His mother took him from St. Theresa’s Catholic Minor Seminary, Oke-Are, Ibadan, because she objected to him becoming a Reverend Father. Nevertheless, he had resolved to succeed in life. So, he left his hometown, Imeko, without the consent of his parents, and embarked on a 68-kilometre journey to Abeokuta in search of a Catholic College, where he would complete his secondary school education. The Lisa of Imeko, Chief Paul Adesina Adejobi, who is now a force to reckon with today in Ogun State politics, took a bold step and walked up to Reverend Father Mark Andrew, the Principal of St. Peter’s Catholic College, then in Aro, Abeokuta. God used this priest to help him complete his education, without school fees. Andrew also gave him the required recommendation for employment as a teacher of Latin at Our Lady of Apostles Catholic College, Ijebu Ode. The erstwhile Ogun State Commissioner for Commerce and former Chairman, Ogun State SUBEB, speaks with Femi Ogbonnikan about his experience
May we know about your background?
My name is Paul Adesina Adejobi. I was born in Imeko, Ogun State, on July 4, 1946. My parents and grandparents came from Idirin in the Republic of Benin. My father, Francis Akanbi Adejobi and my mother, Justina Aduke Adeoti Adejobi, were born in Idirin. And both came from the Republic of Benin. But my paternal grandmother- that is my father’s mother- was from Imeko. And she came to be in Imeko, because my father was a French soldier in the Republic of Benin, then. He went to the Second World War, and that was the time of conscription. He was conscripted into the Army. His father too was conscripted into the Army. But my grandfather died in the war, but when his son- my father- went, for the first time, and he came home on leave. He went the second time and came home on leave, and then his mother came from Imeko to take him home. She didn’t want him to go back the third time and die the way his father did. So, she brought him to Imeko, and he never left again. His wife, my mother, came to join him later and that was how I came to be born in Imeko. When he came to Imeko, he didn’t have any children for 20 years until they had me on the 4th of July 1946. I went to school, surprisingly, very early. I was taken to school at age five. The Reverend Father started taking me to school at five. And at age six, I didn’t have the experience of extending my right hand over my left ear, no! At age six, I had started my Standard One. It was called Standard One, then. I had that privilege. I left St’ Augustine Primary School in Imeko in 1958. It was at this school I started my primary school, Standard One, Standard Two and by 1956, of course, we started primary school. I finished in 1958 and at that time they had started a Secondary Modern School, then in Imeko, called St’ Patrick Secondary Modern School. We were all compelled to go there. The Reverend Father decided what he would do with us, as children, and so we started that school. We went to that school in 1959. It was a three-year course, and even if I had waited, I would have finished in 1961. But the Reverend Father again came and I was taken to the Minor Seminary. But before then I was already serving at Mass in Catholic Church. So, I went to serve Mass that morning and a Priest, Reverend Father, Coakley came to me and said, “fine boy, sharp boy, I want to take you to be a Reverend Father.” Well, I didn’t understand what he was saying, and I said, “ok, Father”. And he took me in 1960 to St’ Theresa’s Minor Seminary in Oke-Are, Ibadan. He took me there to become a Reverend Father. And that was the junior part to becoming a Priest; that’s why they call it a minor seminary, but we had our secondary education in full for six years. You would do your Ordinary Level in Form Five and your Advanced Level in Form Six. After that you would now go to the major seminary where you would now do three years of Philosophy, three years Theology or four years Theology. But I started in the minor seminary in 1960. At the time I was taken to the seminary, my mother had gone back to Idirin. So, when she came to Imeko on a visit she heard that I had been taken to become a Priest and she asked, “what? Priest? That means, he would not have a child. He would not marry. He would not have children.” She came all the way from Imeko to Ibadan to remove me. She took me away from the seminary. That time I was in Class Four at the seminary. Of course, she just came to remove me, but not to put me in any school, no! She just came and took me away, and dumped me in Imeko and went back to Iderin, satisfying herself, that now I would not be a Priest. So, I came back to Abeokuta here and I was looking for a Catholic School, and I saw the signboard of St’ Peters School, Olomore. It was called St’ Peters College, Aro, at that time. So, I went and I just entered the school. Between the main road and the school, it would be about one kilometre, and it is still like that, but buildings have been constructed along the road. I trekked down and I just entered the school. Suddenly, I just saw this Reverend Father, and I didn’t know he was the Principal, but I saw him.
