HON. Oladele Adekanye is the Chairman of Lagos Mainland Local Government Council. He turned 50 today, Tuesday, September 23, 2014. ENCOMIUM Weekly met him on Saturday, September 20, 2014, on his thought on turning 50 and his next political move after serving for two terms as chairman.
How does it feel to turn 50?
Naturally, the spirit is that of gratitude to God. I have a good cause to thank God and hope that God will further more be gracious to enable us give more gratitude than this.
What will you say you are grateful to God for turning 50?
The gift of life. Notwithstanding the turbulent nature of my rise to my present position, He has granted it and He has sustained me very well. With many accomplishments too many for me to begin to reel out. All I have to say is I thank Him. I really thank Him.
Do you feel your new age? Are there things you can no longer do because of your new age?
I can’t immediately think of anything that I used to do that I cannot do anymore. I give God the glory. I still play football, believe it or not.
For how many hours?
At least, one hour or one and a half hours.
How often do you do that in a week?
Once in a week. I have my own team, a group of old players. We assemble to play football. So, I give God all the glory for all His grace on me and the entire family.
What was growing up for you?
Growing up for me was very eventful. I was born into a polygamous family.
What is your position in that family?
I will say middle. I was the last child of my own mother’s six children. My mother was the first wife. The second wife also had children for my father. So, I am number seven out of my father’s 12 children. My father was a businessman. God gave him some grace to be able to amass some wealth. He has houses in Lagos. He was able to manage his family.
Would you then say your family background was a privileged one?
I wouldn’t know whether I should say that because as wealthy as my dad was, he never indulged us. He ensured that we did not have an impression that he was blessed by God. He would give us only what we needed.
Which schools did you attend?
I attended public schools. I attended St. Paul Primary School, Breadfruit, Lagos Island. My secondary school was first St. Timothy College, Onike, Yaba and later I was transferred in 1978 to Government Secondary School, Omu-Aran, Kwara State. From there, I went to Kwara College of Technology, Ilorin, for my A’levels.
My university education was at University of Lagos where I read History and came out with 2-1 (Second Class Upper). From Lagos, I went to University of Ife, Ile-Ife where I read International Relations and came out with a B+.
What would you say aroused your interest in politics?
The interest to give service to the people. I joined politics as far back as 1989. My name has become more or less a household item as far as Mainland LG area politics is concerned. I had the privilege of coming from a father that was also known on the Mainland as far back as 1969. My father has a house in Ibadan Street and another one in Odunfa Street (Ebute Metta), all within the Mainland LG area. So, I came from a family that is highly respected on the Mainland.
Secondly, I am a public spirited person. People already knew me even before I became the chairman. I had made up my mind that if I had the opportunity, I would serve the people because I realize that service makes me happy a lot. I believe that Oruko rere o san ju wura ati fadaka lo (Good name is better than gold and silver). I want a situation that even if I leave office I can still stay in Mainland and relate with friends. That is why since I became chairman, I still live in my apartment in the midst of my people. I live at Iponri, the same place I lived since the day I got married. I live in my three bedroom flat.
No airs, no hassle, everybody knows my house and they come to me. Things that I can do for them I will do and the ones that I cannot do I will never shy away from telling them.
What will you say you don’t like about politics?
Politics is the best platform for whatever service that you want to render. The interesting thing about politics is that all other professionals come to you. Politics is a bigger platform than any other one offered by either a doctor, lawyer or teacher. For anybody that says that he wants to serve, politics is a good platform for you to operate. Having said that, the perception of people about politicians is something I don’t really like. Our people believe politicians lie. Politicians are never straight forward. When they say good morning, you need to look out to be sure it is actually morning. But I want to say that there are new crop of politicians that are coming up, that feel that they should say it as it is.
I want to say, even at the risk of sounding immodest, that I am one of these sets of politicians. What will be, will be. God knows what He has in stock for everybody. For those who are running away from politics because of this perception, I will appeal to them to come if they have something to offer and see how they can change this perception. Hooligans and liars in politics will definitely run away from politics when they see genuine men and women of integrity coming in.
