RT. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, the Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly since 2005, turned 56 on Sunday, August 24, 2014. Though he did not roll out the drums as expected by some people, his GRA, Ikeja, Lagos official residence was jam-packed with friends and party stalwarts who came to celebrate with him.
ENCOMIUM Weekly was among the teeming crowd who paid him a congratulatory visit and also used the opportunity to get an interview with him.
He told us in this interview the story of his life…
We want to say happy 56th birthday to you, Sir.
Thank you very much, my brother.
How does it feel to be 56 today?
I guess I need to reckon with the fact that I have added another year. All in all, I thank God. I am grateful for His endless mercies. He has been awesome in my life. I pray to Him to continue to give me good health and the enablement to serve the people as much as I really wish to do.
When will you say has been the happiest moment of your 56 years?
The fact that success has always followed everything that I lay my hands upon or set my mind on. It has been a thing of joy to me. I thank God for where I am today considering where I started.
There must have been one or two things that happened in your life that brought joy to you and has remained indelible in your life up till now?
I have been very happy on many occasions. The births of all my children were certainly a memorable moment. The day I made Grade One in West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) was very memorable because I was the only one in my school that year out of 105 of us. Not only that, I broke a five year jinx in the school.
The day I was offered scholarship by the Federal Ministry of Education to study abroad was also a memorable one for me. The day I married my wife was also a happy and memorable one.
The day I got elected as Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly for the first time remains a happy and memorable one too. Quite interestingly, the recent election in Osun State will forever remain a happy and memorable one for me. It was not my personal event, but what I witnessed during the mega rally, particularly the enthusiasm and joy on the faces of the people of the state, for Governor Rauf Aregbesola and our party was a thing of joy that will forever remain memorable.
The day my first daughter got admission to Yale University for her Masters was also a memorable one.
Certainly, it will be very difficult for me to remember all the happiest days of my life. There has been so many. Like I said, God has been so merciful to me.
Which moment of your life would you say has been most challenging?
There have been many challenges. There were occasions that shook me to my roots. One of such was the day I lost the first woman in my life, my first wife.
Was she sick?
Yes, she was sick. She was a very young woman. She had cancer. I thought it was going to take some years before she would die but the doctor said she was going to die within a month. That was a horrible day for me. It was a day I will never, never forget.
How old was she when she died?
Waoh! She was very young. Did she have a child for you?
I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Let us just leave it at that.
At what moment of your life did it occur to you that you are destined for greatness going by your humble background?
From the time I was conscious of myself. From very early stages of my life, I have always had very big dreams. I was always very serious as a young boy. Very early, I knew what I wanted and I pursued my goals with all seriousness. That was the way I grew and that is the way I am till today. I put my everything to whatever I set my mind on to do. I don’t do things half way.
You’ve been in politics for sometime now, what do you like about politics?
Politics is service to the people and that is very satisfying. It is always a thing of joy for me to put smile on the faces of people. When I see my fellow human beings happy through my actions then I am a fulfilled person. I think it is my calling. That is what I am destined to do. And that is exactly what I am doing. I do it in the interest of the people.
What is it about politics that you will say is discouraging?
I can’t be discouraged. If I believe in something, I go for it with all that God has given me. I have been a trader, a teacher, a lecturer. I have been a consultant, a real estate agent and so many other things. But I can tell you that none is as challenging, demanding and tough as politics. But if it is your calling, you will be able to weather the storm. There is no life worth living than the life you live for others. The joy one derives from such life overshadows the pains that might creep in along the line.
What lesson of life would you say politics has taught you?
Patience, perseverance, endurance and above all don’t judge people on face value. If you have four people in a room, you probably have four nations because each and every one of them is an island or nation onto itself. You have to learn to take calculated risk about people and events. You can never be too sure of what comes next. So, for guidance turn to Almighty God. Be prayerful and Godly in your dealings with others. Remember that one day you will be called to answer for every of your deeds on earth. I learnt all these things and that made it easier for me.
You have a very unique family. You are a staunch Muslim and your wife a staunch Christian. How do you manage this?
Although it looks tough, I think it is simple. We believe in God. We believe that there is a Creator and that Creator did not create us for any other than to worship Him. So, if my wife is a Christian, even a pastor in her own church and she respects the belief and basic tenets of my religion, what else do I want from her other than to also show understanding of her religion and doctrines that surround her religion too. In any case, I grew up with parents who were to a large extent liberal minded. Notwithstanding their level of education, they never gave the impression that the other religion is evil.
Fortunately for me, the first religious book I got in contact with was the Bible. As young as five years of age then, I started reading the Bible of our Christian neighbor, in our village just for fun or putting into practice the rudiments of reading that you were taught in school.
In my secondary school form one, I was leading other students, about 120 in all in the Bible Knowledge class. I scored 86 per cent to come first. I even joined Bible Correspondent College, Igbaja, Kwara State then. I was very vast in the scriptures right from my younger days and I enjoyed it. In any case, my first woman was Igbo and a staunch Catholic. While we were in Romania, we used to go to church together and I enjoyed it. It was already part of me. I didn’t see anything extraordinary in my wife being a pastor and I being a Muslim.
And none of your parents or relatives complained about you getting married to a Christian?
Never. All my relatives, including my mother and sister who were Alhajis and Alhajas came all the way from Epe and Lagos to St. Paul Anglican Church, Ile-Ife during our marriage in 1985. They came in four chartered LMTS buses. We wedded in the church. Religion is not very much what we think and how we handle it. It is a beautiful thing that husband and wife practice the same religion. That is near perfect. But it is also exciting when you need to do some adjustment and accommodation between yourself in certain areas. Have you ever seen the product of marriage between a black man and a white woman or vice versa? It is always beautiful.
Yeah, you have a mullato. The skin has its own special beauty and appeal. So it is with a Muslim marrying a Christian, and the two of them living in harmony and using their different religions to enhance their family.
I think it has gone beyond rumour that you have an ambition to be the next governor of Lagos State in 2015. How far is this true?
God is merciful. He knew me before my mother knew me and He had His plans for me before I made plans for myself. At this moment, I can tell you without mincing words that I am consulting on that particular issue. I have served this state and I think meritoriously too. As the Speaker of the House of Assembly for the third term running, and without being immodest, the house that I lead is respected as the number one house in this federation. It stands head and shoulder above its peers.
Of course, I left every other thing I was doing to come into active politics. Since then, almost 12 years ago, I have been fully immersed in politics and service to the people.
I am 56 today (Sunday, August 24, 2014). I am not about to change my vocation or occupation at 56. I took a decision long ago that I want to play active politics and I thank God that I have no cause to regret that decision today. I have put in so much. So, you can always expect that as a progressive minded person, I will continue to look for avenues to serve at higher levels. If through me, God has done so much for Lagos, to the point that the world over, the Lagos House of Assembly is respected as the number one, I think it is time for me to move on.
Of course, I will not go into any election until I have formally and personally informed the whole of Lagos through the fourth estate. So, when I arrive at a conclusion which I believe is not far from now, I will call on you my friends in the media.
For now, I am on consultation.
– TOLANI ABATTI