By next year, it would be three decades since Nigeria had the June 12, 1993 presidential election presumably won by Chief MKO Abiola, who ran on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). The election marked a watershed in Nigeria’s political history, and was adjudged the freest and fairest in the history of elections in the country.
At that time, Adewole Adebayo, in his 20s, was studying Law at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. How time flies. Adebayo now holds the presidential ticket of the SDP, ahead of next year’s election.
Often referred to as an MKO boy, the 50-year-old Adebayo is on a mission to reincarnate Abiola’s ‘Hope’ in 2023. But can he spring any surprise? Does Adebayo have the capacity and the political clout to bring the spirit of MKO Abiola back to life? Is SDP, like the days of MKO Abiola, a political party to beat in Nigeria?
Perhaps, Adebayo has no immediate response to those posers but as a believer in MKO Abiola’s mandate, he puts his vision succinctly “We start from where Abiola Stopped-Farewell to Poverty. And because in the last 29 years, there has been insecurity. So, we say: ‘Farewell to Poverty and Insecurity.’
Enter Adewole Adebayo
Adebayo was born in Ondo City, Ondo State, on January 8, 1972. Between 1978 and 1983, he attended St. Stephen Primary School in Ondo. From 1983 to 1989, he attended St. Joseph College in Ondo. From 1991 to 1997, he attended Obafemi Awolowo University, where he earned a law degree. He was admitted to the Nigerian Bar in 2000 after graduating from the Nigerian Law School in Lagos and passing his bar exams. Adebayo later attended law school in the United States of America, where he passed the New York Bar Exams. Adebayo is licensed to practice in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, California, New York, and federal courts in the United States.
He began his legal career as a litigation lawyer at Tunji Abayomi and Co in Lagos, Nigeria. After two years of legal practice, he founded his own law firm, Adewole Adebayo & Co., House of Law, in 2002. In 2016, Adewole Adebayo established KAFTAN TV.
Apart from being a lawyer, Adebayo has interests and investments in agriculture, pharmaceuticals and broadcasting. His philanthropy cuts across many fields and has trained more than 2,000 youths, according to testimonies from his associates and aides.
His childhood friend, Dr Remijius Friday Obinta, said Adebayo has always demonstrated traits of a leader and he’s driven by honesty and commitment to the emancipation of the poor and vulnerable.
Obinta and Adebayo were secondary school mates who later got admission into OAU where the young Adebayo read law, while Obinta studied History.
“He was an Abiola boy. He was part of the student’s vanguard, the foot soldiers of the Abiola-Kingibe struggle back then. He believes in Abiola’s vision and that is why he said SDP best suits his mission and vision for the country,” Obinta, a senior lecturer at the Department of History in OAU, said.
Stephen Adewale, one of the mentees and aides to Adebayo, said the SDP candidate has passion for youth development and empowerment.
Adewale and Adebayo’s path crossed in 2010 when the mentee wrote an article on Nigeria’s foreign policies, which he (Adebayo) read far away in the USA.
“I am now closer to him than ever before,” Adewale who is the Head of Station, KAFTAN TV in Ondo, said.
He said KAFTAN TV, with branches in Lagos and Abuja, is one of Adebayo’s sources of empowering youth and nurturing future stars in broadcasting.
“We have been running the organization for about three years now without making profits, but we still pay salaries as and when due. The least earner has a take home of N60, 000 monthly,” he said.
From his credentials, Adebayo is a green horn in Nigeria’s presidential race and lacking in political/governance experience. In a complex country like Nigeria, it may be difficult if not impossible for a politically inexperienced president to be effective.
Besides, Adebayo’s SDP is still under the shadow of MKO Abiola, 29 years after the June 12, 1993 election. Today, the party is not among the top four political parties favoured to win the next election. A nationwide opinion poll commissioned by Anap Foundation and conducted by NOI Polls Limited predicted a 3-horse Presidential Race and a lone outsider in favour of Labour Party, the All-Progressives Congress (APC), PDP and NNPP.
“All other contestants polled results are statistically insignificant,” Anap foundation said.
However, the legal luminary believes with his radical thoughts and vision, he can make a difference as Nigeria’s next president.
His ‘Big ideas’
To him, the first step to addressing Nigeria’s crisis is to “fix ourselves.”
“The first thing we must do is to fix ourselves. If we do not fix ourselves, we will get worse results than in 2019.
“What I will say to Nigerians, is what I will say to my mechanic. Do you understand what is wrong with this car? If we don’t understand what is wrong with Nigeria, we can’t fix it,” Adebayo said.
He added “For me, I want to fix the country. My spanner is the truth.”
Adebayo said he found an antidote to Nigeria’s crisis, most especially poverty, in chapter two of the constitution.
He said “First thing I will do is to set up a government that does not promote poverty. And how do you not promote poverty? You comply with Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution which tells the government on how to deploy money, other assets and resources of the country, and how to give opportunities to every Nigerian.”
In one of recent interviews, Adebayo said, as president, he would take any advice, even if “it is rude.”
“Definitely I take advice. In fact, the advice I like the most, and I am most grateful for, is bad advice because at least it tells me what not to do. And I also like good advice, so I don’t discriminate against advice.
“I don’t feel insulted when I am advised. You can advise me rudely. If you have good advice for me, you can put it on a piece of paper and smack it on my face. I will still read the advice because what’s important is that when I do what is right, I am the one to take the credit,” he said.
On his economic plan for Nigeria, Adebayo promised to diversify from the oil-dependent economy.
Speaking at the Arewa House in Kaduna, he said “What we are not managing well is the politics of oil. We’re looking at oil from a political point of view.
“First let me say this, among the top 100 resources of Nigeria, oil does not even come in the first 100; so, it is clear that it is the least profitable of all our resources, because you can’t even itch if you take it.
“Why would you not do agriculture in a sustainable way, for example, in southern Kaduna alone, the ginger that is grown there, if we just create a plant to process the ginger and get ginger oil in Southern Kaduna, plus two or three local governments, you can get $1.4 billion a year.”
He also said under his presidency, “we will give capacity for every state to manage resources.”
“By the time we implement one third of our projects, we would have created 30 million jobs, you will have to start looking for workers from Ghana. Everyone in Nigeria will have a job and all these tensions will die down,” he said on how to tackle unemployment.
Speaking on corruption and accountability in governance, the lawyer said he has a magical power to tackle corruption in the country.
His words “The most magical power that I have that is bigger than EFCC, ICPC, Police is the power of personal example. During the time of Sir Ahmadu Bello, there was no EFCC, there was no ICPC. They only had the regional police and the Native Authority police, but Sir Ahmadu Bello will not use a government car one hour after getting home.
“It is not difficult. Those who created ICPC, EFCC created it for their enemies because they don’t need it for themselves.”
On insecurity, Adebayo said “I will employ the full weight of government powers to contain the incessant attacks on Nigerian communities to stave off the perception that the country is drifting towards a failed state scenario.”