HER Excellency, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire is the immediate past Deputy Governor of Lagos State. She has every reason to be thankful to God. Twice, she was the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation in the state before she was elected to contest as the deputy to Governor Babatunde Fashola in 2011.
She, like other members of the cabinet, bowed out on Friday, May 29, 2015. She spoke with ENCOMIUM Weekly on her experience in government in the last four years.
How will you describe your experience as the Deputy Governor of Lagos State in the last four years?
Let me start by giving thanks, praises and adoration to God Almighty, for the grace and the opportunity given to me to be part of Team Lagos. It has been a wonderful and interesting experience. It’s been challenging too. Lagos State is very unique. Unique in the sense that it is the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, the economic hub of West Africa and the most populous city in West Africa too.
A state like Lagos comes with enormous responsibilities and challenges. I am humbled to be part of the team that God has used this time to be at the helm of affairs in Lagos State. To God be the glory.
Would you say the experience was a tough one?
Not very tough because it is a familiar terrain, I have been in government service for a very long time. I was the state Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation working for women. So, the experience has been there, and I am glad with the opportunity it gave me to work with my women. It is just that this time around (as deputy governor), it was a bit broader than what I used to do as a commissioner. But with God on our side, we have been able to weather the storm. We have tried our best. We have made many people happy because most of the things that we promised Lagosians we have delivered them to the glory of God.
We thank Lagosians for their support, prayers and suggestions in making Lagos State what it is today.
What will you say is the most challenging period of your tenure as the deputy governor of Lagos State?
That was when we (Lagos State) hosted the National Sports Festival. Usually, the host state is given a two-year notice but in our case, it was a year notice that we got. To further compound our challenge, it was the same year we were hosting the sports festival that Olympics was being held in London. Certainly, with Olympics going on, nothing meaningful could be done because the attention of the sports world was focused on the Olympics. So, we had to slow down to allow the Olympics to end.
Olympics ended in August 2012 and we were scheduled to start our own on November 9, 2012. So, we only had three months to prepare for the festival. Again, the hostels of University of Lagos, Yaba College of Technology and Federal College of Education, Akoka, that were to serve as our game villages were still writing their exams. So, we couldn’t access their halls for renovations. That took us another two months because the students didn’t finish their examinations till late October.
So, between late October and the November 9, when the festival was scheduled to start, it was hectic for us. At a time, we were contemplating shifting the opening date but we did not. We worked round the clock to make sure the festival held on the scheduled date and to God be the glory we delivered. The opening ceremony was fantastic and throughout the games festival we did not experience any hitch. Everything went on smoothly as planned. It became the reference point in the history of National Sports Festival in Nigeria. We are the state to beat now. It was the defining period of my tenure as the deputy governor of Lagos State because as the chairman of the Local Organising Committee (LOC), everything stopped on my table.
Are there things you wanted to do as deputy governor of the state, that you were unable to do because of time or resources?
Constitutionally, I am not empowered to embark on any project of my own. It is what the governor assigns to me that I will do. So, whatever has been done by this government was done collectively by the Team Lagos. I am glad to be part of that team. We all took credit for whatever that has been done. We have done a lot. We have done well but we cannot finish the job.
The moment we think the job has finished, there is no need for government again. So, governance is an unfinished business. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, our National Leader started it and handed it over to Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN). Fashola cannot finish the whole thing, he has handed over to Governor Ambode. I am sure Akinwunmi Ambode cannot finish the job. Our children’s children too will come and do their won. So, governance cannot finish. Governance, as long as man lives, will remain a work in progress. One unique thing about us in Lagos is the fact we have projected our development and made sure that whoever takes over the rein of power in the state follows this projection. The 25-year development plan of Lagos is a focus that we are following. God has been wonderful to us in Lagos and continuity has helped us a lot.
You’ve only served as deputy governor for a term and we expected that you will go for the second term?
I was elected to serve one term.
Why didn’t you go for second term?
I didn’t feel like. I have made my mark already.
Now that you did not seek any elective post, what are you going to do next?
I want to leave that to God to decide for me. God has been my guidance and He will continue to guide me. Be that as it may, I am part of the incoming government and in whatever capacity my service is needed, I will surely offer it. When Asiwaju Tinubu, our leader, left as the governor, he supported us. So, it is our duty now to reciprocate the same gesture to the incoming government. We have to give their maximum support for them to succeed as well. We need to support them and pray for them. Prayer is the key. There is nothing prayer cannot do. I pray for our new governor, deputy governor and other representatives of our party including those at the national level that they will succeed by the grace of God. Whatever it requires to make Nigeria great again, God will bless them with the knowledge, understanding and the resources required for them to succeed. God will make way for them. With God everything will be possible.
You’ve been a member of Lagos House of Assembly, a commissioner and a deputy governor. Will you say you are fulfilled politically?
Politics has been part of my life right from my youth. It has never been about the political office I hold or did not hold. It is about service to the people. God has been wonderful to me and I have been doing my best to assist people in whatever way I can, whether I am holding a political office or not.
My life is about service. I have a covenant with my God that anybody that comes my way that needs help, I will render it to him or her within my ability. I will do my work diligently either in public office or personally. Love myself and love my neighbor. That is my covenant with God. So, I am ready to render any help within my power. So, whether I am in public office or not, I am fulfilled anytime I render service to my fellow human being. I love to make people happy and that is what I will continue to do as long as I live.
We want to say thank you very much, we wish you well in your next endeavour.
Thank you too for your support. I will also want to use this opportunity to say thank you to everybody that has supported us in whatever way. Either you pray for us, advice, pay your tax, bag your refuse, you reduce incidence of domestic violence or clear your drainage, we want to say thank you. We want to thank you for supporting us. It is not by our power or might, it is by the grace of God.
If we have offended you in anyway, it was not deliberate. It was in the course of this duty. Please, forgive us.
If I had not been able to meet your demand or agitation, it is not deliberate. I can only do what is within my power as deputy governor. Please, find a place in your heart to forgive me. I am not a perfect person.
I also want to thank my Oga patapata (the big boss), the Jagaban of Africa, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I thank his wife and my sister, Senator Oluremi Tinubu. I thank my Governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), for his guidance and teaching. I thank his wife, Dame Abimbola Fashola, who has been a good sister too. I thank my predecessor, Princess Sarah Adebisi Sosan, she has been a wonderful sister too.
I thank our party leaders and elders.
I thank my husband specially. My love, thank you for believing and supporting me. My husband is a rare breed, that is very understanding. He has been a wonderful husband. I thank my children too for believing in my cause and profession, which is politics and for their understanding.
I thank my women of Lagos for their understanding and support. I love them. I thank everybody that has been there for us. I say to them all will be well with us.
I thank my spiritual leaders who have been praying for us. God will bless them, bless their homes. God will keep their ministries and it will be well with us.
– TOLANI ABATTI