My travails for three and a half years over child trafficking allegation —Bisket

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Bisi Dan Musa, a.k.a. Bisket, bestrode the social scene like a colossus in the 80s, 90s and early 2000. Now 66, her life is one that movie makers can make a fortune from. As a fabric merchant, she was already comfortable enough to build her own house at 24. And by the time she clocked 30, she was already a mother of eight children. Tall, graceful and endowed with benevolent disposition, it is no surprise that celebrities were always flocking around her. As a matter of fact, her business office, called Bisket Store, on Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos, was always a beehive of activities. It was the first to run a 24-hour schedule. She later became a born-again Christian and before any of her top society friends knew it, she had become seriously involved in ministry work. She founded a church and intensified her work in humanitarian services, picking up orphans and destitute and rehabilitating them. It was a success story that turned into a nightmare when she was arrested for alleged child trafficking in 2001. It was one incident that shook her life to its very foundation and forced her into a quiet life when she got over the storm that lasted for three and a half years. She went down memory lane as she discussed these and more with PAUL UKPABIO
IT is not unusual to hear that you are in Jerusalem, Rome or some other holy cities on pilgrimage. How does one reconcile this with the fact that you were once accused of child trafficking?
I believe that in the journey of life, God will always take you through different phases. The Bible tells us that there was a time in Joseph’s life that God gave him a vision, the vision backfired and he went solo like I did. But that did not deny God’s promises upon his life and the vision was made manifest. When God wanted him to go solo, he went solo. When God wanted him as a slave, he became one. When God wanted him in prison, he was in prison. But the promise of God upon him, he never missed. And those channels of suffering became the channels through which God elevated him. A vision is like a divine promise. Before something can materialise in your life, you and God must share a vision together. He will first give you a vision; not necessarily in a dream. It may be an idea in your heart. It may be something that you visualise that is coming to you and you are excited about it.
You went into fabric business early in life and made great fortune from it. How did you get involved with the poor and the destitute?
I did not go into fabric business, I was born into it. I am always a dreamer. I diversified into supermarket line and I happened to be the first to run a 24-hour supermarket in Nigeria. Up till now, nobody has achieved that feat. I did the business when Nigeria was tensed up during the military era. There were guns everywhere and I did a 24-hour supermarket business because God gave me the inspiration to do it. And anything I have an inspiration to do, I go for it and I achieve it. God also gave me an inspiration to serve him. Up till now, people cannot understand the calling. Not even my family members, my children, my husband, my late mother and other people who are close to me. None of them could understand why somebody at the highest level of her career would suddenly divert into taking care of the ordinary people on the streets. They believe that most people who divert into such callings do so out of frustration or career breakdown. But I was still in limelight and at my prime, because at the time I answered the call, I was still in my 30s. I did so many things very fast in life. Even my tenants thought that my building belonged to my mother. I had been delivered of eight children before I reached 30. Some preferred to believe the rumour that I had no children. In between all that, I was still working, travelling overseas and importing goods in containers. I was fine and I already had five branches of the supermarket. At 20, I was doing all that. I was never a wayward woman. No man in Nigeria can stand up today and say he invested in me. No man can say he has gone out with me, and no governor or minister can say he helped me or gave me a contract. I have never gone out for such largesse in my life. It was my sweat and the benevolence of my husband.
As a wealthy woman, what is your take on success and wealth?
My children are in their late 30s and above now. They tell me that I am a genius. They compare me to Bill Gates. They and others who know me would tell you that money is not my priority. If I were to value money, I would be one of the richest women in Nigeria today. I see many opportunities I can make money from, but I don’t go for it. Rather, I give out to people. Many whose lives I have touched are living witnesses to my generosity. I am rather careless with money. I give out more money than I make. That is why I say I don’t value money the way other people see it as a matter of life and death. Some people are so eager to achieve and do not care if they hurt anybody in their shrewd desire to make money. People hurt me. Even those that I have helped hurt me, but I just look at them and laugh. They don’t even know how to say thank you. Money is nothing in this world. It is only those who God has given the vision that understand the power of the source. They are the ones who know the value of life and also know that money is not everything. Money is good. I pray for it every day. I pray for my generation not to taste poverty. But one thing I used to tell my kids any time they feel bad and say, “Ah, Mummy, you are nice to a fault,’ is that life and power are transient. Everything that has a beginning also has an end. Nothing is too big to gain and nothing is too big to lose.I was in the office of an influential government official who is close to retirement. He was telling me that all he needed in his life was N3 million so that he could retire to his farm. I looked at him and I felt like weeping, because I know what that means. Some months ago, I gave someone a property worth N8 million free of charge. My children were angry, but I pacified them that God has favoured us and we have never lacked. I told my children that the ones they needed, I had already given them.
