An Exclusive Interview with the Speaker of Ogun State House of Assembly, Rt Honourable Suraj Ishola Adekunbi. With the publisher Adedapo David Adedapo, the speaker spoke on his gubernatorial ambition, Ogun legislative synergy and activities, local government administration, state of governance at the state, rumour on his marital status and many more.
Amebo: Who is Surajudeen Ishola Adekunbi before becoming a member of Ogun State House of Assembly?
Adekunbi: Rt. Honourable (Prince) Suraj Ishola Adekunbi MNSE, FIIS is the number three in a family of fifteen, born and bread in Ogun State; into the family of late Alhaji Rahmon Akande Adekunbi aka Kashimawo and Deaconess Elizabeth Afusatu Ashabi Adekunbi. Over four decades ago, I had my elementary school at the St Paul’s Anglican Primary School, Ayetoro, proceeded to the prestigious Comprehensive High School Ayetoro. Out of my quest for knowledge and education, I had my national diploma at the federal polytechnic Ilaro in Mechanical Engineering later proceeded to the polytechnic Ibadan for my Higher national diploma in same course. By the grace of God I served at the Nigerian petroleum development company, a subsidiary of NNPC, Edo State for my National Youth Service, where I served as assistant project manager I was in the technical department in mechanical section. I taught briefly at Government Technical College, Idi Aba, Abeokuta, then later joined the Ogun State civil service in 2004 and resigned in 2006 out of my quest to contribute my quota to the development of my people. I had my shot at the assembly seat in 2007 but lost to the then ruling party. Before then my father was a business man, he was into petroleum business and we have been with him and I’m actively involved but had to stop because as a civil servants your job must not be compromised with any other. But all along I have been a managing director of Al-Rahmon Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited. I am a managing patner of Tinkers Nigeria Limited; which is into diverse business, importing and exporting plus general merchants. I had my Post graduate diploma in mechanical engineering at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, I usually update myself academically, which led to opting for my Masters Degree at University of Ibadan in project development and implementation. I remained in my party Action Congress when I lost in 2007 and the next election in 2011, I won by God’s grace and my peoples thumbs. Though at that time the clamour for a Yewa man to be the Governor could have affected me but I was able to come victorious. So by the benevolence of my distinguished colleagues, I became the Speaker of the Assembly and successfully piloted the affairs and my reelection, the good people of my constituency gave me their mandate to represent them, and unanimously, my distinguished colleague gave me a node to be their speaker for the second term.
Amebo: Rumours are flying round that you are in a marital saga of divorce and out of wedlock child birth, can you please shed light for or against this rumour?
Adekunbi: (Laughs) as a man from an Islamic religious background I can choose to have many wives but the truth of the matter is I’m married to my only wife, Oluwaseun Atinuke she remained my one and only wife. We had an elaborate societal wedding, well attended by the big wigs and today we are still together and waxing stronger to the glory of Almighty Allah.
Amebo: You were elected twice to represent Isokan state constituency, how did you emerge as a speaker despite being a first timer in your first regime especially having two termers in the system then who happened to be political Juggernaut?
Adekunbi: We must first look at the peculiarity of the system, when it is about our system you can’t jettison arrangement that will enhance perfectionism in sharing formula. In Ogun state, the Governor is from the Central Senatorial District, the deputy from the East and naturally the Speaker as the number three will come from the West. We have to be fair to ourselves, so it was conceded to the West. I must appreciate my former colleagues and the present for their understanding in this regard. We can as a matter of fact decide as legislators to choose not to follow this arrangement but we did so, to promote and enhance participatory government, peace and tranquillity in the state.
Amebo: You faced an impeachment during your first tenure, what led to the unfortunate incident and how were you able to come out unstained despite having a baknce ratio of lawmakers for and against you?
Adekunbi: Their was nothing like impeachment, I was the speaker, yes there was a fracas because we suspended some members but I wouldn’t want us to delve into that because we have gone beyond that. Infact after the issue and settlement of disagreement, we all agreed to act as if nothing happened. I was the speaker before the fracas and after I remain the speaker.
Amebo: Its no longer a news that some people believed this 8th assembly is a rubber stamp for the executive, what has been your response to this?
