Why I Had Nine Kids At 36 – Lagos Lawmaker, Ipoola Omisore
He is perhaps the oldest lawmaker in the Lagos State House of Assembly, but Hon. Ipoola Omisore believes he could do whatever his younger colleagues do.
Omisore, who is representing Ifako/Ijaiye 2, is the Chairman of the Committee on House Services and Special Duties, and he is one of the most articulate lawmakers in the House.
The lawmaker, who is from the famous Omisore Family of Ile-Ife, Osun State, is blunt and he never hid the fact that he is stubborn in a positive way.
The seasoned politician revealed that he had nine children at the age of 36, while thanking his mother for being hard on him, which he said prevented him from becoming an area boy.
He also warned that revolution is imminent in Nigeria, and that the government must rise up to the challenges of poverty in the country during a chat with the journalists covering the Assembly at their weekly ‘Time Out With The Press.’
Can we know you better?
I am Ahmed Ipoola Omisore from the royal dynasty of Omisore Family of Ile-Ife, Osun State. I came from a very big family, very notable and the largest in West Africa. My father was Alhaji Saliu Omisore, Imam of Olorunsogo Mosque and the Baba Adinni of Ile-Ife Muslims and my mother is Alhaja Awawu Adereju Omisore, a native of Ejinrin, Epe, Lagos State and Iya Adinni of Ojokoro Muslims, she celebrated 90th birthday last year August. I am the 58th child of my father and I have 18 younger ones. In my family number does not matter and we believe so much in education, even ordinary carpenter in my family might be a graduate. I was born on July 8th 1948. I went to Arabic School at my early age. In 1955, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo introduced free education and I followed a relative, who was taking his own children for registration to a school, and in those days, you could not register for school if your hand does not touch your ear. I registered at Ansar-Ud Deen Primary School in January, 1955. I left primary school in 1960, when Nigeria gained independence and enrolled at Anglican Modern School, where I read modern 1, and I was admitted to the famous Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife in January, 1962.
In those days, it was a great achievement to go to secondary school, and I walked majestically into town and felt like a king. In 1967, I left school and I had Grade 2 Division and I was one of the most brilliant students in school.
The late Dele Giwa was my classmate at Ansar Ud-Deen Primary School and we both moved into Oduduwa College, I played pranks there and I joined a gang of students, who were not attending classes. Any idea someone from Lagos brought was always welcomed and one guy brought an idea that we could rent a house outside the school and dig a hole into the school compound so that we could sneak there whenever our parents were coming. We did this throughout the year and at the end of the year, I knew nothing. As at Class 3, I didn’t even know what Amoeba was in biology, and I failed the exams and I had to repeat the class in 1965, but I learnt my lessons from that. I was very proud as a senior, and we used to punish junior students, but I became an object of ridicule, when I repeated the class. I was initially ashamed, but I swallowed my shame and repeated the class. I was a short distance race athlete, a member of the Literary and Debating Society, press club and Muslim Students Society. Dele Giwa was our editor-in-chief for the school magazine. The magazine groomed us in the act of writing and that actually built Dele Giwa.
There were crisis amongst the Muslim leaders of our town then and Imam Bello and Imam Adeosun fought for the post of Imam of the town for about 27 or 29 years. I now wrote an article titled, ‘Imam Bello the Great’ and his opponent was described as ‘Hot Hearted Adeosun.’ The article generated a lot of crisis in the school and in the town. My father took it upon himself and in 1981, he said that this Imamship tussle must end and he went to the then Ooni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Aderemi and the issue was resolved and my father was made the Baba Adinni of Ife Muslims for his efforts on the matter after 30 years of fighting.
I grew up in the Omisore Family, a very large one, all the houses in our compound belonged to Omisore, we lived a communal life and we slept in the compound, so no parent would give money only to his children, he would give money to all the children, who sleep in his house overnight. The real Omisore died in 1941, he was my grandfather. I was very tough as a young child; there must be action wherever I was. My mother did not allow me to stay at home, he would ask one teacher or the other to take me home. I also used to live with my elder brothers. I lived with teachers all my life, my mother was tough on me, but my father pampered me. I took part of my mother and father’s attribute. My mother is very eloquent, she is current, brilliant and she is very talented. My father was frank; he is a giver to a fault like a typical Muslim.
