By Eric Elezuo
In a couple of months, the already active political atmosphere will become more intense as more and more heavyweights continue to throw their hats in the ring.
In Ogun State, a new rave of youth, brains and vision has just declared his intention to occupy the seat soon to be vacated by Senator Ibikunle Amosun. He is Engineer Mayokun Adeyemi Christopher Ilo, a seasoned technocrat and reputed academic. In this interview, he reveals why he is the best man for the job. Excerpts:
Can we meet you?
I am Engineer Mayokun Adeyemi Christopher Ilo. I am a Petroleum Engineer, an Economist, a Business Administrator, as well as a Brand Strategy Lecturer. I am currently an aspirant for the governorship seat of Ogun State. It is not long I joined partisan politics, but I am a man on a mission. My entry into politics is to give a new lease of life to the determination of young and qualified people in Nigeria to get involved in governance, and be domiciled in a position where they can take charge; a position where the talent and skills that have been invested in them over the years can be brought to the forefront of national service . So, they can prove their ability and take the country from the precipice, and put it on the path of development in tandem with global standards.
A business administrator, lecturer and engineer among other duties – how do you combine all them to make up the Mayokun you are?
Sometimes I scare myself with my interest in many fields, but there’s an overarching hand guiding my choices. As the Chinese would say “he who can see three days ahead will live for a thousand years.” There is this future I have been working towards since the age of 10; it has been a driving force in everything I do.
I have the idea of what global education is. I have studied both in Nigeria and abroad. I did my MBA at the University of Liverpool and presently, I am rounding off my Doctoral studies. I have been a worker at a Federal Government Parastatal . I have been an investor in businesses. All these accomplishments are products of grace, and I give the glory to God.
You are a “new comer” in politics. What have you therefore, put in place to be able to overcome contenders who have been in politics all their lives?
There is a saying that the world makes a way for a man who knows where he is going. When the time for something has come there is nothing anybody can do to stop it. There is no stopping an idea whose time is come. Again, when you are in the market, you have to focus on what brought you to the market not on the noise in the market. Maybe there are close to 40 contestants across various platforms but the seat is ultimately for one person. On May 29, 2019, one person will emerge as the governor of the state, and everybody has their own pedigree and I have mine also. But looking at the landscape, I know forces will change and realign . There are different agendas I must tell you. Some people are counting on their monetary credentials; how much they are worth coming into the race. The primary interest should be what vision; what service are we to render? Who is best qualified? Who has got the preparation? Who is best to take this state to another level? The current governor whether one likes it or not has achieved enough growing the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state from N730 million per month in 2011 to almost N8 billion every month now. This is vision. He has focused on education. He has focused on agriculture. He has focused on infrastructure. Therefore, the next person should not discard these achievements or make light on them. Whoever will take over should be someone who will build on this foundation. I am not doing the politics of pulling my predecessor down. I am going to build on the achievements His Excellency has made in office; I am going to take it to another level, and I am going to combine it with the energy of youth, and the vision I have had over the years about what it takes to transform an economy. I schooled both in Nigeria and abroad. I have attended conferences. I have friends across different social and economic cadres. I know what it takes to develop in a sustainable fashion , and I know the key variables that are needed to transform an economy like ours. I know the yearnings of our people. So, I am going to look at all these. I will look at the old and the young, and stay in the middle, thereby, projecting the state in a way that will grow our revenue; get our people employed both in the public and private sectors. We will enhance the quality of living of our people. That’s essentially why I am going to serve at this particular point in time.
Still as a new comer, wouldn’t it have been better for you to start from maybe State House of Assembly, local government chairmanship or the likes, to gain experience?
Most of these things are relative, and in the hierarchy; the governor is still below the president. I am older than Macron of France, and I don’t think he has greater vision or intellect than I do. Maybe, this is even a low level for me but realistically speaking, when I started out, my initial intention was to start with the state assembly but the kind of vision I am carrying is too big for that level. It could not wait another eight years before taking on executive power. Although the legislature has their relevance, the executive is vested with policy implementation . If I was to be in the state house of assembly, I am just one over twenty-six. You can have the best vision, and when you make the law and the governor refuses to assent to it because he has no idea of it; there might be conflict. But there is a time which Shakespeare called “the tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” Therefore, there is this tide and yearning on the part of the youths, and even on the country itself for a change in leadership, and those who are best prepared should come out when the call is sounded. Abraham Lincoln said I will study and prepare, and perhaps my time will come. I have prepared. I have done my homework. I have handled massive projects and strategic facilities , even in this country, as a staff of a Federal Government led organisation. So, handling big projects or being entrusted with funds in their billions is nothing strange to me because it is something I have done for over 10 years now; this is just an opportunity for me to take it to another level, and it will affect more lives. It will also show our people that good, faithful, quality stewardship doesn’t have to come from abroad. We have people who are best qualified to do that in Nigeria. I am one of them.
