From Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
A cursory look at Adedeji Otunsanya fondly called ‘Baba Ijebu’, a civilian security guard at the Governor’ office, Oke Mosan, Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital as he attends to numerous visitors that throng the office for one thing or another, one would conclude that the 60-year-old is an ordinary gateman doing his duty.
But a closer look into the life of the Ago-Iwoye born master baker turned security guard, will reveal a man who has not only gone through the vicissitude of life, but one, who at his duty post, has served eight state governors, and serving the ninth one, the incumbent Governor Ibikunle Amosun.
When approached by Saturday Sun to share his experience so far, Baba Ijebu, smiled and just said “it has been well”. According to him, he never started out as a security guard, but as a baker.
He said after his primary school education at the Ako Wesley Primary School, via Ago-Iwoye, in Ijebu North local government area of Ogun state, he left for Lagos where he learnt bread making from Oduntan Bakery at Ketu. And after three years of being an apprentice, he established his own bakery at Ilaro in Ogun State.
Otunsanya narrated further that his own Ilesanmi Bakery thrived in Ilaro and did not take long before he went to Owo, in Ondo State, to establish another bakery at Isale Ijebu area of the town. During this time, Otunsanya, stated that he made so much money and married two wives who had children for him.
Determined to make a mark in life, Baba Ijebu, bought a plot of land to build his personal house in Owo. To demonstrate his seriousness, he quickly bought building materials with the intention to commence construction in earnest, it was then life dealt him a blow.
According to him, his bakery that was doing well, took a plunge and his once thriving business, nosedived. He added that initially, he felt it was just normal signs of time, but when the decline became persistent and defied all possible remedies, he opted out of the business.
This, he said, marked a critical period in his life as it became difficult to feed his family. As if that was not unfortunate enough, his two wives left him for good.
“I really made it big in Owo as my bakery was doing fine. I had more than enough to feed and take care of my family, and it was then I decided to buy land and build a house of my own. I quickly gave the contractor money to buy some building materials with a view to starting the foundation, but things began to nosedive.
“My bakery that was talk of the town in Owo then, started experiencing low patronage and business was going down. Initially, I thought it was just a sign of the times that would soon pass, but to my surprise, the situation could not be salvaged and eventually, I had to opt out of the business. I tried my hands on menial jobs to survive, still, it was difficult to feed the family. But I experienced a shocker when my two wives with whom I had enjoyed bliss, packed out”, Otunsanya recalled in emotion-laden voice.
Meanwhile, the father of 12 children, decided that life must go on, and returned to his home town of Ago-Iwoye. There, he took to farming, which he did for almost two years when one of his sisters informed him that a security guard was needed at the Governor’s office in Abeokuta and encouraged him to apply.
“Immediately I got back to my hometown, I engaged in farming to at least, feed myself and earn little money. I was doing this when one of my sisters told me that there was vacancy for the post of a security guard at the Governor’s office in Oke Mosan, Abeokuta. I applied for the job and I got it. I assumed duties on May 12, 1988”, he explained.
Asked whether he could recollect his first salary, Baba Ijebu was quick to say that: “I remember vividly the first salary that I collected. Then, I was paid, after three months N123.00. When our paymaster then, one Mr. Ajomale gave the money to me, I betrayed emotion and thought that I, who once lived big, was being handed a paltry sum as three months salary.
“But the paymaster consoled and encouraged me to trudge on, and since then till now, I have served eight past governor’s of the state, starting from Col. Raji Rasaki (rtd.) Others in order of succession are late Navy Captain Muhammed Lawal, Chief Olusegun Osoba, Navy Captian Oladehinde Joseph (rtd), Col. Daniel Akintomide (rtd), Group Captain Sam Ewang (rtd), Navy Commander Kayode Olofinmoyin (rtd), Otunba Gbenga Daniel and now, Senator Ibikunle Amosun”.
Baba Ijebu, who is due to retire from the service of Ogun state government in 2018, however, disclosed that having served governors and observed the perks and honour that come with the office, he has been praying that one day, one of his children will become a governor.
He remarked that, though he is yet to build any house or buy a car, he has every cause to thank God for blessing him with 12 children, out whom four are graduates, while three are overseas.
“I may not have a house of my own or a car, but I thank God for blessing me with beautiful children. They are 12 in number. Four are today graduates, while three are abroad. As I am talking to you, I have 16 grandchildren and seeing them alone is enough for my heart to be filled with joy.”
He recalled an unpleasant experience in the line of duty that he won’t forget. Baba Ijebu explained that if not for good-spirited people, he would have quit his job, when he was falsely accused of conniving with some mechanics to remove the back axle of a car in the Government House.
“This particular experience rattled me that I thought of quitting my job. They said some mechanics who used to fix cars in the Government House, removed a back axle of one car under my watch, hence, I should be their accomplice.
“I was arrested alongside some people and detained in the police station for two days, after which we were charged to court. I was going to court for one year before I was eventually discharged and acquitted”.
When asked how he enjoys his past time and about his sartorial preferences, Otunsanya, said that his job is time consuming as he resumes by 6a.m everyday and closes whenever the governor leaves office for the Government House. As such, he hardly has time to engage in any other activity. He added that he would rather sleep anytime he’s off duty.
“I sleep to relax. I don’t take alcohol. Though I am from Ijebu land, I relish Amala dudu and pounded yam, with vegetable soup. I also eat beans a lot”, he explained.
Relationship with Amosun
Baba Ijebu, however, said of all the governors he has worked with, it is only the incumbent governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who has really noticed him and showed interest in him.
According to him, the governor always asks about his welfare and recently, gave him slot for holy pilgrimage in Jerusalem. “Governor Amosun has been kind to me as he acknowledges me despite my position as a security guard. He gave me a slot, which enabled me to perform holy pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Jerusalem. I just returned not long ago. For that, I thank him and pray that God will continue to guide and guard him.
“Apart from the governor, his commissioners, especially that of Works and Infrastructure, Arch. Lekan Adegbite, have been good to me. Even the Head of Service, Elder Shola Adeyemi, always extends his hand of kindness to me. With all these, I can say I am fulfilled in life and I pray that God will continue to bless them.”
Otunsanya submitted that after his retirement from service, he would like to go back to bread making business, citing Ilaro as the preferred location for the proposed bakery.