Lam Adesina: My father was a reliable human being who stood by his words until he died. — Son
Oyo State Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Dapo Lam-Adesina, who is son of the former governor of the state, Lamidi Adesina, revisits his father’s journey from the classroom to the state house in this interview with Olufemi Atoyebi
Could you describe your dad?
My father was a reliable human being who stood by his words until he died. He was a disciplinarian in all respects and a man of integrity. If my father had an agreement with someone, he would contact the person before he changed his mind. Throughout his life, he stood on the side of the masses.
His political ideology was based on the campaign for an egalitarian society in Nigeria. As a progressive-minded politician, he believed in the core values of the late Obafemi Awolowo.
Would you say that your father died a fulfilled man?
Many people use wealth acquisition to value human success and fulfilment in life. We cannot use that parameter to value my father’s success in life. In term of financial accumulation, he was not a rich man. He did not believe in amassing wealth because he held on to the fact that no man will leave the world with all the wealth he acquires. He believed so much in fighting for the masses and if that is used to judge fulfilment, then I will score him high.
When was the last time you spoke to him, and what did he tell you?
I was with him at the hospital before he passed on. Though we were not able to talk much, he kept on asking me about his people at home and the governor, Abiola Ajimobi. He was taken to St. Nicholas Hospital in Lagos and we were planning to take him abroad for further treatment but he insisted that he would rather die at home.
I have learnt a lot from his life and final wish not to be taken abroad for treatment. He said whatever was going to happen would still happen even if he was taken to a hospital abroad. He believed in the Nigerian system and hoped that it would get better.
He never believed that he could be treated out of the country. He even insisted that he was not going to leave the University College Hospital in Ibadan until we found out that there was an imminent strike at the hospital. It was after we told him that he agreed to be transferred to Lagos.
Your father was a teacher before he became a governor. Did he ever teach you in a class?
I was never in his class of Education but when I wanted to write my General Certificate examination, he gave me lessons in English Language at home.
How would you rate his teaching style?
He would not take nonsense from anyone. As much as he was very tough, he was also kind and caring. That is why most of his children are tough. We would rather die than give up what we believe in. That was the kind of training he gave us.
How did your family react to his transformation from being a teacher to a governor?
There was no time we ever saw it as anything spectacular. Politics in Oyo State is not a jamboree so we had no reason to start a party. We knew the huge sacrifice and work involved. The family did not lose its humble background.
But it was rumoured that you and your siblings spent so much money hosting friends and driving expensive cars…
That was part of the rumours at the time. People said a lot about my mother and his children. They said we held parties at popular eateries in Ibadan and spent money lavishly. None of these things ever happened. There was a time when they said that I bought an expensive car at Sabo area of Ibadan. But people should try and find out where the cars were hidden. At least I did not drive any of such cars after my father lost the re-election bid. I do not like attending parties. I don’t go to clubs or keep late nights. I have never taken alcohol or smoked cigarette in my life. So where did people get what they said about me and my family? These were plots used by the opposition to discredit my father and ensure that he did not return in 2003.
How did he handle the loss?
He was a politician who was not desperate to remain in power. He respected the people and went back to his house in Felele area of Ibadan. The family remained as one because we did not lose focus.
Did your father have a social life as governor?
My father did not have a social life but he related well with his political associates. He did not like attending parties.
Can you remember how often he scolded you?
He scolded me several times because I was tough and he was also tough. Most of the time, we had a lot of arguments over issues but he always saw reasons why I held on to my youthful position. He would sit me down and explain things to me from his position as a father.
Do you see yourself stepping into his shoes?
I can’t step into his shoes, because his shoes are too big. I am stepping into my own small-sized shoes which God has given me.
Being one of the youngest holders of political positions in Nigeria, how would you assess the responsibility?
It is a big burden to me because if you succeed, you are opening doors to a lot of young people and if you fail, you are shutting the door against so many of them. I hardly sleep. I work hard so that by the time I leave office, young people will continue to have a say in the way they are governed.
