Honourable Nurudeen Solaja-Saka is a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly representing Ikorodu Constituency 2. He shared stories of little beginings with SEGUN KASALI.
HOW exciting were you as a child?
Very exciting. I grew up from the family of Solaja Saka in Imota, Ikorodu division. I attended St. John’s Primary School and thereafter attended Imota Grammar School. Then, I went to Yaba College of Technology, where I did my Ordinary National Diploma and Higher National Diploma. I left Yabatech for University Of Calabar. I also belong to different professional bodies. To be precise, I was known for football. I played for school and also frequently involved in athletics. I was also a prefect.
I had a passion for it because from day one I wanted to be one of the entertaining footballers. I was very good at seven, nine or ten. Sincerely, while I was a young lad, I usually watched football and I developed interest in it. My brother was the sports prefect in the school then. So, you could say that I learnt a lot of football from him. I also learnt from him too academically.
What happened to that dream?
Oh! I still play well even till tomorrow. My accountancy dream took me away from it and I have no regret over this.
What are you memories of school?
I can never forget that of Yabatech. It was during the Babangida regime. We had exams in school and there was no vehicle on the street. Unfortunately for me, I was in Ikorodu. But I managed to get to Owode-Onirin with the help of someone who was going to get spare parts. When I got there, I trekked from there to Ojota. On getting to Ojota, there was no way to go and as a result, I got stranded. Fortunately for me, a vehicle came asking where I was going. I told the bus man that I was going to Yabatech and he accepted to give me a lift. Regrettably, I discovered that the bus was one-chance. They started dragging me in the bus. Someone said I should go to the front while the other said I should go to the back. They took my bag. In all of these, I just managed myself. On getting to Odo-iyalaro, they discovered that there was no money in my bag but books. They threw me and my bag away from the vehicle. Thankfully, the vehicle coming behind, was the school bus. They came to my rescue. When I got to school, I wrote the exam.
What was your thought on discovering it was one-chance bus?
As a Muslim, I was just reciting a popular section of the Holy Quran.
You mean you were not emotionally affected during the exam?
As a student, I didn’t feel anything. When we got to school, it was the non-teaching staff that were narrating the issue to my lecturers because they knew me very well. So, they started saying ‘Solaja what happened’ and I now started narrating everything. That particular course I had on that day was one of my best courses- Financial Accounting. In fact, I had the highest score in the course. As a matter of fact, Accounting is so dear to me.
Why the love for accounting?
In fact, when I was at a tender age, my mother used to tell me, ‘I want you to be an engineer.’ But, I had been telling them since day one that I would be an accountant, because I had been good at Mathematics in my primary school. In my secondary school, I was the best student in Accounting and Mathematics.
She wanted me to become an engineer, because that was the in-thing then. A lot of big people in the community then were engineers. For instance, Prince Oyenuga was a very popular engineer then. But, I said no, I want to be an accountant. Even as of today, I have two children that are both qualified Chartered Accountants.
Any nickname in school?
Why close up?
Because if anyone messed up with me and I give the person a punch, there is no way blood won’t come out (laughs). I won’t tell you more than that (Laughs).
Give an instance where you displayed close up?
Normally, when we go for sports and someone wants to cheat us, I would punch the person’s face (laughs). There is a particular one I can remember but I won’t tell you (Laughs). I don’t want to quote anybody. All I want to say is that if you mess up with me whenever we go for any sport event, I would deal with you.
You also love boxing.
Yes. I was interested in it. However, you know that one interacts with a lot of people in school, both the junior and senior and there is no way seniors would not want to prove they are seniors. I can still remember vividly that we had what was called Oko-Obi, a very small bush that was very close to our school. So, if we want to fight, we would just say let’s go to Oko-Obi and by the time you get to Oko-Obi, your senior would start punching you and there was no way you could shout. So, my way out was that instead of going to Oko-Obi, I would tell you to let’s go to where sand is. The reason is that before you start punching me, I would have poured a lot of sand on you (Laughs). So, before you even raise your hand to punch me, I would have put the sand on your face. Before you know, you already collapsing and can’t see again.
And this never put you in any trouble?
No. It was just for fun. Funny enough, even after indulging in physical fight, we still call ourselves together at the end of the day to resolve it amicably. It is not a postponed issue.
You left Yabatech for University of Calabar. Why?
The issue of University of Calabar is somewhat serious. I went to the US Embassy for visa in order for me to leave the country. Unfortunately for me, I was not given. On coming back from the embassy, an older friend told me that University of Calabar had advertised postgraduate admission exercise for the new session. So, I went to Unical which has a distance learning programme. At least, I was going to Unical twice a month. But, I was the best student there.
How was the culture there then?
Calabar is very good at accommodating visitors and there was cultural exchange. They are very friendly in the sense that anytime you tell them you are from Lagos, they always think you are from the United States. Up till today, Lagos is still a mini Nigeria. If you reside in Lagos or you were born and brought up in Lagos, they would treat you differently.
It has seemed easy since you finished schooling.
Yes, because I was so lucky. In fact, before I finished at Unical, I was already working and I worked in a good place called Local Government Revenue Board. After the board had been dissolved, they transferred me to the local government. I started enjoying my career when I was made the Head of Accounts, from there, to Auditor and finally to the Council treasury.
Were you Mum’s pet, being the first born?
Exactly what you have just called me. I was the first born and my mum was an average woman. Before I asked for anything, she had already given me. My mum would always tell us not to look at someone’s property or be jealous of anyone. She would also tell us, ask me and I would do whatever I can do for you.
