An exclusive interview with Hon Isreal Olujobi Jolaoso, a former Majority Leader in the 7th assembly, present house committee chairman of transport at the Ogun state house of assembly.
Spoke with the publisher of Amebohotnews Adedapo David on the state of governance in Ogun State, his contention with Amosun, Disbursement of Paris Club fund, the debt profile of Ogun State, the 2019 governorship aspirant and the chance of Yewa people; the choice of God and that of Amosun, the relationship and ambition of the speaker and many more
Amebo: Who is Israel Jolaoso?
Jolaoso: My name is Isreal Olujobi Jolaoso, I was born and brought up from Olorunda, a village at Ewekoro Local Government then it was under AdoOdo then later Ifo local government and now Ewekoro. I started my primary school at Olorunda Primary School, then to Ibogun Comprehensive High School, where I finished in 1996, I resat for my papers at Wasinmi Comprehensive High School, then to Technical College at Ijebu Ode before I secured admission at Olabisi Onabanjo University at Ago Iwoye where I bagged a Bachelor of Arts in history and diplomatic studies and as I am talking with you I’m into my masters degree for the same course. Right from my school days I have been a farmer and till date if you visit my village you will be told I’m one of the reputable farmers there. Before I became even a councillor in 1999 I had over 32 hectares of land. I didn’t just become a councillor, I use to have a passionate detest for politics because those who were practising it at that time would come, make a lot of promises and after getting what they want they jet off; by the time my people in the community agreed they wanted me for the position I was called upon to represent them which I later did after wide consultation and gladly what I detest, I had to correct it which to me I have done and still doing; you know if you are saying something is bad and you are now given the opportunity you should be able to give the people another perspective of the show. I’m married with kids two have graduated and one in 300level and the baby is about finishing waec.
Amebo: In your first term as a legislator, you were the majority leader while the present speaker was the speaker, now that you were re-elected why didn’t you hold the same position or moving upward even though we are aware the former deputy speaker couldn’t get re-elected?
Jolaoso: thank you for that question, I believe in what destiny do. While as a councillor I was the majority leader from there, I became the leader when the then leader was impeached and from there I became the Chairman of Councillors in Ogun State. So in my first term yes I was made the Majority leader and at that time there was no laspses or lacuna, I was able to discharge my duties as expected in conjunction with the speaker and other principal officers. I was able to manage the hiccups that happened that period and mend all fenses. It was the Governor and party decision that prevail on the second term, the position of the deputy speaker was zoned to the central senatorial district where I came from which I lobbied for but was made to understand the preferred candidate and I argued not because the most important thing is that I was reelected which no one can deprive me of so every other thing is secondary.
Amebo: as the House Committee Chairman on Transport, what are the enabling laws injected so far and what are the various reforms done since you assume the chairmanship seat of the committee especially as regards unionism in the garages?
Jolaoso: Unionist at the garages as you know if you are not calm and intelligent you will become your own enemy. It got to a time I had a confrontation with the chairman of the national union road transport workers, Alh Jango, the speaker had to intervene, we issued arrest of some people and at the end solution came. So when we have a petition we look into it invite those concerns and the leadership as well. They have their own constitution, for example we had an issue in Ago Iwoye where we have somebody spending almost 16years while their constitution gave only 8years of two tenures and they still want to lord the man on them and we received a petition but at that time the State Chairman said we had no right to intervene which I show him the law that gives us the power to.
Part of the reform is that we created AMORAN out of the only Almighty ACOMORAN. We had many spinster groups that we harmonize to form AMORAN. I remembered the parent association ACOMORAN offered the assembly money and we told them, people cannot become unemployed and becoming burden on the state while we can fashion a wayout through you people and we won’t do it? We also had the law on park and garages which now empowers General Manager to be the overseer of all other state park and garages. It is only when the situation is beyond the G.M that he writes to the assembly in conjunction with the bureau of transport too. The era of gunning or macheting each other is gone in Ogun State because all of us are working in synergy.
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Amebo: We have it on good ground that the assembly has began the oversight over the Paris club fund, calling on the commissioner for finance to come for explanation of expenditures. What’s the progress so far?
Jolaoso: the last time the commissioner came I was not on seat but was rightly informed that he was asked to bring a documented analysis of the spending, he is to bring it today but as you see we have no seating so perhaps next week I’ll have a better report to give. Though he said the money was spent but we need to see the beneficiaries. If we that were in the 7th legislature hasn’t gotten our severance, the councillors and even the pensioners. So I won’t want to speculate so as not to give a wrong impression to the public but I’m sure by next week we will know.
Amebo: Both in your first and second term, how many bills have you sponsored and cosponsored?
