Jovial, humble, cerebral, boisterous, brimming with ideas plus laudable strategies to actualise them, ready. These are some of the words which come to mind when anyone first comes in contact with Barrister Ajayi Olowo.
Barrister Olowo was an early player in the management of government and had first-hand participation on how governance works to the benefit of the people.
Having served his country meritoriously in the civil service, he was one of those who worked night and day, tirelessly to formulate the privatisation policy as initiated by the Olusegun Obasanjo government and led by a man whose works have become reference points in the history of Nigeria, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.
Today, Barrister Olowo is not only a man whose experience is filled with knowledge and ideas but a man who wants to use those experiences garnered over the years to better the lot of his people who he says have unfortunately been largely governed by men without foresight despite the famed educational achievements Ekiti people are known for.
Olowo is therefore brimming with socialist and populist ideas which have formed the crux of his ambition to lead the people of Ekiti. He infact refers to himself as the fresh broom who will sweep away years of bad governance and those who know him believe he is the man the state so desperately needs right now.
Paparazzi Editors had an hour with Barrister Ajayi Olowo in Abuja and indeed it was a robust discussion with an explosion of an agenda that will definitely change the face of Ekiti State if Olowo realises his ambition and is given the All Progressive Congress APC ticket.
Two things are going well for Olowo so far, the fact that he is a young blood and Nigerians are crying out for for a replacement of the old vanguard of politicians and the fact that he is from Ikere, Ekiti South, the biggest senatorial district but which has never had the opportunity of governing the state. He is also a politician who insists that politics for him is not a do or die affair.
Here is our ‘One Hour’ With Dr Ajayi Olowo. Enjoy Reading:
Ques: Good morning sir, can you please intimate our readers with a brief introduction?
Ans: My name is Ajayi Olatunji Olowo, I’m a lawyer, chartered accountant and a fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Taxation but I practice law at the moment. I am from Ikere local government in Ekiti State and one of the 26 aspirants gunning for the governorship position under the platform the All Progressive Party (APC).
Que: From your resume, you are an astute technocrat, why did you choose to go into politics?
Ans: I chose to go into politics to basically join hands with other well-meaning Nigerians to reshape the society. In the words of Edmond Burke “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. If the elites refuse to participate in politics then they don’t have the right to complain when people who are less qualified run the affairs of state. Ekiti where I come from is known for its well-schooled indigenes, professors and high calibre professionals and unfortunately we now have those that are less lettered running the affairs of the state.
Ques: Nigerians are now quite despondent; they believe that present day politicians have not been fair to them, some even think they had it better during the military regimes
Ans: I think it’s a misgiving on the part of those that are despondent. It is just like self-inflicted injury because if they participate effectively in the process they can change the system, they can change the rulership just by their activeness in the process.
Ques: What do you think of Ekiti State? To you, is Ekiti where it should be?
Ans: Definitely Ekiti is far from where it should be in terms of economic progress and we are going into office to change that.
Ques: What will you do differently?
What we will do differently when we get there by the grace of God with the support of the people are practical, tangible projects. For instance we are not going to be building bridges where there are no rivers, where there are no traffic problems. In effect what I am trying to let you know is that the misplacement of priorities will be a thing of the past. We have a governor who relishes in dramatising rather than ensuring there is proper governance. Someone sits by the roadside to price ‘Kpomo’ or to buy roasted Plantain though it looks good as far as populism is concerned, because you are seen as wanting to fraternise with the people but governance goes beyond mere fraternising, the people yearn for and need the deliverables.
Ques: But people seem to love the drama
Ans: Wait, I agree with you, the people love the drama but what I’m trying to let you know is that the drama has to be combined with real governance, for you to be able to carry people along, the people have to see that you are one of their own. In my own case, why my candidacy is a little bit unique is because I am probably the only aspirants who speaks undiluted Ekiti dialect, initially wherever we went people were slow to give us attention but by the time I would have spoken for five minutes they get entranced, they get mesmerised, they become very interested willing participants. We speak Ekiti without adding a word of real Yoruba because Ekiti dialect is different from the regular Yoruba. People tell us and encourage us to continue in that light. People want to hear more of that because we speak the native language, give them proverbs, folklore songs and they say, ‘oh! This is one of our own, this is what we love” we see that in them. What we will do when we get there by the grace of God is to make sure that these people have participation in Government and they can feel the real dividends of democracy. Rather than just ehn, showcasing.
