Prince Rabiu Adio Oluwa, a grassroots politician fondly called Asiwaju of Ijora Kingdom marked 77 years of age recently with a grand celebration. In this interview with Akinwunmi Ibrahim and Godbless Eduviere, he talks about life at 77, family, politics among others things
You celebrated your 77th birthday recently, can you recall how it all started?
I was born April 24, 1939 in Lagos Island, particularly Isale Eko area of Lagos Island. I attended Holy Trinity School for primary education, from there I moved to Ansar-ud-deen College Ijebu Ode. After my Secondary School, I worked briefly with Nigeria Port Authority as a key staff and I left for United Kingdom where I did a course in Shipping and Ship Brokerage at the City of London College now London University. I am from the Oluwa Chieftaincy family of Lagos and I belong to three additional chieftaincy families due to the marriage of my parents; Oludele, Ijora and Olujolo. I am the prince of Lagos as well. When I was young, I was a bit involved in politics. I remember in my first year at Ansar-ud-deen College we were asked to write an essay on the Action Group campaign in the Western region. Then we had people like Akintola, Awolowo and others. It was interesting in those days; from then on, I was interested and became fully involved.
But was there any challenge you faced while growing?
As a human being, things cannot be perfect. You have to be up and doing. When you are focused and determined, if you want to achieve something in your life, there are big names you look up to whether in Lagos, the West, East, or the North; like Aminu Kano, Tafawa Balewa, Azikiwe, Awolowo, Ojukwu. These were inspirational people, not all these violence we are experiencing now.
Are you saying that is what propelled you into politics?
To an extent, but there is no way you are born into a big family that you will not be interested in the development of your area. Once you develop interest you will be involved in political activities.
How do you feel attaining a ripe age of 77?
Well, there is no magic in it. At this age, there is need for moderation. There is time for everything, when we were young we know how we play, and when you get to the age of 60 or 70 you have to take things slow. It is an adventure but the most important thing is that you are satisfied, you are looking up to some people at the top and some others are looking up to you too. Just believe in God and everything God has done for you. These fingers are not equal; all of us cannot be rich, if you are sure of three square meals after retiring, then you should be grateful, because that is the cause of most of the problems for people and the society. In some advanced countries, it is not so, when you are at the age of 60, your pension is there for you; you don’t need to labour hard for anything. In Nigeria people are suffering, it is very difficult to get their benefits most especially if you are retired, if you are retired you depend on your pension and most time you wait like four years or so to get it and many people die on the queue. When your pension scheme is alright, I don’t think you have any much problem. Life after retirement is very important.
Can you lead us into you marital life?
Well, I am from a polygamous house and I had my first wife very early. As at now, I have a football team, I have about three or four women that have children for me. You have to take things easy, if you don’t do that, you will have problems. Everything that is done is the work of God.
Considering you are from a polygamous home, was polygamy your choice when you wanted to marry?
That was what was applicable then, though I have some colleagues who married one wife. It is just to adapt to it. Martial problem are marital problems, one wife or not. It’s how you handle yourself that is the issue.
There have been many accolades and tittles on you, can you shed light on what they represent or symbolises?
My Asiwaju they call me is from the Ijora family. The white cap Chief is from the Oba there. When he was named the Oba, he gave me the title far back in 2010. I am a man of the people. I am in politics and its part of life. When you are in school there are some names you bear. Akosa is my family name; Prince of peace, Asiwaju, the Oba himself gave me that title, am a man of the people, all these names are just part of life.
During your tenure in office as the Council Chairman, what can you say is your greatest achievement(s)?
Though, I was the second elected Chairman of Ajeromi Local Council. Our election was in 1998 but we were sworn in 1999. During that time, we completed the secretariat, though it was started before we came on board. A lot of roads, schools, health services were made available. A lot of things were done at that time.
Over years, what has been your drive in politics?
Politics was interesting then. It was when the presidential system of government commenced that the problem started. You can see the mass unemployment in the nation now. It is now a do or die affair because everybody believes that when you are in politics and you are elected into any of the offices, ‘you have arrived’; fat salary, vehicle, housing allowance and so on. That’s why people are clamouring for political office now. That’s why you have this do or die attitude. If it’s the parliamentary system, things wouldn’t be like this because you will only be paid your allowances, sitting allowances. Then it was pensioners that go into politics not fresh graduates or school leavers.
You are considered one of the top leaders in your community and that is why you were chosen among delegates that represented Lagos State at the last National Conference, what role did you play?
It was the entire Nigeria, every delegate was fighting for his or her region, but the paramount thing was the existence of Nigeria as a whole. A lot of things we did at that time have not seen the light of day. When we first started it was very rowdy, eventually we let them know that we were there for the existence of Nigeria and a lot of things were done. For instance, the regional and state police, with the existence of Boko Haram, if you have state police, you would be able to know exactly what’s going on in your locality and state. But at that time people believed that Jonathan did that thing because of his selfish interest, because he wants to return to power and get people to do his bid. But it was not so in side that hallowed chambers, it was not so. Most of the recommendations have not seen the light of day now, that’s the problem.
At 77, do you still have some future plans you shelved in the past?
At my age what plans are there to make? Basically what we retired people do is to see to it that those coming after us are doing the right things. If they are about to err, we guide them aright, if they don’t believe us sooner or later they will see it themselves. It’s for us to be honest with ourselves and be sure we are doing the proper thing, not deceiving people.
What is your advice for the aspiring youth whose ambition is to emulate you as a role model?
Be steadfast, be focused, and be contented with what God has given you. Don’t envy rich people; you don’t know how they got their wealth. These days, youths want to drive flashy cars immediately they get out of school, but these things take time to come. The moment you want them quick you begin to get into the wrong things; drug dealing in order to make quick money, which is wrong.
As a polygyny, how do you manage your wives when they quarrel?
The only way is that you just have to be honest, sincere and have the fear of God. No matter what, when they quarrel, one must be wrong and one must be right. In your own judgement be fair and firm. Don’t say that because one is the junior wife so you will favour her. If she is wrong tell her she is wrong, don’t take sides with her because you love her or anything.
How many wives do you have now?
One died, one left. Two are currently with me. I have a total of eleven children.