It is not all the time that you meet top politicians or public office holders who go about their jobs without any chips on their shoulders. Often times, these officers shield themselves from the public. They create for themselves a larger than life image that sometimes makes it difficult for people to have access to them. That is the way they want things to be. That is their own way of running a public office. But not Hon. Kolade Alabi David. This astute politician and administrator is the Executive Chairman of Bariga LCDA. As massive as this responsibility may seem, this incredibly smart and brilliant gentleman also doubles as the National President of All Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON). You need to see this man at work, his passion and energy are uncommon. Tall and good looking, Hon. Kolade Alabi is a Lawyer by training, but he has since jettisoned the Law Courts for politics and trust us when we say he has made quite a remarkable impact as a grounded administrator and accomplished politician. How has he coped with his humongous responsibilities as ALGON National President and Chairman, Bariga LCDA? Where does he find the energy to go about the discharge of his duties without looking like a man ready to slow down anytime soon?
What are a few of the things he has done within his two years as Chairman of Bariga LCDA? And what impact has he made as the National President of ALGON? These and more are some of the questions City People Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL (08037209290) asked Hon. Kolade when he granted us an interview three weeks ago. This is the first part of the exciting interview.
What propels you to work with so much energy, sir? This is my second visit to your office and I have seen the volume of human traffic that you get to deal with every single minute and yet, you still have to shuttle between Lagos and Abuja to meet to up with your responsibilities as president of ALGON, what drives you?
Well, for me, it is like a call to duty and a call to service. And if you have been called, definitely you would have no choice but to give in your best. I often crack this joke with my people, I tell them that I have a club, a club of persons that no longer have a social life. It’s not easy. I have killed my social life for the public, for humanity and I won’t get tired doing what I’m doing. That’s why when I address the public I always seek for their prayers, their support and cooperation. These are some of the things that spur me on to do what I have been called to do. The truth is that a leader has to be responsive if you’re not ready to serve the people it is better you stay away and not venture into public service. This is a call to service and we must never get tired until we achieve our desired goal.
What kind of young boy were you, sir, while growing up? Did you have the same regular childhood most young boys had or a shielded one? And what were your aspirations long before you found yourself in the political arena?
I grew up like any other young boy. But the thing is that, while I was growing up I had made up my mind that one of the things I would like to do is to give back to the community. I have gained a lot from the community and I was determined to give back to the community what I have gained.
How did you gain from the community?
You see, I always tell people that I am a product of the public school. I benefited from the free education of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Jakande by extension. I was born here in Lagos, I was educated here in Lagos and of course, things have been good for me in my community and I’ve benefited so much from the community. And when I see young people within the community, they remind of my growing up years and what I went through back then. So, I believe the best thing for me to do is to go out there and ensure that I contribute my quota for the growth of the young ones that are coming behind us. This is the only way I can make my mark and see to it that what I have benefited from the community I put same back into the community.
Tell us about school sir. Where were you born to start with, where were you raised?
I have lived all my life in Lagos, born in Lagos and raised in Lagos, schooled in Lagos. I have not lived anywhere else apart from Lagos. I have been here all my life.
Tell us about the schools you attended. People, especially those in Bariga, will love to know the primary or secondary schools their chairman attended.
(Smiles) You see, my educational journey was kind of up and down because when I started my parents said I should go to a boarding school and I went to Ogun State for a short stint and after that, I came back to Lagos. After I finished my primary education, I proceeded to Igbobi College, Yaba for my secondary education, then had another short stint at Ondo State University, Political Science and later moved back to Lagos to read Law and then finished at the Nigeria Law School.
So, each time you left Lagos you just kept returning after a short while. What was the Lagos of your childhood like back then when you were growing up because as a charming young man, I know you must’ve been a man about town who knew all the nooks and crannies of Lagos?
It is relative, you know. If you must compare, I like to compare apple with apple. If you want to compare Lagos of yesterday to Lagos of today, it has to be relative. What obtains then is different from what obtains now, in terms of the financial, security, population and infrastructural aspects, it’s different. So, it depends on which area of comparison you’re looking at. If you want to compare in terms of security, then I will say, yes, it was better then, but even at that, I can guarantee you it will get better than what it is now. And if you want to talk about infrastructure, then I will ask you that at what cost then and at what cost now? It is all so relative, you know.