You find aspirants saying so much and after gaining the seat they are derailed from their plans. How do you want to manage the clout of governorship and dancing to the tune of some people?
Politics will always be politics. But what I found out is that it’s the value you bring to it that ultimately shapes you. It is a back and forth thing. There is always a tendency for the system to change you, and there is always a tendency for you to affect the politics of your time. It is 50/50. For me, I believe that the values I am bringing can not be questioned. The value of most politicians is questioned; I am different. Values don’t change overnight. After the age of 40, nothing about your core changes; that’s just the truth. I have had the opportunity to serve, and I remain above board. If I am going into politics, I am going to make a positive change on the society. Once in a while, you bend backwards to accommodate the less privileged, but ultimately the guiding light for you should be service to the people. Is it the best, fair to all concerned , and make a better society for all of us? If the answers to those questions are yes, then you go ahead and do it.
Sir, what makes you different from other aspirants?
I am young. I am visionary. I am passionate, and I am an entrepreneur. Most of our leaders in Nigeria dont’t read, and they tell you that readers are leaders. You can’t give what you don’t have. Awolowo straddles across our everyday life. Everybody talks about him in several fora. He is not from Mercury; he is a human being. I have read, and am still reading about Awolowo, because I want to have an insight about how he was able to make tremendous achievements at that era, so I can know the pitfalls to avoid and then be able to replicate and surpass his achievements. But if all you think is what you can get from public office, or how you can get richer on account of having political power, then, the country is doomed! If you are coming from the perspective of service, then, we can smile and say within this 4 or 8 years, one has been able to impact lives. Hence, the people you have impacted their lives will make your children find better acceptance in the society all because of what you have done. My father wasn’t a rich man but when he died, people said he impacted their lives and this makes my heart leap for joy. That’s the kind of legacy I want to leave behind; I don’t want to leave the legacy of corruption or incompetence. I want to leave a legacy that I came, performed, and did well for our people . The governorship for me is a starting point. There are other bigger things coming. If I mess up between 40 and 50 years of my life, then, for the next 30 or 40 years of my life, I will be looked down on because I made a mess of my opportunity in life. But if I do it well, bigger things at the national and international stages would beckon. I want to leave a mark so everybody would say let’s give this young man still bigger responsibilities, for he has proven himself. That is my focus in running for this office.
In Ogun state, everybody is clamouring for Yewa indigene. Are you from Yewa?
Yes, I am.
Who do you think is your greatest rival among other contenders?
Everyone that has thrown their hats into the ring is generally qualified. Maybe they are also patriotic, there is no doubt. The zeal maybe there. The resources maybe there. But it is not about the number, there is no room for two governors to run one state at the same time. There might be other things that they also can do, but to the best of my knowledge, with the endowment I have, the things I have seen, and the kind of support we are getting from the stakeholders and political class, I have no doubt that this is time for me to lead. The kind of vision we have is the kind that is chart- topping. I see Ogun state as a country, and it is actually a country. In terms of population, the state is more than some countries. Therefore, when we look at it that way, you have to approach it strategically. Like, if this is a country, how do I make sure that my unemployment rate is below 4%. How do I provide transportation for people in the remote areas? How do I improve the quality of life for my citizens? We have national average, but I am not only looking at that. I am looking at what the per capital income of each citizen is, and it is not about people who are potentially from Ogun state, even the people who are living there are all stakeholders. Not everyone who lives in Lagos is from Lagos State, but they all contribute to the economy of the state. That’s how the economy of Ogun state is. Together we can build an Ogun state that can be on fast track to excellence, and we can now see if we are following Dubai or Asian models, or German model, or Western model to develop. There is actually a plan by the present administration; we will look at it and build on it, because where there is no plan, whoever is there is likely to fail. We plan, we work our plan, and we plan our work. That is the intention.
If the incumbent governor fails to anoint you as his candidate, will you still continue the quest since you are in same party?
