Princess Adenrele Ogunsanya, a grassroot politician and first daughter of Prince Adeniran Ogunsanya served as Secretary to State Government, during the tenure of former Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola. Her father was a highly respected and beloved First Republic politician and a prominent leader of the then NCNC and close knit friend of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Great Zik of Africa. It was a friendship that transcended generations. Princess Adenrenle who is of Yoruba and British parentage (able to trace her lineage to the 6th generation) recalls with nostalgia the beautiful politics of her father’s era. In this interview, she talks about women in politics and her father’s relationship with the legendary Zik of Africa.
Ever since you left office, it appears you have been silent. Are you still in active politics?
Yes, I am still very active in politics. I have been in politics all my life because I started quite early. I am a grassroots politician and I am not the type of female politician that just wears big gele. I am very much around doing politics. Recently, I was in my home town Ikorodu doing what I am supposed to do. As a politician of old, I held party positions at federal and state levels. I have been Secretary to the State Government (SSG) in Lagos State and have also been in Federal Board. I am very much involved in politics. Most times, people who are in the forefront are not the people with the crowd. During the election period, I was quite busy.
What have you been doing politically at Ikorodu your home town? Are you positioning people for 2023, or gingering the women to be more active in politics or otherwise?
Ikorodu is my hometown and I am one of the leaders in the area. People who have power are not loud. I think about my people very well. Every profession has its ups and downs, just like we have in politics. One cannot be right all the time or be wrong at all times. We pray that things will get better.
What are these political ups and down you just mentioned?
My take on the issue is that Lagos State is a very cosmopolitan state that needs all hands to be on deck. We also need good balance in leadership to work together like we had in the 50s and 60s. Both indigenes and non-indigenes then voted for others and were voted for. Another thing is that a politician must be close to his or her people; some people are not very close, yet they are up there. I am a people’s person. I have seen big men all my life at least starting from my father, Adeniran Ogunsanya, his friends and the political class across the board.
When you joined politics, how did you succeed in the terrain as a woman?
I started with my father, the Obiajulu who was in Lagos Cabinet years ago used to put me in the open van with big speakers and I would be singing NCNC campaign songs and follow them to campaigns. I am not a political jobber but must confess that I had the advantage because of my Dad’s personality and clout.
Who was the man Adeniran Ogunsanya?
My father was called ‘Gaius Marcus politicus’ because he was a very bold young lawyer, outspoken and an intelligent politician. He was in the House of Representatives, a parliamentary Secretary and was strong in NCNC. He met Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Great Zik of Africa) in 1937 in Kings College when Zik came to give a speech about Pan-Africanism. It was during the beginning of the fight and struggle for independence and after Herbert Macaulay who later became the Secretary General of the NCNC, their relationship continued from there. In our home here in Lagos and Manchester where I was born, there was always a beehive of activities with flow of dignified men in and out of our house. My dad also saw that I had the attribute and fire of politics in me, so he encouraged me. I am my father’s first daughter and his girl.
You rose in politics because of your background unlike most women who venture into politics. What do you tell women today?
I think we should be fair when we are talking of women issue. Women have broken the roof in different fields of endeavour. I admire them. My dad had this belief that what a man can do, a woman can do better. He believed in girl-child education. But most times, women themselves have not realised the quality we are made of. We do not seem to value ourselves that much. We need to call ourselves to order for the benefit of the future generations. If we do not act fast, it will become a vicious circle of lifestyle. It is important we know ourselves, realise that we are great, strong and focused. I salute Nigerian women today because a lot of them are breadwinners in their various homes. Women in politics therefore should not be entertainers and cooks only. No, politics is a serious business and women who are involved should equally be serious. They should not be seen as singers, dancers and clappers. They should also not be there for cooking purposes alone. It should not be their main agenda; instead, they should be active, contest elections, address the crowd, make value point and support each other.
If women come out the way you said, will their votes count? Will they be given a fair ground to play the game?
Women’s votes count. When we have ward and LGA meetings, women come out in large numbers. If you sit at home without coming out to vote, be rest assured that your vote will not count because you did not cast
it and those votes will be lost, so it is better to come out and perform their civic responsibility. I want them to gear up for 2023 general elections.
As a grassroot and seasoned politician, what do you think about restructuring?
I think the government should pay attention to what people are clamouring or hoping for. It is important. I hold the opinion that creation of more states has divided us further. Even when it comes to growth, it is neither here or there. When I was growing up as a child, I had friends and did not realise we had an Igbo neighbour until during the war when she started packing to go home. We could not understand why the person was relocating. That was how it was, we are more divided now and it bothers me. I think there is more to think about, there are other countries who try to live together and build a nation. The people making things difficult and bringing things that divide us are after their pocket and we Nigerians have to take cognisance of them and make sure we are aware of these people. At the end of the day, they will get on their private jets and go while we suffer it here. So I pray that attention is given to this unity we keep mentioning especially in our coat of arms and National Anthem. Nothing is as good as being peaceful and happy. We need to know about each other more and I think history is an important element in the education of our children. I do not know who decided to cancel history from the curriculum because it does not make sense. So, it is my prayer that we are able to solve our problem as quickly as possible and save our nation from a lot of hardship.
The 2023 general election is by the corner and the clamour for the presidency is getting hotter among the geopolitical zones. The Igbo say it is their turn. What is your take on this?
