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Interview: No Holds Barred With Otunba Henry Ajomale

Born about 70years ago in the city of lagos, Otunba Henry Dele Ajomale is the Chairman of the All Progressive congress, Lagos state Chapter. The laywer turned politician came through the ropes and could pass as a man who was destined to get to the top. A disciplined, dedicated and focussed man, Otunba Ajomale came into politics by divine arrangement which was to see him rise to political prominence in Lagos state. From the vantage point of APC chairman and loads of experience behind him, Otunba Ajomale in this no-holds-barred interview bares his mind on the state of the nation. Here are the excerpts from the interview

Q.Can we meet you sir?

A.My name is Otunba Henry Dele Ajomale, I was born in Lagos state about 70years ago. I had my secondary education at Lagos City College and proceeded to Oyo state for my advanced level. I remember my father calling all the children and telling us that he could afford to send only two of us to secondary school, so when I managed to finish my A’ Levels, I thought it was probably case closed but fortunately at that same time, the government of the then Federal Government offered scholarships to some gifted children and I was one on the chosen few to study Law in the Soviet Union. I returned home in 1970 and enrolled at the Law School between 1970 and 1973 (those were the days it took two years to study Nigerian laws and one year for other courses). I then practised for two year before joining the Federal Civil Service in December 1975. I was posted to the then Nigerian Petroleum Refinery Company, now NNPC, as the Legal Liaison Officer. I was posted to Port-Harcourt for about 2years as an Administrator. I later became a Diplomat, posted to Nigeria’s Permanent Mission to the UN, Geneva, Switzerland and led several Nigerian delegations to a number of international engagements. From Geneva, I was posted to Tokyo, Japan as a Senior Economic counsellor. I also have a stint in South Korea before finally coming back to Nigeria. Earlier in my career, I had served as a member of Cotton, Cocoa and Palm Produce Board and this helped me serving as a Senior Economic Counsellor in the several embassies I worked abroad. I left the ministry in 1987. I later decided to set up my own law firm, Dele Ajomale Esq on McCallum str, Ebute Metta Lagos.

Q: How did you get into Politics

A:Whilst at school, I had been involved in student politics through the Nigerian youth congress led by chief Tunji Otegbeye and one lawyer Oyero. The event that would see me become a full fledged politician began to unfold. On one fateful day after the close of work and on my way home, I had to pass through Jibowu on Ikorodu Raod, a car suddenly stopped right in front of me and I was just lucky to escape an accident. Still smarting from this incident and visibly shaken by the experience, I continued my journey home and before I realised, a bunch of young boys jumped in front of my car and accused me of stopping in the middle of the road whilst trying to avoid an accident (laughter) and thus I stand arrested and had to follow them to the local council office. On arrival at the council, I witnessed raw extortion of money from members of the public who like me had been wrongly arrested and dragged to the council. I was then asked to pay some money which I refused vehemently and opted to wait for the chairman. The chairman on arriving pitched tent with his boys and I was forced to pay the penalty imposed. At that point, it dawned on me that the boys have become a law to themselves and a menace to the public event though they were illiterates, the public remains at their mercy and this should not be allowed to persist. If people are making laws or bylaws which we all have to obey, I decided its time we change people’s perception to politics, if we are to progress in Lagos state, we needed people who knows their onions. Then I got in touch with some of my friends to build a party that could stand and make a change. It was in this process that Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu joined us in 1990. (Ashiwaju was treasurer in Mobil then and naturally there was no reason for him to join politics if it was for money, we were all financially ok, we joined to make a better society). We campaigned and Asiwaju BAT was elected as a Senator before we ran into murky waters with then Military junta led by Gen Abacha and we had to disperse until the death of the General. On resumption of politics, Ashiwaju won the governorship elections in Lagos and I was special adviser on political matters and later commissioner for special duties. I became Lagos State chairman of ACN now APC in 2003 and through that, we have won three elections into the local government, house of assembly and governorship.

Q. Since the advent of this new political dispensation, there seems to be no clear cut ideological differences between the APC and other parties, can you elaborate on this

A: Some went into politics for selfish reasons, but for me, since I joined politics, I have never changed parties. Ashiwaju and others have never changed parties either. A lot of members from other parties joined us in the APC but when they saw the difference between us and them, they left for the PDP and other parties that suited them having been bought and they themselves having no principles. I believe in progressivism and like the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, we want progress and thats why many who joined us earlier later left because its not business as usual. If today I give myself out to be bought by the PDP, I would have made money and gotten any position I wanted but no! I asked myself is this the reason I joined politics? No! Nigeria must be better, because we are black does not mean we should not enjoy the blessings of God! Japan has no mineral resources but today it is one of the biggest economies in the world, that is the politics we want, deliver the basic necessities to our people! Lagos believed in us because of what we achieved. For example, what Ashiwaju achieved in Lagos during his tenure has not been equalled throughout Nigeria by any state governor; the development in Lagos was phenomenal occasioned by exceptional performance. The nearest to this track record would be Alhaji Lateef Jakande, but his tenure was cut short by the military intervention of those days. Lagos is known as ‘Eko-for-show’ and anyone aspiring to rule Lagos, to us, must be ready to give his best to make Lagosians happy. By the time the APC manifesto is made public, everybody will understand the difference.

