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Day magic show with my husband went awry — Prof Peller’s widow
Recalls how she became co-magician with deceased spouse
Blames journalists for his assassination
Alhaja Silifat Peller, aka Lady Peller, is one of the widows of famous Nigerian magician, Alhaji Moshood Abiola Peller, popularly known as Professor Peller. Like her late husband, Lady Peller was also popular for her feat in magical shows, particularly in the 1980s. Now 73 years old, she spoke with GBENGA ADERANTI on life without her husband and why the family chose not to probe his assassination, among other issues.
AT 73, you still look active and agile. What is the secret?
I have to thank God for giving me strength, and my children for rallying round me.
Considering how close you were with Professor Peller, how has life being without him?
At first, his death was a great blow. But as they say, time heals wound. It has been 23 years, and I thank God and my children for giving me the strength to move on.
One would think that you would give marriage another shot after a while. Why didn’t you re-marry?
I was already 50 when Professor Peller died, and I had got all my children. What would I be looking for in another marriage? I don’t think it is a good advice. I was satisfied being with him and I am satisfied with my life.
You celebrated your 70th birthday three years ago. What do you think Prof would have done on that occasion if he was alive?
Wow! The children would have had two celebrants on that day. They would have celebrated both of us. And after the celebration, Professor Peller, I trust him, would have taken me around the world. I know that is what he would have done.
How did the two of you meet?
We met about 50 years ago when I was at Iseyin District Grammar School. He came to perform in my school and we became friends. Later on, we got married, and I joined him as an assistant magician.
You come from a family of Muslims. How did your parents react when you introduced a magician as your fiancé?
I was already an adult and a practising Muslim. Professor Peller was also a Muslim. My parents were happy to see me marrying a Muslim. I did not have any problem with my parents marrying him.
How easy was it to combine your religion with magic?
My religion is Islam while magic is an art. They are different things. Magic is my work, Islam is my religion. The two do not conflict at all.
You were not a magician until you got married to Prof. How did you learn the art?
After we got married, we went to America and he enrolled me at Colon Michigan School of magic. I learned the art at that place. I joined him and we started together.
Your fashion sense is regarded in many quarters as unique. What is the secret?
Don’t forget that I was an artiste and I used to go on stage. Don’t also forget that I have travelled all over the world, like a quarter of the globe. I have seen different cultures and different dresses, and I know what suits me for any occasion. If I am in the house, I know what to wear, and if I am going out, it depends on the occasion.
There was a show in which Prof put you in a coffin and cut it into two. Did you nurse any fear when he performed such deadly shows?
No. You know that before we left home for a show, I always had the confidence. And I trusted my husband a lot. Don’t forget that I was his wife. He would not allow anything to happen to me. We were always very careful. That was just for the television.
It was only one day that something happened at the Cultural Centre. I am sure some people will still remember. The cutting we did that day was not the cutting we were doing on the television. The heat was too much on that day and I couldn’t come back until we finished the show. Some people said they didn’t want to see anything again and they left. The second day, people were saying, ‘we just want to see Lady Peller’. Some people were even spreading rumour that they saw a convoy following a corpse to Iseyin.
It would seem that magic show died after Professor Peller’s death and none of your family members was interested…
Professor Peller has a son, Zeeto Peller. He is a lawyer and a good magician. He has been doing magic. Maybe you have not come across him. In the family, we don’t force anybody on the career to pursue. Everybody has their own fields. All Professor Peller’s children are doing well. There is still magic in the family.
Why didn’t you continue the shows after his death?
Before his death, I had already retired from magic.
Won’t you retire when you have done a job until you are 50 or 60 years old? I have to rest. You know magicians travel a lot. We travelled from Nigeria to all the countries in West Africa, all by road. I have to rest.
Politicians from different party platforms attended your 70th birthday. How do you manage to relate with them without having a clash of interests?
Political parties apart, I move with people with good character; people who have the love of other people in their minds. If you are in a political party and I see that you don’t have the love of your people in your heart, and I call you and you refused to change, I will move aside.
I move with people with good character and love of people in their hearts. You can be in any party.
In Nigeria, if all of us can love one another and put ourselves in the shoes of other people, there would not be hatred. I think we are getting to that. I would not move with anybody I cannot talk to or have confidence in. You can be in APC or PDP, but you must have a good heart. What we want is a good Nigeria, so I love everybody that is doing good.
What is that experience of life you are not likely to forget in a hurry?
All the things that God has done for me. God has been good to me. I can’t forget my children. All I have is my children. If you love them, you love me.
Not much. There is nobody who does not have up and downs, but they are not regrets. What you call regret is when something happens to you and you can’t move forward. If you can move forward, you forget that one. By the grace of God, I don’t have regrets.
How is it to live in a polygamous family?
You know we have different types of polygamy. I thank God for where he put me. In a polygamous setting, you build yourself. If you build yourself, there is a way for you. And if there is love, you overcome the challenges. That is the most important thing. The head of the family should teach love.
I’m the mother of the children of my husband. They love me with their hearts. I am plain to them and I love them and they know that I love them. That is how I cope.
What are you missing about your late husband?
I missed my husband. I missed my love. Professor Peller was a man of great wisdom. I missed his parables and proverbs. I missed him a lot. He is still in my heart. Although he is dead, they only killed the body and not the soul. I hold him in so much esteem in my heart. I still prefer to refer to him in present. He is till with me in spirit.
Nobody would have believed that Professor Peller could be killed the way he was. What really went wrong? Why didn’t you probe his death?
You know we are Muslims. As Muslims, we believe that whatever that happens, God knows about it. It was his time, but God used somebody or the devil in this case to perform that task.
It was you journalists that sold him out. It was while they were interviewing him like this that he revealed too much about himself. He said if he was praying, there would be nothing in him. But after his prayer and he put on his agbada, if they faced him, nothing would happen to him.
But we thank God for his life. He came and he saw. He has left but he is still in our hearts. God knows best. We don’t know those that killed him. How many people have been assassinated in Nigeria that they got a clue about those that killed them? Have you seen any? Is it Professor Peller alone that has been assassinated? No. But if nobody sees people that are doing all these things, God is seeing them and He knows everything. We thank God for his life.
Day magic show with my husband went awry — Prof Peller’s widow