There is a general belief that most commissioners for finance are rich and they are the most powerful after the Governor, can we say that about you?
The thing is this. the Yorubas will say we don’t count children for the mother, I guess you are asking if I consider myself rich, I will say I thank God for contentment, I’m happy where I am and I believe God has been gracious and I appreciate Him. I have a pedigree and a track record that is verifiable, empirical in terms of what have you achieved in lifeHow have you achieved it? Did you achieve it through structured means and clean ways?
I believe if you’ve been a disciplined person and you have worked hard, as to the Nigeria culture where people associate it that when you are in public service you are going to be stupendously rich because you can dip your hands into government money. I don’t fall into that category, I don’t have that wealth. I accrue from lutocracy, that has been empirically proven in the little time I have spent in this office,
People will say a lot of things about me but one of the things they can’t say is that the guy has been stealing or corrupt. To that extent am happy where I am, am contented and I believe that if you can work with your hands, you will make it. The way I was brough up, my background especially in consulting is that if you apply yourself you will get benefits from where you apply yourself. If you apply yourself intellectually, emotionally, physically, spiritually you should get a reward for it, that’s my attitude to work.
Is it true you were actually introduced by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to Governor Ajimobi?
I’ve never met Asiwaju Bola Tinubu one-on-one in my entire life, I’m sure if he sees me he doesn’t know me. I’ve seen him at a distance when he came to Ibadan to commission the bridge and when he came for some political meetings but I’ve never exchanged a word with him, I guess there is a misconception somewhere. I have tremendous respect for him because of what he has achieved and what he represents. But I have never had the opportunity and the privilege to meet him, but I look forward to that.
You were once the Deputy Chief of Staff before you were appointed the Commissioner for Finance. What were those qualities you think the Governor saw in you?
It is difficult to answer that question because you are at a risk of being thought of as blowing your trumpet and also not to delve into the governor’s mindset as to what informed the decision. I will just quote from what the governor said in public that, “perhaps this gentleman if you give him an assignment you can be sure that he will apply himself to it and get it done, no matter the difficulty.” I can only have guesses but I wont be accurate, the governor is the one marking the scripts and I think he is in the best position to explain why he put me in a position of responsibility.
Your office witnessed some tremendous changes which had not been seen in the past, what are the things you are doing differently from your predecessors?
I will not talk about my predecessors, I will take it in the context of my little time in the office. The most important thing I will say is when you apply yourself completely to the assignment given me as a Commissioner for Finance, meaning I eat, drink, sleep this job, I take it personal.
When something lands on my table I apply myself to it, to make sure that we give it the best shot as we can in Oyo state and you know of course when you talk of SKE which in management means Skills, Knowledge and Experience we apply that as well. I have always been in the world of finance and accounting, so the skills and knowledge I have had in the past I brought in wholesale to my job, even in the way I do my memos, the way I initiate my project, the way we implement the project, the way we monitor, the way we deplore…these things are from the background I have over several years in public sector, private sector, several sectors.
I will tell you something at the risk of blowing one’s trumpet. I will tell you a particular story, when I was in Birmingham city council, I was in charge of their payment and all the single pennies they used to receive. About two weeks into the job I found out that what they advertised when I was taking the job was much more than what I met on ground, so I said this is not what we bargained for, we need to sit down and re-negotiate, you cant be paying me from driving a beetle and giving me the job of driving a trailer and they said they were not paying.
I told them no problem then, they should give me someone to handover to, in two hours the whole place went crazy. They eventually paid me more than I asked for. Later I found out that six people had left that role. We are talking of Birmingham Council which is the biggest Council in Europe and you are proposing a solution that will cover every single penny you receive, its only somebody who is on fire that can do that job. What am saying in essence is that I apply myself to what I do and get the reward in return. I am used to a culture that when you apply yourself the benefits come..
Who is Bimbo Adekambi, people see you as an ajebutter?
