WHY I'M COMMISSIONER AFTER BEING DEPUTY GOVERNOR â€“ OLUJIMI
Former Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Mrs. Biodun Olujimi, will pass for a history maker. She made history as a female acting governor, when the boisterous ex-Governor Ayodele Fayose was removed from office by the state's House of Assembly. Now, she is a commissioner of works in the state.
In this interview, Mrs. Olujimi explains why she has to be a commissioner after being a deputy governor. She also spoke on other issues.
What do you think of the late President Yar'Adua's death?
It's a terrible loss. The man was decent, extremely detribalised and honest; we pray that God grants him eternal rest and Aljannah firdaus. More than that, we pray all the issue he tackled would be taken up by the new president, so that we can, at least, hold that in his memory because he meant well, The seven-point agenda addressed every issue that we needed to address in Nigeria. The accomplishment of the agenda will just be a tribute to a man who was selfless.
The Niger Delta issue, for instance, is something that has given us leverage among the comity of nations. Since Yar'Adua brought the Niger Delta in the forefront, they now know there are people who care for them. Tension is now low; even the militant laid down their arms. We didn't achieve that for many years.
Yar'Adua's wife, Hajia Turai, was criticised for alleged mismanagement of his health. What do you think?
First and foremost, I'm a woman and the duty of a woman is to protect her family. There are times some of us overdo things by going beyond the limit. It is not because you dislike others; it is because you just believe it's a personal issue. Yes, she probably overdid certain things, but the buck stops at her table; she did what she did out of extreme love for her family. I think most women will do it, because she protected him; she didn't want people to see him weak and tired and unable to do his assignments. She wanted him to get well behind close door and then come out as a strong man.
But the impression the nation was given was that she was acting with the cabal and just wanted to perpetrate or sustain the man in office, so that they could use it for their selfish ends?
They were all rumours. I'm sure now the man is gone, his wife would have the opportunity to talk and you might find out the stories were not so. For some of us, who have been in politics for sometime, we now know that what is said generally is not what has happened. I really feel for her, because when you have a woman who believes deeply in her family, that's probably what she'll do. Illness is not something you'll want to exhibit. When you discover that your husband is unable to do certain things, you will want to nurse him to good health. Really, I don't blame her. I only blame the mismanagement of information. Nevertheless, it was still a family issue and women are intuitive; we deal with intuition more than reality and she probably thought she could nurse him to health. I feel for her and I think Nigeria should see it her way and forgive her.
President Jonathan is believed to be controversial, especially with the pardon of Ribadu and forced resignation of Ogbulafor. Do you share in this sentiment?
There are certain things in the system you can't run away from. The return of Ribadu is part of the problem of the society and if he has to handle it, he must handle it well and that's part of being a leader. I don't think that's a serious thing, especially, if he is truthful about doing it. Pertaining to Ogbulafor, I don't have information on that and I don't think he has anything against Ogbulafor, because he was the chairman of his party and he is a decent gentleman. If there is a fight, there should be basis for it, but we don't have all the information at hand now.
What do you think about governor Oni's court victory?
It is a relief, because while it lasted nobody was at ease. When you have an issue that may take you out of job, it slows you down. The judgment has come at a time when Ekiti needs peace. We need Ekiti to be together, we don't need anything that will divide us and so it is a welcome judgment. However, it's a dispute among brothers, even though they are in different parties. We are still brothers and sisters. We are homogeneous and because of that we are interlinked. When you're in a dispute with your brother, you really don't feel that you have won a battle. I salute the courage of the opposition, because without their courage, without their criticism, remarks and shouting, we wouldn't probably put together that kind of a legal team; we probably would not have moved further in our quest for taking development closer to the people, as we are doing now. Talking about judgment, the minority will always have their say and that's the beauty of democracy.
You mean you are not worried over an appeal in a higher court?
The facts were exhaustively handled by the chairman of the tribunal, who read the majority report. He took each of them one at a time and handled them exhaustively. I believe no human being will look at the facts and go against them. In fact, we were jittery when some of the figures were removed by the lead judge, but we said we should wait and see where it would lead us. Despite the removal, we still owned the majority.
Are Ekiti politicians really brothers, given the apparent do-or-die nature of electoral contests in these parts?
