‘If this is what God is using to make me popular, then I will continue to dance’
Senator Ademola Adeleke is the candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the coming July 16, 2022 governorship election in Osun State. In this interview with SEYE OLUMIDE (Southwest Bureau Chief), the ‘Dancing Senator,’ as he’s fondly called, spoke about his experience studying abroad, his historic homecoming and quest to govern Osun State.
After the last election, you travelled out of the country to study in the U.S. Can you share your experiences with us?
Thank you for that question and you are welcome to Ede, Osun State. Ede is just about 10 kilometres to Oshogbo the capital of Osun State. Ede is lucky to be closer to the capital, because of the lots of economic benefits.
My going abroad for study is a determination. You know there was this controversy over my education during the 2018 gubernatorial election. But let me explain to you what actually happened, I sat for my WAEC exam and immediately I finished, I left for the United States of America; I didn’t even wait for my result to come out. All I needed then was the testimonial to show that I attended secondary school for a particular period.
When I got to the U.S, I had to take exams to get into their system; I did the Test of English and also took ACT; I passed. Of course, the result is the school’s property; they don’t give the result to individual, but after the exam, the board that controls the exam sent the result to the university of my choice. They sent the result there and that’s how I got my admission and still I didn’t know was going on in Nigeria.
It was when I returned and I wanted to run for the Senate that I said, ‘wait a minute, the only requirement they needed is the one for High School. I sent someone to go and pick up my testimonial and then the result. It was then I found out that during our set, they alleged that we manipulated the result and every one of us was failed. As a matter of fact, out of about seven to eight subjects that I took, they withheld like seven; the only one that was released to me, which was English language, I scored F9.
Apparently, all my mates went back to retake the exam, but because I was out of the system, I couldn’t do it. When I wanted to contest, I said I could go ahead and register in one school there and then take the NECO and all that, but it was during that time that I lost my brother. I was going back to take it, but I couldn’t, because what they said is that as long as you sat for the examination, you went through the High School, you are qualified. I then assumed it wasn’t necessary to go and retake the exam anymore.
The APC government with its propaganda said that someone took the exam for me and so on. It was a serious tussle and they called it exam malpractices. We went to court and it was a long battle, but at the end of the day, I was discharged and acquitted, even from abroad, because their plan was to jail me. As a serving Senator, they invited me to Louis Edet House, the Police Headquarters in Ahuja, just for chatting and right there, they arrested me and took me to jail and the next day was the hearing.
Thank God that the judge that they planned to use to jail me, I don’t know what happened; he had problem with the judiciary commission and he was replaced. They tried to reach out to the new judge, but maybe because of his conscience, he didn’t agree to do what they wanted him to do. He said I didn’t do any wrong and that’s how God secured my freedom. After that, I travelled to U.S to study.
You were in court to challenge the emergence of APC’s Gboyega Oyetola as Governor in the last gubernatorial election in Osun. How did you feel about the Supreme Court judgment, which upheld Oyetola’s election?
When I left Nigeria after the Supreme Court judgment and the famous technicalities and inconclusive 2018 election, I left everything to God. But I said since they accused me… and it is not that I didn’t go to school, each time I went to school, I would stop whenever I see a lucrative business; I used the opportunity to go and make money. The educational system over there is so flexible; you can return to school at any time, so far you have your transcript and records.
As at the time I got there to get my transcript, because of the time that I left, maybe since 1980s, they had to go through the archives to bring out my transcript. I transferred my credit to a university called Atlanta Metropolitan State College; I had been studying in that university; I don’t want to bore you with all that. At the last one that I came, I had about only two or few semesters to round up; I was studying Criminal Justice. That’s what I returned back to U.S to do, at least to get my Associate Degree in Criminal Justice and after that, got my BSC in Criminal Justice at the age of 60.
Can you imagine, when all my kids are even graduates, I still had to go and sit down in class under that cold weather to study?
Could you share that experience, how did you manage to cope with the youngsters?
It was a shocking experience. My Personal Assistant was there and every time I make reference to what happened to me over there, it won’t be fair If I didn’t mention his name. He is the one that will take me to school early in the morning under a very cold weather. I got to America at the age of 20 and that was when I first had education experience over there, until I returned for my studies after the 2018 governorship election.
