I had a regular childhood just like every other kid. Go to school, come back, play football with friends in the neighbourhood. I’d agree partially that I am an omo-get-inside because my mom, Alhaja, used to be very careful with us, she’d monitor our movements in a bid to ensure that we don’t mingle with people that can be of bad influence to us. However because I was fascinated with soccer, she’d allow me to go play soccer. In fact, when she saw my passion for soccer, she enrolled me at the Liberty Stadium to play football and at that time, I’d thought I’d end up as a footballer but here I am today!
I have always been a reserved person, and I was super shy. I was like 85% shy, in fact, if anyone ever told me that I would be a politician, I’d have said never. As a child, I kept to myself a lot. Growing from childhood into my teenage years and finally into adulthood, I have remained reserved. You and I can be together in this house for a whole day and you’d not see me or hear my voice. Even when I was in office as a commissioner or as a legislator, I wasn’t all over the place, however my name was commonplace.
Growing up, a lot of stories flew around about me but those things that were untrue. One time there was a gist that I entered a Mr. Biggs outlet and sent everyone out; there was another time they said I was always all over the place clubbing but that was not me at all. In fact I can count the number of times I have gone clubbing all my life. There was another time, while growing up, that I heard the gist that I went clubbing, got drunk and had an accident on my way home. The funny thing about this particular gist is that I have never had alcohol all my life up until now. I believe that God had a reason for making the news go round and made my name be over the place.
All of my life, I have never had excess money, even as a Governor’s son. At every point in time when I came close to having excess money, I always do something for my community. So, I have never had the opportunity to splash money around. When I was in UI, all the big clubs wanted me to join them. From Lavenir to QVD to Vogue, they all wanted me to join them but I never did. In fact, I still have all the forms they gave me till now intact in my office. I didn’t even fill the forms but I had them as friends and as a young person in the university I was a socialite – I had a car and I dressed well so, it was a given that people would conclude I was one of them. That was when they started calling me ‘Polo’ because I always Ralph Laurent.
Let me tell you this: when I was in SS2 at Government College, Ibadan, I sat for my GCE and I passed all my subjects except Mathematics. I passed JAMB but I couldn’t proceed to the University because I wanted to study engineering. I went on to SS3 and yet again, I did not pass Mathematics and I passed JAMB. So I had to wait for another year in order to take my papers again but while still waiting, I got admitted into the Polytechnic Ibadan, Eruwa campus.
When it was time to rewrite my papers, my center it was Lagelu Grammar School and it was then I passed Maths – all these happened in 1998. Once I passed Maths, proceeding to the university was easy. There was, however, an interesting coincidence of timing in all of these strings of occurrences. The year I passed my papers and got admitted into UI was the same year my father won the election and became the governor. Dad got sworn in sometime in May 1999 but I got my admission into UI in January 1999. So, I entered UI as the son of governor-elect.
At the time, I was using my dad’s 504 wagon; he had another 505 which he used. In fact, I had to repair the 504 to be able to use it. I painted it, pimped it up, added AC, tinted the windows. Then he began to get reports from people that I was living large and he didn’t like all that so he collected his 504 wagon from me. Me, as a smart person, I looked for a mechanic who offered me a Nissan car for sale.
For you to know I didn’t have the kind of money people always thought I had as a governor’s son, the Nissan Stanza I was offered was so bad that the owner, one baba that sells gold at Dugbe, had abandoned it at the mechanic’s. I ended up buying that car at a giveaway price and repaired it. One egbon Pekun (he is late now) helped me fixed the AC; I tinted it and fixed woofers in it so that when music was playing, those outside could feel the gbedu. I did all that at the time because I was youthful and that was what was in vogue. That was how I bought my first car.
So how did I get money to buy the car? At the time
my father was campaigning for the elections, my brother and I were raising
funds too. We did and because at the time, cybercafés were thriving, we opened
our own cybercafés – his was in Joyce B, mine was in Oluyole estate. People
would come in to browse and make internet calls – all these things were rare
facilities we were providing for people and so we made so much money. At the
time, I was making as much as
per day as far back as then. I still have all the record books till now. As
young as I was I had started buying shares and all that. All of these channels
where how I began to make money.
