My loyalty is to my homestead – 1988 Constituent Assembly Delegate, Otunba Ibikunle, seeks support for Yayi

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My loyalty is to my homestead – 1988 Constituent Assembly Delegate, Otunba Ibikunle, seeks support for Yayi

1988 Constituent Assembly delegate, Otunba Dr SAJ Ibikunle few days after his ninetieth birthday, enumerates his efforts at adding value to  Yewaland. The former Governorship aspirant charges other stakeholders in the state to think about the multiple effect of infrastructural deficit across Ogun West which is the source of highest percentage of internal generated revenues. The renown surgeon also implored concerned stakeholders to accept Yayi (Senator Solomon Adeola) as their own son who is capable of breaking the age-long marginalisation of Ogun West District. Enjoy the Excerpt:

Recently, your 90th birthday was celebrated with funfair, can you please tell us briefly your journey so far in life?  When I was to marry, we were never agreed to stay in England, we agreed that we are going to return to Ilaro, my place of birth because my loyalty was to my homestead – ILARO. My mother was alive, I saw the suffering she endured in educating me.  And I would stay back in England? To do what? I am a thoroughbred Yewa man. Thorough bred I mean. When my colleagues were going to Saudi Arabia to work to earn dollars, I didn’t go. You tell me how many of them are better than I am; money is not the most important thing. God’s grace is more important than money, and the way you spend the little you have.  For me, returning to Ilaro was my priority. So, I returned. Not out of being immodest, look at how I have been able to influence things, at Ilaro, at Abeokuta even at Ijebu when I was there. Could that be possible in England?

Otunba Ibikunle and children

In England, I suggest to myself, why here, Ilaro is home now. I must return. My first house was built in Ilaro. Infact, the day I was ninety, I dedicated my newly built house. I will show you the photograph of the house later. Dedicated a newly built house on that day means I am not ready to leave this world now. Even your home town, Ìjàká-Ìsàlẹ̀ doesn’t want me to die now. So, also, the Ìmẹ́kọ people. His Royal Dynasty, Alákétu of Kétuland, Oba Anicet Adedunloye, honoured me with his Royal presence. An age-long artifact (Orí Gẹ̀lẹ̀dẹ́) that the Kábíèsí  gave me was the first of its kind. I have never been given such gift. The artifact is going to be housed in my newly commissioned Museum.

Oba Olugbenle handing over the Gelede (Gẹ̀lẹ̀dẹ́) Artifact to Chief Ibikunle’s son having received it from the ALAKETUct from Alaketu

Though, some among you call me Whiteman, They would say Whiteman; that’s not my name. They are the whites, not me. I involve in more cultural thing than they do. At least, AbuSatar my son is fluent in the spoken English more than I do. Call it indoctrination if you like, that was what we had at Igbobi. How can I forget that? When we were in School, they would tell us about the work of Dr Albert Schweitzer in the Congo. Every week, we would contribute to Leprosy Fund. Albert left his own base in Belgium to come to the Congo to look after our own Africans, why would I qualify, and could not return home to look after my people! Having been trained with Nigeria money, why should I stay put in the UK, is that not a brain drain? It’s not reasonable. Likewise, why must I stay in Abeokuta when I was sponsored by Ilaro parents. If we, all from this place, return to work for Ilaro, the ancient town would have fared better. A Professor of Surgery phoned me recently that he would visit me sooner, calling me the most outstanding surgeon in the world. He works in Ibadan which is better for us than him relocating abroad. The farther you go away from home, the worst it is for our economy. It is God that guided me, I said it earlier that it was the grace of God. I have no claim to anything.

In view of the situation of things politically, can Ogun West produce the  Governor of Ogun State in the nearest future? To me, I feel bold to say it, we are going to get there. Firstly, our son, Olamilekan Solomon Adeola popularly known as Yayi has won the Senate, and we will put pressure on him at the right time to decide to contest for the governorship of Ogun State, and you know him that he is a very intelligent young man. He would win elections in anywhere. People must realise the qualities in this young man. To me that is our hope for the future. You will be marveled at the amount of respect he has for the elders, the way he bring the youths together. The way he is doing everything, the way he even connects everyone although he is representing Lagos West. Despite the fact that he has to report to his constituency, he doesn’t forget us here at his ancestral home. I don’t think we can get another person who can do what the young man is doing. By the grace of God, he would win his senatorial seat, we will get to know him better. By 2027, I pray our people would agree that he should represent us as the Governor of Ogun State from Yewa land.