The initial stage was tough, because it was during the time of COVID-19. But what made me relax was the presence of a police chief called David; he also came for studies and we later became friends. He is a tall guy, Deputy Chief of police; he’s like a Commissioner of Police in Nigeria. I am older than him, but he said he wanted to get some promotion and he needed to return to class. I saw him as a friend and that make me very comfortable. He calls me and we exchanged notes. His presence really encouraged me and I will never forger Dr Steward, who is the Head of my department; he encouraged. You know Criminal Justice is very tough; it is like going to law school.
In the American system of education, there is no shortcut or sentiment; a teacher can be your friend, but when it comes to examination, they don’t tolerate nonsense. David will leave his house and come and stay with me; he comes to wake me up at 5:30 am. Even when I abuse him for coming to wake me too early, he will tell me, ‘we need to get up and go to school; we will go under that very cold weather.
Although it was tough initially, I overcame it. I just want to tell our people that there is no time you cannot further your education. If I can do it at 60, everybody can as well. I just wanted to be a role model to many people. I went to the U.S to study with a determination to add value to myself since I had controversies surrounding my school certificate. Not only that, I went back for my BSC; I still registered again for High School and I did about 26 subjects and I passed them all. I got all the necessary documents concerning my registration. Today, I am glad to tell you that I have high honours.
What kind of relationship did you have with the younger students in your class?
I made sure that I come down to the level of the younger ones. During the consultative period, I wore jeans and tracksuit with sneakers. I didn’t let them know I was a senator or that I contested for governorship election before; I always played with them and they call me Jackson. I used to buy food for them; they are always around me and we exchange notes. Anytime I was running late to school, they used to call me on phone; they always encouraged me to come to class. I really enjoyed their company.
While in the U.S, you were very active online, especially on social media. In fact, you hosted a lot of Nigerians in your house. Was that deliberate?
A lot of Nigerians, who visited U.S during that period, always trooped to my house as if it is a Mecca. Many people came that I didn’t announce their visit on the social media, even some APC members. In fact, on the day of my graduation, it was a celebration galore; people came from all over the world. Even those that couldn’t get visa to enter U.S were crying, because they wanted to attend.
The school gave me only three tickets slot for anybody that wants to attend my graduation ceremony, but you know Nigerians; over 100 people occupied the whole space with their babaringida and tall caps. Even the security officers came to my P.A to complain about the number of people that came from my side. But my P.A said to them: ‘Listen, all the people you see here are big people. If you drive them away, they will have a very bad impression about your country and about your school. The person they are celebrating with today is a senator and he is going to be governor very soon. He will later come over to do something in the school.’ That was how we resolved the issue.
The graduation ceremony was a great occasion in preparing for my arrival to Nigeria. When I was filling the form on how I wanted my name to appear on my certificate, I just put my name as Ademola Jackson Nurudeen Adeleke to avoid another controversy.
How did you manage to keep in touch with your political family in Nigeria while in school?
Sometimes when people called me from Nigeria, my PA would place them on video call to show them I was in class. As a politician, you need to make everybody important; I cannot just dismiss those calling under the pretext that I was busy. I was really active on social media and it helped me a lot, because many people followed me. Another interesting thing was that people always asked me on the social media when I would return to Nigeria, and I assured them that once I finished my studies, I would come back.
I want to seize this opportunity to thank the kind of family that I have. My family is God given, because they stood by me and I have a lot of friends that stood by and encouraged me. They assured me that by the time I returned home, I would get a massive reception and that was exactly what happened.
See, not many people have that grace or privilege that you travelled and returned to meet your political structure in tact. In fact, all your structures would have been dismantled, but mine got stronger. The truth is that everybody knew that we won the 2018 governorship election, but they cheated us. This time around, we don’t want to take anything for granted, so we started right from 2018 immediately after the election.
Talking about your homecoming, how did you feel when you landed and saw the crowd that came to receive you at the airport?
I was dazed. At some point, I wondered if I was the one they came to receive or President Buhari. For me, what happened on the day that I returned to Nigeria and the way people welcomed me with utmost enthusiasms reflected our slogan, Imole. You know, when light comes, darkness will disappear immediately. That slogan, Imole, is very spiritual.
So, how did you come about Imole as your political slogan?
