HON. Kolawole Taiwo is not just a member of Lagos House of Assembly, he is the most ranked member by virtue of the fact that he has been a member since the fourth session of the assembly in 1999. The Statistician turned 52 on Thursday, July 18, 2013, and was serenaded by his colleagues in the hallow chamber to mark the joyous occasion.
ENCOMIUM Weekly met with the birthday ‘boy’ who is the Deputy Speaker of the assembly and he told the story of his life. He said his dream as a young university graduate some years ago was just to own a three-bedroom flat, a car and wife and children to live in happiness. But today, he has surpassed this aspiration. He further told us how he grew up and went to higher institutions, became a politician and more.
We want to congratulate you on your 52nd birthday.
Thank you very much.
How do you feel turning 52?
I thank God, I really thank God. It is something that makes one happy that he is advancing in age and still very healthy. Although, I cannot do strenuous exercises again, but I walk around and make sure that I live healthier life than before.
What will you say you cherish most turning 52?
The fact that I am where I am today in my chosen career, if anyone had told me in 1999 that I will still be a member of this assembly and as Deputy Speaker, I would have told that person it was not possible. I give all glory and admiration to God that He has taken me to where I am today in politics. I also cherish the fact all my children are growing well. The youngest is already as tall as I am. He is already putting on my shoes. Io really cherish the way they are growing and I thank God for their lives.
What are the things you are surprised you can still do at 52?
I can still do my regular sports like playing football and table tennis, even though not as much as when I was younger. I still go to my farm. There are things that I used to do before that I can no longer do. Not because of age but because of my present position (as Deputy Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly). I don’t want to do anything that will bring the reputation of the assembly into disrepute.
At 42, you are the longest serving member of Lagos House of Assembly, the one-time Majority Leader and now the Deputy Speaker. Do you still have some unfulfilled dreams?
I always tell people that I have surpassed my dream. My greatest dream when I was still in the university was to have a three-bedroom flat, a small car, live with my family and be happy surprisingly, when I won the election in 1999, the first thing I was given was a three-bedroom flat. So, I started from where I was supposed to end (general laughter). What else do I want? I thank God very much. I had a wonderful tertiary education, I was the best student at Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Statistic Department. I had Upper Credit. I left University of Ilorin with Second Class Upper, also in Statistics. I did my Masters degree at University of Ibadan and I left with Ph.D proceed. I am fulfilled when it comes to my academic aspiration. The problem is that I was supposed to have finished my Ph.D programme. I was in there three times and I stopped. The last time I went for it they said I was no more qualified. I asked them why? They said because I had no credit in English Language. I went to write GCE. I wrote GCE twice, the first one, I had P7, which was not good enough. I wrote it again and I got B3. I reapplied and I was so sure I would be admitted this time around. Again, I was told I was not qualified. I said why? They said I must have Chemistry or Physics.
Which course did you apply for?
It was the same Statistics. I don’t know why they are doing all this. I am determined to meet with the Vice Chancellor.
Which university is this?
University of Ibadan. That is where I did my Masters and I had started the Ph.D but for one reason or the other I couldn’t continue but now that I want to continue they are putting one stumbling block or the other. I will still meet with the Vice Chancellor. That is one of my unfulfilled dreams. I want to have my Ph.D. I also want to grow in politics because we need to assist our people. I am from an area that needs the presence of government. They need people like us to get that and I am conscious of that. Ajegunle is no longer what it used to be. I joined politics in 1999. We want to change the image of Ajegunle. I want to be a good role model to our people.
Do you have any regret in life?
Regret? I don’t think so. I see failure as an inspiration. If I fail to achieve anything I work harder for it.
Will you say you’ve been lucky?
I am extremely lucky. If you know where I am coming from and compare it to where I am today, you will marvel at my achievement. I was not that brilliant in my primary school days. I repeated Primary Two. I did not pass the Common Entrance examination after first leaving certificate examination. My mom had to take me out of Lagos to Oshogbo to repeat Primary Six at Ifeoluwa Children Boarding School, Oshogbo. I later gained admission to a secondary school and I was still playful despite the fact that I was in Science class. I managed to pass with five credits without English. I had F9 in English, I wrote GCE and I was only able to make P8 in English. It was my immediate elder brother who introduced a course –Statistics to me and helped me gain admission to Federal Polytechnic, Bida (Niger State).
