I met my wife on her christening day while straddled to mum’s back — Ex Kogi Deputy Gov, Yomi Awoniyi | Speaks on life after Power

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Architect Yomi Awoniyi sharing a joke with the GDA of Asabeafrika


When Architect Abayomi Sunday Benjamin Awoniyi the gangling immediate past Deputy Governor of Kogi State (North Central Nigeria) arrived the Iyah- Gbedde country home of ex-Police Affairs Minister, General David Medayese Jemibewon on the evening of Thursday, August 4, 2016, the purpose of his visit was never lost on anybody. He was at the General’s country home for the Christian Wake Keep cum Service of Songs of the General’s mother, late Mama Rachael Emife Jemibewon who passed away to the great beyond on Thursday July 21st at the ripe age of 106.

The only thing that drew the attention of many to his arrival at 6:50pm (After the Service of Songs) was the amount of security operatives among which are soldiers and police escorts that aided him into General Jemibewon’s compound. You will think Mr. Yomi Awoniyi himself is an Army General like his host. His first point of call was the mini-room where Mama’s body was displayed for sightseeing.
Architect Yomi Awoniyi to Asabeafrika....'My mother jokingly told my mother-in-law on the day of her christening that her daughter will be marrying her son while i was strapped to her back'

The third son of the late Chief Sunday Bolorunduro Awoniyi, the man fondly called “Little Sardauna” in his life time is not a novice to the Jemibewon dynasty of Iyah-Gbedde. His own father, who was the Aro of Mopa (Mopa-Muro LGA, formerly under Kabba Province) in his life time, is a political godfather to General Jemibewon. So, Architect Yomi Awoniyi is equally like a son to the General.

Why I respect General Jemibewon…
Yomi and the likes of business man, Olatunde Ayeni, Barrister Segun Awolowo Jnr and many others later joined the chief mourner, General Jemibewon in the open space of his compound to observe the continuation of the event (Christian Wake Keeping) which went on into the night. It was there your Africa’s number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog; Asabeafrika cornered the immediate past deputy Governor for questioning, which he answered honestly.
What is Yomi Awoniyi’s perception about General David Jemibewon?
“I have a monumental respect for him”, Yomi quipped. He continued “We are gathered here today to celebrate Mama’s life. We thank God for that longevity, 106 years. My prayer is for us to earn that kind of favor from God, and that kind of benefit, may the grace of long life favor us and favor us well” the PDP chieftain prayed.
There is actually nothing strange or different about being in power and being out of power.  You go into power with the strong believe in the knowledge that one day, you will leave. That of course is, if you are wise enough to go into power with such a belief”. 
Architect Yomi Awoniyi and his host, General David Medayese Jemibewon (Rtd)
Life outside Power
Yomi Awoniyi who made all the political difference in the election that brought ex-Governor Idris Wada of PDP to power in Kogi State four years ago due to the influence and political profile of his family in Mopa land is now an ordinary citizen far away from the allure of power. His late Dad was the first district officer for the British Colonial administration before Nigeria’s independence in 1960. The elder Awoniyi was equally one of the few Northern Nigerian elites to hold that position in his days before he later held other positions in the now defunct Northern Regional Government including that of Secretary to the Executive Council where he worked with the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello (Premier of Northern Nigeria). The Senior Awoniyi who often held up the assassinated premier as an ‘example of good governance’ was famously known and addressed as “Sardauna Keremi” or “Little Sardauna” by his people.

However, the younger Awoniyi’s principal, Captain Idris Wada lost out in the last gubernatorial election in Kogi state which produced Governor Yahaya Bello of the All Progressive Party (APC). By this change of guard, the architect turned politician equally lost his position of Deputy Governor of the state. Asabeafrika asked him to give a glimpse of life outside power.

He first reacted with a huge laughter before his reaction. Hear him “There is actually nothing strange or different about being in power and being out of power.  You go into power with the strong believe in the knowledge that one day, you will leave. That of course is, if you are wise enough to go into power with such a belief”.  