Ques: What you are saying is that your ability to speak the dialect gives you a better grasp of the problems in the grassroots?
Ans: of course, it does! Because if you cannot speak the language, you don’t know what people feel, you will be alienated to the public and that is one of the problems one of our leaders past governor Fayemi had while in power as he was speaking English all through. Yes he did very well in the areas of infrastructures but the people felt he was too elitist for their liking. The people will be ready to participate if you communicate in a language they understand.
Ques: Testing the waters at home what recent impact have you made concerning the Royal crisis in Ikere?
Ans: You are right about the crises in Ikere my hometown which has almost taken a new dimension. There are two major traditional stools. Its like one is backing the APC and the other one seems to be backing the PDP. When I was around for the Christmas holidays, we made some intervention. We tried to pacify them to sheath their swords and they should allow due process to prevail. Its only when you speak to the people in a language they understand that they will listen to you. If you come around and start speaking English they will say what’s this one saying? When you speak the people’s language they will see the genuineness in your aspiration. That’s an advantage.
Ques: Coming back to the upcoming primaries, you are pitched against gladiators in the mold of two ex-governors and several others with proven mettle and you are seen in quote as a ‘neophyte’. Do still think you stand a chance to grab the ticket?
Ans: Why not, I do! When Fayemi came up before he won his case in the courts in 2010 he had nothing to show as any experience in politics beyond having participated in Radio Kudirat and he was the last entrant into the race. Is it not Engineer Segun Oni that he defeated at the tribunal? Nobody even knew Segun Oni as a notable politician too.
Ques: Which begs the question, how do you intend to handle the high level intrigues associated with primaries of this nature. Can you muster the financial muscle that other candidates will bring to the table?
Ans: When you talk about financial muscle it will play a lesser role like we saw in Anambra. Andy Uba gave the party N500 million towards the election but he didn’t get the primaries. Let’s also look at the Ondo election where issues of imposition and money played a big role, Abraham Would have won the primaries but he didn’t because of a combination of factors. We are a party that is coming from the opposition APC. People don’t like imposition, that’s why when I go out I flaunt it that I’m a Buharist, this and that, I make people realize that they are not going to impose me, even though I have their strong support. Im a Buharist of the El Rufai political dynasty, it’s not more than that.
Ques: Sir, A routine background check on you before this interview revealed that your fellow party members believe that you are being urged on by the center. That you are the chosen one, so to say. With that kind of toga don’t you think it might work negatively on your aspiration?
Ans: Erm….incidentally, I’m not being pushed from the centre. Not at all. That I have the backing of people from the centre does not mean my candidacy is endorsed by the centre because for anybody that knows president Buhari very well, err… his maxim of belonging to nobody and belonging to everybody is still the same, it hasn’t changed. See the case of emergence of the Senate president, President Buhari never intervened, which is not the same with past presidents. He will not intervene covertly. The same with Bayelsa election which one of friends, Timipre Silver contested and lost. If it were to be under any other dispensation where people were using the power of incumbency, the story would have been different. We would have won the Bayelsa election. The president stood aloof, even when the party took a position that the election was a must win for APC. Those that intervened covertly got their fingers burnt.
Yes, I have the backing of some prominent people at the top echelon of our great party but I’m not going to be imposed. More so I’m a dark horse.
Ques: What is your relationship with Nasir El Rufai?
Ans: El Rufai is my brother, my friend and my boss. We met 17 years ago.
Ques: Career wise, was he instrumental to your quick rise in the system as a civil servant?
