Going into politics was a decision the young politician took to be part of the system rather than staying outside to criticize. He now knows better, but that has not stopped him from fighting for the cause of the masses, especially the youth, who he said the government must empower with employment and wealth creation.
Hon. Abdoulbaq Oladimeji Balogun, who is representing Ajeromi/Ifelodun Constituency 2, in the Lagos State House of Assembly was a guest of the journalists covering the assembly during their weekly ‘Time Out With The Press,’ last week and he did justice to all the questions put across to him in a no-holds-barred manner.
Balogun, who is the Vice Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture and Co-operative, chronicles how he went through life in his early years to ensure he had education and how he became involved in activism and now politics.
The budding politician spoke at length at the revealing session with the pressmen.
We will like to know about your background
I was born on a Friday evening on the 1st of August, 1975 in Ilorin, Kwara State. My mother is a trader, my father was a medical director of a Primary Healthcare Centre in Kwara State, my mother is still alive. She used to shuttle between Lagos and Ilorin, Ajegunle, Lagos is her second home, her people stay there, that was why I found myself in Ajegunle. I was told that my mother had a set of twins, two boys, but I didn’t meet them. I am the first child of my mother, I am from a very big family, my father had three wives and 21 children. I am from a royal family, which was an honour in those days. I started my education at a koranic school in Ilorin, my first six months were in Ilorin before I followed my mother to Ajegunle. I was in Ajegunle until I was about two years old before my mother went back to Ilorin and left me in Ajegunle. She later came back with a pregnancy and she was expecting my young brother, who is now an engineer. I relocated to Ilorin, where I started my primary school. I went to a koranic school, which was very close to my father’s house. All of us from my mother side were raised by our maternal grandmother. My mother and father are both from royal families. My mother is from Balogun Gambari, while my father is from Balogun Fulani, the reason they married is best known to them, the name; Oladimeji is because I came from two royal families. The five of us from my mother side were trained at Balogun Gambari Quarters. After my koranic education, I moved to join my grandmother at Balogun Gambari, where I started primary education in 1980, I was there till 1986, when I graduated from primary school and I had the third position during the common entrance examination in the whole Kwara State. Then I had opportunity to go to the Federal Government College in Ilorin, I later came to Igbobi College, Lagos, but my father insisted that I should go to a school built by the people of Ilorin, so I later went back to Ilorin Grammar School. He said that I should be close to home that I shouldn’t be a Lagos boy since he owns me and not my mother, I was there from 1988 to 1992. My father wanted my education to end there. The problem was that I had my other siblings from other mothers, they started schooling before me, I met them and surpassed them. I finished my primary and secondary school education before them particularly the male children. My father said that since I have had my secondary school certificate, I should allow him concentrate on others that were coming behind me at least for them to finish their secondary school before I could continue my own. But one thing he did for us was that there is none of us that did not have vocational and technical education. You must combine your western education with vocational training such as tailoring, carpentry and others, I went for electrical engineering.