Awoniyi said although his political exit from government means nothing to than the experience the exposure brought to him… “We are out of power, yes, we have battles that we are fighting at the Supreme Court now, but having said so, I actually give thanks to God, who took me in there and brought me out. I give thanks to God Almighty for giving me the benefit of having served at that level. It opened my eyes to so many things; my political horizon has been further more deepened by serving as the Deputy Governor of Kogi State”.

Architect Yomi Awoniyi speaks to the GDA & a colleague, Mr. Paul Ukpabio of The Nation Newspaper
How I reclaimed my private life
So, how is Mr. Ex-Deputy Governor taking life out of political limelight?  “First of all, I wish everybody well on my own. I cherish the respect that I am presently getting from having served at that level in the state. I have however reclaimed my private life, as you can see, I feel very well rested” the PDP chieftain submitted with an expression of gratitude registered on his face.
“My father was a northern Christian, called Sunday Awoniyi, from a village down the road called Mopa, having said so, believe me, he was a major inspiration and influence in my life, he educated me, nurtured me, I think that he instilled some profound values in me which has stood me in good stand in all my life. There is no way I can describe him or try to fit totally into his shoes because the very essence of his being was very close to utopia for somebody like me, I won’t even try to match that”.
What I know about dad
Asabeafrika asked him the next question which brothers much on the identity of his late Dad.  The late Chief Sunday Boluduro Awoniyi had his biggest challenge while living with a name synonymous to the western part of Nigeria but an orientation synonymous to the northern part of the country.  During the 4th Republic, Awoniyi became one of the founding members of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), till his demise in 2007; he remained a pillar of the party. In year 1999, the Mopa-muro born Awoniyi attempted to become the chairman of the party but was unsuccessful.  The party under Chairman, Barnabas Gemade expelled him and six others in 2001 for what it termed ‘anti-party activities’ but later reinstated him.

According to very reliable sources at the time, one of the reasons why Awoniyi had problem with PDP was the fact that he was always identifying himself with Northern Nigeria against the interest of some powerful forces in the party.  As if to justify the perception that he was a northerner by heart, Awoniyi later emerged as the Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) a pan Northern Nigerian political organization detested by many southern Nigerian politicians.  When Awoniyi was asked why he took up the position, he simply said “I was brought up in my own part of the world to act well our part wherever we may find ourselves”.  He held up the position till his death on November 28, 2007 at age 75.

We put it to Yomi, his son to define his father as a close observer.  Was dad a Southerner or a northerner? Who was the Senior Awoniyi in the true sense of the word?
But the 3rd son of the legendary Small Sardauna choose to be diplomatic with his response “My father was a northern Christian, called Sunday Awoniyi, from a village down the road called Mopa, having said so, believe me, he was a major inspiration and influence in my life, he educated me, nurtured me, I think that he instilled some profound values in me which has stood me in good stand in all my life. There is no way I can describe him or try to fit totally into his shoes because the very essence of his being was very close to utopia for somebody like me, I won’t even try to match that”.

Architect Yomi Awoniyi to Asabeafrika....'Dad taught me how to live and think'
 ‘Dad’s shoes are smaller to mine’…
When Asabeafrika asked Architect Yomi Awoniyi about the idea of fitting into his late father’s shoes, with an infectious smile playing on his cheek, he gave us an answer that seems all the same like an irony. Hear him “He was a size 8 and I am size 10 (Laughs). So my shoes are much bigger and I am his third son. I have two older brothers”.

