I’ve been slapped, severally beaten over girls —Mustainu
Honourable Abiodun Tobun Mustaine has been a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly since 2011. He tells his hilarious life-story to SYLVESTER OKORUWA and SEGUN KASALI.
YOU look gentle but act tough. Was this trait taken from childhood?
Well, that is who I am. I think I have not changed and I remain the same.
Aren’t you afraid of your actions being misinterpreted?
You know life is like that, but I am someone who doesn’t know how to lobby or corner favour from anybody. I am who I am. If I have any conviction, I hold on to it. If I have any belief, I make sure I stand firm on it. I do my things with sincerity of purpose. Yes, a lot of people misinterpret my actions. Some feel I’m lackadaisical to some issues while some believe I am deliberately doing what I am doing but on the inside, I can be very ferocious. I, however, know that my principle is guided by my belief and I won’t tolerate anything from anybody. I won’t cheat anybody and I won’t allow anyone to cheat me. I won’t stoop so low because I want to eat. If I need anything from you, I come straight. I don’t need to tell lies. I believe I don’t need to come through the back door. That is who I am. So, a lot of people misunderstand me. But, once I have cleared my conscience that what I am doing is in tandem with the Almighty God. and it will not offend humanity, I go ahead with it.
Any specific situation you can remember?
Yes. My growing up was a bit tough. I lost my father in June 6, 1970 I was less than 10 years then. My mother was a teacher. Imagine raising five kids without a father. So, one’s travails in life shape one. At regular intervals, you keep to yourself so you can be more focused and more determined. I am a bold person. I don’t just open my mouth in order to impress anybody. I remember when Governor Akinwunmi Ambode called me and said I used to curse him. I wondered what he meant by saying that I curse him. I was like had I told someone that he was crazy or what? I replied him that if I had said something and someone had gone to tell you, you should be bold enough to tell me. I don’t speak ill of other and when I see you, I start to sing another tune. In such an instance, he misunderstood me because some people went to him to curry his favour and spoke evil of others just to get his attention. He fell for their antics and that tactically separated us.
You must be a risk-taker then
When I was in school, we used to act out the civil war. I was Ojukwu (laughs). We played pranks as students, jumping from one troop to the other, searching for the other troops and from there, I would turn back home. I grew up in Epe. I went to Ansar-Udeen Primary School in Epe and also Epe Grammar School, both public institutions. I was the class captain from primary one to five. Like I said, my father died when I was very young and my mother was the only one who raised five children. We paid paltry amount of money. I didn’t mind once I got my uniform washed and ironed. I always made sure that I attended classes.
Did you feel inferior to those who went to private schools?
I believed that was where God put me. I am never inferior to anybody, even if you have a skyscraper or your father drives a limousine. Some of my friends, who were in private schools, were in Mayflower and during holidays, we interacted. My dad was an Accountant, but he died unexpectedly and life had to continue. At a time, my mother, who was a teacher, went to school and I was staying with my grandmother, who I used to help a lot. We fetched firewood together. I started living with my grandma before I was 10 years. Of course, being the only male child, I assisted her a lot. So, I had been trained by her to wake up as early as 4:30 am to fetch water for her. I washed plates, swept the surroundings, all before 7 o’clock, and was dressed for school. I would go to her in the market and bring her wares back home, fetched water in the morning and in the evening. Pipe-borne water was not as common as it is today. She trained us to be hard working; be dedicated and be sincere at whatever we were doing. So, I didn’t even have time to look at anybody’s parents, or what they were offering them.
Did your grandmother spoil you?
No. she didn’t tolerate indiscipline. You dared not play any pranks with her. Though she was a nice woman, she would not pamper anyone. There was a woman who had no child. We used to fetch two buckets of water for her. If I didn’t do it in time, she would come to our school, report you to your teacher or principal and they would beat you on the assembly ground. So, you dared not misbehave. If you displayed a lackadaisical attitude, and was unable to complete those assignments, she won’t bother you. She would just dress up and go to the school. She would tell the teachers that you did not do your assignments and would tell them the number of strokes that they should give you. One day, I was given six strokes of the cane. They would beat you in the midst of your school mates, which was enough embarrassment. They either asked you to bend down or they carried you and flogged you. You tried to avoid such situations then.
Was your childhood all about your grandmother’s discipline?
I was stubborn as a child. I liked to play football. So, when they sent one on errands, we used to see some of friends playing. Mostly, one would stay back and played for some minutes before one left for home. Whenever parents asked where one had been to, we usually lied that we went to buy something. ‘Okay, go and knee down’, was the punishment if we were discovered to be lying. I had not been embarrassed in the school by my fellow students because I was an obedient student. I told you my mother was a teacher. So, she was a disciplinarian. She did not give us any leeway to go the other way. Even if you had friends who were not serious, you dared not show them because she would beat you.
