Nigeria

Untold story of Wale ‘Wally’ Adeyemo, Biden’s appointee as US Deputy Treasury Secretary

Thirty-nine-year-old Mr. Adewale “Wally’ Adeyemo was, during the week, announced by the United States President-elect, Joe Biden as the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury-designate. The announcement broke the internet as Adeyemo will become the first Nigerian-American to attain such a height in American’s political history when inaugurated. Saturday Tribune’s FEMI OGUNTAYO journeyed to his roots in Osun State, spoke to his relations and friends of his father’s. His report:

This is no more a blessing hidden from the world; it is a blessing known to the whole world, our son is a global figure now, so we thank God and pray for his success.” Those were the words of Mr. Gbadebo Adeyemo, the immediate younger brother of Mr. Adekanmi Joseph Adeyemo father of Mr. Adewale Adeyemo who was appointed as the United States Deputy Treasury Secretary during the week by the President-elect, Joe Biden. Mr Adeyemo spoke to Saturday Tribune over the phone. The appointment is definitely no more a hidden blessing as virtually everyone in Nigeria and particularly in his native Gbongan community in Ayedaade Local Government Area of Osun State. Gbongan is a community midway between Ibadan and Ile-Ife. You could see the joy of the cheery news in the eyes of every person you meet. Some aged community women ushered the reporter into Adeyemo’s family compound. They were all eager to explain how the Adeyemo family had been known in Gbongan for years. The women, who also prayed for Wale ‘Wally’ on his new accomplishment said with their prayers, he would succeed on the job and attain greater heights. They then spoke about Wale’s great-grandfather and his grandfather, who was popularly known as ‘Baba Ghana’. They said they both lived in Gbongan till death and were buried there.

Behind Wale’s great-grandfather’s house is his grandfather’s house. The gravesites of both his grandfather and grandmother were shown to the reporter at the veranda of the only standing family house belonging to his grandfather. The great-grandfather’s house is dilapidated with just one wall standing. Adeyemi Adeyemo, first child of Wale’s grandfather’s second wife, was at the family house when Saturday Tribune visited. Adeyemi expressed his excitement at the news about Wale’s appointment, as he brought out the photo frame of ‘Baba Ghana’, explaining that the man died some years after losing the first wife who was his stepmother and Wale’s grandmother.

adeyemo
His grandfather’s house

The reporter was then taken to the residence of Elder Olagunju Olapoju, a retired nurse and a close friend of the family. He was particularly close to Wale’s father when he was in Nigeria. It was from him that the reporter got more detailed information about how the Adeyemo family migrated to Gbongan from Modakeke in 1909 and how Wale’s father left Nigeria for the United States with his family in the 80s.

“During the Modakeke-Ife war (in 1909), Wally’s great-grandfather migrated from Modakeke to Gbongan and settled here. His grandfather, Akanbi Adeyemo who was popularly known as ‘Baba Ghana’ in Gbongan, stayed in Gbongan for some time before leaving for Ghana. It was when the Ghanaian government sent Nigerians away from Ghana in the 1960s that the man returned to Gbongan with his children to stay with his father.”

“Akanbi, Wale’s grandfather (Baba Ghana) was a native doctor (a babalawo). He inherited this from his father, Wale’s great-grandfather. He plied  his trade in Ile Akire here in Gbongan.  So, we were in the same compound, it was during this time that I became close to Wale’s father, – Mr. Adekanmi Joseph Adeyemo. I went to the same primary school with Wale’s uncle, Mr. Gbadebo Adeyemo.

“Unfortunately, Wale’s father was attending a school in Ghana before they returned to Gbongan. He could not complete his secondary school education. He was a member of the Seventh Day Adventist church, so he was managing some petty things at the Seventh Day Hospital. It was at that place that they noticed his ability and he was assisted with funds to prepare for and write GCE. It was after the GCE that he got admission to the Seventh Day Adventist Seminary of West Africa in Illishan, Ogun State (now BABCOCK University).