The story of my mum…
Asking Yomi Awoniyi to talk about his mother is almost like winning a laurel in a sport event as he made Asabeafrika see the importance of the question “Like any other mother, my mum has a very profound influence on me, you can see I am really picky at my words and response about my mom because no one has ever asked me this question. My mom has been very humane to me, very loving, very accommodating always wanting to carry everybody along”
“Yes, she is still very much around and alive. She is presently in Canada holidaying”.
I am Yoruba not…
Last year at the funeral of General David Jemibewon’s father-in-law, Chief John Bosede Ajayi in Orin Ekiti,  Architect Yomi Awoniyi who was still the Number 2 man in Kogi State at the time came to the event with his pretty wife, an ex-Banker, in the person of Mrs. Tokunbo Awoniyi. A TV reporter in the state had asked him a question that jolted his sense of humor; “Sir, can you speak Yoruba?”
 The question did not only jolted Yomi but sent him into a laughing spree which lasted 5 minutes. He looked at the female reporter’s eyes subsequently before responding in Yoruba language “Omo Yoruba ni mi, won bi mi ni Ilu Mopa ni ipinle Kogi. Mo le so Yoruba da’ada, Omo Mopa ni mi”. His response to that straight question surprised many people at the venue but Yomi made his mark by making his response in conk Yoruba dialect.

When Asabeafrika asked him why everyone perceives him to be too English and probably can’t speak his mother’s tongue at Iyah Gbedde during the funeral of Mama Rachael Emife Jemibewon, the Architect turned politician didn’t only gave a robust smile but equally gave a robust reply “You are making a very big mistake. I schooled in Balewa's College, Zaria and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. I am fully educated in Nigeria. My late father made it compulsory for all of us his children to listen to the BBC and to VOA and when you listen much to radio; you will definitely pick one or two things. But sincerely, I do not see anything strange about my accent at all. I am a thorough bred Nigerian. It is just evident of what education was in my own time”.

Architect Yomi Awoniyi to Asabeafrika...'Ibrahim my Abuja based taylor designs my dresses'
How I handle female admirers…
As an educated, lanky and handsome man with political clout, and attractive to the opposite sex, how does Architect Yomi handle women who get attracted to him on daily basis?
His response came with a yabis spiced with a hearty laugh that preceded his final reply “You must be crazy” (prolong laughter). “I am very much married to a beautiful woman. I don't have to be on my toes at all. Ah! Ah!”
He kept quiet for a while and continued; “In her, I already have everything I need. Right now, she is at the Redeemed Camp because this week is our church's annual convention. If not for the General's event, I would have been by her side at the church camp”.
Since Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God recently advised that young men should marry women who can pray for a maximum of an hour and must equally be able to cook very well and because the Architect is a member of Redeemed Church, we threw the question to him. Does Madam, Mrs. Tokunbo Awoniyi have those qualities?”
“Oh yes, she does” The Politician answered enthusiastically. He exhibited more   qualities his pretty wife possessed “My wife is a prayer warrior, she is a worker in our church parish, when we first got married, I was the one that was more of a prayer warrior. But in recent times, she has found so much of peace in prayer. When she prays now, I become tongue tied”.

Architect Yomi Awoniyi to Asabeafrika...'My wife has taken over in the area of prayers'
How I met my wife at cradle…
Architect Awoniyi told Asabeafrika the untold story of how he met and fell in love with his lovely wife. It is a very rare story, much more like a fairy tale “Our families have been friends for long. We had known ourselves for long too. Our families have been interacting too for a very long time. Coincidentally, the day my mother met her mother, she was being christened. I was strapped on my mom's back; they said that somebody from Kabba was christening her daughter. My mom went there and when she saw her mother, she jokingly told the woman, 'Omo mi lo ma fe omo yin o’ Meaning “it’s my son that will marry your daughter”. And it happened. It became prophetic”
“The marriage is 29 years old now and it has been a fantastic experience”


Architect Yomi Awoniyi to Asabeafrika...'My wife is my friend and soul partner'
What couples need to know about successful marriages…
A lot of marriages suffer break down within their first six months or 12 months of coming together, as a veteran close to 3 decades of marriage experience, what advice is Architect Yomi Awoniyi giving to couples on how to keep their marriage going? And what has been the secret of his own marriage of 29 years?
The husband of Tokunbo Awoniyi cleared his throat before giving the needed advice “Married couples just have to be very patient with each other. For me, I pray that God gives every man enablement to be able to provide for their wives. I say ‘may God give you enablement to be the provider for your family’. Anybody who tells you that the ability to provide for the family is not fundamental to marriage, is just deceiving you. Having said so, it is very good and helpful to have a wife who understands, because life is very unpredictable; today, you are up and the next day, you could be down. May God give you the patience and may God give you a wife who is very forgiving”.