We lived a communal life in Omisore and we used to wear each other’s clothes and the girls in town knew us with this. I was trained by the Western Region Government briefly and I worked with them. I got accelerated promotion and I was posted to the Cocoa Board in Apapa Wharf, we also worked at Creek Road, Apapa.
Later, when I saw the way graduates were being respected, so I decided to travel abroad in 1971. We played a lot of pranks then and getting international passport in Nigeria was difficult, so we went to Benin Republic to get international passports with different names. We were about five, four of them traveled. My friends traveled in 1970, but I traveled in 1971, I went to Hamburg in Germany, but you had to study their language first, so I went to a language school called Cologne Institute, but the language was so tough, I couldn’t even get a job, so I decided to escape to England and I got there in July 1971. I initially wanted to study insurance, but they said I needed to have OND to study the course, so I decided to change to advertising.
When we were in school, I was captivated by some commercials like those of Sun Gas, the rhythm was very interesting. When I told my people that I wanted to study advertising, they said I would not get a job because my siblings used to study engineering, law and all that, but I told them I would succeed. We would go to the library and study, and I took tuition and I passed my exams easily. I won awards as the best overseas student and I had one of the best results because I had distinction in advertising. The Nigerian embassy in the UK then organized a party for me then. I came to Nigeria and worked at WNBC in Ibadan, Oyo State as Commercial Officer, Vincent Maduka was the General Manager. But, Ibadan was too quiet for me and I later came to Lagos and worked with an advertising company. I went to join another company that published the first yellow pages. I later started a school where I trained a lot of people in advertising; I subsequently worked with Grant Advertising, where I became Deputy Client Director. I later set up my own company with partners and I set up another one with another partner, where I was the Managing Director from there I came to the House of Assembly. I was the Vice President of Advertising Council for four years, President for four years and I was a member of LASAA Governing Council as president of the advertisers’ association. We came here to attack the bill creating LASAA; I saw some anomalies in the bill and we decided to challenge it. The present Speaker of the House now, Rt. (Hon.) Adeyemi Ikuforiji was the Chairman of the House Committee on the Environment, and Rt. Hon. Jokotola Pelumi was the Speaker then, and Ikuforiji said that I could be a member of the House one day with the way I spoke then, they gave us two slots and I got one of it. I have been a member of the Governing Council of APCON since 1988, Chairman of Advertising Standard Panel and any judgment we give would go to Appeal Court if it is to be challenged. Two of my children are also in advertising and some of them are studying mass communication in Ogun State University, now Olabisi Onabanjo University. I came into the assembly through the Community Development Association (CDA). I was Chairman of Alakuko CDA for six years, first Vice-Chairman of Alakuko CDC. Coming here is purposeful; I am a ranking legislator, immediate past chairman of House Committee on Information and Strategy and now the Chairman of House Committee on House Services.
You said you were very stubborn, while growing up, do any of your children take after and do you still chase ladies like you used to do?
Talking about stubbornness, I am very stubborn, even till now. You can be sure I am stubborn, but with a difference, in those days, there was moral training, you had to greet elders, our stubbornness in those days was different. I have some stubborn children like me; one of them is just graduating after spending 10 years in the university. Not that he was not brilliant, but because of stubbornness. There was a time I had to go and beg in his school because he left school without the permission of the university to Akungba in Ondo State to fight over a girl in the university there, and before he got to school, they had called his school and I had to go and beg them before they allowed him into the school.
Also, about four years ago, he came from school and I gave him some money and I still had some money with me, but the following day, he called me on the phone and was shouting that he had been kidnapped, I asked him to tell me where he was kidnapped, he said it was outside the school and I said he was on his own. The second day, the leader called and said ‘Mr man, I am talking to you, we are going to kill your boy.’ I asked them to give the phone to my son again and he repeated that he was kidnapped outside the school. I asked the leader, ‘how many children do your parents have,’ and said five, I said, ‘I can afford to lose the boy, I have 15 of them, so you can kill him.’ I shouted him down and I stopped picking their calls. The following day, the boy called my driver that he had been released. I was having about N4 Million from which I paid his school fees then, he went to organize amongst his friends to play me, it was a big joke and a lesson that you don’t give up as not all kidnap cases are real. A man once organized his own kidnap so that his elder brother could bail him out with some money.
It seems you are close to 70 years of age and considering your age, what are your plans for 2015?
