Honourable Dipo Olorunrinu is not your conventional Nigerian politician. He is young and stylish. He is also very intelligent. He is the Lawmaker representing Amuwo Odofin Constituency 1. Although he is still quite young in politics, his confidence in his capabilities and the passion to serve his people satisfactorily have been his driving force, seeing him through the challenges that come with representing a massive constituency like Amuwo Odofin.
Largely known as a man of integrity, which earned him the alias, ‘Talk and Do’, this highly principled guy who believes every man should be true to their words, is the only PDP member in the Lagos State House of Assembly presently, having seen 7 of his former colleagues defect to the ruling party APC. And, from the look of things, the very confident gentleman does not in any way look like he would be moving an inch to the ruling party anytime soon. Honourable Dipo, who once worked at Greenview Properties and Investment Ltd and also had a brief stint at Seneetek Engineering and Construction, spoke to City People’s WALE LAWAL about his journey into politics and what it is like to be the only opposition member in the 40 member Lagos State House of Assembly.
Tell us a bit about your background?
I started my primary education at the Nigerian Navy, Primary and then the Nigerian Navy Secondary as well. Shortly after my secondary education, I got admission into the Lagos State University to study Public administration (Diploma) but I found I wasn’t comfortable with it so I opted to go study Economics via Direct Entry at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Osun State. After my NYSC, I went into Real Estate and had a brief stint with a Real Estate firm where I worked as a Business Executive.
I had the responsibility to source for construction jobs on behalf the company. Later, I proceeded to the U.K. for my Masters, I was there for about twenty four months. I was also at the Metropolitan Business School of Management. I came back home and started working with another Real Estate firm and it was from there I got into politics because the job I was doing brought me in direct contact with a lot of high income earners and some of them were politicians.
I always knew the country had serious problems but it became reality to me while I was working. And as youth, I am about the youngest at this Assembly, I always believed that the youths are the leaders of tomorrow, it’s about time one begins to set some level of standards and do my own bit. So that prompted me to want to give politics a shot.
Why did you choose to pitch a tent with the PDP and not APC, the ruling part?
Yes, I knew quite well the strength of APC being the ruling party, but I needed a party that was not going to tell me it was not my turn, that I should go wait for my turn. I just needed a party that typifies some level of democracy. So, I can tell you truthfully that my emergence was free and fair, right from my primaries.
That’s why today, I don’t have any god-father but God the Father, and I have the people to respond to. I picked up the form and God was faithful and I give all kudos to the people who believed in me because I promised them accessibility which I have delivered.
They would ask me then, that what do you have for us? And I would say, come, what I have for you, if I give you it might not be what you need, so all I can promise you is accessibility. That made me have a very functional constituency office where I have counseling people, trained people that can counsel people on issues.
We are not there to tell you that we can make the problem go away but we’re there to tell you that we can give you ideas that can help you at least half solve the problem because it is only God that can solve everybody’s problem. A lot of people don’t realize that money is not everything. A times, we just help them discover themselves, sometimes it could be just a token to help them enhance the skill they just discovered.
I am curious, why politics?
First and foremost, I’m a Lagosian and I’m a believer of the mega city. I’m a believer of our dream Metropolitan City. I believe Lagos is the highest commercialized state in West Africa and in fact, the whole of Africa. Lagos is our London, Lagos is our New York. And as a young man, seeing how Lagos is being developed, I wanted to be part of that development. As an educated indigene, I wanted to be a part of that dream. This is why I encourage every tribe to come to Lagos, like it’s done in provinces or states in the U.K., they were able to bring every kind of race together to make them become what they have become today.
All hands have to be on deck to make the transformation of the Lagos dream come true. I want to be part of those championing that process. So, to directly answer your question, Why politics? Politics is about leadership and you will agree with me that the way we describe politics in this part of the world is different from the way it’s described outside. Our perception of politics is wrong and I want to be a part of that process that will change that perception because it is a totally wrong perception. Change is a process and I want to be one of those championing that cause.
We the educated ones are the problems of this country. We have allowed the illiterates to take over the decision making of our daily needs. And this was one of the reasons why I went into politics. That’s why I try to pass that message everywhere I go, speaking to the literates, because that’s why we’re educated, we should be the determinant of the functionality of our system otherwise we end up leaving the decision making process that directly affects our survival in the hands of numbskulls.