Okay, sir, I get you. One of the questions I usually ask politicians is how do you get the ability to deal with different kinds of people every single day, from the ones that are rational to the irrational ones and the patient and impatient, how do learn to deal with all of them?
You know, I worked with a multinational construction company before joining politics. And as an astute administrator, human resource personnel and public relations practitioner in my field, that gave me a huge experience in terms of relating with the public. While working with the multinational company I had been dealing with people, relating with the workforce and that was where I got to understand all these things. Even though the orientation was that of the private sector, the difference between private sector orientation and that of the public is not so wide. So, what I have done is to bring that private sector experience into the public sector and bridge the gap. This has enabled me to know what to do and what not to do in office. I have a very rich background when it comes to administration because of my huge years of experience at the multinational construction company where I cut my teeth.
When you came in as the chairman, Bariga LCDA about two years ago, what were the challenges you met on ground at the time?
Yeah, when I came in, the water plate of Bariga was so high and we had infrastructural challenges and about eighty per cent of our roads were bad. We hit the ground running from our first day and we tackled some of these infrastructural decay that we met on ground. And you know, one of my promises to the people of Bariga was that we were going to give them a good delivery in terms of infrastructural development. All of the other areas too have not been left out. Like the health care sector and the environmental sector, we are working every day to ensure that we clear our drains. It is not easy, a lot of people drop refuse indiscriminately in the drains and in the median. Of course, we’ve done a lot with advocacy programs to ensure that people drop this habit of dumping their refuse indiscriminately. We are really working hard in the area of the environment which is really a difficult situation because our water plate is quite high which blocks our canals and in a short while everywhere gets flooded. These are some of the challenges that we have on our hands but we will strive to find a way to solving them no matter how difficult they may seem.
Take us through some of your modest achievements so far especially in the area of education, empowering the widows, the aged, youths and even infrastructure, what are some of the things you’ve been able to achieve?
Sincerely, we’ve done quite a lot. What I’m going to do is give you a documented brief of all that we’ve done within this short period of time. We’ve really done quite a whole lot of things. We have done nothing less than 15 roads and as I speak now we’ve opened additional six roads that will commence sometime next week. We have built schools and we’ve equipped our hospitals and brought brand new ambulances and staff buses. We’ve also just acquired four coastal buses for free transportation of our students in Bariga so that our students can move from their houses to their schools. Like I said, I will give you a comprehensive write up on all we have done so far.
You definitely will have a few things on your mind that you’ll like to do before the end of your first term, what are some of those things you think are very pressing to the people of Bariga that you’d like to put in place as quickly as possible?
Yes, like I said, we have serious challenges when it comes to roads. Just this morning, I visited Community road, its in a very deplorable condition. We shall try and see what we can do to that road. And when you use the word, pressing, all works are pressing. But, again, we have a plan to regenerate the entire Bariga but we have to start in phases. We have a regeneration plan that will attract nothing less than a hundred thousand housing units in Bariga. And that will be done with precision. It’s just like a ‘Y’. We want to start from the extreme left and also start from the extreme right and then close it at the centre. This area is the waterfront of Bariga and this place is like a diamond. Bariga is strategically located. You’ll see that what we want to do on the other side is an entertainment hub and we want to compliment that entertainment hub by providing housing units in Bariga. As we provide these housing units, we’ll also be addressing this issue of infrastructure because there are no meaningful housing units that can be done without doing the roads. Once the roads are done with precision, it means Bariga will be a better place for people to come. We want to attract more people and more housing to Bariga. It’s one of the things we promised the people we’ll deliver. When we were campaigning, I remember telling our people that we want to bridge the gap between dreams and reality. This regeneration plan, some will consider it as a dream, but I see it as a dream that will come to reality. So, we want to bridge the gap and pray this comes to fruition. I pray God gives me the enablement to deliver on this regeneration plan. If you look at the whole of Bariga now, it is looking old. We want to change the aesthetic look of Bariga so that we can attract more visitors and increase our IGR. I’m from the school of thought that believes that local governments should not rely solely on allocation from the federal, we should look inward and generate our own money so that we can be able to deliver on our infrastructural promises, healthcare and the rest.