By Tope Adeboboye
Today is the 59th birthday of Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun. In this interview, Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Governor, Mr. Adejuwon Soyinka, said the passion to reconstruct the state had kept the governor going, even as he’s always at home with the people in the streets.
At 59, what manner of man is Governor Ibikunle Amosun?
If you talk of a detribalised Nigerian, I’ll tell you that Governor Amosun ranks high up there. When it comes to looking out for values, integrity; when it comes to looking for people that actually fit the bill, not necessarily those from a particular tribe or region, Governor Amosun is high up there. Only recently, somebody was telling me how many of his commissioners were picked during his first term. He only got people to recommend intelligent, smart people, who could do one thing or another. He didn’t even know many of them. He wanted core professionals – round pegs in round holes. These were people he brought into his cabinet, people that could deliver.
And if you look at his personal life as well, he’s like that. In his own personal house, he has people from all over the country working for him. He’s someone who looks out for integrity, competence. When he finds you competent, he can easily work with you, regardless of your religion or where you come from.
If you’re hardworking, you’ll be his best friend, because he is also very hardworking. You can imagine, at 59, his work ethics, the pace at which he works, is something that many of us that are far younger are struggling to catch up with. This is somebody that is at his desk by 7am, even though he might not have left that office even by 1am. And many of us who are far younger, by that 7am, we are struggling to get out of bed. Yet he doesn’t even look ruffled. How he does that, many people don’t know. But I think it’s a product of several years of discipline. I don’t think that kind of work ethics is something that you acquire just because you’re governor.
How true is the claim by some that the governor is stubborn?
I wouldn’t say he’s stubborn. He’s only visionary. He himself also says that a visionary leader should think ahead of his people. He knows where his people ought to be, not necessarily where they think they are or they should be at a particular point in time.
Even in our own history in Nigeria, we read it in the books that when the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo decided to build the Cocoa House, it was an issue. I understand that a lot of people around then did not see the need for such a project. When he decided on the Liberty Stadium, it was an issue. When he decided to set up a television station, it was an issue. He became the first to set up a TV station in Africa. We celebrated our TV anniversary a year after the UK. Even France had none at that time. People around then must have been perplexed and confused about many of his programmes then, but that was a visionary leader.
A visionary leader should see ahead of his people in order to know what direction we should all head at a particular time. He knows these are projects that would benefit generations long after he’s gone. See the model schools he’s building, the 10-lane roads and all that. Imagine what people must have said many years ago when the Obafemi Awolowo University was being built. Only a visionary leader could have done that. So, Amosun is not stubborn. He’s only visionary.
Some say the governor works from early in the morning to the wee hours of the day. How true is that?
As I said earlier, I think he’s driven by the passion to succeed, the passion to truly rebuild Ogun State, according to the philosophy of his administration. I think that mission is what drives him. So, every day, every time, he’s thinking and working towards achieving that goal. So, during his private moments, he talks about Ogun State and what he plans to achieve in the state. He talks about how he wants to leave Ogun State by the time he’s leaving. In fact, that is more in his conversations now, as we count down to 2019. And he will not miss any opportunity to tell you that by the grace of God, the day he’s leaving, that he wants to ride in a train out of Abeokuta and wave at the people and tell them: “This your boy came, and he left Ogun better than he met it.”
Again he says that by the time he’s leaving, he would want the president of Nigeria to fly into an airport in Ogun State and then ride in a train. So, he still wants to build an airport and a rail system. If you have that kind of dream, chances are that you won’t sleep. Because you would be constantly thinking and working towards achieving those dreams. The governor is somebody that, if he sits with you and shares his dreams with you, you would pinch yourself and ask if you’re still around. He still wants to build many more roads, more hospitals, do more rural electrification and so on. He talks of the kind of skyline he wants in certain sections of the state. He wants a situation that when people drive, they would think they are in Shanghai or Dubai. He wants to see high-rise buildings in certain parts of the cities. He has a master plan of how he wants the state to look like, not only on paper and in 3D, but also on his mind. And I believe that’s what is keeping him going. He knows time waits for no one, and that eight years will soon go by. That’s why he’s in a hurry to develop Ogun State.
He says we have just about two years and a few months left, and that we must achieve all that we have planned for ourselves. He says by the time he’s leaving, he wants to leave no one in doubt as to how much he has impacted on Ogun State, both in terms of infrastructural development, and in terms of social and economic development.
And he’s changing the orientation of his people. He ensures that he’s not carried away by praise singers, people that want to create a larger-than life image of him. He says if you’re not careful as a governor, and you encourage praise singers, you will lose focus and lose it entirely. Because it is what you want that people will give to you. If you want to see people kneel down and cringe before you, you will get that. And if you want people to always tell you the truth, you will get that.
How close is he to the people?
Very close. When we go out, he comes down from his car; he sits with the old women, the men and the youths. He winds down his car window, and they are standing by the window of his car, having a conversation with him, telling him things about them. And he’s addressing those situations directly. Even where some of us his aides might be reluctant to visit, he goes there and mixes with the people freely. He has no airs about him. That’s why he can trek in Abeokuta freely, with a large crowd following him. He’s at home with the people.