I used to organize extra mural classes for other students then, so people did not like it that I would not further my education. I later got admission into the University of Jos, Plateau State, to study marketing in 1992. Of course, my father would not finance it, so I relocated to Lagos and got a casual job at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) working with some importers, I used to be a tally clerk and security for the ships. I gathered some money, but as I was about leaving for school, I got a support from Sheik Samad Rabiu, the Chairman of BUA Group of Companies, I was in his ship and they had a problem with some of the rice they brought from Thailand in 1993. Then, I was going back to school and I didn’t have enough money, I just approached him that I would be going back to school that he should pay me my money and he gave me more than he was owing me, he paid me N15,000, which was a lot of money then. I was happy, the second day, I went back to school. I became a leading figure of student union in the university. The person that got UNIJOS admission for me was my uncle and he knew me for my activism in secondary school days. He picked interest in me and said I should not waste anytime at home, he was the social secretary of the student union then and he told them about me that they should give me a post and that I would deliver. I was in my year one and I was made the assistant secretary of the union, which had never happened in the school before then. Unfortunately, that was the period of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 elections presumably won by Chief MKO Abiola and students were involved in the agitation. The then President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Pascal Bafyau was from Plateau State and students believed that he had sold out on the election. Some of my colleagues in school then used to bring second hand clothes to Jos to sell and I used to take Aso oke to Jos from Ilorin before someone offered to sponsor my education. I was among the students that led the riot in Jos then, we had two campuses then and one of the campuses was closed down because we rioted and we had to go to the main campus to ensure they did not work and that they joined us. However, the school authority asked all of us to go then, some of my people contacted the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi to fight our cause, but the court did not give it to us. I found myself back in Lagos, but I still wanted to further my education, I left UNIJOS in my year two. I now started working with an uncle with whom I used to go to Kano State to bring China wares and take it to Lagos to a place called Gorodom in Idumota, Lagos, and I would take it there, sell it before we would go back to Kano. Also, in Ajegunle, a co-operative society was formed and they were looking for a secretary, at that time I had pile and I was at home, when they came to call me and I managed to attend their first meeting. I got there and I became their secretary, I got some money from there and from the business of going to Kano to buy items.
I remember that I was initially given admission in Kwara State Polytechnic for Estate Management, I didn’t go there, I said I would only go to university. But, when I got to Lagos after the UNIJOS issue, I got admission to read computer education at the Federal College of Education (Technical), Akoka, Yaba, I had no choice, I accepted it. After that, I went to The Polytehnic, Ibadan, Oyo State. After my National Diploma, I went to Lagos State University (LASU) to read Economics; I had always wanted to read law or economics. After my ND, the Institute of Chartered Marketers came to market their programmes to us and I wrote the foundation, intermediate, professional 1 and 2, that was in 2001. After my graduation at LASU, I started writing examinations at the Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria and I became an associate, from there, I did some practicals and researches and I became a fellow of the Institute in 2011. Now, I am a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, Institute of Chartered Economists, I have PGD in Marketing, I am doing Masters Degree in Sustainability in Leadership in a University in the United Kingdom. By November, 2014, I should be through with that.
You said you rejected polytechnic education, some of us are graduates of polytechnics and we would want to know why you did that
I was born in 1975 and this decision was to be taken in 1992, then I was too young to know some of these things. Also, there was nobody to guide me then, that is why I believe so much in mentoring, it was a class thing, we were reading about the discrimination between HND and Bsc then, which was the reason I rejected it then, but I later went back to my vomit.
What is your position on the issue of godfatherism in politics?
It depends on your definition of godfatherism, anywhere you are playing politics there is no way you would not look up to somebody. If you go to the house of Chief Edwin Clark today, there are so much security around him and when you get to meet him, he would tell you that ‘my first godson is the President of this country, I can have my way in anything I want.’ I witnessed it, not that they told me, another way of godfatherism is mentoring, people that are there to guide you and tell you where to go. When it comes to what you want to do in politics and where you should go, godfatherism comes in. I can tell you that there is godfatherism everywhere, it is not limited to Nigeria, it is because of the way we do it here. Somebody like the late Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu in Ibadan was a type of godfather, which was his own style; he believes you must carry him along. In SDP then, I was the assistant youth secretary in Ilorin, Kwara State. In 2007, I got close to Baba Oloye, Senator Olusola Saraki, they wanted me to contest for a seat in the Federal House of Representatives from Ilorin South and East, I told the people that invited me that I couldn’t do it because I would be tele-guided in whatever I do and I would not be able to use my initiative to better the lot of my people. Whatever I was going to earn then, I would be told how to spend it, I told them I was sorry and that I could not be in the party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I have been at the forefront of eliminating all forms of neo-colonialism in Kwara State, I personally formed Ilorin Emirate Youth Alliance (ILEYA) and I was the president for many years. I had to drop the presidency of the alliance, when I wanted to come here. Sometimes, godfatherism does not allow you to come out the way you are, you have to do it the way they want. But, we have some people like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu that is not overbearing, he puts you in position and watches you, then when the time for assessment comes, he would show your report card. He has never asked about what I am doing here since I got here almost three years ago and I see him often. I also have a godmother through whom I knew Asiwaju, she has never asked me about what I do here or tell me what to do for the people. I lived amongst my people and I know their problems, I know what I should do for them.
