My dad got me N.35m job in Abuja to discourage me from politics —25-yr-old Oyo legislator-elect
Yusuf Oladeni Adebisi is the youngest lawmaker in Oyo State since 1999 and could soon be confirmed as the youngest in Nigeria by INEC. At 25 going 26 in September, the first time legislator, who will represent the Ibadan South West Constituency 1 in the House of Assembly, speaks to Seyi Sokoya on his hopes and dreams for his people. Excerpts:
After the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) was announced winner of the Oyo State governorship election, reports had it that your father’s house at Oluyole Estate was invaded by miscreants and your grandmother was shot but he, Taye Currency, denied the story. What exactly happened?
The story was false. Nothing like that happened. An overzealous blogger posted the story to draw traffic but many later saw beyond his plan to blackmail my father. The fake news only confirmed that many online publishers either don’t know the ethics of journalism profession, or they don’t care about it. Sadly, that will only cost them some of their followers. We appreciate what Nigerian Tribune did to reach out to us to confirm things. That man never bothered to hear our side of the story. Anyway, there was no story. My father was not attacked and my grandmother wasn’t shot. For us, we have moved on. For the other bloggers, I advise that there should be a bit of decorum or else many will not rely on online publications for authentic stories again.
How did the rumour affect you?
Not in any way. Although I was at the collation center to monitor the counting, I wasn’t bothered a bit because we had no reason to be worried or afraid. I had spoken to my grandmother hours before the story broke and she was only eager about the results. The house was actually full of visitors and well wishers.
Are you worried that angry people might come after your father for openly supporting Seyi Makinde in the election?
We are from Ibadan. I was born in this city and grew up among other indigenes. My life, my grandmother’s, father’s and that of others are in God’s hands. Since we have never wished evil for anyone, I don’t see reason why anyone should wish our family evil. My father chose to support PDP, why should it become an issue? Many others have been doing the same for the opposition party for almost two decades and nobody wished them evil. Oyo people wanted someone new, someone fresh and the governor elect, Makinde, met their aspirations. My father supported former governor Alao-Akala eight years ago and he lost, but heaven did not fall. He chose to be loyal to the party, so, why should some people be angry that his preferred candidate won the election? Life goes on. You can’t win every time. I am not delusional that I will be here forever, but while I’m here, I want to do my best and let others continue after me. That’s the beauty of life and politics.
Why did you become a politician?
Service. Pure and simple. Not many can serve, but I am among the few who love to render service to people.
As your first job, shouldn’t you have tried something else to prepare for this job?
You are wrong. This is not my first job. I have tried my hands on many things in life. Some had been successful while others nearly wrecked me.
So, this is not your first job?
No. Not many people know what I have gone through in my life. I like it like that. It Is a personal thing. The ups and downs, being poor and rich, etc., that’s what life is about. I am in the fishery, poultry and charcoal business. I started out few years back and I’ve never stopped. I get my supplies of charcoal from Saare in Ilorin, a village in Kwara State, and take it to the city to sell. Sometimes I sell to few clients in Ibadan. I am planning to expand to Lagos and Ogun states. I supply to bakeries and canteens. If I had not been elected into the state House of Assembly, I would have fallen back to my businesses. Many people assume that I had never done anything in my life and that I got everything on a platter of gold. Well, that is not true. I lost lots of birds in 2015/16 but still didn’t give up. That was when my poultry was at Omi. I lost a lot of money. However, my poultry presently at Oluyole is doing well. In life, never give up. My fishery too is at Oluyole. I now export smoked fish to the United Kingdom and the United States. As successful as it sounds, I also suffered a big loss when someone stole almost 500,000 fishes from my ponds a few days before the naming ceremony of my daughter. That was on November 9 last year.
You are already a father?
A family man sir. I also have a wife. She is a housewife but she’s into fashion designing. I am not a loud person, but I enjoy my life and am grateful to God for what he has been doing for me.
Talking about father, did he support your decision to go into politics?
