An exclusive interview with the Senior Special Adviser/ Director General Of Lands and Survey in the Bureau of Lands and Survey in Ogun State, Hon Biyi Ismail. An expert in Information and Communication Technology who studied Survey and Geofamatics at the Prestigious University of Lagos Akoka, an epitome of humility and the candidate of ALL PROGRESSIVE CONGRESS in the 2015 General elections who was to represent IJEBU NORTH, IJEBU EAST AND OGUN WATERSIDE FEDERAL CONSTITUENCY. In this interview with the publisher of amebohotnews Adedapo David Adedapo, he spoke about his humble beginning, business start ups, politics, innovations injected into the bureau of lands and survey in the State as well as curbing the menace of land grabbers plus his diehard loyalty with the Governor Sen Ibikunle Amosun. Happy reading!!
Amebo: Tell us about yourself before getting to this political position?
Ismail: Before becoming the Director General for Lands and Survey; I am Biyi Ismail, I attended military primary school in Fadeyi, Yaba; I also attended Mainland High School, Fadeyi, Yaba; then proceeded to Yaba College of Technology where I had my OND in land surveying before going to University of Lagos, Akoka where I bagged my B.Sc in Surveying and Geomatics Engineering. Afterwards I was retained to work as a graduate assistant at UNILAG before going into my private business. I have always have flair for ICT and technology per say and this metamorphosed into establishing my company Network Informations Technology. Prior to that, I tried starting up businesses with friends and colleagues but at that time most of them were after luxuries and jamborees of life, you know they preferred to enjoy life, have fleet of cars and so on rather than building business which requires discipline, focus, savings and financial understanding. So I started my company which enabled me travelled round the globe, I have travelled to about 85 countries in search of knowledge and frontiers on how to improve my business in closing up with partners and how to better my clients till I got married. I’m a fellow of the institute of Directors where we discussed about laws affecting our business and other related issues. We were been called to add value of policies and constitution etc, but we still kept complaining because some of these laws affect us negatively. So rather than becoming part of those complaining its better to be part of those that will engineer doing the right thing because if we don’t join and struggle for the position to become a legislator, we will continue to be enmeshed with laws that will be affecting us adversely, so that was how I decided to join politics.
Amebo: You are doing so well in your business and having clients like Dangote on your list, why would you leave such juicy,enticing and profiting business for politics?
Ismail: thank you for this question. You see, sometimes no matter how lucrative your business is, you will desire to be useful to the people around you, its not about money most times, its not about how much I make, its about how many people I can affect positively. Via politics I have seen how one can affect people through your kindness, implementation of laws that suits the yearnings of the people or been part of the executive or any arm of the government. With that, your actions and reactions to things and phenomenons will affect loads of people. While I was with Dangote (the company is still there till date) we make a turn over of 2-3 billion annually apart from Dangote we have the Navy, Army and even Vatican on our network. Yes you will agree with me that the money is their but money doesn’t bring as much happiness as you would desire seeing how many people you have affected positively. So becoming a politician, I have seen how many lives I have affected positively and I can genuinely go home to relax with joy.
Amebo: During the 2015 elections, you organised a multimillionaira free eye surgery, equipping hospitals and free glasses, what inspired such project considering the fact that its not even your line of expatriate.
Ismail: honestly I love your questions, yes I’m not an expert in the medical line but the eldest in my family is. What actually led to that project was an incident that happened while I attended a ward meeting at waterside Local government area of Ogun state. There was this man who came for the meeting but couldn’t see at all and when I got home ruminated over it and I called brians’ together; if that man could be close to blindness, there are several other people who will have same issue. So we organized surgery for cataract, distribution of lenses. The same man was among the beneficiaries, even his daughter came from Lagos to testify that his father now drives; this is a man that was making his livelihood from cab driving but when the sight problem started he was confined in his home, he couldn’t even see what he wants to eat; till date he is still appreciating us and gone back to his cab driving. Another is one of my assistant here, his mother had cataract and after the surgery his mum regained full sight and since then he has stock up with us.
Amebo: your victory to ticket-ship in the last general election by some onlookers have been adjudged as a miracle since the ticket had already been conceded to Ijebu North local government. How do you view it, miracle as well?