Adekunbi: When people say something like this I always laugh. The business of governance is not perceived in such direction. Some of these people talking if given the opportunity will be worse than what they are saying about us. The three tiers of government are independent of each other and our roles are distinct and clearly established in the constitution. I have never come across any section of the constitution that says we should fight ourselves in the house or with the Executive arm. Our responsibility is to provide check and balance. If we are rubber stamp and people can drive and walk on good roads, see the impact of government everywhere, and feels secured sleeping with their two eyes closed; I’ll rather continue to be a rubber stamp than for us to be egocentric because of our personal gains or other pertinent issues. We have been doing our job by complimenting each other and we will continue to do so. Of course, they voted us in and they are entitled to their opinion and we are accountable to them but if that is what we need to do to ensure our state is peaceful and our people enjoy dividends of democracy then it is better for us so that our people have good roads in Ijebu North, Imeko, Sagamu, Ijebu Ode, Mushin, Ado Odo, Abeokuta, Yewa, Ipokia, Ifo etc.
Amebo: the Local Government political officers emoluments laws of 2008 was jettisoned for a mere memo in the payment and calculation of salaries and allowances for the 2012 -2015 Local Government political office holders, why this?
Adekunbi: Their is a difference between memo and correspondences. Honestly you are just telling me this, we just passed the emolument of the local government, so the people concern if they had presented this case before us and reason together, we could have find out what was wrong and correct it. At the moment a bill was brought to the house and we have done justice to that; rumours won’t be appreciated on such issue?
Amebo: It is well known that Education Secretary are appointees of the LG Chairmen, and Supervisor is superior to ES, how come under the dispensation you head the 2 tier of the Government, empowered to perform oversight functions, the ES salary is higher than that of the Supervisors and even the Chairman of the LG?
Adekunbi: We have a template guided by the law regarding the issue of salary and other emoluments. Do you even know that the permanent secretary’s salary is higher than mine? These Chairmen you are talking about do take allowances and if culminated it is higher than the Education Secretary. I would not want to dwell on the issue much, but their is a template guiding statutory payment. Ours is to ensure we carry out the oversight function after appropriation and ensure good governance to all asundry.
Amebo: The creation of the LCDAs has received both applaud and condemnation, those condemning it said till date most of the LCDAs Secretariat are nothing to write home about, some of the Chairmen work from home or under the tree, what has the House of assembly under your leadership being able to do on this phenomenon?
Adekunbi: Let me say that, I was at rockcity yesterday and the presenter also came up with a kind of analogy regarding this question he said probably we choose to name the baby before birth, I was just laughing. Yes in some cases it could be and in Islamic religion it does happen. The truth is, the law seeking for the establishment of the LCDAs must be in place because that is the operating guide. We can’t just say go to your LCDAs. I must commend some of our men and women of valour and honour who had been donating structures, equipment, machines and stationeries in some LCDAs for the commencement. Government can’t do it all, though it is our responsibility. Mind you, it is a process and we went through it. People do tell us as well but because it is a process we will have to give it a time, we can’t just give birth and expect that he or she walks same day. I will appeal to our people to exercise patience.
Amebo: Yewa Awori where you come from still cries over marginalization in terms of developmental projects, as their son privileged to be the number 3 man in the state, how have you been able to ensure a level of balancing exist in the distribution of projects in your senatorial district?
Adekunbi: As an Ogun West man, I would not want to comment most on this, the business of governance is beyond sentiment. People might say we have six lanes in Ayetoro forgetting that within same Ayetoro there are some places still calling for government attention. We can’t finish everything in a day. We have representative in the state cabinet, in the assembly and of course their is nothing we can do without informing everybody even during budget preparation, we engage stakeholders. So we will continue to strive for the betterment of all districts without sentiments.
Amebo: The 7thAssembly had many hot sessions while the 8th is more like a family assembly, how have you been able to douse the tension coming from within and without?
