Sabur Dimeji Bankole was born on 14 November 1969 in Lagos and raised in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. His father, Alani Bankole, is a businessman, a Chief in Abeokuta - Seriki Jagunmolu of Egbaland and was a leader in the main opposition party, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). Dimeji’s mother, Atinuke Bankole, is the Ekerin Iyalode of Egbaland. Dimeji grew up amongst a big, boisterous family but one filled with love, respect and faith. His family remains a cornerstone of his life today.
In 1979, Dimeji attended the Baptist Boys High School in Abeokuta, like his father and maternal grandfather before him. He developed lasting camaraderie with his schoolmates which he continues to cherish.
Baptist Boys High School has marked its place in Ogun State history, producing a number of Nigerian Heads of State and a Speaker of the House of Representatives.
In 1985 Dimeji was sent to be educated abroad in the United Kingdom, at the Albany College in London. Faced with the challenge of living in a foreign country, with diverse classmates and a different approach to education, Dimeji thrived and looks back on his time at Albany with great fondness and cites school as a key positive influence in setting him on the path he follows today.
In 1988, Dimeji enrolled at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, completing a Bachelor's degree with honors in Business Economics in 1991.
He also obtained a Military Techniques Qualification (MTQ) I and II in Strategic Studies from the University of Oxford. Dimeji considered a career in the military after he passed selection into the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and completed the fast-track training course for officers. However, two weeks before commissioning he was summoned home to start work in the family business.
In 2005, Dimeji undertook the first of many training programs and post-graduate courses at Harvard University, and eventually completed an MPA and a Mason Fellowship at the Kennedy School of Government in 2014.
An inspiration to all politicians, the late John F Kennedy once wrote that ‘Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity’. Dimeji follows this mantra and keeps fit and healthy recognizing the value this will have in daily life as a decision-maker, a businessman, leader and father.
Dimeji loves football, played for the University of Reading and is a strong supporter of the Nigerian Super Eagles.
However, his overriding passion for Polo came after training in horsemanship at the Royal Navy Air Station Yeovilton base in the United Kingdom, summer of 1991. Over 24 years later and Dimeji is still an avid polo player, and a long time member of the Lagos Polo Club and the Brigade of Guards Polo Club, Abuja.
In 2002, Dimeji was elected to the House of Representatives for the People's Democratic Party (PDP) in Abeokuta South Federal Constituency of Ogun State. He was quickly asked to be Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Finance and Chairman of the House Committee on Land Transport. He also sat on the Defence, Internal Affairs and Banking and Currency committees.
In November 2007 Dimeji became the youngest Speaker of the Nigeria House of Representatives in the first ever formal elections for the position in a landslide victory (304 votes to 20, 4 abstentions). His acceptance speech, entitled "We Stand Upon The Threshold of History", highlighted the difficult times Nigeria faced, while stressing the need to rebuild public confidence in Nigeria’s politicians as “worthy representatives”.
This is a message he champions to this day: “Nigerian citizens must be able to feel proud of their elected officials, be safe in the knowledge that they are there to serve the country, its people and Nigeria’s future.”
During his time as Speaker, Dimeji set about changing the way the House of Representatives operated. Under his Speakership, the House accepted 328 motions, approved 282 resolutions and passed 136 bills. These included the Freedom of Information Act and Fiscal Responsibility Act. The Fiscal Responsibility Act ensured all revenue-generating agencies presented their annual budgets for scrutiny. Under President Buhari, the Fiscal Responsibility Act from Dimeji’s tenure is once again being invoked having being abandoned by previous administrations.
At the time, some agencies were spending trillions of Naira yearly without National Assembly approval, something Dimeji quickly addressed. This won him praise but also enemies amongst those who had benefitted from this lack of oversight. As a result of this approach and demanding of better standard, the House of Representatives ensured that Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA's) returned billions of unspent budget funds to the government treasury.
In total, the House of Representatives ensured the return of about 1 trillion Naira unspent funds by MDA's as part of the annual budgetary process under his speakership. These were unprecedented in the history of oversight in Nigeria’s legislature. Dimeji’s record and the work of his team were key in combating institutionalized corruption and challenging norms that had stolen money from the country for so many years.
Like most politicians in Nigeria who tackle corruption, Dimeji attracted powerful enemies, disgruntled with his challenge to their largess and corrupt behavior. Charges of corruption were brought against him, bruising his political career and accusing him of financial misconduct. Unlike many who are accused, Dimeji demanded a trial - an act unheard of amongst Nigerian politicians.
He hired his own legal team to help defend his reputation and freedom. Eight months later Dimeji Bankole was cleared of all allegations. While the damage to his political career had been done and his family’s reputation unfairly disparaged, he was rightfully exonerated and the case shown to be a witch-hunt by an over-eager government agency buoyed by detractors. This experience entrenched the value of justice, and truth in the former speaker.
A family tragedy hit the Bankole family hard when in October 2014 Dimeji and his wife lost their beautiful daughter Yewande to sickle cell disease. In her 6 years with them Yewande brought the family great happiness and joy and they thank Allah every day for the time they shared with her. Supported by the two cornerstones in his life, faith and family, Dimeji now contemplates life as a stronger, more determined man. This cruel and indiscriminate condition blights many African families and the Bankoles continue to seek ways to support research to fight this terrible condition.
Though having been out of public life for a while, Dimeji remains dedicated to service and to helping Nigeria thrive. Upon leaving office, he has returned to the family business as Vice Chairman of the West African Aluminium Products Limited, PLC. The time out of the spotlight has also allowed for continued self-development, and Dimeji embraced the opportunity to take time to learn from visionaries and leading scholars from around the world through Harvard University.
In September 2016, Dimeji was named Honorary President of Africa House London, covering Nigeria. Africa House London is a social enterprise established to promote bilateral trade between the UK and Africa.
In his free time, he continues to pursue education-focused philanthropic engagements, including the donation of the Administration at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (valued at N500 million), and funding of private scholarship programmes. As a forward-looking Nigerian citizen and community leader, it is clear that the responsibility to help define the future vision of Nigeria and the Nigerian people continues even after his tenure as Speaker.