Alhaji Abdulganiyu Kola Egunjobi, grassroots politician and the executive chairman of Agege Local Government, Lagos State is a servant leader whose achievements have won him applauses in many quarters. His impressive performance in office and humanitarian pose and exploits have constantly made the headlines. By statistics, he is noted to have made great strides in turning Agege to a much better place community and has improved the lot of the residents. Egunjobi, few days ago, spoke to the Editor, FOLORUNSHO HAMSAT, on his childhood days, ambition, passion for humanity and how he found himself in public service. Enjoy reading…
What motivated you into joining politics and what year was that?
My name is Alhaji AbdulGaniyu Kola Egunjobi. I’m the executive chairman of Agege Local Government, Lagos State. My father was a grassroots politician and when I was young, I did follow him to political meetings because I was very close to him. Also, while I was in secondary school, I was much involved in the social activities. I attended Iloro Grammar School, Agege. I was involved in the school politics because I was admired by most of the students and teachers for my up-and-doing nature. I acted as mediator for students and teachers whenever there was any problem in the school. In my area too in Agege, I was close to the elders even as a boy. I got involved with the community activities. During the days of SDP and NRC political parties between 1990 and 1991, I was also very much involved. At the time, my late elder brother, Mr. Sharafadeen Egunjobi was in the NRC. But I decided to join the other party, SDP. So, we both rivaled each other (laughter). But later, he left NRC to join me in SDP. Then, I was just 18 years old and I was the assistant financial secretary of my Ward B1 ‘Ward B1’ Gbogunleri/Isale zone in SDP. Then, Agege local government was comprised of Agege and Ifako-Ijaiye. From my youth I have been very active in political participation.
Tell us how you have been able to impact positively on the lives of your people.
To the glory of Almighty Allah, before politics I had passion for taking care of people and I’m having the opportunity to do more now that I’m in a position to do so. I belong to the caucus of Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa who is the incumbent speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly. Before I came to office, I was the person that consulted him on behalf of the people of my constituency. When there is any issue involving the people whether it was welfare or any other thing, I was the one that went to him to deliver the message and he was always ready to solve any problem. He is never tired of helping the people. And when you are doing that for the people, being honest, transparent, naturally people would follow you. If I was given any amount to give to a particular person or groups, the exact amount would go to them. These are the type of things people need from you. I was party secretary in Agege local government. People know me as a frank person. I don’t pretend. The perception that people have about politicians, my people don’t see that in me. I will tell you the way things are. I was the chief of staff to the former executive secretary of Agege local government. So, as the chief of staff and party secretary, I was the intermediary between the party and the government. That, I believe, was what the people saw in me when they asked me to go for the office. And I had no option than accept to serve them. To the glory of Almighty Allah, here we are.
What are the programmes your administration is embarking on to make life worth living for people in your constituency?
We all agree that the economic challenge is a general issue in Nigeria at the moment. As a grassroots person, you need to know your people, your area and where to work on. In my area, I have discovered that you don’t need big money to start a business and make a living. Look at those hawking sachet water, all they need to sustain their business is between N2, 000 and N5, 000. On this note, we are prepared for the challenge ahead of time. For example, in Agege, we have the leadership that was headed by Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa. While coming up with this structure, we discussed extensively and agreed to make it a people-focused leadership arrangement. There are the people who during political campaigns follow us about, trek miles with us, singing and dancing in the sun and in rain. They do this through the campaign period and still make efforts to keep us in office through our tenure. Some of these people might not have even got N2, 000 for their efforts. These are the people we have decided to empower every month. So, in every month, we empower 20 people in the Agege area. We do this by empowering different 20 people per month with the sum of N100,000 each person. This empowerment scheme takes place both in Agege local government and Orile-Agege LCDA because the two local governments are operating under one leadership structure. And this empowerment does not cover party members alone; we make it broad to include even ordinary Agege residents. So far, 600 Agege residents have been empowered and it is ongoing. The records are there. Last month ago, I gave 100 people the sum N100, 000 each. Last week, I gave 25 people the sum of N100,000 each. Also, in Agege, we have the best tutorial centres, skill acquisition centres where we train people in tailoring, carpentry, beadmaking, hairdressing and all that. We have about 27 units. We just introduced the arts and culture unit. Yes, in Agege, we have the street boys that you call ‘Awawa Boys’ just like they exist in other places. But you cannot condemn them. They are part and parcel of the society. Besides, there are awesome talents in them that we need to discover. Look at this my younger brother, Small Doctor, for instance, if you go through his transformation story, you would understand my points. In doing all these, it means we are really trying to alleviate the poverty rate among our people. We regularly give pupils in primary schools free exercise books, uniforms, tables and chair and even free ride to and from school.
