What Dad Taught Me

Dr. Abass Adedibu, the eldest son of the late strongman of Ibadan politics, Chief Lamidi Adedibu and acting Director in the Federal Ministry of Education, spoke with GBENRO ADESINA on his father’s legacy, his views on politics in the country and sundry issues

Q: Could you recount your last moments with your father, late Chief Lamidi Adedibu? A: I saw him a week before he died and that was when he was on his way to attend the one year anniversary of Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala of Oyo State before l went back to Abuja.

Q: What were the things he shared with you during the last moment spent together? A: The very last thing he discussed with me was that he never knew that I would be in Ibadan during the carnival he organised for Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala; otherwise, he would have given me the cloth they used so I could be part of it.

Q: Was there any premonition that he would die? A: There was a premonition that he would soon die but not the exact time he would pass away. When I visited him in his hotel at Abuja during the PDP chairmanship convention, I discovered that he had lost some weight. Two months ago, I visited him in Lagos again and I discovered that he had lost more weight. When l came home to Ibadan and discussed with him in his bedroom, I told him I was not satisfied with his health and advised him to travel overseas that week. He told me he would travel within two weeks. I insisted that he should travel at once. I further suggested that it was better for him to travel to USA where his grandchildren reside rather than London. But before the two weeks he intended travelling, he died.

Q: Did he give any sign that he was preparing to join his forefathers from the way he talked? A: No. But judging from the way he walked, one would not be left in doubt that he was a goner. He was not as agile as he used to. All his body had reduced. That was a symptom that he was getting closer to his grave.

Q: How is the family coping with his exit? A: We the children are more united. Nothing will separate us. We are still praying to Almighty God to continue giving us his strength, energy and wisdom to make the family better than our father left it.

Q: What is your reaction to the political children of Adedibu who are already complaining that they are broke because the man who used to give them money has gone and nobody has risen up to the challenge? How do you intend to maintain the structure he built? A: Those that have benefited from my father might be complaining that there is no money again. Time comes, time goes but the issue is that, have they come to us for help and we turned them down? No. If my father is giving them N1000:00 in a day and we the children can afford to give them N500:00 it is part of it. Those that say there is no money, how do they know? Are they God?

Q: As the first son of a successful and fulfilled politician, when are you joining politics? A: God who created my father knows the future of every individual. When my father was born, he never knew that he would be well known nationwide. The same God who created us his children knows how He will help us to continue with the good works of my father, even do it better than him.

Q: You have not answered my question. Are you not thinking of joining politics to continue from where your father stopped? A: I will join politics when this country is one. We are still not running the democratic system that people are made to believe that we are running. See, when I was in university in the United States of America, l was the president of Nigerian Students’ Union; first president of African Union in my university, and president of International Students’ Union. 

When we are talking about politics in the U.S, we are not talking about politics of bitterness, thuggery, harassment, intimidation and killing. We are talking about politics of unity, understanding and civility. Over there, they are so civilised that it is not compulsory that a father and a child would be in the same political party. If they have the same ideology, they will be in the same political party but if they are different ideologically, they will be in separate political parties and nobody will be gunning for each other’s head. But in Nigeria, if your father is PDP, he expects you also to be in PDP. I am emphasising unity in politics. We do not need multiple political parties in this country. 

We need only two political parties. Let us examine SDP and NRC. In the history of Nigeria, have we ever been able to get non-contestable result like we had during SDP and NRC? The answer is no. When people voted then for Bashir Tofa of NRC and M.K.O. Abiola of SDP, they did not look at faces but considered merit and who could actually deliver. They considered hard work and who in the true sense of it had positively affected the people’s lives. In the face of reality then, Northerners and Easterners voted for Abiola without tribal sentiment.

We then had the best election so far; one that was not based on tribe, ethnicity, religion or under any sentimental disguise. Unless this country goes for just two political parties, we might not be able to get anywhere. To answer your question, as soon as I retire from government service I will join a political party that understands the needs of the people. I do not believe in lobbying for office. If somebody merits it we will go for the person, not the mushroom people that don’t know their right from left being put in positions. That is why we are having problems in this country. Let me tell you today, my father didn’t employ me. During the time of NPN, my father wrote me a letter to come back home. In my reply to his request, I made him understand that I accepted the fact that he sent me abroad to study. 

I told him that I was not coming back to Nigeria to carry anybody’s briefcase. If the government of Nigeria was ready to employ me, let them do so but I was satisfied with my job in USA. A year later, Nigerian government officials came to USA and l was interviewed in Chicago. I was among those employed. When l got the job, l delayed it. 

I eventually came home at the age of 30. I did my NYSC at University of Ilorin, Kwara State. Then I had my Ph.D. I got my Ph.D at the age of 28 in 1981. After the service, Unilorin employed me but my father instructed me to pick a federal government job on the ground that if I had not been employed by the federal government in USA, I would not have come home. He said that he did not want me to betray the federal government that had given me appointment before Unilorin. I listened to him and that was how I joined the Federal Civil Service. Right now I am an acting director. In the university, I would not have gone more than a professor. 

My father gave me the opportunity to understand the culture of this country. There is no state in this country I don’t know. People should not be parochial, they need to reach out. What I gained from my father is that he gave me a chance to understand the Nigerian policy, philosophy, ethics; that one should move closer to human beings, which everybody in my family emulates. You don’t look down on anybody. This is politics of the grassroots which a good politician should practice and make a core value. Deviation from this ideology will not let one serve his people the way one should.

Q: If you join politics, would you play it like your father? A: If I come into politics, l will start from the grassroots. One must understand what people need. I will not play politics of gimmicks. My father had been in politics for 51 years and he was known from the grassroots until he started installing. He installed Dr. Omololu Olunloyo in 1983, Chief Lam Adesina, Senator Rashidi Ladoja and Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala. If you remove 1951 from 1983, you will get 32 years. 

He followed Awolowo, Lanlehin, Akinloye and others and learnt from them. He understood the games, developed from their games. My father was an achiever and many people acknowledge this. My father did not follow a loser and we his children will not follower a loser. If we are going to be in politics, we will follow a winning party. Do not also forget that my father died on June 11 and was buried June 12. Can you see the relationship between my father and democracy and late Chief M.K.O. Abiola? For my father to be buried on June 12 symbolises that my father believed till death in June 12 and democracy. He was fully involved in the process that made Abiola to win June 12 1993 presidential election. All these point to the fact that nobody can separate Adedibu, June 12 and Abiola.
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