HON. Niyi Oyemade is the immediate past Commissioner for Commerce and Industry in Lagos State and two term member, Lagos House of Assembly.
He told ENCOMIUM Weekly in this interview that contrary to the rumour that he and his wife, Mrs. Folake Oyemade, own Sam and Sara (a foremost uniform garments manufacturing company in the country), it belongs to his wife solely. He further told us that his own company is King Solomon Mine, which presently is in Ilesha, Osun State mining gold and more.
It’s like you have abandoned politics for business now?
No. I am very much a politician. In fact, I am more of a politician than a businessman. I combine the two very well.
But you have been less visible in political circles for sometime now?
No. I still play a lot of roles in what goes on in my constituency (Ikeja). All of us can’t be on the podium at rallies. Some of us are behind the scenes and will still play our roles well. I am always around my constituency and local government. Some of us provide the necessary logistics for most of the political activities in our local government.
The seat you occupied for two terms in Lagos House of Assembly is now being taken over by a relatively young man, so, also the other constituency. What happened? Is it that the oldies are conceding for the young ones?
We have done our bits and we are giving the young ones the opportunities to also do their bits too. We don’t want to be sit tight elders in our local governments. Though, they may be young, they are no longer boys. They are already married and managing their families. Some of the leaders in the country today started in their 30s too.
We want to encourage our young ones to start learning the ropes as early as possible. So that we will be able to correct them where necessary. We want to start transferring all the knowledge and experiences we gathered in politics to the young ones. This does not mean we are retiring. No. We will still be there playing the role of elder statesman. We don’t have monopoly of knowledge. It is the combinations of the knowledge of people, the old, the young, the men and women that brings innovative ideas used in solving any human challenge. That is what we are doing in Ikeja Constituency. It is not only in Ikeja Constituency that the youths are being encouraged to participate in governance. It is throughout the state. That is what marks us (APC) out from other parties. Check out all our elective posts in the past few year, right from local government councils to the state level, the youths have been part and parcel of governance.
You were in Lagos House of Assembly for eight years and in the state Executive Council for another four years. Since 2011, that you did not hold any political office, would you say you missed being in government?
I am very much in government.
But you no longer wield any political power?
Power belongs to God, but I am still as influential as ever. Those who I come across either in political or social circle either call me honourable or Hon. Commissioner Niyi Oyemade. The appellations still opens door for me anywhere I go within the state. I still relate with a lot of my colleagues in the cabinet. Some of them who are still members of either the House of Assembly or the State Executive Council. Also, I want to correct the impression that it is only when you are in government that you are powerful and influential. Some of us have made our names even before we were given political appointments. Whether in or out of government, I have always been myself.
I thank God for where I am today. I am happy, comfortable and spiritually better than I was some years back. I am living a fulfilled life.
How would you describe life as a private businessman and as a public office holder?
There is a very thin line between the two because they are goal driven. Either as a businessman or a public office holder, you have to set goals. Your ability to achieve your set goals whether as a public office holder or as a businessman is what stands you out.
The landmark achievements you are able to make while there is what people want to know. These achievements can only be attained with the assistance of your team. So, if you are team player, whether in public or private sector, your goals won’t be very difficult for you to attain. In any sector, whether public or private, if you don’t have team work, you cannot succeed.
If you ask me, civil servants are more productive than those in private sector. This is because they have job security. Those in private sector don’t have that and they may not put in their best.
Sam and Sara has become a huge success in the production of uniforms in the country. How and when did it start?
Let me clear one issue here. Sam and Sara belongs to my wife, Mrs. Folake Oyemade. She is the MD/CEO of Sam and Sara. I am into mining, King Solomon Mine. If you see me in Sam and Sara, I am there in my capacity as the husband and special adviser to the MD/CEO. Sometimes, I chip in one or two advice and ideas that one has garnered either as a businessman or as a former public office holder.
King Solomon Mine is where I hold the gun. What we do there is mining gold in Ilesha, Osun State. That is why often I travel to Ilesha.
