By Eric Elezuo
He is not just an accomplished entrepreneur, industrialist and prolific go-getter, he is a politician with a human face, whose humanitarian efforts and achievements speak volumes. His name is Prince Dapo Adelegan, the Chairman/CEO, Celtron Group as well as President of PR African International Limited. Adelegan has not only distinguished himself in the area of public relations, marketing and events promotion in the last 20 years, including the smooth organisation of the highly successful Lekki Sunsplash Concert in the 1990s, he has affected the lives everyone who has crossed his path, and justifiably craves for the governorship seat of Ondo State.
In an interview with Chief Dele Momodu, monitored on Istagram by Lawal Adetayo, the governorship hopeful disclosed his plans and vision for the people of Ondo State among other issues. Excerpts:
I’m very pleased to welcome you dear friend, perfect gentleman and brother of many years. In the first place, as a mega music producer/ promoter, what are the memories you have of Majek Fashek, who recently passed away, taking into cognizance that you featured him in the Lekki Sunsplash, which shut down Lagos?
Thank you for having me, it’s a great honour. As you also celebrate your birthday, I wish you many more years of success and prosperity. I received the news of the passing away of Majek Fasek with a mixture of pain and celebration; pain because it is the passing away of a great talent, a patriotic African, and on the other hand it is a celebration of a talent. It is not the length of time spent that is important here, but the impact he was able to make. He might not have spent as much as he should, but he was a philosopher in the realm of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. We are proud to feature him on Lekki Sunsplash on two occasions. He is a great loss, but a life to be celebrated.
Fantastic! It’s obvious you have done Africa very proud and Africa must celebrate you because if we don’t celebrate good people, bad people will thrive. Therefore, we will start by asking you to take us down memory lane as regards who you are
Thank you Dele. I was born April 20, 1962. My dad and mum got scholarship to school abroad when I was two years and my grandmother then lived in Yaba, and she encouraged my mum to go with her husband. For about nine to ten years my parents spent in England, my grandmother held me back in Nigeria. The foundation of what I am today was built in those years I lived with my grandmother. Within those ten years I spent with her, I also lived with my uncle in Idi-araba, as well as with two of my aunties in different parts of Yaba, and many lessons were learnt during that period. As a young child growing up in Lagos, life was fun, when my parents arrived, I went to CMS Grammar School for my secondary education. The critical years of my life were those years without I spent with my grandmother, those were the formative years of my life, and the foundation of my faith in God because my grandmother was a ‘wild’ Christian. It was from her that I learnt how to read the Holy Bible in Yoruba at the age of nine, and that has been my shield. Everything else I have done, I believe were as a result of the grace of God.
Can you take us through your secondary school days, what was it like?
CMS Grammar School, founded in 1959, is by all standard is the first secondary school in West Africa. It is a Christian institution then, and still run by a Reverend Father as the principal. It was a great institution. I can say with all sense of responsibility that CMS Grammar School was a transformational institution for me, it was there I built my confidence, and I think that is also fundamental to who I’ve become in life.
Do you remember some of your greatest moments in school?
One of my most important moments was a visit to my school by the late Chief Henry Oloyede Fajemirokun. He was the first president of the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce. I remember when I was sworn in as the 14th president of the chamber, I invoked some of his memories and that of Chief Adeyemi Lawson on a frame; those were the first and second presidents of the chamber, and they were old ‘Grammarians’. The day he visited the school was the first time I ever saw a black man being driven by a white man in a Rolls Royce. He spoke to us about how he left school at form 4 to become a trader in perfumes. He was 55 years old at that time, and he was the President of the Lagos State Chamber of Commerce. Moreover, he was averagely the richest Nigerian at that time, and the moment he left, it ignited my entrepreneurial spirit and my capacity to dream beyond any circumstance.
Okay, could you tell us about Chief Adeyemi Lawson, I remember around that time, he was also an industrialist?
Yes, he was. The late Adeyemi Lawson was a great industrialist…
You studied English Language in the university. What prompted your decision? Was it your experience in Ilorin?