Jolaoso: I can’t have bills, I was the mouthpiece of the executive as the majority leader. I only present executive bills while members sponsor bills. This time around I have been cosponsoring many because as a member of committees you must be cosponsoring and having your input in bills to be sponsored.
Amebo: what is the major difference between Jolaoso as the majority leader and Jolaoso as the Chairman of a committee in terms of responsibilities?
Jolaoso: laughs… Well been a majority leader is a huge task. You work round every member, you become a friend of all, work almost 24/7 to always get the support of the hose members. At that time we had three parties on ground, so they have their own minority leader, but we all work in harmony, I was the link between them and the speaker. As a committee chairman, apart from receiving petition, going on oversight function their is no much unlike the life wire of the assembly, I mean the majority leader. You see me walking from from one quarter to another to plead because if an issue skyrocket it will consume all of us. I even prefers this because sometimes when the members sent you to the Governor, you might be there for hours and you might not even see him perhaps because of the high delegation meeting with him who had come to add positively to the state; you won’t because of our own disturb that or state event etc, and members want results not excuses, Majority leaders are pastors and counsellors in the house.
Amebo: the national assembly especially the Senate had been in a state of warwar with the executive lately, as a legislator how would you compare this audacity of challenging the executive with that of assembly at the State level causing this unrest sort of and why such challenge don’t happen in the state assemblies?
Jolaoso: the state and national assembly is very very not the same in their modus operandi, the national assembly both the red chamber and the green have their autonomy and even separate budget; they run their finances unlike the state assembly where we are at the mercy of the executive, who can approve or disapprove. So this has been hindering the progress. That’s why when I see people saying we are stooges I laugh, because he who has the viper dictates the tune. So even if you have a laudable program you want to do and they felt threatened they hijack it. The reason they at the national assembly can challenge the executive is because their finances comes under the first line charges to their accounts. Executive can use watchdogs though but the legislators also can via oversight, except for Lagos who had been given the autonomy all other states are under the executive’s mercy. So if you see any of us challenging the executive you should give us kudos. For example, the severance of the past commissioners and Special Advisers have been paid while ours haven’t been, so you can see the too much power. We are praying that the bill for the autonomy of the state assembly at the national assembly should be passed so that those coming after us will enjoy a sense of freedom to really represent their people.
Amebo: Ogun State debt profile has been put to N103.75bn according to the Nigeria Extractive Industries TransparencyInitiative (NEITI), apart from the approved controversial #65bn, do you think Ogun State is not been put into serious indebtedness especially for coming administrations?
Jolaoso: let’s be sincere with ourselves, we have had governors in this state who hasn’t done half of what this administration has done, if you go through the salaries of staff you will agree with me that it is gulping over 70% of the allocation, so where do you have the capital projects. So even though the statistics you mentioned is yet unknow to me but I believe we have been prudent; remember we met around #55bn at the beginning of the administration; Government is continuum. The only plead is that we want the various capital projects to be spread and not lopsided to a particular local government, that is my contention. In my local government their is no single road tarred by this administration and now I’m 6 years. Mr Governor started his political career as a senator from Ewekoro local government and it should behove on him to ensure the people of that local government feels the impact of democracy under him. I am not fighting because of personal benevolence, but what concerns my people that I represent. So far he is a good administrator that we must pat on his back, but lopsidedness is where I have issues with him. The issues of the so call 65bn is what we approve long ago, it isn’t that the world bank will give him cash, No! It is moratorium; during Bisi Onabanjo era, it was collected and used in building gateway hotel, Itaa Osu market and that of kuto market, because it is a long term with a digit interest. We just started paying that of Onabanjo last year, so you can imagine, so they gave 20years before repayment. That’s what Lagos has been using to develop themselves so if we reject it another state will take it. The major determinant is even that, world bank will only release the money if they see the seriousness for which the capital project is meant for and also their is a bank that will be in charge of the disbursement, it is not coming to Amosun’s purse. Like today they are commissioning malls at itoku its part of the project this administration is set to do.
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Amebo: Despite many gladiators at Ewekoro local government, you still enjoy a huge support and respect from your people, how do you do that?
Jolaoso: its because I’m part and parcel of them. I know where the shoe pinches and I address it as much as I’m capacitated. I’m residing with them unlike those who had been before me. My house at Olorunda is a home for politicians 24/7. If you come for personal assistance, I’ll do what I can do at least you know I was not sent here to come and steal.
Amebo: some of your colleagues are either seeking for a comeback or they are aiming higher, what are you gunning for?
Jolaoso: 2019 is God’s own year. Man proposes God disposes. If God says I will contest, so be it and if He says no, who am I to say yes. So its all about God.
Amebo: your neighbour in Yewa Axis believe 2019 is there year to govern Ogun, do you think there dream is achievable?
