Even at 84, dad likes to spend time on social network sites — Ayo Adebanjo’s daughter

Ayo-Adebanjo-naijaAdeola Azeez is one of the children of Chief Ayo Adebanjo. In this interview with GBENGA ADENIJI, she talks about her father as a politician, elder statesman and social critic

Tell us about yourself

I am Adeola Azeez (nee Ayo Adebanjo). I am the first daughter of my parents. I was born 50 years plus ago.  I studied philosophy and history at the University of Lagos. Though my father wanted me to study law, I did not get the cut-off mark for law. I was lucky to later study law at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. I was encouraged to come home even though I wanted to do a masters in law. My father and my godparents, Chiefs Obafemi Awolowo and H.I.D Awolowo, said since I had already earned two degrees, I was over-qualified and would not find a man to marry me. I work as a correspondent banker for a global bank.

Tell us about your siblings

My immediate brother, Obafemi studied political science. He lives in the UK with his family. The next to him is Olusegun who is a businessman and a lawyer. The last is Folashade. She is a medical doctor.

What memory of your growing up years with your father can you remember?

My father is a politician, activist and he’s always fighting for the truth. He always says a good name is more valuable than gold. I grew up knowing that so well. He would tell us that he wanted to be rich in a good name. He gave us good education. He encouraged all of us and wanted us to become doctors, lawyers or engineers. Luckily, we all studied in the arts, except my sister who did sciences. He is a family oriented man and was always going around for one political event or the other.

How did he make up for those times he was away? 

My father is blessed to have the kind of wife he has, who is my mother. I do not know what our family would have been without our mother because she held the home front well when he was not around. She brought us up well and we did not miss him when he was not around. Each time he was around, he played his role well as a father. I remember him driving us to school. Sometimes, he would ask to see our principals to know how we were faring academically. I remember that he used to take us to the bar beach for picnics. There was no Eko Bridge then and he would take us through Carter Bridge.  He always took us on holidays to Europe.  We went annually to Italy, France and other countries. But taking us on a holiday outside the country was not an automatic thing for all of us. If any of us did not perform excellently well in school, that child would not be part of the vacation. We had some cousins living with us then. Some of them were older than I was. His stance was that the elder ones should go to London and the younger ones to Ghana. My father believed that since the younger ones had not achieved what the older ones had achieved, the place for their holiday should be different.

What excuse did your mother give for your father’s absence during the military era?

I was old enough to understand that he was fighting for a better Nigeria. I was also old enough to understand that he was not alone in the struggle. He was in the struggle with Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Anthony Enahoro and others. We grew up knowing our father as a politician. We grew up knowing him to be courageous and fearless. I remember our mother always telling him to slow down in his life of activism. She would tell him not to react angrily to everything concerning the country’s challenges. He is a man who believes what he says. He is a thorough-bred politician and does not swing in and out of opinions. He is a very consistent person. When it is ‘good morning’, it is morning for my father and when he says ‘good night’ it is night. He keeps telling the youth to give their best for the country and for politicians not to be in politics for money but the development of the country.

How do you feel each time he gives some hard knocks on the state of the nation?

I think my father only says how he feels about the state of the nation. Though sometimes, like I said earlier, my mother tells him not to say things that can generate controversies. I also tell him that people already know what his position would be on a particular issue without him saying it.  In fact, I tell him that he should not make comments on certain issues so that some people would not think he is trying to stay relevant.  But he told me that once the media seek his view on some issues pertaining to the country, he would not keep quiet.

What is his idea of discipline?

One thing I know is that no child can misbehave in front of my father. It is compulsory for any of his children to either prostrate or kneel down for elders depending on their sex. I knelt down for my parents and elders quite often as a child and it is still part of me till today. My father is a disciplinarian. He was very conscious that his children must be well behaved. He makes it a must for us to reflect the background and teachings he has instilled in us. He also understands that children can make mistakes, so he continues to advise and engage us always. He lets us know that he has to do that to ensure that we become good children. He is not the kind of father that will support his children if they do anything wrong. My mother used the cane. My father only punished any erring child by depriving him or her of something. He withdrew things that such a child liked, including vacations outside the country. Since it was my mother that used to be around then, my father often called her to report any of us who did anything wrong. My mother used the cane on me in particular as the eldest. The cane, horse whip and other things were used on me by my mother. Anyway, today, I am better off for it.

