Deliberate in approach and shrewd in action, Kayode Adegbola is a new-era Nigerian politician and the grandson of one of Nigeria’s political grandmasters. Adegbola – 27 years old – who is gunning for the Ogun State House of Assembly to represent Yewa North is a by-product of an illustrious name – the late Chief Bola Ige (SAN), one of Nigeria’s most dynamic democrats of his era, whose sophistication and oratory negated the sophistry of many pedestrian politicians of his time. Adegbola, Ige’s grandson, has begun to show that no one ever says never in the Ige political dynasty. Brimming with ideas and passion, Adegbola, in an interview, spoke about his life in the shadow of his grandfather and his political ambitions. Funke Olaode captured the moments in this piece
Once upon a time, there lived a Cicero of Esa Oke – if you did not know, that was Chief Bola Ige (SAN). He was a brilliant lawyer, an enchanting orator, a charming politician and an indefatigable administrator. He was a true leader of men. Yet, he was a mortal and so he was murdered. Though the man died, his legacy and ideals live on. Not only his children, ardent followers and supporters have continued to propagate his essence, even his grandchildren have an insight on the pedigree the late sage, Ige, left behind. The enduring characteristic of a true leader is found in his ability – alive or dead – to produce other leaders. It is not certain whether if alive, the late patriarch of the Iges would have wanted one of his most beloved grandsons to take a plunge into the deep blue sea of Nigeria’s politics which is often infested with political sharks.
If Ige dared to be a politician and man of the people, Kayode Adegbola’s desire will not be different.
His grandfather, a one-time attorney general of the federation and minister of justice was an enigma with unflinching faith in quality education. The late Ige once held sway as the governor of the old Oyo. Since Ige died almost 17 years ago, none of his offspring has shown keen interest in politics. Although his surviving eldest son, Muyiwa Ige, an architect became a commissioner during Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s first term in office. Muyiwa had also attempted to be the governor of Osun State.
Today, not a few believe that the Ige political dynasty is about to witness a resurrection as his grandson, Adegbola – a lawyer – appears to be following in his grandpa’s footstep by vying to represent his constituency, Yewa North in the Ogun State House of Assembly.
Young and insightful, his passion for leadership and service is unique; well grounded both in academic and humanity, he exudes confidence and humility. Adegbola, an alumnus of The Vale College, Ibadan, also attended Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, where he studied law. Thereafter, he was back in his fatherland to attend the Nigerian Law School.
Nevertheless, his insatiable quest for knowledge has moved him to attend more prestigious institutions across the globe: London School of Economics and Political Science; Management, Entrepreneurship and Global Leadership, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Executive Education; among others.
Adegbola seems to be re-creating history – tracing his grandfather’s footsteps in more than a symbolic or political way. Following his education, he began his career as an associate with Bola Ige & Co., a legal firm founded by the late Ige in Ibadan (Oyo State) between 2012 and 2014. During his time there he was involved in litigation with focus on debt recovery for Nigerian commercial banks. In addition, he was a member of the team that represented a governorship candidate up to the Supreme Court.
In March 2016, following his exploits in private legal practice, he ventured into public service. He was appointed as executive assistant to the Executive Secretary/CEO of Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), Akin Oyebode. The LSETF is a N25 billion social impact fund setup by Lagos State with a goal of creating employment. Adegbola has demonstrated acuity and empathy in his role and he is reputed to go the extra mile to achieve the common good. Ige’s grandson is also the secretary of the Governing Council of the Lagos State Employability Support Programme, a $4 million project designed to upskill the unemployed and underemployed, in partnership with UNDP.
With an accomplished career and a promising future in his field, why does Ige’s grandson want to represent Yewa North? What gaps did he see that he wants to feel? “I first saw a village in which my grandfather, the late Rt. Rev. Adegbola was born and raised, and wondered if he would have had the opportunities that he did, if he did not have an education, or perhaps if he was not ‘lucky’. I saw an opportunity to use whatever little influence, resources, knowledge and network I have to improve the quality of life of my kinsmen,” he said.
