Interviews

‘Activism and politics are the same’ -Comrade Ayodele Adewale @ 40

COMRADE Ayodele Adewale is the immediate past Chairman of Amuwo Odofin Local Government Council.  He was certainly the youngest of all the LG chairmen and women in 2008 when he was first elected. He was re-elected in 2011 for second term.

He turned 40 on Thursday, February 19, 2015.  ENCOMIUM Weekly met with him on Friday, February 20, and took him on his 40th birthday celebrations.  He told us how he came into activism and partisan politics and more…

How does it feel to be 40?

It is like any other day.  For me, it’s like any other day, month and year in one’s life.

Do you feel your new age?

No, no, no.  Like I said, it is like any other day.  The challenges are still there.  The physical outlook has not changed.  It is just record keeping.

A lot of people say life begins at 40, is it the same for you?

I don’t think so.  I think that is a coinage by some people to suit their situations.  Like my pastor will tell you, your year diminishes every day.  You are getting closer to your grave day by day.  From the day you were born, you are moving towards the day you are going to depart.

What would you consider the most memorable day of your 40 years of existence?

I will say every day of my life has been very memorable.  However, there was a day that I will say has been a watershed in my history.  That was the day I was given the party ticket (to contest for the post of local government chairman of Amuwo Odofin LG).  Since that day, things have never been the same for me.  That was the day I lost my privacy, that was the day I was given responsibility to administer a lot of people’s trust.  And as such you are no longer yourself again.  It’s like a woman losing her virginity.  That day will always be memorable in my life.  Another memorable day would be the day I got admitted into secondary school and I stopped seeing a lot of my friends particularly the female ones that we grew up together.

The day I was almost shot by soldiers also remains memorable.  That was when we went for the remembrance of Ken Saro Wiwa, I was LASU student union president.  I went with Sowore who was then UNILAG student union president and some other student unionists.  We went to Mamman Kantagora House in Victoria Island, Lagos, very close to Methodist Boys High School.  We were rounded up by the soldiers and were almost shot.  We were saved by the Commissioner of Police, I think it was Abubakar Tsav.

Again, I was almost killed during the June 12, 1993 protests.  SOB Agunbiade (who is now a member of Lagos House of Assembly) was then the president of LASU.  I was just a member of student parliament.  I was about scaling the fence of MKO Abiola’s house like other students when Operation Sweep people started shooting at us.  One UNILAG student who was beside me died.

Activism seems to be part of your 40 years of life, when did it start for you?

It started when I got admitted to Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos, to read Chemistry instead of Chemical Engineering that I wanted to study at University of Lagos, Akoka.  In St. Gregory’s College, Obalende, Lagos, where I came from, we had a lot of apparatus in the laboratory.  If you accidentally break a pipette or test tube of conical flask, the lab attendant will ask if you injured yourself and of course, set up another apparatus for you.  But this was not the case in LASU, conical flash was a rare apparatus in the lab.  You could see about 10 students to one pipette.  We never had seats.  We were sitting on broken furniture.  Water was not running.  We were just made to go through the theory of Chemistry.  So, I said no, I can’t continue with this.

About that time also, LASU was engulfed in crisis.  Our then student union president, Wale Arigbabu a.k.a Bruno was incarcerated.  He was in prison and the students were always going to court.  Justice Rhode Vivour who is now a Justice of Supreme Court was the judge.  So, I came into LASU in a turbulent era.  We wore our lab coat and joined other students to protest the harsh conditions in the university then.  That was how it began for me.  The ill-condition within the campus particularly in the laboratory was the turning point.

What was growing up like for you?

Like any normal kid, growing up was fun.  I come from a very privileged background.

How privileged was your background?

Very privileged.  At least upper middle class.  We were not allowed to mix with other children.  The only time we were allowed to go out is when you go on holidays to other relatives.

Who are your parents?

My mom is a businesswoman and my father is an electrical engineer and contractor.

Where were your parents staying then?

They were staying in Festac.

Which school did you attend?

I started from St. Christopher Nursery and Primary School, Mushin.  Later, I was taken to Universal Primary School. From there I went to St. Gregory’s College, and as you already know LASU.

Are you the first child of your parents?

Yes, I am the first born.

Who are your other siblings?

We are four but one died.  Ronke died about eight years ago.  Then, there is Moji, who is now a lawyer and Bode, a businessman based in USA.

Are your parents still alive?

Yes, they are very much alive.

From activism to partisan politics, when did it start from you?

Politics and activism are the same.  The nomenclature is what differs. I came into partisan politics through a woman called Alaba Olajide.  She ran for the chairmanship of the local government.

The same Amuwo Odofin Local Government Council?

Yes.  Alaba Olajide ran on the political platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD).  There was another woman, Mrs. Oni, she ran on the platform of APP.  The two of them spoke to me and my group called Reformer Academy then.  We saw that Alaba Olajide had a very good programme and we joined her party, AD.  Prior to my meeting with Alaba Olajide, I had met with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as a student union leader.  We believed in what he stood for and what he stands for now because he belongs to the progressives, it was not difficult for us to join his party, AD.  Though, we were not members of his party then, we still campaigned for him.

