Restoring sanity to Apapa with Operation Gbale

• Nigerian Navy’s 24-hour operation enters third week
By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor and Sunday Odita

Minister of State for Defence (right) arriving Apapa for his inspection tour of the ports and being received by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Samuel Ilesanmi Alade

Minister of State for Defence (right) arriving Apapa for his inspection tour of the ports and being received by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Samuel Ilesanmi Alade

After a long drawn battle between government and articulated truck drivers for the control of access roads to the Apapa and Tin Can ports, sanity has been momentarily restored to the once troubled Mile 2-Apapa-Wharf-Liverpool-Marine Beach-Ijora corridor.
This long-sought relief came after the Nigerian Navy midwifed a task force, with the combined commitments of all stakeholders operating in the area.
The taskforce codenamed Operation Gbale, a Yoruba word for sweeping, was instituted by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ilesanmi Alade, to proffer lasting solution to the traffic gridlock that has kept Apapa on lockdown for weeks.
This was after the command had identified the traffic problem as a great risk to security agencies, particularly in the light of the recent twin explosions that rocked Creek Road in Apapa.

Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro (left); representative of Apapa resident, Kayode Animashaun; Commanding Officer, Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft, Commodore Emmanuel Uwadiae; Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Samuel Ilesanmi Alade; and Ananie Anderson, Assistant Manager, Operations, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO)

Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro (left); representative of Apapa resident, Kayode Animashaun; Commanding Officer, Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft, Commodore Emmanuel Uwadiae; Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Samuel Ilesanmi Alade; and Ananie Anderson, Assistant Manager, Operations, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO)

Rising to the challenge, Operation Gbale, a 24-hour daily operation was launched to decongest the area and minimize the risks for any acts of terror.

Deploying the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft and Wey, led by Beecroft Commanding Officer, Commodore Ovenseri Uwadiae, to the flash points, the naval personnel immediately set about riding the area of recalcitrant tanker drivers without excessive use of force.

The operation, which started in July 10, has according to Alade, achieved its aim. “Operation Gbale was instituted for the purpose of clearing the traffic gridlock in Apapa and environs. Recently, a lot of people have attested to the fact that the operation is a huge success. You will recall Governor Babatunde Fashola visited thrice and attested to the fact that life is getting better at Apapa.


“The truth is we are not completely there yet, we have to continue what we are doing. With all the efforts and measure put in place now, we believe it will get better. What we are doing is to partner with stakeholders. As a matter of fact, my duty is not to clear roads, but because of the security implication of what is happening in Apapa, we had to take action.

“For now, we are on the road, the operation is still active and until we call it off, my men will still be on the road. We might not be there forever, but we are already inculcating the real sense of responsibility in the tanker drivers so that they can begin to do things the right way before we ultimately withdraw our men,” he said.

Attesting to the improved situation at Apapa, Lagos State Commissioner for Transport, Comrade Kayode Opeifa, told The Guardian: “We are happy the situation is improving daily, especially in relation to traffic management, which is our own responsibility.

“The truck and drivers are cooperating to the best of their ability. I was just told that it took a motorist 30 minutes from FESTAC to pass through Apapa to Victoria Island, even with the condition of the road, which is terribly bad. If the road is okay, the journey should not be more than 15 minutes.”


On Tuesday, the Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, went on an inspection tour of the area, which was cleared of articulated trucks.

Moving in company of the FOC, Real Admiral Alade and some stakeholders, which included Mr. Kayode Animashaun, representing Apapa residents; Ananie Anderson, Assistant Manager, Operations, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO); and officials of the Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), the minister, who toured the entire stretch of the Apapa corridor, commended the FOC for the restoration efforts of Operation Gbale.

In a chat with newsmen, he said decongestion of the area is almost completely done. While work needs to be sped up on the road rehabilitation, plans are already underway to relocate tank farms away from Apapa-Oshodi expressway.

