HON. Sanai Agunbiade, a.k.a SOB, is a third term member of Lagos House of Assembly and currently the Majority Leader.
He was 50 on October 25, 2014, but due to the exigency of the period he couldn’t mark the landmark birthday which in his younger days he had promised friends that he was going to celebrate with a bang.
To him, that promise is a covenant with God. God has kept His own side of the covenant by keeping him alive to be 50. He must keep his own side of the promise too.
That is why he tagged his 51st birthday which comes up on Sunday, October 25, 2015, The Reception for his 50th birthday and thanksgiving.
The teacher turned activist, lawyer and politician told ENCOMIUM Weekly in this exclusive interview the story of his life and more…
Why did you choose to celebrate your 50 years of age now that you turned 51?
When I was born there were a lot of challenges as to whether I would be able to walk on my legs or not. I lived through it up till the time I started school. Suddenly, God gave me the strength and I started to walk on my legs.
For how long did this ordeal last?
I was born with a kind of congenital problem and an attempt to rectify it made it worse. But the fact remains that I started walking.
When did you start to walk?
At the age of 6 years. I walked to and fro to school though not so steadily. I discovered that with the challenge I was able to play football very well. I played the Lagos State League. I played for Santos Football Club as their number 9. I played hockey which is one of the dangerous games. I played for Lagos State University, Lagos State College of Education and Teachers College, Ikorodu. I was in the main team all this while. I was in NUGA games. I was to be in All Nigerian Games (Edo ’81), I didn’t make the team.
So, all that God has done for me over the years….well, I never believed I will live to be 50 because there were so many challenges and problems. They were not health challenges o.
What are the challenges?
I lived a life of activism right from College of Education, Ijanikin, up to LASU. The LASU own was a very serious one because I was the president of the student union. I came in at the time when the university was under a serious challenge. Owning to all these activism I told God that 50 is half of a century, if I lived to be 50, I will definitely celebrate.
During the June 12 crisis I was almost killed twice. I have escaped death by the whisker.
So, when I turned 50 last year it was during the time of primaries and everybody was really busy then. The concern then was how we were going to emerge victorious at the primaries. Immediately we emerged victorious at the primaries the next was how I was going to win the election. To organise a birthday of my intention then would require a lot of money and I needed a lot of money to prosecute the election then. So, all of these put together I was unable to do it. Though prayers were offered for me. But when this year October was approaching friends started to call me to remind me of my promise to mark my 50th birthday. It was initiated by friends and some of them are organising the whole thing now. One of my friends actually undertook to get the event centre. Many people have been saying they will do this or that. Some of them are my childhood friends, some of them are honourable members, some of them are political associates. So, I just feel that what I am celebrating on the 25th (October, 2015), is the reception of my 50th birthday which we could not do then. That is why I called it 50 at 51. It’s a kind of carry over.
What will you say you are grateful to God for turning 50?
I remember that I was born this same day, month and year with some people, some of whom I know are no more alive today. Only the living aspires. Only the living has hopes. When you are dead, you die with all your talents, your visions, your ambition and your dream.
I thank God I have not died. My dreams and aspirations are still on. I am still very useful to my community. That is why I tagged the event 50th birthday reception and thanksgiving of life. That I am still alive today and my life is not worthless.
I know some people that have similar physical challenges that are not up to mine and they are on the street begging. God has dignified me. I went to school. I went through tedious period of activism and I did not die. I have some of my friends that we did activism together that are gone. I am still alive today. That also calls for thanksgiving. In politics, I am in a constituency where no one has ever had the privilege of going for two terms in the House of Assembly. This is my third term.
I do not possess any special thing, I am just enjoying the grace of God. This also I must appreciate in God. The care and attention given to me by my parents while growing up shifted from my parents to my wife. My wife is a woman in a million. She is the type that gives you hope and aspiration. She is a woman that will stand by you anytime, any day. This also calls for appreciation of God.
Do you feel your new age physically?
Not at all. I still jog, I still do everything I can do. I will say that the older I am, the more vibrant I become because the strength is still there, the brain is still there, the focus is still there and so many things. I dream of doing things I have not achieved. I feel the age in terms of my vision, in terms of responsibility, in terms of doing things differently. But physically, I do not feel it. I still play my football, I still work out.
You still play football?
Yes, I still play football. During the elections when Governor Ambode came to Ikorodu, we played a novelty match. I was at the post and I made sure Ambode did not score.
In essence, you are saying you can still do all those things you were doing in your 20s, 30s and 40s?
I am still able to do them. At 20s, 30s and 40s, I played football, I was a student activist and now I am still a politician and human rights activist. I still hold a vision, I still hold a dream, I still subscribe to my philosophy of life. I still read. I do not suffer any inhibition.
They say wisdom comes with age. Which wisdom of life has your new age bestowed on you?
