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I’ll never be a polygamist – Justice Minister

Prince Adetokunbo Kayode (SAN) now the Attorney General of the Federation )

By Funmi Komolafe and Abayomi Adesida
Sometime last year, labour minister, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode ( now the attorney general of the federation )  lost his father, who had 43 children.  What’s is like growing up in that set up ?  Saturday Vanguard had a brief audience with the minister in his office.   He spoke to us on why he’ll never be a polygamist, his love for Lagos and a secret women hold dearly.

You are from a polygamous family, in what way has your background shaped your life and are you a  polygamist?
Prince Adetokubo Kayode “ No and I will never be because my father quietly, subtly advised us that it was not the best.
Really?

Yes, because he did it   but if you wanted to do it, he would respect your decision  but he thought that it was not necessary unless of course you are the eldest male.  Luckily for me, I am not the eldest male.

My elder brother is free to do whatever he wants to do but I am  just struggling to even cope with one wife not to talk of adding one more to it.

Now how did I get out? In the Yoruba traditional setting, polygamy has a lot of implications.  Far beyond economic implications, there are other issues.  We were just lucky.  First of all it was almost like a miracle that he could maintain the family together.

My father had about 12, 14 , 15 wives.

How many children?

…43 but one thing he insisted on  was education.  He never joked with that.  He never had money but he couldn’t joke with   education .  Right now, out of the 43, only the last three are in secondary schools.   About three are in higher institutions, every other person is a graduate.  We have about five lawyers, we have medical doctors, we have engineers.

We were lucky .  By the time many of us were going to  school, my father was transferred to the North and in the north the truth was that there was free education.  So, he did not need to pay, the way he was paying in Lagos.  There is free education in the South West but I think immediately after Chief Obafemi Awolowo left power,(as Premier of Western Nigeria) nobody can really say education was free.

When we were in school, we were paying.  I was in CMS Grammar School and I paid a lot of money and most times, the money could not be paid and I had to be driven out of class but it never affected anything. Like I said, I was lucky but I think the lesson which I have seen which is also very unique, is my father never emphasised the wife.

He emphasised the children over the wife.  That is , you can hardly know who is the mother of a particular child.   My elder sister was taken as the mother of every body and she de – emphasised  segregation within the family   and he ( my father)  expects people to eat together because in a polygamous life, you are not going to eat the food of the other woman because of fear of poison and all sort of things but that we never did.

People cooked in rotation and you must eat or you go hungry.  By and large,  the weman also found out the futility of fighting because if the whole idea was to get the attention of the man, the man   was not looking at anybody. In fact ,there is chance that he would bring in  another wife.

So,  there was hardly any need to fight.  Also by the time, we all grew up to a certain level, he allowed the children to intervene .  Like the young ones causing trouble. He would not complain until I get home then he would present   the case  to me, and I would judge the matter .

Are you a Lagos boy by any standard?

More than most people who call themselves Lagosians.

How?

First, I had my primary school in Lagos, secondary school in Lagos, attended  the University of Lagos, attended law school in Lagos.  I’m a Lagos man to the core at every level of it.

Do you miss Lagos?

Lagos is a big challenge.  Yes. Sometimes you love the energy of Lagos but the problem is that immediately you are able to get out of Lagos,   you will not be able to cope with the energy of Lagos but I’ve been lucky because I have been going in and out especially when I was in private practice.

I would go to Lagos, spend a week and come back.  Go in and out, come back the same day but civil servants and other people who left a sedentary life and who had to come to a place like Abuja or Kaduna,   when they spend six months, they can’t cope with Lagos again but Lagos is getting better now.

I think the   Governor is doing a very good job tidying up the place, making it look fairly clean and   even the transportation system is working very well and I’m sure, immediately he is able to implement the light rail system, the metro rail which Governor Jakande had tried to do about 30 years ago… immediately he is able to do that , I think Lagos will be far, far better but I think that with his efforts, Lagos is a city that you really want to come and have your weekend but generally I like Lagos and anytime I have the opportunity to be in Lagos for a weekend, I always love it.

One, because nobody will know where I am.  I can always link up with my friends quietly anywhere, Ikeja or Ikoyi or anywhere.  There are so many places you can stay in Lagos.

How do you relax?

Well, relaxation….   I   Sit down at home, read a novel because I always have to read.  Usually, it  is just sitting at home.  I love sitting at home. Get to do something, I’ve always wanted to do.  Hanging a picture or cleaning the compound or changing the shape of something like that.  I am a bit domestic.

Are you saying your wife will give you a vote as a good husband?

Yes but sometimes may be… you know women don’t   like men to stay at home because you will become overbearing, intervene in their own … what they think is their own area. By the time you say, why is this here, why don’t you put it there.

You ( the man) change it and the following day, you will find out that they will return it back to where they put it initially because they have their own reasons for doing that.   I’m fairly comfortable staying at home.  Very comfortable.

I encourage most men to spend more time  at home because you find out that you miss a lot of things   in your life if you don’t spend more time at home.

It is difficult because of the nature of the work that we do but any chance you have, its good to spend it at home.

Since you come from a large polygamous family, now that your father is dead, who holds the family together and how close are your kids to the larger family members?

Ha..  that is a problem but we have a tradition of going home every Christmas which is a typical Ondo state , Ekiti or Ara oke tradition so children really get to mix.  Secondly, most children don’t stay with their parents.  You have my brother’s , sister’s children staying with me and vice-versa that happens.

Also there is a general volume of mobility within the family but more importantly because the family is so large now, I have five kids, some of my brothers have five, three or four.  We are talking of two to three hundred .
That’s enough to make a town

Yes actually, we are a town.  ( General laughter) but in Christmas time,   we encourage people to come home. During the burial of my late father, a lot of people were home, during Christmas. A lot of people were home and we had  a family meeting which was attended by anybody who is above 18 years.

I know you are talking really about the kids.  Yea, the kids love going home but it’s a bit stressful and expensive   but they love going home and they do enjoy it running up and down.

Editor’s note: This interview was conducted when he was Labour and Productivity Minister


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