“For sometime now, we have been looking at the security implication of the road congestion here, and given the activities of Boko Haram and other elements within the society who may want to take advantage of the chaotic situation around the port, the Nigerian Navy moved in to clear the area and I am happy that so far, all the stationary trucks have been moved and a passageway have been created to pave way for smooth vehicular movement in and around the port.


“Though there is a significant socio-economic benefit from having a traffic free access in and out of the ports, but the security element is very key to us. I have been briefed by the FOC that the entire area has been broken into eight and officers have been assigned to ensure free flow of traffic, which has eased the situation here in the last two weeks.

“Decongestion is almost completely done, though we have issues with the road, which is affecting the movement of traffic; but I am aware Julius Berger is already working on some palliatives to bring relief to road users.

“This significant improvement in terms of vehicular movement in and out the port is largely due to the efforts of the Nigerian Navy. I am also happy with the way they have engaged all the stakeholders, because sometimes, when you do a solo effort, you run into a lot of difficulty and resistance from some quarters,” he noted.

The minister added that there is need for the Lagos State government to provide a permanent holding bay for trucks, as the previous one used by the truck drivers, which is the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu Truck Terminal, is no longer conducive due to the expansion on the Badagry express road.

“It is when we have that we can have a radio link between the port and the stakeholders, so that whenever the port is ready to have them, there will be a radio communication and they can now proceed to go in. That, we cannot afford not to do as quickly as possible,” he said.

For Animashaun, the lasting panacea to the suffocating traffic in Apapa is improvement of the infrastructure, particularly road network, understanding and synergy among agencies of government operating in Apapa. “Managing all these issues is key to a robust relationship among all the agencies because the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and other agencies cannot operate if the trucks cannot get here,” he noted.


Ilubirin… Mounting concerns over sand-filled Lagos

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
It took a public verbal spat between Governor Babatunde Fashola and the Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, over the ongoing Ilubirin housing estate for the project site to attract a second look from motorists plying the Third Mainland Bridge.
Before the tirade, which began in April, the area had generated a passing interest despite being listed among the locations of the Lagos State Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (Lagos HOMS). The government had planned to build on the reclaimed land, a total number of 1,254 flats, comprising two and three bedroom apartments on eight floors.
Until recently, Ilubirin was inhabited by Ijaws, Ilajes, settlers from Badagry and migrants from Benin Republic and Togo, who traded on commodities that riverine dwellers are known for. Specifically, their men fished, while the women supply fish to the major markets in Lagos.
This was until the Lagos State government demolished the settlement and embarked on reclaiming the place from the sea through the process of sand filling. While the removal of people from the environment was hailed, the reclaiming of land from the sea has continued to attract condemnations.

Ilubirin 2Those who frowned at the sand filling argued that constant encroachment on the ocean and lagoon does not augur well for the state ecologically and environmentally. They maintained that the damage to the ecosystem by excessive reclamation of land is gradual, accumulative and imperceptible, noting that the effects are irreversible.

While Fashola had taken excerption to the minister’s use of military personnel to disrupt the ongoing project, Obanikoro, who represents Lagos in the federal cabinet of President Goodluck Jonathan, had wondered aloud why the state government has decided to build affordable houses on water and with barely a year to the expiration of the governor’s tenure.

“It is no longer a secret that most of the affordable housing communities in the world were built on land and not water. Moreso, the location of the Ilubirin project breaks all the laws on setback requirements for highways and roads.

“This administration has consistently done amateur-styled land reclamation projects across the state, an action that has caused severe environmental damage and extreme discomfort to many families living in Lagos,” he told The Guardian.

Though the act of reclaiming land from the sea is a global practice, it is surprising that the latest one by the state government to build a low-cost housing estate has generated controversies. With the expertise employed by the government in all its sand filling projects, the existence of fears about ecological and environmental impact assessment of the projects, has somewhat been sustained.

Governor Fashola (middle) in discussion with his security team

Governor Fashola (middle) in discussion with his security team

Commenting on the growing incidence of land filling and reclamations going on in Lagos Island, Emeka Okonkwo, an estate surveyor and valuer, said it is a project driven by fraud because the cost of sand filling is going to be ten times the cost of opening another place.