How did he handle misunderstandings with your mother?   

There was no serious disagreement between them. If there was any disagreement, the children were kept away from it. As an adult now, if there is any misunderstanding between them, my father would call me, saying ‘Come and see what your mother has done.’ I am the peacemaker in that regard and my mother would say she knew I would support my father after I had spoken my mind. My mother could be sentimental sometimes and my dad and I often try to counter her when she makes a decision on certain issues. Ours is a very happy family.

Who are your father’s friends?

My father’s friends are the young and old. But we call Sir Olanihun Ajayi his Taiwo while he is Kehinde. The two of them are very close. He also has a lot of young people who look up to him for counseling.

Which of his values have you imbibed?

One of the values I have imbibed from him is to speak the truth regardless of the consequence. He is a contented man and I have learnt this from him. He always tells us that we should never let anyone be in doubt of our position on any issue. We imbibed a lot of values from him which are assisting us to forge ahead in life and our careers.

What favours have your father’s name brought for you?  

When people identify who I am, they often say, ‘Omo baba ti ko gba igba kugba’ (daughter of man who doesn’t tolerate nonsense). They tell me so many good things about his integrity. I feel happy and proud to be his child. I know that my father is also blessed with a youthful look. He is very energetic.  At 84, he walks the Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge as a form of exercise every morning. There are few people of his age that can do that. My friends tell me that my father is an inspiration to them. One thing about my dad is that he cares about our friends. If any of his children’s friends is celebrating any occasion, he would either call to congratulate the person or attend the function. He is a man that we all love. He is also a power dresser. He wears his sunglasses often and he is informed about the latest trends in town. My father has an ipad, iphone and operates a functional email account. He wants to also be on Facebook. He once called my daughter to teach him how to tweet messages on Twitter.   He is ready to learn and he’s very current. I pray God to preserve his life for us all. My dad is not a rich man in material terms but his richness is in so many other ways that will endear many people to him.

Your father trained as a lawyer and two of his children are lawyers, did he influence their career choice?

I like being a lawyer because I love litigation. I like watching court scenes. So, that pulled me towards law. He also influenced us to study it but he did not force it on us. He only encouraged us. I think the fact that he is a lawyer also assisted us in studying law.

What is his favourite meal?

My dad loves well-prepared hot food. He does not like cold food. He likes well spiced fish, chicken and vegetables. I remember that  each time my mother cooked food for him, after eating, he would walk up to her and give her a kiss after saying ‘Christie, mogba dun ounje yi.’ (Christie, I enjoy this meal).

Does he have a special mode of dressing?

If he wants to wear native attire, it must be complemented with the associated paraphernalia. It is the same for suits. If he wants to go casual, he will ensure it is trendy.

How does he relax?

He relaxes with newspapers. He is always reading one newspaper or the other. If you want to get my father angry, destroy any of his newspaper without his consent. In this age of the Internet, he reads news online but still does not stop buying newspapers.

Being a frontline politician, did he not encourage his children to join politics? 

I am inclined to politics. I know it is something that one needs to take a decision on quickly. But I am taking my time and doing my research on it. I have got the energy and I want to contribute my part to the transformation of the country. I believe I can contribute to empowering and inspiring women. I do a lot of that as the Chairperson of Women in Management and Business. I know that the women of Nigeria are the ones to transform Nigeria because we are the mothers of the men who are leading us. But the problem is that some of us are lackadaisical and selfish because of the feeling that once their immediate families are doing well, there’s no need to bother about others. I know that we have the power to make the change in this country.

How close are you to your dad?

I am very close to him to the extent that I tell him about any issue that bothers me. He gives me quality advice, judgement and decisions on such matter. He does not anticipate or judge.

How sociable is he?  

My father is a very sociable person. He is not a party goer but ensures he honours important invitations. He advises us to always try and celebrate good things with others. In fact, he encourages us to attend the event briefly if we are so busy or call and apologise to the host of the event if we would not be attending. He says such an attitude is necessary and has its rewards.


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