HON. Rotimi Olowo is the third term member of Lagos House of Assembly. The former General Manager of Pando Plc, who turned 47 on Tuesday, November 24, 2015, told ENCOMIUM Weekly in this exclusive interview that the legacy he would leave behind after he might have gone is paramount to him than any pecuniary gain.
As far as he was concerned, he was not in politics to make any money because where he was coming from –oil and gas industry, he could make enough money from there.
You won your constituency seat for the third term. What would you say was responsible for this?
It has to do with the fact that I am close to the people and they have come to accept me because I empathize with them. I feel their pains. Many atimes we are together in the local restaurant, where I eat and drink with them and we throw banters at each other. There and then too, we resolve so many personal issues concerning them.
They have come to see me as a comrade. Someone they can easily relate with. That was why it was easy for me to win the seat three times. If I contest for the same seat 10 times, they are ready to vote for me again and again.
I say thank you to Somolu people and residents for having that confidence in me and for appreciating me.
Yes, I was born and bred in Somolu. I was born at No. 10, Ayodele Street, Fadeyi. I had my primary school in Somolu and went to Igbobi College for my secondary school and A’ levels at CMS Grammar School. It was after my A’ levels I went to Ondo State University, where I got my first degree. I later went to University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where I did a diploma and Masters degree in Marketing.
I also had a short course at Harvard University. Two years ago, I was at University of Lagos, where I obtained another Masters degree in Urban Planning and Transportation Planning and Management.
What was it like for you growing up in a place like Somolu?
Very interesting. I grew up with the children of my primary school headmaster, Mr. Edogan, who was my role model and guardian. There was a sort of healthy rivalry between me and the children to see who would first gain admission to higher institution. I grew up in such academic environment which got me to where I am today.
My secondary school activities also helped in molding my life. While I was in secondary school, I was very close to my church. I was the Sunday School teacher. I was the secretary to the choir. I was an interpreter for the church and I was the leader of the Bible quiz team of the church. I was very much into the activities of the church. This took me away from all the vices I probably would have been involved if I was not preoccupied with the church activities.
It was interesting growing up in Somolu. It was a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly. Despite what people might think, there are prominent Nigerians today who are products of Somolu environs. Dr. Yemi Oke, a lecturer at University of Lagos, Akoka, is an authority in electricity in Nigeria and abroad. He was born and bred in Somolu, the same year I was born.
Mr. Tunde Oluwo, the Lagos State Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, was also a product of Somolu and its environs.
Major Martins, who just retired from the Nigerian Army is from Somolu. The retired Commodore Sekoni, is also from Somolu. Quite a lot of them scattered around the world were all born and bred in Somolu.
So, Somolu shouldn’t be judged by the behaviours of some few misguided elements who used the economic situation in the country to misbehave.
Is it true that Somolu is predominantly habituated by the Ijebu?
That is a fact that nobody can controvert.
Are you an Ijebu man?
I am an Ijebu man. My dad was born and bred in Ijebu. But I was born in Lagos. I am a Lagosian by birth. The proximity of Somolu to most Ijebu cities like Epe, Sagamu and Ijebu Ode made it possible for the Ijebu to preoccupy most areas of Somolu.
You will also appreciate the fact that the first set of Ijebu that came to Somolu were basically transporters. They came in droves. This, however, does not remove the fact that there are indigenes of other states who are also residents and members of the large community called Somolu. We all live together as one and we are each other’s keepers.
The former Chairman of Somolu, Hon. Bagostowe was from Lagos Island. At a time an Egba man was our Oba. Oba Akanni was an Egba man.
Your surname, Olowo is certainly a short form of Olowo something.
Yes, it is a short form of Olowolayemo. It happened when I was in primary school. I was to register as Olowolayemo Durojaiye Emmanuel. But the register could not contain all the names. So, I shortened it to Olowo Rotimi Emmanuel.
You’ve been a member of Lagos House of Assembly in the last eight years. How will you describe the experience?
As I have always said, it is a learning curve. Initially, I was almost frustrated because I thought I wasn’t dealing with the people of the same background and disposition. But with patience, I was able to overcome the initial frustration.
Over time, I have come to learn the ropes, learn to prepare bills, how motions can be raised, the ethics and privileges of members, etc. Over time, I have come to appreciate the whole thing and it’s getting more interesting.
When would you consider the best moment of your time in the Assembly?
I think my best moment was in the last election when my people impressed it on me that I would be more useful to them at the House of Assembly than the House of Representatives. During the primary election, when a sitting commissioner in Lagos State then, who, prior to the primary election we were in the same camp. I was part of his emergence (as a commissioner) came against me. He even instructed my delegates to be stoned. But our leaders and my people rallied round me to beat him to a state of stupor. He left in shame.
I left in tears of joy that people appreciated what I have been doing for them and the constituency. They went out of their way to support me to the last minute.
That was the day I came to appreciate that people would always fight for you, if they know that you fight for them.
What the former commissioner did to you during the primary election says a lot about Nigerian politics. What does it mean to you?
That Nigeria politics is not played maturely by the politicians. Politics in Nigeria should not be politics of do or die or politics of betrayal or politics of calumny.
We thank God that Nigerian electorates are coming of age, you can no longer take them for a ride. It is also a lesson that if you want to be relevant in your area, you must also be visible physically and financially.
Despite the betrayal by the former commissioner would you say you still love politics?
Yes, because despite his own betrayal, people still fought for me, they stood by me and I was vindicated. I cannot because of that abandon politics. That would be too selfish of me. Even if I don’t contest for any election again, I would still be in politics to support people of like minds.
What then would you still say you don’t like about politics?
We should encourage politics of honesty and fairness. We should jettison the overhyped godfatherism in politics. We should push forward our best candidates in any election.
Recently, you were appointed the Chairman, House Committee on Budget and Economic Planning. What would you say informed your appointment to such a juicy committee as some people are wont to say?
I don’t know what you mean by juicy committee or none juicy committee. But my take is this, we should put a round peg in a round hole. You have to put people who have the knowledge and mastery of the issue at hand in the committees they should belong.
Someone who has little or no knowledge of issue at hand cannot discuss any issue of budget and economic planning. I have a solid background in oil and gas. I was just about 35 when I was the Area Business Manager of Conoil, and I was preparing budget for the whole business area which covers Port Harcourt, Enugu, Akwa Ibom and Cross River.
I left Conoil to become the General Sales Manager of Oando Plc. Later, Divisional Manager and Branch Coordination Manager of East and West. I was drawing budget for the whole of half Nigeria. So, it’s not out of place if today I was appointed the chairman of a committee on budget and economic planning. I have acquired cognate experience in the course of my professional life and such experience would certainly bear on my performance as the chairman of the committee.
Two, I have been a member of the same committee, of finance committee and transport committee. I don’t see that committee has being juicy because as far as I am concerned it has to be for service delivery.
It is not really about money. Life is not all about money because money is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end.
What I would leave as a legacy after I have gone is my concern. I want to leave a name behind. I want people to say this man lived and died for service.
What then do you think would make some members reject the chairmanship of a particular committee?
My take is that everybody cannot get the committee that he or she actually wants. If we all have it behind our mind that we are here to serve our people, then we shouldn’t complain of any committee that you are given.
Two, being a chairman of committee is just a privilege. It does not make you the alpha and omega of that committee.
Also, if you are happy being a chairman of a particular committee, you can be happy being a member of your choice committee. You can’t be a chairman in all the committees you serve.
What should be our major concern is getting development to the people that we represent. We should not allow pecuniary and mundane issues to becloud our sense of service to the people that we represent.