“There are tablelands all over Lagos. There are places even in swampy areas that can be recreated and redeveloped than going to pour sand in water, which is unreasonable. They reclaimed a lot of places in Dubai but the costs of those apartments are simply ridiculous.

“The island is already chaotic. How are you going to manage the traffic? Yet, the government is spending so much money reclaiming the land when there are slums littering Lagos that could have been redeveloped like Badia. But in the face of profit, money, and tax for government, the action may just make sense. However, as a professional, my advice to government would be opening up other areas instead of sand filling,” he said.

An environmentalist, Chief Osawe Irabor, said he saw nothing wrong with the exercise. “If done in an organised manner, I believe nobody will complain. But when it becomes rampant and reckless, the people must resist it because usurping natural settings could be disastrous in the long run,” he said.

Backing his argument with contemporary examples, Osawe said: “Nearly every part of the Netherlands was reclaimed from the sea. What is happening in Lagos should not be different. Statistics have it that China reclaimed 13,455 hectares of land from the sea in 2010, resulting in earnings of more than 7.82 billion yuan.

“However, with every sense of purpose, I will say that what is happening in Lagos is being driven by the desire to make money. It is business on the part of those doing it because poor people don’t benefit from the houses being built on the reclaimed land. I hope they are being done according to the best practices in order to protect the ecosystem,” he stated.

Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Minister of State for Defence (middle) on a recent visit to Naval Base, Apapa

Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Minister of State for Defence (middle) on a recent visit to Naval Base, Apapa

Still on his worries, he said there are possibilities of buildings erected there to sink while the state stands the risk of being swept off by earthquakes and tsunamis.

A professor of Geography, Prof. Kaine Amikpume, in his environmental impact assessment of the project told The Guardian that there are inherent dangers associated with sand filling.

“We must tell ourselves the truth that this is a coastal state. And we are not immune to natural disasters associated with littoral states. It is just that we have been lucky not have experienced something beyond an ocean surge. Continuous reclamation of land from the sea distorts the ecosystem. But if done in an orderly manner with proper environmental impact assessment, the possibilities of failure will be minimal.

“I understand what the state government is going through in trying to meet up with population explosion, but the future of those you are trying to cater for should not be endangered by the same process. Other alternatives to sand filling should be explored to prevent the long-term effect, like opening up tablelands because you pay less to open up tablelands. But when you reclaim, you pay much and that informs the high cost of properties on reclaimed lands.”

It would be recalled that the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had called on the Federal Government to halt the sand filling of the ocean and lagoons in the state in the overall interest of the country. The party also berated the state government over what it described as “deceptive and diversionary evacuation of occupants from areas tagged slums, which was worsened by direct government negligence.”

Ilubirin 3

In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Mr Gani Taofik, the party said the call came on the heels of the frequent ocean surges, which recently claimed lives and property at the beaches.

It alleged that the unnecessary loss of lives and property should be blamed on the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration, which has “remained adamant, irresponsible and only pursuing business interest that it chose to sand fill the ocean in its purported Eko Atlantic Project, where a plot of land is being sold for N350 million.”

The APC had in its reaction through the state Publicity Secretary, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, said: “We take it that Lagos PDP is far gone in mischief or it is on its well known antics of conning Nigerians for sympathy when it blamed the ocean surge on the laudable Eko Atlantic City, which is generating worldwide attention.

“We feel that PDP’s greedy inclination which sees every opportunity as fat cow to be milked by greedy party men is leading it into reading such negative meanings into great projects that promise to lift Nigeria from the quagmire it had sank the country into.”

Micheal Adegbola Dominic, governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Lagos during the 2011 election, sees it differently. “I can only say that Fashola is sinking concrete into the Atlantic Ocean, building bridges across the lagoon to Lekki and Banana Island and all that, but that is not what the majority of Lagosians need.

