The Executive Secretary of Ojodu Local Council Development Area, Mallam Moyosore Jaji, recently hosted the editor, FOLORUNSHO HAMSAT to a special interview session where he enumerated his lofty development plans for the people, his achievements in office, his humble beginning and when politics really became inevitability, and lots more. Excerpt…
How did you come about ‘Jaji’ as a name?
Well, the history goes back a long way. What we heard was that our great grandfather, who originally was from Ogbomosho, was very active during the Trans-Sahara trade. What he did then was to provide traders from the North to the South security. I think that is the derivative of that name Jaji. If you look at it too, there is a town near Kaduna called Jaji and it’s not by accident that the foremost Nigeria military institution was located in that area. After that, the man left Ogbomosho and settled in Ilorin. And that was the beginning of spread of Jaji. We have some Jajis too in other places. I am in Lagos and in a nutshell that is the little I know about it. It is a Fulani name.
Please, share with us your leadership qualities.
Apart from the academic and intellectual foray one had about training of leadership. The qualities just have to do with having been there for a long time and you watch people, how they go about it. In the corporate world, Mr. Biodun Shobanjo is one of those corporate players I admire a lot. The man that gave me my break in private sector is Dr. Ime Ebong. Ime Ebong took me raw, after my national service and inculcated in me all the qualities of leadership. I was never a trained banker, but Dr. Ebong made sure I was trained in every sphere of banking and at the end of the day he made me a good administrator. I have been in politics since 1991 and I have had the opportunity of watching people go about it not necessarily at close quarters. In fact, without being sounding sycophantic, I don’t need to mention names, there are some political leaders that some of us can close our eyes and follow into battle because their philosophy to service delivery tallies with what one believes in. So, having found myself in this place, this will be my second stint. I was in Ifako-Ijaye between 2002 and 2004 as a supervisor. So, being here as the Executive Secretary, is a promotion after twelve or thirteen years. So to me, it just comes naturally. Like my own style here, I don’t have visiting days. And I make sure whoever comes for one problem or the other is listened to but that doesn’t mean whatever you come for will be given to you. But at least, that connection that is necessary between the leadership and the followership will be infused in you that at least, I will listen to you.
We have noticed that you mix freely without the feeling of insecurity. Given your status and the security situation in the land, don’t you think it’s risky leaving yourself so open ?
I am a Muslim and in our own religion, the belief is that, whatever shall be shall be. Whatever your destiny is, you will surely achieve it. And maybe because of the way I am. People study without you knowing they are studying you and they take interest in you. I am a very vocal person, whatever I belief I go to every length to defend it. I am a staunch follower of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, since 1991. In fact, during his first senatorial primary in Ojo town, I was there. It’s not how far but how well. Whenever you want to do something, do it very well. Being in politics, the belief is that you are going there to serve your people, so you don’t need to surround yourself with a coterie of office paraphernalia. I don’t go around with any policeman; my car is always filled with my own people.
Is that a new practice or it has been like that since you joined politics?
That is my life. That is how I am. If I leave the office, anywhere I go in the evening, you will see me at my primary constituency, Oluwole, alone.
When I leave there, I am going home and from home in the morning I come back here. The belief behind this practice is that, if the state government should say, hey all of you council men, pack your bag and go, I won’t anything to worry about and the transformation will be seamless for me to go and mix with my people, because I never allowed the paraphernalia and all the things that are accruable to the office, disconnect me from my primary constituency.
Was politics you childhood dream?