I have no reason whatsoever to believe I will not be the accepted candidate. We should not forget that the governor himself is a stakeholder. He has been doing his best as a leader and mentor to the best of his ability . Ordinarily, he would be interested in whoever succeeds him; It is the way it is all over the world. Obama saw Donald Trump and endorsed Hillary Clinton, but he did it after some consultation and several programmes that Hillary Clinton had, after interacting with her; that’s the way of politics. There is a process called primary in state and federal elections. It is to determine who the delegates want. The governor can lean in one way or the other but ultimately power belongs to the people. I joined partisan politics and worked my way through the party structure from the Unit and Ward level ; and if they don’t know you at the unit, how will they know you at the state level. We have the unit, wards, LCDA, Local Government, the senatorial, before the state excos. I worked my way through all these ranks and the acceptance is something I appreciate. They see the light I see, and believe I am relatively young compared to other candidates, and the best prepared and qualified. I believe when the time comes both the delegates and the totality of our people will give me the mandate to lead our people into prosperity.
What is that unique thing you are promising the people and Ogun state?
I can promise that for every day I will be the governor and afterwards, I am going to be looking out for their interests.
They would want to know how?
In everything I do in governance. For instance, If your driving passion is to make your neighbour a better person, the opportunities will be given. Many people went to private school, I didn’t go to private school. I went to public school,and even from there I was able to make the best result in WAEC in the whole of Lagos State in my year . We are going to bring back hope in our public educational system and return the value to what it used to be or even better than that.
That means education will get a face lift?
Yes, it will. There is going to be automatic employment opportunities as well and scholarships for deserving students and graduates. Schooling will be essentially free up to secondary school level, and if there will be tuition in higher institutions, it will be minimal. Being an entrepreneur, I will look for ways of making sure that the burden on the government is not much through Public Private Partnership and through some economic means of making income available to schools to run their programmes.
Is there anything new you are bringing in as per enhancing the IGR, or are you going to fall back to the template in the state already?
In Economics, we work with graphs. If somebody can do a ten -fold increase in 10 years, you will plot a graph against that and you can extrapolate further to see what is feasible. This is how he was able to achieve them. Accommodating new industries, inviting them, and bringing them in; promoting private sector initiatives and many others. There is a programme called Ogun investment forum. It is an annual programme where businesses find out the policies of government. That is a step in the right direction, we would do more of such. Then, we would look at some angles that have not been touched but are promising . Presently, I am looking at border towns with Lagos and we are exploring ways of improving the quality of lives of those people; strategically position ourselves and Lagos State with a joint effort to achieve value, business wise and infrastructure wise, because many people even in their millions who live with Ogun state actually work in Lagos; and how can we add value to them by implication. And if they feel the impact of government, you won’t have to beg them to pay taxes.
We will have up-to-date information on vacancies across our state through which we would link citizens who are desirous of jobs. The moment we have your data, it will not be difficult for you to have a job. And we are going to look at multiple taxation on small business, I don’t like it as a business person. So, we would streamline the tax processes. We would look at the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and how we can help them, and we may ask them to form a co-operative society so as to access some benefits from government.
We will provide credits through banks or grants on single digit interest. We are going to look at issues of providing Agric settlements for those who want to take up agriculture, and many other things that can make the lives of our people better as well as how we can improve our life expectancy to the extent that even those abroad would consider coming home and relocate to Ogun state.
Would you allow ranching colonies in Ogun State?
When we get to that bridge, we would cross it. The right of indigenous people must be respected. Land is cultural and the people who have been there from time memorial must be respected. Life is sacred and nobody should take laws into their own hands. The issue of land will be a decision of our people through referendum or representation. I will provide leadership and look into the future and avoid issues that will bring untold hardship or death to the citizens.
Finally, can we assume that with you on the seat of power, nothing can go wrong in Ogun State?
Nothing can go wrong. Governance is a challenge, and issues will always arise but when those issues arise, we will be up to them. Considering my pedigree and God’s guidance , I am more than qualified to deal with any situation. We will not be caught unawares, we would adopt the necessary analysis and whatever template that will see us into the future. Though there may arise issues that were not planned for, I promise that there would be mechanisms in place to deal with them, even natural disasters . People cannot do everything for themselves, and that is why they pay tax, and that’s why they elect leaders, and the leaders must do whatever is expected of them. I am that leader who will take Ogun State to the next level.