“The people of Lagos don’t need those concretes he is burying inside Atlantic Ocean, what they need is motorable roads in places like Ayobo, Ejigbo, Ikorodu, Ikotun, and so many other places in Lagos. Fashola is doing something good for himself and his elite friends. The people of Lagos are suffering, they are living in slums.”

Making life greater for LASU students with tuition subsidy

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
On Thursday, July 10, 2014, a fairly unknown organization, Life Can Be Greater (LCBG), made an extraordinary entrance into the consciousness of Lagosians with an emphatic message: “Life can indeed be greater and better without government, by proffering practical solutions to everyday problems.”
The inaugural campaign for the group’s unveiling was an ideas contest, with the theme Solutions Session, which was held at the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo campus.
Looking forward to an engaging interaction with the organisers, the students, many of whom are already battle-weary from the protest over the tuition hike and prolonged faceoff of the institution’s management with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (LASU Chapter), thronged the Faculty hall of the Social Sciences, venue of the event for a breath of fresh air, since academic activities were put on hold.
After filling the hall to the brim, the students got the first shock of the day as a few dozens of the participants were immediately rewarded with a N20,000 cheque in the first few minutes of the event. It was a simple game: they were all to look under their seat and pull out a brown envelope tightly sealed beneath it.

Director of LCBG, Derin Olukayode with winner of the full scholarship, Oluwafemi Okunleye

Director of LCBG, Derin Olukayode with winner of the full scholarship, Oluwafemi Okunleye

Ecstatically, everybody ripped open their envelopes; but while some hissed as they read out the words printed on the cards, ‘Better luck next time,’ there were rapturous screams from various parts of the hall as others proudly waved their new found prize which is to be applied towards their tuition.

This got the event to a fiery head start as the students decided to seize the moment and not only compete for the remaining envelopes with various size cheques, but contend among themselves for the two big prizes: the half and full tuition scholarship on offer.

This was exactly what the organisers wanted, challenging the students to think creatively and proffer solutions to everyday problems in their communities, while rewarding those who come up with brilliant simple answers to internal and national issues.

Marketing Executive and PR director of LCBG, Mr. Derin Olukayode, said Life Can Be Greater is a movement that proffers solutions to societal issues on a small scale and galvanizes citizens to push for their implementation on a wider scale. “We are looking for practical solutions, we don’t have to wait for the government for everything.

LASU SUG President, Nurudeen Yusuf being given some of the N20,000 grants by Kemi 'Lala' Akindoju

LASU SUG President, Nurudeen Yusuf being given some of the N20,000 grants by Kemi ‘Lala’ Akindoju

“There are little things we can do to make life better for ourselves and the next person and that is what we want to inculcate into the students. Life indeed is hard, schools fees are high, but life can be greater if we focus our minds on solving those little things that make the country and ourselves greater.

“LCBG is here to let you know there is hope. If I have learned anything in life, it is the power of hope and the power of one person to change the world by giving people hope. Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela, Obama and even the young girl from Pakistan, Malala are examples of the power of what one person can achieve,” he said.

During the solutions session, several pertinent issues directly affecting students were thrown up, among which include the worrisome trend of students dropping out of school in large numbers every year because of the high tuition, inadequate funding of education, insecurity problems, incessant disruption of academic calendar owing to ASUU strike, and absence of accommodation for LASU students.

“We are worried because those that drop out of school today are the ones who will become the society’s nemesis tomorrow, and no matter how successful we become, we still have to live in a society with a high level of hoodlums and thugs. Also, we wonder why WIFI network is free in other universities like the University of Lagos (UNILAG); yet, we pay a lot in LASU to subscribe to the internet connection in this ICT generation,” one of the students said.

Derin with winner of the partial scholarship, Lawal Omoniyi

Derin with winner of the partial scholarship, Lawal Omoniyi

At the end of the ideas contest, two winners emerged. Oluwafemi Okunleye, a 300-level student of Accounting won the full tuition scholarship for his didactic analysis of the accommodation problem in LASU and his solution of the state government engaging private sector organisations like Life Can Be Greater, in a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) mechanism that will alleviate the suffering of students who travel long distances to attend lectures.