I studied English Language at the University of Ilorin, but I grew up in the university of Lagos campus. My mother was a catering manager and because I had lost my father, I had a lot of fathers. There was this decision that as a result of my tendency to be an advocate that I should study Law, but I was told to read English Language first before moving Law. Though I had splendid A’ level result to enter for Law, I was then referred to the Department of English, and Professor Akin Adesola was then the Vice-Chancellor. I read English with the intention of coming back to UNILAG to study Law.
So, what was Ilorin like? I always want to have feel of schools
Ilorin was like any other university in Nigeria; it was fun, studies, parties, activities, travels among others. We didn’t just go through the university; the university went through us. I was particularly active on the social scenes on campus. It was difficult to have a party in Unilorin at that time without me being involved; the party was going to flop. This is because of my capacity to organize resources and all of that; so the foundation for my event management, activities and competencies were laid at the University of Ilorin, where apart from being a student, I was a social activist.
I read that you prefer a religious worship in Yoruba, why?
It’s because my grandmother taught me how to read the Yoruba Bible as a small child, and I sincerely believe that people should read Bible in their mother-tongue. I believe that with my experience in reading the Yoruba Bible all the time even with a degree in English, I have been able to have better connections spiritually with the Word of God. This is why I encourage people to get a Bible in their mother-tongue, aside from reading the Bible in English language. There was a reason God made me a Yoruba man; he could have made me an Indian. The relationship between religion and culture is very important to my spiritual, mental and physical growth.
I can see that your resume is lengthy and massive, but I took them one by one because there are many great people who are not properly celebrated in our country and you happen to be one of them. Now, at what age did you start the Lekki Sunsplash project?
I was twenty-five and I was serving as a teacher of English and Literature. One of my clients from the Ilorin days who I organized parties for wanted a beach party. I, with a couple of friends then discovered the Mayegun Beach. At that time, the beach was privatized by Julius Berger officials, and I was able to convince them to allow us come in from time to time to have a party of twenty or thirty people. It was from one of those parties that I got the inspiration to organize a bigger party of 5,000 people. It wasn’t that I wanted to make money out of it at that time, but just to fulfill a promise that I would organise a big party on that beach. So when some people came from Polygram Records, they asked me how much I wanted to charge for entry fee, I said it should be free, that I only want to do it during my youth service and go back to study Law, as I didn’t want to make it a career. My plan was to become a lawyer. However, when I saw millions of people turning up at the beach, I broke down; it was overwhelming. From that breakthrough, I knew that my life had changed forever, and I knew my life will be spectacular. I thank God it is till now.
Could you recollect some of the artistes that you promoted at the time?
Before I talk about the artistes, I need to talk about prominent names in the music industry that really made it happened. I had the idea, and Polygram bought into it and brought people like Pa Ajilo, Charly Boy, Sunny Okosun, virtually the who is who in the music industry at that time. Ali Baba was my P.A then, and in fact, everybody in the Nigeria music industry was active in the success of the Lekki Sunsplash. I was just the creator and the face, but the entire music industry made it happen. Even you Dele, FAJ, Mayor Akinpelu and other prominent journalists. So, it was just my idea and creation, but its manifestation was made possible by many people. It was awesome and indescribable.
You did that at under 30, what does it tell you about the age factor in leadership?
My view is that there are two critical elements that I think the Nigerian youths need to develop; the first one is courage of conviction and the second one is faith. Our faith was stronger because of the kind of background we had. I’ve been trying to write a book about the story of the Lekki Sunsplash to show the world that you don’t have to become something before doing great things; all you need is the courage, what we call Ayagbangba in Yoruba, and the God factor as well.
Before we go further into your robust CV, I also remember that you are a health freak. Could you please tell us about your physical health?
I play Tennis. I was introduced to lawn tennis by my doctor, and it has been a lifesaver. Lawn tennis is a beautiful game. With one hour of tennis, you will sweat and forget all the problems and challenges that come with entrepreneurship. A good diet too is important.
Now, I will go into a passion that I know you have and that is for “Made in Nigeria products”, can you tell us about your passion and how you developed it over time?
