Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo is set to celebrate his 90th Birthday in a big way. When the news first broke a few weeks back that this elderstatesman politician and legal luminary, will be 90 come 10th April 2018, it came as a pleasant surprise. Many could just not believe that this grand old man was this far gone in age. This is because Papa Ayo Adebanjo does not look an inch 90.
He could conveniently pass for 70. He is still fit as a fiddle. When he walks, he bounces. He is agile. He does not use walking stick. He reads without glasses. He is still full of life. No wrinkles on his face. And his ebony complexioned skin glows. He is still mentally alert and in firm control of all his faculties. And wait for this, Papa still likes to dress formally, in suits, with his tie well knot. And when he is in native, it sits well on his trim frame. He does not joke with his daily exercise. He loves to take long walks. And he eats right
The truth is that Papa Adebanjo will be 90 in a few weeks time and its going to be a big celebration. Its going to be a one week event.
On Tuesday April 3rd there will be the launch of his autobiography at the Harbour Point in Victoria Island, Lagos at 10.00am. On Tuesday April 10, there will be church service at St. Phillips Anglican Church, Isanya-Ogbo, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State at 10.00am. Reception follows after at his Isanya Ogbo country home.
He has already completed his autobiography titled: “Telling It As It Is” which City People gathered is very explosive. Chief has a reputation as being a no nonsense person and a very strict man of immense principles. With him, you know where you belong. His No is No. And His Yes is absolutely Yes. If he does not like you, he will not hide it; He will tell you to your face. This is why his reputation as a honest man is unassailable.
Last week, City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE spent an evening with the great Ijebu Chief who is a repository of all that happened in the good old days of yore, before and immediately after the independence era. He is one of the die hard disciples of late sage Awo. He had worked closely with Awo in the Action Group as Organising Secretary and he is one of those you can call the bridge between the old school and the new generation politicians.
As he turns 90, Chief Adebanjo is unhappy that Nigeria has remained the way it is today. He lays the problem with Nigeria at the doorstep of the Military who he said truncated federalism as contained in the Independence Constitution. It is the coming in of the Military in 1966 and the imposition of Unitary rule that brought about Nigeria’s problems, explained this grand old man of Nigerian politics.
Two hours with Chief Adebanjo revealed this Ijebu man to be an encyclopedia of Nigeria politics. Yes! He was part and parcel of the politics of that era. So, he will give you a blow-by-blow account of what transpired in the 50s, 60s and beyond between the big players like Awo, the Sardauna of Sokoto and the Great Zik of Africa.
What was meant to be an interview with Chief turned out to be a comprehensive lecture on how Nigeria, which was seen as a great country in the 60s, gradually descended into the abyss it is today.
His biggest worry and concern today as he turns 90 is the future of young Nigerians. He is worried that many young people are too docile and complacent with the mess they are confronted with in Nigeria today. Read on. His interview is hot. Below are excerpts of it.
You will be turning 90 in a few days time, how does it make you feel sir?
I feel grateful to God. I feel thankful to him for the long life and good health.
Many people have been surprised that all these years, Papa has been looking refreshingly young, rather than looking old.
Whats the secret, you don’t look 90.
The grace of God. I also don’t joke with my exercise to keep me fit. But beyond all that is the grace of God because there are a lot of people who do exercise but they still don’t get to be 90. Some even drop dead during exercise. You are also what you eat. And you should learn to eat in moderation. Good food, good diet and exercise is important. All others are just the grace of God.
What kind of exercise do you do?
I walk. Even before I was 70 or 80. I have been doing my morning exercise. I have been walking. And up till now I still walk; I walk everyday. Whenever I can’t walk a long stretch, I walk in my compound. I don’t miss a whole week without doing my exercise. When I don’t do it in a day, it will be because I am travelling or because I want to leave the house very early. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I live a contented life. A lot of things that people worry about, I do not worry about.
A lot of people live a prosperous life than they really are. When the result of that comes in there is anxiety, worry, and health challenges sets in. Learn to live within your means. Yes, you can be ambitious but you don’t need to be over-ambitious. Have a pure mind. Don’t do any fraud. Don’t cheat people when it comes to signing agreements. Those are all the things that causes anxiety. I have nothing to hide. I don’t cheat people. I don’t do underhand business. That is what causes a lot of assassinations. I am not talking of political assassinations here.
But it is good to have a free mind. At times when I do my walk people worry about my safety and I tell them I am ok. They say Papa how can you walk without security details walking behind you. But I think my not looking 90 is all the grace of God.
At 90, Chief Ayo Adebanjo has remained very stylish. You’ve always been like that. How did that side of you evolve?
That has been in me from my school days, I put that in my memoirs. When I was in school they had a nickname for me, Spotless Banjis. I used to dress well then. At the Grammar School I used to stand out looking spotless. At the grammar school we were known for being tidly dressed. If you are wrongly dressed the Senior Prefect or the Principal will send you back home. That’s discipline. There is an in-house stylishness. Those who knew my father, knew him to be a very stylish Goldsmith. I can say I inherited that from my parent.
When you are in native or in suits everything is always on point. How did you also nurture that side of you?
Its from youth. From youth, I have been used to being very up to date. I remember in those days at the Western House where I have my office, they always say I am one of the best dressed lawyers in Western House. It’s all part of the package. It’s all part of the making of the boys. At the Grammar School I stood out.
At 90, what has life taught you?
I thank God on health matters; I enjoy good health. I have learnt a lot as a politician of the Awolowo School of thought. When one looks back to all the struggles, one has been involved vis-a-vis what we have been able to achieve. I am not a happy man particularly for someone like me who took part in the struggle for Independence and one who experienced government under Chief Awolowo.
When you look at what we achieved then, what was the position of things in the country then and what we are now. And the way parties were run then when you compare it to the way parties are run now, its a world of difference. It will be difficult for you now to tell some young men or our own children now that oh life can be better than this. When we tell them how things happened in Awolowo days, people always think we are talking magic. That is why some of the boys we put into office now can’t stand us, because the standards we are used to is just too high and they can’t cope. They call us names. They say we are too rigid.
They say these old people are too rigid. That is the problem we have. There is no longer discipline in government. Many of those who go into public office regard going into government as an avenue for making money. In our days and going by the type of politics we learnt from late Awolowo, you are to go into public life to serve. Service is key. In those days, we had financial regulations on how to spend money.
There was discipline in those days. But right now a lot is so wrong. We are in an age when a governor retires now, he will end-up having more money than when he was elected. He will build houses in his state and in Abuja, all coming through public funds in a state or region where schools have become delapidated, roads are bad.
I can go on and on. Like I told some people, I am a disgruntled old man I am very disgruntled, because Nigeria should not be where we are. We have no reason to be poor. But we are where we are because of bad leadership that was foisted on us since 1966 by the military.