Adekunbi: In settings like this, we are bound to agree and disagree. We don’t have a monopolistic assembly, each party have their agenda but with a common focus which is project Ogun; whatever it is, Ogun comes first! If it is political we can always go back to our various secretariats. Ogun is paramount, so for us to be on the same page we must be focus and not distracted. We have to compliment the sincere mission of His Excellency, Senator Ibikunle Amosun CON, FCA. As a matter of honesty, we have heard many disagreement especially this particular 8th assembly but our experience is what is guiding us. We can only speak to ourselves by respecting the mandate of the people. This mandate is tenured and what is key is to ensure we do what is appropriate to ensure we promote good governance, it is not by casting aspersion or fighting. Some says Mr Speaker is weak and pliable, if I’m not weak, what would have happened? Let’s take the issue of the national assembly, can you see what is happening? At the expiration of our mandate people will reassess us and they will say we left the state better than where we met it or the irony, so we have a good legacy to promote and protect.
Amebo: The bill no. 43/OG/2013 -Bill for a law to establish the state Council on public procurement and the bureau of public procurement as the regulatory authorities responsible for the monitoring and oversight of public procurement, harmonizing the existing government policies and practices by regulating, setting standards and developing the legal framework and professional capacity for public procurement in Ogun State and for related matters ” has been passed. If yes, when will implementation start; moreao what over bills are on the pipeline for passage?
Adekunbi: We can’t make a law and implement. What is paramount is to be critical about our oversight functions. It is the responsibility of the executive to implement. We have passed and as I said, the implementation solely relies on the executive arm.
Amebo: The bill on land grabbers, kidnapping etc have become a law in the state, what’s the level of implementation and how can people key into it especially reportage?
Adekunbi: Just like I asserted above, we have done our bit, the executive has the function of implementation. I could remember during one of our sitting, one of my distinguished colleague asked that the tax force was not set up and I now asked him if he can prove that because I have the fact which he doesn’t at that time; I told him we don’t work with hearsay or side talk. Law is for man not man for the law. Keying into it is simple; before now, the police don’t handle land matters because it is a civil case but now that their is a law, then all is settled. Anybody facing such challenge can now visit the police station because their is now a law to guide and make arrest where necessary.
Amebo: In Isokan state constituency, as a lawmaker been the speaker, what has been your achievements in the constituency in terms of projects executed, youth development and general well being of the constituents?
Adekunbi: To God be the glory, if you get to Isokan State constituency, my hand is visible and numerous to count or say. The best I have done is that, I have given them true representation by ensuring that all the support needed by this administration is not compromised. Again as mentioned at rock city yesterday, our responsibility as lawmakers is been misconstrued. We under appropriation (budget preparation) process facilitate projects to our constituency, make law and oversight functions and implementation process. Mind you, we are 26 members, at our level we ensure and look into everything critically, ensuring everybody has a sense of belonging. In terms of empowerment you journalist needs to enlightened our people on our roles as legislators, of course we have done our bit in terms of empowering our people and I have done mine in particular and will continue to do. What the problem is, is that most of our people will rather want money than empowering them to be independent. For instance somebody you give all he needs to be independent will still come around in hours time to say I still need cash forgetting that we did so for them for self reliance and to boost the gross domestic product. We has government will continue to provide enabling environment and contributions towards ensuring the establishment of our people. Scholarship to so many people, cash gifts, physical projects, annual coaching since my inception and many more. I was at Ibooro sometimes and I saw little kids and I alighted to have a conversation with them, I asked them if they know me and the eldest among them said yes they know me that I’m the one who organizes coaching for them, I was overwhelmed. I have done a lot but cannot be a judge in my own case by the time need be we shall x-ray it.
Amebo: It is known that you are into oil, how are you faring in the private business and what are the enabling laws under you that has made private business economically condusive?
Adekunbi: When talking about enabling law, what is key is to provide the enabling secured environment and road network that will enable business growth and development which will in turn give birth to profitability. We inaguarated security trust fund to cater for the needed tools and equipment plus ammunition for security purposes and today Ogun is the most peaceful and secured state among the comity of state and that is why you have the flocks of new companies in the state. We can’t meddle in any private business but we can create conducive environment which we have done and still doing.
Amebo: The house summoned the commissioner for finance to table the expenditure of the first stage of Paris club fund for over a month and till date, he has failed to submit, some have been saying the house is a toothless bull dog, what’s your reaction?