When I wanted to run for Senate, our people were bringing different ideas like ‘Itesiwaju Osun’ and so on, but it didn’t click. I am a very spiritual person; before I do anything, I always seek the face of God. I said, ‘God, I want to give something that people would accept.’ I said, ‘God, please just show me,’ because I was to go for a campaign the next day.
Guess what, as I was sleeping, God showed me. My father was a Muslim and he named me Nurudeen and my mother was a Christian. In the dream, I saw my name written in capital letter ‘NURUDEEN’, but I was wondering how I could use Nurudeen as a slogan. I slept again, then I saw Imole (light) and I said, ‘yes, this is it.’ You see, Nurudeen means ‘light’ in Islam and when light comes, darkness vanished. I went for the campaign and everybody was waiting for me to declare the slogan and I shouted, ‘Imole!’ Right there, people accepted it. So, since 2017, people have been calling me ‘The Light.’
Coming back to the day I returned to Nigeria, everywhere was standstill; the security that day was very tight. The entire road was blocked, as if I am the governor. I said we are back to reclaim the people’s mandate; people were crying. It was a memory I will never forget in my life. Often times, I will be inside my room and replay the scene and tears of joy will come out of my eyes that the people could wait for me that long. I am not going to disappoint Osun people; I will ensure they get the dividends of democracy.
With your experience abroad, what are your feelings about the state of education in Nigeria, especially in Osun State. If elected governor, how do you intend to address these challenges?
The truth is, education in Nigeria is nothing to write home about. When PDP was in government here in Osun, it always ensured that education was given the necessary attention; parents pay special attention to education in this place.
For Instance, I started dancing from a very young age. In those days, our parents believed more in education. PDP did well in managing education when it was in power, but today under APC, education has been relegated to the bottom. The reason is that the teachers are not catered for; they don’t get their salaries as at when due. There is no training and other incentives.
In the U.S, when you see a public school, it is always very neat. Corruption is a big problem to education in Nigeria and Osun State in particular. If I am elected, that’s on of the areas I will focus.
After your last experience, what are you doing to ensure that PDP comes our victorious this time around?
We got victory last time, but we were robbed. We have built up all the mistakes we did then; the way we won the Senate, that’s the way we will approach it now. Of course, the Electoral Act 2022 will also help to curb rigging this time. We are also mobilising people and they are now ready to defend their votes.
As the candidate of PDP, how much are you doing to appease those you defeated in the governorship primary?
I believe that when a student is preparing for examination and he/she is studying very well, the student will definitely know if he/she will pass or fail. From the work we have done so far, I am sure we will get victory come July 16. I also knew we would win the primary, but before then, I have called all the aspirants to let them know that there is always a rancour anytime there is primary, but we can resolve that as soon as one person emerges. The most important thing is to ensure that the exercise is free and fair. We are really working to ensure that everyone come together to build Osun; we need to save Osun from the APC.
Senator Iyiola Omisore, who was a member of your party, is now the National Secretary of the APC, is this not a big threat to your party?
You are a journalist and I am a politician and I want to tell you that the Omisore’s factor in this election is not going to work. All the people holding strategic positions in APC today are former members of the PDP, including Senator Abdullahi Adamu their National Chairman and Omisore. If Omisore is vying in the election, then we can begin to see him as a threat. If Omisore is vying for governor, in Ife axis alone, he is a factor, but he is just a National Secretary of APC and it ends there; he is not contesting for anything. My deputy governor candidate is from Ife, so that neutralizses whatever is expected of Omisore.
Even during the time Omisore was with us in the PDP, he knew he could not win the governorship primary and he left. And after that, we kept talking to him to consider what he gained from the party. We sent a powerful delegate to him, led by former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, but he didn’t budge. If he had stayed in the party, election would have been an outright victory for us, because he came third.
Tomorrow, if I become governor, we can still welcome him back to PDP. To answer your question, Omisore is not going to be a factor in this election at all. As a matter of fact, I looked at the result of 2018; we have four local councils in Ife; Ife East, North, Central and South. Omisore won only two local councils and of course, the retirees and civil servants voted for him; those people are now coming back to us.
There’s this impression that you dance too much which is making many people to think that you may not be a very serious governor, what’s your take?
Tell them whether they like it or not, I will continue dancing. I love dancing and it is my hubby. Some people like smoking, some like sports and so on, but me, I said it before and I don’t hide it that I love dancing. If you play music as we are conducting this interview, I will start dancing; it is a natural thing and I am just a happy person. That happiness will radiate even in the people that are talking to me or around me. There is nothing wrong with that or do you want me to say that because I wanted to govern a state, I will not dance? There is time for everything and when it is time for me to dance, please nobody should stop me o.
