The two-term Chairman of Ifako-Ijaye Local Government Area in Lagos State, Apostle Oloruntoba Oke, will be leaving office soon.
In this interview, he talked about his achievements which include the construction of a120-room ultra modern LG secretariat among others, his present pre-occupation, and his future plans to a select journalists of which this medium’s correspondent was present…
Now that you are exiting from office in few days time, did you have any plan for 2023?
No! I key into Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s aspiration and plans. On my own, I don’t have any plan. People have asked me this same question several times. From here, where are you going? Is it House of Representatives, Senate or Lagos House of Assembly or what? And I said I don’t have any plan. I am in the hands of God, just like clay in the hands of water.
I am saying this against the background of the fact that when I became chairman in 2011, I had taken my mind off the issue of chairmanship. This is because 2008 was the year I was supposed to be the council chairman but Governor Babatunde Fashola came then and he said he wanted only one local government out of 57, and that request happened to be Ifako-Ijaye LGA.
So, he took the ticket from me. And, I told my people that I am done with the issue of chairmanship. But Asiwaju said don’t worry, you will be in the State exco as a Commissioner or Special Adviser. Surely,that time came and I wasn’t appointed as said.
By 2011, somebody woke me up one early morning that Asiwaju still wanted me to be a council chairman. That was 2011. So, even when I had taken off my mind from the issue of chairmanship. That is why I tell people I don’t have any plan. I just imagine that Asiwaju becomes the President of Nigeria come 2023.
Your administration has completed a 120-room ultra modern LG secretariat, and you have described it as a monumental civic centre. Why this description?
I welcome you all to Monumental Civic Centre. We decided to call it a civic centre because it is more than a local government secretariat. It is a local government secretariat for so many activities. Like I had said, every resident of ifako-Ijaye must have one thing or the other to do in this complex such as marriage ceremonies, burial ceremonies , birthday parties and so on. And, if you are a youth, the youth development affairs office is there to attend to meet your needs.
For how long have you been thinking of the idea of having the new secretariat complex?
Well, we actually started the complex during my first term, which was between 2011 and 2014. Then, we had 33 months- break before we came back in 2017. Within that period of break, nothing meaningful was done to continue in the completion of the project by those appointed to run the council affairs. Hence, we actually started the construction where we stopped in 2014 when I was re-elected again in 2017.
We must commend your tireless effort to have a befitting secretariat, though the legacy is there for you. However, in a few weeks time you will be leaving the office. How do you feel leaving at this time the secretariat is about to be commissioned?
First and foremost, we have to give glory to God for making it possible for us to complete it. Well, I didn’t have it in my mind that I will not use it before leaving the office. However, man proposes but God disposes. If I said I am going to use it and God says no. He made it possible for me to use it, even if it is for one day or one week, before I finally exit the council.
Well, all glory goes for Him again. Of course, I feel fulfilled. Naturally, anybody in my position will feel fulfilled. That oh, something you started, you completed it! I am happy and excited. Importantly, I am happy for the entire staff of the local government. I am happy for them because at Aina Ajobo offices , everybody was not really having that comfort but in the new secretariat they have the space to perform their duties.
So, I really appreciate them for their being so patient while the construction lasted. They were looking up to us, saying “oga”, just go ahead and do it. So, I am happy for exercising the patience to get the secretariat completed.
And also, for the community, this is a civic centre that the entire community will be proud of. Like I had said, ifako-Ijaye has moved from being a rural local government to a completely urbanised local government. Why I said this is because how many local councils in Lagos State have this kind of edifice?
Truly, I am leaving in a few days time. Whatever has a beginning must have an end. That it is just natural! Another thing that gives me joy is that the person who is taking over from me is actually the person who has worked with me. He is my vice.
We went through thick and thin together, particularly at Aina Ajobo. If you have ever been there, it is not befitting for us, not to talk of being the local government secretariat. We thank God and I thank God for him too that having gone through the temporary secretariat at Aina Ajobo, he is now going to use the new secretarial for the next four years and beyond.
Sir, for you to have put this edifice, you must have spent a fortune. Can you tell us how much you spent on this project?
Before I tell you that, one thing I will like to thank God again for is the fact that as we are interacting together we do not owe any bank. When I returned as council chairman in 2017, we took a decision in the exco that we are not going to borrow one kobo from any bank to execute this project. However, I remember one day some people came for an inspection visit to the local government and this is not just an ordinary inspection but an investigative visit. Unknown to us, there is a contractor who is into real estate among the team and said if you people can picture the cost of 120-room hotel. Then, you know how big such hotel is going to be. That person now mentioned the sum of N300 million. And that is just it.
What will become of the old secretariat?
Yes! That is a very good question. Aina- Ajobo will serve as area office for Ogba. Actually, we have three area offices ; iju, Ifako and Ogba. So, Ogba Area Office has been there before now. The Federal agencies like immigration, DSS, National orientation and others will move into the old secretariat.
All these offices have been staying in rented- apartments paid for by the local government. So, our leaving the temporary secretariat has now created space for them to move in. As a matter of fact, their tenancy will expire next month and we have told them that we are not renewing it.
