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Visiting my daughter in Aso Villa is like going to jail – Soyode, father of Vice-President’s wife

Image result for dolapo osinbajo and her father
 
 
The father of the wife of the
Vice-President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, Elder Olutayo Soyode, says in
spite of his daughter’s position and the exalted office of her husband,
he dreads going to Aso Rock for a visit. He said going to the villa was
like going to jail, given the way his movement would be monitored and he
would need to sign various forms before he could go out, for security
reasons.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Saturday PUNCH on
Friday, the 74-year-old said he loved to be free and he wasn’t the type
to sit in one place and be watching television under heavy security.
 
Soyode, who was a close associate and
son-in-law to late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, explained that it was the will
of God that Prof. Yemi Osinbajo rose from being a university lecturer
to become the Vice-President, and that all her daughter wanted to be was
a confectioner despite being a qualified lawyer.
 
He recalled that by the time his late
wife, (Dolapo’s mother) was delivered of Dolapo in the United Kingdom
where they met, he was believing God to have a male child, as it was
customary in his family to have a male as their first child. However, he
said if she had been a male, he might not be as close to her as they
are today.
 
When asked how often he visits the villa
to see his daughter’s family, he said, “I don’t go there often. Going
there is like going to jail, as far as I’m concerned. It’s like locking
me up. The way you see me, do I look like someone that can be kept in
one place and before I could go out, I have to sign papers and there
would be plenty phone calls? I would just run mad, because I’m not used
to such.
“I’m a free man. That place (Aso Rock),
is a very good place but I’m not the type to live there, so I don’t go
there often. Anytime I go, I do give them time, like telling them I was
coming for two days. I don’t even live with them. Let us say we are in
Abuja now, you possibly can’t visit me for this interview. They won’t
allow you to come in, and if you have to, you would have to sign
different papers.
“If I go there, I would be there alone,
watching television. I can’t do that. I would rather stay where they can
visit me and anybody can see me.”
 
