Hon Rasaq Olusola Ajala is the Chairman of Odiolowo/Ojuwoye Local Council Development Area. In this interview with The Gazelle News.com’s DARE OJELADE and NURUDEEN YISA, he speaks on his experience as the council chairman and achievements. Excerpts:
Q: Common poll for common benefit, what brings about this mission statement?
A: It was primarily formulated because of firm belief that the position we occupy, we are holding it in trust for the people of Odi-Olowo/Ojuwoye Local Council Area.
You will agree with me that if not for God, and the mandate fully given to me by the people, I will not be where I am today, so I believe that every kobo we received, be it inform of rate or levies and our own share of the federation account belong to the people of Odi-olowo Ojuwoye Local council area.
So, in dispensing the money, you must ensure that the interest of everybody, regardless of their level economically, social status, sex, religious or political affiliation, they must benefit from what we have in the pool. So, the mission statement, ‘common poll for common benefit’ simply means that the money we have in the pool, that in dispensing it, or in administering it we will ensure that we are fair and just to the people of Odi-olowo Ojuwoye LCDA.
Q: How far have you gone in ensuring that the aim behind those words ‘’Common pool for common benefits’ are being realised?
A: Given the modest achievements that we have recorded since we assumed office, vis-a vis what we have been able to do in all the sectors, I strongly believe that we can conveniently stand before God and our people that on the mandate that we are given, and given the covenant and our electoral promises to the people, we have faithfully executed or fulfilled all our electoral promises.
However, you will agree with me that the expectations of our people continue to grow on geometric ratio, and the resources to get these expectations satisfied are not moving at the same pace. And the reason for that is not far fetch; this is the first time that we will be in democracy for 20 consecutive years, so we now have people that are asking questions, requesting from their government. But I honestly believe that we are faithfully executing projects and fulfilling our electoral promise, and by the time we are done, with our four year mandate we are given, I have no doubt in my mind that we will be able to stand on a very strong and sound moral platform to face our people that we have judiciously spent the money we have in our care.
Q: Going through the list of your achievements in your mind, which one will you say gives you the greatest joy?
A: First, there is no project or programme we executed that does not give me joy, because I believe that the drive behind every policy or project is to make impact in the life of our people.
But of the entire programmes we have executed so far, one program that we have leverage on to ensure that our impact is felt in all the community is the all 141 borehole project that we executed in all the communities in the council area. There is no community in the LCDA that can claim that they have not feel impact of our government.
Before we embark on this project, we conducted the study that shows that an average household spend minimum of N200 daily to fetch water. So if you are to translate that into monetary term, that’s 200 times 30 days, equals to N6,000. By that program, government is giving those that are benefiting from the project N6000 every month. We also supply generators, as a result of the epileptic nature of power supply by the PHCN, so that people in various communities, the purpose the bore is meant to serve will not deny them as result of lack of energy supply by PHCN.
Another program is our free ride; we have two 56 seater buses that convey students from home to school and back. As at the last count, the two buses have carried over 100,000 passengers. Giving the demography of our local government, you will agree with me that that is huge.
Another program that is also primarily targeted at people at the lowest level of the ladder is our subsidize ileya ram and subsidise chicken programme during Christmas period, and the fundamental objective of any government is the protection of life and property. Before we came on board, there was fragile peace in the LCDA, particularly between Idi-oro and Fadeyi axis of the local government. We came up with a new secured architecture that gave urgency more to pro-activeness rather than being pre-active, and for us to achieve that we have a very strong and sound collaboration or synergy with the security agencies.
Apart from what the state, federal and private organisation is doing, through the security trust fund; we also purchase vehicles for the three divisional stations within the local government, apart from other operational allowances that we give to them on a monthly basis. And at the border of both Idi-oro and Fadeyi, we constructed accommodation for the mobile police unit that is deploy to that area to maintain peace. Before we did that we receive a lots of complain from the police that they are short of facilities plus shelter. But by the time we are done with the mobile police post, all those facilities were put in place.
Q: That’s brings me to the issue of security, the usual security breaches between people of Idi-oro and Fadeyi, you have explained how you have been able to contain them, will you say that matter constitute the major challenge for you when you get to office?
A: Yes, it was a major challenge, because we are talking of the situation where the people that have lived together for years, suddenly, then wake up and starting attacking each other. If you live at Idi-oro, you cannot cross to Fadeyi. Assuming you are going to Shomolu or Yaba, the easiest route is through Fadeyi, so instead of going to Fadeyi, you will now have to perambulate from Agege motor road to Jibowu. I could remember when we were young, my secondary school at Nigeria Model High School at Idi-oro, we normally go to Iya Tudun at Fadeyi to eat or Iya Bose , or the woman that sell bread and beans to eat.
