story came from. And even if I am getting married I don't have to make noise about it. Although I have somebody that I am dating right now and we are still watching. I pray that by God's grace everything would work out well. But it is not something that I would announce to the whole world.
The feeling that people have is that at 50 you should be pre-occupied with your business and taking care of your child?
You mean at 50 I shouldn't go into that again. Well, Yoruba has an adage that Oko ni ade ori aya meaning husband is the crown on woman's head. Life is easier when a man shares your burden. And no matter your age, you still need a shoulder to lean on. Chief Kuye is my first marriage and if I go into this, it would be my second one. And I pray that this one will stay with me till the rest of my life.
And now that you are into another relationship, if you are faced with similar problem (God forbid), would you handle it differently?
Yes I should. When the marriage broke up in 2003 I wasn't too young. But now that I would be 50, if I were confronted with such situation I will know how to handle it because maturity helps in settling things. Also, the church I attend now is helping a lot. You know they talk about marriage and home front.
How do you relax?
I have an in-house gym where I exercise thrice in a week. I am a very adventurous person so I travel a lot.
Looking back do you have any regret?
I don't think I have any regrets and I don't pray I will have one in the mighty name of Jesus. God has been kind, marvellous, faithful and too awesome to me.
Are you planning to go into full ministration with the way you are talking?
I leave that to God. I want His will to prevail in my life. I will like to work for God because nobody works with God and fail.