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Why I’m still married to Charlie Boy —Diane Oputa

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Diane Oputa is the wife of entertainment maestro, Charles Oputa popularly known as Charlie boy or Area Father. In this interview with Miriam Humbe,  she speaks of her relationship with Charlie boy; what has kept their marriage going and her booming business teaching African Arts and "Krafts".

People see you as not being as visible as your husband. What have you been doing with yourself?

I have been involved in entertainment and art crafts and culture in some kind of way. Remember we met recently at a cultural event and I was very happy that I was recognised as an ambassador of African Arts & Crafts, and I was also very happy that we were recognised as being part of the cultural era right now. TAAKRA, which is Teaching African Arts and krafts is my outfit established for that purpose and it has been in operation for about six to seven years now and we have been on air for the past five years. TAAKRA television programme is basically what I have been doing for the past eight years.

And that happens to be basically an empowerment programme where we empower women; we hold workshops and seminars to promote women and widows thereby creating a platform for self-reliance and empowerment. So that project extends to teaching the different skills acquisition programmes that we have been doing for TAAKRA.

How do you empower the women through the TAAKRA project?

We teach projects in which the women come to learn one skill or the other. At some times, I get e-mails and I get to know that people are confused about which and what they should be doing with their lives. You will find that there are some women who are into banking, law and so on yet they may not be happy with their jobs and want to do something different. They may want to learn how to design clothes; it may be event management or it may be so many other things so by introducing this on the programme. We are opening up avenues which people can use to enhance themselves.

How do you think Nigeria can project its cultural identity in the face of western influences?

I think our perception as Nigerians in terms of our culture is the problem. Sometimes the grass always seems to be greener on the other side and we tend to forget about what we have here that is so valuable and gorgeous when compared with what is obtainable elsewhere. But I think that especially now, especially the artistes; we are really beginning to realise our values as a people more than ever before. The industries are booming all around, the music industry, the movie industry, the art and culture industry are moving. It may be slow for now but for us on the programme, we can see the rich culture as we project on the programme. Our art and crafts values are huge. We have so much to offer to the international community. I just think that we have a lot of problems with packaging. We have a lot of problems with financing and exportation. Those are some of the challenges but we hope to overcome them for sure.

There are a lot of tourist sites in Nigeria. How can they be effectively harnessed for the wealth creation?

These are some of the things that the government needs to focus on and we can tap into them. As soon as the government begins to realise that these are valuable assets that we can tap into then those areas you will see tourism coming into Nigeria more than ever. You will see more arts and crafts exported. Even as at today, some of the art works we produce in Nigeria, are now in Holland. You can see them in so many other parts of the world. I was at Hilton the other day and I saw an exhibition going on there and I saw very beautiful paintings and I was impressed. So if the government decides that it will invest more in tourism and culture, it will help a lot, because at the end of the day, we will get value for our money. People will begin to come to Nigeria instead of going to South Africa, Kenya or Ghana. So we have to wake up. Corporate bodies also needs to promote the kinds of programmes so that we can clarify some of those negative impressions that people tend to have of us. We don't live in trees. We drive good cars; we also have a rich environment as well.

How do you come about the widows you help in your programme?

On TAAKRA, we have these women that nobody is looking after. They have no husbands. So we teach them how to be more self reliant. We are talking about the grassroots here. We are not talking about those who have. We are talking about the have-nots. So for us, those are the most important things.  We are not waiting for government to come and do all of these things but of course, a little bit of help here and there will be good.

A lot of our audience normally come from the church. That is where you find most of these organisations like ours who support women. We also have individuals and family members who are widows. Right now, we have a school we are getting ready to open here in Gwarimpa. It is an academy and we are basically going to be training and that training is for everybody who wants to come and train but for our widows' programme, we have a foundation that covers the cost for the widows to be trained through individuals who pay for the courses. So we don't wait for government. There are some individuals who, when they just hear about the plight of a woman in distress, then they just pick up the women and train them but we need a situation whereby government can come in and be part of what we do.

So far, has there been any financial help from any organisation to boost your efforts?

None has come yet. We are still waiting for the help. But like I said, we are not going to sit around and wait for the help.

You have been married for 30 years and still going strong. What is the secret?

It is not my doing that I have been married for 30 years. It is just that you have two people who met and decided to share their lives together and they made the sacrifice and so forth. They made a commitment that they want to be together. And the biggest thing is this is God's grace. It is not our doing. I always tell people when they ask me that question that there is no special remedy for that it is just the love you have for the individual that keeps you going.

In this era of massive celebrity marriage failures, what advice do you have for couples in the show biz world to improve their relationships?

I don't know why these questions crop up now but I remember in the past interviews I've had even on television, these questions crop up quite often. If I get on to some of the Nigerian talk shows, the topic is usually marriage, marriage break up, how do you stay together?  What's the secret? Some of the upcoming artistes are not yet married. Maybe they should be advised on pre-marital behaviour like courting, dating and all that so that at the end of the day, when you are married, you realise that you are married and before you get married, you must know the person that you are going to get married to.

There are always new developments. You don't really know a person. It is a learning experience really. But you must try and know more about the person no matter what it takes then both parties have to watch out. It is not a one way thing. I've met several young couples, maybe my husband and I are the kind of people that others feel they can come to and confide in and a lot of times and you hear a lot of things. The issues are always there but because you survived it, there should be something that you are doing.  So couples must learn to understand themselves.

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