•KOSOFE LG Boss, Hon. SOFOLA
The sudden death of Senator Bayo Osinowo has remained a huge shock to many. Its been a week now that the death of the distinguished senator was announced, yet, many of his friends, political associates and well wishers are still struggling to come to terms with the saddening reality that their beloved Senator fondly called Pepper was no more. He was said to have died of Covid-19 related illness.
Until his death, he was the Senator representing Lagos East senatorial constituency at the National Assembly, and also serving as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Commerce, Industry and Investments. The distinguished Senator passed away at the age of 65.
Ask those who knew this enigmatic senator closely and they would tell you his death has probably been the most devastating news they had heard in a very long while. And a very painful one too. This is because the late politician touched several lives while he was alive. Senator Bayo Osinowo, aka Pepperito, was a pillar of support to his colleagues, one who always made himself to support their cause and political aspirations whenever they needed him. To the general public, he was a philanthropist. He gave freely to everyone who sought for his assistance and it didn’t matter to him whether you were Yoruba or not, or whether you identified with his party, the APC or not. What mattered to him was that you needed help and he was in the position to offer that help. Pepper was a natural giver, one of the reasons why he was and still is hugely loved by his people in the Lagos East Senatorial District whom he represented at the senate for just about a year.
Last year, City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL(08037209290), had an interview with Honourable Afolabi Sofola, the 2 term Executive Chairman of Kosofe Local Govt. He was one of the closest political allies to the late senator who was called ‘Pepper’ because while he was in secondary school, his eyes were often red and so was nicknamed ‘Pepper Eyes.’ The nickname was later changed to Pepper as he grew older. Hon. Afolabi Sofola, a former banker, is a grounded administrator and accomplished politician. He is smart. He is calm. He is brilliant. And he is politically savvy. But beyond all of these, he has behind him two political powerhouses from whose fountains of experience he drinks from- Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the late distinguished senator Bayo Osinowo, who happens to be the APC leader in Kosofe.
Indeed, if there is one politician Hon. Afolabi learns from every day it was the enigmatic Senator Bayo Osinowo, late his boss and leader in Kosofe, whose name kept popping up almost every minute in the course of the interview. It was quite clear that Hon. Afolabi Sofola has profound admiration and respect for his leader, the late distinguished Senator Bayo Osinowo, a man who remains possibly his biggest source of inspiration and strength politically. “ I learn every day from him,” the Kosofe LG boss said back then. “He is the kind of leader who consistently inspires his people and serves as a beacon of hope to the man on the streets,” he remarked about the man he held in high esteem and showed tremendous loyalty and respect for his political tenacity and personality as a human being.
Extracted below is a small part of the over one-hour comprehensive interview.
Looking back into your political journey, sir, how do you feel with the modest progress you have made so far as chairman of Kosofe local government?
Well, let me put it this way. My late father, Kehinde Sofola, SAN, may God bless his soul, if he was allowed today, would never have permitted me to go into politics because of their own experiences. My late father was initially a councillor in Ikenne in those colonial days. Later on, he rose to become Opposition leader to Awolowo. I come from Ikenne in Ogun State where Awolowo comes from. He rose to become opposition leader to Obafemi Awolowo who was in Action Group. He positioned himself in NCNC while Awolowo was the leader of Action Group. Now, the irony of it is that this Awolowo, this great sage that could’ve turned the fortunes of this country around was a blood relation to my late father. They were cousins. One would’ve expected that because of the blood ties, sentiments would outweigh any other thing and he’ll say, well, let me move with my blood, that at least he’ll give me a big position.
But I think that on the ground of principles, they never got along. And from that time, I started learning the importance of being detribalized. That has been a part and parcel of my system. In my first term as Kosofe local government, three Igwes from different parts of Kosofe gave me an Igbo title and insisted I must take it. The title is Iche Okosisi Nidigbo 1 of Kosofe. They gave me the whole regalia. And I asked them on that day what the title means, and they said it is like a big Iroko tree where other trees have come to take shade from the sun. And I asked, why are you giving me this title? You should give an Igbo man. They said no, that they have studied me, that I’m not against any tribe, that when I give assistance to anyone, I do not ask whether you’re Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa, that I don’t care. And it’s true. I do not care where you come from. If you come to me for assistance and I have I will do it. They said it was based on that observation that they gave me that title. And I accepted the title.