Lawal Ismail Omoniyi emerged second best and walked away with the partial scholarship for inspiring his fellow students to catch the entrepreneurial bug early in life, because “nobody owes us a job after graduating. It is up to us to create the future we really want and one thought-provoking seminar like this is enough to change people’s lives,” he noted.

In an elated voice, he told newsmen after the event that he was happy to have won the partial scholarship. “It is really a great day for me. When I came here, I wasn’t expecting to win any money, but along the line I was inspired by what was happening in the hall and I called up my spirit of determination and psyched myself to come up with a brilliant idea, which fetched me N100,000.

“I also thank the organisers of this programme, they have demonstrated that indeed, life can be greater. I emphasized during my presentation that one seminar is enough to change people’s life and build up the entrepreneurial spirit.”

SUG President, Nurudeen Yusuf with other students at the event

SUG President, Nurudeen Yusuf with other students at the event

A member of LCBG, Ms. Omorinsojo, explained that the group could not afford to give every student grants and decided not to award the scholarships based on academic performance, “because we believe each student is qualified to be a change agent and history has shown that bright students do not have the monopoly of creative ideas and solutions.”

Kemi ‘Lala’ Akindoju, the MC of the event said: “We are happy we fulfilled our mission, which is that for the students, even if they didn’t win any money, many would be leaving the hall challenged and inspired to change their environment by looking inwards for solutions to their own problems.”

Speaking on the faceoff between students and the state government, Omoniyi said: “I don’t think the school fees is okay yet. Even with the reduction, LASU fees remain the most expensive public university in Nigeria and that is not a good reputation at all. Lagos generates more revenue in a month and they only have one state university to run, so there is no excuse to take tuition fees beyond the reach of the masses,” he declared.

The president of the Students’ Union, LASU, Comrade Nurudeen Yusuf, popularly known as Optimist, was also full of praise for the LCBG team for bringing such huge relief to students through the programme.

Life 8

“When it began, just like the Nigerian thing, we never thought it could come to reality, but as an optimist, I was hoping something good would come out of it, but not in this fashion. We are happy as student union leaders, because we did not only fight for the reduction of the tuition fees, but we fought for cushioning the effect of the new fees for our students.

“We look forward to more rewarding cooperation with the LCBG team. We believe there can be greater life in LASU, in Lagos, and even in our country. As a student body, we have the vision of launching a students endowment fund where we can dip our hands into some millions of Naira and give to indigent students. With this, the public will have more confidence in us and even support the project.”

As the event ended, there was a palpable air of inspiration. The students filed out with a controlled entropy, and unable to mask the euphoria, the winners lined back to redeem their prizes.

The Life Can Be Greater team promised that this was only the beginning. They emphasised that almost every aspect of life in this country had major issues, most of which they truly believe can be solved with simple solutions from individuals. In the very near future, they intend to launch a solutions sessions video platform on which anyone can leave a short video with a simple solution to a problem in their community. This way they are not alone in trying to make life in our society truly greater.

SOYINKA… The ‘visiting’ husband, ‘absentee’ father, but dotting Grandpa

By Tope Templer Olaiya
Grandpa Oluwole Akinwande Soyinka is many things but the Lion of the literary forest, terror to unruly leaders, and die-hard bringer of surprises to his grandchildren. To his children, he has for a large chunk of his adult life being the unorthodox father. “Yes, I play father role to my children but I am not an orthodox father, and all my children got it early that I am an absentee father,” he once said.
His depiction of the conventional family man is surprisingly not complex: “An orthodox family man is one who gets up in the morning, see members of his family before going to work, know exactly what they are doing and they know when you are going to sleep. At least once a day, they have meal together. He knows where he would be tomorrow, on the average. Me, sometimes I am not sure where I would be tomorrow. Something I am involved in may demand my attention sooner than I expect.”

