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Why I Chose To Become An Activist Many Years Ago – Comrade AYODELE ADEWALE

 •LAGOS APC Organising Secretary

Comrade Ayo Adewale is not a new name in the political scene in Lagos. He has been a front-runner right from his days as a student at the Lagos State University. He is currently the organizing secretary of the Lagos chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC. He visited City People’s corporate office last week where he opened up on a few topics. Below are excerpts from the interview, enjoy.

How have you managed your relationship with older folks like Asiwaju?

My relationship with Asiwaju is like my relationship with you (Publisher). Many times I have offended you; you will call me to a programme, I won’t come and I would apologise and I would say “egbon” don’t be offended, so we would always have some little hitches but the beauty of it is that I consider myself lucky that the elderly ones don’t see me as a baby. I remember whenever I sit at a table with Chief Enahoro and this is someone who is almost 50 years more than I was. Prof Jadesola Akande would sit, Alfred Ilere, Edet Uno, etc would sit. I think I also had an opportunity to sit with Pa Olu Falae on the same table, and I would be secretary. My secretaryship was not about appointments. I started by them saying, sit down and write during meetings and from writing, I became the secretary. Even when we started the Citizen Forum with Prof Wole Soyinka. You know Prof. was always travelling around the world and they needed someone to write, and Mr. Wale just told me, Ayo start writing and I would be writing. The same thing with Dr Beko.

When I have something disturbing me, I would ask them and they would allow me to ask at the meeting. From there, whenever they were going anywhere I would follow. Likewise Asiwaju, he never despises anybody. For people who care to know. If you go through his nucleus. His nucleus is more of youth. Even in his businesses, they are full of youths.

But again you must know the red line; you don’t cross it. If I have contending issues to discuss with Asiwaju, there’s a way I would put it forward for him to understand. Sometimes he would say go and read this book and come back. Even when I was in school I was never rude to my Vice-Chancellor. There would be contending issues, riots and the rest but I was never rude. And also from my background, I was privileged to come from a royal background. My mother’s great grandfather was the fourteenth Oloto. My great grandfather was Post Master General in Nigeria, we are from Sierrraleone. He was taken as a slave from Ijebu Ode to Cuba or somewhere. As at that time he was released and came back, the boat didn’t come to Lagos and that’s how he landed in Freetown. He lived in Freetown, got educated and came to Lagos and married Okoro Boyo. My great grandmother was a very illustrious person.

They married and they came here. There were just three black men on McCarthy Street. Deinde Fernandez was living behind our street. My great grandfather had two properties there.

Then from my father’s side, my great grandfather was a strong warrior. He had plenty of land. We didn’t carry all these on our heads. Though, we weren’t allowed to see outside of the fence. They would just keep us in the house. So it’s more of parenting. When I came out firstly, I was lucky to meet people who absorbed me. Because I remember when I left school, my mother wanted me to work with Dangote because we have a cousin who was his private secretary and I went to Falomo (Dangote’s office). There are two elevators there. One for him (Dangote) and one for every other person. I got there and I dropped my CV there but I didn’t go back to follow it up.

I got home, I told my father I want to be an activist. Then I had a Mercedes 200. My father would laugh that the salary you are giving is just 20 thousand naira and you are filling your car tank with 3 thousand naira fuel, how can you rent a house with this? But I knew I wasn’t going for the money; I was going for the contacts. There were people love to see the students' leader then. I took pictures with the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi. We would hang it in the room. That’s our pride. And we would take photos with Prof Wole Soyinka, etc.

What were the attractions for you, coming from a privileged background to choose the path (activism) you have chosen?

I can say it’s destiny. I have told you about my ancestry. They were all in public service. The warriors, the farmers, the king, my grandfather. They were all in the public service. There are some things in your gene that would blossom when the time is right. I remember when I was a kid about 4 years old. I would always sit in front of our house when we came to FESTAC around 1979. And when NEPA takes light I would be staring of the moon and I always had the ambition that one day I would govern this country. It has always been like that and had always followed political activities since 1979 election. I remember I would be watching TV, there was one man I loved then that was Tunji Braithwaite. He would always come 3rd or 4th in those elections. My father didn’t do politics; he was focused on business. My mother’s father died young. He was governor Jakande’s classmate in Ilesa Grammar School. He was staying up, Jakande was staying down, but Jakande didn’t know. Providence threw me to him and he loved me a lot to the extent that he would say I should go and represent him at programmes. It was later in life that mother now said that’s Papa friend now. So many of these things are embedded and that’s why in Criminology, social scientists would look at the genealogy of these criminals. And that’s why some white men would tell you that an apple can’t fall far from the tree. If somebody is doing wrong things, check the ancestry.

