Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi, the Corps Marshal of Federal Road Safety Corps speaks to SEGUN KASALI on what life has been serving him.
Were you told the circumstances of your birth?
I was born on Thursday at 10am and I was given five names – Joseph, Boboye, Olayemi, Olakunbi and Olugboyega. As the name implies, everything borders on riches – Olugboyega, Boboye, etc. Everything is Oye. So, it is a reflection of richness.
That means you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth?
I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. My father was a clergyman and you know priests live a modest life and not extravagant life. And I was brought up that way and that is why my life is a modest one. I am not extravagant. My lifestyle is moderate. And that is the guiding principle. The fear of God has been with me since and that is why God has been helping me up till this level.
You could choose to be different from your dad.
My father was not extravagant. You model after your parents. If your father is not extravagant and your father has the fear the God, you are expected to follow suit. As the Yoruba do say, the way a father is, is the way the child would be. If the father is proud, arrogant, and extravagant, the child would also have these traits. If there is fear of God, there is 90 percent likelihood that the children would take after the parents. Not all children may adapt that mentality, but majority would adapt it. My father was thorough and strict. If you didn’t want to be beaten, you must follow him to church, you must read your Bible, you must read your book.
So, you never overstepped these boundaries?
Ahh! Lailai [never] (laughs). Which house would accommodate a truant? It is not possible. You cannot be a child of a servant of God and be a truant; it is not like this 21st century. You know in the 60s and 70s, parents paid more attention to the upbringing of their children because they wanted their names to be respected. And when you are a child of a clergyman, you know that you must not misbehave. You know there is inherent training that makes you to be yourself so that when you are alone you remember the fear of God, your name and the need to live a godly life.
Your father never used cane on you?
Ahh! He did. There is no child in the 60s and 70s that parents wouldn’t have used a cane on him or her however little it may be, but not now. I remember one day when I was playing in school and my uniform and everything got dirty. I came back home dirty. So, my sister reported me to my dad and he caned me. But, she felt bad later. That was all. My father was tougher. I am gentle. I am like a dove. My daughter used to say something that “my daddy cannot beat me”. You know we have grown. We have seen life. The environment has changed our level of reasoning. The most important thing is to guide the children to live a good life so that you can have rest. And God has given me the grace to be successful.
Perhaps that is why your children call you “old school”.
No. Your own children too would call you old school. Even the children of my Corps Public Education Officer call him old school. You know we were born in the 60s. Some were born in the 90s like we were discussing on road safety administration. When the Corps initially started, the technology available then was the cut and paste laminated driver’s licence. If you are doing cut and paste in this 21st century, people would mock you. So, what was available then was the best. Don’t forget at that time that it was right-hand steering vehicles. It was in 1972 we changed to the left hand. Now, our own upbringing then was what was in the environment we adapted to. It is the culture. Culture is also changing and everything is being modernized. If you remember in the 70s, you talk about damask, but now the children are wearing pencil trousers. So, do you expect me to wear pencil [laughs]? There is what they call slim fit. So, my uniform should be so tight? (laughs). That is why your children would call you old school. I told them, fine, I’m an old school. When you grow up too, the modernization then would make your children to call you old school. The world is just revolving. It is the same culture being recycled in different ways. But, I could not call my parents old school. I did not even have the courage to say that my father was an old school. But again, today’s parents are liberal with their children. They allow them to interface with them and they laugh over it. They see you not only as a father but as a brother and friend.
Is it OK to be liberal with children?
There is need for parents to be liberal with their children. If you are too strict, it would be counterproductive. What children need nowadays is guidance; to guide them to be faithful and have the fear of God. When you guide them well, they would see you as a confidant and they would share their thoughts with you. If you are too hard on them, then they keep a distance. Fighting them too much would make them not to be accessible. You can get to the house and remain there and they would not even know you are at home or not because you have put too much fear in them that they cannot relate with you anymore. There must be a level to stop and encourage them. Make sure you have one on one with them. When I was younger, I couldn’t tell my father I had a girlfriend. But, I would call my children and ask them, ‘Where is your girlfriend’ (laughs).