How does it feel to be the father of the wife of the Vice President?
I don’t have any special feeling because
I have been in politics for a long time. Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was
my father-in-law, who is the President Nigeria never had, as far as I’m
concerned. I was by his side and I worked with him full time. I have
been in the limelight for a long time and so all these are just icing on
the cake.
How did you meet your wife, Chief Awolowo’s daughter?
I met her in London where we were both
studying and we fell in love. It was basically about students meeting
each other in the UK during studies. I felt that before Chief Awolowo
would say his daughter must not marry me, I needed to adopt what we used
to call two-in-one, meaning marriage and pregnancy, so that by the time
he would know, his daughter would have been pregnant and stopping us
from getting married would be difficult. You know in that atmosphere,
people tend to be more reckless. So, I did the two-in-one and both of us
had to tell our parents what happened. When I told my father, he
screamed, saying I had put him in trouble. When she told her mother, I
didn’t know how she too screamed, but I remember one afternoon, at about
2:30pm, a call came in from Lagos. When I picked it, the person said,
‘is that Tayo Soyode?’ I said yes. The person said ‘this is Obafemi
Awolowo.’ I started trembling and knelt down, till the phone almost fell
in my hand. I had to put the phone down. I couldn’t pick his call
again. Later, my dad called and instructed me to pick his call. About
one hour later, Chief Awolowo called back and I picked. He said he had
met my father and my people in Lagos.
Let me quote him. He said, ‘what I have
done is that, you’re going to do certain arrangements. I have made sure
that your marriage is going to hold on March 27, 1967.’ He made that
call around January. He said he had booked the flight for us to come
home because we had to do engagement and other things. Immediately, I
dropped the call, I told my father and he told me he would give me money
because he wouldn’t like the whole family to be disgraced. I made a lot
of money that period; Chief Awolowo would send me money, I would tell
my father and he would still send me money, and my dad would always say
even if he had to sell his house he would, so he could send me money
too. I didn’t return the money (laughs).
You must have expected Chief
Awolowo to scold you when he first called, but he called you to give
you a date. Would you know what appealed to him?
People say things that they don’t know
about Awolowo. He was very humane; he could understand the situation
then. After he made some findings, he found out that this man too had a
perfect family and he was not just an upstart. He was educated like the
daughter, so no problem. The man just adjusted. If he had not adjusted
to me, papa would not ask me to come and be in politics with him. He had
a son, he had people around him. Why me? He decided to do so and I
found it comfortable working with Papa and his wife. He knew that I
would do well and he didn’t regret it.
Looking at Chief Awolowo’s clout, how conservative was the wedding?
We came back to Lagos and we had a good
wedding. My wife had 90 bridesmaids. The whole of Ibadan was closed for
us. Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo was the governor (of the now defunct Western
Region) at that time. It was a glorious wedding. And Wole (Awolowo’s
late son) was the one who took his sister to the altar, Papa did not do
that. An elderly father could tell the son to do it. Tokunbo (Awolowo’s
youngest daughter) was the chief bridesmaid. My brother was the best
man. I got the money for suit for the best man from the money I saved at
that time. In fact, I became so rich at that time. It was about nine
years into our marriage that Baba told me to resign my appointment where
I was working in the maritime sector. He must have seen something in
me. He told me to resign and join him politically. That was my first
time in politics and I was with him till the very end. I imbibed what he
taught me till today. I had been with him as far back as 1975.
Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo looks so reserved, but you look so energetic. Does it mean she took after her mother?
I must be energetic because I was a
seaman. The mother was very reserved and she’s like that too. I call her
Dolly Baby. She is very tactical, like Papa. Don’t look at her meekness
as weakness. She’s light-hearted and she has always been quiet.
Did you ever have to spank her?
I wasn’t the type to spank; but I know
how I dealt with all of them. Tell me any child that does not like ice
cream, biscuits and sweets or going to amusement park. The person would
not go, and I was an expert in that. The mother had more money than
myself but I must do something that my children must remember me for.
Papa too was giving me his car once a month to take them to the
amusement park.
What if your son-in-law offers you an appointment, would you take it?
I can’t take any appointment from
government now. We (Nigerians) are not mature up to that level. There
are lots of things I can offer this government from my experience, but I
would rather do that privately. Else, somebody would come and make
noise about it.
Since your wife died, you might have been alone. Why didn’t you remarry?
I have not even thought about it. What
more do I want; my children are grown up and they are doing fine, so
what am I bothering myself about? Remarrying would just be like
committing suicide, and such a lady would be coming to suffer. I’m not
lonely and I can never remarry.
When your daughter brought the Vice-President, who was quite older than her…
…No, she didn’t bring Vice-President,
she brought her fiancé. Yes, he was 10 years older than her, and to me
that was a plain answer to my prayer. I used to wonder how it would be
if she married someone of her age. I look at her as too simple and I
used to wonder how she could manage herself. So, when she brought a
teacher, I said thank God, he would be able to guide her. So, I was very
happy about it and I was never disappointed.
What was your perception of the vice president when your daughter brought him?
You see, you are looking at the
attention now. But let me tell you a story. In our family, we were
always having males as first child. But in the UK then, they had a
system, such that three months to your wife’s delivery day, both you and
the wife must be going for exercise. They used to teach us how to
handle emergencies. We, men, used to frown and so we knew ourselves. In
her ward, there were three of them and by the time I got there after she
was delivered of her baby, I heard she had a girl and I wasn’t so
happy. When I stepped out, I met the husband of one of the women and he
said his wife gave birth to a set of male twins, after having two boys
at home previously. I then felt better. When I left him, I saw the
husband of the other one and he told me his wife just had another boy.
So, I felt let me go back and even see
the baby girl. Then I saw the way people were giving flowers to their
wives, and my own wife’s bed space was like Sahara Desert. At that time,
I had so much money, so I went to Interflora to buy flowers. When I
went back, Ayo was awake. When she saw the flowers, she was shocked,
mocking me for buying flowers because she knew I wasn’t the type. That
moment, Mama HID came in from Lagos and saw the flowers, she was full of
gratitude and she embraced me. Till date, Dolapo never forgets my
birthday, from day one. As I’m here now, she would be asking, ‘where is
papa. At any opportunity, she would ask of me. I see myself as a very
lucky man. If she had been a boy, my punishment would have been hard! If
you look at my son who took to politics, he was always asking me about
the latest in politics. But Dolly Baby would look at my face and ask how
I’m feeling. So, I tell myself that I could have suffered heavily if I
didn’t have her. From the beginning, God would have seen my needs. Look
at what Dolly has done.
Have you ever had any premonition that she would rise to such a level?
I never saw it coming. What I thought
was that she would have been a very good confectioner, because she told
us clearly that she would not practise as a lawyer but she would please
us. That was what she told her mother, Mama HID and myself. Her mother
and Papa were so keen for her to be a lawyer. She said she would be and
immediately she was called to bar, she called and said she wanted to go
into cake making. I had to open a cake shop for her and she started and
she was doing that very well. She never practised for one day as a
lawyer. If she had continued on that confectionery line, she would have
gone really far. That was her natural passion. And many people don’t
know she’s a very good artist. As you are sitting, if she takes a pen,
it would be your copy. She loves gardening too and it’s part of her love
for arts.
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