Our people are intellectuals and those who didn't go to school have a very sharp intellect and so you can't but have them look at issues deeply as well as take tough stands; that's the way we were made. That is why people say we are stubborn. So, that is why you saw those people (security operatives) present, so that people who lost will not attack those who won and those who won would not be over joyous and attack those who lost. That is why politics is like that in the last few years. You find that people talk about the governor being too quiet. He's one of the beacons of light in that arrangement. He has shown us that you can be quiet, non violent and rule Ekiti; so, that is what we are propagating now; we are asking the youths to look at us and see us as role models. We interact freely.
You were close to former Governor Fayose, to the extent of being his deputy. Now you're with his political enemies. How did you find yourself in that position?
I don't know they are enemies. I think they have political differences and I believe it is one party. I was with Fayose under the PDP and I'm with Governor Oni under the PDP, the same umbrella. There are many of us. I'm not the only one. I have not left the PDP and I don't intend to leave. If there are problems, I believe we can solve than within. Going out does not solve it; you will just become a visitor there. I was in ANPP and I came into PDP. Despite the fact that I had friends there, I was a visitor and I had to wait until when the party was ready for me.
At what time did you part with Fayose?
Did we part ways? No. I say at a point when the crisis started, people came between us and they were saying different things; they were feeding him with information that was not correct. The thing that is versatile in Ekiti is the rumour mill. When Fayose left Government House, he didn't inform me; that must have been the reason and it wasn't a party issue. It was like one person walked out from another person's life and since then; we have worked things out together. I can't be an enemy to a man who added value to my life; it's not possible; he is as important to me as Governor Oni, because Governor Oni has given me leverage and opportunity to excel and he has given me the free hand to do it.
How will you compare the two bosses?
There is no basis for that. They are two different people. One is a quiet and easygoing person, who just wants you to get the best out of everything you're doing. The other one is amiable and, of course, not so brash person (laughs); so, they don't compare. But, whether you like it or not I'm happy where I am today. I've had the benefit of serving two masters. I give God the glory for their lives, but I'm happy where I am.
Why did you take a commissionership position, having once been number two in government?
The problem with most of our people is that they look at their position and put themselves on the status scale. If you have been called to serve and you want to really give service to your people, it doesn't matter where you are. What you need to do is to ensure the assignment that has been given to you is thoroughly handled and in such a way that the ordinary people would benefit from it. If you do that you'll be able to face God and talk and be proud that you have added value to your community and to the system. Having being called Her Excellency and now the honourable commissioner means nothing. As far as I'm concerned, they are the same thing. It doesn't matter what you are called. Basically, I'm Mrs. Biodun Olujinmi; it is when you remove the Mrs.
That you probably might offend me, because, that is the only title that is permanent. In politics, you might end up being ordinary Mrs. Olujinmi. Service is what we take first and foremost. When I was made deputy governor, if they had asked me what I wanted to be me, probably, I would not have wanted to be a deputy governor. I probably, would have wanted to finish my term at the House of Representatives, and try and go to the Senate. I would have liked to gather experience. But you see when God wants to draft you into a thing, he doesn't seek your consent and when it will happen, it will happen and that is what happened. I'm grateful to God for it, because He gave me such leverage that I didn't imagine I could get.
What are the challenges at the ministry?
When I got there, I found very ambitious programme. Ambitious in the sense that I didn't believe any governor could come and saddle himself with the necessity of providing 1000kms of road in a state like Ekiti, where our terrain is very rocky and I found out almost half of it had been done. Whether you like it or not, Ekiti State must be the best state that has good internal roads and connections; most of the roads leading to the communities have been done. We found out that when the governor stepped aside, the interregnum delayed so many projects, because it was during the period when the road should have been constructed; so it takes time and most of the contractors were not financed. By the time we came, we have had serious problem and it was rainy season; so most of the contractors could not work and the recession came in at about the same time; fund became scarce and so, some of the projects suffered. However, I don't know the magic the governor has been doing. He has been funding those projects.
Right now, contractors are working as hard as possible to make up for lost time and we expect that soon, we should be able to commission about 250kms road, while taking the rest as ongoing projects.