You are a proponent of early marriage?
I encourage people to marry early. You see, when you marry when you are older, it gets more stressful. Even if you don’t sleep overnight, your system absorbs it, because you are much younger. When you start bearing children in late 30s and 40s, the stress involved is too much. When you marry early, your children would already be in higher institution by the time you are in your 40s. Before you are 45, they have graduated.
What about the issue of finance?
It depends on how you have planned your life. One, you see, you don’t go and study Yoruba or English language now. You look for professional courses so that when you retire, you can be on your own. That is where guidance of your children matters. Not just to go and study courses, but courses that would make them professionals. They don’t need to look for white-collar jobs and they can be employers of labour and not necessarily employees. You encourage them so that on their own they don’t even look for government’s job. They can be entrepreneurs, just like most of these private universities are doing now. And some of them who can raise capital are doing well. When you look at the country today and the global sector, it makes people to be able to stand on their own. If you look at the United States, you would see that the government has created X number of jobs. Many of them are young graduates that have been working and now setting up their companies, contributing to the development of the country. Government cannot employ everybody. There must be a way to reorientate Nigerians to do courses that can make them to be self-sufficient tomorrow. That is the ultimate.
Who amongst your children has your dominant trait?
All of them. They can be stubborn a bit when they believe in what they are doing. So, it is now left for you to let them know what they are doing is not good. That is why I am grateful to my father for the discipline infused in me. You must follow the foundation your parents have laid for you. If your father has shown you the way to follow that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, you would be successful if you don’t derail from it. But, if you don’t follow the path your father has guided you, there would be an issue. Go and check those who did not follow the path their fathers have guided, they are not useful in life. In the Yoruba culture, when you follow in the footsteps of your father in positive upbringing, you would be successful. But, when you derail, you become a bad person or a problematic child. And in the future, you would not be happy with yourself. That is the philosophy of life. You must also do the same for your children. Bring them up with the fear of God so that you can rest in your old age. But, when you don’t bring up your children well, you cannot rest in old age.
This is why he wanted you to be a pastor?
That is his own wish but it did not come to pass. Case closed (laughs). I don’t know why he wanted me to be a pastor. But when he pushed for it, I did not qualify because of my age. They were like I was not yet mature enough and I went home.
That means you would have become one?
Perhaps (laughs). But, I would have combined it with my profession. Nowadays, you see a lot of priests that are still professionals in their fields and they are doing well. Some retired as bishops, or venerables. They combined it. So, you can serve God in different ways. And being a pastor is not a ticket to heaven. Your ticket to heaven is holiness, righteousness and faithfulness. So, being a priest does not mean you have a licence to heaven. You need to have direct communion with God. So, that is what my father wished but it did not happen. And he never pushed for it again.
You then went on to study engineering.
Yes, you are correct. And I graduated as an engineer but never practised. I ended up being an administrator – road safety expert – which is okay for me. That is the beauty of being an engineer. As an engineer, there is no where you cannot work because it is a rugged field. Peradventure if I had schooled abroad, I would have been in a different profession. The environment determines what you want to be. Like my sister who initially said she would like to become a sister (nun), she changed her mind growing up. And I was surprised when she said she would like to be a teacher. The environment determines what you want to be in life and that is why there is need for guidance and counselling in schools so that they can give students various options on what they can undertake. A lot of people have come to me, but when I look at their CVs, they are not marketable. There is always a request for professionals. Again, they would tell you a minimum is second class lower. The way we were taught in school then made you to be independent and stand alone. It made you see life and resolve what you want to be.
You were an ‘A’ student in school.
I read a lot. I faced my studies. You see, there must be purpose for everything you are doing in life. If your purpose is excellence, you must work towards it. That is the essence of our corporate strategic goals; that this year we want to achieve this and we are pursuing it religiously. When you cannot achieve the purpose, you roll over some. But, it is not every time that the goals set are met. But efforts have been made to get to that. And that is the way life is – you put blocks on one another.
Any link between your father’s spartan training and you doing well in school?