Ans: Hahaha! That’s far from the truth. El Rufai is one person that is so misunderstood by many. He’s the kind of man who when people look at from a distance they can’t really understand him. Let me tell you, El Rufai is a straight forward person, highly intelligent and he does not believe in prebendalism. If you are hardworking, you are El Rufai’s friend. Working with him during my years in the service and in BPE exposed him to me in so many ways. He celebrates honesty and rewards hard work with more work. The experience has been rewarding in so many ways. When he became FCT minister, he wanted me to follow him but I declined. The same happened when he became the governor of Kaduna state, he asked me to follow him but I begged him to let me do my own thing. He’s a man who likes to surround himself with people who tell him the truth, people who are not afraid to call a spade, a spade. Anybody with superior argument in any situation, he will listen to and he will change his decision. He had earlier realised that I’m one of those kind of individuals. So, anytime he feels he can help you, he will always give or offer his assistance. Over the years, our relationship has blossomed. So I see him as my boss, friend and brother.
Ques: What will be your first priority if you are elected as the next governor of Ekiti?
Ans: Our first priority is to make sure we don’t run a government of misplaced priorities. In the sense that we thank God for the sitting government for opening the eyes of the good people of Ekiti to its abracadabra style, for mismanaging the confidence the people reposed in them. The siting government has mismanaged that populism which heralded their tenure into the government house in 2014. Even the fulcrum of the voting elites in ekiti, the teachers have nothing good again to say about this government. They are the people who sent Fayemi packing, some of them are being owed six to eight months salaries as we speak. If we get there by the grace of God, in line with my experience as a chartered accountant, we know the relevant ways in the short run to bring things back to normal and in the long run to manage the resources of the state properly. So, like I said we will not misplace our priorities. Governance should be entrenched in a way that it will make judicious use of our available resources, the abundance of what we have which is agriculture through which we will get the youths engaged so that people will be gainfully employed.
We are at an age now where, If government embarks on relevant agricultural programs and in such a way that modern equipment are used, the youths will be attracted to such because an average Nigerian that I know wants to do a job that he can proudly say outside that I work in so, so place. Those ones doing cyber-crime cannot come publicly to say it, even those trafficked women to Italy will say they are doing business but cannot mention specifically. An average Nigerian wants to be involved in a job that he can proudly flaunt anywhere. So we will make sure that that is done differently. We will go into public private participation in things like sanitation, how to ensure pipe borne water supply in Ekiti which is part of our campaign focal points. I remember when old Ondo state was created, most of the water pipes were destroyed when Ekiti was carved out and heavy road construction was embarked upon in the new state. Instead of relaying the pipes, successive governments dug boreholes, which cannot adequately serve the people of the state. How many boreholes are you going to dig? All government needs to do is to relay those pipes. We have three major dams in Ekiti. We have Ero Dam, Egbe Dam and Ureje Dam. According to World Bank report, Egbe Dam alone can serve both Ondo and Ekiti perennially, nonstop! A World Bank report also indicated Ekiti as one of the most openly defecated places in Nigeria, it is shameful. This will help the spread of diseases easily. We go to the UK and US and we see public toilets everywhere, why can’t we replicate that here? We will make sure we provide enough toilets all over the state via the PPP.
Ques: We’ve always wondered why politicians change the moment they get into power. Before leaders attain position they bandy lofty ideas but the moment they get into power everything takes flight. What do you think is responsible for this and do you think you will be different?
Ans: Most of these leaders you are talking about never thought they will get into those positions. And that’s why I will keep referring to El Rufai who seems to be different who has shown that he is consistent. Who still maintained his ethics from his days as minister of the federal capital territory. He has stayed pragmatic. Some people never sat down on their own to determine that they want to get into a position of authority. They got there by chance, maybe by godfatherism or whatever. And then when they got there they did not have a programme. Just like ex-president Jonathan. He wasn’t prepared to even be a governor but providence put him there. That was why when the man was there, he got mesmerized by the position when he rose to be the president. And the people around him ran his government aground. The second point is that some who had the focus did not have the liver to stand the test of time.