His name was Reverend Father Mark Andrew. He saw me and asked, “What are you doing here?” I greeted him and said, “Reverend Father, good afternoon. I just left the Seminary and I left in Form Four. And I don’t want to stop.” He asked why I left and I told him my mother removed me. He then asked where I was from and I told him Imeko and he wanted to know where my parents were and I told him there were at Imeko but that my mother was presently at Idirin, a place he would not know and that my father was in Kajola farm. He wanted to know if I was really interested in going to school and I said yes. He asked if I had anybody in Abeokuta and I said “no, I don’t have anybody”. He said, “You just came in without anybody?” I said, “I just walked in, because I saw the signboard of the Catholic School.” He asked, “What class did you leave at the Seminary?” and I said, “Class Four”. And it was in October. “I would not be able to take you to Class Four, but I will take you to school. But you will have to start from Form Three. You will do your third term in Form Three, before you go to Form Four. Who will pay your fees, then?” They were paying nine Pounds per term. And I said, “fees”? He said, “Just come in first. Come in”. So, that was how I started schooling in St’ Peters College. Instead of Form Four that I had almost finished, I started from Form Three again. Of course, I ‘demolished’ all of them down from Form Three. And, you know, when you went to early seminary, and I don’t know what happens now, but you must study Latin. I was very good in Latin. And I had been doing Latin from the primary school. It got to a stage where I was teaching Latin in the class. The Reverend Father came to like me. The students liked me. I entered the school, but had nowhere to stay. The Reverend Father would ask me, “where will you stay”? I would say, “I don’t know “. He just said, “Go and stay at the boarding room for one week, while you are finding a place to stay. Forget about fees”. When we started class, a lot of people saw that I was probably brilliant. So, a lot of them took me home, saying “come and teach us Latin. Come and teach us”. I had one classmate, who became my friend at Class Three, Kola Bakare. He was the one, who took me home. He would say, Senior Paul, teach me this Latin. This Latin, I want to know, stay here. And I started staying there. After that, Segun Baiyewu, also took me home, and I had to go and teach them. I stayed in their house of Toyin Ojeshina too, teaching his sister, Bola Ojeshina, now late. When I got to Form Four, I did the Cambridge GCE that I would have done if I had been at the Seminary. I passed. In 1965, I now went for my West African School Certificate and I passed. When I finished there, it was like the end of the road. How would I continue my education? So, when the Reverend Father asked me, “what would you do now?” By the way, he paid for my WAEC examination, 7.5 Pounds. So, when I finished, he asked what would be doing and I said, “nothing, I will go back home. At least, I have got my Cambridge, I have got my GCE”. He said, “What would you be doing with all of that? People don’t wait with all of that nowadays. You will have to proceed and do something”. I asked how and he said, “First, go and teach. You are very good in Latin, and you will teach Latin. They want a Latin teacher at Our Lady of Apostle in Ijebu Ode.” He therefore gave me a letter to the school which read, “I have a chap here, and you won’t believe it, he knows the Latin more than myself”. I know the Latin to say Mass. So, he sent me to Ijebu Ode to one Reverend Sister John, who was the Principal of the school. It was completely girls’ school and I think, it is still a girls’ school. He sent me there. The Reverend Sister greeted me, employed me and she allowed me to teach Latin from Form One to Five. So, I was teaching Latin from Form One to Five. While I was there, I did my A/Level in Latin, History and English Literature. I was the only candidate for A/Level in Latin in 1967 at Adeola Odutola College. I was the only person, who took Latin at A/Level and I was the only person everybody came to invigilate. All the supervisors and invigilators, all of them came to supervise me. So, I did my A/Level in Latin, History and Literature, and I passed. And I applied to the University of Ibadan, and that was how they admitted me to read BA Classics. BA Classics then was Latin, French, Greek and Roman Culture. And it was a three-year course. So, I went to the University. That time, all you needed was ten Pounds deposit to enter the university. The Reverend Sister gave me 10 Pounds deposit, and that was in 1967. I entered in 1967/68 session. I went and I got only the 10 Pounds that I wanted and, at time, I was earning 15 Pounds at Our Lady of Apostles, Ijebu Ode. And that was what I used for my tuition. I was getting my tuition and I was doing everything for my A/Level, and I didn’t have anything. The Sister lent me 10 Pounds as deposit. So, I entered after borrowing the 10 Pounds, and I wasn’t sure how I would pay the others bills; how I would pay my way at the University. But, I