I think everybody is entitled to be part of the very high position of the presidency, we just need to look at the statistics and know where it is missing and keep ourselves in a position of those people; and as I said it will be important to keep the peace and unity of this country together. We are such a brilliant nation, forget our lapses, all we need is a stable country and a good Nigerian leader not particularly from a tribe to move our country forward.
What do you think about insecurity in the land?
It is appalling. A lot of things are happening now. When I was a child, very rarely were people involved in suicide, but today, in my town, a young man made a video of himself explaining why he needed to commit suicide, and he went ahead and committed suicide, even as a young upcoming musician. I have been stopped a number of times to address the youths who try to drown themselves. We counselled such people and I call them in Lagos State to support them in the hospital. There are so many things that are uncommon to Nigeria that have been happening now; it affects a lot of things. The pictures we paint outside Nigeria either bring in a good thing or take it away. It is unbelievable the stage we are in now. I loved travelling by road then; we could take off from Lagos in a convoy to Benin, Onitsha, Owerri and up to Port Harcourt with friends to have nice time and fun. Now nobody can try it because of the situation in the country. But we all have a role to play, even if it means crying out that we want a change of what is happening. We want something done about it. Constant crying will surely get to the leaders because some of them are just after their pockets.
How did you become a princess? Can you trace your root even as a half cast?
Over 500-600 years ago, the prince moved from Ijebu Ode to Shagamu and to Ikorodu and founded it. My dad taught me that my great grandfather to the 6th generation is the 9th Awujale Oniran. When my dad was given a chieftaincy title in Ijebu, he was kept in Ikorodu for 13 days because he was a prince. It happened that there were two ruling houses. ‘Raademo’ and ‘Lasunwon’, those were the two houses that alternate the ‘Anyangburen’ the title of the Oba of Ikorodu. That time it was the turn of the Raademo who is my cousin, we share the same lineage. His grandfather and my grandfather were brothers from same parents. Oyefusi was the name of the younger brother of Ogunsanya, and that happens a lot in Ijebu. The present Oba is from Lasunwon, his mother is my relation from my own ruling house; he too is also my relation. My root is not difficult for me to trace because that was the way my dad brought me up. He made me to be interested in the history of my people. In my family, I can tell who is who.
Who taught you how to speak Yoruba?
I picked Yoruba language at the age of five when my father brought me back from Manchester. He was a young lawyer then and brought me back home.
Tell us about your relationship with the Easterners.
I have spent Christmas in the East over the years, precisely in Abiriba in Abia State; I enjoyed witnessing the various age grades celebrations and their fanfare. Remembering and going to one’s root is one way of honouring parents. Other Eastern towns I know very well include, Orlu, Avutu (Late Sam Mbakwe’s town), Oguta, Atta, Ikeduru (Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu’s town) Ohafia, Ovim (Ike Nwachukwu’s town), Amawbia, Nri, Enugu-Ukwu, Awka, 9th Mile, Ngwo (CC Onoh’s town) and Nsukka, my big Daddy’s home – The Great Zik of Africa. He was there and my dad would send me there to represent him or something else. When Zik died in 1996, I was with Dr. Uche Azikiwe, receiving the guests. When my dad was the National Chairman of Nigerians Peoples Party (NPP), I campaigned in the East for four months. We did politics then like families. Some of us the children of old politicians still relate well unlike now that enmity has become part of politics.
Then, I used to drive from Lagos to the East just to have fun, we will stop at Benin, Asaba, Onitsha, Enugu, Owerri and finally at Port Harcourt. Igbo people are warm to me and I love the Easterners. I have not forgotten the day my dad sent me to a function in Enugu. When our flight landed, I beckoned at an airport taxi driver who said to me, “Ada, I will not collect money from you, you are our daddy’s daughter. I have driven you to Nsukka and had always seen you at the airport with different entourages off and on.” When my father died in 1996, the whole of Alaba International Market closed down to honour him. Everybody regardless of party was in Ikorodu for my father’s burial. I have a good experience with the Easterners.
You look good at over 70, what is the secret?
Maybe it is the mind of my own that I have. I learnt a lot from my dad especially that one cannot sleep in more than one bed, room, car, one outfit. My son wrote on my 70th birthday that when everything falls, my mum would say, keep moving. There is a limit to what one can do. For having ideas about one’s idea, one might get victimised. I believe that we have moved away from being colonised, and I refuse to be colonised. If you want me to do anything, call me and explain to me. When instructions are being thrown or dished out, a lot of people follow suit, but I do not follow it. If you have children, you must do well for other people’s children because you would not know what will happen to your own children when you are no more.
What do you like to eat, what is your favourite food?
I am an Ijebu girl, I like to drink garri and eat eba with Egusi Ijebu soup. My children are the ones that like amala because they are from Ibadan.
Where do you worship?
I worship in my room from time to time. At a time when I was due for secondary school, the school year abroad started in September, while here in Nigeria ended in December, so from September I had to wait to go to a boarding school abroad, so I was enrolled at Our Lady of Apostles schools. Before then, the first nursery school I went to was Catholic, so I mix my worship centres. Sometimes I go to St Dominic or St. Saviours because I like reading about the saints. Some Sundays might not even be for you because of other people’s activities.
What is your beauty therapy, how long have you done nails?
I have always done nails, I am a girly girl.