Tell us about your background
I was born into affluence. My dad and mum were very rich. My father, Chief Zacheaus Adekoya Okeowo, brought power to Ijebu-Ode. He owned the first petrol station in Ijebu Ode, and at a time, he was one of the finest politicians in the progressive politics of that era. And my mother, Chief (Mrs.) Christiana Alaba Okeowo, was one of the pioneers of the fabric business in Nigeria. She started in Lagos and went up to have her own factory. She didn’t stop employing foreigners to work in her factory. So I grew up with silver spoon. I have never tasted poverty in my life. I don’t even know what they call poverty. My parents bought me my first car at the age of 16. So, I have never tasted poverty. Maybe that is why money is not a big deal to me. When I see people running after money like life and death and they are ready to hurt anybody because of money, I feel sorry for them. Even when they accused me of stealing children, I just laughed. The question I first asked is how much would I sell them? As an individual I built my first house at the age of 24. I know how much I get from rent alone. Up till now, I live on rent because I decided not to work again. I retired at the age of 40.
What has life has taught you?
There are some positions God put us in, though they make us unhappy or uncomfortable, they are part of the packages that will locate our destiny. I always tell my kids that I know I may have hurt you, you may not be happy with me as your mother, maybe I wasted opportunities in which you would have been swimming in money, but it could also be that I am preparing your future. You will enjoy it. I tell them to trust me that my seven generations will reap the fruits of what I am sowing. I may not reap it, but I pray that God will give my children the grace to reap it. That’s because He works according to His grace. If Jesus can die at the age of 33, who am I to query God for my own cross? Jesus’ short time on earth did not deprive Him of God’s promise upon his life. Today, He is worshipped and adored globally. Before Adolph Hitler died, he confessed that Jesus was the greatest and most popular entity in the world. Even Times magazine at a time adjudged Him the Greatest Personality of the Century. Even Muslims appreciate Him. They say He is not the son of God, but they still accept him as a prophet of God. I just came back from Jerusalem and I visited where Jesus was buried. It is Muslims that are watching over the place. And it is a mosque that is beside Jesus Christ’s burial ground. They said the land is owned by Muslims and the Muslims were very careful; they were watching us. They didn’t want us to damage the place or do anything evil to it. So, they hurry you out so that you don’t overstay your visit. They say they open the place in the morning and close it in the evening. They are very watchful of the place, so that nobody will come and bomb it or do any evil to it. So, if God can glorify Christ up to that level and Christ promised us as His followers that ‘when you take my step, I will never owe you,’ I say that God will not owe me. It may take time for people to realise who this woman is, but God will never owe me.
Do you regret helping abandoned children and destitute after you were accused of child trafficking?
Thank God, one of the children they said I stole is in The Bells University today. We spend over a million naira on him in a year, but the papers are not reporting that, I don’t care. All I care about is what God asked me to do. That child (points to a sleeping baby) is a child to one of the children they said I stole. I am taking care of the mother and I am taking care of the child. Nobody is seeing that. They accused Jesus more than that. People fight what they don’t understand. My children too don’t understand, but I know with time, they will understand that I have a purpose on earth. I have a vision that I am pursuing. Nobody is seeing that vision, but I don’t care. It is not about money. God has given me a time to enjoy. I have enjoyed money. I have entered presidential jets many times. I have been to places in England where it was white people that opened the gates for me and white executives chauffeured me. So, God has given me my good times. Even now, I am still having my good time because at my age, I have no sickness: no diabetes, no high blood pressure, no headache, nothing. People see me and they cannot believe my age. Some people even see me and they say it to my face that all your friends are old, why are you looking young like this? It is the grace of God. Because what I have gone through, they have not gone through it. They have stayed in the limelight. They have enjoyed their lives. They are mixing with their likes while I have been mixing with the low class for the pass 20 years. I still enjoy being around them and I am not complaining. I don’t want to be in the limelight. But I do tell my children if you want the limelight, go for it.
As a popular society figure then, a lot of people must have swam around you…
From youth, I was happily married and started rearing children. I have never lacked anything. So, nothing prepared me for such a huge challenge. I was giving birth to children every year. Some people even said to me, pretty women like you don’t normally have kids, how come you are having children every year? God has been too kind to me. So, when the other side came, it was like a big blow. It knocked me on the floor that I couldn’t even pray. There was a time I was no longer praying. Since I gave my life to God, I have never done anything fetish and I will not do it until the day I die. But in that period of tribulation, I was just blank. It was not even the incident per se, but the way people disappointed me. It was something I never thought could happen. The first day they took me to court, I was thinking that I would see thousands of people waiting there to fight my cause and say, ‘No, Bisket is not like that!’ But I got there and saw only those who wanted to persecute me. The mob was shouting. They were carrying stones. I looked into the heavens and said God, I am not Jesus Christ. Jesus is your son, you both died together in heaven, but I am a child of faith. This woman is about to break to pieces. I was praying to God in my heart. That is why my husband, Dan Musa, no matter who they say he is, I can never leave him. My marriage to him may not be a bed of roses. People said I should leave him, but I will never because during my trying moments, he was there for me. God used him. He stood as a man to the last minute, and for that, I can never abandon him. He is with me and we will be together for life. That is my destiny. But the whole episode made me to see life from a different perspective and that really weakened me for a couple of years.
