A former member of the Lagos State House of Assembly and advertising professional, Mr. Ipoola Omisore, shares his fatherhood journey with PUNCH.
What does fatherhood mean to you?
Fatherhood means the captain of a family. The protector and guide of a nuclear family where everybody looks forward to him as a role model, teacher and shepherd.
When did you become a father?
I became a father about 44 years ago. I was a student in England at the time. I met my late wife, Adeola, at an Egbe Omo Oduduwa dance in England. She was my junior at Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife, Osun State. We got married and I had my first baby, Oluwaseyi, through her. She is now Mrs. Oluwaseyi Yusuf and works in the United Kingdom.
It was a day I will never forget as I got the news that my wife had put to bed. In England, you have a choice of either watch your wife deliver or wait outside till the process ends. I couldn’t stand to watch the pains of a woman groaning to give birth because of me. I decided to stand outside and the doctors came out to tell me ‘congratulations, you wife has put to bed.’
Was your first child’s gender what you initially wanted?
I belonged to one of the foolish men who believed in the male children. That day, I was happy because I didn’t care what the gender was. Later, I got more girls and I became sad. I turned against my wife who was now late. I was angry that she gave me girls. But on reflection today, I have 15 children; 13 graduates, one undergraduate and a young boy. I want to say that in terms of care, answering to needs and having passion for one’s parents, none can beat the girls. All my boys like me but not five per cent near that of my girls.
For men, who are still foolish like I was, I advise them to have a rethink. It’s proven that female children love their fathers more than their mothers, while the males are closer to their mothers.
What have been your challenges as a father?
I had my first two children in England in 1974/75. I didn’t feel it much. I returned to Nigeria December 1975. I had another child in Nigeria in 1977. I am from the Omisore family in Ile-Ife where largeness of family is a joy.
We are trained to give the basics to our children. I never faced any serious challenges in those days. I was an advertising executive handling products. I got baby products cheaply. It was fun training my children. It was remarkable that at 36, I had nine children which nobody would do these days. I came from a background where our fathers had 90 children and more. It was never a problem to me. The challenges are that I was a playboy and still one. I hardly stay at home and when I was a young man, I was like a masquerader. I only came in whenever I wanted the children to toe the line.
I was and still a club man. I had a shock of my life when I lost my first wife. I was 36 and she was 35, and a man who normally would not stay with his kids became challenged. Women cover lots of lapses for men but we hardly appreciate them until they are no longer around or no more. I would say I brought up all my children because there was a woman. So far so good, it has been a success story as a father of many children.
What values did you imbibe from your father which you are inculcating in your children?
My father was Chief Saliu Omisore. He was a disciplinarian. He was a friend to his children and loved kids. He detested commotion, loved education and believed in God. He was a community man. All these attributes he possessed impacted hugely on me.
What spurred you to abandon advertising for politics?
I spent most of my life in advertising in England. I started advertising and marketing in England between 1971 and 1974. I am one of the earliest most qualified advertising professionals. I earned a CAM advertising certificate in England. I also had a chartered Institute of Marketing diploma from the United Kingdom among other certificates.
When I returned home, I was employed at WNBS in 1976. I had a raw deal with the military governor of the Western Region at the time, Maj. Gen. David Jemibewon (retd). I was a commercial officer at the station and we played a commercial of joy soap owned by PZ. It was a new one of a semi-nude lady. The governor saw it and was annoyed. He ordered that we should all be brought to him for showing a nude picture. We were told to withdraw it and I explained that it was a commercial.
That experience made me to relocate to Lagos to start work in an advertising firm. I worked in some notable advertising companies and established some through partnerships.
I was also an examiner for APCON. When I was into outdoor advertising, together with some colleagues, we revolutionised the industry. We changed the name from Outdoor Contractors Association of Nigeria to Outdoor Association of Nigeria to make it more professional. It is now Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria. I served as president of the association for four years after serving in various capacities. I also founded Outdoor Association of West Africa. It was beautiful.
I later realised that being a community leader in Ojokoro, Alakuko area, we interfaced with politicians. They would promise but wouldn’t return after winning elections. Even at a point, I was sponsoring politicians. My colleagues and I were contributing money for community projects. I thus indicated interest to contest a seat in the state assembly. I was all the while playing politics but not contesting. In 2003, I made an inroad into politics but I didn’t succeed. The next election, I contested and got into the assembly and represented Ifako Ijaye constituency.
