Saturday 18 January 2014

'Awolowo Never Understood Real Politics At Anytime' - Dr.Omololu Olunloyo -

Culled from Punch

Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, a former governor of Oyo State, tells GBENRO ADEOYE that he was not disappointed that he spent less than three months in the office as governor

First, my condolences on the loss of your mother, Alhaja Tejumola Abebi Olunloyo. Thank you very much, she lived long enough and escorted me in the journey of life long enough. I’m going to be 79 in a few months. We’re in the midst of the funeral and I hope in the next month, we will conclude the final funeral ceremony but as they say, it’s something that never will be forgotten since one has only one mother.

What major influence did she have on you? The major influence my mother had on me is to stick by one’s gun in anything that one wants to do; to determine to succeed by working hard at it and to believe that nothing is impossible. She was a very tough person, even aggressive and that is part of the attributes I inherited from her and I count it to be of very great use to me in a hostile world. She didn’t allow anybody to intimidate her, however rich they may think they are, whether inside or outside the family, and that has been my outlook too towards life.

The aggressive part, how has it helped you? Yes, when you want to achieve any goal, it may be in sports, academics, or politics, when you have intimidating circumstances, obstacles, whether man-made, natural and unnatural obstacles, I found out that I was able to overcome some obstacles. I mean for instance, 48 of us were admitted to the Government College, Ibadan out of 2,002 that sat for the entrance exam. Three of us were from Standard five and I was on scholarship. All the other 45 boys were standard six boys and they had done an extra year in Primary school, so they were way ahead of us. In the first year, they beat us to smithereens and in the second year, we caught up with them in seven subjects. We remained on top of the class permanently because during the holidays, we worked all the problems in the books; Durrell mathematics, Durrell algebra, Durrell geometry, Durrell calculus and we decided that we must attain world standard. We had two excellent teachers in mathematics.

The aggression was that we would wake up in the morning and decide to work all the questions. We knew one year before school certificate that we were definitely going to get Grade 1, there was nothing stopping us. There were many brilliant old boys, many brilliant classmates and many brilliant junior boys. So, you learnt some humility apart from aggression too because in war, you could get caught. Some junior boys too could teach you a trick or two or something because we had senior boys who were not as bright and we had junior boys who were brighter. And so you learn to respect everybody. Even in Britain, that confidence was like that. When we were doing tutorials, the professor would ask ‘Olunloyo, what did you get?’ I would say ‘three-quarter.’ He would say, ‘yes, I’ve worked it out, I got three-quarter myself. So we must both be right.’ And the other boys in the class would say ‘either you are both right or you’re both wrong.’ We had a sense of humour. But you had to work through all the problems.

You are famously called ‘mathematician’, what’s the story? I am an engineer but in the school mathematics was my penchant. There was almost no problem I could not solve. But when I left school, the media would say ‘mathematician’. I had the distinction under the (Obafemi) Awolowo (government) of being given two simultaneous scholarships. One for engineering, one for mathematics and they so indulged me and allowed me to use both scholarships. In the engineering class, I came first and in the mathematics class, I came first in the university. It was a great privilege. I used that of engineering first and they sent me to Scotland where you have a four-year course, I had a dramatic career in St. Andrews. I got there and they said everybody from overseas would start from the first year and I was far ahead of Year One. I told them that I would like to appeal and I gave my reasons. I appealed to the Senate. The Senate turned it down and said I must go to First year, so I devised something. I asked them to give me an exam with seven days’ notice. One in physics, one in chemistry and one in mathematics and that they should decide where I should go from the test results. They agreed to give me the test. In physics, I got 84 upon 100; in chemistry, I got 88 upon 100 and to crown it all; in mathematics, I got 98 upon 100. Sum total 270 over 300, 90 per cent average. At the end of that second year, the Dean took me to the Faculty meeting and said he had brought some good news to the senate. ‘The African man who said he was beyond first year and asked that we allow him go to second year, the second year results are out and he actually came first in the class. We would have wasted his time.’ Then, there were six gold medals: the first year, I got one that year out of two, the second year, I got the two and the third year, I got the two. So I got five gold medals out of six.