So, they will be moving to Aina Ajobo, the Ogba area office. But the one that really gives me joy is the fact that there is a small clinic, which has one or two rooms serving the residents of that area but we have decided that the entire ground floor there is going to serve as a public health centre. So, the old secretariat will also be fully occupied.
This building is a huge legacy that you are leaving behind in Ifako-Ijaye. In terms of maintenance, what is going to be your advice to your successors after you had left?
On the issue of maintenance, I don’t have any fear. The simple reason is that and like I told you the person who is taking over from me is actually my vice. We have worked together and every decision that we have taken concerning the newly completed secretariat, he has been part of it. Besides, we have active works department, under it we have a maintenance department. So, I don’t entertain any fear at all whether it will be properly maintained or not. Besides, the council manager is very competent and experienced. So, there is no going to be any problem or anxiety over its maintenance.
Sir, you have spent the first term and now the second term is ending soon. In your own opinion, what do you think you would have done better?
(long pause) Like I had told the councilors and I still tell them, in the whole of Lagos State, Ifako-Ijaye has the largest overheard expenditure and that is caused by the fact that we have the highest numbers of political appointees.
We did that simply because we wanted to carry our people along, I mean as many people as possible, to feel the impact of governance, forgetting that by the time they get earnings; I mean their salaries and allowances are paid, nothing will be left for development.
If I had another opportunity and I had told the incoming chairman that he shouldn’t go on that path; you don’t need that crowd, appointing as many as 60 to 65 people or setting up one committees or the other. We felt that our people are being taken care of but like I had said it affected our overheads, and by extension it affected other things too such as projects.
If there is other regret, it is my inability to renovate the primary health centre, Ajilete Primary Health Centre. It is not that I don’t want to do it but actually I have discussed with the councillors and they agreed that we should go ahead. However, when it was time to seek for state approval, and just because a particular document didn’t accompany the request, it was sent back to us.
The document is still there. And it is another good thing that it is my Vice that will take over, I believe he would do it. It doesn’t matter who do it. When Asiwaju was leaving government as governor in 2007, he had about 38 projects on-going. Today, most of the projects are actually being completed. His cabinet members were worried, and met him. He told them, don’t worry, Fashola will come and do it. Truly, he came in, completed them and (Fashola) took the glory.
Today, most Lagosians did not even know that it was Asiwaju that introduced BRT to Lagos and others like that such as renovation of City Hall, LAMATA, LASEMA and so on. Lagosians, keep on shouting Fashola’s name. It is good. When you have a predecessor that has worked for you by continuing those projects that you initiated, you just ride on his popularity.
And it works for you. Again, when the past governor, Ambode, came into office, there were some projects he met on ground and would have completed, I believe may be he wanted to showcase his own brilliance and decided that ‘I am not going to complete some of these projects but let me start my own new projects”. Well, it was Fashola, who always tell them that we can’t complete all projects, and that if Asiwaju had completed all projects in the state, what would he have done when he came? ( everybody laughs). He (my vice) is going to continue all the on-going projects. On a very good note, he has been part of all the decisions that we have taken at the exco. And he asked me to call on all the contractors for them to be re-assured that, all of those projects will still go on and will be completed, and he won’t stop their payment and projects etc. So, we have done that and the contractors are happy. Indeed, we have some major on-going projects.
What do you want the people of Ifako-Ijaye to remember you for?
I can’t determine how the people of Ifako-Ijaye will remember me. Of recent, somebody said they will always remember me for your articulacy. That was what one person said and I said really. Another said, this building that you have given us, we would never forget. One thing that most of them know is that I am straight as an arrow.
And that Oloruntoba Oke will not say yes here and step out and then begin to say contrary; that, this is what I want to say. No! Most politicians don’t like that but there are some that appreciate it. And, I am very happy when I see people appreciate that and it gives me joy. This encourages me too that, it is good to be straight forward. However, let me tell you what led to the meeting we had with the contractors.
Some people, who are close to the contractors, came to me and said that the in-coming chairman said that he is not going to pay the contractors, and that he will stop those projects. Ah, I said in my mind, they have come again oh. Meanwhile, what this person is saying is not true. Unknown to him, I was making a call to the in-coming chairman to verify the statement. So, when I got through to him, I said Usman, is it true that you said you are going to suspend payments to the contractors and he responded who said that? I told him they are here. He now said, can you do me a favour?
Kindly organise a meeting with all the contractors, I want to meet them. That was what led to the meeting. So, of course, I have a group, and one of them came here and that nobody will be coming to give you information. I told him, have you forgotten my background? And he said it is because they are saying all sorts of things about you. One thing is if you are not sure of your information, don’t come and tell me. I told them, leave them now. I remember when Baba Awolowo was alive, everybody was abusing him and when he died, they now started hailing him that, he was the Best President, Nigeria never had. So, who are they not going to abuse or talk about? At a point, the late sage said my middle name is now “EBUDOLA”.
Similarly, all sorts of negative things were said about Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. You know, at a time, they were calling him OJUYOBO(bad eye) and another time, OJU GOLD (golden eye). But that same OJU YOBO that brought another person, and told the people, please vote for this person and they voted for him. That shows, he still has some credibility within the community. So, it is good for people to abuse you and call you all sorts of names. That is politics! Even though some of us may not be politicians, but professionals while passing through; just dey waka pass.”