Q: What is your take on the Nigeria today

A: God has given Nigeria so much blessing that should be a catalyst for serious development but we haven’t taken advantage of all the resources we have. With all the human and abundant mineral resources we have, it is disheartening that most Nigerians cant afford three square meals a day. Even South Africa with only gold and diamond is doing so much better than us as a nation, corruption and capital flight have impoverished this country. People have no access to potable water whilst electricity keeps dropping rather than increasing despite the huge amount that has been expended. Japan has nothing but we have everything, every part of this country is blessed uniquely why are we suffering? Perhaps you have not been to South Africa before, its a shame that Nigeria is suffering, our leaders take money abroad to develop other countries. Take for example monies stolen from Nigeria and kept abroad are coded and only the depositors know the code, so in the event of death, the countries just take out the money and spend it to develop their own countries whilst the average Nigeria suffers. We have to keep singing it loud and clear to Nigerians, we need a change. How can a party rule us for sixteen years and there is nothing to show for it. Take electricity for example, power has dropped from 3000mw to 2000mw when in actual fact we should reach 4000mw before the end of 2014 as promised by the president. Meanwhile our requirement is 12000mw, the question is, when are we going to get there? President Obasanjo spent 1.3 trillion naira on electricity, no electricity, no money: this government has spent another 2.1trillion naira on electricity yet the megawatts keeps decreasing, its very unfortunate. If everybody forgets the suffering masses, where do we find ourselves? I don’t think a man who said he never had a shoe when he was young should be in power and still not provide shoes for those in that situation now? He forgot! There is squalor, there is immense suffering in the land, we must all call for change!

Q. How prepared is the APC for the 2015 general elections vis-a-vis the Ekiti elections which the APC lost to the PDP

A.The truth is that Nigerians must get up and fight for their rights if they must get the much desired change they crave. The populace must shun the new coinage, ‘stomach infrastructure’ and vote people who can look after their security. Leaders must make us hope for tomorrow which has not come and may never come. If after a four year term, a governor or president has not performed, the people should have the courage to change them. We appear too religious and wont fight oppression but all that has to change and people must resist oppressive government that is not bringing any improvement to their lives. The APC is coming as a party for change and as a servant of the people. This is our promise to the people of Lagos state and Nigeria in general. We have made our promises and we’ll watch the electorate make their decisions.

Q. Elections 2015 is around the corner, what do you expect from our leaders and electorates!

A: This time, it is the people and not the leadership that must fight. If after sixteen years, nothing has improved, do you continue to follow that leader and his party? If Nigerians don’t learn now, nobody should encourage them to learn! The truth is that Nigerians must arise! If for 2000naira, you sell your conscience, you suffer misgovernance for four years or more! Simple! In other countries, the electorate will vote out a non-performing government, no matter the rigging, if the people are serious, a lot can be achieved. The whole of the Arab nation almost went into flames because of a slight increase in food prices. Somebody set himself ablaze in North Africa and that crystallised into a general revolution which brought down a lot of the governments. Once a government is going wrong, it is voted out of power and another voted in. This should be the trend. A situation where a party remains in power at the expense of the people’s wish and it is not performing, such party should be voted out of power and that is what the APC is all about. We must demand a change and our votes must count. If Nigerians are not wise by now, then something is wrong. At this stage, we don’t need anybody to cajole us, this government and party has failed us woefully for sixteen years, every well meaning Nigerian must rise up and be counted. Your votes must count, rigging should not be allowed, we must rise to defend our votes. That's the simple truth.

Q. The major problem we have in this country is that of security challenges and Boko Haram insurgence which has been on for a while, but your party has assured Nigerians that if voted into power to rule the country and the problems would be tackled, how do you intend to go about it?

A. There will not be any reason for it, because unless you have a good government, that people feel the belonging to be part of the nation, where poverty is reduced to the barest minimum, where justice reign and dividend of democracy is tantamount to the progress of the nation, and you don’t have a nation of beggars, so all this will disappear with time. The government must be seen to be performing her role for the development of the nation.

If everybody is enjoying the dividend of democracy I believe there won’t be insurgency in the country, in all the Arab countries were there was revolution, what they experienced is not up to our own, how many Arab countries can take what we are undergoing.

Q. if given the opportunity to write your epitaph, what would it be

A: A man who has walked through the vicissitude of life and made a positive impression on it

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