8th July, 2011
Â Mr. Segun Ayobolu is the current Vice Chairman, Editorial Board of The Nation newspapers and former Special Adviser to Governor Babatunde Fashola on Information and Strategy during the first term. In this interview with our Senior Staff Writer, Kazeem Ugbodaga, he spoke on the rumour that he was considered for a commissioner position in Fasholaâ€™s new cabinet and other salient issues.
There were rumours that you were considered for a commissioner position in Fasholaâ€™s new cabinet, how true were these rumours?
What I can honestly tell you is that I have no evidence that I was ever considered for an appointment either as commissioner or special adviser in Governor Fasholaâ€™s new team. The governor himself, never for once discussed it with me. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu never for once discussed it with me, so, I was bewildered myself when I began to receive all kinds of calls and text messages insinuating that my name was on the list of members of the new cabinet and I consistently told all those who sought my view that I was completely unaware of any such development. As you know me very well, I am not a lobbyist and I did not abuse my access to leaders like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He is effectively the leader of a very big opposition in the country today, so I value each minute I have access to him and I do not waste such in pursuing issues for myself; I will rather discuss ideas and issue-based politics in Nigeria. So, the concrete answer I will tell you is that I did not believe I was ever considered for any such position.
If you say you were not considered, why was there so much insinuation about your coming back?
Honestly, I do not know; I was overwhelmed by the number of calls I received from different parts of the country, all expressing that same view that I was on the way back to government. Part of the reason was that I was part of the publicity campaign team of Governor Fasholaâ€™s re-election campaign under the chairmanship of Mr. Tunji Bello and because of the passion with which that team worked, maybe that was why there were such insinuations by those acquainted with one that I was on the way back. There was absolutely no truth in it as well, at least, to the best of my knowledge.
If you had been considered, would you have accepted it?
In as much as I am convinced that my health has sufficiently stabilised; that I am sufficiently, mentally alert and that I have not wavered over the last two decades in my firm commitment to the progressive force, I will certainly accord it a great honour to serve on the new team of governor Fashola.
What is your assessment of the current cabinet of the Fashola administration?
There is no doubt that Governor Fashola and the leadership of the ACN have put in place a first class executive council. I will rate this current executive council as high as Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubuâ€™s first executive council between 1999 and 2003 in terms of the number of technocrats and specialisation in terms of experience; in terms of competence. Even some of those who have come back like Kayode Opeifa of Transportation, Femi Hamzat of Works and Infrastructure; Jide Idris in Health; Mr Tunji Bello, a senior colleague, back in Environment where he did very well and so many others. I speak of those who were in the cabinet before like Oyinlomo Danmole, a lawyer; so in terms of experience, and specialisation; in terms of intellect, it is a very high standard and I donâ€™t think it is equal with any standard in the country today. It has also balanced technical ability with the political instinct because the constitution of a cabinet under democratic set up is more complex than under a military set up; you have to take into account various political interest that contributed to the election of a particular party. What I think ACN had done in the last 12 years is to effectively balance that technical consideration and improve efficiency of governance. I have no doubt this cabinet will perform beyond everybodyâ€™s expectations.
There was also a rumour that Dele Alake was considered for the position of Chief of Staff to Fashola, what do you say about this?
My Dele Alake served with vision and competence as Commissioner for Information and Strategy for eight years in Lagos State and I was privileged to work closely with him in those days when we fought many battles in the Tinubu administration and to frustrate those who wanted to ensure that the administration failed and laid the foundation for the Lagos that is flourishing today. With Alakeâ€™s credentials and having performed creditably well and left a benchmark for that position in the country, I do not think, for what I know of him, he will consider coming back again to do what he has done for eight years. I donâ€™t think there was any truth in it as well.
There was also rumour that Tinubu personally removed your name from the list of the new cabinet, how true is this?
Like I said, I was not aware in the first place that my name was oin any list; but even if we assumed that my name was on the list and Asiwaju Tinubu asked that my name be removed, how will I look at it? I will say look, for at least two decades, I worked closely with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the political terrain in Nigeria both in and out of government. He was largely responsible for my appointment as Chief Press Secretary to Dr. Iyorchia Ayu when he was the president of the Senate in the aborted Third Republic. When he came back from exile in 1999 and became governor, he made me his Chief Press Secretary for five years; elevated me to special adviser and doubled as permanent secretary, Ministry of Information until the assumption of office of Governor Fashola and was also largely responsible for my retention in Governor Fasholaâ€™s cabinet until my exit then voluntary on health ground. So he has done so much to affect my professional and political progress and if this time around and even if it is true and he said I should sit down, I think there is nothing wrong with it absolutely. I am absolutely loyal to him as a boss as a leader.
In the next four years, what do you expect to happen in Lagos with this current team?
Let me speak specifically about the information team, Mr. Adeyemi Ibirogba, Information Commissioner; he is a friend and a colleague; we were together in the Daily Times in the 80s at a time when that newspaper was the flagship in the Nigerian media industry and he is a competent professional assisted by a very intelligent and proactive special adviser, Mr. Lateef Raji and Mrs Ranti Odutola, a season administrator in the Lagos State Government. I expect them to work in synergy with Hakeem Bello, Senior Special Assistant on Media who remains in charge at the Press Centre. So, in terms of information management, I expect the team to deliver. From the speech of Governor Fashola himself during the swearing in of the cabinet, you can see that he is not resting on the oar and he challenged them not to look at what had been done in the past given his own record of perfection to details, his own capacity for industry. I think he will motivate them to take Lagos to higher heights as the Centre of Excellence.