How was the Epe of yesteryears?
Epe used to be one of the Local Government headquarters in those days. Epe was, and is still a peaceful place. There was nothing like all these rubbish we are seeing now. There was constant electricity then. There was nothing like cultism and hooliganism. We only came to Lagos during holidays and went back to Epe. Everything was smooth. In those days in Epe, if one a thief and caught, they put shell on one’s neck and palm frond round one’s waist and legs, while little children would be singing for you ‘Everybody come and see thief thief ( O ju ole re, ole).
You experienced this, first-hand?
I can mention names. Someone stole a fowl. They roasted it. A woman said he knew the person who had stolen it. They went to the kitchen and saw the feathers inside the dustbin. He was caught. There were times we had pipe-borne water and someone went to steal bucket. He was caught. They would sing for you and you would dance in the public. They would take you round the community just to humiliate you. Those days when you stole and you were caught, they would inflict blade marks on the back of your hand. They called you a thief and would expose you so that when your friends see you, they would know that you were a thief. Anybody who saw you with the mark would say; “ahh, you are a thief! or ahh, this boy was once a thief. Many of the victims that I know are still in existence. Many of them would have forgotten, but there was one of them that contested against me in this last election, but our leader said you cannot be there because you were a thief. When you were young, you were a thief and everybody was asked to look at the back of his hand. Ask anybody, once they give you mark like this, it shows you are a thief. I don’t know if such tradition exists outside Epe. It was done to make sure they give you that stigma forever so that those who have not taken to stealing would be afraid.
As a teacher’s child, how much of pranks did you engage in at school?
Majorly, I played football and I liked to dance, but you had to sneak out to club houses. We felt we were growing up then and that it was time we started showing maturity. In those days, we wore pinto, stretch, baggy, boots and all those kinds of trousers. We had so many club houses in those days- Sea club, Mama Cass, Peak Night Club. I did disco round Lagos, Oyo and Ogun states just to make sure we enjoyed ourselves and, criminality was not as rampant as this. Then, you wanted to show you were a big boy, drank beer and fought.
Was girl matter part of the fighting you did sir?
Yes, severally. I was beaten over girls (laughs). They ganged up against me. They were saying that this guy is handsome and many girls are following him, so we are going to set a trap for him and beat him in the front of the girls so that the girls will run away from him. But when they beat you, the girls would come appealing to you that don’t mind them o (laughs). There was one film house called Paramount Inn. They had branches in Ijebu Ode and Epe. We went to watch a movie one day. As I was coming out, someone said; see him see him, he is the one pursuing our girlfriends. I said what the hell are you talking about? One of them slapped me from behind gbaa! As I was fighting that one, others held me from back. They planned to beat me and succeeded. It was about five of them and you know me as the son of a teacher, I went back home and pretended as if nothing happened.
What were the benefits of being a big boy then?
Girls flocked around us. You know I used to wear jerry curls. You stretched your hair so that you look handsome. You had good jeans, wore slip-on, T-shirts, put on good wristwatch all of these just to pose and you didn’t have car. But, some of us whose fathers had cars would bring them and we would be cruising around. That was at secondary school anyway. So, we were using it to paste posters and I was the one riding the okada. There was a time I used the okada to carry two of my friends and we were trying to climb a hilly place, and we fell. In the course of maintaining my balance so as not to hit my head on the floor, I protected myself with my right hand and had a dislocation. I had to drag myself to a nearby drainage. I forced the hand back into its joint socket. I held it so tight because the woman would beat hell out of me despite my dislocation. The hand pained me so much, but I didn’t tell her anything. At times, she would tell me to go and carry this and I won’t use the right hand but the left hand. She started watching me. After two days, she just came and pressed the dislocated place and I shouted. She now said what happened to you? I had to confess. I was taken for an X-ray and they discovered that I had put the joint back into the socket.
You are an Agricultural Economist. What informed your choice?
I had no dream of becoming a doctor, which was popular then. I wanted to become a pilot but there was no school of Aviation in Nigeria. You had to travel out, but there was no one to sponsor me. So, I said if I could not get that, let me study Agriculture. I studied General Agriculture at National Diploma (Lagos State Polytechnic). From there, I went to Lagos State University where I studied Human Resources Management. Then, I later went to LASU to study Legal Studies.
How memorable were your days in the polytechnic?