How have you been able to manage your career and roles as a father?
When I worked from February 1976 to December 2006, I had time for my kids despite being a club man. But my foray into politics changed the scenario. It was either I was in late-night travels or nocturnal meetings. Politics changed my face as a father to my children, but I am lucky because my wife is my opposite. I am an extrovert and she is an introvert. I am always on the move while she is an indoor person. That largely compensated for what my children would have missed. I was lucky because at that time, most of my children were grown up.
I have about four batches of children and I call the last, batch four. My first wife had six children and one died. I had batch two, three children; batch three, three kids; and the last batch has four children. But all the while, I was a father like a mother because my first six kids lost their mother when they were young. I trained them solely.
I have worked for several years but not much to show for it in terms of material wealth. When people ask me how wealthy I am, I say that my wealth is reflected in the success of kids.
I don’t have money, but I have things in my album. The album reflects my kids. When I open every page, I thank God and my stars. I wonder why God turned my foolishness into success because how do I explain that at 36, I had nine kids. God has turned my shame to glory. I am a favoured man despite being a sinner.
Is any of your kids toeing your professional career path?
Yes, my first son, Kolade, is a group creative director in a Lagos-based marketing communications company. Idowu is also a public relations manager in the state-owned advertising agency. Many of them are following in my footsteps.
What made you join politics late?
It was my career. Let me tell you this; my eight years in politics have been more momentous than my 32 years as an advertising professional. You have all the honour in politics. That is the abnormality of the nation’s political scene.
Riff-raff get more honour than intelligent ones in Nigerian politics. I recall that in my career, people knew me when I became president and was going to them. But as an honourable member, my popularity in eight years outshone my 32 years as a professional. That is why politics will continue to be lucrative. If you win an election today, the next day, bank MD would visit you. In my case, they came to me with a cheque book after I won the election.
The form had been filled in their head office. I was only asked to sign that an account had been opened for me. When we resumed, I was granted a loan of N20m. I was only told to sign a letter of domiciliary account that my salary would be paid to them. I got that without begging or asking. Eight years after I left office (I run a school, a primary and secondary), I needed only N500,000. The same bank couldn’t loan me N100,000.
I wanted to use the money for something profitable but no bank listened to me. I had to approach a micro-finance bank. I dined and wined with governors because I was an honourable member. A professor wouldn’t be able to enter where I could enter. You can see why people would die and kill themselves to be in office.
How do you relax?
I have a low BP. The more active I am, the healthier I get. I am a club man like I said earlier; I cannot rest. In my family, if you retire and don’t find something doing, you will die. I am restless. During my 70th birthday, I danced for four hours and early the next day, I was on the road.
I have a pastime. I am a Facebook addict. I write for three hours on Facebook every day. I write from 3.30am to 6.30am. With Facebook posts, I have written two books. I connect with youths on the platform.
They abuse me at times; I abuse them too and we learn from one another. The first is Thoughtful and Thoughtless Thoughts. It is a compilation of my five-year Facebook posts. I write about topical and matrimonial issues. I have an adequate knowledge on matrimony having been married four times.
My second book, Thoughtful Thoughts from the Source, is from my seven-year Facebook posts. When I was compiling the book in Ile-Ife, a new Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi Ojaja II, was installed. I then included his inauguration, Yoruba and Ile-Ife history and dedicated the book to him.
Do you have any regrets at 70?
My only regret is that at 70, people expect me to be an old man. It is painful that it is getting at me. When I celebrated 70, people started calling me Baba 70 and I find it annoying. I am still in the ‘market’. I am a ladies’ man. My mates are the 45-year-olds.
The age thing is pushing me out of the ‘market.’ It is also challenging me because people expect me to behave like an old man. It is going to be a big challenge for me in the next years. If anybody wants to put me down on account of age, we would quarrel. When I was in the assembly, all the staff, especially the ladies, knew that to hurt honourable Omisore, call him oldman. But this 70 is now making the ‘baba’ glued to me. I will resist it because I am not a baba.
Anyway, there is joy in attaining the biblical minimum age. The Bible says, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty…” If one attains that, one is blessed. In my family, old age is a blessing. Those who die young in my family die at 90. My mother is 94.