It is not often that you meet public office holders who stay humble and down-to-earth despite their status and powerful influence. But Honourable Nurudeen Saka-Solaja is an exception. You could tell, after spending only a few minutes with him, that he’s a man who has not allowed his position as an honourable member of the Lagos State House of Assembly get the better of him. He is still the warm and accessible man he used to be long before he became a Lawmaker. This explains why he is hugely loved by his people in Ikorodu constituency II whom he represents. For Hon. Solaja, he had been a great pillar of support to his people, spending his money to help cushion their burden in his own little way even before the thought to go into politics crossed his mind.
He is a Chartered Accountant by profession, something he feels very proud of. He was an Internal Auditor for a while before he became Council Treasurer, the man who was responsible for Financial Control and Fund Management of the Council, a position which drew him out and endeared the people to him. Without a doubt, he is a man of the people, a man who represents hope, development, and empowerment to his people. Little wonder why his people in Ikorodu literally came together and pressured him into contesting for a seat at the Lagos State House of Assembly. And they didn’t disappoint him. They voted massively for him and ensured he got the mandate to represent them. Three years after, he has not disappointed them too. Within his first term alone, he has done things many third termers have not done for their constituencies.
Now, following the success of his Bibire Mega Empowerment Program held weeks ago (people are still talking about it) where he gave out dozens of hairdressing machines, sewing machines, vulcanizing machines, barbing equipment, 15 crates of soft drinks per head for 75 people, dozens of generators, cash gifts and many other items, his people, led by party leaders and prominent Obas in the community, have unanimously endorsed him again for second term. City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL, was able to get the extremely busy Lawmaker to sit down for a chat and open up on his journey into politics and how he has earned the love and loyalty of his people in just three years.
You seem to have a fantastic relationship with your people, sir, what are the things you have been doing for them in terms of projects and empowerment programs?
Well, we have been doing our best. Apart from our annual empowerment programs and borehole projects, every year, we procure hundreds of GCE and JAMB forms for our indigent students. We don’t stop there. We give the best three students the latest laptop, and that is also on a yearly basis. We also train about ninety-seven students in Computer training and we follow them up to ensure that at least 80% of them gain employment. Some of them end up as young entrepreneurs by setting up their own businesses on a small scale but with lots of prospects. Some others go on to become Computer Analysts and make very flourishing careers out of it. And also, at every festive period, whether its Christian or Muslim celebration, I make available lots of chickens, lots of rams that can go round so that everyone can be happy and feel that no matter how tough things may be, people in government still care about them.
And how about the elderly ones, what sort of plans do you have for them?
We do cater for them as well. The thing is we strive to always come up with programs that are all inclusive. We do not leave anyone out because both the young and the elderly voted for me so everyone must be considered when it comes to giving back to them the dividends of democracy. The widows, particularly, are always of importance to us. On a yearly basis too, we empower them by giving them cash money, something they can start petty businesses with and sustain themselves and their family. At the last empowerment we did, we had 200 widows included and every single one of them was given financial support, something they can use to start selling petty stuffs and take care of themselves and the minimum amount we give them is N10,000. Some receive a lot more than that.
And how about the youths in your constituent, how do you help them particularly in the area of gainful employment?
For the youths, we facilitate a lot of employment for them. We work closely with the Teaching Service Commission. A lot of them get employment through the Teaching Service. We also secure employment for our youths with the LASTMA, the Neighbourhood Security Corp, the Fire Service, Civil Service Commission, and also very recently, we got some of them into the Local government service commission. Normally, like every other Legislator, I get my slots and whatever is given to me, I spread across my three LCDAs with equity and fairness.
What other empowerment programs do you have left for your people this year?
We still have quite a few of them left because they are yearly programs and we must do them, regardless of the fact that we just had a mega empowerment program last week. For instance, this year, we are still going to give out free GCE and JAMB forms to our indigent students whose parents may not be able to easily afford to get them their own forms and we are talking about hundreds of them. So, we’re still going to cater for them this year. Another one is the Computer Training program which gives the youths the opportunity to become computer literate. It’s still coming up later in the year. The bore hole program too is yet to hold this year. That’s also a yearly program as well. I usually spread it evenly across the various communities under my constituency.
This is really amazing stuff, sir, so what has been the reaction of your constituent to some of these great things that you’ve been doing?