However, Adegbola admitted that he is not seeking a political office to revive what many see as the moribund dynasty of his grandfather. He pointed out: “The political dynasty of Bola Ige never died. That is why every successive government shows an interest in reopening his murder case. His name, spirit and ideals live on, and they haunt those that should be haunted. In addition, there are only a few people who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s that can say they did not benefit from or know of his free education policy as the governor of Oyo State. He also mentored hundreds of his younger friends, who are keeping the flag flying today.”
Having a grandfather who had such an accomplished political career tends to create a burden of expectations. Does he sometimes feel the pressure and feel that his grandfather’s shoes are too big for him to step into?
The 27-years-old has a different view: “I always say that my grandfather left shoes too large to fill, and if I can be half the man that he was, I would be considered a great man. I have always had a passion for service; I have also been politically active since I was a teenager. Now it just happened to be the right time, in my view, to offer myself for service to the people of Yewa North. Also, my heritage gives me more of a sense of responsibility, than a feeling of pressure. I have to be responsible to and for myself, to and for others.”
Recalling his memories of the late Ige, Adegbola narrated: ”My grandfather was much disciplined, and very loving. I knew him to fast on most days, and he had much ease to saying no to the things that he was uncomfortable with. He certainly mastered himself. He also cherished his children and grandchildren very much – he was a doting father and grandfather. I had a very blissful 11 years with my grandfather before he passed away. He loved all his grandchildren very much, and did not hold back showing it. He was very expressive. We spent many Christmases together. He also never forgot our birthdays, and would send handwritten note to us if he couldn’t see us on the day.”
Beyond the Ige factor, Adegbola possesses an unassailable pedigree. “Personally, I like to think I am kind and considerate towards the plight of others. With all sense of modesty, I have taken the time to engage with the people of my community and the peculiarities of the community itself,” he explained.
According to him, passion and service to humanity are more important to him than a fleeting ambition. The grandson of Ige said, “I am man of the people who is constantly in touch with his root. There are ideals of lge that I hope to replicate. One of them is qualitative education for our primary and secondary school students. I will be very happy to achieve a fraction of his charisma as well. I recently ran a scholarship examination under the auspice of the Kayode Adegbola Education Support Fund. Two deserving students, one boy and one girl, won the 2018 Kayode Adegbola Scholarship to attend The Vale College, the secondary school I attended.”
Adegbola may be seen as a new kid on the block but he has been learning at the feet of not a few political heavyweights and when he talks about them do not conclude that he is just dropping names. “Governor Akeredolu of Ondo State is one of my mentors. I had the privilege of an internship in his law firm while I was a law student. I also volunteered my time and resources in his 2012 governorship campaign and subsequent election petition up to the Supreme Court. We have kept a very close mentor-mentee relationship since then. The Governor-elect of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, is another of my mentors; and so is Governor Amosun of my dear Ogun State. I keep a close ‘grandfather-grandson’ relationship with Chief Bisi Akande – and I also admire people like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Rauf Aregbesola and the current Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed,” the young politician said.
With Nigeria’s politics populated by few youths and a horde of old men and women, Adegbola noted: “Young people make up a vast majority of the Nigerian population, and there is strength in numbers. I think that there are not enough of us young people actively participating in politics and nation-building, and as such, one of the things I hope to achieve is inspiring other young people to get involved. I think women and youth participation in politics is very important. I have a group of 10 coordinators, out of which about six are women. I have a leaning towards women in politics. I think they are better team players.”
With his gaze fixed on the immediate future, Adegbola is not ruling out the possibility of being the governor of Ogun State. But for now, his focus is on serving his constituency. “I am focusing on my run for the House of Assembly now. If or when I win, and whether the people I hope to serve are confident in my service will be the factor that will help determine the future. But ultimately, I have long surrendered my today and tomorrow into the hands of the Almighty God, my creator,” Adegbola philosophised.
As the interview comes to an end, Ige’s grandson has a message of hope for Nigerians: “I bring a message of hope, and not one of despair. The future might seem bleak, but with the right leadership, Nigeria will rise again.