Those who do not hold store by destiny believe that destiny is not a matter of chance, but a matter of choice. For goal getters, it is the push of our instincts to the pull of our purpose. Some may think that Rt. Hon. Bashorun Muyiwa Oladipo is destined to hold the number one seat in Ogun State, but destiny has no place in the equation as Hon. Oladipo has paid his dues in service to his beloved state. Asides serving Ogun State in various positions in the past, he is the current Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Ogun State. Over the years, he has waited, watched, learned and groomed himself for the position of the Governor of Ogun State. He is not a man whom destiny has picked; he is a man who has chosen his own destiny and worked hard to follow through. In this exclusive interview with Saturday INDEPENDENT’s Tomi Falade, the well spoken, grassroots politician shares his dreams for Ogun State, his enviable strides and achievements in Ogun tourism and his political ambition. Excerpts.
After your first degree, can you tell us about your sojourn before and after you came into politics?
After I did my NYSC in Port Harcourt, Rivers State at the Nigeria Customs and Excise, which I completed in 1985, I started work with H.F.B Engineering where I worked for about 10 months and went back to school, the then Ogun State University, now Olabisi Onabanjo University, where I read Law. I was called to bar in 1991. I started work almost immediately with Gbenga Oni and Associates. I later started mine, Muyiwa Oladipo and Associates.
I joined Alliance For Democracy representing my constituency, Sagamu 2 State Constituency in the House of Assembly. I was elected Speaker of the House on the 3rd of June 1999. I held the position for four years before we were voted out of power in 2003. Eight years later, precisely 2011, I came back to government and was appointed Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, a position I held for another four years during which I held the house, ministry and entire state for the Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun to allow for good government, good governance and development across the state right from the grassroots (local government), and also the state.
On the 29th of October, 2015, I was reappointed a Commissioner this time for Culture and Tourism where I have been till date. In Culture and Tourism, I was able to conceive, plan and execute the first ever African Drums Festival. We started with Nigerian Drums Festival, which metamorphosed into African Drums Festival, which has become the flagship of Ogun State today.
When exactly did you decide to go into politics?
I have always loved politics. I had always monitored happenings. When politics started in 1979, the government of the day at the time, General Olusegun Obasanjo, lifted the ban on politics in September 22, 1978; I joined Unity Party of Nigeria as a youth member at the Local Government level. I was watching on the sidelines, all through till 1983 when civilian government was toppled by the Buhari/Idiagbon administration. Ever since, I have been in politics. From the day Ogun State was created on the 3rd of February, which happens to be my birthday, I had known that I would be in politics, because ever since then I decided that through God Almighty, I would govern Ogun State one day.
What was your reason for going back to study Law, was it because you wanted to veer into politics or simply for the love of Law?
I think it was both. I read History, and I looked at the future of the country and I felt that it was best for one to be a professional. So I went to study Law, which has since complimented my first degree and assisted me a lot in my political sojourn. But you don’t have to be a lawyer to be a successful politician anyway.
Did you ever participate in school politics?
Yes, I did. Our campaign then was from room to room.
Was the political circuit everything you expected having participated in school politics? What did you find different?
Definitely, there was a difference. While in school, you know that you are discussing with educated persons. Right from Form One, you campaign and they would understand you, even though it’s not all at the same level. But outside school, you would be relating with both the literates and the illiterates, the best minds, eggheads and all the likes.
Did your family support your political ambition?
Well, there was really no opposition except that my father-in-law was once a deputy speaker of Ogun State House of Assembly.
I want to believe that he had some nasty experiences then, so my wife was a bit sceptical about my going into politics. But when she saw that I had made up my mind, she had no choice than to join, but she has been very supportive day in day out.
Of all the positions that you have held so far, which has been the most challenging for you and which would you say is your comfort zone?
When you do things that you love doing, everywhere is your comfort zone. When you do things selflessly, seamlessly, as if it has become your second nature, and with God’s support, you find everywhere a comfort zone. Suffice to say that at every stage, I met different people who related very well with me and I did too. It has been worth the while.
What other career path would you have chosen if not Law and Politics?
Actually, my first love was Accounting. But I kept scoring zero in the subject right from secondary school. But really, I loved Accounting. I would have loved to be a chattered accountant. But man proposes, God disposes.
Tourism in Nigeria is not generating as much revenue as it does in other countries. Nigeria as a whole seems unprepared for the different kind of tourists that there are? What have you added to Ogun State tourism to better it?
I told you when you came for the TIDA 2018 conference that the situation we find ourselves in Ogun State and Nigeria today is a sorry case. The Federal Government does not have a policy on tourism. Imagine that Nigeria does not have tourist visa. In Kenya, if you decide to have a stop over, and stay for a week, they would issue a visa to you at the point of entry for $50 – if it has not increased by now. Imagine what Nigeria is losing not being able to issue visa at entry point. Imagine that we have one thousand people visit Nigeria every day at $50 per head? That is a goldmine for Nigeria, and we are not taking good advantage of it. That is on the Federal level.