Bimbo Adekambi is a passionate Nigerian, my root is from Ibadan and I am proud of it. I grew up here so when they say ‘ajebutter’ I don’t know what it is that makes them think so. The so called locals see themselves that they can’t do better than I…is it in appreciation of culture, the language, respect for the people? I’m a passionate Nigerian, a son of Oyo state in Ibadan, a respecter of family, respecter of culture somebody who believes in structure.
That is the way I was brought up. Barrack Obama said it too, “if you build structures it makes it easier for you, you don’t have to remember many things because the structure is there for you.” Bimbo Adekambi is somebody who loves structure, who loves people. I am very passionate about people especially people that are under-privileged. the only thing that makes me different is that most of the time I like people to stand up for themselves, you have to give contribution then we can work together.
Why I believe in generosity , I have a large heart and I empathise a lot because I like people coming with targeted purpose, this is what I want you to assist me with, it makes it easy for me. I am upfront, I’m very responsible and I’m somebody who will not run away when things fail. I am forward looking, I look at the possibility of constantly making things better. The standard I use for myself are even more punishing than the standards that bosses or anyone can use for me. That is who I am in a nutshell.
You once lived and worked in the Uk for some time, what prompted the decision to come back home?
I think Governor Ajimobi was the major determinant of my coming back home. When I made acquaintance with Govenor AJIMOBI was shortly after the 2007 election where he was robbed, I met him and we sat down together, then I was working in a consulting firm. I asked him then, I said, “sir, why is somebody like you in politics?” I felt he doesn’t fit the stereotype , I was personally attracted to his person, his charisma, his brain. So when he ran for the election again he sent for me.
Anytime he was around in London he would call me and say what are you doing? I would tell him I’m working and also chasing some qualification, he would be like you are always constantly chasing qualifications. So when he won the election he sent for me and said you are the kind of person I want around me, come and contribute. For me it was initially very tough because I was with Accenture then, it was an ambitious project which I really liked. I didn’t communicate initially, eventually the governor said you have a lot to offer, you need to be here and one day I was at Accenture on friday and on monday I was in ibadan, at the secretariat. That was my transition then, I later thought I believe in this man, I believe in everything he represents and that was all.
Can you let us into your background?
I am not an ajebutter, I grew up in Ibadan. my father is late now. He was Revd. Adekambi, he is a son of the soil, I don’t know if you have heard about Omo Ajorosun, he was a founding member, so I don’t know how much ajebutter you can get. My mum is one of the biggest people that used to sell stuffs in Bodija market, her shop is still there. When we were younger we used to go there to help out, I don’t know how much an ajebutter you can get in Iso Elelubo in Bodija Market, even all the mamalojas, they know me very well. All the prominent, established Ibadan people know my father.
I grew up here, we were at Apata, later we went to Iwo-Road and we later moved to Bodija and that is where my parent’s house is presently.
I went to Federal Government College Okigbo, Imo State. I attended Oritamefa Baptist School, later OAU. I had all my qualifications around Accounting. I worked for years in Lagos, I worked in three banks; I was with Global Bank, then MBC Bank and then Liberty Bank. It was from Lliberty Bank that I travelled out. I’m very strong in theme with my culture and traditional local bases , I’m very integral, people have been here from my local government today, we speak the same language. I think people just call me an ‘ajebutter’ maybe it suits the way they want it and that works for me anyway. I like being underestimated, it gives you an advantage ..I don’t mind.
When can you call your best day as a commissioner?
I think that should be the day that we signed off the last arrears to make it clear that we had won the battle against what seemed like something that will not go away.
What about challenges?
They are numerous, every MDAs believe their need is the most urgent , the challenges are trying to satisfy in a period where the resources are very limited, it becomes more difficult.
You hardly socialize, is it deliberate?
I’m a very social person. I make friends easily and love hanging out with people but most of the time if you really apply yourself it looks as if the 24 hours are not enough to make a day. But many of the time when I have to I meet up my social commitment to family events, you can find me hanging out. I don’t know whether I meet up to the standard expected but I think I will blame it all on the work that takes all my time. I do physical fitness, I like to run, I like to jog, I love gists, I enjoy the company of family. I like to read, I cook but I don’t have time for that again, I like to drive myself on long distances.