I must say they appreciate what we’re doing. Wish you were there last week to hear the testimonials of some of the beneficiaries. Many of them had already learnt vocational jobs like hairdressing, vulcanizing and the sort for over seven years but didn’t have the funds to set up the business and stand on their own. But now, they were getting those machines and equipments they needed for their business free of charge. Many of them couldn’t believe it and they’re thanking the government for showing them love and giving them support. Same with the leaders, the Obas, everybody, they are very appreciative of what we have been doing. Many of them are impressed with the fact that I do hold meetings with them regularly. All the party members, on a monthly basis, we must have a meeting. Quarterly, I give them what we call stewardship account and let them know what is going on and the progress we are making as regards some of their yet-to-be- delivered requests.
As the Legislator representing your constituency, what would you say is the biggest challenge you have had to deal with in terms of meeting the expectations of your people?
Well, the fact of the matter is that my constituency is a typical rural area, and as would be expected, there is a whole lot that still needs to be done there. Thank God, we have made tremendous progress in the last couple of years. But my people are like any other group of people. They are Oliver Twist, they are always asking for more even as they’re still saying thank you for the one you’ve given them. And we will continue to do our best for them because that is why they put us here, to do everything within our power for them, and to the best of my ability, I have been doing just that. We know they truly need these things, that’s why I am also working hard in my own little way to contribute the little I can to see how I can reduce some of those needs no matter how large they are.
This is why we went through painstaking screening at this last mega empowerment program to ensure that only those who actually need the empowerment packages benefitted from it. Some of them have learned the job but just couldn’t set up their own because they lack the finance to do so, some are even still learning but had no idea where they would get the funds to stand on their own when they are through with learning. Some don’t even have anything they’re presently doing. For some of the people in that group, we gave them soft drinks, about fifteen crates per head, including coolers and freezers. The Coca-cola bottling company also assisted us by giving them chillers although subject to certain verifications. For example, they would find out first if you’re going to begin immediate selling of the drinks given to you.
Once they find that you’re serious about starting a business with fifteen crates given to you, then, you’re qualified to get a chiller. The same thing applies to the cartons of Indomie given out to people. Indomie also came, they advertised their products and displayed all their various products. We gave out Indomie of five cartons per head to the people. Same with the sewing machines, we ensured that only those who need it benefitted from them. Like I said earlier, we also gave out hairdressing machines, pepper grinding machines, barbing tools, generators, farm tools and about 35 fishing nets for the fisher men. You know we have a lot of riverine areas in my community.
The Mega Empowerment Program you had recently must’ve gulped quite a lot of money, how were you able to raise the funds to execute it? Did you get financial support from some corporate organizations?
I didn’t get any financial support from anywhere because I didn’t ask for such support. I funded everything myself, from beginning to the end. It’s a self funded program. Yes, it’s a very cost intensive program considering the volume of items we gave away, but the truth is nothing is too much for my constituent, they are wonderful people.
Recall for us the sort of support that you got from the people when you were contesting for this office a few years back?
Total support. I got total support from them. Remember I’m a typical Accountant, a Council Treasurer for that matter, so I was always in the midst of the people. Those are the people who said they want Solaja. They said I should go and resign. You can quote me. I wasn’t actually planning to contest but my people came to me in my office, at home, everywhere, that they wanted me to contest. They insisted that I must resign. And I took it upon myself as a serious challenge and I knew I needed to reciprocate. When people in your community, both old and young, all come knocking on your door asking you to go and represent them at the Lagos state House of Assembly, you can’t turn them down. They must’ve seen something in me that made them choose in me.
Didn’t they see other competent and capable people before they came to me? I had to accept their challenge and that is why I don’t want to let them down. I need to reciprocate. That is why I am doing all these things that I’m doing for them. They have shown me clearly that they love me and that’s why they voted for me. At the time of the elections, the PDP spent a lot of money, more than I spent, but I still defeated their candidate with almost 7,000 votes. That alone is a reminder for me that I must never forget to reciprocate their love and that I must never let them down. Whatever I spend on them can never be enough and I can never regret spending any amount of money for my people’s benefit.
We hear that at the program last week, there was a unanimous decision taken by your constituent to endorse you for second term…
Yes, that is correct. I was surprised too last week at the program. In fact, the most prominent leader, Ashiwaju Reuben Olorunfunmi Bashorun was the one that moved the motion and he was promptly supported by one of the sole administrators and all the Obas and leaders, including the beneficiaries all rose up to support and confirm the endorsement.
Finally, sir, let’s have your take on the leadership style of the Rt. Honourable Mudashiru Obasa
I think it is obvious and it’s there for all to see. The man is a fantastic leader. Sometimes I am at a loss for the right words to describe his style and qualities. He accommodates everyone, he points out your errors to you when you make mistakes and gives everybody a level playing ground. His sense of fairness is simply remarkable. He brings his experience to bear in everything he does and you can see things yourself. The man commands the respect of everybody in the House. He is really a great man.