And this didn’t attract envy around you?
That is what I don’t know. As a young lad, I would not know. Up till now, people do complain that I am such a lucky chap that if I want to do anything, the Almighty God will assist me.
She never flogged you?
At all. Instead of that, she would tell me, Alowonle. please don’t do this and that. She would even be begging me. I was her pet.
So, what do you usually, remember her for?
Everything. Don’t let me talk too much because if I do, I will cry. I lost her at the time she was supposed to be enjoying me. She spent a lot of money on me. In fact, she was the one who told me that a man does not do one job. She told me that if you have one job, try to look for another way to have another one so as to have a back-up, if the other is not working anymore.
What about your Dad?
My Dad was also fantastic but he is also late. Just like what my mum was doing, My dad would tell me Alowonle, please don’t do this, don’t do that. Listen to your mum.
Were you a spoilt child?
Yes na. This is because if you are in a family where everyone loves you, you will feel on top of the world. I could remember when I was a kid, they would carry me in the morning until around 8:30 p.m. before returning me to my mum and immediately they sighted me, they would be shouting Whiteman is around (Oyinbo ti de). This one would carry me from one house to another, my sister would carry me and so many like that. That was in the olden days because if you do that today, your child will be lost in transit (Laughs).
Why were you called Oyinbo( whiteman)?
It was because of my skin colour. I was lighter than this. But you know, the older you become, the less beautiful/handsome you also beome.
How and where did you meet Madam?
I had already started working prior to meeting my wife. In fact, I was the one who sponsored my wife to higher institution. We met at a party, but she gave me a wrong name. On one particular day, I was seriously sick and one of my friends took me to the hospital. On my way back, I decided not to take any cab in order for me to exercise my body. Shockingly, I saw her on her dad’s premises. So, immediately she saw me, she just put her head down. I was already about some kilometers away but I turned back. Instead of the main road. I just decided to build up my confidence and I approached her. When I did, I asked if she could recognize my face, she said yes. I said but why did you give me a wrong name. She later reminded me of a woman whom I met that day, who she said nearly slapped her. She told me that was her aunt. However, she apologized for giving me a wrong name and gave me the right name.
But her dad was there?
Yes. I did not even mind that her dad was there because I did not know if I would see her again. My in-law was a very terrible person then. You could imagine that the man poured pepper water on my body (Laughs). But we thank God for where we all are today.
Yes. She told me she lost her mother at a tender age. When I heard about her story, I now said don’t bother about your academic expenses that I would shoulder the responsibility because I was a little bit okay as at that point. So, there was a time she came for holiday and I went to see her with my friend. When her father saw us, he was like who are these persons. Before we could say anything, he just poured the water on my body. I said okay, no problem. From that particular day, I concluded immediately that this is the lady I would get married to.
I was moved by the way her father treated me that day. I was thinking that if her dad could do something of such magnitude, she must be from a good home then. Moreso, the first day my mum set her eyes on her, my mum said, this is your wife.
How did the dad feel when you requested for her hand in marriage?
My mum had told me that when my father wanted to marry her, it was not an easy task because my dad also encountered similar issue from my grand mum. When my wife’s dad saw me, I was surprised he accepted me and we moved on, up till this moment.
What does she want to change about you?
She says I am a very stubborn person because I don’t compromise with a woman. It is not only her because I have two wives. I am a straightforward person. I don’t like cheating and I won’t cheat you. But if I perceive cheating from you, I will follow it up to any length. So, that is what she complains of.
In which of your children do you see yourself?
There is none of my children that doesn’t look like me or exhibit my kind of behavior. Everyone of them has that stubbornness including ladies. My first wife has four children for me and none of them is in Nigeria today. I have two accountants and one medical doctor.
You are a product of polygamy. How are you coping too?
What you need to do is to hold your policy in high esteem. If you stick to your policy, you will achieve it. Let me be sincere with you, don’t channel your energy to back-biting. Face where you are going and at the end of the day, you will achieve your goal. I usually take caution when it comes to outdoor food and that is why I don’t eat anything outside from 5p.m. because I must eat my wife’s food. It is a policy. Even if I go to a party, I would rather drink water because I don’t take alcohol.
Any outstanding memory of your past?
Hmmm. That is my education. My parents were not educated at all. Also, there was a time I was dating a corps member, who woke up in the middle of the night one day and asked what my educational qualification was. So, I told her School Certificate. She cried and cried. She said me a graduate marrying a school cert holder? What a shit! I won’t forget that day. Fortunately, her decision geared me towards education. Today, there is none of my children that is not a graduate.
Define your person in three ways.
People know that I am very stubborn but my stubbornness is my policy. Number two is that I pick any call whether known or unknown. I mingle with people of good character especially the people at the lower rung of the ladder. I don’t isolate myself. That is why I am always with people anywhere you see me. I always like to interact with my people.
How sociable are you?
Very very sociable. Very social in the sense that I belong to so many social clubs. I am member of the Exclusive Club of Nigeria, Country Club and so on and so forth. Regardless of my sociability, I am not a fan of any alcoholic drink.
What are your indulgences?
I love perfumes a lot to the extent that I can’t go out without wearing one.
And female admirers?
It is a matter of policy. Even if you don’t look for them, they will look for you. And you know that for one to live longer, one needs to be careful of ladies.
How do you manage them?
You will just have to manage them because you can’t tell them to go away from your.