Raheem Olawuyi Ajulo represents Ekiti/Irepodun/Isin/ Oke-Ero federal constituency. In this interview with TOPE SUNDAY, he talks about his foray into politics, his legislative experience, and constituency projects, among other issues.
Before you joined politics, what were you doing?
Honestly speaking, I grew up to be a politician. I mean right from my school’s days coupled with my family’s financial stability, I would say I joined politics at the early stage of my life. I went into business, travelled to Japan and got myself established. I would say that late MKO Abiola inspired me to join politics. Back then, I joined the SDP in Lagos. At that time, I wasn’t ready to actively partake or campaign for any position. Thereafter, I travelled out again and returned in 1998.
In 2003, I was already fed up with Lagos state’s politics, so I came back to Kwara in 2007. I didn’t get myself involved with any political party; I was an observant in Kwara till 2010 when I joined the defunct ACN in Kwara state. Under the platform, I ran as the candidate for state constituency. It was a very strict election. Though I won, the lord of Kwara politics twisted everything against our party, so I wasn’t elected. I was happy because I had so many followers on my side just that the corrupt system then turned the tables against me. Ever since, I have been so consistent, and committed to the people.
In 2015, I decided to go for the House of Representatives, but this time under APC. I was the sole aspirant from Irepodun local government area of Kwara state, who got the form, others had different interest. Again, the lord of Kwara politics sidelined me by getting a form after the close of form sales for late Princess Funke Adedoyin thus was excused from the 2015 elections. To add salt to my injury, I was made the chairman of campaign committee for late Princess Funke Adedoyin as a disciplined party person I accepted it and worked vigorously for the success of our party. I am glad for being chosen as her campaign co-coordinator.
Why is it that you are now representing the seat you once campaigned for as the coordinator during the election of its former occupant?
We have four local governments in our federal constituency; we actually lost in three during the 2015 elections. But as fate would have it, Madam Funke died. Before she died in 2018, I was already considered as the candidate for our party in 2019 elections. I was used as a test run for the bye-election. As fate would also have it, my party won the election without any form of manipulation, considering the fact that we were given just 17 days to prepare for the election.
The key for election winning is the candidate. APC is on ground in Kwara state, but that does not mean that if I had participated in other party I wouldn’t have won. November 17, 2018, was a memorable day in my life politically because I wasn’t competing against the PDP alone, but against the state governor, sixteen commissioners, several advisers and the (then) senate president. These people have the resources that I don’t have access to, but any party won convincingly.
The February 23rd election was quiet challenging. I almost got killed during the period alongside my colleagues but God spared our lives. We were practically shot at around 4:00 a.m., but here we are today.
Since you were elected to replace the late Funke Adedoyin, what is the experience like?
First of all, I came in at a very disadvantaged period because the National Assembly is about winding up. Ten days after election we went on break from December 18 to January16. From January16, we had three sittings; we didn’t come back till March 12. It was then we were able to sit for 2019 budget which happened to be my first serious assignment.
So, from march 16 – May 1st or second when we passed the budget, and that was my first legislative experience followed by budgets defence. My interaction with ministries during this period I was able to discover why most elected officials from Kwara have not been able to deliver. I made a lot of discoveries, I don’t want to point accusing fingers at anybody but I know that if I have not been in this position today, things would have continued going wrong without any changes. I have been able to facilitate some projects which ordinarily would have been swallowed by some people.
Any project under my consistency I should know why it has not been executed. For instance, there is a road that is meant to be fixed by the Nigerian Army, but lack of fund has halted the project from being carried out. I have made provisions it for in 2019 budget, Nigerian Army is going to fix that road for my people. The other project is at Omu-aran, the headquarters of the federal consistency, it is on-going now, and part of it has been finished while the other is still under construction. Within this period, on my own, I have been able to work on the educational sector, shortage of teacher and lack of school’s equipment has made our students not really bright. As for those who are financially incapable to pay their school fees they will receive support from the government.
Secondly, there are communities that I promised to provide bore-holes for so that they don’t suffer over water issues anymore. So far, three bore-hole projects have been completed under the consistency. They don’t have pipe borne water in their area. Now soon their water problem will soon end under this consistency. In Odofin community, no new construction of borehole was made, we just repaired three faulty boreholes in the area, right now, it’s fixed. They have pipe borne water working again. As for the stomach infrastructure, it is normal; we called it sardaka. It is the act of giving food to another in Islam. I really don’t think it’s something to flaunt.
Every elected official is expected to do that what we were really elected for, and this is how to get dividend of democracy to our constituency.
On Kwara ministerial nominee, there was an agitation that Alhaji Lai Mohammed shouldn’t be re-nominated as minister from Kwara state. How will you react to that?
It’s quite unfortunate that some adults can’t conduct themselves publicly. Alhaji Lai Mohammed was among the few people in Kwara state that started the struggle of our party. People that appointed Alhaji Lai Mohammed must have seen one or two good things in him, the quality is still there. To me, he deserves some kind of respect; he deserves to be respected in Kwara state.
In other words, he should be re-appointed?
I don’t have any objections to it. I really don’t know the criteria considered for appointing a minister but I don’t think the epistles written has to do with Lai Mohammed been appointed or not.
Let us look at the Otoge mantra in Kwara, since you have succeeded in chasing the Saraki dynasty away. How will you leverage on the challenges of Otoge?
Honestly speaking, my major political challenge is how to manage the Otoge success. I believe in myself and in the capacity of the governor to build a new Kwara. First, Kwara state has been relieved from bondage; we might not appreciate it today. There is a new era in Kwara politics.
There are some budget burdens that have been lifted off the Kwara state government. I don’t want to point accusing fingers or call names but the kind of expenses we have made on individuals, that we are still making which has been excused from Kwara state now is a big relief to the state government. So, I don’t think that any worker will be owed any salary from now on. So, many loopholes that eases cash outflow will be blocked, and so many things will be streamlined. Government property that has been taken over by individuals will be recovered. Brilliant heads will be giving opportunities in the government; this is the time. Experts will be brought to help regain all what the state government has lost.
We are not coming to Kwara state as a novice but as knowledgeable people. By the grace of God, Kwara state will be good again.
What are your projections for your people in the next four years?
My projection is to give my people the reputation they never expected. My local government especially Irepodun is the biggest. We have identified some major towns and villages that infrastructure are on the low head.
These people are largely farmers, because of the bad road; they find it difficult to bring their harvest to town. So, we are going to help them on the situation. My zonal projection is on widows & youth empowerment, rehabilitation and construction of roads. There is a bill I am working on but can’t put it up because the 8th Assembly will soon be coming to end. The earlier part of the 9th assembly will see to its working. It is a bill to establish Federal College of Education. There is none in Kwara state. Once it is established, it will create forum for teaching jobs to correct the low teaching or education standards in Kwara. There is also this particular road that cut across two local governments, Irepodun and Isin local govts.
It is one of our capital projects, the bill is being worked on and the road is undergoing construction by the Nigerian Army. Another one is the empowerment of the less privileged. Currently, we are working on it. A lot of children have eye problems, they can’t see in class hence they can’t understand what they are being taught. Definitely, they can’t pass. So, we are going to buy them drugs and medicated eye-glasses so that they can study fine. They are about 360 students recommended for eye-glasses and 720 for medications. It is not a strategy or campaign but a programme to help these children succeed. Finally, there is a project for graduate empowerment. So, many CVs, but few jobs; this programme is meant to train them, give them funds to start up something thus curb unemployment.