Age is a matter of number, there is hardly anything young people do that I cannot do, if I am your colleague, there is nothing you do that I cannot do. Asking about women, I am a ladies’ man, I like them, they like me, until I get to the grave, I would not stop admiring them, so I watch what I do, what I eat and even my stature, which is natural. I would be 66 and it has nothing to do with what I do. If you want to be old, you would be old, if you want to be young, you would be young, it is a thing of the mind. When it comes my political ambition, I got to the Assembly at the age of 60, I am a fulfilled man, I graduated in the United Kingdom in 1974, and I worked for 32 years, I am a community man, if I came in at the age of 60, so you would still have to give me time. Legislature is a different ball game unlike the executive, where they say you can only serve two terms, the more you are here, the more you know the job. It was in the third year of my first term that I started to know what I should know. They had cheated me far, and by the time I knew it, election was coming. By the time I came for the second term, I had been established. In you first term, you are a trainee legislator, in your second term, you are established and in your third term, you would be grounded. It is like going to meet the Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Musibau Kolawole Taiwo, who has been here for 15 years, I have just spent seven years and you want me to go. I came in as a CDA man from Alakuko. It is the problem of my people that was uppermost in my mind, when I came. Where Ojokoro is now is farther than where it was then. Anytime we went to the US or UK, whatever others do, I also do, and they know me for that, they cannot beat me to it.
How related are you to Senator Iyiola Omisore and how would you compare your period with now as you had nine children at 36?
Having many children is hereditary, my grandfather, the real Omisore died in 1941, he was survived by 99 sons and 58 daughters yet ‘abiku’ worried him so much. We are one of the largest families in West Africa, for those who come from a background of one or two children, if you try to have many children you would regret it. Like Ijaw children, if you throw them inside water, they would not die, but you cannot do that for others. My own is in-born and it is not deliberate, I had nine children at the age of 36, today, I have 15 children, my first two children are doing well in Britain, but don’t copy others. Iyiola Omisore is a son of my elder brother; his father is an oba in Ile-Ife. We only belong to different political families; our fathers were in the progressive party. Our father, Omisakin Omisore founded the Action Group with the likes of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He was one of the founders of Tribune Newspapers, he was a shareholder. But you know in those days, they could re-capitalise and you would be thrown out. My brother, Iyiola Omisore was a member of the progressive family, but by error of omission or commission he got himself out of progressive politics, he was the deputy of former governor Bisi Akande then in Osun State, he was in a haste to become governor, so he lost his bearing and got edged out of progressive politics, he moved to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and he became a torn in the flesh of our party. He is my brother, if you talk about radicalism, he is behaving like the Omisores, he is not as bad as he is being painted, he wants something and he is displaying the attributes of his political party and I am displaying that of my party. I am an embodiment of progressive politics.
From your experience in politics, do you think the Nigerian electorate can assess candidates and choose the best candidate for the job?
Today, most people who belong to parties don’t even contribute, they take money. If there is a political party, where you don’t contribute, you have to take whatever they give you. Democracy is about 400 or 600 years old in other countries. So, we are still growing, but the fastest way to allow people to make their choice is independent candidacy, I don’t know why the National Assembly is shying from this. If you don’t choose me and I feel I want to contest, I would do so and if I win I may come back to your party. But, the people are just being given the party’s candidates.
Looking at the recent governorship election in Ekiti State, where Governor Kayode Fayemi of the APC lost to Ayo Fayose of the PDP, now your brother, Iyiola Omisore is trying to get close to the grassroots in Osun State as the governorship candidate of the PDP, what is your reaction to this?