Ismail: you see, when you are crowned by God, man cannot pull you down. Political calculations, was part of it but the effort was crowned by God and good enough the followers I have are hard core. I’ll tell you, in politics if you have people that are dedicated and trust worthy around you, 10 of them is better of a thousand, we had elders and leaders who were very very staunch and supportive and everything works in place.
Amebo: as the candidate of your party then, you lost at the poll. After reevaluating, what do you think led to the loss despite all hands on deck?
Ismail: we have to look at 2015 election as a learning course. Being a new person in the game, I won’t say its inexperience because I had fantastic backups and support from well experienced people; what I see is, the way it has come is the way the Almighty God wants it. You can push to the right and God says it’s to the left, whichever way it goes one must be thankful. Thank God where I am today, you can’t say I have lost because I’m still of service to humanity.
Amebo: the position of the Director General of Lands and Survey is one of the most powerful in any government, what do you think the Governor Sen Ibikunle Amosun, saw in you as a quality to have saddled such responsibility to your shoulder?
Ismail: for me to preemt what the Governor saw in me will be very difficult, he would have been in the best position to have known and tell you what he saw in that guy called Biyi. I am grateful to God and to the Governor, Sen Ibikunle Amosun CON, FCA for the opportunity which will be forever be.
Amebo: some said Certificate of Occupancy (C of Os) is now in a state of betterment while some still maintains their are bottlenecks. What has been the innovation you have injected to make its process easy?
Ismail: with the Governor’s support and those in the Bureau of Lands and Survey, There have been pilots of C of Os in the bureau in the last decades, 15 years even 20 years. We review the process in which each segment is been process, C of Os Consent, Taxes, Release, Ratification and Allocation etc. It was revamped and we brought in experts for training which culminated into clearing loads of C of Os that are backlogs and current ones are been processed; in few years, no one will complain about the processes with different innovations we have introduced and the people out there will begin to hail us on our performance.
Amebo: as a refined and gentleman you are, you led a state delegate to present compensation cheques to those whose properties paved way for development in the state about two weeks ago, some said they are yet to get theirs, do they still have hopes?
Ismail: the aim of the government is to ensure all those who had sacrificed their properties to give way for development are paid. Their can’t be development without pain because their is no gain without pain. Moreover, for any development to happen their must be infrastructural renewal which majorly is the road network. So we do our feasibility, the cost of the road, the cost of properties or farmlands and we summate. Its a lot of money for government hence it is paid in batches.
Amebo: the issue of land grabbers (Omooniles) in Ogun State is still worrisome, what has been done by your bureau to curb this unfortunate incidents?
Ismail: so far the government has come up with a law on land grabbers to curb, to punish and imprisoned any body caught in such dastard and notorious act. Apart from that, government inaugurated a tax force to implement the law; this comprises many ministries concern to form the board. The police, ministry of justice and many others are part of it and with the way it is constituted, the cankerworm tagged Omoonile, is a foregone issue in Ogun State. So as far as Ogun State is concerned your business is safe and free from land grabbers torment, this is the more reason we are having tones of investors coming into the state and I can assure you with the spate of progress Ogun might lead Lagos interns of business investment and company sites.
Amebo: some complained of double taxation, how true is that?
Ismail: we dont tax, we only compute what it will cost you to get your processes done.
Amebo: Lobbies, exposure to cash, high and mighty within the society and religious system is a major embodiment of your seat, how have you been coping?
Ismail: well that is true, but if you are godly and you have it in mind where you are coming from remembering the child of whom you are, you won’t have a problem. Contentment is very important and key to ones success on this seat and seeing yourself as the servant of the people and what you can do for the people surely whatever inducement anybody brings to your desk will be the least you will think of.
Amebo: the home owner charter, designed by this government was applauded, when should the good people of Ogun State expects its resurface?
Ismail: the home owner charter is a continuous program which recorded over 150,000 application we are still processings some. It doesn’t just concern lands alone, it involves MUPP (which ensures the person has an approved building plan) it goes through the ministry of finance making sure taxes are paid before C of Os are issued and many more.