Senator Adeola with Chief Ibikunle

Yayi’s case is similar to my grandson from England who came here. His father has not come home. This my grandson, his mother is a white English woman, he went to the Palace, prostrated and said Kaabiesi o, Kaabiesi o!. He was very much like any Nigerians. Now, the fact that his father and himself never lived in Ilaro, if the boy decides to relocate to Ilaro as Kabiesi wanted, would people say because he was born in England, and has always lived there; went to University there, did everything there, is he not a grandson of the Otunba Olu of Ilaro? So the same story with this our Yayi. You know Isaga is everywhere because of the war between Egba people and Dahomeans. People had to move from Isaga to Ago-Isaga in Ilaro, and they are also in Isheri, everywhere. They are in Ota, Ado-Odo.

We know the history, and you cannot say he doesn’t belong to us.

Hopefully, we will remain in APC, I hope APC will still exist, I hope it will, because the way APC and PDP are going, I can see that the two parties are creating problems for themselves. If there is a third party that is strong enough, I hope these parties will be swept off the ground. But right now, anybody has to stay in a party, and I hope APC will get out of its problem. PDP and APC probably will remain as the two strong parties and will come down from the hell they are to understand the need of our people and try to make provisions; look at the cost of food, the cost of diesel, the cost of everything. Nobody is talking about that. All they are talking about is how to do this and that for themselves. Nobody is concern about ordinary persons on the streets. Hopefully, God will provide appropriate leader for us that will take us to where we should be.

It is understood that you delved into politics, can you share some of your experiences? I was in my clinic when I saw two counselors; Hon Ogundimu and Hon Babarinde from Ilaro represented Ward I and III respectively. They said they have come to ask me to represent our people at the then to be held Constituent Assembly where they are going to review Nigeria Constitution. I asked them why me, and their response was that it was an unanimous decision of the people. I told them to give me time to consult with my elders.

I went to Dr Otegbeye and Engineer Adenrele Adejumo because those were the people that should represent us. The two of them promised to support me since the people had come to me. To cut the long story short, they supported me, and I was elected member of the Constituent Assembly to represent Egbado South up to Oke-Odan. That was how I entered politics.

The State Administrator at the time, Col Raji Rasaki wanted me to lead the group but what I did was to work with the group such that if they were in need of anything I would make sure the government provide it.

Dr Ibikunle being blessed by Bishop Oluwarombi

Politics in Abuja: When we arrived at the Constituent Assembly in May 1988, we were lodged at the Nicon Hilton hotel.  I was appointed into the Welfare Committee and that was the beginning of a lot of work. We handled the allocation of all members into their flats. But then, there was issue of Health, and I offered to do everything that had to be done with health. Before we got to this stage, the Ministry of Health in Abuja had assisted us to put things together like what we should have and buy. And the bill came to about more than four million naira (₦4,000,000.00) which could be valued at about four billion naira (₦4,000,000,000.00) today. So, when they gave the budget to me, I said, this is a waste of money. I had to cut the bill to less than four hundred thousand naira (₦400,000.00) and Babagana Kingibe who was the Secretary said you these Ogun State people, you done come o, how are you going to do this? I said don’t worry about it. I explained the whole thing to them, and the Chairman, Justice Buba Ado was so happy.  Really, I organised a functional health service not only for members but their families, the workers, everybody. I can tell you more about how I did the rest, infact, it is a long story but we have a beautiful health service.

