Lanre Tejuosho (Olanrewaju Adeyemi Tejuoso), a Nigerian politician, was born 1964. He was a senator from Ogun State at the 8th Assembly. Decades of affluence have not robbed him of what matters most in life. Beyond his opulence and a swathe of achievements in medicine and politics, Tejuoso is an embodiment of passion for the people, focus on the future and ambition for the common good. His grandmother, the late Iyalode Bisoye Tejuoso, was one of the few female industrialists of her era. Wealthy and with tentacles spread across various sectors of the economy, the young Tejuoso found full-fledged wings in her to fly. The young prince first cut his teeth as a businessman under her grandma’s tutelage.
Yet, there is something about the Ogun State-born prince that has endeared him to many. It is deeper than the intellect he possesses. “I have to respect tradition because I know the source of my background – royalty. I have to respect that by placing my family in a position of the custodian of their heritage. My father, Adedapo Tejuoso, Osile Oke-Ona Egba, is a king. I believe I must respect that honour bestowed on our family by making sure I behave the way I am supposed to. The fact that I am in politics doesn’t mean I should be loud. There must be a level of decorum,” he stated.
Unlike many privileged individuals who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, Tejuoso has learnt to keep a calm head over his shoulder. But what does he owe that to? “My upbringing with my grandmother, Iyalode Bisoye Tejuoso, and my mother helped me,” he simply said. “I was pampered while I was growing up. I was always following my grandmother who was a big-time trader, industrialist and an estate developer. This engendered an entrepreneurial spirit in me because by the time I graduated, I was already trading in importing chemicals and exporting cocoa for her.
“I thank God that one did not derail or got easily carried away because going to medical school wasn’t the easiest and with the kind of pampering (I got) at that time and for one to succeed in medicine at that time I believe the grace of God and the ability to take life seriously helped me. Again, my father was a disciplinarian and was able to monitor and manage the excesses that could arise from my being pampered. My father, Oba Dapo Tejuoso, was the main factor in shaping that aspect of my life.”
Who is Lanre Tejuosho?
I was born in the United Kingdom but I was brought back to Nigeria before I was two. I can’t recall much of my early days in the United Kingdom but I know that I returned to Nigeria to start school at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital Staff School because my father was working at LUTH at that time. For my post-elementary education, I attended Igbobi College, Yaba. For my tertiary education, I went to College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Idi Araba, where I studied Medicine. I also did my house job (housemanship) there.
I was brought up in a Christian home and we were taught to believe that whatever happens to a man is what God wants for a particular purpose. I believe that for God to have saved my life, it meant that He had a purpose for me and the incident made me to move closer to the Almighty. It also propelled me to identify my purpose and fulfill my destiny.
Challenges are relative. What some people might consider to be challenges may not be so with some other people. At a time, I wanted to stand on my own and I decided to go out. I tried to look for business to do but whenever I approached people, they always asked what I was looking for again because I’m from a wealthy family. They immediately categorise you as someone that does not need any help. I couldn’t really live a normal life of going to look for jobs and contracts. Whenever I got to such places, they told me to leave the rest for other people. Meanwhile, I was trying to be independent of my parents. That was a very big challenge for me because I couldn’t be myself.
I had to carve my niche. I went out of the country for some time and I developed myself business-wise. I also went into politics and nobody in the family had done that before.
I wanted to become a trader like my grandmother. But when I finished my secondary school education, I had a very good result and I could have studied any course I wanted. I decided to become a doctor because my father was a doctor too.
My mum also played a major role in my life. She was a stickler for decorum and she always stood for whatever she believed in.
For my national youth service, I was posted to the Nigeria Port Authority clinic. I did my house job at the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital, Idi Araba. I also worked with my father for a year at his hospital. Even then, the trading instinct in me made me go into business; so, I didn’t practise for more than two years. I continued working with my grandmother at the factory, Teju Foam. I also did a lot of trading with her such as exportation of palm kernel.
After going round the world and seeing things work very well, I realised it was a big shame coming back to our country and things are not working. Having been opportune to see how things work, I believe it is people like us that should come and show people how it can be done. To effect certain changes in the society, you have to be part of the decision-makers and that is why I ventured into politics. There is no use complaining without doing anything about what you’re complaining about. It’s like people watching a football match. All the spectators can have different criticisms but put them on the pitch, and they wouldn’t be able to do anything.
My father didn’t want me to go into politics because he believes that there are so many responsibilities to handle in the family. It’s the best you can ever think of. I am the only medical doctor child he has and we have many things in common. We have always been together. While growing up, I tried to copy everything he did. I studied medicine because of him. He is a moralist and he doesn’t joke with his integrity. I learnt a lot of good things from him.
Many others did not approve of my decision as well. They told me it was a dirty game but I always replied them that someone had to go and clean it. I may not be able to complete the change but I should be able to start it. People that have the potential to be leaders are afraid to come out because they are comfortable in their zones. I thank God that I am comfortable; I don’t need to do politics to survive. After I went into politics, my friends got interested. It is always good for people who have other jobs and activities to get involved in politics; not people that are using politics as their main source of income. We need more people who are exposed, mean well and have names to protect to get involved in politics. If you bring someone who has lived in the village all his life to rule in Abuja, he would bring a village mentality to leadership. It is people that are exposed that should come and change our country.
Even people that don’t do politics die. If you are spiritually aware, you would know that whatever happens to a man is for a purpose. Whenever you have attacks on the way, you should be happy because it means that God has a plan for you somewhere but the devil wants to cut it short. One has to always stay focused and move on. If you fall down, get up and keep moving. If I had quit at that time, would I have become a senator today. The attack was in 2006 and I became a senator in 2015. The attack was just a plot of the devil but God saw me through.
