He is a vibrant and promising politician in Ondo state. He is well-loved by his people. He is a prince of Ugbo Kingdom. That is Hon. Prince Abayomi Babatunde Akinruntan, fondly called ABA. He is the son of His Imperial Majesty, Oba Dr Fredrick Obateru Akinruntan, the Olugbo of Igbo and paramount ruler of Ugbo kingdom. Oba Akinruntan is also the Chairman Ondo State Council of Obas. He is the lawmaker representing Ilaje Constituency I at the Ondo State House of Assembly. He is also the Parliamentary Secretary, Ondo State House of Assembly and the Chairman, House Committee on OSOPADEC. He is also the Vice-Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, and member of a few other house committees.
In the last 10 years of his political journey, he had been able to carve a niche for himself in the political circle and today, he is a force to reckon with in Ondo State politics and South-west as a whole.
This Law graduate from Ogun State University (now Olabisi Onabanjo University) who also holds a Diploma in Arts and Design from the Polytechnic Ibadan, was the pioneer management officer of Obat Ultra-modern storage facility, the largest in Nigeria and third largest in Africa, a firm situated at Apapa, Lagos State.
Since 1992, Prince Akinruntan has been actively involved in the private sector, as an industrial trainee at Heinemann Educational Books Limited, Ibadan. He was actively involved in the day-to-day operations of Obat Oil and Petroleum Limited, one of the major indigenous oil companies. Nine years after his apprenticeship as a trainee, 2001 precisely, he became the Operations Manager of Obat Oil, overseeing the operations and logistics at the company’s Head Office and Service Outlets in Ibadan.
In February 2003, he rose to the post of Director of Operations of Obat Oil and Petroleum Limited. As a director and one of the shareholders of Obat Oil and Petroleum Limited, including its subsidiaries and sister companies such as Eko Oil Ltd., Theo Oil Ltd, Obat Refinery and Febson Hotels Nigeria Ltd,. he has vast experience in the Oil industry. He has participated in a number of training and professional courses both within and outside the country.
In 2009, he joined Ondo State politics. And in 2011, he aspired to contest a seat in the House of Reps, on the platform of Labour Party, but he couldn’t secure the ticket. In 2015, he contested and won a seat in Ondo state House of Assembly. He was re-elected in 2019 on the platform of APC. He is the founder and Chairman, Board of Trustees of Abayomi Babatunde Akinruntan Foundation and the Chairman, Ondo State Board of Gymnastics Association 2019.
A few days back, City People’s ADEOLA SHITTU spoke to Prince Abayomi Akinruntan, during which he opened up on his life and political journey.
You are a successful businessman and son of a prominent traditional ruler, what inspired you to go into politics?
It all started about 10 years ago, precisely 2009, during my father’s coronation and to God be the glory, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Fredrick Obateru Akinruntan, the Olugbo of Ugbo, will be celebrating his 10th anniversary on throne come 10th November 2019.
It was during that period that I had the opportunity to really interact with my people and I developed the passion to contribute my quota to the development of my state, my local government area and my constituency which became a driving desire, while I was still very active in the business activities of Obat petroleum, The interaction I had with people that day changed everything and I felt I could do something through youth development and empowerment. Though before that time, I had a foundation that caters for the needs of the people.
But I have this belief that there is more to be done and achieved through collective efforts and the support of the government and this could be made possible either by appointment or elective position so that one would be able to influence projects or development. So, all these coupled with my passion informed my decision to do politics and as it is, I will say I’m on sabbatical leave from the corporate world to see how I could make an impact on my community, so here I am.
10 years down the line, what is the experience like? Do you have any regret?
Politics is another institution on its own and it’s the path to attain one’s wishes. Well, I will say I started active politics in 2011 and that was when I wanted to contest for a seat in the House of Reps on the platform of Labour Party during the administration of Ex-governor of Ondo state, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, but the issue of party supremacy denied me the ticket and it was given to another person and they pleaded with me to wait for another opportunity and I was appointed the pioneer Director of Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), the position I served in for one year. Again, I had another opportunity when the then lawmaker passed on 2 ½ years after he was elected, and my constituents presented me to the party leaders, but party supremacy again played against me and it was given to another person from another constituency, so I had no choice than to wait. So, in 2015 the opportunity came, but not a House of Reps seat, but I had the opportunity to serve and represent my people at the state House of Assembly and I felt fine, it would enable me to be closer to my people because my constituency is just 3 hours drive from Akure. So, in one minute I’m in Ilaje, the next second, I’m in Akure and I felt it would bring me closer to my people than if I’m in Abuja and if Abuja opportunity comes again I’m going to go. So, I have no regret joining politics, rather it has taught me the rules of the game and the passion to serve and empower my people
Would you say being the son of Oba Fredrick Akinruntan, the Olugbo of Ugbo kingdom, has helped you politically?