went there, anyway. I spent three months. During my three months, I found out that you could be in school and, at that time I didn’t pay, but you would not be in the hall, and they would not prevent you from attending lectures. That time was quite different; that time we had all the opportunities; that time, we had all that I would call ‘conveniences’. I was still attending lectures, even after I came back from the three months and I didn’t have money to pay. I was still attending lectures. The lecturers would still allow me to come in and take lectures. Nobody drove us away. Even as time went on, I got a room to stay at Tedder Hall. One year after, I got a scholarship. It was a scholarship of the old Western Region, when Dr. Omololu Olunloyo was the Commissioner for Education. We had an association that we called, ‘Indigent Students Association’. They gave all of us scholarship. They called it bursary. They didn’t give it to us directly, but they just paid for our programmes to the bursar. That was how I went to become, after one year, a student, and there was no more running around. I even contested as House Secretary at Tedder Hall, at that time, when I didn’t have any money, and became the Hall Secretary. Anyway, when I entered the University, I found out that Latin and Greek would not be useful to me. I wondered what I would do with Latin and Greek, and I decided to major in French. So, I changed to French and adopted some English courses as subsidiary. But to do French, I did four years, instead of my three years. I went to France for one year mandatory programme. And in our time, we went to a place where we didn’t speak English. So, you were compelled to speak French, and that is why up to date I still speak French, because I didn’t have a choice. I spent one year there and I came back. I did my Diploma there, in French, and I came back home to do my degree in 1971. So, that is a bit of my educational background.
In this context, would you say your educational attainment was by sheer providence?
Whatever I might have achieved today, educationally, I would completely assign to God and Reverend Father Mark Andrew, I didn’t know anybody at St’ Peters Catholic College, but I just walked in there. I was looking for a Catholic School, because I just left a Catholic Seminary and I assumed that they would not drive me away. I just went in. The Reverend Father just took me to the Seminary in 1960. And Reverend Father Mark Andrew sent me to Our Lady of Apostles, Ijebu Ode and it was Reverend Sister John, who allowed me to teach and gave me money to go and deposit, to start with. And there, nobody gave me N1, until I finished. So, call it providence, if you like, and when you talk about providence you are taking about God. I am sure, that is what you are saying. Because if you say providence, it is not by my might or not by my capabilities, but if you say providence, God wanted me to attain certain things in life.
After your graduation at the University of Ibadan, where did you first work?
In those days, when you were doing your final examinations, employers would come to campuses. Those who wanted to employ you, not like nowadays when you will be looking for jobs all around the place, no! At that time, employers came and I was interviewed for Total, because I read French as a course. I was interviewed for SCOA, I was interviewed for Elf. But I had made up my mind that I was going back to Imeko. So, my first place of work was Nazareth High School, Imeko. I had decided I was going to teach, that I would turn out the first set of students in 1972. So, I went there, and that was the first place where I went to teach. That was where I first cut my teeth.
I decided to teach there in 1971. I was teaching French and English Language, especially the final year class. I made sure they had finished and done their examination before I left the school. I went there, because they were the first set and I wanted to see them through.
Total Oil came to your campus to recruit. Elf Oil came. SCOA Motors did the same. Were’nt you enticed with attractive remuneration which was to accompany the offer, before you settled for a teaching job?
At that time, I just saw the way I had been coming with my Standard school, my modern school, my secondary school, my teaching experience, all of them were provided by God, and I just decided, that whatever I could do for that place, for my community, I would do it. I just thought at that time that there must be certain pupils that would be like me, with no background to go to any school, and that they would be in that class of 1972. Therefore, at that time, I decided that what I needed was no money, but what I needed was my service to my community. And so, I went in 1972 and, also, I went to that school and told them I had come to teach. The Principal then was Chief Odeneye. He was surprised, and said, ‘Yes, are you sure?’ and I said, ‘yes’. He said, ‘We are looking for teachers.’ And I said I will teach. I even became their House Master. And as soon as I turned out the first set, I told them I had done my bit and that was what I had come for.