Secondly, there was issue of high table. Justice Anthony Aniagolu from the South East was the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly, the Secretary Babagana Kingibe from North East (Borno) then the Assistant Secretary Amal Inyingiala Pepple from Rivers area. There was no Yoruba person in any ot the leadership positions, so, the Yorubas of course raised a hell, asked if they don’t exists in Nigeria? We have to hold a meeting, and right there, they asked me to be their Chairman of the Yoruba group, indirectly, I became the Chairman of all Yoruba group. So we protested, and by the time we were protesting, we knew what the problem was. I am not going to mention names. Some of our people have been working towards getting positions for themselves. But to cut the long story short, with all our struggles, we didn’t get anything because of our own people working against us. But then, I was chosen to be the Chairman of Yoruba group. In everything that has to do with Yorubas, people consulted me. People who visited us were Papa Adesanya and Oluwole Awolowo. When they visited, I would gather our people, and the guests would deliver their messages. Their visits were to encourage and advise us on several issues. I am saying this to show that apart from the health service, I was really into the politics of the country. At the end, we realised that we have to form a political party. Meanwhile,  different groups have been formed at the Constituent Assembly. What we had was a group that ultimately became what we called NEW MOVEMENT, consisted of all part of Nigeria and somehow I played leadership role in that group too. When it came to lunching the movement, I was the one that did the launching.

Chief Ibikunle and clergy

Again, there was a new movement called Liberal Convention, as one of the leaders of Liberal Convention, I was to travel round the country launching the Liberal Convention. From there, Babangida said he wanted two parties. One may be to the right and the other one may be to the left. We, the Liberal Convention moved a bit to the right. We became National Republican Convention (NRC). The other people moved a bit to the left and became members of Social Democratic Party (SDP). So, those were the two parties then. I was really involved at that time.

When we returned home, we began organizing NRC in Ogun State. We did very well even though people thought we were not with Papa Awolowo’s group. Papa Awolowo’s group mostly went to SDP. But we were still able to make enough impacts in Ogun State such that when local government elections were held, we won several local government councils.

Sometimes in 1999, we had Alliance for Democracy (AD), I went in as one of the governorship candidate. There was a lot of stories about this. I was one of those expected to win. I must say my own people from Egbado disappointed us. They grossly disappointed us. It’s a long story which you will read in other books in a near future.

At Chief Odebiyi’s house in Ibooro, it was decided that I was to be their gubernatorial candidate. Infact, I was asked to fund the local government elections, which I did . When we won at the elections, the people who did the little or nothing at all, who contributed almost nothing financially at least, they assigned themselves with positions of dominance.

Unveiling the Martha Ibikunle Foundation in the presence of the Deputy Governor

When it was time for Governorship elections, I toured all the senatorial districts. In fact, when the Ijebu people got to know that it was me SAJ Ibikunle, they said “he is an Ijebu man, he is one of us”, and they gave us full support, I mean solid one. The Chairman of the group and I used to play cricket together when he was in Government College and I at Igbobi College. Hence, in seen all of these, all of them said certainly Ijebu would support us. Egba was a little bit divided but we had a measure of  support. I can tell you that, though I don’t like saying anything negative about Olusegun Osoba (Olúṣẹ́gun Ọ̀ṣọbà) because he is one of the people I like most, I really like him. Then, the day to choose the party’s consensus candidate at Ayepe came. My people and I have agreed to travel in a big bus to the venue, I have paid for their transportation but by the time we arrived at Ayepe, I saw some of them alighting from Osoba’s bus having collected transport fare from me. I don’t like to mention names. That’s how they played their politics, and the reason we may never made it. As I told you I have some supports in Egba (Ẹ̀gbá), and Osoba too have considerable supports. In Remo (Rẹ́mọ), I have supports but what happened?