Alaba Olajide got me involved in partisan politics but Asiwaju’s victory in 1999 got me closer to politics even though I was not a card carrying member of any political party then.  We canvassed for votes for him.

Is that what got you interested in the chairmanship of Amuwo Odofin LG?

Not really.  Alaba Olajide died.  She died in a motor accident few weeks to when she was to be sworn-in as the Executive Secretary of the LG and I took over the leadership of her group.  But I could not contest for the chairmanship then because I was just 28 years and the constitution says you must be 30 before you can contest for any political post.  By the time I turned 30, there was already a sitting chairman in the LG and still had two years to finish his tenure.  So, I campaigned for four years back to back before I was elected chairman.  At a time, I had to sell the Nissan Bluebird car my mom bought for me at N32,000.  I used the money to produce handbills because there was no money coming from anywhere.  We thank God we eventually won the ticket and the chairmanship seat.

What would you say you like about politics?

Politics gives you the opportunity to administer your good thoughts.  No matter how rich you are, the best you can do to correct bad system is to play the role of a philanthropist.  I think that is what happened to Chief MKO Abiola.  He probably realized that his philanthropies was like a drop of water into the ocean.  That was why he decided to come into partisan politics in order to change government policies which make some people extremely rich and some extremely poor.

For instance, a policy of free education, of free qualitative healthcare, mass housing, of good security system, a policy to challenge corruption.  No rich man or philanthropist can do all these things without being in government.  I am sure this was what brought MKO Abiola into partisan politics.  As a rich businessman, he was comfortable enough.  But of course, he was pained by the conditions of living of Nigerian people.

As chairman of a local government, many of those things we said in PRONACO, I was able to implement them in my little corner to the extent that egalitarianism was almost created.  You could see a very rich person and a downtrodden person sitting side by side before this same doctor.  They were both treated by the same doctor and nobody paid a kobo.  Not even for the card.  They got free drugs.  I employed a lot of people, improved the education system and many things like that.  These are the driving force that keeps me in partisan politics.

What would you say you don’t like about politics?

The political players.  We have some bad politicians, the do or die politicians.  Look at what happened in Okrika, Rivers State, during APC campaign, people started shooting. I am sorry about one of your colleagues that was injured during the shooting.  Some politicians believe that the only way to serve the people is through violence. That is wrong. It is such violence and intrigues that put some off politics.

Be that as it may, the struggle continues because until we secure the Nigeria of our dreams, there is no rest.  We must flush out these bad elements in politics.  We must make them realize that persuasion, campaign and other means of negotiations are richer and better than violence.

Let us get a little bit personal, where and how did you meet your wife?

I met her at the spinster’s eve of her sister.  I was at the party, saw her and I liked her.

When was this?

That should be in 2008 or 2009.

You were already the chairman of Amuwo Odofin LG before you got married.  How did you cope with the attention of ladies?

There was no problem.  I have never been a ladies’ man.  Many ladies felt that my path was too dangerous for them to follow.  When we were in school, it’s either we were fighting the cultists or fighting the school authority or the establishment (government).  So, no lady wants to stay around a man that is being chased around by tear gas today, tomorrow by guns and travelling around the country in the name of student unionism and activism.

I had a girlfriend back in the days but because of my involvement in activism, she left me.  She told me I either choose her or activism.

But what would you say attracted you to your wife?

Everything that will attract a woman to a man.  If I say she is brilliant, you don’t see the brilliance first, you see the beauty.  I saw a beautiful lady, I liked her and I approached her.

How many children has the marriage been blessed with?

In my place, they say you don’t count your children.  That is a fable, we have two, a boy and a girl.

One thing that distinguishes you most is your bushy hair.  Why do you keep bushy hair?

Before I became a chairman, I used to cut my hair for N500 and I did it twice in a month.  But the moment I became chairman, the barber told me the price had gone up to N1,000.  That means I will be spending N2,000 to cut my hair every month.  No way.  And I have always adored Professor Wole Soyinka’s hairstyle, so, I just took after him.  With my comb inside my bag and Morgan hair cream, it is not that difficult to maintain my hair.

You also dress casually.  Is that also for economic reason?

You know where I was coming from, the civil society.  You are more comfortable in T-shirt, jeans and moccasin or boots, all of which prepare you for any unforeseen circumstance.  It was when I became chairman that my political fathers forced me to wear native attire.  I am not a native dress person.  But recently too once in a while I also wear suit.

You are still relatively young.  Now that you have served your two terms as local government chairman, what is going to be your next political ambition?

I am a party man, I have gone back to the party to assist in positioning it well and to deepen the party’s philosophy. For now, I don’t have any aspiration for any political post. I am serving the party now, I have been holding meetings with social and professional groups to convince them why they should vote for our party, APC.

-TOLANI ABATTI

 

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