Determination, Humility, Loyalty Were My Watchwords When I Became SSG At 34 – Kazeem Adio

He became a Commissioner at the age of 31 and at 34, he was appointed Secretary to the State Government (SSG). Remarkable feats for a young man.

Alhaji Kazeem Ademola Adio believes in absolute, undiluted loyalty hence he remains committed to the Olagunsoye Oyinlola School of Politics and commits his 100 percent loyalty to the former Governor of Osun State, his political leader and mentor.

In this interview, the Iwo born politician, who was first Commissioner for Environment and later Secretary to the State Government (SSG) in the Oyinlola administration at a relative young age of 34, opened up on reasons he remained loyal to the former governor, the qualities he appreciates in him, why the Oyinlola’s camp defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and other issues. Excerpts:

What were the factors that made you develop interest in politics? 

Politics is in every aspect of our lives. I grew up in a polygamous setting characterized by a lot of intrigues and challenges. Domestic politics was therefore an unforgettable element in my growing up hence the origin of my interest in politics. I was the President, Literary and Debating Society, President, Cultural and Dramatic Society, and Social Prefect during my secondary school days at the prestigious CMS Grammar School, Lagos. This period was for me a period of political self-discovery.

On getting to the university environment, the interest grew further because it became impossible to ignore the dynamics and the challenges around one, since we are affected directly or indirectly by our political environment. I was always a quiet but an active influence in addressing injustice and inadequacies through student unionism at all the universities I attended: Bayero University Kano, University of Ilorin and the University of East London.

Being a widely traveled person and someone who has been a faithful watcher of happenings in the political circle how would you assess Nigeria’s 15 years of unbroken democracy?

Shaking, fragile but unbroken. That is the way I see it. We started strong though with a few weaknesses. We had high hopes and expectations that things can only get better and our better getting best. We made ourselves to believe in the saying that ‘the worst democratic regime is better than the best military government’. But as we moved on we encountered a lot of obstacles that impeded our speed of getting to the Promised Land, obstacles like, leadership and followership challenges, security challenges, corruption, abuse of power, religious and ethnic rivalry, infrastructure deficit, sub-optimal utilization of public resources and just to mention a few.

These obstacles have shaken us and have made our democracy to be fragile. They have challenged our basis for existing together as one indivisible nation but they are yet to break us. This is because different individuals have held it together; they sacrificed their times, their freedoms, their blood. Some have sacrificed themselves to get us where we are today.

In all these, we have enjoyed and still enjoying the privileges of expressing ourselves and exercising our freedom of speech and association. Press freedom has improved but not without its casualties as well as challenges. Political ‘porting’ is now done as easily as going from one room in the same house to the other. Politicians can decamp from party ‘A’ to party ‘B’ because we now have the political parties in the first place and the populace now has the right to choose who governs them, If only they will exercise these rights without fear or manipulation.

There is so much ground to cover but I believe the challenges we are facing are surmountable. Whenever there is a will, there will always be a way, we must keep hoping, keep talking, keep acting and keep praying for a better democratic Nigeria.

How would you rate the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration vis a vis his performance on security, development of infrastructure, corruption and others?

His administration, sincerely speaking is not just him. As the head, I believe he has given to this country the best that he is capable of. This best might not be enough to tame this abused, angry and complex Lion of a country called Nigeria. The administration as a whole has, paid more attention to politics than compassion, made more noise about corruption than actual convictions. There had been sizable infrastructure developments but there had been complains too about it not being as evenly spread as it should be. It has been very costly and slow given the situation. Power for example has improved but yet to meet the expectations of Nigerians in terms of cost, accessibility and availability.

Security has been the greatest challenge of this administration. It has witnessed more violence than any other before it. In my own opinion, majority of Nigerians felt safer before the advent of this administration. Response to the various security challenges like the Boko Haram, kidnapping, threat to life, armed robbery, oil bunkering, and ethnic clashes have been slow, ineffective and inefficient. The picture being painted though is that ‘all is well’. I do hope so too {laughs}

You have under your sleeve the records of being the youngest SSG in Osun state, how was the experience like and what were the challenges?

Well, I must appreciate God Almighty for His grace upon me, my parents for nurturing me to adulthood, my teachers for imparting me with knowledge and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola for discovering me and mentoring me till this day.

I was the pioneer Commissioner for Environment and served in that capacity for a little less than three years, then the cabinet was dissolved by the former Governor and on the fourth day my name was announced as the new SSG. It took me by surprise because it never appeared in my wildest imagination that it was even possible.