Adekunbi: That’s funny, we are not the only state in the federation given this money and by the time the money was matured for release, the Governor His Excellency Sen Ibikunle Amosun called us together to brief us on the motive and what is expected to be done with the money as instructed by the federal government. After the receipt, out of passion the Government paid some political appointees their severance benefit, even we didn’t collect until very much later, I mean the last 7th assembly and that is part of the sacrifice we do make, pension, deduction were paid. I must tell you that even when the money wasn’t enough Mr Governor had to out of his own magnanimity add more. We invited the commissioner because we received complaints that some had not received theirs and he came and gave us the briefing and we are satisfied. Mind you the Paris club fund is to be given twice, so we are expecting the second to afford the government of settling all outstanding.
Amebo: On 2019, you are one of the top contender, some said you are contesting to get a house of representative ticket or Senate, while some believed you only want to show. What’s your reaction?
Adekunbi: Let me tell you this, when people are saying Mr Speaker is using the governorship ambition for negotiation, I just laugh because as a Nigerian, I have the constitutional right to aspire for any position, as far as the constitutional prerequisite are met. I have been a product of contest all my life, so when people are saying Mr Speaker is doing this to negotiate, I would not know where they are getting such. However, they are entitled to their opinion. I’m doing my job, I’m ever ready and ever prepared to continue from where my Governor will stop. They should wait and see. Everybody is free to contest, I can even choose to take a shot at the number one seat in my country. I’m more than ready and qualified, I share in the vision of Senator Ibikunle Amosun FCA CON, I understand the nitty gritty and I have keyed in it. We believe in his leadership and vision and that why it was misconstrued that we are rubber stamp but we are determined in making Ogun State a better Haven. I’m contesting on a purpose which is to consolidate the rebuilding mission as established by our government as led by the Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
Amebo: We have other contestants in the same Amosun camp but you have his ears, how do you see yourself emerging as the the flag bearer at the end of the primary exercise though you have keyed into his mission and you understand the project Ogun remembering that he said those who won’t be Governor is known to him but doesn’t know who will be?
Adekunbi: An English adage says dont start a race you can’t win, Almighty God will guide His Excellency right in decision making. I have been a product of contest all my life and I know quite well that our leaders and elders whom had been doing it will do the needful. It is not about anybody its about our system and state, no one else but Suraj Ishola Adekunbi is the man whom the cap fits. I have demonstrated it via my passion, sincerity of purpose, commitment even at the expense of other things. Our prayer is that our administration last beyond 2019 and I pray (because no success with out a successor) that God maketh me one of his achievements in 2019; mind you people are still coming so let’s keep our fingers crossed. This is just the beginning.
Amebo: What is it that you are likely to do different if you finally become elected in 2019?
Adekunbi: When you look at the business of governance and as a project management expert, the Governor has done the basic essentials for me to build on. Its left for me to consolidate on the achievements and development already established. What is key is to have a person like SURAJ that is passionate to drive and committed with sincerity of purpose to build on what this government has done.
Amebo: A news spread that the 25 members of the assembly endorsed you, how did you manage to have them all endorse you despite being in different party?
Adekunbi: The truth is that we have been coming together from the 7th legislature and even those who couldn’t make it back or voluntarily didn’t contest are giving me their support and backing because I have offered them my leadership dexterity. Truly what ever I am today is their making, they are truly distinguished and I thank them most sincerely.
Amebo: As the speaker, you will have no choice attending to state assignments, how have you been able to manage the home, business and state assignments especially now that you are in a hot contest for the number one seat in Ogun State?
Adekunbi: You see, I use to say the difference between doing and gambling is focus. I remain focus to my task and assignment. I must appreciate my wife for keeping the home front and my children for the understanding. For them not to be seeing their father as they wish is a huge sacrifice. God has placed me for the job, with the support of leaders and elders and the good people of Ogun State who are ever conscious of good governance and who are never wiling to trade good governance for few naira or dollars, no cause for alarm.
Amebo: A word for the people of Ogun State?
Adekunbi: I want to use this medium to appreciate my leaders form Ogun West, Yewa North, Isokan State Constituency, Ayetoro, Ward and Unit for their support and prayer since I was elected. I want to appreciate the good people of Ogun State for the opportunity to serve them for the second term. Without followers no leadership so, we must thank them for supporting our leader and Governor Senator Ibikunle Amosun FCA CON and we want to assure then that the motive of entrusting us with their mandate will be protected while we further to serve them better.
Amebo: Thank you for your time Mr Speaker and we do hope to knock on your day when need be.
Adekunbi: you are most welcome Amebo, its my pleasure.