* ’How I bagged Ibadan title that I ordinarily should not get in decades’
Senator Lekan Balogun is a great politician . Beyond that, he is Osi-Olubadan, an Ibadan traditional stool that entitles him to become the Olubadan of Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State. In this piece, Balogun tells the story of his life as a private person and politician.
By Lekan Bilesanmi
How did you arrive at being Mogaji and then Osi-Balogun of Ibadan?
It is a long story. The title Mogaji is a family title which of course entitles you to be part of Olubadan-in-Council. After the death of my father,my uncle took over but his reign was such that majority of the members of the family were not happy with him. I was not around when he became the Mogaji. I was away in England and so when I returned, I saw a lot of dirty politicking where money exchanging hands was the order of the day, and I detested it. It was like abandonment of basic traditional values and so by this time that I returned,they were seeing a brand new Lekan Balogun because, before I left the shores of Nigeria, I was extremely gentle, quiet and easy going and reading my Quran. Suddenly I was challenging the prevailing values of corruption. I was very close to the man they elected as Mogaji; his children and I were mates and we are still very close, but, because of what was happening, to really show my displeasure, I stopped greeting him.
I could walk pass him and not greet him. Some members of the family started complaining that he was selling off family properties without telling anybody and I told them that is the kind of man they chose such that, over time, they began to embrace my own new ideas. 10 years after, they were fed up with his reign. I requested for a meeting of family members where all the issues could be trashed out. Unknowingly to me, a lot of people, majority of them, could not tolerate him anymore, the number of attendees was higher than expected. Eventually we took the case to the Olubadan. Suddenly they started saying since we made this man Mogaji, we haven’t known peace and since it’s our turn after his reign, why not put Lekan there since he is the one spear-heading the reform? Meanwhile, my uncle, who is traditionally the eldest and legitimate person to occupy the stool should it be vacant, also came to my house one morning and prostrated saying that I should go for it, that he was old and death was knocking and nearer to him than me.
And that he would support me. Of course I flared up because, in actual fact, I was only fighting for justice irrespective of the beneficiaries of the struggle.So, to me, I was the least qualified person for the stool. It was unimaginable that a former Ahmadu Bello University, ABU lecturer now working in Shell would become Mogaji. I vehemently turned it down. Then two of the people I respected most came calling and were appealing too; then four of my sisters whose children too were even more eligible for the stool came calling too. So I became Mogaji in a peculiar circumstance because, if its measured by age and hierarchy, in decades, I won’t be remembered because it is meant for the oldest. I became Mogaji in my early 30s. I was barely 35 when I ran against the late Chief Bola Ige. I became Mogaji three years after.
Having two wives now would not deter you from acquiring more by the time you become the Olubadan?
Must you have 200 wives to be Olubadan? If I meet somebody that our mind meets, why not? If the variables are rights, why not?, you can become my wife. But I think I have had my fair share of wife issue. My relationship with the opposite is not based on physical attraction. The first thing is the mind, once the minds meet and work in harmony, that is it. Having said that, women is the least of my problems, I am even looking for how to decongest the ones at home. Some of the things I can’t and will never do is to marry any of my late family members wife in the name of “Shupo”. That is really appalling to me. When there are singles all around, why, in the name of tradition, would I now settle down with the wife of my late uncle, cousin and all that? Yes, I am a traditionalist but not to the point of that abnormality
From the way you talked,it appears you must have broken one or two hearts before you eventually married?
I may have broken some hearts. Yes, if I thought our minds met and I discovered that I was wrong, we have to split up. If I thought our minds met and don’t meet, that is enough to break the relationship. I don’t go around breaking hearts only if evidence shows clearly that our minds do not meet. I avoid breaking hearts. I seriously do. But I have been proved wrong on one or two occasions, that our minds did not meet, intellectually that is.
How often do you lie?
Those who do that are morally diabetic. I do not tell lies and won’t. I swear I won’t even, as a politician, tell lies. Though there is a lie that is permitted by Islam and I am sure it is there in Christianity, its called allahuli (Iro Sunnah). For example, somebody came to you about needing money and you knew it was a lie, don’t say, ‘you are a liar’, just tell him ‘I am not buoyant myself’ or, you see somebody that is being chased, he runs to the right and the pursuers ask you where he is, in order to save a life, you say he has run to the left, that is the extent of my lie. In politics too, I don’t tell lies, rather than say something that would give the cheapest advantage to my opponent, I won’t talk; rather than say the truth and the truth places him at advantage over me, I will just keep quiet.
You did not return to the Senate in 2007.Are you still planning a return match?
Sorry, political aspiration is no more for me. I would rather be a kingmaker but,more than that, the only job I can aspire for now is President Goodluck Jonathan’s job. I was already a lecturer in ABU 10 years before he graduated in 1973. In 1983, he came to Oyo to serve as a corper and that was even when I ran for the governorship. Now, I won’t be an agbaya(big fool) if I start chasing his job? I am happy that he is president. God, in his mercy, has decided to make me the father of all of them by being Olubadan, if I get there; so why would I be ungrateful to God by aspiring to be governor or president? I am leaving all that for you people but I would always ensure, where I have a say, that the man that gets there has character and the right temperament . At what stage would I still be chasing political aspiration?