It was at that time we realised that HND and B.sc were not at par. They were treating HND students as second class citizens. What we were told then was that if you must move on, you must have distinction or upper credit at your HND level. So, when we finished, I had Upper Credit and was admitted to LASU for MBA. We did not do PGD. But if you had a lower class, you might have to do a postgraduate diploma before they allowed you to go for MBA or M.Sc.
Were you still dancing in university?
I still dance till today. You don’t play music where I am. If you play music, I will dance. There is nowhere I hear music that I will not dance. Music makes me healthy. Even yesterday, I still danced. I danced so much because one of fathers was celebrating his 80th birthday. Don’t forget dancing is an exercise. In those days, I wouldn’t want to call myself world class, but I am a super dancer. There is no competition I go that I don’t come first. All those break dance, slips, back slide, you know, I do them till now.
What did life throw at you as an undergraduate?
I was not a triangular student – that is from home to class, to the library and back home. I socialised. We organised parties with friends in school. When a lecturer finished with us, I headed for the library immediately to study the topics and formed my notes. Thereafter, I came home to play with people, retire, sleep and read again. Not many people knew I could read from 11 till around 4 a.m. I would have grabbed what they taught us and so, when I get to school in the morning, I would be disturbing others all around. I read so much ahead of exams and I prepared myself before exams. When exam got closer, I formed a revision note. So, when all others were burning midnight candles, eating themselves up, I would be smiling. We were about 89 students in our class and we were only two that had Upper Credit.
How much did education do for you?
I worked as a civil servant and headed a department in the Local Government Service Commission under Alimosho Local Government. I was in the Council for 21 years, but I voluntarily resigned to join politics. I left service as a deputy director.
21 years must have come with a lot of value.
That is what I am using till tomorrow. I am a community man. As a member of the House, I was close to the people. Their demands and agitations bothered me since my time in the Council. As the head of that department, I interfaced with people. That was why when I went for my MBA, I specialised in Human Resources Management to corroborate what I am doing presently.
Was wooing mummy difficult?
Since my younger days, I had made up my mind that even if I didn’t have money, once I was 30, I must marry. My conviction is this – if you don’t marry at 30, when you are 60, your child would still be a baby. But if you marry at 30, by the time you are 60, your child would be 30 and would have come of age. Even if you are going to die, you will still have someone to leave something for. So, by the time I was 30, I was ready. At 27, I was looking for whom to marry. I had a lot of friends, but I had put it before God that the lady I wanted to marry must come from a religious background, either pastor or Imam or from a royal family. Though I knew her very well and she knew me too, she was actually introduced to me by Dr. Alausa, who was her friend. He said he had a friend from a disciplined family and she didn’t go out. But here we are, we go to parties and disco. During Ileya festival, my friend invited her to his house and introduced us. From there, we started visiting each other. She used to tease me:“who will marry you, a party-goer? I said don’t worry, I am a nice person. To God be the glory, we dated for some years and got married in 1993. Gradually, I started dropping the idea of going to disco. Now, we only go to parties that are meaningful.
What is that thing she is trying to stop in you?
You know women, as a fine boy, women will love you and won’t like you to mess around with other girls, but you know these other girls will never leave you alone. They won’t even allow you have a breathing space.
Like seeing you as a womaniser?
Well, I will keep that away from her. It is not as if I am a womaniser but no woman will see a fine boy and will not like him. Even you too, are they not looking for you because you are a fine boy? But it is good to be faithful to your family and we are all trying to do it. I don’t pretend. I don’t password my phone.
What did you take from your parents?
My dad died a long ago. I only knew he was a nice man, but I wouldn’t remember the trait I took from him. My mother used to tell us that we should let people know who you are. Don’t pretend. It is not good.
You are hailed nearly everywhere. You must have a connection with the community.
I will tell you I give back more than 80 per cent. I just came from Epe since last week. I have always been there. There is no day you come to this place that you would not see my people around because I am there because they gave me their mandate. So, I cannot run away from them. They call me ATM. It is embarrassing. How do you mean that I am ATM? I was annoyed. They said that is your new name, Abiodun Tobun Mustainu. Instead of putting my father’s name as the last, they put it in the middle. They said Abiodun Tobun Mustainu (ATM). So, I said, now I understand, but even under mere deceit, I would still fall for it. Like I told you, I am a community development practitioner, relate with people, work with them, share their feelings. Though I am overdoing it, because even when I know people are deceiving me, I still fall into their antics, with the firm belief that whoever has money will not come and beg for it. So, for anybody to put shame aside and come to you begging, if you have, you must do for that person for posterity because what we leave after us is what we have done.
What is that event that still brings tears to your eyes?
I told you my mum died in 1989, same year that I graduated. She trained us. As a teacher, the year she was to retire was the year she died. So, I can’t forget it.