Some Capitulate under pressure, recently we got a call from Ekiti by some of our supporters that they had not heard from us since we went round the local governments and they were talking about Christmas gifts for party supporters and likely delegates. I knew they were talking about distribution of rice, but I told them that’s not part of my programme I said that stomach infrastructure is Fayose’s baby, let him nurture it. He gave people rice about three years ago, they are suffering for it now. As we went round that period I told them, look gentlemen, we are not here to enrich people. We are here to serve you honestly and diligently. I said those that are carrying money round to share to you, they will definitely want to recover their money if you vote them into office. We are not going to do that. I am not going into office to enrich myself but to leave a lasting legacy.
Ques: Don’t you think the electorates need more orientation on this situation of selling their votes for handouts and money?
Ans: I agree, you are very correct, people need orientation, which we are already telling them. Though you cannot do without spending some money for election or during campaign, we have to play down the issue of money. I have told our people, this ambition is not by force. The people will decide and if they vote for us to get there then they will see better things happen in Ekiti. If they decide otherwise that the status quo remains, which I sincerely pray against otherwise Ekiti won’t be one of the cynosure of all eyes like Lagos, Kebbi and Kaduna and will continue to lag behind.
Ques: Many believe there’s really no difference between the APC and PDP. Infact the difference if any, is blurry, given the high rate of decamping by members of the two parties. Now with this background and the fact that the chances of candidates in a MUST WIN election like EKITI Governorship race are heavily influenced and mostly hijacked by the party machinery, how are you going to manage any negative approach on your aspiration and on the outcome of the election?
Ans: The party primaries, according to INEC timetable is slated to take place between April 15 to May 14 2018, when we scale that hurdle we will sit down and work out strategy to win the election with our party apparatus, we will definitely strongly register our resolve to depart totally from rice and money distribution to win election. That will be our approach. Getting the party machinery to see things differently won’t be difficult. What I found out is that most of our leaders are alienated from the people they swore to serve. We had a meeting with the caucus of the party in Iyin Ekiti, on the 11th of November 2017, we were hosted by Otunba Niyi Adebayo, we noticed that some of our leaders in that forum could not interact with the people very well. They were speaking English that people will have to go and check the dictionary to understand. You need to come down to the level of the indigenes. If you speak to people and appeal to their sensibilities in the language they understand and you are sincere, they will support you. When the chips are down we will separate the boys from the men.
Ques: So far, how would you rate the performance of the APC as the ruling party, how would you rate your government in line with what you promised Nigerians during the presidential campaign. Have you delivered?
Ans: Well, I think the government to the best of my knowledge is doing very well. You see, there must be consistency in the policy of government and that’s what has stunted the growth of the country. Of which we should blame the YarAuda/ Jonathan government for. A good example is the transition programme, If they did not cut short most of the policies put down by Chief Obasanjo, we would have made much more progress than what the APC met on ground.
It’s just like in Ekiti, when Oni was governor he built some houses in Ifaki, same with Fayemi, all those projects are now abandoned but we should not lose the fact that they are government properties. You see, there should be consistency of policies. What is good should be carried on, not minding who initiated the policy as governor. The road policies started by Jonathan nobody abandoned it. Rather President Buhari made sure that we are continuing with the implementation so that we see it to fruition.
I agree that we should stop the blame game but its difficult to forget the damage done to the system by the past regime. How long did it take them to destroy the economy? You see, its very easy to destroy than to build. In that regard, the present government of the APC is doing very well to turn things around for good. This government is doing very well.
Ques: As a recap, what do you want to directly tell your people in Ekiti via this medium?
(Speaking in Ekiti Dialect) My Ekiti people, I am a new broom who will sweep and sweep better than the old worn-out brooms. And among my contending colleagues, I have the wherewithal and better prepared to actually come and work as a chief servant. Not coming to power to be a ruler but to serve. If voted in, we shall run an engaging open administration that will make Ekiti to be rated in the same level with Lagos.