It was my admission to Federal Poly, Bida, that changed my orientation to my studies. It was there that I became a triangular student –lecture hall to dining hall to hostel and back to lecture hall. No more playing pranks with friends or going to any social function. In my first semester, I had 3.01 points, by second semester I was qualified for Deans Dinner party. At the end of the programme, I became the best student from the department. That was how my life changed. I became very serious with my studies. I gained admission to University of Ilorin, Ilorin, where I came out with Second Class Upper.
I became serious with my studies to the extent that when I was doing my Masters at University of Ibadan, I was doing a diploma course in Computer Studies at University of Lagos, I was shuttling Ibadan and Lagos. It didn’t affect my Masters. All things will come to you if you work hard for it. That is what I told my son. I got my own late but it’s better to be late than never. Anything God gives me now is extra. I look forward to any other thing God wants to give me and I will glorify His name but it will be extra because I have surpassed my aspirations.
I told you what I aspired to be, just to own a three-bedroom flat and one small car, that was all. So, where I am today is by the grace of God. I will say I have been extremely lucky.
What lesson will you say life has taught you at 52?
That you are on your own. There is this particular soap opera on television sometime ago, where a father asked his son who was on the roof top of the house to jump down that he will catch him. When the son jumped, the father did not catch him. He told him that was to teach him to never trust any human being including his parents. That story depicts what I meant when I said you are on your own.
What is your philosophy of life?
Always lend your shoulders to others to lean in their times of need because you also leaned on someone’s shoulders to get to where you are today.
What is your relationship with God?
Very cordial. I am a Muslim even though not the five times prayer type which I am seriously working at right now. I have been to Mecca and Medina. I am going to this year’s Murrah Hajj. I pray that the Almighty Allah gives me the strength to continue to worship Him better.
You are the longest serving member of Lagos House of Assembly (14 years), when will you say was your best moment in the assembly?
When I was elected the Deputy Speaker because I wasn’t expecting it. I wanted to be Speaker but when that was not possible, I had expected that I would be given back my Majority Leader position but unexpectedly, I was elected the Deputy Speaker. Another best moment for me was when I was Majority Leader. Against expectations, I performed well. Not many believed I could do well because I was not a lawyer nor was I good with words. But I proved them wrong by improving myself and doing the job to the admiration of all.
When would you say was your most challenging period?
When ENCOMIUM Weekly wrote that I was sleeping with many women in the House. You made things difficult for me both here in the assembly and at home. A lot of people thought I was irresponsible. I was just a young man in his late 30s, who was just socializing around and you people (ENCOMIUM) said I was having affairs with them. My wife, who reads your magazine religiously was on my neck during that period. Another challenge was when I moved my first motion on the floor of the assembly. This was in the fourth session (1999-2003). It was about LAWMA not doing their job of clearing the streets of Lagos of refuse. I didn’t know what I said precisely. But when Hon. Lanre Ope stood up to speak, he tongue-lashed me to the extent that for the next three months I did not raise my hand to move any motion or resolution on the floor of the assembly.
Do you foresee any time in the future that you leave politics to do any other thing?
No. I will forever remain a politician. Even if I don’t hold any political office, I will still be a politician. We need to develop our area (Ajegunle) and if you are not in politics, how do you mobilize the people for development?
When and where did you and your wife meet?
We met during a friend’s naming ceremony. I just came back from the university for holidays when I saw her at the friend’s place. I asked my friend’s wife who she was and I was told she is a sister to someone. We became friends and from friendship she became my wife. She’s been a very good wife and very supportive. We hardly quarrel until recently when she started to complain about my not coming home on time to rest and that I was not having enough time for the family.
How many children is the marriage blessed with?
How many boys and girls?
Three boys and a girl. The girl is the second child.
How old is the eldest and the youngest?
The eldest is 19 and a student of Babcock University, Ilishan and the youngest is 13.
This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, July 30, 2013