The third year, I did honours, in aerodynamics and hydrodynamics, they called me and said they didn’t usually show scripts but I had got 100 per cent; thermodynamics which was the horror of all students all over the world and they had one question- had I learnt it before coming. I said ‘no, you taught me everything here. So I’m very grateful to you’. In drama, I was first and then they did something then, the person who comes first in each university, 26 of them then, they would send the results to the British Association for the Advancement of Science to compare. When they compared, they declared me best overall Engineering student. That price had eluded the university for 11 years out of its 600 years of existence. So when I was going to graduate, by the way, Bolanle Awe and I graduated that day; all the professors, the vice chancellor, students, all their parents, they gathered up, clapped and clapped and clapped once the vice chancellor had announced the result and that they were grateful to me for bringing the British Association Prize back to the University of St. Andrews , the first university in Scotland. I made quite some money. The Mayor of the town wrote a letter to the Dean of the Faculty that he wanted his son to become an engineer and that he wanted the most competent postgraduate student to coach him. That he would pay a handsome sum of money, so I was given a letter to the Mayor. So he employed me, paid me some bags of money and I lived like a king for those three months. And then, his son was deaf, so I would write everything on paper (for him). He later wrote me to thank me that he had passed his exam and that he never understood Calculus before I taught him. That only Archimedes, Newton or Einstein were greater and I thanked him very much for the extravagant encomium. I had an interesting career. The queen invited me to Buckingham Palace –‘we know that you are one of the people who have justified our coming to Africa…we are grateful to you for making our effort there achieve some spectacular result.’

At what point did you decide to go into politics and why? When I came back, I wasn’t quite satisfied with Ibadan (UI). I came on January 1 and they promoted me on May 8. That invoked a lot of envy. Then I resigned and went to join University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife)

I was the first lecturer appointed by the University of Ife. They denied me that credit because they falsified through conspiracy the history of the university. The first falsification is that they said the university was started in 1962 which is not true, the university was started in 1961. They also lied that the first chancellor was Awolowo, but the first chancellor was not Awolowo, the first chancellor was SLA (Samuel Ladoke Akintola), whoever is the head of government is the chancellor. While I was doing my engineering practical, (popular politician) Adegoke Adelabu came and removed me from my factory in Kent, (United Kingdom) and took me round Ibadan, announcing that I would be the minister when I came back. He actually died before then. If he had not died and I came back, he would have made me a minister. Not long, (Col. Adeyinka) Adebayo made me Commissioner for Education and I had the distinction of being Commissioner for Education two times.

You first became commissioner at 27, what was the experience like? Now there was a commotion in the Action Group which affected my mind and I was a follower of two politicians in Ibadan who I knew very much. One of them was the first Ibadan lawyer, Mojeed Agbaje. The other man who interested me very much was Lekan Salami of Ogbomoso and Ibadan fame. I took part in the breaking of the door of the Premier’s office, I saw something that was undemocratic. Akintola was the supreme leader, Awolowo left of his own volition without advice to contest the federal election. In the federal election he contested, he had no alliances. Stubborn, aggressive, very hardworking, visionary leader that Awolowo was, he never understood real politics at anytime. In real politics, you have to look at the figures, you have to have allies, there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. You must have some allies. Nigeria is too fragmented for you not to have allies. If you’re counting the fingers of someone with nine fingers, you don’t count in the person’s presence and say you ‘so you have nine fingers.’ We had a brilliant man called Akintola who understood real politics. Awolowo believed that book knowledge was so important but he knew better.

A situation arose; Awolowo wanted to ally with the east and Akintola wanted to align with the north. So there was a crisis: Akintola wanted something, Awolowo wanted something. Where we came in is what I will explain to you now. Awolowo had earlier fought at the Jos conference and Akintola said he demanded that the governor call a meeting of the house and call for a vote of no confidence or of confidence. Or alternatively to dissolve the house and call for fresh elections, but they refused. They denied him an ordinary motion for confidence in the house which is undemocratic. You either test a man’s popularity in the house or you dissolve the house and call for fresh elections. They knew they would spend money and Akintola was eloquent. As a result, there was tension and we protested. That was where they picked me.

Were politicians as corrupt then as they are today? Of course, there was little or none of that. The most important thing is that there was corruption but over one millionth of what it is now.

Then, why do we have so much corruption today? Corruption manifests itself as an attempt by people to reward themselves when the state doesn’t reward them.