Jolaoso: with the way it is going, if they speak with one voice, it is achievable. The problem of Yewa Awori people since 1976 that Ogun State was created is because they never talk in unity. So if they come together this time around with a formidable candidate, they will get it.
Amebo: Senator Ibikunle Amosun is believed to have brought many of you assembly members to limelight via tickets as candidates, he is also nursing to install his successor, do you believe it is achievable?
Jolaoso: well, I take exception to that. I mean that the Governor brought me to limelight, I’m the one representing the good people of Ewekoro, I know how much and times I have done empowerment to my people, I know how I have lived with them, building schools, hospitals, personal assistance etc. I still maintain that the Governor should come and do something in that local government. I won’t take it that the Governor brought me to limelight. Presently I have a computer school where I train over 600 students without collecting a penny. So your activities as a politician determines the vote from people. What are we even saying, Mr Governor gave the return ticket to former deputy speaker at ijebu ode but lost, so also in sagamu -2, from Ilaro too. Everybody should go back home and stay with his people and make them feel the impact. Gbenga Daniel field Governorship and assembly but all lost. To me on Governor Amosun installing his successor, if God says this is my anointed and Amosun says this is mine, God’s own will prevail. Obasanjo once said not when he is alive that Amosun will smell Okemosan but today the same Amosun hosted Obasanjo’s 80th birthday, that’s God. It means all power belongs to God. If I tell you that my successor in Ewekoro is this or that, I am deceiving myself. We were all here when Daniel field a candidate where is the candidate today? I will stand where God and Ogun people stands because I’m not in the school of thought where it is believed that whatever the Governor does is the final.
Amebo: the speaker despite telling you of his intention and serving together what’s the position of the house?
Jolaoso: I can only speak for myself. I’m a politician and the speaker is my very bossom friend and jokingly I do tell him I won’t support you, that doesn’t mean he can’t win the seat, so also it doesn’t mean our personal relationship will be affected, and again don’t forget that we have opposition members in the house, we also have those who will go along side the Governor, so for me to say this is the stand of the house means I’m a jester.
Amebo: a popular blogger Adegbokiki Ibraheem, posted that Mr speaker and his supporters are set to remove some party chairmen at the local government level because they are loyal to a particular aspirant for Ogun 2019 seat, do you see it that faction is been created again in APC against 2019?
Jolaoso: what makes politics more interesting is faction. For God’s sake the Governor is not coming back for third term. Within the same party there will be factions bases on interest and until the final person emerge as the candidate. If I belong to Mr A doesn’t mean if Mr C emerges I won’t work for him. Until when we finally choose our candidate in a free and fair manner because if people feels otherwise that is injustice which could lead to forming new party. It happened during Gbenga Daniel against PDP. Wherever I feels the people of Ogun State will be served better, that is where you will meet me. Mr speaker has told us he is contesting and that doesn’t mean I’ll support him because we served together. I have to sit down as a politician and go back to the drawing board after I must have read the manifesto of every aspirants.
Amebo: how often do you report your stewardship to your constituency?
Jolaoso: as I am speaking with you I am leaving here to an inter house sport competition where I am the Chairman in my constituency. So they know every thing I am doing and that I have done. I only come to Abeokuta for official assignment and retired home at Olorunda and on weekends I must be at Olorunda.
Amebo: Ogun people will love to know the various projects you have some so far since 2011.
Jolaoso: if I’m to count that, your time will be spent here. I have told you some above. The ICT school in front of general hospital had started since 2012 trained over 600 students freely, I installed a borehole at ajade wasinmi, another one at keulagbe at itori, did empowerment for artisans Vulganizers, barbers, bricklayers, hairdressers etc, bursary award to over 100 students, special awards and even giving out of 25000 each to some market men and women freely (because I don’t like loans, and in actual fact you will be stressing them if you give them loans so why not just dash them to add to their groceries. I have never taken loan in my life so I won’t give it too), numerous motorcycles, hospital constructed by me at Olorunda which is still the best etc.
Amebo: apart from politics you said you are a farmer , what else do you do?
Jolaoso: yes, apart from farming I once sold cements in large quantities, I had a brother who was a dealer, but farming is my major vocation. So even if I dont contest in 2019, I’ll still be a farmer (basket of the nation) likewise engage in other business.
Amebo: how do you relax?
Jolaoso: relax? Believe me even if I travel I don’t relax because my phone will be ringing despite being abroad. I only relax with my people which means we will engage in talks despite the so called relaxation. I can say its only when I sleep.
Amebo: thank you Hon Jolaoso for the time accorded us and we hope to have you when next we call on you.
Jolaoso: You are most welcome amebo and please feel free at any point in time I with be available.