To forgive everything that is done against you by humanity because you will grow by fortune and misfortune. You will grow within mischief of people. There is this theory “that everybody will continue in a state of rest unless exerted upon by any external force.” That means, something must happen for another thing to happen. So, you have to rise through challenges. Some challenges are natural and some are man-made. All of these will constitute your strength and energy. You must realize that those people who master mind certain things against you are possibly pushing you towards achieving your course.
I believe some negative things will happen to you in order to propel you to greatness. That is why for anybody that must have done anything negative to you as a mortal, you will feel it but as someone who should have wisdom, you should forgive those things and match on. Believing that all those things have made either positive or negative contribution to make you what you are.
At this age, one should be more reflective. Through reflection, you get more wisdom.
When will you consider the best moment of your life so far?
I have so many best moments. My graduation from Law School. I came home with my wig and gown, I handed over to my dad and I told my dad now you have sponsored me to achieve this dream. Now, make a pledge to me that you will not interfere in any case that I have to do. He made that pledge to me. That is a day for me.
Another day was when we celebrated my father’s 90th birthday and all the children gathered around him.
Is he still alive?
He is still alive.
And your mother too?
No, my mother is down in the grave. That was one of my saddest moments.
Again, when against all tides, against all machinations, I was eventually declared the candidate of APC for the 2015 election. I looked at the results and I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it because the primary was keenly contested. Out of about 500 delegates for the election, I alone polled 262 votes, leaving the remaining 11 aspirants to share the remaining votes. When the result was announced, I was overwhelmed, I felt the love of my people. I felt the love of God.
Another best moment was when I visited the holy land (Mecca) and I was able to touch the Kaaba that I used to see in pictures. That was October last year (2014), the year I turned 50.
So, I have so many flying moments that I felt happy and I appreciate God for all that He has done for me.
What about the most challenging moments?
One of my most challenging moments was when I lost my mom. When I lost my mom, I was broken physically and emotionally (paused to control his emotions).
Are you her only child?
No. I am the fourth of her five children. But I was very close to her. She encouraged me a lot. She was my strength. She died about 10 years ago when I was still struggling. She was ill for a few days. We were living together and she was going to hospital that morning, she waved to me and I waved to her. We both said we’ll see later in the day. They just called me that my mother was dead, I couldn’t believe it. By the time I came, I saw her lowered into the grave.
How old was she when she died?
She was 68 when she died.
Let us talk about your wife. Where and when did you meet her?
My wife is my soul mate. She is someone who discovered me before I discovered her. She is a principled woman that knows what she wants. She is generous to a fault. Very caring and very focused. She is a woman that will encourage any woman to get to any height once the height is for development. She will stand by you through thick and thin.
She is a wife to me, a mother, a sister, a friend, a companion. My wife was in politics before I got into politics. She was really in politics since her university days. She attended University of Ilorin, where she read Business Administration. But immediately I came into politics, she withdrew completely to care for the home. She said two of us cannot be at the forefront. But all through my election you would know she is a politician.
There are some places where I received votes because of her influence in those areas. She is a determined person.
You have not told us where and how you met her?
I had the courtship of almost 9 years with my wife. I taught my wife Biology at Ikorodu High School, Ikorodu. She was in her final year then.
Did you read Sciences?
I graduated as Biology, Chemistry teacher from Lagos College of Education and I taught Biology, Chemistry for five years at Ikorodu High School before I went to read Law.
From science to Law?
I attended Teachers College, I didn’t do any science subject. I was motivated to read science by my brother who today is a professor and the Vice Chancellor of Macpherson University. He made first class in Agricultural Science from University of Ife, Ile-Ife. I got motivated by him particularly by those big books of his. I read some of his science books and entered for GCE examinations in Physics, Chemistry and Biology. I didn’t do very well in Physics, so I couldn’t do medicine. So, I entered College of Education to read Biology, Chemistry, hoping that by the time I finished, I would have made my Physics and go back to the university to read medicine.
That was how I ended having NCE in Biology and Chemistry and I was posted to Ikorodu High School to teach. I did not know my wife in the school. It was after she finished from the school that we met. She was struggling to get admission to University of Ilorin. She was the one who even came to me. She told me she was my student at Ikorodu High School, bla, bla, bla. She was very pretty. That was how we became friends. That is why I said she was the one who discovered me. That was when we started dating.
What was the attraction?
Her determination for pursuit of knowledge. I asked her what is your philosophy of life? I was stunned when she said, she wants to live the life of service. Most of the things she said tallied with my own philosophy of life. That was how I got hooked to her. But we didn’t get married until she finished school and started working. We got married and we are blessed with three kids.
How many boys or girls?
Two boys and my angel.
What is their age range?
My first boy is 13 going to 14. The second boy is 12 going to 13 and my angel has just celebrated her 10th birthday last two months.
Will you say you are fulfilled at 50?
I will say that I am on the track of fulfillment. The fulfillment is to see more people transformed through my impact. I want to touch lives. They are the things that make me happy. I want to do more.
– TOLANI ABATTI