Did you think you would win the governorship election when you defeated late Bola Ige, who was the incumbent governor, to become Oyo State governor in 1983? Who is Bola Ige, why the question? What is the importance of the question? He was beaten in the election; he agreed he would be beaten. Ask Akande who was the deputy governor. Who is he? I was in government before him, I was in government after him and I was in government with him. When I was in government before him, I was under Majekodunmi. When I was in government with him under the Adebayo government, I was declared by far the best commissioner. So I had had experience operating in government before him. Most importantly, in Oyo state with free education, I had made my name. After Oluwole Awokoya, I’m the second most important Commissioner for Education the state has ever had. Awokoya was the first commissioner for education. That’s the greatest educationist the Western Region has produced. I claim the second. On August 11, 18 and 25 and September 1982 , Bola Ige assessed his government and said it was not likely they would win the election that was coming. They put it in the cabinet book, he signed it, sealed it. First of all, how did Bola Ige become governor? Should he have become governor at all? He did not contest the primary, so he was not selected to be the governor. He didn’t deserve to contest. Where were the primaries of the UPN held? It was held at Oke-Iho and who won it? It was won by S.M. Afolabi of Ire. You understand me now. They came down to Ibadan, the same thing in Ondo, where Omoboriowo won. But Awolowo wanted his old reliable hands to assist him, so he asked Omoboriowo to step down for Ajasin. Bola Ige’s constituency was Ilesha and there was no Action Group there. It was NCNC in Ilesha. Action Group lost all their seats.

Babalakin probe was set up to see whether the election was rigged or not, I encouraged them to set up the probe. Though, they had the most powerful propaganda but we beat them at their game. In my hands were three copies of the Intelligence report. I was the guru of Intelligence. I would know what they would eat in the night, I would know when they sleep with their wives. I put a security ring round them, something that I studied. It went to court and they were badly routed. The result was three for me, none for him and two neutral. Not 3-2. None for him, he lost the case a day before the judgment. So I’m not particularly interested in that question. There were some correspondences between Ige and I that we should settle and become friends again. They assumed he would win, why? He was coming from a non UPN constituency, he was coming from an NCNC place.

The documents are still there in the cabinet book of the Oyo State, the signature of Bola Ige on the prognosis. He was not of the opinion that they would win the election.

Were you disappointed that your government was scuttled by a military coup after about three months of assuming the position? I was not disappointed. If you see my CV, you will see that I have been Commissioner for Economic Planning and Community Development. I’ve been Commissioner for Special duties. I’ve been Commissioner for Education twice. I’ve been Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, and I’ve been governor and then a member of CONFAB. I have no regrets; all I wanted to do was work.

So looking back as a very brilliant student in school, are you pleased with the path you took in life and how it turned out? Yes, I’m very pleased because I do not believe in knowledge for its own sake. I believe in the application of knowledge to the betterment of mankind. I don’t believe that knowledge itself is anything. Listen to Christiane Amanpour on CNN: Knowledge is power, knowledge is this, knowledge is that. Knowledge should be used for human beings, and I was influenced in that by Adegoke Adelabu. He told me that knowledge should be used to develop the world. I’m quite pleased with myself. After my PhD in the university and the other degrees I got, I taught in (Universities) Ife and Ibadan. What I taught in Ibadan was not what I got my BSc or PhD for. I taught abstract algebra and logic which I learnt on my own which I’m still learning. Sometime in 2010, some students of University of Ibadan met me in the library; I spent six hours there that day. Another time, they met me in the bookshop where I spent three hours. They came to meet me at home to ask if I was still doing mathematics and I said very much. I told them that I was in touch with everything happening in the world of mathematics and that this and that had happened in the last two years. They were amazed and then asked me to come to the university to give them a lecture even though I had left 17 years ago. So I gave the whole school a lecture on mathematics and then they established a chair-Christian Omololu Olunloyo Proletariat Chair of Mathematics.

Has any of your children taken to mathematics the way you did? Well, not to mathematics but to other things. My daughter who has just been made Special Adviser is an artist; she’s an all-rounder. She was a prize girl in mathematics here and in England, did 11 A Levels, including Spanish and Greek. She does interior d├ęcor and so many things as tiny as she is. She did drawing in O Level and A Levels. One member of the family who seems to be the most brilliant was made bed-ridden by the ‘Alli must go riots’. He has been on the sick bed for 34 years. He was just eight years old then. He’s 42 years old now. When Obasanjo saw him sometime back, he wept. But he’s gifted. He’s Akintayo Olunloyo. Then we have an engineer who graduated in 2000 from the University of Ghana with a second class upper. I have one who has a doctorate, though she’s interested in very many things. She’s interested in social networking, she’s interested in criminology. Many people count me as a mathematician in Nigeria but what I used government money for was to study engineering. I’m an engineer, qualified in both civil and mechanical engineering, aeronautics, oil and all these things and I’m a registered engineer, a member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, a member of the American Mathematics Society, so I decided to diversify. I’m not interested in acquiring knowledge for its sake, I think it should be for mankind.