A senator or House of Reps member is not supposed to be in charge of the welfare of the people if things are working fine. The social welfare of the people should be the responsibility of the executive. They are the ones that have the budget and opportunities to give jobs to people. All we are supposed to do is to pass laws and bills. But now, when they want to assess a legislator, they ask how many school fees, rents and other bills that you paid for people. The ministers were not voted for; they are not accountable to people but they are the ones that actually have the capacity to give people jobs and contracts. It would have been good if legislators are allowed to continue with their businesses and they wouldn’t be paid. That way, it is only serious people that would come to the National Assembly. As a senator, if you don’t close down all the businesses that fetch you money, the Code of Conduct Bureau would come after you.
Commenting on his contributions to the health sector since he came on board as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Tejuoso disclosed, “When we came in I realised that the duty of a senator on paper is to introduce laws, bills, ensuring that the policies of the country are improved. When we came, we found that there were so many laws by our predecessors that were not being implemented. I decided to look into what can make positive impact in the health sector of the country. The most successful country in Africa is the country that has robust funding for their health sector. I realise that Nigeria has the least amount of money in terms of funding for the health sector. There was a meeting of all African countries in Nigeria in 2001, called ‘Abuja Declaration’.
“There, they decided that to have a successful health sector as a country, you must earmark minimum of 15 per cent to health in the annual budget. To date, we have not surpassed five per cent while in the said five per cent, the government doesn’t release up to three per cent. So countries that are not as rich as Lagos or Ogun states – such as Swaziland and even Zimbabwe regarded as poor – are already fulfilling that law as their health sector is better than Nigeria. To me, success in health sector is subject to funding. And before we came on board there was a law which says a minimum of one percent of consolidated revenue fund must be reserved every year for the health sector to make sure that our primary health sector is functional. It was signed by (former) President Goodluck Jonathan. Again, it was not implemented. When I became Senate Committee on Health’s chairman, together with my committee members we decided to pursue that to a logical conclusion. We started two years ago and we succeeded in 2018. We had the one per cent in place in the 2018 budget, which is a major achievement to make progress in the sector so that every Nigerian can go to a primary health centre close by.”
It was a very good experience because I learnt to be subservient. Coming from a background in the private sector, where I was the leader and gave instructions, I was in a situation where the governor was my leader and I had to take instructions. It was a really humbling experience. It was also a good preparation for my time now in the National Assembly. I know the process for the executive to seek approval for its budget in the House of Assembly. Now, people come to us to approve their budgets. It was a learning curve for me.
I was spiritually prepared. Many people believe that corruption is in most places. As a medical doctor, I know that a mother cannot just abruptly stop breastfeeding her child. She has to wean the baby for some time. That is the same way we should treat corruption; there has to be a strategic withdrawal from that kind of mentality that has become a normal situation in the country. Now, we have to do a lot of education and advocacy to prepare them for the change that is imminent.
I lived with her all through my young life until I got married. She was a very godly and religious woman. She was also a trader par excellence. She was the leader of all the women in Abeokuta as the Iyalode of Egbaland. She was also the Iyalode of Egba Christians. She was a very good trader and I learnt a lot of things from her in that aspect. She capitalised on whatever opportunities came to her business-wise. She also knew how to make the best of any investment she was involved in. Due to my closeness to her, I also contributed to many of the investments in terms of making myself available to her and also giving her some advice. I learnt so much from her.
She was 80 years; so, I knew that she was getting closer to her maker. However, it was the manner of her passing that I did not like. Nobody would like anybody getting killed, irrespective of whatever age they are. Well, the Bible says that we should thank God in all situations and that is what we do.
She was my parent. My father too was living with her; we lived in a massive estate in Lagos. I lived in her quarters but I saw my father every day.
I was involved in a major accident while travelling from Lagos to Abeokuta with my grandmother. The accident left a scar on my head and it is something I would always remember.
Family and My Wife
I got married very early at the age of 22 because I saw what I wanted and I didn’t want to lose it. I met my wife when I was 21. I saw everything I needed in her. I had a playful life. When I was in school, I had many girlfriends. I wanted someone that could take me for who I was and change me to a better person. I did not like that kind of life and I wanted someone that could change me to a monogamist. She comes from a polygamous family; she understands how men behave. She has the experience to manage the kind of man with that tendency. She used to counsel me to settle down with just one girl. I used to have over 10 girlfriends and she knew that she was one of them. She thought I could not marry her because she was a Muslim.
When I told my grandmother I wanted to marry her, she was a bit concerned that she was a Muslim. But I told her that my wife grew up in London and she wasn’t really a practising Muslim at that point.
To him, the secret of a successful marriage is to know God early and have the ability to build oneself and the relationship. It also involves managing weaknesses and strengths – this is vital because you cannot find a perfect human being.
“We have developed a lot of thirst for Christ very early and this has helped me and my wife.”
My interests are spiritual. I want to become a pastor but they said God would always call you before you do it. I am waiting for the call. I have a passion for the propagation of the Christian life. I believe if we can all live as Christians, it would be a very good world. The teachings are very good for a moral life.
I enjoy travelling. I like being on the plane; the longer the flight, the better for me. On the flight, I can do a lot of thinking and reading.
I try to respect my tradition and my position as a prince. Whenever I go to Saudi Arabia, I never see their princes putting on suits. They honour their tradition and dress accordingly. If we don’t propagate our own tradition and culture, nobody would do it for us.
I want to make heaven and to do that, there are things one must do and not do. I try to live by that.
Olanrewaju Adeyemi Tejuoso Biography and Profile (Olanrewaju Adeyemi Tejuoso)