I was determined and confident on the day I was sworn in and I accepted the responsibility because otherwise was no choice at all. My greatest fear was how I was going to handle the extreme political challenges of the office as I was only about three years old in government, 34 years old in age and aware of the political intrigues of the political heavy weights that I have avoided successfully prior to the time. I also knew they would have and still be willing to do anything to occupy the hot seat. I knew I needed to learn fast and convert my weaknesses to strength and the threats around me to opportunities. As if he noticed my fears, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, my mentor and my boss invited me to his office on my first day in office and just told me the secrets to unravelling the political puzzle.

He told me to listen more and follow my conscience, to be loyal to a course no matter the challenge, to serve rather than waiting to be served, to be humble to critics and to be wary of praise-singers and finally, he said if you err let me be the first to know. I thanked him and he immediately sent me on my first political assignment. I went away that day knowing that I was no longer afraid. I actually had a few challenges here and there but generally speaking, I had a smooth ride.

The list of those who served under Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola is no doubt long but you remain loyal to him and still serve seemingly like his Chief of Staff while majority either belong to other parties or are shockingly not even on greeting terms with the former governor. What are the qualities you found in him that made you stay back?

He never deserts his own. He probably got that from his military training back in the days. He gives all glory to God and believes that only Him gives and takes. The unshaken trust and love that he has shown me since my first day with him. He detests lies and liars so much that if you come to lie to him about somebody, he immediately arranges a face-off between you and the accused. He gives without expecting anything in return. Integrity is a valuable virtue, he has it in abundance and he is less attractive to those who lack it and vice versa.

What have been your happy moments in politics?

Every moment has been uniquely memorable to me, I remain grateful to God for giving me a package full of grace, happiness, contentment and a supportive family.

Could you please tell us about yourself?

I was born 39 years ago to the royal family of Adegunodo in Ile Mojibeere Isale – Oba, Iwo, Osun State.  My parents, Prince and Mrs. Moranroola Adio introduced me to both western and Islamic education at a tender age.

I attended Abule Okuta Primary School, and CMS Grammar School, both in Lagos. I later proceeded to Bayero University Kano, where I bagged a Bsc. in Accounting. I worked briefly within the family business after my NYSC at Eleme Petrochemicals Plc. Port Harcourt and then proceeded to the University of Ilorin where I earned a Masters degree in Business Administration and then a Msc in International Marketing Management at the University of East London.

I have a certification in International Negotiations: Practical skills and techniques from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. I am also professionally trained in Project Management and Sustainable Development Diplomacy.

I taught at the Newham College London, London Tottenham College, and London School of Management and Technology before gaining employment at the Centre for Innovation and Partnerships, London as a Project Coordinator/ Trainer. It was while working here that I was appointed the Commissioner for a newly created Ministry of Environment in Osun State, Nigeria. I later rose to become the Secretary to the State Government. I am currently a Senior Partner/ Consultant at Infoture Nig. Limited. I am married and blessed with three children.

You have a gentle mien that is complemented with innocent look, are you really a gentle man?

It is in every true prince to be humble and gentle {laughs}. On a more serious note, I probably inherited that trait from my parents. There is a Yoruba adage that says; ‘eni bi ni laajo’ I grew up to know them to be gentle and humble.
Prince Oyinlola is also my mentor/role model and you already know him to have similar traits.

Having got your political baptism via your appointment as a commissioner and later as the SSG, what are your plans for 2015?

I believe God has a script in which everybody has assigned roles. Whenever it’s my time to play another role, He will hand over my script and will grant me the enablement to play my part and fulfill my destiny. It is my Prayer that God grants us long life and a good health.

As a principal stakeholder among those that recently defected to APC from the PDP, can you give an insight into agreement and promises either spoken or unspoken that were reached before the defection talks were sealed?

I can only speak for myself on this issue. I am not a party to any agreement. I defected alongside my political mentor because change became inevitable. Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola deserves a second term, he performed beyond Osun people’s expectations, he is a grass root politician, he connected with the people more than any of the other aspirants and he had God on his side. His only challenge emanated from a few of his appointees who can simply be referred to as ‘electoral liabilities’.

These few have been tested and are now exposed as having no electoral values, and lacking the ability or capacity to promote and project Ogbeni’s aspirations for his people. They lack the ability to emulate and project the symbol of Omoluabi that Ogbeni truly represents. In fact, they are blind to his vision. I am only privileged and honoured to have been allowed to contribute my own quota however little, to his victory at the poll.

Culled from Global Excellence magazine

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