You see, there are notable things in one’s life that one can summarise as to one’s experience as you have asked. If I went straight to your question, then that would mean I am not a typical politician. A typical politician would never answer your question straight. The people that have molded one in this political journey are so important in my summary of my political journey so far because I’m looking through their eyes, through their training, to get to where I am. Naturally, like I said before, Jagaban Borgu is a major influence. Now, coming closer to home, I’ll be doing myself a disservice if I do not say that the person that has had more impact in my political training is the distinguished Senator Bayo Osinowo. Let me tell you a little story. Somebody asked me during the elections that made him become Senator, that why is everybody shouting Pepper! Pepper! Pepper! Who is this Pepper sef? Who does he think he is? Are there not other people there? Why are you supporting him? And I laughed and said, look, the man you’re talking about is a man of many parts.
This is a man that was at the Lagos House of Assembly for several tenures. Here is a man that would leave the Assembly at 1 a.m., sometimes 2 a.m. He gets to his house, sleeps for barely two hours and by 5 a.m. he wakes up to pray after praying, people have filled his mosque and won’t allow him to sleep. They will talk and talk till morning and by 11 o’clock in the morning he has to be in the Assembly for sitting and it’s same cycle day in day out. Selfless service to the community. You need to see the number of people that hang outside his house hoping for one favour or the other. From one welfare matter to the other, he attends to everybody. Believe me when I say he’s a man of many parts. One of the reasons why I threw in my weight behind him to support him, is because after I left office from the first term it was a few months to the elections. He sponsors people to go to lesser Hajj, which is called Umrah. When I was Chairman in my first term, I sent dozens of people for Umrah, dozens of people for Hajj. I never sent myself because I did not have the calling.
When the calling came, it was like four days to the beginning of Umrah. I said, Pepper, I want to go for Umrah o. This one that I’m sitting down here, I don’t know what my opponents are kneeling down before every morning, let me go and talk to God o. He said why are just coming now when it’s only three or four days to Umrah? You should’ve come like two weeks before now. Then, his wife said, bring your passport, joo, if God says you’ll go, you’ll go. About three days later he called me to come and collect the passport that I’ve been given a visa.
They brought my passport and bought my ticket. My ticket was Emirates. And going to Hajj, Emirates ticket is one of the most expensive. He did not say you’re a former Chairman, you should have means to sponsor yourself. When I got into Saudi Arabia we went to Medina, the hotel I stayed in, he paid for it. It was the same hotel he was staying in. When I got to Mecca, the hotel I stayed in throughout my duration, he paid for it. Then, he also gave me an envelope. Don’t let me tell you the figure, you will be shocked. That is Senator Bayo Osinowo for you. And this is the same way he helps thousands of others, especially the poor, the downtrodden.
And he’s been doing all these long before he ever dreamt of becoming a Senator of this country. Not someone that is planning to go to a position so he starts helping people and doing good. A lot of our politicians today, they help you because they want to get somewhere, not because it comes from their heart. They consider it a means to an end, not that it naturally comes from them. That is why I call him a man of many parts. And let me tell you something else, Senator Bayo Osinowo did not aspire for Senate, we pushed him to go for Senate,
I’m telling you here today! I repeat, Senator Bayo Osinowo did not stand up to say I want to go for senate, we pushed him into it. We are the ones that said, ‘Oga, you will contest for senate o. Go to the Senate! Let your impact be felt. Go and take charge of sixteen local governments, Kosofe is only three local governments. Go further, go to the senate! We got the form for him. So, I say, for reasons like that, he’s the man for the job. Let me also tell you that there’s no day I go to his house that I do not learn something new at my age. So, in summary, let me say that life is not a bed of roses. He who wants to serve the people must come with a clean slate. I read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart when I was in school. He said when things fall apart the center cannot hold. A lot of it is applicable to our politics in Nigeria today.
We say all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than the others. We have a long way to go in this country. Let us identify those that have pure hearts to move this country forward and leave behind their selfish interest. It is only people like that that can lead Nigeria out of the woods. Majority of them are criminals and they don’t have any plan for the progress of this country. They should remember that we will all die one day. I don’t want to mention the names of those that have gone and their children finished everything they left behind, they squandered it. We must have the fear of God. If we have the fear of God every other thing will follow. If you don’t have the fear of God, forget it. Nigeria has the potential to become a member of the Security Council in the UN. We have all the potentials. We have the human resources, we have the material resources. Hopefully, if we do not get more sincere leaders like Muhammadu Buhari, who reminds me so much of the great Aminu Kano, things will only get worse. So, let’s keep the faith and hope for the best.