Agege, known for issues like street fighting and violence has been relatively calm since you assumed office, what was the magic used to bring peace to the area?
Well, I don’t share the notion that Agege is a place for violence. But I can tell you that Agege has always been a peaceful place to live in. I grew up at Isale Oja in Agege which used to be a slum. I’m still living there. These boys that we are talking about, we are one; we sit together, we eat and drink together. When there are issues we sort out among ourselves. They see me as one of them and I see them as mine.
What is your relationship like with the councilors because the story is that it’s always not rosy between chairmen and councilors?
I have been enjoying good rapport with the councilors. This has to do with the way I deal with everybody. The way I deal with the residents of Agege is the same way I deal with my councilors. I don’t see myself as the boss but a partner in progress. They also know the kind of person I am. They know I would tell things as they are. So, we run things together. We are like one big family.
What was your childhood ambition?
As a young man, my ambition was to be a pilot. But as God would have it, I found myself in the political setting. Besides, I didn’t take any step towards achieving the dream because I was a Commercial student and not a Science student while in school.
What are your plans for education, health and unemployment in your local government?
We have done a whole lot of things since I came in as chairman in the area of education. We have constructed about eight primary schools. Like I said earlier, we have always been supporting the pupils with school materials like bags, exercise books, uniforms and writing materials. In the health sector, we have done a lot of things there too. We have renovated the existing health centers, we have bought drugs and we have equipped them with modern facilities. The next step we are taking in that regard is to construct two new health centers, one will be located in Awori and the other will be located in Ajegunle area in Ward G. We have already awarded the contract for the commencement of the projects.
What is your government doing about complaints over the blocked drainages in the Awori area of Agege?
Regarding the Awori issue, already I have given an express approval for work to begin on it. That issue, honestly, is beyond the local government power. But we cannot leave it that way. The problem is from Oke Koto. There is a blocked canal along Afa-Nla/Capitol Road where the water coming from Iju, Tabontabon ought to pass through. So, because the canal is blocked, the water flows to Awori Street. But, the contractor is already on the site working to clear the drainage and do proper channels where the water can flow and not to Awori Street anymore.
What is your social life like?
I’m not the party-going type, although I’m a socialite. I drink water only (general laughter).
Has becoming a popular person changed anything about you?
It has changed nothing about me. I have always remained who I really am; a humble and straightforward person. I relate with my friends the same way we related from the beginning. I’m not even the one to say this, people around me can testify to that.
Tell us about your family.
My family members have been very wonderful and supportive of my career and day-to-day affair. My wife, Princess Ramat Olaitan Egunjobi, particularly, has been a very wonderful and supportive woman and my children. They understand the nature of my job and they have been supporting me in prayers and every other thing.
Do you like how politics is being played in Nigeria and would you encourage your child to do politics?
I sure will. I will because somebody must do it. If you won’t allow your family members to play politics because you think it is being played some way, then who would do it, and what excuse do you have to criticize when the system is going wrong?
What is your honest assessment of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu government of Lagos State?
Honestly, in four months that he took the mantle of leadership, His Excellency Babajide Sanwo-Olu has done well. He is trying his best. We should give him time to work and I’m confident he is going to do more.