There was a time I went to a place called Ejigbo to campaign. As I was telling them my plans, after a while, they said, ‘please that’s enough, we trust you can fulfill your campaign promises, can we dance?’ It was a true story and that’s how we started dancing and they felt so good. They were surprised that a whole governorship candidate was dancing and sharing money with them.
The second incident was at Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s daughter’s wedding in Lagos. When I got there, all the big men were there seated. I looked and said, ‘this place is boring.’ I started dancing from the back and all the media were following me as if I was the celebrant. And that’s what I like, because the more you focus on me, the more I am encouraged.
As I was going, the whole guest were focusing on me, so when I got to where Dangote sat, I told him we have to go and dance. King Sunny Ade had been playing and we needed to go and appreciate him. He initially said, ‘Adeleke, you have come with your trouble,’ but he later stood up and followed me. They all jumped to the stage and the mood of the party changed.
There was a time I attended a function in Kano and immediately I entered the hall, all the women set aside their religious belief and joined me to dance. I was reluctant initially not wanting to violate the religion tenets, but the people said, ‘forger it, we must dance.’ For like three hours, I stood taking pictures with them.
And again, we had an oversight function when I was a senator and as members of Senate Committee on Defence, went to Defence House. Immediately we got to the airport, all other senators sat down and nobody went to meet them. But immediately the people saw me, the whole place was crowded. Because there was no music, they started singing and dancing. Some of the senators said they would never travel with me again, because people focus too much attention on me, but I told them to get loose and relate with the people.
Again, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar did a wedding for her daughter and I saw him dancing. When I later met him, I asked, ‘Sir, I saw you dancing,’ and he said, ‘it was a fever, but you taught us to dance.’
There is time for everything; it doesn’t add up to say that because you are a governor or Senator, there should be no time for fun; no. I had wanted to be a musician, because that’s my interest. But I thank God that my nephew Davido and my son B-Red have taken over music. Up till now, whenever we are dancing together, they are always surprised how I make my moves and twist my body even at 61.
I once had an encounter with Daisy Danjuma. I was a director in Guinness then and her husband was our chairman. Daisy Danjuma called and said she wanted me to come and present her an award. She insisted that, ‘If he cannot come, then I don’t want the award.’ When we got there, she whispered into my ear and said, ‘please, I will like to dance with you,’ and I said, ‘I’m now a private dancer.’ She burst into laughed.
If this is what God is making me to be popular and winning election, then I will continue to dance. I dance more when I listened to praise worship; I won’t know when I will start dancing. But when you see me at work, many people do wonder; they are always surprised how a dancing Senator could be very serious when it comes to real business.
I am a very serious person when it comes to integrity and work. People closer to me know that I don’t tolerate nonsense, especially corruption. A lot of people underrate me because of my dancing and I always use it to deal with them whenever it comes to serious business.
You have an Igbo mother who is a Christian and a Muslim Yoruba father. Having lived in different parts of the country, what’s your take on ethnicity, tribalism and religious intolerance?
See, we were all born in Enugu; my family lived in Enugu until the Civil War. I speak Igbo fluently; I still see Enugu as home. In fact, during the last PDP presidential campaign in Enugu, I took out time to go se our house in Enugu; I went there and took picture, which I share with my brother. It was an emotional moment for me visiting the house where we were born.
See, they just used religion to enslave us in this country. My father is a Muslim and my mother is a Christian. When they were to marry, my father promised my mother’s parents that he would allow their daughter to practice her religion. Even in the Koran, Jesus was mentioned 27 times. Jesus is referred to as Anobi Isa; that’s the same God we are calling. When we say ‘Allah, God, Chukwu, Olorun Oba…’ even those worshiping traditional gods will say ‘Eledumare,’ it is the same God, as long as you don’t destroy a fellow person. Once you clear that, you won’t have problem.
We are supposed to start telling people that religion does not matter. We have Muslim and Christian and even those who believe in traditional religion in the same family; hunger and poverty doesn’t know Muslim or Christian. To answer your question, I am not going to discriminate whether one is a Christian or Muslim; I just want to do the right thing.
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