Well, in 1999, I was a junior member of the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce. I joined the delegation to our annual bilateral talks to the United Kingdom; that was my first trip with the chamber. During the discussions, I noticed that most of it were centered on businesses into Nigeria, so I opined at that meeting that isn’t it the time that we also changed, and push the interest of Nigeria globally.
I remember meeting you in a lot on flights, and at the airport, and I’m aware that you went through a lot of rigorous training abroad, could you tell us some of these trainings you attended?
I had executive management trainings in institutions in Kenya, Barcelona and United Kingdom. I attended Owner Manager Programme at the Lagos Business School in 2002. I was also a member of the Chief Executive Programme in the same Institution ten years later in 2012, and I have the singular honour to be the president of that class. The Lagos Business School gave me a very good exposure particularly, the Chief Executive Programme that I went for; it is about Globalization and Succession Planning, and that has helped my business and activities so much.
Your foray into PR and advertising has been quite monumental. In fact, you are synonymous with PR, could you tell us some of your adventures because you’ve really done a lot?
I thank God for those opportunities. It wasn’t easy, but it is just grace. When I was 30, in the fifth year of Lekki Sunsplash, I was on holiday in England when I saw an electronic billboard and the names of some of the brands in Nigeria like Coca-cola and others on it. I approached the company and I played the 5th anniversary video of the Lekki Sunsplash, and they could see the brands advertised and I told them I would like to bring those kinds of billboard back to Lagos for my clients. We achieved that in 2002 with the first Ultravision Billboard at Allen Avenue. That was how I had my way into the industry, I was the first to bring electronic outdoor advertising to Nigeria.
What are the principles of Public Relation that you can briefly teach readers? Let me put it this way, is there a difference between having the knowledge of media and Public Relation?
By the grace of God, I think by October, we will have a PR/Media practitioner as the Governor of a State. The most essential tool of politicking is understanding human relations and Public Relation as opposed to branding and marketing of a product for consumption or others. PR is actually the foundation of public engagements in politics. So, there is a relationship between Public Relation and politics in the sense that the politicians and political parties that does not understand public perception cannot really deliver the code of Democracy. Democracy is defined as the government of the people, by the people and for the people, it is all about the people, and the reason we are having problems in this country is because we haven’t separated politics from governance; there is a huge difference. It is only in Lagos that you see technocrats become governors, starting with Asiwaju himself, and Lagos happens to be the fifth largest economy in Africa, potentially surpassing Kenya in the next few years. Hence, there is the need for us to bring the arm of Public Relation into government, and governments built around compassion. Compassion means putting the moods and welfare of the people as the fulcrum of all administration. It is about using Public Relations to know the needs of the people and using the powers of government to address them. My view is that Pubic Relation should be adopted as a tool for governments to meet the needs of the masses.
Fantastic! We will still come to your foray into politics. There is COVID-19 ravaging the world and I know that in the past, there was another epidemic that ravaged the world, HIV and you were actively involved. What can you teach us based on your experience with dealing with HIV at that time?
The truth of the matter is that the COVID-19 pandemic is a referendum on governance in Nigeria, particularly in Africa because in England, a lot of our children are working from home, learning from home and they have water to clean their hands, we don’t have that. I told somebody that if you go to hospitals in England that a single bed has a facility of over five million. As a result, this referendum on governance is a clarion call for our people to ensure that the right people with the right skills and mindset can govern in this era. I think the most important thing is testing and tracing; if you remember NACA under the late Professor Osotimehin and Professor Femi Soyinka of Society for Family Health in partnership with the Federal Government and the United Nations. I worked with them to organize the International Conference on AIDS, and we hosted over five thousand delegates from all over the world. Bill Gate and his wife were our visitors; they were invited to encourage people to do testing, and the success of the tests helped in the eradication of HIV, because once you are tested, you can be managed and engaged.
With COVID-19, testing is also important, and I think the Federal Government and the state governments are working very hard to ensure that we get tested, then we can trace and isolate those infected. This is the time for us to move further in providing water, introducing e-learning, improve electricity and payment of salaries too, those things are very important, as well as provision of protective kits for health workers, so that we can move forward.