But honestly speaking now, that has become thing of the past. The truth is that we have not achieve absolute peace, but where we are today is the major departure from where we were before we came on board and that was made possible because of the support we are getting from the various security agencies; because of our engagement with various stakeholders within and beyond this community and because of the excellent relationship we have with them.
But we have not gotten to where we should be. I strongly believe that giving the support we’ve been getting from our people and their positive disposition to our government, I have no doubt in my mind that we will eventually achieve the permanent peace that we needed in that area.
Q: Will you now say the fact that you were born and bred in Akala is a major factor in bringing about the stakeholders together, ensuring peace, talking to them and eventually achieving what you have achieved?
A: Of course, that is the strength, but the major strength lies in the fact that I have excellent relationship with everybody, regardless of where they live, where they come from. Don’t forget that I said that my primary school was Mushin, secondary school also in Mushin, when I did my ATS at Fadeyi. So I have lived all my life in Mushin, I dine and wine with them, I know all their needs, their aspiration as well as their expectations.
During my primary and secondary school days, the students that attended these schools are not only products of Idi-oro, some of them come from Fadeyi, Ilupeju, Ojuwoye, Onipanu, so at one point or the other, we have had a relationship, and by the time I aspire for the chairmanship position for the chairmanship of Odi-olowo/Ojuwoye, of course I leverage on that relationship. Activate old friends and ensure I have excellent relationship with them.
Like I said, when were about to resolve this Issue, in resolving the strategy was not only about the people within the area, we also take a step further to look for the people who can assist to us to talk to the warring factions so that they can embrace peace and they can see merit in what that we are preaching, particularly since all of us know that we don’t have any place that we can call home other than Odi-olowo Ojuwoye LCDA. So we must not only speak it, we must work it and the best way to work it is to do anything humanly possible to ensure that the prosperity we are yearning for we get it, and the best truth to achieve that prosperity is through peace.
Q: Let’s go back to memory lane; you started your political race as a lawmaker, lawmaker at the local government level, a Councillor. You were also a Vice Chairman for three terms, how will you say this assisted you in doing what you are doing now?
A: I must agree that rising through the ladder adequately prepared me to face the enormous responsibilities that are expected from the holder of this office. It is not just a responsibility; it also comes with challenges too. The fact that I rise through the ladder, of course when I was with Senator Ganiu Olanrewaju Solomon, I was a lawmaker then. I develop a cordial relationship with councilors because I have once pass through the route. Since we have assume office not once have we record any crisis between the executive and the legislature. I think that was primarily because of the fact that I had the experience, so I know how to engage them, I know what their needs are. Naturally we always said legislators are agitators, but when we come we open the book, appeal to their sense of reasoning, and once they know that you are spending the money judiciously, they are also products of the local government, they want the best for the local government and they are representatives of their respective wards, and the project that we are executing I am not executing it in the sky, so I will tell them if you say you want X, I am ready to do that X, it will automatically prevent us from doing Y in your area. So, they see merit in what we are doing.
Honestly speaking, I have excellent relationship with them. In dealing with the leaders, you know my father too was a leader, so I don’t need anybody to train me on how to deal with the leaders. If you are talking of the iyalojas and Babalojas, that’s another area, I am also omo-oja, my mum too was also a sectional leader of a market, Awolowo market for that matter. If you want to talk of how to deal with the transporters, incidentally my immediate elder brother is the major operator in that field. And in the area of the Muslims and Christians, I have excellent relationship with all of them.
The civil servants, that are my constituency, I started with them since 1999, and we are together. I also have excellent relationship with the media because I am also a trained journalist.
Q: How do you manage it, we are going private now, you are the vice chairman of conference 57 for the biggest senatorial district, you are a major player in politics in Lagos state, you a father and a husband, how do you marriage this together that the home front does not suffer for it?
A: Between now and next year when this particular term ends, where do you want Odi-olowo/Ojuwoye to be?
My focus for the next one year is the health sector. The experience we recorded during Covid-19 pandemic has shown us clearly that we have inadequate health facilities and medical personnel, so as a government, we have taken it upon ourselves to add minimum of additional two medical facilities to the existing primary health centres in this council area. They will be located at Kayode and Ilupeju. We also plan to commence another one that will take care of our people at Idi-oro. So, our ultimate ambition in this regard is to ensure that all the political wards, we have nine wards, have minimum of one primary health centre each, that is our ultimate ambition.
And secondly, we also discovered that some of our aged parents may find it difficult because of their status to access our primary health centres due to the distance between their home and the centres, so we are coming up with a program tagged Odi-olowo Ojuwoye Free Health Mission. If you go out you will see our mobile clinic, so that is one of the platform we intend to deploy to achieve health care for all, so that you don’t need to go to the health centres to be served. We will take it to your doorsteps. That is our plan.