There is also Omoluabi Garment in Osogbo, Osun State. We gathered it belongs to Sam and Sara too.
Omoluabi is in partnership with Osun State Government. It is not fully owned by Sam and Sara. Osun State has some percentages.
As you said, Sam and Sara and Omoluabi Garment, have become a huge success because they are using the most modern hi-tech equipment in the production of garments, which affords them the opportunity of mass production. They are not only into uniforms, they are into garments generally. They also produce boots, berets, belts and so many other garment accessories.
People have also alleged that I am the Sam and my wife is the Sara in Sam and Sara. That is not correct.
What we heard is that they are the Christian names of your two children. How far is that true?
That is private. I will not go into that.
Tell us more about your company, King Solomon Mines.
We are licensed by the federal government to mine in Ilesha. We are working in partnership with two foreign companies, one from Canada and the other from Australia. The two companies are providing us the needed expertise and equipment for mining of gold.
When did you start this company?
It started about three years ago.
Are you saying you are not a director in Sam and Sara?
I don’t want to dabble too much into Sam and Sara affairs. They have their own organogram.
Are you not the chairman?
As I said, I am just special adviser to the MD (my wife).
But there is this rumour that your influence as a politician got Sam and Sara the Omoluabi company in Osogbo?
That is one of my responsibilities as special adviser to the MD/CEO of Sam and Sara. For your information, Sam and Sara, is not only in Osun State, it is also in Rivers, Kwara and one or two other states.
Certainly, all these are through your connections and influence as a politician?
I have not said so. All I said is that I am just special adviser to the MD/CEO. For your information also, it is not only state governments they are working with. The company is also working for many blue chips companies, private schools and police authority. Very soon, they will be working with Nigeria Immigration Service and Command Secondary Schools.
The company has edge over others because of its ultra modern equipment which can produce 100,000 units of uniform within a short period. Because of this the company delivers promptly to its clients at cheaper prices than its competitors.
Already, it has been branded. It has its own label now. We should thank God for the company. The company has been on now for over 10 years. It started here (GRA, Ikeja), before it moved to Mowe (Ogun State), Osogbo (Osun State) and Port Harcourt (Rivers State).
It’s expanding because they have stated exporting their products. The company is the first to get AGOA plaque.
What is AGOA?
The agency that approves the quantity of goods that you can export abroad without paying tax. It is based in America. The company has international clientele too. They export doctor’s wears to Houston in United States of America too.
Certainly, the economic situations in the country must have taken its toll on the company too. How is it coping?
I don’t know why many Nigerian manufacturers are keeping quiet. The situation is getting out of hand. You cannot do any planning with the way things are in this country today. Just within one week alone, there was 30 per cent increase in exchange rate of the naira to the dollar. In which economy will business survive with this kind of situation.
The factory in Mowe is on three diesel generators from 8 a.m to 5 p.m, alternating among the three. For how long do you think companies can run on such power generation? If companies don’t shut down after sometime, they will move away and the first casualties will be the workers.
For instance, Sam and Sara has 500 workers in Mowe alone. Osogbo has about 3,000 workers who are on three shifts. Can you imagine what would happen if the company could no longer cope with the present economic situation?
I am not speaking as a politician now, I am speaking as a businessman and a patriotic Nigerian. The economic situation we are in now doesn’t know whether you are APC, PDP or any other. It is the same economy that we are all operating. We are all spending the same currency. Whatever happens to the economy we are all going to bear the brunt, if we don’t nib it in the bud.
How do we nib it in the bud?
Change! If someone did not make a significant difference in our economy for six years what impact do you think such a person will make in four years? Let us give another person the opportunity to do it. Whether the person can do it or not in four years we will know. Nobody has monopoly of knowledge. As I said, I am not talking as a politician now but as a businessman who is a stakeholder in the economy. There was a time we were buying the dollar at N119, now it is N225 and pounds is at N340! So, this is the reality of our economic situation now, no amount of lies and propaganda can cover it up.
There is no issue of party partisanship in this. We are in a mess. It is either we swim out of it or sink in with it.