Honourable Toye Arulogun, the immediate past Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism in Oyo State, is one man blessed with traits that likeable people have. He is famous for being positive and optimistic and tends to concentrate on achievements rather than failure. Before his advent in government, Toye had already carved a niche for himself in the brands, marketing, communication and advertising and broadcasting world. Ahead of the government appointment, the Ibadan born dynamic and versatile Toye worked in dual capacities as the General Manager of a Lagos-based television station, MITV, where he also presented a popular programme, ‘Lagos Sense’, which practically launched him to the limelight. In this interview with the Editor, FOLORUNSHO HAMSAT, Arulogun speaks on his appointment, which he believes, was fuelled by his antecedents and solid pedigree, life as a broadcaster, his success as a brand marketer and manager, his private life, and more. Excerpts…
Non-politicians who are invited to join the government are regular critics of government’s policies, do you fall into this category, and if yes or no, how did you get into government?
I never believed that I could work in government because of my radical, non-conformist and bohemian nature. As long as there is no perfect government or governance structure, there would exist critics who have alternative views and positions. More importantly, democracy allows alternative viewpoints. Some of my seniors and colleagues mentioned my name to Governor Abiola Ajimobi in his quest for an Oyo State indigene who is not a journalist but with a marketing communications background to be part of his communications team. Without asking, let me say upfront that it was not an immediate “Yes” when the former Governor spoke to me. Two major things influenced my decision. The first being his strong appeal to my sense of patriotism to come help develop Oyo State and the other was the fact that I came highly recommended from three different quarters. He said my name kept coming up anytime he mentioned the matter. He did his homework, I also consulted, we discussed severally, I did my job description and eventually agreed to an 18 months engagement because I never saw myself in public service. The rest as they say is history. From Senior Special Assistant to Special Adviser, Public Affairs to Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism.
How was your first experience like as Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s special adviser before you were made a commissioner?
As I said earlier, my first appointment was as Senior Special Assistant (Public Relations). Six months later, I was elevated to Special Adviser, Public Affairs. The SA Public Affairs was operating as Chief of Protocol which meant I was with him first thing the morning till last thing at night. If the Governor did not go to bed, you could not go to bed. You had to do both local and international travels as well. Maybe not all the time but for most of the time.
It was a huge sacrifice. I mortgaged my family and social life. One was technically speaking, a part of the first family. It meant managing the Governor’s itinerary, private and public events, working with the internal communications team and external marketing communications agency.
In some way, it was what you will call a “boy boy “ job. Close to an errand boy job, standing on the road or waiting rooms, sitting or sleeping in cars when your principal was in a meeting, running after the convoy including security alertness as a non-trained security personnel. When I was appointed, I read up a bit, came to Lagos to meet with the protocol guys and decided I was going to use my intellectual capabilities, exposure, physical size, boldness and courage to dignify the position. I made up my mind that I was going to do the job well and elevate its status from a “Muyiwa” ( Bring this, bring that) job.
I guess I made a success of it because by the end of the first term, the erroneous conclusion in Oyo State was that I was one of the few who “controlled” the Governor. As a matter of fact, a myth was built on my capacity to get the Governor’s listening ears, some even claimed I was using spiritual powers. I will leave the details to my book which is currently in writing.
Suffice it to say that more people were interested in being Governor Ajimobi’s SA Public Affairs/Chief of Protocol when he was composing his team for the second term. The truth, however, is that I invested in understanding my principal and it paid off because he respected my views and recommendations. With superior argument, some tact and boldness, I could dissuade or convince him on matters relating to public affairs and protocols.
Nigerians above 30 years would remember you as the anchor of ‘Lagos Sense’ programme on the television, how would you recall those beautiful days sir?
“Lagos Sense” gave me the opportunity to express my creative and witty persona, as well as my television presentation and production skills. It was a fantastic time for me and realisation of a dream. People still reminiscence about the programme, some have copied it and I still get calls asking for a comeback. If I am right, it was rated the third most viewed programme in Lagos at some point. Several sweet references abound such as winning a CBN pitch because the panelists could recognise my face as the “Lagos Sense” presenter and they concluded I would execute the brief professionally. Certainly, beautiful days which made me a popular face with high voice recognition especially in Lagos.
Did you actually start anchoring programmes with the MITV or you were into other stuff with your Theatre Arts certificate before handling ‘Lagos Sense’?
I am fundamentally a marketing communications practitioner having started my professional career with Lintas in Lagos, then briefly at Casers now DDB and unto SO&U as one of the pioneer staff before setting up The Tall and Wide Company Limited. The broadcasting part of me is what the Yorubas refer to as “abinibi” ( Innate talent ). This is because my late father was a pioneer of the broadcasting industry and I grew up knowing about television production before going to university. It is also instructive that my NYSC one year scheme was with the late poet, writer and civil rights activist, Ken Saro Wiwa in Enugu producing the national comedy series, Basi And Company. Prior to Lagos Sense, I presented and produced Advertising & Business Success in a joint production with NTA Channel 10. Throughout my career, I have been writing and producing radio/tv commercials, documentaries and programmes. For the records however, I was a consultant at MITV/Star F.M starting as the Director of Programmes, later Director, Marketing Services until I left as the Director, Station Services.
Did that programme launch you into the limelight?