We know that the PDP is not more popular than APC in Ekiti State, there were some lapses here and there that made PDP to win in the state. Even if we are not going to challenge the result, we need to challenge certain aspects of the election, is it fair for about a thousand soldiers to be posted into a state where there is no war, is it fair for 1,000 policemen to man a polling booth of about 180 voters. I suspect that Mr. Ayo Fayose won that election because they had a script, we played into their hands, and the PDP used their tricks to win the election. We can get a court declaration to stop the posting of such a large number of soldiers to a state during election. They could stay in a place and come out if there is an emergency. But for the PDP and the police to overwhelm a place is not good. Ayo Fayose was able to connive with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who insisted that you must have the permanent voters card to vote in the election. I suspected that the PDP collected their own voters’ card in bulk from INEC, while we expected that our own people would collect theirs at the polling booth, you cannot blame someone for being clever. I think we have learnt our lessons, we should block all loopholes in Osun State. Our Governorship candidate in Osun State is more than a grassroots person, so going to the grassroots as Omisore is doing cannot stop Governor Rauf Aregbesola from winning a second term. I am not saying Senator Iyiola Omisore cannot be governor, but he should come to a progressive party, he has strayed into a strange land, he would come back one day. Our father was a financier of Egbe Omo Oduduwa and Action Group. In one of my facebook postings, which I have since compiled into a book, I said that ‘I have a dream that Iyiola Omisore would come to APC,’ he would be Governor, but he must come to the progressives. He is in a party, where they make money, but he must come to a party, where we serve people.
You said you are stubborn, but I can say you are ambitious, you went abroad to study, what advice do you have for area boys to let them know they could also achieve in the future?
I want women to be careful the way they handle their children, most of these area boys are more brilliant than some of us here. Some women bring home bastards, some of them smoke when they are pregnant and this has a spiritual connotation. Holy Spirit would not follow negative people. Take care of your children because whatever they become start from young ages. I once met an area boy, who had master’s degree, we should pray for these boys because they could be redeemed. If not for my mother, I would have been an area boy, some of my mates turned out to be area boys, tipper drivers and all that. It was my mother, who treated me with iron hands and prevented me from being wayward.
Can the legislators make a law to prevent doctors from going on strike?
Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable. We are yet to ensure proper treatment of workers in Nigeria. The government can have a loose arrangement with doctors, the government should stop employing doctors on full time, it should be a part time job since most of them have their private clinics, they are giving you condition and you cannot meet the conditions. The government should plan a way where they would be paid hourly and paid well.
We are having numerous crisis in the country such as bombing and the menace of the Boko Haram sect, yet the NLC seems not to be doing anything, what is your assessment of this?
Everything is declining in Nigeria, the quality of life, quality of leadership, quality of electorate. The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) is silent, gone are the days of the likes of Comrade Adams Oshiomole, there was a time NLC was the only opposition party in Nigeria, today it is the opposite.
We heard you had some encounters with the military during your days in advertising, can you recall it?
I had a nasty experience as the Commercial Manager of the WNTV in Ibadan in 1976, when David Jemibewon was the military governor. There was a commercial by Lever Brothers, where a lady was wearing g-string pant, we didn’t look at it carefully before it went on air. The next thing was that the governor ordered our arrest for showing obscene picture. They didn’t meet us at the station, and they came to arrest us in houses. I was locked up at Agodi Prison for showing the film with one Mr. Kolawole and the experience was so bad, we were asked to jump and look at the sun.
What do you think we ought to have done that we didn’t not do that is now affecting our security in Nigeria?
Where you have a kind of feudalism and the rich is oppressing the poor there would be problem. I once had a friend, who I followed to his place in Bauchi State many years back, there I saw people paying homage to the father. I asked him what they were saying, he said they were telling him ‘our grandfather served your grandfather, our father served your father, we are serving you today, our children will serve your children.’ All sorts of things were going on there and it has backfired now, religion is just a smokescreen, so they are just paying the price in the north now. Even in the south, what we are seeing is a revolution that is waiting to explode. In my constituency, I have about 3,000 unemployed youths; we are trying to do everything to help them but it is not enough. They asked us to submit only five names out of 3,000 people. We should know that revolution is imminent in Nigeria if the rulers, including me, do not change their ways. If the children of the poor do not get better, the children of the rich are not safe.
What are the challenges of being a legislator?
I once wrote about the challenges of an elected officer on my facebook. We have failed to educate the people about our job, many of them don’t know the differences between us and the executive, they make all sorts of requests from us. They would tell you, ‘I want to pay school fees,’ and all that. But, I have to give the people credits. We once asked a foreigner if they experience such in their country, he said that ‘a madman would not allow whoever takes his luggage to go scot free.’ He said that the wealth of 30 or 100 people are in one hand, there is poverty in the land. When their children are getting married, they send the requests with the invitation cards; you are bad if you are not giving them money. Unfortunately, Abuja is being used as a yardstick for what we are earning in the states. Things are better in Abuja, the challenges are there, but you have to play in-between and find your way.