Architect Yomi Awoniyi to Asabeafrika....'Dad taught me how to live and think'
Why dad didn’t allow us to study abroad
Having come from such a privileged background, this blog wondered why dad insisted that Yomi  study in Nigeria.
“You are very wrong. My father was a civil servant. He was never a rich person” He reacted sharply before he continued. “So the option of schooling abroad didn't even exist. Secondly, when we went to school, believe me, Ahmadu Bello University was just as good as Oxford University. It was that good. I mean, most of my lecturers were expatriates from Poland, from the UK and education was very sound. It was later in life when it was time to do my Masters that my father said okay, expose yourself to the UK, so, I went to the University College of London”.

The next question we asked Yomi met a brick wall “Is it possible for you to return to serve in Kogi state government?” “I decline to answer for now” he responded with an arresting mien.

Architect Yomi Awoniyi to Asabeafrika....'I have learnt a lot of lesson about my experience as Kogi Deputy Governor'
Me & style
We soon move to the fashion and style sense of the 56 years old politician.  We asked “From your appearance, one can say you are a man of style. How stylish would you say you are?”
His answer came stylishly as well “I don't know if I am that stylish, but I know that I have a very good tailor in Abuja, his name is Ibrahim. He has a gift. He knows his work and he is talented. I do not even think of style, that’s because he decides, he knows what to do for me. He only tells me what he wants to do for me and I give him a go ahead nod. But one thing with me is that, whatever I decide to wear, I want it to be well sown, the lines are straight, with nice curves, very decent not necessarily frayed”.
“My wife is a prayer warrior, she is a worker in our church parish, when we first got married, I was the one that was more of a prayer warrior. But in recent times, she has found so much of peace in prayer. When she prays now, I become tongue tied”.
Architect Yomi Awoniyi to Asabeafrika....'We thank God Mama lived 106 years of grace'
The Nigerian education system saddens my heart…
The University College, London graduate of Urban Development Planning had earlier talked about the local education system in Nigeria of his own days and how it influenced his academic success. But what can he say of today’s education system in Nigeria, how does it make him feel?
“Yes, I feel sad. Even after serving in Kogi state” the former Kogi deputy Governor explained “I have come to realize that unless we come to reality, education cannot be free; we must pay tuition. That is because, when education is free, it loses its content and quality. Our experience has shown that free education is not qualitative. When I see what our universities are charging as school fees, there are no way they can deliver”.

The Former Deputy Governor and admirers at the event
In a country where over 70% of the populace is enmeshed in poverty, majority is complaining that the private universities are charging bogus fees; does the architect think they should be regulated?
Yomi’s answer will shock you “I even think that the private universities are being considerate with what they charge. We should remember that education is not cheap. A university anywhere in the world charge about $35,000 per annum. But here in our universities, some of them charge N35, 000 for the whole year. It cannot work”.

My gubernatorial ambition…
What does the ex-deputy Governor misses about life in office? “I do not miss anything”. He submitted with a thorough finality registered on his face.
 But political pundits in the state believe that Architect Yomi Awoniyi being the son of a strong political personage could still become a governor of  the confluence state in the nearest future or that he could even be taken as a governor in waiting considering his educational background, his political height and connections, do he feel so?
“No, I don't because I know it doesn't work that way”.

The Former Deputy Governor inspecting Mama's face at his arrival to Gen. Jemibewon's Iyah Gbedde country home
Dad is my role model
Does he have a role model? “Yes, I do”. He snapped a response at us. Who could that be? We probed further.
“Simply, Sunday Awoniyi of blessed memory” (His Legendary Father)
On what success means to him, he gave a definition and equally expressed a reservation.
“Success is the ability to impact positively in the lives of others and I am telling you very frankly that is what success means to me and I am very far away from achieving that”.
Not even after being a Deputy Governor of a state? We asked.
“Yes. There is still more to be done”.

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