‘Hope’ in this context is being used to revised or rejuvenate a declining generation or an order or institution that has been moribund, it is a process to motivate different actors that no matter how bad the situation is, hope remain the weapon needed to summon the courage to turn things around.
It is this paradigm that characterized the live of Prince Ademola ADENIJI ADELE, known in the political arena as the ‘Prince of Hope’. A former mayor and chairman of Lagos Island Local Government, A former Lagos State commissioner for Youth and Sport, the Prince of Lagos and an activist and one of the driver and founder of the Pro Democracy organisation, NADECO.
Prince Ademola ADENIJI ADELE was born on Jan 13, 1956 to Oba Musediq ADELE, the King of Lagos. The Prince was greatly unknown until the 1990s; however, before then he attended the famous University of Ife and studied Engineering. After the demise of his father the Oba of Lagos, he faced the usual challenges of struggling through life, so he knew how difficult things can be and can also connect with it. This, has always gives him an edge in public service.
In the 1990s, he decided to venture into politics, coming out as the ‘Prince of Hope’, he contested the local government election and won. He refused to accept the fact that old order – of using public service for personal enrichment and contributing nothing to the polity- should continue neither should the process of providing incentives for political elders and providing little or no service to the people should be cutulrised. He strongly believes that Lagos Island can no longer be view as doyen of ‘area boys’ that with hard work and commitment, as well as intellective capacity to excel and he can unlocked the buried capacity of the Lagos Islanders.
During his reign as Lagos Island Local Government Chairman, he set up a development project called LIFE (Lagos Island Foundation for Education) to engineer support for Lagos island public schools and to deliver qualitative education. As part of this program, he supported the formation of National Union of Lagos Island Student (NULIS) in which I am one of the founders, a student body to support the government initiatives to encourage student of Lagos Island to aspire beyond secondary schools and move to higher institutions. This was done by organising ‘Free Jamb Couching for Lagos Island Student’, as higher institution students we were encouraged by the “Prince of Hope” in this initiative. This was my first encounter with the’ Prince’, lets not forget that one of his cardinal program while in office as the chairman was the Bursary award for students of higher institutions from Lagos Island.
It was at this period that pro democracy organisation started, while many politicians venture outside the country because of their personal safety, the’ Prince of Hope’ was a gallant fighter , he waited and stood side by side with the Nigeria people. He engineered, organised and was instrumental to the Declaration of MKO Abiola at Epetodo in Lagos Island, he did not only encourage him to declare and claim his mandate, he gallantly went to prison with him. I remember visiting him at Kaduna prison, it was around 7am in the morning, Prince was doing his morning exercise, specifically jogging, he came to us at the gate with the barrier, it strike you to consider the amount of sacrifice he has made and you start to think of how many people with such background will stand with the people and sacrifice his ambition, business, family to ensure that Nigerians are free from military junta. I remembered in 2014, when I was interviewing Prince in London on his role during the pro democracy era for a research project, he expressed deep sense of regret on the hypocrisy of the foreign governments, especially the west.
In the 1990s, during the Grassroot Democratic Movement, GDM, era and the intimidation by Al-Mustapha when he threatening most politicians to support the five fingers of the leprosy hand, Price Ademola ADENIJI Adele remain resolute for late MD Yusuff. I remember I was with him in Maiduguri during that hot afternoon for the GDM “National Convention”, I sat beside him as his Personal Assistant and learnt how and why leadership need to be resolute, The Prince defied intimidation and cast his vote for late MD Yusuff, knowing fully well that he could be back in prison, though the victory of Abacha did not allow that to happen.
It is difficult to properly juxtapose what happened in those days of Action Congress,AC, and the divergent views with the elders of the party, as a democrat, Prince is totally against Militarization of politics and political parties. He advocates for a party that the view of the majority should stand not the views of elders of the party. This enervates a huge cost to his political ambition, his zeal to become the Lagos state governor becomes a mirage as well as other political goals. , However, things start getting better when he assiduously supervised the election of Governor BABATUNDE Fashola.
Back to public service as the Commissioner for Youth and Sports, The Prince as usual defied all odds and performed excellently well, despite the challenges of civil service beaureaucracy. However, he was unable to join Fashola for the second time because of health challenges.
The most recent was his disagreement with the party leaders on the choice candidate of All Progressive Congress,APC for the governor of Lagos State, he took a departed position that a Lagosians should have the most prominent position in Lagos State politics, he champion the idea of ‘Free Lagos’ this was an idea that he took with him.
It is true that many people will have many issues with the Prince on his political choices, there are issues with his falling out with Tinubu on many fronts , either on the issue of Fashola , or on the issue of Free Lagos, but in Prince heart, if you are close to him those choices were made based on justice and service to Lagosians, it wasn’t because of personal aggrandisement, he said to me during this period while in Badagry “I have told them I am still a valid member of APC, but cannot agree with the choice of the party elders on the governorship candidate, if he is making this decision, he should give us a Lagosian, ‘I got more to lose by taking this position, knowing fully well that Ambode will become the governor, as a Lagos state contractor the risk is high’ he concluded.
Everyone that knows him, he is not a tribalist, but a democrat. His political affliction has always remains with the Yar’Adua group, he did not support MKO for the Social Democratic Party, SDP, primary, he supported Yar’Adua, but ended going to prison with MKO. He didn’t support Buhari for the APC primary; he supported Atiku from the same Yar’Adua group lineage.
When Prince is not playing politics, he is a structured and efficient farmer, specialising in chicken and turkey rearing and I was opportune to work with him as a farmer myself in crop cultivation on his farm in Badagry.
Prince in relaxed mood is an enjoyable person to be with, he relates with everyone irrespective of age or class. He once told me an amusing story that on a particular day before his advent into politics, he was arrested by a frivolous traffic warden at the junction of ADENIJI Adele road and brought to the nearby police station. He was asked to write a statement and he wrote “I Prince Adeniji Adele, was arrested on Adeniji Adele Road and brought to the Police Station”. DPO released him immediately.
Despite all his live challenges he remain hopeful till his last days, I remember speaking to him in India two days before my journey to Nigeria, precisely on the 29 April, he said to me ‘ Ayo call me when you get to Lagos’. I never knew that was the last time I will speak to him. The Prince is dead, but the baton of hopes has been passed to us, the HOPE Lives On.