Soyinka's home

Soyinka’s home

While Soyinka might not a father in the true sense that fathers are like changing diapers, cuddling a baby, dancing for a crying tot and singing one of those lullabies to comfort the whining baby to sleep or perhaps place the child on his bosom, he has had to shed his iron cast and played Grandpa Soyinka in the orthodox way, in spite of the inadequacies of time catching up with crunching schedules across the world.

Not once has he confessed to being more comfortable seeing children once in a while and you can breathe easy with his raison d’être. “Children for me lead their own lives. Even when they are in the house, let them stay on their own and I stay on my own. But the important thing is for them to know that you are there for them, even if you are on the other side of the world. That’s what matters.”

Soyinka with wife, Folake

Soyinka with wife, Folake

He does not regret the path he has chosen in life: “I always tell my family, ‘you have no choice. You didn’t ask to be my relation. I didn’t ask to be a member of your family.’ They can’t deny enjoying people saying, ‘Oh, you’re the child of Soyinka’ or ‘you’re the brother of Soyinka’. So they have some compensation.

Soyinka has been married thrice, and divorced twice. His first marriage, a short one, was to Barbara Skeath, now late (a writer of English courses, Institute of Adult Studies, University College, Nairobi, Kenya). The English lady in November 1957 gave birth to his first son, Dr. Neil Olaokun Oluwole Imodoye Soyinka, who is the Commissioner for Health in Ogun State. Barbara and Soyinka met while he was at Leeds University, where he also later did his postgraduate studies.

Dr. Olaokun described the Kongi’s relationship with his children as an unconventional tight father. “He finds children more interesting when they develop their minds and personality. He is a parent, who prefers the older children that he can interact with on an adult level. Obviously, he is a very busy mind. So, even as his children, we have to know when to meet him and when to leave him alone.”

He recollected that growing up with his dad in Ibadan, he found it extremely difficult most times figuring out what the Soyinka adulation was all about. “I first of all got to know him through the eyes of other people, which I was then constantly using to test my own reality. As a child, I used to see people praising my father, telling me ‘you look like your father, you are as clever as he is, your father is a fantastic man, your father is a hero’, and I would be looking for the evidence of this at home.

Captain Blood Soyinka

Captain Blood Soyinka

Soyinka’s second wife was a librarian, who worked at the University of Ibadan (UI) and Olabisi Onabanjo University until her retirement. They met at UI where she was admitted to read Arts. In 1963, he married former Miss Laide Idowu from Ijebu-Omu. Their wedding was well attended and guests included the late Bola Ige and wife, Atinuke Ige, Professors Muyiwa and Bolanle Awe and Peggy Harper. They would later divorce in 1985. They had four children, three females (Moremi was their first daughter) and one male, Ilemakin.

However, their court wedding after Moremi’s birth had just two witnesses: Fehintola Sonuga being one of them and Dapo Adelugba was the other. When Soyinka left for OAU to work, he left Laide with the kids back in Ibadan. His imprisonment during the civil war had its toll on their union as it fell on her alone to take care of the family.

According to Prof. Olumide Awe, a friend and Pyrate Confraternity founding member, the credit for his meteoric rise in the literary world should go to Laide, the ‘unsung heroine’. Soyinka later dedicated his book, The Man Died to her, with the words: ‘To Laide, who rejected compromise and demanded justice.’

While Soyinka was conquering the literary world, Laide took care of the home front and all Soyinka’s children, an attribute, which in the eyes of close observers won her the title of “Unsung Heroine.” Although Chief (Mrs.) Laide Soyinka was more into university administration than traditional affairs, she was adorned with the chieftaincy title of Iyalode of Omu-Ijebu. “It is an honour,” she said. “After all, Iyalode is Oba Obirin (a female equivalent of a king).

If there was one moment when Soyinka’s elderly wife ever felt proud of her husband, it was when the famous professor received the celebrated Nobel Laureate award in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1986, just when an equally famous Nigerian journalist, Dele Giwa, first Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch magazine, was bombed out of life through the infamous letter bomb.