We never had time to test our strengths because Osoba brought thugs to disrupt the meeting. It was agreed that if we couldn’t agree on a consensus candidate, we will go for the Primaries. But after the disruption, we agreed to sent delegates to Pa Adesanya in Lagos to report what happened. Then, Pa Adesanya disqualified Osoba. Ironically, when the elections held on Monday, the same Osoba that was disqualified by Pa Adesanya was declared winner. Most surprisingly, results of the primary election results were not tally. One report would declared me winner, another result will say Osoba had highest votes. It was so confusing. But since I was trained in a way as a politician in England not to disrupt a process, we were invited to the office of the AD Chairman, Femi Okunrunmu. I tried to make peace, telling other aspirants to allow Osoba to go for it and the rest of us to support him but I was told that I was stupid, that they don’t do politics like that. I told them that that is the politics that I know, I don’t do politics of disruption, So, Osoba went and won the election. I supported him to the extent that I put his campaign sticker on my car, when I get to Ilaro, the PDP saw it and nearly collapse. Their expectations were that if Osoba was chosen, I would come back home to join them. They were surprised that I was not so desperate. I ddin’t decamp. Look at them in Nigeria today, APC and PDP are not different. Atiku has been in APC two times. He was in APC one time, and back to PDP, see the way all of them are changing. There is no manifesto any more. They are just to share money; one hundred million per aspirant. That is not politics, if he pay hundred million to obtain a nomination form, what do you expect him to do when he gets there, he must try to recover it firstly, after all, his salary in four years is not up to twenty million naira.

Chief Ibikunle with Alhaji AbuSatar Hamed reading Startrend Int’l Magazine

One should not expect too much from people by expecting all of us to move in the same direction; one man’s food is another man’s poison. But if the majority of us know exactly where we want to go, we will get there. Though, I must tell you something else which people say I must not say. Seriously, the governor must come from anywhere. Not that Egba should be doing it every time but we should look for somebody whom we know we look after other people. Someone that has capacity to improve education, health, agriculture, water supply, everything, just all what we need. The reason we are clamoring for somebody from Ogun West is because we have never been there. Really, it shouldn’t matter where the governor comes from if they will look after everybody equally. But so far, nobody has done that, they always look after the area from where they come from. So, I am not expecting that our governor from Ogun West should look after us alone, it is wrong. The money that comes from Abuja belong to all of us, and they should spread it out to every part of Ogun State. But somebody must get there and lifts up our Ogun West. Look at our roads, and most of the internally generated revenue they are talking about are from our place; Agbara, Igbesa and Ota, Igbesa is my town. I was also involved in the Igbesa tussle because when they were fighting about the land, I asked the Kabiesi to call a meeting of the community and told them off that se e fe ki won ma gbe free trade zone yii wa sodo wa ni? The issue was resolved amicably. If you know the quantity of industries in Igbesa. No part of Ogun State housed such. You get everything from our land, and neglect our roads, why? You took our money to develop other places! Our own will be there. It is an insult that they are denying Ogun West. Ko daa fawon to ku to n se e naa, ko ye won ni, ko daa fun won. Lagbara Olorun, aa debe o.

At 90 plus, sir you are looking younger, what is your secret? My health’s secret indirectly has much to do with my paternal oriki; “Omo Otikiiji. Abeleboogunlowe. Omo yigbiri yigbiri aboogun yigbiri loja, apa ekute o ka oosa loja bii ka maa yi gbiri lo mo. At my mother’s stead, Late Oba Tella’s family; Tella Ajagajigi, gbogbo ara kiki oogun. So, you don’t have to wonder about my good health and posture, in a lighter mood, when all my heritage has been about traditional powers which has been our secret. That is an aside. It is the grace of God. I must tell you I am the luckiest man in the world. If God has bless anybody, I am the number one. I appreciate God for that, and I thank God all the time for it.

My early childhood, my school days and everything have been going well for me all the time. Don’t think because I am a medical doctor, no, many doctors are ill. That’s why I said it is the grace of God, God has been with me. He directs me. I am a happier man. If you are happy, you will live long. Particularly when you get to about sixty and above. Those people get all sorts of problems when they are in their forties, for instance if they have marital problems or family issues but at the age of sixty and if you are not happy or things goes wrong, you will age quickly but through God’s grace, there might be other things but to me it’s through God’s grace. I don’t have all those issues. On top of that, you must sleep well, eat well. You must avoid all sorts of excesses. Eat vegetables and fruits. I eats chicken and more of fish. I don’t eat beef at all. I eat things that will not bother my health. It’s advisable to have medical checkup regularly at least once a year if possible twice a year. You will be all right unless of course you inherited certain ailment from your parents as some of us do inherit. I think, essentially, I give glory to God for this because I don’t even 90. Though I don’t want to say I am as young as you but I feel as young as you.