It’s no longer a secret that you want to come full blast into government, especially in your state Ondo, why do you want to leave your clean professional business to go into politics?
Thank you very much. After 30 years of self-employment and various impacts in many industries, in 2018, I felt there is a need to do something new, I was no more motivated in concepts of private enterprise and money. Moreover, I’ve built a home in Akure since 2012, and every month, I find myself spending most weekends in Akure. With the limitations I experienced in my state, in spite of the resources we have, it was clear to me that we are in a society that does not allow its best and knowledgeable in governance. David Cameron was a guest of Babatunde Fashola when he was Governor of Lagos State, I was opportune to be part of the people that was there when he visited, and he said that at the age of ten, he knew that he had 50% chance of becoming the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and why was that? It is because that was a society that has developed a leadership emergence strategy. Moreover, there are special institutions that are relevant to the choice of leadership; for instance, you cannot be the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom if you have not passed through the walls of Cambridge or Oxford Universities.
Our Lekki Sunsplash opened up Lekki Peninsula to economic and social development. In Ondo State particularly, where we have three climatic conditions, there is savannah in the North, rain forest in the center and mangrove-swamp in the south, we have the best location for refineries in South-West Nigeria, about 50% of goods imported into Nigeria are destined to pass through the South-East South-South, and they all pass through Ondo State through Ore, with up to N5million worth of goods every week, making Ore the California of Nigeria. But unfortunately, we benefit nothing from these travelers except when they stop to eat pounded yam and bushmeat, Ondo State is more than that. Just so you know, California is a city that benefits from the goods coming from the west coast to the east coast of America. It has become a city with a robust economy; fifth in the world. Hence, with our analysis of almost a million people that pass-through Ore-Ondo-Akure-Owo-Ikare every month to Abuja, we will generate more revenue beyond the local farm produce.
As a result, if we are to go by our geographic location, beyond our human resources, we are indeed a blessed State. Which is why one of my key projects will be to create an opportunity that will take advantage of every goods coming from the West to the North and South-East that passes through our borders, making Ore a capital hub of the state for more revenues. I want to use my network and experience in trades to leverage on these opportunities and generate global investment which will create jobs for people. We can’t continue to wait, and keep losing billions of Naira, especially in the light of this 21st century where technology thrives. Therefore, we need a leader with sound knowledge, competence and compassion, who will bring in social welfare, students’ loan and many more opportunities to the people through proper governance. So, it is not that I just want to be a Governor. I thank God that for over 32 years I’ve been able to make impacts in my little way without being in government, but it is time for us to rise up and give back the best of our experience and expertise in rebuilding our state, and it will be important that we should be allowed to come in and put everything in a better position.
But there are people who feel every politician makes these sorts of promises before they have power, and once they grab power, everything seems to fall apart. How do you reassure people that you will be different because these promises are not strange?
In 2015, I called on some experts to let us develop what we called the “Ondo Advantage”, that was five years ago and I said any governor that will allow me to assist in dimensioning the economy of their state and help them market it globally, I will work with them. But the challenge has been that our leaders personalize government; they believe that once they are in a position, that it is their right to choose who they want to choose, more so, those imposed on them, which is why we lack competent hands in the public service sector. And we know that any government that doesn’t allow competent hands, locally and internationally, will hinder the development of that state. My credentials, my experience and what the Lord has done for me, reconfirms to me that whatever I lay my hands upon, and desires to do, gets done! So, this isn’t just mere talks, but a plan that we have already dimensioned and analysed towards achieving in four years.
So, the reality is that I am not a politician that promises and not keep my words. I was a technocrat before politics; you know what that means. Many times, when people come into government, they don’t even prepare, they don’t know what they want to come and do there; they just want to add the experience to their CV and enjoy the comfort of being a governor. It is not wearing Rolex and agbada that makes you a governor; it is about getting the job done, creating a better life for your people. I want to come in as a governor and bring Ondo indigenes all over the world to redevelop the state, and trust me, we will do it. My plan is to globalise the economy of the state, I’ve done it for Lagos, I’ve done it for the Federal Government and I will do it for Ondo State within months of my election as well, and we have all it takes to do that.