My father; may his soul rest in peace, he was one of those fathers that will determine what each child should be; you will become a doctor, you will become a lawyer. For me, he said I will be a mechanic and he ensured that I was enrolled in a technical college. But as fate would have it, I was very good naturally in terms of oratory, writing and whatever. I never attended secondary school. I attended a technical college and after that, I attended Kwara State College of Technology to read Engineering, but because of the waywardness of my person, and outspokenness, getting involved in student union activism, I was rusticated. So, between 1977 and 1981, I was in the wilderness. I was in intellectual wilderness for close to five years. I was in Fela’s shrine with a Ghanaian friend, George Gardener. George Gardener happens to be the son of a former Executive Secretary of Economic Commission for West African States. He was highly trained, he got trained in Oxford but he was a radical. We met in Ghana by the time I had been rusticated, so we joined together living in Fela’s house, until 1981 when God came into my life again. I sat for my school certificate course and today I am a proud owner of a Bsc degree in Political Science. That gives me the feeling of being a round peg in a round hole. Politics is a natural calling for me.
What are your priority plans for this local government, in terms of development?
When we were first appointed by the former governor of Lagos State, Governor Raji Fashola, the marching order he gave us was to ensure that our respective local government area was delivered to our party, All Progressive Congress. To achieve that, he told us to go and unite all factions, the aggrieved and the not aggrieved, everybody. We should see ourselves as one big family, and because of my pedigree and antecedent in Ikeja politics, I found it very easy to weld the different factions within the party together. And to God be the glory, we delivered Ikeja, the whole Ikeja whether you call it Onigbongbo or Ikeja or Ojodu. We did everything; we delivered our own zone to the party. And, that way, assignment number one was delivered. Secondly, going outside the party to impress it on people that our party is really out to serve the people and that whatever money you are spending are not your personal money. That money belongs to the people because they are paying tax. So, we now embanked on some projects. By the nature of our appointment, we are different from the elected local government helmsmen. They can use their initiative to do this or that but in our case we are here as a stop gap, ad havoc measure pending the time the government will be ready to conduct local government election. To that extent, we are very much constrained but that does not mean you cannot use your initiative so that at the end of the day the people will know that a thinking person is on the seat. There is this particular road, Irepodun which is about a kilometer long. I was told that it has been abandoned for close to eight years or more. It was not very motorable but it was very strategic, because whether we like it or not, where our local government secretariat is located because of the state of developmental projects, people are really moving towards this place and most of them are car owners. So, if you have a road like that that is very strategic but was not attended to, you don’t have excuse not to interfere; and we intervened. Today, that road is very motor-able with all drainages attended to. I can proudly tell you that it is one of the projects the governor is coming to inspect whenever he visits our LCDA. As big as Oke Ira is, there is only one primary school and only one secondary school. One finds it very funny. When we came on board, a report came to me that there was a school where pupils were sitting on the floor. Because of my nature and background as a civil society person, I could not wait for any of my colleagues to discover that and use it against me. I had to visit the school and lo and behold, the story was confirmed. It was then that I was able to convince my colleagues on the committee that we must intervened and I can tell you today, save for air conditioners that the classes were not provided with, we have first class amenities there and the whole floor is tiled. We removed the wooden doors and replaced them with iron doors. In fact, if you see the pictures, you will be amazed at the transformation. There is a complete face lift for that school because we are not ashamed to be involved there. That is the only primary school that is serving the whole of Oke Ira and we have about 25,000 people living within the area. There are other palliative measures that we have been providing, like when we see that a drainage is failing, we intervene immediately so that it does not escalate beyond that point, because when you leave it to escalate beyond that point when you now go there to repair it, it costs you more.
What kind of relationship exists between you and your predecessor? Besides, we heard that some of the past chairmen were not given free hand to influence the choice of who succeed them as Executive Secretaries.
Laughter… You see; when you asked the question, I started laughing. Politics is not like that. Politics is a collegiate thing. Those who found themselves as chairmen, they were not there because they have to be there. In politics, some elders and leaders will sit down and use several parameters to arrive at the choice of a particular candidate to go and represent the party. That is one method; the other method is to go for primaries, and we found out that primaries will not necessarily bring out the best candidate. For anybody to say the former chairmen were not given free hand to choose their predecessors, is wrong; it is never done anywhere. In our own case, the tenure of the chairmen expired and there must not be a vacuum in government. That was why the idea of appointing caretaker chairmen was introduced. And it is not peculiar to Lagos alone. There are several states in Eastern Nigeria that have not conducted local government elections since 1999. You have so many of them too in the South West but what should concern us is the interest of our people, service delivery. It does not matter who does it, service must be delivered to the satisfaction of the people.