Amebo: Now that you are into politics, do you still manage other business?
Ismail: well, managing other business is not possible, its against the constitution of the federal republic. So I have resigned all appointment of any other board focusing alone on this very tasking assignment; but if attending ward meetings, visiting political leaders are also regarded as business I do that (laughs)
Amebo: your love for Karate, is second to none. What is behind the passion for Karate and do you have any other passion for other sports?
Ismail: I started Karate since I was a kid, and being that, its hard to drop such love. I have been a former national champion and trains others. I have travelled to so many other countries teaching karate. So its a lifelong passion. Yea, I do have another passion, which is swimming, I am so certain I’m very good at it.
Amebo: 2019 is fast approaching, what are you gunning for?
Ismail: for 2019, I wish I can say this or that unfortunately I can’t; but I leave that in the hands of God to guide me aright.
Amebo: their is no doubt, you are one of those with unrestricted passage and access to the Governor, how would you describe the passion of the Governor for the betterment of Ogun State?
Ismail: we all can see that, its very apparent from what he has been doing. Passion is abstract but is displayed through deeds. All agenda he put on board are geared towards Ogun state renewal, from road network, to education, rural integration, employment etc and this is why I keep thanking God that I’m part of the success story of this administration.
Amebo: you hail from ijebu imushin and you just spoke about the laudable achievement of this administration so far and many others still in the warmer,do you have government presense in your local government?
Ismail: Ogun state has long been deprived of infrastructural development, we can only attest to that of Bisi Onabanjo’s administration satisfying almost all areas. The Yorubas said when a child misses breakfast, lunch, it is difficult to have a robust child because you can’t eat all you have missed at a go. The Governor started from urbanization and its spreading to the rural aress, which Ijebu Mushin is part of; we have the Ikangba to Itele dualization that is going on. Marking have started and I’m one of those who have been assigned to ensure everything is in order. Despite the recession we are coming out from, the Governor is doing massively well in sowing and reaping bountifully, so I give kudos to him.
Amebo: apart from free eye surgery and the free medical given, are you planning to re-do such?
Ismail; we have many in the warmer but we are just trying to be careful. Everybody wants to survive whatever goal they wish to achieve. You can’t be going to a desert and you begin to drink your water from the start, you must have began the journey and start drinking little by little to survive the trip. The journey of 2019 might seem close but when it comes to financing, its costly than you ever think.
Amebo: how do you blend this huge task on your desk ( pointing to loads of files on the desk) with your home responsibility.
Ismail: its the same way its been done in the past. While in the private sector, we work flat-out, so now also has no difference, its been very encouraging. Its the way I work in the private service that is been practised here so keying-in is very easy. I take my time to spend with my family, parents, my inlaws and friends. The Governor doesn’t lock you down as if you are in prison, he gives you time to do other things.
Amebo: if you had been elected in 2015, what would have been your major focus?
Ismail: my major focus would have been contributing a large portion of my income into developing my people and my area. I would have put up an interest free loan (Infact one is coming soon and I’m sure you will be there during the lauching); I would have given grants to widows, assist those who are wishing to start up genuine businesses, I would have had constituency offices where I would be able to reach out to the people, plan with the people and not for the people, finding out what people need. Its not about what you want to give, but what they need. I intend to organize programs for farmers, reburshing of classrooms, equipping medical centers which we did sometimes back, etc all these in due consultation with the people I would have represented. Unfortunately we dont know how the constituency allowance is spent but I would have made such open to stakeholders and we jointly reason together for its spending.
Amebo: on your Facebook page is a picture where you were seen in a classroom with some new furnitures, what was going on there?
Ismail: what you saw is true. I was able through God to donate a 200 seater to my alma mater (my secondary school) in which other old boys rehabilitated the building. Its a secondary school in Lagos, deprived of infrastructures, features and fittings, no good black board etc so we came together and I volunteer to provide the furnitures.
Amebo: your distinguished, we want to thank you for this opportunity given to us and we do hope to contact you on issues that needs clarity as it concerns you or your office?
Ismail: it is my humble pleasure and I can assure you my doors are wide open. Keep up the good work.