Apart from Nazareth High School, Imeko, which other schools did you teach?
I went to Ahmadiyya College, Agege, Lagos, from Imeko. Immediately I finished my assignment there, I went to Ahmadiyya College, Agege. I spent just a year at Nazareth High School, Imeko. From Ahmadiyya College, Agege, I went to the private sector. I went to Alraine Nigeria Limited, 26, Creek Road, Apapa, Lagos. It was a shipping company. I went there and it was a French company. They advertised and I applied, went for an interview and I was employed. I was there for a few years. I left there and went to Volkswagen of Nigeria, Ojo, Lagos, as their Distribution Manager. After that, I went to SCOA Motors before I veered on my own into private practice in 1982, with my office at Igbosere Road, Lagos Island.
Soon afterwards, you ventured into partisan politics. How did it happen?
Well, this passion for Imeko has always been there. All the time I went to teach, I would always be in Imeko. I was disturbed by the continued domineering tendency of the Aiyetoro people when we were under them as Yewa North Local Government Area. Everything was Aiyetoro for almost 30 years when we were under Yewa North Local Government Area, and we had nothing; political offices, amenities, whatever we wanted and everything was Aiyetoro. And they would just give us peanuts. In 1978, I had joined the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). I had become a foundation member in 1978, and that was when I was working. I was in the private sector and this domineering attitude of the Aiyetoro people was disturbing my head. So, in 1978, I said what we needed was that I would go into politics. So, I went to Mainland Hotel, Ebute-metta, Lagos to the UPN meeting and I registered as a foundation member. My foundation membership number was 1374. I got for Dr. Dele Ogunsiji, because we were only two graduates at that time- we left at the same time. He was in the Mellanby Hall at the University of Ibadan and I was in Tedder Hall. He was doing Veterinary Medicine and I was reading Classics. I took his own to him in Ibadan. In 1983, I left UPN when I saw there were a lot of intrigues; even at a time I went for the convention at Mainland Hotel, I had seen a lot of things in UPN that I didn’t like. I saw that nobody was speaking; nobody was ready to speak, even with the array of personalities like Pa Jonathan Odebiyi, and Pa Tunji Otegbeye. I saw all of them, and I said, “Ah! These people are not speaking.” And everything was yes, and I said within myself I could not stay in this kind of place. In 1983, I went to the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). The Oyagbolas came to beg me to leave and join the NPN. They wanted somebody who was bold and someone who could contest for House of Representatives in 1983 and I accepted. I had seen certain things, that I didn’t like in UPN and I went to the NPN. Baba Oyagbola and his wife, Mama Ebun Oyagbola took me into the NPN. And in 1983, I contested against Dr. Dele Ogunsiji of the UPN into the House of Representatives. Of course, NPN had no chance in the entire Yorubaland and it was UPN. I contested and it was tough. That was how I joined politics.
You were Ogun State Commissioner for Commerce and subsequently, Chairman, Ogun State SUBEB in the administration of Otunba Gbenga Daniel between 2004 and 2011. From your experience, what would you say, could have inspired or discouraged you about governance?
I was Commissioner for Commerce for three years, and it was Otunba Gbenga Daniel, who gave me the appointment. He was also the one, who employed me as Chairman, Ogun State SUBEB. Perhaps, if you want to talk about what has inspired one about governance, we would be talking about Otunba Gbenga Daniel. I have always said that, for me, about governance in Ogun state, I have not seen an equal, because you would have to work hard; if your Governor doesn’t sleep, how do you, commissioners, sleep? I don’t know, whether you understand what I am saying here. And, it was always a service to the people. It was Otunba Gbenga Daniel, who would wake you up, who would call you at 2:00am and ask you where you were. He would call and ask, “Lisa, where are you at 2:00 am?” You would be wondering where (Otunba Gbenga Daniel) Oga would expect you to be at this time. 24 hours, he was working.