What lesson would you say life and your long stay in politics has taught you?
One should learn to take God seriously. I am talking from my own personal experience. I ran several elections before I became chairman. I contested three times for the post of councilor, I was not given. The same thing goes for House of Assembly. Twice, I contested for the party ticket, I was rejected. On all these occasions, I did not lose because I was not qualified or I did not have the majority votes but the party leadership, for reasons best known to them, just didn’t want me. Then, I trusted in my intelligence and I trusted too much in the fact that I was popular that time. On reflection, I realized that it is not only your intelligence or popularity that will make you win elections or any competition. You need to put God first. I realized that God Himself was punishing me for not calling on Him.
But when I got that understanding and allowed God to take priority in all my efforts, that was when I became the chairman of the local government. The positions that I was contesting for before were even less than the chairmanship position. Councilor, for example, I tried three times. I never became a councilor. Twice, I wanted to become a member of House of Assembly, I never got the ticket. But when I sought the face of God, I became the chairman the first time and the second time.
The lesson here is that in whatever we are doing, whether politics or any other thing, we have to put God first. The second lesson life has taught me is that we should learn to persevere in pursuing our goals.
Going by my experience in politics again, I joined politics in 1989 contesting for one position or other. But I did not achieve my ambition until 2008, when I was elected chairman. A lot of people tried to discourage me because I did not realize my ambition. But I persevered and also brought God into the project. So, it is also good to persevere in whatever you are pursuing. Another lesson is to learn to be humble particularly when you are holding a political office. Since I became the chairman of Mainland Local Government Council, I made sure I did not take myself to any Olympian height. I demystified governance and government by relating with all. I thank God that majority of what I promised the people that I will do, I have done them.
What moment of your life would you say has been most challenging?
That should be when I lost my parents.
How old were you when they died?
I was very young. In fact, I was in school. I lost my father in 1982. That was when I was doing my A’levels. His death had both psychological and economic effects on me. I knew then that I had lost somebody who was like a rock to me. Despite the fact that he was relatively wealthy, his business partner disappointed us. I won’t want to go into the details of that. The same thing happened when I lost my mom. I was doing my Masters programme at University of Ife in 1989. She died of breast cancer. She died under a circumstance that I did not like. My immediate elder brother is a medical doctor. Tried as much as we did to convince her to do surgical operation to remove the breast she refused. She said her God was there for her and that she would want to go back to Him with all parts of her body complete.
I loved my mom, I am her last born and I was about the closest to her. Since we lost our father earlier, she was the one responsible for my education up till my Masters degree level with the little money she was making from her trade. So, I will never forget.
When would you say was the happiest moment of your life?
When I got married to my wife. We have been together for 32 years now.
What circumstance brought you two together? Did you attend the same secondary school?
Yes, we attended the same secondary school but we knew ourselves as at that time from afar off. It wasn’t as if we were close then. But we met again when her family moved close to our own house. We started chatting and reminiscences of our school days. From there, we became very close. Like I said, many people never gave us a chance that the relationship will survive talk less of leading to marriage.
Was she your first love?
She was. I must confess, she was my first love.
You are probably her first love too?
I should think so. When it came up that we got married eventually, I was very happy.
How many children has the marriage been blessed with?
We thank God. We have males and females. Our last born is in the university. She is in 300 level studying Law.
You’ve been the chairman of Lagos Mainland Local Government for two terms now, is there any likelihood that you will do third term?
Again, I have learnt to leave everything to God. My case is like the case of a leper who went to buy bean cake and was offered extra bean cake by the seller. You know what he told the bean cake seller? He said, pray for me to take the one I bought home successfully first, before thinking of adding extra. That is my story. I just wish that the little time that remains for me to complete my tenure ends successfully. Whatever God has in waiting for me will begin to manifest. Although a lot of my friends and supporters are clamouring for me to go to the House of Assembly next. But I believe God will guide me on what to do next.
– TOLANI ABATTI