At the state level, what we can do is limited concerning foreigners because Foreign Policy is an exclusive legislation of the Federal Government. So there is little or nothing that we can do in that aspect. But for our tourism potential in Ogun State, we would harness it, and promote it to the best of our ability and even improve on it, so that we can make our state a tourism hub for the nation. We have very many tourist sites that are largely underutilised, but the government of the day has been trying its best to give it a turn around that people can make use of. People can decide to stay back and not go to Dubai, not go to Kenya or Tanzania and visit Abeokuta, drive through the South-west, visit some of the sites possible.
We in Ogun State are also planning to bring in investors in tourism so they can do so many things like artificial tourism: Disneyland in the U.S, that is artificial tourism. We already have cultural tourism to which the Drums Festival fits into. We have natural tourism, which includes Olumo Rock and the likes. I told you before about Mount Otapele. People have been visiting the place and they marvelled when they saw God’s hand at creation. We have a spring in Ogun State too, just like Ikogosi where the water is naturally treated. If you bring garri Ijebu to drink, all you need to do is to soak your garri in it and drink. It’s even very cold. We have such amazing places like that across the entire state. All we need to do is to promote all these places, harness them and develop them.
No doubt, Ogun is rich in tourist sites, culture and history, but do you believe that the people of Ogun are ready to accommodate the influx of people that tourism will generate if these plans are put in place?
Ogun State happens to be one of the safest and most secure states in Nigeria. And without being immodest, we are very accommodating. If we were not accommodating, with the hundreds of thousands of people that attend the monthly Holy Ghost Service at the Redeemed Christian Church of God grounds, you would have been hearing series of attacks and all that. So also, Shiloh at Ota. You know we also have religious tourism in Ogun State. Asides that though, we are very accommodating in Ogun State. People will not come to Ogun State if we were not accommodating. Hundreds of thousands of people that come to Ogun State monthly. They come for Shiloh at Canaanland, Power must change hands at MFM, Holy Ghost Service at Redemption Camp, not forgetting Foursquare, Nasfat, even Deeper Life. In a very short while, the Hindus will also have their location in Ogun State. You just wait and see. Keep watch, we are going to turn around Ogun State and Nigeria.
You intend to contest for the Ogun State governorship seat alongside other candidates. What do you believe stands you apart from other candidates?
First, I have been a Speaker of the State House of Assembly for four years, so I know the nitty-gritty of legislation, that is the legislative arm of government. I was a Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs; whether anybody likes it or not, a Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs is more or less a local governor because your sphere of influence cuts across the entire state, just like the state governor.
Also, I related with the community at the Local Government level, I related with the kabiyesis, who are the custodians of culture and tradition. I also related with the Primary School teachers as a Local Government Commissioner. Today, I am Commissioner for Culture and Tourism. Culture is a very important aspect of our lives that has been relegated to an extent. We are trying to revive it, and God has been supportive of our actions. These two ministries that I have covered are in the executive arm of government. Having been on both sides, I see myself as most qualified to be the governor of this state. Moreover, I knew through the grace of God that I am the governor of Ogun State since the 3rd of February 1976 when Ogun State was created.
If you do win the elections and become a governor, what would your first act be?
It is not ‘if’, it is ‘when’. Like I said, it is tourism from day one. The first two years will be to put everything in place so that by the third year we will start getting returns. Our target is to have between five and ten million people visit Ogun State in a year. I was telling you that we are even going to have Hindu worship centres so Indians will come to Ogun State as well.
What’s an average day in your life as a Commissioner like?
As a commissioner, I am busy most times. My better half, my wife, who also happens to be everything to me, bears the brunt because at times she would prepare my meal and I would forget that I have not eaten. I would take it in a basket to the office and I would forget that I have not eaten once I throw myself into my job. She would call me around one 0’clock and say, “Honey have you eaten?” At that point I will say, “Oh, I had forgotten, is there food?” Stuff like that. But God has been very helpful. She has been so supportive. Like I said from the onset, when you do things that you enjoy, every other thing is secondary.
What, in your opinion, is the most important quality a person must have to be successful in life?
Patience and understanding. If you have patience and try to understand everybody that comes by, appreciating the fact that nobody is perfect, then whatever his or her faults or shortcoming is, through your patience you will understand, so there won’t be much friction. But you can’t help it once in a while, but we all pray that God gives us the patience to overcome anything unwanted that comes by.
Do you have plans to contest after the first four years?
I intend to serve for eight years by the grace of God. That is the maximum the constitution allows.
What other plans do you have?
Well, I’m a lawyer, and if the Lord permits and allows me go further, I hope one day to be president of Nigeria. But man proposes, God disposes.