What were your father’s last wishes?
One of his last wishes was that there should be a new Oyo State. He wanted to see some of the things he was unable to do as the state governor because of the paucity of fund at the time.
He also wanted to witness the jinx of the second term being broken in the state by the progressives. He also wanted to see his children, both biological and political, succeed in their callings. I am sure he was proud of his children before he died.
How much influence did he have on your political career?
My father didn’t even know that I was entering politics when I made a decision to contest in the 2011 elections. I actually started politics in 1998 when I was studying at The Polytechnic, Ibadan. I was the secretary of youth wing of the Alliance for Democracy, Ibarapa East Local Government area of Oyo State. We won the council’s chairmanship position and by 2007, I became an active young politician.
I had a lot of problems with many politicians at the time because I stood against rigging and manipulation. I was almost shot and killed at Felele area of Ibadan by supporters of a famous politician who thought I was standing in his way to victory because I mobilised people against his fraudulent practices during the election.
I witnessed a lot of things that were wrong during the elections. I thought that the only way to stop it was to be actively involved. After the 2007 elections, I decided to contest for a position in the House of Representatives. People might say that it was easy for me to join politics at the top level because I rode on my father’s name but the truth is that he did not know that I was joining politics, until his friends called his attention to my political activities. Even after he was told, he did not call me or approach his friends to lobby on my behalf.
I was attending political meetings and rallies, and contacting notable politicians, telling them of my decision. I was also delivering speeches at public gatherings, reminding them of the need to move for positive changes.
At a point when the election was close in 2011, I wrote a letter to my father telling him of my decision to contest for a position. In the evening of the same day, I went to him and told him that I was not in any way being disrespectful by not coming to him earlier. He prayed for me and told me that he had no money to support my ambition.
After you lost the election, did you hold any meeting with him on the way forward?
I am glad that I lost the election the way I did. It made me what I am today. My father did not cry over my loss, he was a politician and he was never desperate for anything. He believed that events must be allowed to happen naturally.
Rather than mulling over the loss, I felt fulfilled and for the first time in a while, I slept well. I saw life in a different way afterwards. The loss had nothing to do with my relationship with my father because all Action Congress of Nigeria candidates lost in that area, including the present governor of Oyo State, Ajimobi.
But beyond the loss, I was able to prove a point that the youth can take part in the way the country is governed. I had started a struggle and today you see a lot of young people like Saheed Fijabi and Olumide Osoba being voted to represent their people.
Is it true that your father used his position in ACN to ensure that you were compensated for the loss, by being chosen as a commissioner in the state?
My relationship with the governor is like that of a father and son and that was what he said when he picked me as the commissioner. A lot of people would have said I was picked because of my father. When the first list of commissioners was released by the governor, my name was not there and I didn’t say anything. But I think when the governor was making some amendments to the list, he thought of the boy who contested and lost. He called me and told me to bring my curriculum vitae. He told me that he would like me to work with him because of my effort.
He was amazed when I produced my degree certificate from the University of Ibadan. He said he was told that I had a diploma certificate from the polytechnic. That was how he gave me the position of sports commissioner.
How would you describe the relationship between your father and the late Lamidi Adedibu?
They were two smart politicians who knew how to handle themselves. It was very interesting at a point, but it was two parallel lines. One was violent and the other wasn’t violent. One was educated and the other was not educated. For some of us who were still growing up at that time, we learnt a lot of lessons and understood the tricks of politics from both of them. We learnt that we must not bring violence into politics. My father hated violence and his children imbibed that trait from him.
How have you been able to strike a balance between your life as a student and being a commissioner?
A lot of friends believe that since he is a commissioner now, we can go to him and collect money or get a contract. This is not possible because I am a public servant desperate to leave a positive mark behind and create further opportunity for the youths. If you are my friend and you have an idea of how we can move the nation forward through my office, you are welcome, but you must go through the proper procedure.