Former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State in the last election, Chief Adebayo Adelabu, recently clocked 50. Although he lost his father at a tender age, that did not deter him from realising his dream of becoming one of Nigeria’s most notable bankers, having previously functioned as an executive director in First Bank. He recalls his humble beginnings in this interview
How do you feel turning 50?
What a question! I don’t feel old! I just feel a bit grown up, a little bit more mature in wisdom and my perspective to life and aspiration of how I intend to live the rest of my life. I am particularly thankful to God. There is something I try to avoid mentioning but circumstances often compel me to mention it. Even though I pray to Almighty God that after I must have spent 120 years on the surface of the earth the Lord can call me to come and rest, it is worthy of mention that my grandfather on whose platform we are all riding today, the late Alhaji Adegoke Gbadamosi Adelabu, popularly known as Penkelemesi, with all the popularity, achievements, all the ground breaking activities that could be associated to him while he was alive, achieved all these within a space of 43 years. He lived between September 3, 1915 and March 25, 1958.
He lived for just 43 years, and that goes to tell you that it is not how far but how well you spend the little time God has privileged you to spend on earth. I want to go a bit spiritual because Jesus Christ, our Lord who those who profess Christianity believe in, completed his mission on earth at 33 years. That is to also state the fact that it is not how far but how well, and close to half of the world population today still glorify His name and follow Him as His worshippers.
From that, my dad too happened to be the first son of Alhaji Adegoke Adelabu (Penkelemesi) and he died at 33 years. He was a bank manager. He also achieved on his own because I am also part of his achievements. He lived for 33 years. So, if I say 50 years is significant to me, I know what I am talking about. I know what I am talking about because my grandfather and my dad never lived up to 50 years before they died. So, if spent a fortune celebrating this, it is worth it. But that is not much to God. What means a lot to me is just to be thankful to God for sparing my life, for making it possible that within that short period, I am worthy of emulation by others and my achievements till date though not fully satisfied, are still commendable. If I have to end my story, I feel thankful to God and I believe that sincerely all that I asked God to do for me before I reach 50, He has done them. I mean all.
While you were in the banking sector, your colleagues called you Oyo State governor in waiting. You also resigned at the peak of your career as the Deputy Governor of CBN to have a shot at the Oyo State governorship seat but lost the election while you were still 48. If you had achieved that, you would have said today that you are fulfilled. Any regret?
Yes, looking at it from the surface, you are right. I may not be very religious, but to an extent, I am spiritual. I believe in God controlling our activities on earth. I believe that it is only one God that is in charge of the earth and I also have my sympathy for both religions. I am a Muslim and my Muslim name is AbdulWaheed. My wife is a Christian and my mum is a Christian. So, I have sympathy for both religions.
I will say that I have no regrets because physically I have not clinched the position of the Oyo State governor which I aspired to, which was even the main reason why I left my job then. But let me tell you that I will see myself as someone with foresight and I know what I want. I am quite proactive. I don’t react to situations and circumstances. I plan what I want to achieve ahead. If I am doing something now, it is not for the immediate but for what I plan to achieve in future.
I laid down three requests before God, years back. While we were growing up and I was in secondary school, I assessed myself and I knew where my strengths were in terms of academics. My former school mates can testify to this. I wanted to become an accountant, a banker, an economist, and that was what I had in mind. But from class three, I was the best in almost all the science subjects. You know they would now group you into classes: full science class, social science class, commercial and arts. I was number one in full science with Further Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology because I was always leading in all these.
I knew my strength and I knew my weaknesses. My strength was in Mathematics and Economics. Any subject that I cannot hold just a single textbook and read and pass, I will never venture into it, because I was a very serious student. I had a lot of extra-curricular activities when I was in school. I was never coming to class all the time because I was a social animal then. I was a break dancer. I loved dancing and partying so much that I could compromise going to class. I was representing my school in literary and debates society, winning many medals.
So, I knew myself that any other subject that would take me out of reading a textbook, I would not do it, but they required laboratory work to do sciences. Even classes, I have not attended let alone going to laboratories to mix chemicals. And in Biology, they say bring a rat tomorrow, open it, this and that. I didn’t have the temperament, the patience for all that. I knew that if I pick Economics textbook, O.A. Lawal, Iyirere or Teriba (approved popular authors at the time) within two hours, I could read up all the 12 topics. Overnight, I could prepare for all my exams and I knew I would get nothing less than 80 or 85 per cent. The same thing with Mathematics, Literature – you just need to pick Weep Not Child by Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka this and that and you finish and go and write exams.
I succeeded in it probably because I didn’t enjoy so much of a parental care. I was just four years old when my dad died. My mum was 23 years old. The first wife was 28 years old, my mum was 23 and their husband died at 33. So, he had two girls he left behind as widows. Will you ask them not to go and remarry? They had their lives to live. So, the seven of us, they just packed us to our grandmother’s place. They went to remarry about two or three years after. We were with an old woman that was just a petty trader, selling pepper, onions and all that. How would you expect such a woman to fully take care of us? So, I was always on the street.
The motherly love was still there; at least the woman would see us come home to sleep and she would know our whereabouts. But then, there was no full control of my activities because I grew up with an old woman. If I didn’t go to school, nobody would know. If I went, nobody would know. So, I had that freedom of choice and I want to thank God that it worked for me. If little children have that kind of opportunity, eight out of 10 of them would derail. I was able to choose what I wanted and today, are there no regrets.