Honourable Bode Olayemi is currently the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources in Kwara State. Born in October 1969 to the family of Otunba Olayemi from Igbaja, Ifelodun Local Government area in Kwara State, Bode graduated in 1991 with a degree in Linguistics at the University of Ilorin. Since then, he has worked at different capacities, including PMI, a Primary Mortgage Institution. He has also done quite a number of private businesses in Ibadan and Lagos, such as transportation, importation of Telecommunication equipment and supplied materials to Nigerian Breweries Plc.
In 2002, the successful entrepreneur returned to Kwara State to take part in the process of politics, and fortunately for him, the party he joined, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won the guber election that pronounced Dr. Bukola Saraki as the Governor. The Igbaja born politician didn’t get any appointment until November 2007 when he was appointed as the Governor’s Laison Officer to the Local government in Ekiti where he spent two years, and later posted to Ilorin west local government.
He said, “A little bit later, I was appointed the Social Assistant to the Governor on Transportation, I spent six months in office before I was appointed the Commissioner for Works and Transportation in Kwara state. I spent about five months there till the end of Dr Bukola Saraki’s government. At the inception of the government of Alhaji Abdul-Fatai Ahmed, I was appointed the Commissioner for Housing and Urban Development. And in July, last year I was posted here as the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources.”
In this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly’s RASHEED ABUBAKAR held on Friday, October 18, 2013 at his office in Ilorin, Bode Olayemi spoke on Nigerian politics and Kwara’s plans to be haven of agriculture in Africa and world map…
It will interest you to know that, right from the time I was in primary school at Bishop Smith Primary School here in Ilorin, I trained myself in the public service. I had always had the interest in the public service and as I was growing up, that interest never diminished. Although, as a young man, getting out of school, you will want to make some money and all that, but all the while, I was doing business, working as a banker, with the Primary Mortgage Institution (PMI), I did not feel fulfilled; I still feel that where I needed to be was the public service. I always feel a strong compulsion that we can make a difference. We can improve the way things are done. We believe that Nigeria is a country that has lot of potentials and we keep saying potentials and potentials everyday and we don’t see these potentials develop in such a way that individuals, indigenes, and the citizens of this country can benefit fully from these potentials. That is why I said that personally, I need to come in and contribute my little quota to this.
But, most people believe politics in Nigeria is a dirty game. Didn’t you see it in that light?
The problem we have is that in the first instance, we look at things from a narrow perspective. If you say that politics in Nigeria is dirty, you are actually saying that the people in politics play dirty, but you need to ask a question, the people who play politics in Nigeria, where do they come from? Do they just come from Jupiter? Do they come from another planet and just come here and start behaving the way they behave? You see, to solve the problem, we have to realize that as a people, we have a problem.
Basically, look at the Nigerian environment, I tell you today, the family have failed, the churches have failed, the mosques have failed because these are the institutions that are suppose to make, mould our character, they are suppose to control the excesses of society but what are they doing. If you go to the police today, the people complain that the police are bad, if you go to the custom, they will say they are bad, but these people are not just human beings who fell from heaven, they are your brothers, my brothers, your cousins, my sisters, so what happened to them? You cannot treat politicians in isolation because politicians are product of this society. What is wrong with society? That is the problem we need to address.
Now, I will accept something that most of the responsibilities is that of the leadership, but you see, it is very difficult for a leadership that comes from a background to make any serious difference. So it has to be gradual and you remember what we are practicing today is democracy. Democracy grows with time. How long did it take the American democracy to develop to this level? How much did it take other countries democracy to develop? We need to develop, we need to look inward and look at ourselves properly, are we doing the right thing? Are the pastors in church preaching the right sermons? Are the Imams in the mosques preaching the right sermons? As the head of the family, are you doing the right thing to make sure that your children and people who live with you are trained the proper way, so that they can add value to this economy, add value to this environment rather than take away from it and destroy it. These are the issues we need to ask ourselves, not just saying, oh! These leaders are bad, they are doing this, they are doing that.
Are you saying the failure of religious institutions to preach the right sermons is responsible for our plight?
Yes. Except, you go to the U.S or you go to the European countries to bring people to rule this country! The kind of leaders we have now are those who we produce in our family, churches, mosques and environment, and we failed to give them proper training to make them a good leader. That tells you that there is a need for us to look inwards and do things the way they are suppose to be. Today, someone will steal money and go to the church to donate money, and the church will not only accept the offer, but glorify him.
Now that the religious institutions have failed us, what do you think can be done to solve these problems?
The problem we have is very deep. Let me give you a little example. A few days ago, in the evening, I was just driving and I wanted to turn into a road and there was this driver, a woman obviously, trying to get out of that road and drive against the traffic which was an offence and she was blocking me. I just stop and said madam, can you please, take the other way and she just started cursing me and I kept quite and I was looking at her, and at a point in time the other people came around me and said she’s a woman, just let her go. And I called them and I said to them, is what she’s doing right? And they said, it is not right and I said they should tell her to do the right thing, it is as simple as that, I don’t have any argument with her. So, I stood there and I insisted and she went and light that turn there.
That simple instance tells you that to a very large extent that there is a problem with our sense of what is wrong and right. We need to learn to start following rules. The rules and laws are there for corruption; we should try and enforce all these things. Even before we look at the laws, we should learn to do the right thing, even at the little level. You have a society where people have no regard for achievement, no regard for age, they have no regard for anything, the only thing they have regard for is money. We have to re-order our priorities as a people.
Let’s talk about life in government. What is your comparison of the last administration to the present?
If you are talking about comparison of the last government to this government, I will tell you that in Kwara State, we have the privilege of continuity. This new government automatically flows out of the last government. If you look at his Excellency today, he was one of the people who are in the last government, and it was a government that has a plan which we are carrying out now. As a matter of fact, we are acting on the same template with the last government. We already understood where things are suppose to go.
For example, in Agriculture, we understand where things are suppose to go. For example, Dr. Bukola Saraki government laid a foundation of commercial farming in Kwara State. He put Kwara State firmly on the Agricultural map of the world. That was when the Zimbabweans farmers who we call “the new Nigerian farmers” now came in, which was the foundation, we were able to achieve two things majorly from that, one is to make people see that farming at that level is possible. The second thing is that yields, average yields, for example cassava began to rise above far, far, far the national average and what is the next level logically? The next level is for this to attract investors. As I speak to you, I have papers from different investors who have seen the successes and they want to tap into it. A few weeks back, his Excellency commissioned a rice mill that was built by a private company in Sharagi. As I speak to you now, there are about 14 bulldozers on site between Malete and Saho for the construction of what will probably be the largest starch and glucose plant from cassava in Africa. And to tell you that these things were planned and were meticulously worked out, you will see that we have identified four crops in Kwara State as our major area of competence or advantage, rice, soya beans, maize and cassava.
The roles of Kwara Agricultural master plan cannot be over-emphasized, but from studies, the prices of these commodities are too exorbitant for Kwarans, which is not supposed to be so. What are you doing in this regard, to ensure that farm products are easily accessible to the good people of Kwara?
It depends on the way you are looking at it. One, when you say the prices of food in Kwara State is exorbitant, are you comparing it with prices of foods in Lagos, Port-Harcourt, Ibadan or in Abuja? You cannot say that! Farm products are cheaper here. Although, it is not as cheap as the government would want it to be, you cannot compare it to those areas. Now, why are we into agriculture? There are two major reasons: First, food security, which we are talking about now. Second, for it to serve as industrial feed stock, so that we can jump start agricultural and industrial revolution here in Kwara State.