Absolutely. Parents must have influence over their children. If parents don’t have influence over their children, something is wrong then. Who will then influence the child? That is why parents must influence their children positively so that they can have rest tomorrow. If parents don’t influence their children, somebody outside would do and they won’t have rest tomorrow. That is why some people would say ‘it is my uncle that brought me up and showed me the way of life’. So, the emotional attachment is to the person who influenced him in life. In my primary school (Baptist Primary School, Liberty Road in Ibadan) days, I was a young boy with a parting on my head. I was a young handsome boy with one broken tooth and very shy.
You must have a nickname.
I was not given any nickname in primary school but in secondary school, they used to call me Jawando (laughs). I don’t know why. But, again, that is life. You must pass through the system and the system must pass through you and that is what makes you a man. I was just a disciplined student. I schooled abroad. All my education till secondary school was in Nigeria. But, government sponsored me abroad.
You didn’t think of not coming back?
When you are sponsored for all these, you shouldn’t abscond. A lot of Nigerians abscond. Come back and appreciate what government has done. Serve them and when you serve them, it is rewarding. I came back and it is rewarding for me. I came back because I believed in the country and the only way to repay was for me to come back. And I can remember, I did socials while in school. I went to parties. But, my academics were my priority. Friday nights and Saturdays you relaxed yourself. You see, you must give yourself a break a little bit and you must involve yourself in some social activities too because those are the people you meet tomorrow. You cannot be an island to yourself.
You still attend parties?
Well, once a while. But, I attend weddings now. But, you are regimented.
How do you deal with ladies’ advances?
You don’t give them the room. You mind your business. A limit has a limit.
What is your love story?
We were all family friends. We were both childhood friends and we attended the same church and we are still attending the same church even up till now. I found some things in her.
Humility and care. When I told her my intention, she said she was going to think about it. We have spoken about this that the mentality in the 70s and 80s is not the same. When you have responsible family friends, the children would be responsible. Those are the things about life.
Did she tell you why she gave a ‘Yes’?
She liked me as a person. She believed that I could be a good partner for her. You know the approach in the 70s and 80s was more mature. Then, you see the reality. But now, pretence is too much.
What is your vice since there is no man without one?
None. I thank God for the wife I have and God has been a blessing to us. I have no regrets in life. It can only be better.
What gives you so much joy?
Having impacted people’s lives. Well, I have a foundation which is to take care of the needy and widows. It is not for fundraising but purely from the little God has blessed me with. I use that to take care of them. The initiative is to help the poor. The more you help the poor, the more you are blessed. In the scripture, when you give to the needy, God said you will have plenty money. And don’t forget what the scripture says again that you should not be tired in doing good for you will receive the harvest. For the more good you do, you are reaping too. You can never lack. Genuine widows are the best people to take care of. When you take care of them, you can never be stranded. When widows pray for you, those prayers are answered. Same thing with the fatherless and the motherless. You may not know where the money is coming from, but God sees all. So, we must learn to help one another and be our brothers’ keepers. Don’t do it to those who would be using your phone to be pursuing you. Only genuine downtrodden people. To some, N5,000 would solve a lot of problems for them. Look for those people and help them.
The only one, I think, was in 1989 when I was travelling to Ilorin at 8p.m. and there was a crash and I carried eight dead bodies that night to Ogbomoso hospital. When I got to the hospital, the nurses said I must recall all of them. I was labelling them. I cannot forget that event in 1989. We finished that rescue around 2 a.m and that was when I continued my journey. There was heavy downpour. It was a military truck and a bus. And I saw the dead bodies. Of course, I was already in FRSC. So, I came out drenched to save them but they were dead. I put some in my booth and also begged the driver of a pickup, I said ‘Ma ra epo si moto re. Sanu mi’. (I would refuel your van, please help me). I cannot forget that day.
Any lesson from that?
Life has no replacement. It is vanity. I want to be this, I want to be that, it is vanity. Once you close your eyes, you are gone. When your heartbeat stops, that is the end of life. If you don’t have passion for what you are doing, you are a dead person. If you don’t have passion and you want to be a priest of God, you are only deceiving yourself.
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