Your words to the Yewa people in their political arrangements if truly we needed to be Governor of Ogun State? Most of us claim Christians and Muslims. The Holy books are clear about what we should do. The Hadith is clear about what we should do. We can’t be perfect. Many people don’t think about doing things right, they want to do what is convenient for them. No society can grow where every individual thing of himself first. Even when we drive, they drive anyhow, park anywhere. Life can’t be like that. Young ones should obey their parents, have good education, solid education, behave yourself, don’t join cult. When you are employed, work for your money, a lot of them don’t work for their money. If you don’t, and think government or anybody don’t see you, God sees you; To o ba n gbowo ise to o se, owo yen o le funa now. Nitori eyi, kawon omo to n bo lona sora won, ki won si maa huwa to daa gege bi Iwe Mimo se ko wa pe ka maa se. Nnkan temi le se niyen o.

You see my smiles. See the way I feel happy about my people, young ones especially. On my 90th birthday, everybody was involved. I am grateful to everyone who honoured me with their presence and what have you in all ramifications before, during and after my celebration. I am grateful. You probably may not know that I constituted the committee that planned the 10th Coronation Anniversary of the Paramount Ruler and some of them were members of my own committee too. The way they worked gives me a lot of hope for Yewaland. They worked selflessly. They paid for a lot of things which I don’t ever know about, things I didn’t know about. They said Baba, ise wa leleyi, a ni lati toju yin ni. With that type of spirit, it shows that Yewa is coming up. They were doing it as if they were doing it for their biological father. When I tell you I am happy, you can see why I am happy. I am a very happy man o. I am happy about my people. The young people are so decent. Be united, Olorun ti mo ibi teni kookan maa de. E ma je ara yin lese o. E je ka sowo po ki ohun gbogbo le lo daadaa lodo tiwa naa. It is only true cooperation that we can grow. We can’t grow as expected if we continue to move in different direction.

My Background: I am Samuel Ayinde Jayeola Ibikunle. I am the Otunba of Ilaro. I am native of Ilaro. I wasn’t there when I was born but I was told a lot of stories that I was born on a day that usually, Ilaro people always fell very happy because that was a day they welcome people from all over what used to be not only Egbado, part of Ogun State today but the whole area of up to Ado-Odo/Ota LGA. When I say that, I mean certain area outside Ado-Odo/Igbesa area. That was Empire Day, a day that all student there will march to Ilaro. It’s usually a very joyous occasion for all of them. I understand they used to feed them. And when I grew up, I say a little bit of this too.

I started schooling in 1938 and in those days you know there was no birth certificate. I don’t even know whether they have an age you could start school except that they asked you to put your right hand over your head if it can touch your ears, then you will be given admission. So, in 1938, my hand couldn’t reach my ears, then I wasn’t allowed to start school And I think, why should I stay at home without doing nothing? I then make sure that every Monday to Friday of that 1938 when the school was in session, I was also in that school. I was attending class, so by 1939 when I resumed again, they didn’t ask me to put my hand on my head again. Officially, I started schooling in 1939 January, and I left Christ Church School in December 1947. From there, I went to Igbobi College. At Igbobi College, I did a lot of things. Then I used to play lot of sports. I was a member of Cricket first eleven. I did other sports. I was the sickroom monitor. Most of us who were made Monitor were those they thought would look after other students when they were ill. And that was what we did.

When I left Igbobi College, I was employed in Ibadan as Produce Inspection Officer. I was transferred to Akure. I left Akure very quickly. I returned to Lagos because I realized that the best thing to do is to go to University, so I was attending evening classes at Kings College, Lagos. After some times, I decided to go abroad. I went abroad, and a lot of things followed after that.

I went to Woolwich Polytechnic in London from there I went to University of Bristol also in London. I graduated in 1962, and returned to Nigeria in 1963 January. I didn’t spend more than four weeks after my graduation to come back home to serve my people. I worked briefly in Ibadan then I was sent to Ijebu ode. I left Ijebu-Ode in January 1967 for further training. I was at Royal Institute of Surgeons and I worked in several hospitals. After I got my fellowship, I came back to Nigeria, and since grew from there, so it’s a very long story.