How did you join politics actually?
My adventure in politics started during my student unionism days and my brief stint with SDP then. In 1999, I was part of pro-democracy activism, prior to 1999, we did everything possible to chase out the military; demonstrations, protests, prayers, international diplomacy and all that, we did a lot, that is why we will continue to remember the likes of the late Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi and others, who fought for democracy. We felt we should go inside to be part of the system and fight from within and not from outside. I was in primary school, when Professor Jubril Aminu was a minister and now the same man is going to be part of those who would determine how Nigeria would be in the next 40 years and my generation would not be there. We believe the constitutional conference would not even achieve anything, the president said initially that a sovereign national conference was not necessary, why the sudden change. That was why my party, All Progressive Congress (APC) did not participate in the confab, we believe it is a waste of time.
My politics started from within me and I felt that for me to be relevant, I have to join a political party that had the interest of the people at heart. I joined the Alliance for Democracy (AD) then, I was never part of Action Congress, but I was not part of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and now I am in All Progressive Congress (APC). I was the last person to come out in 2010 in Ajeromi/Ifelodun Constituency 2, we were 13 in number. I was just in my comfort zone, there was this guy, who had been in government for many years, he was also a secretary to the local government for years, but he did not touch any life, which was why the people said that I must be the one to represent them. It was the wish of my people that I should come here.
We would like to know the three things you would attach importance to if you become Nigerian President
First of all, if I become Nigerian President, I would consider the population of this country and we will now move to demography. The population of the youth of this country from age 18 to 45 is about 64% of the total population. That is the most productive population, how do you engage them? We must look at how we can create employment and create wealth. I was in South Africa to attend a seminar on leadership; it was the youth of that county that spoke to us. All that the government needs to do is to create an enabling environment for people to create employment. I was telling my brother after his higher education, he went to the polytechnic, he studied computer science, I just graduated from Faith Foundation and I told him to go there and spend about nine months to know more about entrepreneurship so that we can put some things together. But he told me he won’t be able to do it, the course is e-commerce, I wanted to sponsor him so that he could be an employer of labour. They make use of e-commerce a lot in Tanzania. He said no, a friend of mine that was there picked the idea and he is behind Konga.com, an online shopping company and he is going to sell the franchise for N11 Billion and move to something else. For me as president, I would look at employment from the angle of wealth creation. Recently, they said that the West African Examination Council (WAEC) introduced about 37 new subjects and I ask myself, for what? Are we going to create entreneurship through this? I was totally against the introduction of Chinese Language in our schools. Boko Haram is there today because the youth there are not doing anything; creating Almajeri school is not the solution. I would ensure our youths go to school and get skills in one area or the other. Wealth creation and employment generation to get the productive segment of the society engaged is what I am going to do first.
The second thing I would do is to look at the issue of food security, as the Vice Chairman of House Committee on Agriculture and Co-operatives; I have had opportunities to attend seminars on food security within and outside Nigeria. I can tell you if we have the political will in this country with the resources that God has given us, we will develop agriculture and I would tie that to agric entrepreneurship. It is not going to be an institutional thing; it would be something we can do at private level and individual level. Due to climate change, the issue of food security should be taken seriously by any serious government at whatever level now. That is why we need to do more of agriculture and green economy; I will ensure an agricultural revolution.
The third one will be about where you are and where you come from, I was a member of the committee raised by the House on Constitutional Review and when we looked at the issue of citizenship, what we saw is what is giving us problem in most of the states in the country now; settlers and indigeneship, we must see ourselves as Nigerians first before we can talk about other things. We have jettisoned merit, once you are born in Nigeria and you have Nigerian Population Commission Birth certificate, you should be free to operate from anywhere. We should look at ourselves and treat each other as Nigerians, it has nothing to do with land ownership, we are talking about citizenship, if you are a resident of a place for 10 consecutive years, if that is your wish and you can prove it, you can claim the place as an indigene. Our leaders should think of what they can do to make this country united, and the first thing they can do is to look at the issue of citizenship.