I will say Yes, though in the last couple of years I have been able to give myself a brand. The belief is that Aba is born with a silver spoon and I can get everything on a platter of gold, that I can ride on, but the truth is that my father never supported my sojourn into politics at the initial stage because he believed I was doing fine in the corporate world because I was actively involved in his business and he did not want me to go. As at then, I had risen to the position of director of operations at Obat Oil and, I was also managing fleets of his businesses. It was a business I grew up with and I started from a filling station and it later became a depot, so I knew more about it and my dad was reluctant to let me go, but I was determined. I could remember a day I was to travel to Ilaje for one or two campaign rallies and he said; if I was seen within the premises (palace) I would be arrested, but to God be the glory today, he is really proud of me that I’m actively involved in politics. One thing about my father is that he wants you to get things done on your own and when it gets to a stage, he then comes in and gives you a little push and it’s that little push that matters in politics. We all know that as a royal father, he has a role to play even if I’m not his son. He still has an influence on his people than most politicians, so I have his support on that. But, at the early stage of me struggling to get the party’s ticket, I was on my own because he believed if I did not get the ticket, I will go back to the family business, but to God be the glory, here I am today.
How were you able to convince him?
The fact remains that I was determined and he saw the determination in me. In my case, I was determined to craft an identity for myself aside being a son of Obat. I needed to have a brand, my father started like this too and today, Obat has become a household name. So, I feel I needed my own identity. For instance, when I first came into politics, I was always referred to as the son of Oba Olugbo omo Kabiyesi Olugbo), but today when they see Kabiyesi, they refer to him as MHA’s father ( Baba MHA ni yen o) and when I moved around, people address me as ABA. So, now I have an identity for myself and, of course, the family business is there. I believe some of us should move out and do something different from the usual, just like he did. He had been a successful businessman for years and he decided to carve a niche for himself in the traditional institution. Though it was not easy convincing him, I thank God for giving me the grace to succeed and where I am today in politics and business.
2015 till date, what are your contributions to the development of your constituency?
Hmmm! I believe my constituents should be in a position to answer that question, but above all, as you all know the work of a legislator is to make law, oversight function and give quality representation. In these three areas, I will say I have done my best at the House of Assembly in the last 4 years. Aside from that, I have facilitated various projects to my constituency. My first 4 years at the Assembly that is between 2015 to 2019 I attracted various projects to my constituency, They include road and water projects. I also did a lot of empowerment for the youth while the women were not left out through the assistance of various ministries. MDGs were crucial, most especially OSOPADEC, it is saddled with the responsibility to ensure that comfort is brought to the people in the riverine area. I will use this medium to appreciate my people and all royal fathers in my constituency, including my father for the peace and unity among people in the last 4 years. Those who know my constituency will understand better. My constituency youth now encourage projects, unlike other areas where their youth keep demanding before a project could be done, and I believe there is room for improvement.
How do you feel winning your re-election to the state House of Assembly for the 2nd term?
Well, one thing that I believe is that God has destined it that I will come back to the state House of Assembly because initially, my thought was that after my four years at the state House of Assembly, I would opt for the National Assembly, but God said I still had an unfinished project in the state. And don’t also forget that our responsibility is to support the government of the day, despite coming from various political parties, but, of course, when it comes to things like this, we put our people into consideration. We have a common goal and when there was a change in government after 8 years of Gov. Mimiko, the APC government took over and some of us decided to move to ensure that we support the government of the day. Aside that, Mr Governor and His Imperial Majesty are very close and I see Gov. Akeredolu as my father and I support him to succeed, so we support his government. We were 19 PDP lawmakers who moved to APC, but only 8 of us were re-elected to the House, while others couldn’t return. So, I just give God all the glory because it is not my making or my power, even those who many believe will return to the Assembly didn’t. I will say winning my re-election was just God, I was favoured by Him.
How do you cope with the challenges of politicking?
My belief is that in any position we find ourselves, we should know that there is a price to pay. So, as a politician, the price we pay is to listen to people, represent them and always answer to their demands because we can’t ignore them, rather we attend to their needs one after the other. They are our priority, but basically, my priority, include education, empowerment and health and I give them an utmost priority. Again, don’t forget that even if I’m not into politics, as the son of imperial majesty I’m saddled with the responsibility to cater for and empower my people, so in a nutshell, I will say the challenge is part of politics and politics is part of challenge. I’m happy serving my people.
How will you describe the leadership of the Assembly?
In the 8th assembly, I was not part of the leadership of the House, but fortunately for me in the 9th Assembly, I’m the parliamentary secretary of the house. The position is just like being a secretary to the state governor (SSG). To the best of my knowledge, I will say the leadership of the house has been working hand-in-hand to develop the state. Don’t forget that the 26 lawmakers in the House represent the 18 local government that make up the state. We have our differences, but notwithstanding, we put our constituency first. We also have a speaker, who has a listening ear. So far so good, I will say the leadership of the House is doing fine, though we were inaugurated in June this year and I will say we have made moves and made impact, though we have just started, committees have just been set up and I will say we are working as a team as we discuss and share ideas.
Now that you are into politics, how do you manage your business?
Well, as the law implies, the moment you step into politics or elective position, you must not have any distraction, you need to quit business activities. Though, before now, I have had capable hands and irrespective of the fact that I don’t even have time to oversee them, I still get feedback on the running of the business, but I’m not actively involved in it, but I’m impressed with the report I get.
How do you relax?
Politicians relax at any available time we have, but mostly I feel more relaxed when I’m home or when I’m back in Ilaje. I feel more relaxed there than here.