I will want you to rate the performance of the immediate past chairman briefly?
It will not be fair for me to do that simply because I am not aware of those challenges he faced while he was in office. Moreover, we are from the same party. Governance is continuum; you play your part and leave, another man takes over; at the end of the day you should ensure that excellence for which Lagos is noted for, is achieved.
Do you have a plan to contest for the chairmanship seat in the future?
I am a Muslim; leave everything in the hands of God. If I tell you as I’m sitting down here that I don’t want to go, it’s a blatant lie. I want to be serving people; I want to be given accolades like any other human being. That is if it is the wish of Allah. Those who will be making the decision will be directed by God, not by any man. So, if it pleases God for me to continue be it. So be it.
Do you have any strong or weak points that you know?
I know it. There is the saying that, the day a madman knows that he is mad, his madness is over. I am a highly temperamental human being. But I have people that are always holding me. I am somebody that wants things done. And I don’t care how you get it done; just do it. But here, you are dealing with human beings with different characters and different backgrounds. Whether you want it done or not, there are processes that you cannot overlook. But I have a fantastic team that is always guiding me. And to God be the glory, we are on course.
Some say that being a politician does not go with being Godly, so how do you combine that?
That one belongs to the philosophical realm. The holy books, both the Quran and the Bible will tell you, be your brother’s keeper. It’s very simple; and do unto others as you want them do unto you. That is dictum number two. Those two principles direct me. If I want to relate to you, if I want to behave towards you, I will first ask myself that, this thing you are going to tell this man, if he tells you how are you going to feel? What will modulate the kind of reaction I will expect? Then secondly, be your brother’s keeper, whatever is yours, it’s giving to you as a public servant. It’s not your own, you are only a custodian of a trust. That trust can be monetary, or any other thing but the way you go about it will determine whether you are your brother’s keeper or not. That is my own basic principle and when I do those tests without compassion, I always get it right. So far so good.
You came to politics and you got to this level on the crest of the society, how do you give back to that society?
I am in the process of giving back by being using this seat to perform certain duties. If I am able to do it to the satisfaction of those we are to serve, I must have given a little bit of me. It will have served as a template for others to copy.
With the kind of politics being played here, will you encourage any of your children to play politics?
When you talk like that, you are being stereotyping. Politics everywhere is played the way it’s being played in Nigeria. It is only the kind of exposure you get. As advanced as America is, what brought about Watergate. Watergate was an attempt by the Republican Party to scandalize the other party. Why were they doing that? It is not about Nigeria, it is about human being. So, any of my children that wishes to play politics, so long I have given you your basic needs as a father, a very sound and good education, you are free. I have a son who is into music and I support him with everything I have. Davido’s father was a multi-millionaire, his father doesn’t need his money but the father still gave him maximum support because that is his own career path where his talent will blossom.
Were you stubborn as a child, because most stubborn boys were often assigning to train as mechanics?
Yes, I was a vagabond. You know, I was staying with my grandmother in Lagos Island. She was selling kolanut at Jankara market and we lived at Oreofero near Ita Garawu. Ita Garau is not far from Onala Playing ground, so we used to have a football coach who we call R44. I would just leave home and go there. I was born in Ghana. An average Ghanaian born sees himself as a footballer and Onaola not being far from where I was staying, I could be there for two weeks. They would be looking for me everywhere and when they succeeded in catching me, they would bring me home. At a point, my father said, this one will not be good intellectually; take him to a technical school. Let him learn a trade.
Were you involved in any sporting activities?
I used to play football, I was a very good footballer but my leg got broken in 1964. I never go back there again.