Which party are you contesting under?
All Progressives Congress (APC).
In APC, you have a serving governor who also happens to be my very good friend and brother. So how do you hope to get your party ticket knowing how difficult it is to unseat an incumbent during party primaries?
Let me quickly say this. I’m close to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu just as you are. We share the same ancestry. He is a fellow Owo son and I’m proud of him as an Owo man. The reality of governance in today’s world is that for our society to move and fast-track development; for our people to be opportune to live a meaningful life, there are certain skills that are required in governance, and if those skills don’t exist currently, it is our responsibility to negotiate their existence. Without prejudice to Governor Akeredolu’s credentials, he is a distinguished attorney, a SAN, a former president of the NBA and the current Governor of Ondo State; nobody can take those experiences away from him. However, I sincerely believe that he needs to go back home at the end of this first term, and allow somebody else with the right exposure, network and global understanding of the economy of Ondo State to take it to a greater level. If you look at his emergence, he was a dark horse like me, who was also assisted by grace to become governor. Unfortunately, he has not been able to manage that opportunity very well in his first term, he has sidelined majority of the members of our party in Ondo State and eight out of every 10 members of our party don’t want Akeredolu to go for a second term, and that’s the reality.
That seat is about symbolism and representation; it’s about the way you communicate with the people. If you communicate with the people like an emperor, and you tell them your son can be the Chief of Staff and nobody can do anything, it will backfire against you. Unfortunately, the people of Ondo State are proud people; we don’t like being intimidated.
The gold standard of governance in Ondo State so far is Chief Adekunle Ajasin of blessed memory; he achieved a lot in four years with less than what some of our governors are taking as security votes every month. He built a university, established a bank, and created industries across the length and breadth of Ondo State; nobody has surpassed that till date. Now, another Owo man has the opportunity to govern and build on that foundation, but the last three and half years has not been full of impact in Ondo. In the state, boyfriends are sacrificing their girlfriends for rituals, that is more than pandemic, there is pandemonium and a general tendency for despondency, and the political process has been truncated. The current governor has not been conducting meetings at ward or any level. We have a number of highly intelligent citizens of Ondo State he could work with but only the governor his family are in power. No state will accept that!
As a result, it is of paramount importance that he allows a more competent hand to take the leadership, and let us complete the next four years, to redeem the image of our party. Moreover, this generation represents global competency and local footprints will not allow a situation where our state will suffer. Hence, my motivation is to encourage my brother to finish this four years and move on, then he should allow another Owo man with the right skills to take the reins of power, and dimension it economically and market it globally to bring in investment, electricity, portable water supply among others. That is what we are here to do, and what we are saying is otoge! We cannot accept his style of governance any further. Like I said, he has tried, and leaving the seat for another person to take over won’t take anything away from him.
With regards to the primary election, we are asking that it should be direct, so we can give everybody an automatic say, because with indirect, the Governor has both the knife and the yam but with direct primary, I know that Ondo state wants a change.
Do you foresee a situation where governor will cause a breakup of the party if you are able to muscle him out, thereby giving room for opposition to take advantage?
The truth of the matter is that every single aspirant in all the political parties in Ondo State has the constitutional right to come out as long as we are qualified. One of the limitations of the governor is that he didn’t allow other party members to work with him when he emerged, as a result, that was one of the reasons we lost the state in the last presidential election. Maybe he doesn’t have the human relation skills to galvanize all interests, even the opposition. So, the reality is that the people are tired of Governor Akeredolu and they want action. We need a new hope, a new vision and my generation of Ondo citizens are ready to come back from all over the globe and change the narratives. I’m telling my brother to go home and rest for the next four years, and allow us with new energy and new ideas, especially in this post-COVID-19 era, to bring in the skills and competence to exploit our economic prosperity for the joy and the happiness of our people.
On this note, I think you deserve a standing ovation while looking forward to engage you further as you progress in your mission. Thank you so much
Thank you very much