Mrs. Bisi Dan-Musa popularly known as Bisket, tells ‘Nonye Ben-Nwankwo why she shunned limelight after a long time as a society woman
Bisket has been in existence for a long time, how have you been able to manage it?
Bisket will be 35 years this year. It is just the Lord’s doing. I started the business early. Nobody is an expert in anything, you live by His grace. You also have to believe in what you are doing. You have to concentrate and have focus.
We learnt you didn’t go to the university, why?
It was a matter of choice. I wanted it that way. My parents were extremely rich. They could afford to send me to England to study. I attended the best schools money could afford during my secondary school days. I just decided at an early age that university was not for me. I wanted to go into trading. My mother wanted us to go into trading. She was instrumental to what I eventually became. I have no regret whatsoever.
Didn’t you have inferiority complex when your friends went to the university?
No way! I promised myself that none of my friends would come back and meet me wretched. I thank God that they all came back and begged me to show them the way. Even my kids asked me how I was able to make it. They also asked me to show them the way. I was the head girl in my secondary school. My closest friend was also the head girl of her hostel. We were very good friends. She went to the US after our secondary school days and became a lawyer there. But I remember she came back with an old Mercedes Benz car and asked me the secret of how I survived.
Did you send your children to school?
All my kids are graduates. I have PhD holders among them. I have lawyers and engineers. I just glorify God. I travel a lot. There is no place in the world that I have not been to. But it has never crossed my mind to live overseas. I have houses abroad but I can never live there. I can only visit those places and come back. I don’t believe in living abroad. And that is why by His grace, I have been able to bring back all my kids to Nigeria. I prayed and fasted for them to come back home.
Didn’t you want them to live abroad?
I don’t believe in it. I believe they would have limitations in achievement if they stayed back abroad. Whether you believe it or not, Nigeria is a land of opportunities. If you are able to get that divine contact, you will make it. At my age, which minister or governor will I go to? I respect their positions but that doesn’t mean I will go and beg them for favours. I have my integrity to protect and I worked hard to achieve what I was able to achieve. But my kids can do that now. Where they can go, I can’t go there. I am happy they are back home trying to see where they can penetrate. There is no place like home.
Still going down memory lane, how did you choose the kind of business you went into?
I grew up in a place called Gutter in Lagos Island. My mother was one of the pioneers of lace materials trading. It was expected that any child from there would go into the same line. I finished secondary school at the age of 15 and by 17, I was already in the business. I built my first house at Allen (Ikeja) at the age of 24. I used to go to Zurich to bring in materials.
But you eventually changed your line of business and opened Bisket Supermarket, why?
I am a Sagittarian. We are hard working. I decided I didn’t like Lagos Island again, so I moved down to Ikeja. I went into babies’ wear. I would go overseas and buy products. But they weren’t moving. But there is another house just beside my own, my mum owned the property and she gave it out to somebody who was running a supermarket. My mother called me one day to complain that the man was owing four years’ rent. She asked me to go there and find out what was happening. I went there and the place was empty. The man didn’t have enough goods. I gathered that he had gone into politics. But even at that, customers were trooping in. I was surprised. I told my mum that I was going to try that line.
At what point did you choose to leave the limelight because you were a society woman back in the days?
Nothing really happened. So many people thought it was because of the children’s saga. I stepped out of limelight because I believe in what I am doing. You must concentrate on anything you are doing. When I decided I was going to serve God, I had to go into it fully. God called me. I am not somebody who follows the trend. I need to be convinced before I go into anything. When some men of God told me that I was called by God, I didn’t believe them.
But you are a Muslim…
At some point, but I was born into a Christian home. I converted to Islam through marriage. In 1988, I was going through lots of marital issues. It even affected my business, I couldn’t concentrate. But I managed to travel to Thailand. I met one of my tenants at the airport and she said I must do something for her. She said she was going to share my hotel room with me. I didn’t mind. We went to the room and I sat down. That was the last thing I remembered. I just saw myself in a trance and all I could hear was, ‘Bisi, why do you deny Jesus?’ I was scared. I was shouting. The woman with me was afraid.
Was that how you gave your life to Christ?
Not exactly. The following morning, we were coming down from the room to go to the restaurant for breakfast. We saw some men waiting at the foot of the stairs. I later found out they were evangelists. I was a practising Muslim. Even at that, I was raised as an Anglican and we didn’t know much about this evangelism. We saw people carrying Bible as crazy people. I would have told them off. But because of the encounter I had the previous night, I didn’t say anything to them. They pointed at me and said they had been waiting for me. They said they wanted to meet me. We spent six hours together that day. They gave me so many tracts as a new convert. But just as I entered the plane, I threw everything into the trash can.
So how did you change?
That voice I heard at the hotel kept ringing in my ears. I became confused. My husband noticed I wasn’t praying as I used to. He came to me and I told him I wasn’t going to do that again. I told him my experience and he said I would not switch into another religion in his house. He said I wasn’t going to go to church from his house. I didn’t even know how to pray the Christian way again. I would just say ‘God bless today’ in my car and that would only be my prayer for the whole day. Yet God kept blessing me. I was so scared of the blessings. You would think I was minting money. Things were so rosy but I kept having the feeling that something bad was going to happen to me.
What happened? Was it the children saga?
No. I saw everything that was going to happen. Two weeks later, I lost my son and that was in 1991. I decided it was time to serve God fully. And you cannot serve two masters. I used to be a pioneer member of Coliseum Club. I had a gold card I didn’t solicit for. You cannot serve God and be going to clubs. I am not an owambe person, I prefer going to the club. However, I never took alcohol. So I had to cut off from my old lifestyle. I used to attend every society function. Eventually, the invitations started dwindling. That was how I stepped out of the limelight.
But the children’s saga also got you in the papers again…
Oh yes. But I came out of it and I decided to stay off the limelight again. The saga made me to see what the world is all about. I never felt betrayed. God gave me time to enjoy myself. My children even complain and ask why I still help people even after what I have been through. But I tell them not to worry. I have never tasted poverty in my life. I had eight children before I was 30. There was no reason for me to serve God. I wasn’t poor; I wasn’t looking for a child or money. I had everything. So if God said I should serve Him, why shouldn’t I? I believe God wouldn’t give me a load I cannot handle. I really don’t want to go into details concerning that episode.
So how were you able to handle that saga?
Something went wrong with me. It wasn’t God that brought that issue. I took some steps concerning my life without asking God. I was stupid enough to drop God’s works when I took those steps. I closed down my church, so I could have time for my marital life. But the decision was wrong before the Lord. I paid for that decision. Before anything can get to that level of trauma, there must have been a spiritual break around you. You need to go back to the Lord and find out what happened. I didn’t see that saga as a disappointment; I saw it as a learning process. That incident has made me to see through people. I now know how people are.
Could it be that some people disappointed you during that time?
I was never disappointed. But I realised that you only have friends when things are okay for you. But when things are bad, you have only God. People can deny and disappoint you. God is the only one I don’t want to offend now. My family is important but to a level. I can never do anything to please my children or my husband if God doesn’t approve of that thing. Nobody will come to the gallows with me if I fall. The saga is nothing to me; I only learnt lessons from it. Punch