Since you got into the House, what have you been able to do for the people, especially as the Vice Chairman of House Committee on Agriculture and Co-operatives?
This is my first term in the assembly, to the best of my knowledge, I have been able to discharge my responsibility as a lawmaker and as the Vice- Chairman of House Committee on Agriculture, it is now left for you pressmen to assess me if I have been doing well or not. I have moved a motion on the pathetic state of our abattoir, the unwholesome meat production process. With that, the state government rose to the occasion, a reporter from a national newspaper did a good job on the state of the abattoir and how meat is being processed there, and it was published that some of the cattle are sick and they still slaughter them for us to eat. As the VC of the committee, I have to consult my chairman on whatever I notice, and I enjoy good relationship with my chairman. We will investigate the matter, they have done it at the executive level, but we will do our own. It is part of our oversight function. We have written letters to the stakeholders, including the journalist that wrote the report to come and give us evidences about his report. At the end of the day, it boils down to what goes into the system of our people. We have done a lot in that regard. I have produced farmers in Ajegunle area of the state. We don’t have land there, but we have sent them to Badagry, Epe and Ikorodu and they are doing very well. I sold the idea to the Chairman of Ajeromi/Ifelodun Local Government to toe the same line, which will generate revenue for the local government. Anytime we are permitted to speak, we speak on the floor of the House. Go to the Environment Committee, Finance Committee and the Agriculture Committee, which are my committees, find out from the secretariat, who is the engine room of the committee, they would tell you it is I.
We want to know your opinion about high fees being charged in LASU
I don’t fell happy about the situation of the school, I believe this is not where the school supposed to be. It belongs to the government, and it is people that formed the government. Hon. Segun Olulade, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade and I were LASU students, we stood up to the Governor to do something about the school fees and he said that it was the decision of the executive members. We begged, we appealed, but we were able to get something at the end of the day. The increase was supposed to be across board; from 100 level to the highest level, but it was now limited to 100 level students then. To cushion the effect of the increase, he made of N250 Million from the 2013 Budget available to support the new intakes through the State Scholarship Board for all of them. I know what it takes to go through school, as a legislator, I know what I go through from my constituents for educational support; including those I got admission for in LASU. As a politician that is close to the grassroots, you cannot run away from them. Unfortunately, it is a state policy, I told the Speaker then that closing of registration portal was not the issue, but that raising the money was the problem. I feel for the students, especially the indigent ones that have nowhere to run to and they want education, which is their right anyway. Again, we have to look at the limited resources available to the state. I am in government and I have seen a lot of it, ordinary people on the streets may not know this. It got to a point that I could not take care of people’s healthcare and I sent message to the Governor, who recommended that the state Ministry of Health should help out and when I got there, they said that they have exhausted the healthcare allocation support for 2014 in March.
Can you tell us about your family?
I am married to Hajia Folarera Balogun and we have three children; one girl and three boys. My family has been my backbone, even when I have issues, political confrontations and all that, they have always been there for me, we thank God because we are doing well.
What have you done for your people so far?
I have given them a voice through representation; also the people of the area have never had a constituency office before now either at the state or federal level. We have a very good constituency office now, where they can meet me or my representative and get across to me all they want to do. Of course, with the issue of technology, t is now better, they have been very close to me, they get me on phone, facebook and twitter. Some of my constituents enjoy free healthcare, we give a lot of poverty alleviation in a more civilized way, not just giving them equipment, we train them before we empower them with the equipments. We assist some of them to go into trade, we set up some of them in kerosene business after given them about 200 litres each to start selling. They will stop disturbing me for little money, some of them go to vocational school, some go to Faith Foundation and I train some to be cleaners and we are going to be paying them, some are in Lagos State Vocational Centre, after graduation, I will empower them. We organize physical exercise and medical examination for them and this brings traditional rulers, market people and even road transport workers together.
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