“So, from my own secondary school town, he would invite me to come to Ilishan to do some vacation jobs. I worked  in a bakery there. I could remember vividly, with the first money I got from the vacation job, I bought a three-and-half-feet bed with it (Laughs). So, I would stay with him in the same house at Ilishan Remo. After finishing his studies there, he went for NYSC and was posted to Remo Divisional High School Shagamu.

adeyemo
Remains of his great-grandfather’s house.

“After passing my school certificate examinations, he helped me secure employment at Muslim High School II in Shagamu. The quarters given to him as a corps member had three rooms  and the corps members there were just two – Wale’s father and one other corps member. So, he gave the other room to me. We were all living together. Along the line, after youth service, he had to leave me and travel to the United States to further his education around 1981. However, before leaving, he took me to Ilesha, got the form for a nursing job for me, followed me to the interview and in fact, helped me secure the nursing job,” Olagunju said.

On when Wale’s father left Nigeria for the United States,  Olagunju said: “Yes, I forgot to add, he got married before he left for the United States. He married Florence Olajire Adeyemo, an Inisha lady who was staying with her uncle at the Seventh Day Adventist Seminary of West Africa, which was where they met. The lady was a Grade II teacher in Ibadan at that period and they both had Wale then before Wale’s father left for the United States. After some time, his wife – Wale’s mother and Wale had to join him in the United States.

He further explained that Mrs. Florence Adeyemo is now a nurse in the United States and Wale, his father, and his mum have been there till date. “So, I know him very much, we were so close and whatever I am today, he helped me achieve it. He comes to Nigeria often and in fact, he was still in Nigeria some two years ago for the burial ceremony of one of his wife’s relatives. So, he studied, I think Theology here at the Seminary, it was when he got there that he got his Masters and also had his PhD,” Elder Olagunju explained.

On whether Wale is from Modakeke or Gbongan, he said: “Well, this is it, the great-grandfather and his wife migrated from Modakeke to Gbongan, died and were buried in Gbongan, and their corpses were not taken to Modakeke. Wale’s grandfather also worked in Gbongan, died in Gbongan and was also buried in Gbongan. Wale’s grandmother who was from Ogbomoso was also here in Gbongan, died here and was buried in Gbongan. So, answer your question yourself.”

Wale Adeyemo’s uncle, Gbadebo Adeyemo who also spoke with Saturday Tribune about where they regard as their hometown said: “I have always said that whoever is in Gbongan is as a result of Modakeke. It was because of the war that our great-grandfathers came to settle down in Gbongan. But Gbongan is where we know. For example, there is no place in Modakeke where I can settle down in as our family house. So right now, I can say that Wale Adeyemo is from Gbongan.”

His father’s friend, Olagunju Olapoju

The news about Wale’s appointment also excites sons and daughters of Gbongan, many of whom have said a lot about him and what this feat means to them. Prince Adelani Oyediran Ajanaku who also spoke with Saturday Tribune about what this feat by their son means to the town said: “The news of Adewale Adeyemo came to us and we rejoice seriously in it. It is a destiny kept with God because what God has done for us is bigger than silver and gold. It is not something money can buy. If you look at the likes of Okonjo Iweala, Akinwumi Adesina, these are global citizens Wale has elevated the name of Gbongan to the outside world.

“We’re not after money, because the glory, the joy that our son is recognised globally alone is more than any amount of money in this world. It is worth celebrating. We are going to celebrate it, Gbongan anniversary is coming very soon and the entire community will celebrate him because he has added more greateness to the history of the town. We will continue to pray for him and for his success. That is why we love America. It is a land of opportunities and it is also our prayer that Biden’s administration will be successful.”

The Olufi of Gbongan land, Oba Adetoyese Oyeniyi, also reacting to the news of Wale’s appointment on a platform of Gbongan sons and daughters, was quoted to have said: “This is big news. My joy has no limits upon hearing this news. The position is equivalent to that of a junior minister of finance in our system. We must congratulate him officially from the Association of Gbongan Progressive Elements (AGPE).

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