THE SOYINKA’S MOMENT OF GRIEF: Dr. Olaokun Soyinka (left); late Iyetade’s children, Adeoto and Oreofe Iyetade Omolaolu; Ilemakin Soyinka (behind); and Moremi Soyinka at Iyetade’s burial in January 2014.

THE SOYINKA’S MOMENT OF GRIEF: Dr. Olaokun Soyinka (left); late Iyetade’s children, Adeoto and Oreofe Iyetade Omolaolu; Ilemakin Soyinka (behind); and Moremi Soyinka at Iyetade’s burial in January 2014.

“That was the crowning glory of his literary achievements,” said Chief (Mrs.) Laide Soyinka. “That was the international stamp of authority that he is the King of Literature in Africa, indeed, in the Black World.” Asked how she feels about the Kongi, she said: “Of course, I love him. How do you marry somebody you don’t love? Indeed, I love him. I admire him. It was this affection between us that led to the marriage.”
His third and present wife is Mrs. Adefolake Soyinka (nee Doherty), his former student at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), who teases him as a ‘visiting husband.’ “My wife once called me and said ‘you are not a visiting Professor, you are a visiting husband,’” he joked during his 70th birthday celebration. They married in 1989 and have three children. He dedicated his memoir, You Must Set Forth At Dawn to her.

During an interview he granted with BBC, he was asked if he believed in polygamy, he laughed and replied: “I don’t believe in polygamy; I am just a serial monogamist.” This in itself depicts that he actually believes in the institution of marriage and it explains why he has attempted it three times and is presently married to his third wife.

2013-05-28 12.13.50Very private, Soyinka says he doesn’t like “telling it all”, and in 1986 when it was reported that he had seven children (he was divorced from Laide in 1985), he replied: “In Yoruba, we don’t count our children. We just say the gods have been kind to us. In my case, the gods have been kind -maybe overgenerous.”
But he is a very proud father. He once said of his children, after receiving the Nobel: “One is a doctor, one a lawyer, one has just completed a degree in international relations and another, a girl, seems interested in following my footsteps. I just let every one of them follow their path. I never push them but if they come to me for help, they get it.”
Sadly, tragedy struck late last year, precisely December 29, when the news broke that one of Soyinka’s daughter, Iyetade, passed on while receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment at the University College Hospital, Ibadan. Iyetade, a mother of two and aged 48, attended Staff School and Queens School, Ibadan before studying Medicine at the University of Ibadan.


Ikorodu intensifies lobby to produce Fashola’s successor

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
The prelude to the 2015 governorship contest in Lagos State is getting interesting by the day, especially in the rank of All Progressives Congress (APC). Apart from the party’s decision to zone the governorship position to Lagos East senatorial district and its preference for a Christian candidate, different issues have been shaping the contest in the state with less than eight months to the 2015 elections.
Of the major divisions in Lagos East, the most dominant area canvassing for grassroots mobilization to produce Governor Fashola’s successor is the Ikorodu Division.
Already, a number of community-based pressure groups from the division have started networking with the APC and other political parties to pick a credible candidate for the position, which they said, had not been occupied by an Ikorodu indigene before.
The major groups that are championing Ikorodu’s agitation for governorship candidacy in 2015 include Ikorodu Division Solution Alliance (IDSA), Eminent Persons of Ikorodu Division (EPID) as well as Ikorodu Division Resource Group (IDGR) among others. Each of the groups has been working at different levels to realise the division’s dream to produce the next governor of Lagos.

Governor Babatunde Fashola

Governor Babatunde Fashola

This agitation came to the fore recently when the IDSA staged a rally from one end of Ikorodu to the other. The rationale behind Ikorodu’s quest for governorship slot had to do with what an IDSA leader, Hon. Said Ibikunle, described as the outright exclusion of the division from the state’s politics of governorship candidacy, particularly since the transition to civil rule in 1999.

