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NO BIG DEAL BEING OUT OF OFFICE – BAYO OJO

By NBF News
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Former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN) gives an insight into his gubernatorial ambition in Kogi State. The former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is viewed by many to have a chance of clinching the PDP ticket owing to his connection and calm disposition.

In this interview, he speaks on issues bordering on his days in office as the AGF and his ambition to govern Kogi State, saying he is under pressure to take over from Governor Ibrahim Idris.

After being the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, how is it like?

Let me say straight away that I miss nothing outside office because I went there to serve and I knew there was a terminal date. Don't forget that I was serving as the President of the Nigeria Bar Association(NBA) before the appointment came.

So, I saw the appointment as a larger and bigger platform to continue my service to Nigerians. If you ask those who know me, they will tell you that it was the same me that was a private legal practitioner that served as the NBA president, then later as the AGF and back to semi-private life because I am still serving the country at the United Nations International Law Commission in Geneva, Switzerland. Given my background, I say with all sense of humility that I am not one that can be changed by the perks, paraphernalia or power of any office, because my orientation was to see public office as public service.

How prestigious is the office of the AGF. How significant is the office from other ministries?

As the only cabinet office mentioned specifically in the country's constitution, it is no doubt a very prestigious office that comes with very enormous responsibilities. However, while other ministries also contribute immensely to nation building, the office of AGF is crucial to the success or otherwise of the government of the day because it is expected to give legal advice on crucial issues of governance involving all ministries and other arms of the federal government which could make or mar the administration.

The various anti-corruption agencies being supervised by the office of the AGF also add to the unenviable burden of the occupants of the office because the AGF by virtue of those responsibilities, would have to be on top of every situation in the polity and be up to date on issues of law, governance, diplomacy amongst others both locally and internationally.

Would you say the seat of the AGF is a hot one going by your experience?

I will prefer to say the seat is engaging and challenging. When I was in office, I was keeping an early morning to late night schedule on a daily basis, considering the fact that former President Olusegun Obasanjo that I served in his administration, was a workaholic. He had an unbelievable staying-power. He could do 24 hours non-stop without showing any signs of fatigue and in the process putting everybody on their toes. He could call you up at 2 a.m to come to the Villa and work till day-break.

I recall a particular experience. On this day, I left the office at 12 midnight. I barely got home and was trying to settle down for my first meal of the day when the President called me to come to the Villa. I got there at 1a.m and worked with the President till 2 a.m. I barely got back home at 2:30a.m when my phone rang again and it was the President asking me to come back to the Villa. I got back there at 3a.m and worked till 4:30a.m.

While leaving the President at about 5a.m, he was quick to remind me that he had scheduled a meeting for 8a.m at his office which he wanted me to attend with him. I can therefore testify to his love for the nation and what his administration did to kick-start the nation's economic recovery and put the country back in global limelight. While in office, I had no weekend, no Sunday, no rest-time. Some of your colleagues can testify to meeting me at my desk in the office working on weekends.

After leaving the office at about 11p.m on the average, I would ask my aides to move the yet-to-be treated files to the house, where I would continue working on them till the wee hours of the next day, catch two or three hours sleep if I am lucky, and be at my desk latest 8 am to work till night again. That was the punishing schedule I ran all through my stay in office, but I was happy doing that as it increased the capacity which I had for work which I believe will stand me in good stead in Luggard house in Kogi State.

Your ascension into the office of the AGF caused a lot of controversy because you were coming in as the president of the NBA. Now after office, do you think your decision was right and constitutionally sound?

Absolutely. That is because I did not breach any law to do that. I had resigned from my office as NBA President before accepting to serve as AGF.

*What was your most challenging moment while in office as the AGF?

Every moment I spent in office was challenging if you consider the scenario I painted of my schedule added to serving a tireless patriot. But the build-up to the 2007 general elections was tasking but God in His infinite mercies took control of events. So, I can only give God all the glory for the modest achievements while in office..

What is your assessment of your successors-in-office?

I want to give Kudos to the current AGF for the able way and manner he is handling the office. He is doing a fantastic job and I wish him well.

What is your assessment of the Election Petition Tribunals?

I believe the Tribunals are doing their best; it is for us to get our electoral processes right and stop looking for scape-goats in the Tribunals.

What is your position on the controversy over the conferment of SANship. Others are calling for the abolition of the title, what is your take on this?

I am aware various stakeholders have set machineries in motion for a robust debate on the controversy. I feel they should not be pre-empted. There would be no need adding to the decibel on the issue when concerted efforts are on to get it resolved.

Why do you want to be governor of Kogi State?
After the back-breaking schedule I ran in office, I was sincerely looking forward to getting back to my work as a lawyer in my Law Firm, doing arbitral work and working at the International Law Commission which appointment I had gotten before leaving office. I actually did this for a while before people back home in Kogi came with another plan for me.

Unknown to many, I am a village person even while in office and very close to my people, friends, relatives and family members in the state. So when groups, both young and the elderly started singing it in my ears that I should come home to serve them, coming to meet me in Abuja and other places outside the state, pressurizing me to join the race, I initially turned a deaf ear because I wanted to rest after the stress of the office of AGF.

But they were unrelenting. I did not buckle easily because I know that the assignment they were calling me into is not going to be an easy one. However, after state-wide consultations, I buckled under the weight of their pressure and here we are today. They have assured me that they would not send me on an errand and abandon me. So, my being in the race was not for personal aggrandizement but for service.

You are not from the Igala speaking area which is in the majority. How are you going to win their support?

I intend to do that by running a good campaign and selling myself to the people. Furthermore, out of all the non-Igala candidates, I am the only one that has lived in Igala land and speak the language. I believe this will be an added advantage for me.

What is your vision for the state?
To consolidate the current developmental efforts of the current governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris and use my wealth of experience both nationally and internationally to take the state to the next level of economic prosperity through public private partnership and attracting investors to come and invest in the huge mineral resources that abound all over the state. I also intend to create employment for the youths and empower the women through poverty alleviation programmes.

What is your assessment of the present administration in Kogi State under governor Ibrahim Idris?

The present administration of His Excellency, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris has done well in terms of managing the lean resources of the state to achieve monumental milestones of development in the constructon of roads, some of which had never been constructed by anybody until he came. This is highly commendable. He has also done a lot in providing water and other basic infrastructures. So, he has done well. What we need now is someone who is experienced enough to continue where His Excellency will stop and take the State to the next level.

On what platform are you contesting election?
I am a long-standing member of the largest political party in Africa, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), hence I am contesting under the PDP.

Some people are saying too much power has been concentrated at the center. Do you want a structural distribution of power?

Yes. What we need in our country today is a true federalism where the states will be stronger and the center weak.

What is your assessment of the Nigerian political class in terms of their character and strength?

The Nigerian Political Class still has a long way to go and a lot to learn both in terms of leadership and followership.