Did you consider who would also have a love for mathematics when you wanted to get married? My wife was a secretary, my own private secretary and she typed very fast- 120 words per minute. She rose to become a teacher in the civil service training school. But she’s a good mother, somewhat impatient; she cooks well when she’s not angry. Her cooking is best when she’s in Togo, Cotonou and London, there are some ingredients in Togo, they have very good cooking oil there and she uses it very well. She has four sons, three daughters.

One of your colleagues in school, Dr. Lekan Are, described you as exceptionally brilliant. Did you have a social life in school? Lekan Are was also exceptionally brilliant, he’s my senior in age but we were in the same class. 2,002 persons sat for the entrance exam in 1947, Lekan Are was second out of 2,002.

Yes, we had a social life in school. The most prestigious games in school were football and cricket. I was the leader of the attack of the cricket team and I was regarded as the best schoolboy bowler in Nigeria because I was the opening bowler for my class, house, school and combined colleges of Nigeria. Lekan Are was the leader of the attack in football. He was number 9 and he scored 20 goals in my team and I got 72 wickets in cricket. For the first time in many years, we beat Kings College, Lagos home and away, we beat Igbobi College home and away, we beat Lagos Grammar School, so it was an epochal year for us. Lekan Are had the distinction of having the neatest notebooks in our final year. Some of us had no notebooks; all the things I knew were in my head in mathematics and so on.

Wole Soyinka became so proficient because his father made him write one essay everyday. His father was called S. A. Soyinka so from the S.A, boys started calling him Baba Essay. He gave Soyinka enough paper, one foolscap sheet and he was also interested in drama. I didn’t like biology, drawing birds and frogs and so on, I was not interested. Also, Latin. I liked literature. Soyinka began learning theatre from the age of 9. We had some very brilliant boys in GCI. They admitted only 24 students in a year out of 2,000 so you must be exceptional.

It’s often said that brilliant people have weaknesses like drinking, women and smoking, which are yours? Everybody has vices. But drinking and women, we were not doing anything like that in school. We were not allowed to be drinking and be touching women. (Turns to his wife beside him and added,) my wife is my witness.

How do you keep busy now? Plenty of things. (turns to wife again and says he’s asking an important question). I study the music of the world, from all over the world. I was president of music society in my university. I don’t listen to music, I study music and I have perhaps the biggest music library in Ibadan. I have a bigger one than Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Ibadan. I’m up to date in music and they also know me in London, when any music comes out. Also horticulture, I built this garden in 1986, somebody built the house in 1944. I plant flowers, I read books and I like to study music too. So I like to be a moving encyclopaedia or brain box.

What about one of your daughters, Ms. Kemi Olunloyo, who’s seen as controversial. What’s your opinion of her? Kemi is an independent-minded person and she is not the kind of person you can suppress. She believes what she believes. Some of them may be wrong in other people’s system. For example, in America, she always fought against crime and drugs and all these things. But I like her condemnation of religion- very bold. Where did these churches come from? There are three or four churches that should be wiped out of the Lagos –Ibadan expressway. All you have to do is build a barb wire or walls along that express, they were there originally but they cut it. When people were more godly in this country, there weren’t so many churches.

How religious are you? I know your mother was a Muslim while your father was a Christian.

Religious? I’m a good man. I love my fellow human beings and I obey some of the laws of God. Nobody observes the ten as David Cameron says. The ten are very difficult to obey. Religion is an opium of the people.

What do you think about Oyo State politics? The government, they are not experienced macho politicians but I think they have good intentions and they have been playing out the intentions. But the whole western region, they have to study Awolowo better. Awolowo had his strengths, he had his weaknesses. Only a mad man would call him perfect but he was the best of his time. If any politician sets out a mission, that mission will go on for years. There are four cardinal principles, but the marks you will give him for education is not the one you will give him for rural development or for agriculture and so on. As a matter of fact, Awolowo placed education as number one and health as number two. In contrast with (Kwame) Nkrumah in Ghana, who placed health as number one and education as number two. As for Oyo State, Ajimobi has transformed the place.

We know that anybody who tries to improve the environment will have to demolish the ramshackle out of the environment and so will be regarded more or less as an enemy of the people, demolishing this, demolishing that. But there are many crazy things that have to be demolished and he‘s done that and he shouldn’t just get ten upon ten in one area and get zero upon ten in the remaining. He should concentrate on education, scholarships, human developments and also infrastructure.

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