The group’s political calculation, actually, goes beyond the 1999 democratic transition. The state has five administrative divisions, which are Badagry, Epe, Ikeja, Ikorodu and Lagos Island. Of the five divisions, the group said only Ikorodu and Badagry have been technically excluded from contesting the governorship office from the Second Republic to the Fourth Republic.

Ibikunle argued that the Ikeja Division had produced the state’s civilian governor, Alhaji Lateef Jakande between 1979 and 1983 as well as its third civilian governor, Sen. Bola Tinubu between 1999 and 2007. Also, it cited the case of Epe Division, which it said, produced the state’s second civilian governor, Sir Michael Otedola, who ruled between January 1992 and November 1993. Likewise, the group pointed out the emergence of Fashola in 2007, who it said, came from the Lagos Island Division.

Ganiyu Solomon

Ganiyu Solomon

Jimi Agbaje

Jimi Agbaje

For the 2015 contest, though the state’s ruling party has already zoned the governorship slot to the Lagos East senatorial district, the Ikorodu groups are agitating against perceived scheming to favour candidates from Epe division, which had once produced Sir Otedola.

The group’s chairman, Mr. Japheth Odesanya, said: “By this argument, we are all Lagos residents deserving equal access to all offices, the governorship position should be zoned to Lagos East. The Ikorodu Division, being the most populous and the standing division in Lagos, comprising Imota, Isiu, Ijede, Igbogbo, Bayeku, Egbin, Owutu and Ishawo among others should produce the next governor.

“The agitation of the people of Ikorodu Division is legitimate, timely and rooted in due principle of equity, justice and fair play. This is a clarion call to all well-meaning people of Ikorodu Division and lovers of democracy and justice to stand up and be counted globally.”

Already, the quest has gained the support of chieftains, elders and traditional rulers from all communities that make up the Ikorodu Division. The monarchs from the division have subtly dissociated themselves from the standpoint of the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu that all the traditional rulers in the state are in support of the ambition of former Lagos State Accountant-General, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.

Rather than supporting Ambode’s governorship ambition, the Ikorodu monarchs are now looking inwards for a credible indigene from the division to contest the 2015 race irrespective of their political affiliations. This is following the Odofin of Ikorodu, Chief Kabiru Sotobi’s recent declaration calling on all eminent indigenes of Ikorodu to join the governorship contest.

Sotobi made it known that the traditional rulers and elders would support the candidacy of any Ikorodu indigene irrespective of his political affiliations. “We want the Ikorodu Division to produce the next governor. The eminent personalities in Ikorodu are not doing this alone. If the PDP decides to have its candidate from Ikorodu, we will support him. If the APC decides to have candidate from Ikorodu, we will support him. If it is Labour Party, we will support him.”

Adesegun Ogunlewe

Adesegun Ogunlewe

Abike Dabiri

Abike Dabiri

As a result, some aspirants from the divisions have started indicating interest in the race. They include Senator Ganiyu Solomon; former Lagos State Head of Service, Mr. Adesegun Ogunlewe; Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA) candidate in the 2007 governorship election, Mr. Jimi Agbaje; and Abike Dabiri-Erewa, among others.

Another pressure group, Ikorodu Division Resource Group (IDGR) lamented that Ikorodu had suffered outright neglect and marginalization under different political dispensation since the country’s return to civil rule in May 29, 1999.

In a communiqué issued by the group and signed by its chairman, Chief Babatunde Benson (SAN) and Secretariat Coordinator, Mr. Adesegun Ogunlewe, it resolved that the group should request for letters of intent from persons interested in the 2015 governorship race from all political parties.

The communiqué explained that the effort “is directed towards all registered political parties in the state to ensure that an indigene of Ikorodu Division is presented as a gubernatorial candidate for 2015 governorship election by his political party.”

Disturbed by what the group described as the politics of exclusion, the communiqué emphasised the groups’ observation that for too long, Ikorodu Division has been at the tail end of political benefits of dividend of democracy.