So, how was the issue resolved?
I pursued the case for three and a half years before I was discharged and acquitted. They could not prove any case against me because God knows that I don’t have any case, and I proved myself in the court of law. No policeman or law enforcement person can say that I bribed him with one naira, and the heavens witnessed that. I intentionally did it so that I can still trust God. If I had bought my way out, I might not trust God again. I wanted to see whether the righteous would be punished, because according to His word, the child of the righteous will never be a victim of misfortune. I wanted to establish that biblical fact. When I first came, the Magistrate was very hostile. But when I proved my case that I take the children with me to England, I take them on holidays, and how much will I sell them in Nigeria? Even if they say they are selling children every day in Nigeria for N500,000, the money I spent on their return ticket to London for holidays alone is more than that. So, any magistrate who knows her onions can see the proof, with their passports. The hospital they were attending was Eko Hospital. They were not going to General Hospital. And I told the magistrate to go there and check the records. There was another hospital we used on Norman Williams Street, Ikoyi. I said go and check. So, how much will I sell them? The magistrate became sympathetic. I read it in her. But she was hostile when the case started. They even begged her to give me a seat in the dock. But when she saw the reality of the case, she changed. Chief Rhodes insisted that I should go into trial, because they wanted to set the case aside. I have forgotten the term they used in law, but Chief Rhodes said if what I had told him was true, I had no case. He said I should not go for the easy way out because my enemies might bring the case back in 10 years’ time. He said, ‘Let them put you in the dock. If you have passed through this and you have not collapsed up till now, you can’t collapse again.’ So, I went into the dock. By the time we finished the case, people were on my side. When I am testifying, people shed tears. By the time I was discharged and acquitted, the whole court was jubilating. People were clapping. If they didn’t believe in the discretion of the magistrate, they would have hissed or protested. But when they counted charge one, discharge and acquitted; charge two, discharge and acquitted up to charge 21, the whole court started clapping.
People said you cried on TV
That was because the children were not allowed to follow me. I couldn’t clap, so I was crying. That is why people who saw the television footage thought I didn’t win the case. They saw me crying on TV and thought I had been sent to jail. And you know after that case, I went into my shell. So, everybody thought I went into jail. They never knew that I was discharged and acquitted. But my joy was not completed because I said I am going home but these children are going into detention with no care and love. As a mother, what is my joy?It was three and a half years later, through the favour of God under Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration, Barrister Opeyemi Bamidele, who was the Commissioner for Sport and Youth Development, assisted and the children were returned to me. May God continue to favour these two people. One of the children is at The Bells University. Others are in other higher institutions.
We hear that you have a new passion caring for animals…
That is funny, because I never grew up in the village. I grew up in the city. But I have the tendency to love not just animals but anything that has life. I don’t play with life. I don’t also believe that it is my doing. It is God that creates human beings and He will just create you the way He wants you to be. I always explain this to my kids that the fault you see in me is exactly how God created me. There was a time my daughter’s friend came from England into my house. She saw me spoon-feeding a kitten. She looked and went to tell my daughter that ‘your mother has a problem o. She is now spoon-feeding animals.’ I appreciate anything that has life. That is how God created me and that is who I am.
And your beauty has stayed over the years. How do you do it?
There is no secret to it. I relax. I don’t worship money. If one has stroke, that means wheel chair. You can’t enjoy that money again. God didn’t allow me to beg my enemies for food. That means I am a rich woman in the Lord. So, I always thank God.
And how is life in retirement?
My husband lives in Kwara State, and where a man stays is where his wife takes as her home. But I am somebody who cannot just stay permanently in Kwara because of my kids. They are in the stage where they need me most. So, I need to be around them even though they may be older. They are actually in their 40s, and late 30s, but a child, no matter how old, still needs the native wisdom of the mother. Moreover, many of them are just re-settling in Nigeria. They are just returning home from the UK and the US, and they don’t know much about Nigerian way of doing things. So, I make sure I shuttle between them and my husband. And thank God, I have a reasonable husband who is very accommodating and caring. I live in his house here in Lagos. Dan Musa gave me a whole house I live in here in Lagos. So, I shuttle between Kwara and Lagos. I live on rent. My husband has a rice plantation with a factory in Ilorin. It is such a huge agricultural investment. He produces all brands of rice. I also have a store in Ilorin because my family is into buying and selling. 
What advice do you have for young couples?
I believe that no woman should break up her marriage because I believe from experience that there is no perfect human being. Anybody God has given you, just take him as your destiny. Even when you change, you will not find perfection in your new partner. So why change? And the changes always affect the children. Like I always advise my kids, the love story you see on television is different from reality. Don’t believe it. Don’t even expect it! Marriage is a reality show, and reality means no perfection.
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