He didn’t at first. He believed that politics in Nigeria is meant for only the extremely rich and connected. He wanted me to work in a company like other educated young ones and promised to get me a job in Abuja but I told him my mind was made up about politics. I continued working underground with a dear friend, Mr Tope Eluyefa. The two of us were the only ones who started the journey together. My dad later reported me to Mr Eluyefa, but he was shocked when Eluyefa suggested to him that I should be allowed to make some decisions in life and face the consequences. My dad was livid. ‘So, you will watch as your brother makes this rash decision’ was what my dad told Tope and he stormed out of the house that day. A few days after, I went to him. He told me he had got a job for me in Abuja that paid N350,000 each month. He expected me to jump at the offer but I stood my ground. By then, I had already printed copies of pin up badges that had my picture and that of our governor-elect, Engineer Seyi Makinde on it and was going to show it to him. When he saw it, he shouted; “yeepa, o ti lo to bayii” (so you have gone this far). I never approached him for money all the while. I just wanted his acceptance, but he was difficult, while I was determined.
To what extent?
To the extent of doing what I had made up my mind to do without his support. But I preferred to have him on my side, even if I failed. So, when he saw the badge, he asked why I was so stubborn and insisted on wanting to become a politician. I told him I felt the need to help our people.
From a fisherman to a lawmaker, do you feel different somehow, maybe some pressure?
Not at all. I wanted to be given an opportunity to serve and now my people have given it to me. I can’t wait to get to work with my other colleagues who are either new or old in the House.
Aren’t you worried about making mistakes as a rookie?
The professionals out there started as greenhorns. Who doesn’t fail? It is what we do with it that matters. If one fails and refuses to turn it around, that’s when we can say someone is a failure. Even our elders fail. A man must learn to fall and rise. Like I told you, I have experienced failures in my life, but I never gave up. I learned from each fall. Again, that one rises does not mean one won’t fall again. Life is about good and bad, rise and fall, failures and successes. How you respond to each side of the coin matters a lot.
What is uppermost in your mind as you go to represent your constituency in the state House of Assembly?
To push for bills that will impact the lives of the people of our state and also pursue projects that will positively affect my people. They come first for sure. A lot is now on me and I have to do my best to deliver.
Where would you like to see yourself, your constituency and Oyo State in four years?
Let me start with my constituency, which is Ibadan South West 1. We have six Wards there. Can you believe that there is not a single school there? So, why should anyone be surprised that we are considered the dregs of the society? Education is very important. My people want to send their children to schools, but we don’t have one. I want to do something about it. Again, in the area of health services, what we have is a glorified health care centre, not a hospital. You only get paracetamol for any medical problem. I also want that stigma of ‘thugs’ removed from my people and community. If I can get an education in life, provided by a father that could have ended up in the same circle of ignorance, I won’t be here preaching about attainable education. I have a first degree in History and International Relations from Al-Hikmah University in Ilorin, and a Master’s degree in the same course from LAUTECH. I also completed my mandatory youth scheme in Oyo. All that I have, all that I know, won’t matter if I don’t share it with people. I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about ideas, opportunities, contacts, etc. I am a Muslim who values lives.
Lastly, I want to be able to bring cleanliness to the constituency. I always cover my face in shame whenever I read in the papers that we are a dirty people. We are not. It is a product of the environment. The interiors of Ibadan are not well planned. Go there after heavy rains and you’ll never believe that people live with much dirts in a community. Do you think they like it like that? Of course not. My people also want to live decently, but no one is even looking in their direction. We need to carefully educate our people on the dangers of living in dirty environments. I hope they will give me their ears when we begin to visit them to discuss ideas on how to make the community safe to live in.
You really sound ready
As a politician, I am ready. As a mere mortal, I’m also ready, but I am aware of my frailties and I know that it’s not everything we plan to do that gets done. I will do my best and hope that it will be enough for the people. If I make mistakes, I will admit it and see how I can work harder on doing what’s best for my constituency. If I make decisions that don’t end well, I’ll retrace my steps. I could have started my political career from the Ward or the Local Government level, but the third tier of government has been decimated; rendered inactive. That’s rather sad.
Well, you are now a lawmaker. Do you intend to do anything in that area?
You mean the restoration of autonomy to the Local Government?
Of course I’d love that. The people want it because it’s the nearest level of governance to the grassroots. Speaking for myself, I want governance restored to the grassroots. That way, we won’t be looking up to the federal government or state for almost everything. Nigerians know that Local Government thrived very well under the PDP. It was APC that killed that tier of government, especially in the South West. I hope our seniors in Abuja will do something about Local Government autonomy.