While in my first year, I was driving past Sabo and I saw a Honda Accord (pure water) car with alloy rims and I loved it. I called my mechanic and told him to help me sell the Nissan Stanza. He put word out, I sold the Stanza, added some more money and bought the Honda Accord. I removed my woofers and put them in the silver Accord and life continued.
All through my stay in UI, I traveled at the end of every session for the holidays and also to do some shopping for the new academic session. My father would give me little money and I would add some from my purse too. By the time school would resume and I was moving to the second year, I sold my Honda Accord and bought a V-boot. There were two types of V-boot: ordinary and padded. The one I got in my second year was V-boot ordinary. Going into my third year, I sold the V-boot ordinary and bought the V-boot padded.
By fourth year, I sold the V-boot padded and bought a Grand Cheerokee. Then in my final year, I bought a Peugot 406 which I used till I graduated. So, you see, I may have been on campus seeing me with different rides and you’d assume I had many cars but the reality was that I always sold one in order to buy another. In one way, I was lucky – despite the fact that I was in school, my cybercafé business continued to be profitable because I had a honest friend whom I put in charge and he was very forthright in the handling of the business.
Maybe if he was not governor I may not have been able to afford the life I lived only because the seed money with which my brother and I started our businesses came from him. Plus, as governor, he had friends – top shots – who would come to our house and give us cash gifts and we in turn, had no responsibilities to bear so we just used the money for business and to maintain our lifestyle.
I started driving when I was in JSS2. That was the time when Baba Olusola Saraki wanted to contest for the Presidency and my father was his campaign coordinator in Oyo State. That meant we had different Saraki-branded buses and sometimes, we were taken to school in those buses. The drivers would put me on their legs and steady my hands on the steering while taking us to school or bringing us back home. That was how I began to learn but my parents never knew sha.
When I got to SS3, that was when I began to take my father’s cars from the house and drive them out. There was this one time that I that I drove my father’s Nissan Datsun out. The plate number was popular – OY12A; the car was associated with my dad everywhere in Ibadan. Unknown to me, a judge had spotted me driving the car and had called my dad that he had seen me around the city in the car. My father came back home and beat me. I don’t know how many strokes but he beat the hell out of me. After that, I still did not stop taking his cars out.
Another time, I took out his Peugot 504. I had driven to my friend’s place and together we had gone all round visiting girls and catching our fun. Then I drove back home. As I was attempting to drive into the garage, I hit the car against the gate and the headlamp broke. I quickly took the car to the mechanic, bought a new headlamp and fixed it. I did not know that my father would notice. He saw the quick fix and again, he beat me.
Later, I moved to Mom’s car. I’d take out her Volkswagen car several times. Then later, she began to allow me drive her around. I would drive her to Agbeni or that I should take her to his office at Popoyemoja or that I should go and buy Amala. That was how I began to drive by myself.
One time, I was told to go drop a visitor at Apata. It was on my way back home that I had my first accident. The car somersaulted but did not explode. I landed right in the hospital. Usually, when Volkswagens somersault, they explode because of where the battery is placed. I was so lucky to be spared. That was the only time I ever had an accident, and I believe God spared me for a reason.
Whenever we are travelling, my father would not give you more than $200! He never gave any of us money to buy anything as expensive as a Ralph Laurent. I always had to dig into my savings to buy the kind of things I wanted to use. By the time I was done shopping, I would have spent almost $1000.
My father loved perfumes – I can say we all got the love of perfumes from him and so anytime I traveled, I’d buy him perfume. In fact, once you come back, he’d ask: “parfum wo lo ba mi ra bo?” (what perfume did you buy for me?)
Now let me shock you: by my third year on campus, I had begun to pay my school fees myself. Even though my father was governor, I never collected school fees from him but these are things that people would never know. __________
This is an excerpt of a very long piece about the life’s journey of Hon. Dapo Lam in celebration of his 41st birthday today, October 25 2019