I’m in government and I’m not saying even in government we don’t have numbskulls, we do but you can’t give what you don’t have. So, I’m using this opportunity to reach out to the educated ones amongst us to come on board. Why do you think a Fashola would work very well? Why do you think an Ambode would work very well? They work because of their personal image.
Fashola is a SAN, the present governor is a finance expert. They have integrity to protect. So, at the end of the day, they are able to manage the people around them and the touts and the uneducated ones amongst them are turned into educated people. This is essentially why they’ve both had an excellent system. The person I contested with at the primaries was far more experienced than I was. In fact, he just contested an election, he just finished contesting for the chairmanship, but I was able to beat him squarely with a gap of about 10 votes.
I believe it was God who made it possible but I also know that God does not work with empty heads. He sees your heart and knows your heart and can tell you mean well for the position you’re vying for. I can tell you categorically that, from the very beginning, I was confident I would win. There was just this confidence that I would win and I think one of the reasons for my confidence was that the people at that time were just ready to vote for the party.
Amuwo Odofin is a massive constituency to represent. How have you been able to cope with the huge responsibilities that come with the position you hold?
Frankly speaking, the position I hold is merely a legislative one. I do not hold an Executive position, I’m not the chairman of a local government, I do not have allocations for anybody. I have tried in my little way to make people understand that the work of a lawmaker is different from that of a local government chairman. But again, I know you can’t preach it all to everybody. As far as the people are concerned, you’re in government and so they expect you to also do what a local government chairman is capable of doing. And we do the best we can. For instance, in Amuwo Odofin, I give every religious group diesel monthly. These things are not supposed to be my responsibility. But for the past 2 years, we have done this consistently. And I have school buses that function regularly. These are things I have done not just because I wanted to live up to the expectations of the people but also stir up the executive arm. I’m talking about three school buses that run from one end of the community to the other. And during festive periods, we get a bus that runs free for about three weeks. Last one was for about a month.
Perhaps you should just quickly do a run down for us of some of the things you’ve done for your constituency so far?
Okay, apart from the school bus and diesel I just talked about, we train people. I was able to talk a computer Institute which has agreed to help us train sixteen people every quarter. We also wrote to companies to get people jobs to ensure CSR is being performed. We do not need to know you, as long as you stay in Amuwo Odofin and you have the right CV for the job available, we do whatever we can to help. We also do the usual borehole thing, but the truth is, I’m not a borehole person.
If I have my way I wouldn’t touch boreholes. It’s even wrong in the first place because you’re damaging the earth in some way and tampering with nature. We also have a Health scheme that we run. We even have a pharmacy that’s attached to the constituency office where we sell drugs at highly subsidized rates. My wife is a pharmacist and she gets these drugs directly from the manufacturers. We offer free medical services to elderly people and we also hold our annual children’s Day, we never miss it. In fact, first one we did we had over four thousand six hundred and fifty kids that we could count. Last one we had was over six thousand and we had to feed them, give them gifts and generally make them happy.
You are the last man standing and the only PDP member left in the House. What sort of pressure does this bring to you?
I’m not the last man standing for PDP, I am the ONLY man standing for PDP. And for me, it’s a straight forward thing. The majority of my people of my people sent me here to come and represent them, not to get here and start changing parties. It’s not as if the APC in my area are lacking significantly, but to God be the glory I’m highly accepted in their midst. The fact is, once you win, you go do work.
That’s how it works abroad. You’re no longer for the party, you’re for the people. You only respect the platform that gave you the privilege. So, why would I get here and start playing politics at the expense of the community? Fact is there are members of the community who are not partisan, whether you’re in APC or PDP, they voted for you, so what do you say about those ones? It’s about time our politicians change their views. Look at the way my governor is working, is it APC that is working, as far as people are concerned, it’s Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode that is working.
But there must be a bit of pressure that you get to deal with, being the only opposition member in the house…
(Cuts in) Let me explain pressure to you, pressure comes to you when you’re an inferior person, when you have inferiority complex. Some people look at me like, ‘Ah, you, you don’t have shame, everybody is somewhere, you, you’re here.’ And I ask, how? Is it not because I won election that I’m here? If those majority didn’t give me the chance, will I be here? Will you even know me? So, if you don’t know where you’re coming from, you must know where you’re going to. You need to spell it out to people that you’re not under peer pressure. And for me, that tells that you know what you’re doing. I’m not saying joining the APC is wrong, but I’m saying first and foremost, we’re here to work and serve the general masses, so I must respect the majority that gave me the platform to be here. I might not know them, but they were there to vote for me. And at least, if not anything, we should have conscience.