My name is ‘Lade Hephzibah Olugbemi, I wear different hats and sometimes it can be difficult choosing which one of the hats I can use in describing myself.
Let us start from the one closest to my heart, I am the delight of God, that is the meaning of the name Hephzibah! That was a name that came about during a personal encounter some years back and it has stuck with me.
I am a grandmother to two lovely grandchildren, a mother, mentor, mentee, public motivational speaker, a preacher of the word of God, an advocate, activist and a mental health advocate.
I am a councillor in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, representing West Thamesmead in the United Kingdom.
I am passionate about making a difference in my community and any environment I am placed to be the voice to the voiceless and supporting or advocating for those who may not be able to speak up fully for themselves.
I am a graduate from the Ondo State University. In the second set, 1983 that was admitted to the university, when it was called Obafemi Awolowo University and later changed to Ondo State University. I graduated in 1987 with a honours in English and Literary Studies.
I proceeded in 2003 to study Law at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels in Commercial and Business Law.
Tell us about life as a lawyer, mental health expert and councillor in the UK?
I am a non-practising lawyer. I do not practise, however I use my legal skills and appropriate skills in my professional life.
You get to see the side of me depending on the angle and the seat I am sitting on.
I have a full-time job as a senior manager in one of the local authorities in London. This is aside of my job as a councillor.
I also run a registered charity organisation called _The Nous_ .
We are licensed Mental Health First Aid trainers and we also consult for organisation on mental wellbeing of staff and community members.
We organise seminars, conferences and speak at events on mental health issues.
I became a councillor in May 2022. One of the proudest moments of my life was receiving the vote from my constituents to be their representatives in the borough and advocating for them on local matters. A tough job.
The selection process was rigorous and very demanding, however with the support of God and great political mentors, I was able to scale through. The journey so far has been very very demanding and a lot of learning.
What inspired you to go into UK politics?
I was inspired to go into politics because I strongly believe we are all political beings. We can not all sit on armchairs and criticise government and complain about what is working or not working. I got up and believed I could make a difference. I decided to join a party that represented my beliefs and ethos about fairness, equity and justice. I wanted to be in the company of men and women who believe we can all make a difference by ensuring laws, procedures and policies are truly reflective of the needs of the local community.
I was inspired to go into politics as an extension of my advocacy work in the field of mental health. I have always had it in me, I guess God allowed the right opportunity to come up for me to step into an arena where I truly can make a difference.
I was inspired by the various work I had seen politician do in the boroughs where I worked, their selflessness.
Over here in the UK, you get paid a miserly allowance that is not commensurate with the amount of time and work that you do, yet I saw and observed so many go out of their way to support residents. I wanted to be that person too. That person that will hold local government officials to account and work with them to make sure views of locals are taken on board.
I was inspired to go into politics by my uncle who was the former chief whip of the Senate of the federal republic of Nigeria, Prof. Sola Adeyeye.
An astute academic, a forthright no nonsense politician who embodied true politicking at all levels. I watched him several times and his debating styles on the floor of the House. Yes politics in Nigeria is tough, he spoke out against so many vices and he stood for the truth.
I was inspired by Jesus to go into politics. He represented the true embodiment of socialism. That was the reason the people thought that he was a leader in the flesh. He came to set the captives free, provided for the hungry and was vocally challenging of authorities that were not usually challenged
What was the experience like at the beginning?
It was very challenging. Several meetings and tests. Before you can be shortlisted, there is a process where it is daunting. You face your peers and comrades and have to convince them that you are capable of representing the party. That you possess the skills, the emotional intelligence, resilience and capacity to do the job.
After the shortlisting, you now have the arduous task of contacting residents and to vote for your party. There are over 20k residents in my ward. This was days of door knocking, in the cold, with frozen hands, door knocking and asking residents to vote for your party. A very interesting and delightful experience as you got to hear first hand from residents their issues, their concerns, what they want done and that gives you the insight into looking at the various angles that you will work to support your residents.
What was the turning point in your career ?
My career is progressing and not turned yet…
I guess what you mean is at what point in my career did I decide to go into politics. I guess it was at a point when I realised that I had the capacity and the capability to do this.
As mentioned earlier, I work in another local authority as a senior manager, so I knew the demands of the job. Stepping into the other side of the table was like a natural progression in the line of my vocation, being a mental health advocate.
Tell us about some of the memorable moments in your life and career ?
Memorable moments are plenty!
When I had my first child!
When I bought my first car, first house, became a grandmother, promoted to become a senior manager in a local authority, when I registered my organisation, _The Nous_ , in Nigeria and UK and of course, lately, when I became a councillor.
Those moments remind me of the faithfulness of God and how that He has His hands on my life and that he created me for a purpose. Each of those moments came with battles that God helped to overcome
What are some of the other things that occupy your time ?
I love plants, walking and also going to the gym. I take my physical health very seriously and have ensured that I maintain good BMI.
I love to dance to good music and listen to music too.
Who or what do you consider as the greatest influence in your life?
Jesus is the greatest influencer in my life. His principles, His management styles, the level of His emotional intelligence, His people managing skills, His love for humanity and of course, His humility. Through him, I learnt you can be humble no matter your position in life.
Other influencers are Chimanda Adichie, a woman with such poise and prose of a language she mastered that even the native speakers 6refer to her. Her attitude and spirit. Her confidence and intellectuality are very admirable
What lessons have you learnt about life?
Life is transient. What appears to be an impossible situation today, can become possible tomorrow if you believe and you work towards changing the narrative.
There is nothing impossible with God! I have learnt that stories change, people change and the only constant thing in life is change. You must prepare for change and be amiable and flexible to embrace the change when it happens!
I have learnt that hard work pays, it is about working hard and smart! Not just hardwork but hard work and smartness. Where you have only smartness you find out that people will be looking out for short cuts and they may not be producing their best
What advice would you give younger ladies who admire your personality and want to be like you?
Do not allow any one to cower you. Be a voice, speak even when your leg is shaking. Be respectful!
Get a mentor and compartmentalise your relationships.
Gather all the intellectual skills you need to allow you that seat at the table.