Well, if you say so, I will not disagree because after Lagos Sense, I presented the NSL Game Show with Chioma Chukwuka. Also, Flying High on NTA Network. The Lagos Sense exposure was high without any doubt. About a month back, I met someone in Ibadan who claimed I was owing him a prize. I told him to come over to KokoDome and I would give him his Pizza which was a favourite prize on the show. Without being immodest, I popularised Pizza before the coming of Dominoes Pizza. At some point I was reputed as the Quiz & Game Show host on television. So, in direct response to your question, Lagos Sense indeed brought me into the limelight as a television personality. Just to be sure, I am returning to broadcasting now that my tenure in public service has expired.
Did you plan during Ajimobi tenure to return to broadcasting or go into public service?
I had been in government for seven years over the eight-year tenure of Senator Abiola Ajimobi. My service to my state was very eventful and impactful. I was a mini “Koseleri” (Never Happened Before) in my own right. Not many people or families have the privilege and good fortune of making history where a father and son occupy the same position in Government. My father had been Commissioner for Information too. God has been kind. The time was ripe to move on; to go back to my primary constituency. My plan was to go back to marketing communications and broadcasting. People find it odd though. Some felt I should seek elective post while others felt another appointment is ideal. The honest truth is that Toye Arulogun wanted to go back to the private sector. If another appointment comes, I will consider the merits and demerits. I neither sought nor clamoured for my entry into governance in the first instance. Like they write at the end of Nollywood movies, “To God be the Glory”.
I am back fully into private endeavours in a transition which my close friends say is too smooth considering how long I have been away. My advertising agency, Tall & Wide is coming back to full steam gradually, we have set up Strycaz Consulting which is the first 360 degrees marketing communications company in Oyo State, my friends and I have taken over the management of the 55 year old KokoDome in Ibadan which used to be the exclusive preserve of the Lebanese. I came straight out of government into functioning as the managing consultant for the 2019 Osun Osogbo Festival which is for me a validation of the impact I made in my three years as Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism.
With many more initiatives and endeavours underway, I have enough to keep me busy and hopefully pay my bills.
What has really changed about your genuine personality in eight years of participating actively in government?
Nothing really but service in government has made me more humble, patient and discretionary. I also now, better appreciate the privileges that God has bestowed on me. Nothing should be taken for granted. In terms of perspectives, I see the total Nigerian picture better, I have a better understanding of the human being and I appreciate the need for more professionals and technocrats to take active part in politics and governance. I would love to champion a movement in that direction.
Would you like to share both your happiest and disappointing moments as a government official?
Happy moments abound. From the beginning when we conducted a free medical mission to all the 33 local government areas of Oyo State and citizens got relief and care for age long multiple illnesses and diseases. I witnessed what is referred to as Hyneia harvest. That is performing Hyneia surgery for over 80 people in one day in a local government. The aged receiving free glasses to enable them see better, free crutches, free drugs and many more life- changing and quality of life improving activities including a better security architecture that has prospered the hospitality and tourism sector of the state’s economy. Happy moments also came when citizens appreciate Government’s efforts at bringing development that impacts their lives. I cannot begin to list them before it starts sounding like a score card.
Disappointing or low moments abound too. Some came when citizens are not easily amenable to change or appreciate the reason for developments especially when such are politicised like moving the abattoir from the unhygienic and unsanitary one at Bodija to an international one at Amosun in Akinyele local Government. The protests led to needless deaths. Other very disappointing moments came when exco decisions or what happens at Exco meetings are discussed on radio, leaked on the internet and become subjects of beer parlour, joint and club discussions. These got me mad. Others are when outright lies, falsehoods and conjectures are taken as gospel truth .
What is your future ambition, politics wise?
Not yet decided. I’m on a break right now. Time and events will tell.
Between your break from the television and your appointment in Oyo State, what were you doing off the radar?
My marketing communications business was on. Tall and Wide is my primary business. Just that broadcasting has a way of giving visibility owing to the wide exposure the platform provides.
You still have your look of the late 90s, what are the secrets?
Not sure about that. I am very much greyed now. My beards now come with more that a silver streak.
Guess I have added more weight, but I however take it as a compliment since what you are saying is that despite growing older since the 90s, I am not looking it. No secrets. I walk, play tennis though it has been a long time now. I generally maintain an active lifestyle and do not get soaked in by pressure. I enjoy my drink with relish too.
If you had another chance in government, what is it that time did not permit you to do or you deliberately left undone that you would love to do?
There is only one thing I dreamt and struggled to do which I did not accomplish. That is the rehabilitation of the Cultural Centre at Mokola in my position as Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism. The details will be in my book. For record purposes however, it was a combination of forces ranging from lack of funding to stakeholders commitment.
Where exactly would you say the chord between Governor Ajimobi’s administration and the people of Oyo State got broken resulting in the loss of confidence at the last election?
It had less to do with the people of Oyo State. My well-considered opinion is that it had more to do with the party’s internal crisis. From a spiritual point, it was also divine.
Please, share with us beautiful moments with your family during vacations; where you love to spend time with them and what time of the year.
There is nothing as good as spending time with one’s family. I cherish it and I create the time. Public service robbed me of a lot of it but I designed family time compensation schemes which I refer to as “Guilt Offerings”. Summer time is typically the best time for family vacation and we shuttle between London and Atlanta. Others, I am on my own.
Finally, what do you have to say on how politics is played in Nigeria compared to elsewhere in Africa and abroad?
We are developing politically but the rate is too slow compared to our potentials. We need to start from changing the rules of the game. For example, when can we have independent candidates? In governance, we must take a critical look at the constitution. The powers vested in elected officers are too many. Our current governance structure also has in-built waste and inherent excesses.