But some of your colleagues are still jostling for political recognition?
That is because they are morally diabetic. What your children, nephews should be chasing, that is what you are fighting for, you are simply morally diabetic.
You are a traditionalist yet a staunch practising Muslim,is this not contradictory?
The point is this, most of the things you have in the tradition have been modified to soothe the prevailing circumstance.Tradition too is dynamic just like life. The traditional title of Mogaji is more of Islamic than tradition; there is really nothing traditional that is shrouded in mystery. There is no contradiction between Islam and tradition. Oba Akinleye was a staunch Christian; some traditional things that he was supposed to do as Balogun, he didn’t do them, he refused but, again, some of these things were not alien to Islam. Most of the traditional rites now have been modified and modernised to soothe the situation of today. The present Oba Olulana is a very good Christian. I am sure he will die a great Christian.
The traditional worshippers still come to the palace, he only prays for them and gives whatever he has, that is all. You see,we don’t produce what we preach. That’s the difference between an atheist and those who believe in God. There is the difference between religion and being religious. The late Tai Solarin was almost an atheist, but when and if he saw a dying man on the road, he would stop, look and possibly take him to hospital. But the pastors, Imams look and continue their journey. I am committed to God not religion. Those ones are not living by the values of their religions; we are living by the teachings of the doctrines of the religion. Going to church does not make you a Christian. Praying five times daily does not make you a Muslim. It is like the perpetrators of this heinous crime calling themselves Boko Haram. What on earth would make you kill an innocent seven-year old child after missing the targeted father? I thought all religions say thou shall not kill.
At the time you contested against the late Chief Bola Ige,were you thinking you would win or just having fun?
I think you are even underestimating it. Indirectly, I was challenging the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Bola Ige was his political child, Bola Ige’s popularity was based on the fact that he was Awolowo’s political son.They were of UPN. That is one aspect. Chief Olunloyo was also in the race and he was like a son to Chief Akinloye, they were of NPN . So, I was in between those two forces, very formidable at that. So, who were you to challenge them at that time? The NPP had an objective which was to present a credible and intellectually sound candidate to be able to match these two juggernauts of UPN and NPN. And suddenly they found me. I even challenged Olunloyo and Bola Ige to a political debate at that time, they both declined. The only thing I had then was intellectual courage, given the series of influences of Nkrumah, Kal Marx or the likes influential I had. I feared nobody at that time. In actual fact , I think I could have come 2nd or 3rd in the election because of my performance and campaign . I was on NTA and BCOS every night. The late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Jim Nwobodo all came to my house at that time . At that time, in most houses, particularly at the dinning table, fathers and mothers could be for UPN or NPN but the kids were for NPP just because of my programmes every night on T.V.
You had barely left your job at the Shell,how were you able to fund the election?
I didn’t have money for the election but once I demonstrated I had the potential, the funds started coming in. People like Solomon Lar, Jim Nwobodo ,all came to my rescue. All I needed to do for the money to come was to show the potential. In fact, I probably spent more money than Bola Ige and Olunloyo , I didn’t win but I surely made an impact, a great one at that time.
How do you cope with the opposite sex?
While growing up, I read many books including the ones authored by Machiavelli and he forbids you taking over property of your followers and my followers include female followers who would have been other peoples properties. I am not an angel but I don’t see myself being tempted by women because I usually get more fearful if and when a woman makes advances at me. Conventionally, it is we the men that make advances, we choose who we relate with or to but when a woman makes the advance to me, it is like she is being sent, she has a motive, obviously and a dangerous motive at that, that is a danger to me and as such I will run away from it totally. So, I don’t easily get carried away with the female folk and I will never take advantage of a woman who has come to seek help. I can’t date my friend’s girlfriend talk less of wife. It makes me cheap.
What are your regrets?
No, never. I have never regretted my actions, to that extents, I don’t have regrets. There are events or actions I have taken though painful, if I have course to do it again, I will do it again.
How true is the claim that Governor Abiola Ajumobi whom you supported against your party in the last polls has not lived up to expectation?
I am still doing my research. A political party is established for certain courses that would improve the living standards of the people.
If the political party derails from those objectives, should I say because I want to be a party man continue to support anti-people policies? Would you call being on the part of the people,anti-people? I don’t work for ACN neither did I declare for ACN, all I am interested in is better governance irrespective of who or which party is there. That he has not lived up to expectation, I think that is subjective because you don’t have your facts. However, by the time we find out that he has not lived up to expectation, I will tell him to his face.
What about the courage to tell him,would you have it?
Nothing stops me from telling him if he hasn’t performed, what do I owe him? He is my aburo and political associate. If I won’t have the courage to tell him, why would I even support him in the first place? What courage do I need to tell him that what he is doing is below expectation? I have told him some things in private that I am not ready to disclose, yet they are not far from what you are saying but it is too early to make any comments but, if at that end of the day, there is need to tell him, why not?.
You protested against the former governor, Christopher Alao-Akala, from being returned. What is your relationship with him now?
He is my aburo and friend. You see, nature is dynamic, he that was bad yesterday can be good today, he who is good today may be bad tomorrow. We have reconciled and, in the spirit of that, he is my aburo and associate.