My activity started from a basketball court. I am a lover of football. I don’t know what they do but I support those people there but I am more of basketball, chess etc. But I would organise the young ones but I can’t play. When the young ones come like 2face and Faze, they want to play ball but my peers were more in numbers. You can imagine yourself playing from 4pm to 6-7 pm and those young ones want to play. So they would now come to me that, let’s have you to choose and play with, so that we would create a set for them and indirectly fight for them. Or you beat a young one they would come to call me. It’s not that I was so muscular but many of them were my contemporaries. I would look into their eyes and I would caution them even the ones with bigger muscles. I didn’t know all these until I had a turning point of meeting Chief Gani Fawehinmi in my 100 level. He had come to talk to students on campus. I think Marwa was the governor of Lagos State then. It was during the “wakey wakey, so SOB came after “wake up”. SOB was a member of the parliament. I was a member of the parliament at 100 level. We were expelled and reinstated back. Gani had entered the auditorium but the DSS and others were trying to kidnap him there, but we brought Gani to “Abe Igi” in front of L&H. And I used to carry a camera to school because I love photographs. I was looking at him talking.

A year before then a friend of mine, Kayode Ilesanmi, we would always say this and that about LASU. That your Glorified Secondary School, I would never come there. One day I told him if I come to your school, I would be the President Student Union but I wanted to go to NDA. I wanted to be a soldier. But my father said no I must go for engineering. Commander Adefowora is late now but his son Gboyega came to our house one day and he handed over the NDA form to me and I was happy but my father insisted I must be an engineer. Going forward I couldn’t go to NDA and I refused to go to University. Some years after I decided to go to University of Lagos. Professor Ibidapo Obe was the dean of the faculty of engineering then. Jelili Omotola was the then VC and I dropped my documents and said if he doesn’t admit I was going to kill myself. So I came to downstairs. They were shouting “ole ole”, abusing the military. I was there looking. I didn’t know I only needed 5 hundred naira to change my course from engineering to estate management. The day we got to know the real details the form had close. That was when my mother now went to LASU to meet her uncle Kehinde Ogundairo and he looked at my results. He now gave me three courses to choose from. Biochemistry, Physics, Chemistry and I decided to go into Chemistry.

I was in my chemical lab, Kayode came again and dragged me to a parliament and I got there and I heard them talk. They weren’t making sense to me, so I quickly took their constitution and read and I said point of correction Mr. Speaker. It was SOB speaking and he looked at me because I was in 100 level then. Sharowi was the speaker and after I had spoken SOB came and said would you like to join our ideological group and I said no because I considered myself old at that time. Some of my mates were getting to their final year. At 100 level I couldn’t fit in, I just wanted to pass.

In my 200 level, people got to love me because I was a member of welfare committee of the parliament. I could cook. My parents taught me how to cook from age 9. I could go to the market. And the food vendors were cheating us. They were cooking coloured rice and called it jollof rice. When you go to the corner of their store the water they were using was so dark. So I used the office to correct the food vendors. From coloured rice to quality jollof rice. I was more on their neck, telling them the price of chicken, pepper etc and the price of the food came down as a result. So they had thought I would go for welfare but I said I want to run for president. They said no I can’t run. They said sciences have never won election before. Their numbers are few. I said don’t worry I have friends all over. Initially, they didn’t follow me but I put up a team. The likes of Hakeem Ajasa (he ran for Oniru throne), Elegushi were part of my campaign team. They came and said I should raise their Hakeem up as PRO. So we now said science should vote for Hakeem but I had already promised Karl Marx PRO but I promised him I was going to hand over to him. It has always been like that because I believe in challenges.

Even when we were fighting the military, myself and Felix Ashimole is a lawyer. We would start the process and thank God for Barrister Shina Ogunlana. He was my legal adviser then since 1998. He would come and advise. We would challenge the state, took people to court. We wrote about 96 pages of petition paper and that’s what brought development to LASU. We had a meeting with Bola Ahmed Tinubu for over 7 hours in his office in Alausa.

The school had expelled over one thousand five hundred students and we told them no. They had done matriculation and we said why don’t you defer the admission and the school decided not to give us allowances.

I started the first pure water, the first newspaper that has become a magazine today. I built Akinwunmi photocopy centre etc.

So from the proceeds of water, we were making money. The bus went to Iselu uku but had an accident. I gave 750 thousand naira to fix it then. And he said he’s going to use it for the Abuja trip for 6 months and return it back. We repaired everything and we gave Asiwaju the document.

I started the first shuttle for students. I borrowed the idea from UNILAG. The colour to paint ours became a big problem. Some suggested blue, red, yellow before we arrived at White and Brown because nobody has that. We were making money. We were paying our 2 drivers. We were paying our cleaners. We. Were doing so much and we were very organised. 

What would you say worked for student unionism in those days?

I think it’s the people I followed. People I saw as mentors. I told you about Shina Ogunlana. He’s uncompromised. Then I used to see Malaki from afar. Chima Ubani. And these meetings we go to we listened. We weren’t for the money during our time. We had different steps of discussion as students at the parliament. Our arguments were very deep. Deeper than what we have at the national assembly today.

Then we also had what we called activist forum in LASU then. Whatever we can’t finish at the parliament we would carry it to the activist forum. I told them I’m more of a welfarist. I’m not a capitalist. I’m a realist.

For me it was more of giving out to people, it was more of welfarism. We also have a judiciary. I was almost impeached, expelled then because of my involvement in the political activity because it was stated in our constitution we must not engage in partisan politics. That was the mistake we did then.

Somebody like Dr. Seye Kehinde, Bob D would have had easy access to National Assembly then.

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