BY FEMI ADEOTI
He did enter Nigeria’s murky waters of politics with great passion and uncommon commitment. He stepped in with determination in 1977 not minding whether it was cloudy or foggy.
What was and still upper most in his mind is service, nothing else matters. He was damn down-to-earth. The reason he went to the grassroots to launch his political career.
Since then, there has been no looking back. No retreat, no surrender and no regrets. Instead, he continues to soar like an eagle in leaps and bounds. Chief Sarafa Tunji Isola is it!
His background and upbringing speak volumes. Isola was born in Abeokuta, Ogun State, on November 25, 1960. After his primary school in 1971, he attended Nawair-Ud-Deen Grammar School, Obantoko, Abeokuta, between 1973 and 1977.
He travelled to England in 1978. He attended Chartered Institute of Marketing, England and South West London College, Tooting Broadway, London, from 1978 to 1981 for Principles of Investment Course. He was in the US in 2002 for a Financial System course organised by the Department of State, Washington.
He is also well groomed for leadership roles. He was at Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, in 2009 for “Leaders in Development Course.” Not satisfied, he enrolled at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, between 2009 and 2011 where he obtained his Masters of Business Administration degree.
Isola took a shot at politics and his was an instant success. His entry into politics was not accidental. It was well thought out and calculated. He went down straight to his people for their mandate and was graciously obliged.
He was elected Chairman, Abeokuta North Local Government between 1997 and 1998. He became Chairman, Conference of Local Government Council Chairmen, Ogun State, during the same period. Within such a short time, he made his remarkable marks, still indelible till today. That at once thrust him into the limelight. He has continued to occupy the public space positively since then, almost uninterrupted.
The message was not lost on Senator Jubril Martins-Kuye, JMK (of blessed memory) Minister of State for Finance. Ignoring the burning vibrancy in Isola could be a monumental disaster. And JMK was not prepared for that. He recognised a good hand in Isola.
Without hesitation, he picked him as his Special Assistant. That was between 1999 and 2003 in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government. With foresight, Isola knew the sky is the limit. So, he grabbed the rare opportunity with all his heart. It must not be wasted away carelessly.
He then applied exceptional wisdom to consolidate. He brought to bear his local government experience, after all, no knowledge is lost. It will come handy one day, somehow. It did richly for Isola. He never betrayed the implicit confidence JMK had in him.
Unknown to him, people were monitoring his activities. They saw loyalty, diligence mixed with humility in him. Those are the essentials of quality leadership and service. They were meticulously taking notes of his exploits.
The stark reality soon downed on Isola. Things naturally fell into pleasant places for him. A type of Isola could not be hidden. And truly he was “exposed.”
From the blues, a higher reward came, courtesy: Otunba Gbenga Daniel, former governor of Ogun State, Isola’s home state. He spotted Isola and refused to let go. He couldn’t have gone unnoticed.
He gave him a far higher responsibility. He appointed him Secretary to the State Government (SSG) between 2003 and 2007. Again, Isola never disappointed, he never let himself down. He stoutly displayed the hard and quality stuff he is abundantly made of.
I once or twice came in contact with Isola while he was SSG. He probably would not remember now. They were very brief moments. I cannot even recollect any discussion from the encounters, except exchange of pleasantries. I was then Editor, The Westerner.
Isola was thrown up higher again. He concluded his assignment as Ogun SSG in 2007. But that was not the end. Hardly had he settled down that he got a calling from the federal authorities.
He reaped bountifully from his outstanding performance at the state level. He was appointed Minister of Mines, Power and Steel Development by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. He held sway between 2007 and 2008.
Isola’s vision is model in good governance and best practice and mission of constructive development. He is greatly concerned about people’s welfare and ethos of service, trust and integrity. He has huge passion for law and order. All these glaringly manifested in the manner he carries out his duties.
Before he went into politics, Isola had had an impressive work experience to his credit. And it is worth flaunting; it is intimidating.
He started off as a lecturer in his NYSC service year, 1982/1983. He did this brilliantly in the Department of Business Studies, Federal College of Education, Katsina, Katsina State. After the service, he continued lecturing in college till 1986, this time in Business Statistics, Marketing and Economics.
He was at the Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation, 1986 to 1990, as Sales Executive, in its Commercial Services Division; Member, Audit Committee of Gateway Bank; Executive Chairman, Taist Nigeria Ltd; Taist Merchants; Eshawller Investment Ltd; Platisol Investment.
Isola is solidly grounded. He is widely travelled and attended conferences, retreats and summits home and abroad.
Samplers: National Congressional Conference on Economic and Development Issues in Nigeria. That was during the visit of the World Bank Group President, James Wolfensohn, Abuja in October 1999.
African Mining Partnership, an initiative of NEPAD for championing and co-ordinating mining and minerals-related initiatives in Africa in August 2007 in Abuja.
First Consultative Committee Meeting of the Board of Governors, African Development Bank, November 1999, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
General Meeting of Shareholders’ African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) and Advisory Group on Trade Finance and Export Development in Africa, May 2000, Tunis, Tunisia.
He attended United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Joint Conference of Ministers of Finance and Ministers of Planning and Economic Development, May 2001, Brussels, Belgium.
Isola undertook a study visit to Washington DC, USA, in February 2002. He had the privilege to be at the Department of State, Capitol Hill, Security Exchange Commission, Federal Reserve Bank, International Monetary Fund headquarters, World Bank headquarters and Overseas Private Insurance Corporation.
These conferences, summits and visits undoubtedly sharpened his skill and enriched his knowledge. That is Sarafa Tunji Isola you should know and appreciate. Nigeria’s High Commissioner-designate to the United Kingdom.