And in every local government, in every ward, I can tell you, that Otunba Gbenga Daniel would tell you the names of at least 20 people, at least 20 leaders, depending on the number you had in your local government. And a lot of times, he would call names of people in your polling units. He was still the only governor that I had seen who had gone round all the 236 wards in this state. And you had to come, as old as some of us were, and that was every morning, every single ward in all the 236 wards in Ogun state, and we would all go round them twice, not once. So, governance, to me, when we were in government, was service to the people, nearness, proximity to the people, doing what they wanted, and what they were suffering from, providing what they lacked. And, I think, that was governance. Then he was seeing people 24 hours. How was he doing that? Some people at a time joked that wherever he went in, it was another Otunba Gbenga Daniel, who came out, that they were probably twins, because he was never tired. And there were series of meetings with different people and then, of course, meetings with his own Commissioners, his Chairmen of Paraatatals, his Chairmen of Local Governments and a lot of times, only with his supervisors, and, then we would start the village square meeting. I think, governance from what I got from there and which I believed then, and I still believe, is that governance should be about people, staying with the people, getting to know the people. I could remember in one Executive Committee meeting, he was asking all of us, “you, Commissioners, when did you go home last? You, when did you go home last”? And every Friday, he would want to know every Commissioner that was in Abeokuta and which one was at home. I think, what I see, is nearness to the people, proximity to the people, know what the people want and know what the people lack. I have not seen who can beat Daniel’s record in Ogun state.
If you are to cast back your mind, are you fulfilled in life at age 70?
You know, that age is a thing of the mind. I don’t feel 70. That is the first thing and I don’t feel it. Maybe, I am getting old when they call me, “baba, baba”, otherwise I would not have admitted. The only thing I see now is that our generation has not done anything for this country. That is all. Everything, that we have enjoyed, everything that we had, everything that we experienced, we did not hand over to the present generation. As I told you, at the time I was at the University, when I hardly even paid, I had a bed from which I would just jump down and they would come and take bedsheets for washing. They would come and take my cloths to wash. In the afternoon, there would be food, perhaps if I had to share, because I hadn’t paid, my friends would still give to me out of their food and I would still eat. And I would not be sent away from the lecture rooms at that time. Years later, we had 10 people in a room, 20 people in a room, people were squatting. I went to my daughter’s school, University of Calabar, some years ago, and I still saw about eight of them in one room. My regret at 70 is still that, it is too late for me to do anything for anybody, because we spoilt so many things. We have destroyed so many things. We had all the monies, we had all the opportunities, we had all at our disposal, and everything was accrued to us, but what did we do with it? So, turning 70 is like, just saying, God, when are you coming to take me?
You are Lisa of Imeko town, a powerful office, how did the lot fall on you, before you were installed?
Oba Reuben Alabi Adebayo (may his soul rest in peace), in 1989, sent one of my uncles, who was also a High Chief, Oga Osi, to me. Because I was always in Imeko, and I would come on a Friday and I would leave on Monday morning. I was always there. So, he sent this uncle to me to say he wanted to give me a Chieftaincy title. That time, I had become the Apena of Ketu, Republic of Benin in 1985, when the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, visited Ketu. I was given the Apena of Ketu in 1985. And this uncle called me and said the Onimeko wanted to give me this Chieftaincy title. I asked, “In Imeko here”? He said, “yes!” I said, “Uncle, I don’t know. What title? Let me think about it.” I went to my father, and my father said, “No!” My mother was the one, who had come from Imeko, and my father was from Idirin. Imeko is my only maternal lineage. He said, “I don’t want to get you involved in any problem with the Imeko people.” And I met my mother and I said, “Oga Osi called me just now and discussed about a Chieftaincy title that Onimeko wanted to give me.” And she replied, “If it means service to the people, why not! Anybody who has a maternal lineage anywhere, except he is a basted, is entitled to any Chieftaincy title, wherever it is applicable.” She said, she didn’t agree with what my father said. If it was service to the people, that I should take it, and that was how I became the Lisa of Imeko. In fact, I didn’t know the title. Oga Osi went back and told the Onimeko that he had persuaded me. So, the Onimeko asked me to come and I went to him, and that was in March 1989, I became the Lisa of Imeko. I became very close to the Onimeko. We were really, really close, and I got to understand him, what his problems were. I now saw why a lot of people of Imeko didn’t understand him at that time. At least, when I got close to him, I understood him, and I got people to understand him. I tried to make them see his ways. I tried to make them understand that he was not really harsh. When I became the Lisa, I became his second in command. He gave me freehand to do a lot of things.