He is an enigma. If you call him a walking miracle, you’re not far from the truth. Not too many in his shoes would’ve survived the vicious attack he survived. The intention of his assailants was to exterminate him. But not only did Hon. Tajudeen Ajide, the tall, brilliant and dashing looking Executive Chairman of Surulere local government survive the politically motivated attack on his life, he is also presently making great strides, executing numerous projects of massive proportions in Surulere despite that he is yet to make full recovery from the attack which saw him undergo a couple of surgeries to his head to save his life. Today, he has become widely regarded as the Most Outstanding Council Chairman in Lagos state, that’s how big an impact this gentleman has made within his community and in Lagos political circle as a whole. Yet, Hon. Tajudeen Ajide is taking it all in his strides. He says credit for both his miraculous recovery and incredible accomplishments as Surulere local government chairman should go to God. Every single opportunity he gets, he gives the Lord Almighty the glory and the credit for his modest achievements and remarkable recovery. But still, the truth must be said that this vibrant and athletic man who was once played football at professional level is a fighter, one of the strongest and positive minded personalities you will possibly ever come across.
Ask those who know him closely and they will tell you Hon. Tajudeen Ajide does not take no for an answer. He firmly believes there must be a solution to every problem. And he’s an incredible workaholic as well. Every single day, even on Sundays, he is physically visiting various sites, monitoring projects and accessing progress made by contractors. Obviously, this explains why the quality of roads he has done in Surulere has been top notch. This reporter took a tour of some of the projects, completed and ongoing, with him and was impressed with what he saw. The roads, mostly done with interlockings, were a beauty to behold, while the nearly completed gigantic Ultra modern hospital in Akerele, when completed, will become the pride of not just Hon. Ajide and the people of Surulere but also of Lagos APC.
Naturally, by nature, he loves mixing and relating with people and helping them solve one personal need or another. And this is also one of the reasons why the people of Surulere don’t joke with him. They appreciate his generosity and humility. This is why they are all geared up, waiting for the next council elections to come so they can pay him back for his good deeds and magnificent work done in Surulere by voting massively for his re-election for second term. City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL (08037209290) spent quality time with Hon. Tajudeen Ajide two weeks ago and he opened up on the attack on his life and how he’s been able to recover from that incident to shock everyone by emerging the most outstanding chairman in the state. Enjoy the first part of the exciting interview.
One of the things that’s obvious about you, sir, is the fact that you’re always on the ground, inspecting things yourself and then take your time before you embark on projects….
From day one, that’s the way I work. I have since realized that it’s important for you as a council chairman to get close enough to the people. You must know firsthand the immediate needs of the people. And there is no way you would be able to do that by sitting comfortably in your office. Before I do anything like starting a project, I will go to the location. Talk to the people. This will afford me the opportunity to see the level of decadence. I will also evaluate the structure on ground and value the structure. This is because the most important thing is to manage efficiently the resources at your disposal. That is the work of an administrator. Even for you as a journalist, your work shouldn’t stop at merely writing about all I have said, you should go round, make your own judgement and appraisal of it. That’s why, whenever I have a project that’s ongoing, I am always there, not just because I want to inspect the job done, but also because the money given to me is for the people. Its not mine. That money has been put in my care in trust. So, the people expect us to do what is right because they are not in charge of the money. Whether you’re the councilor or the chairman, you have to do your job well, that’s why you were elected in the first place.
What drives you, sir? What inspires you to keep pushing yourself so hard, making sure you’re physically present to monitor projects yourself even at the risk of your own health when you could’ve easily delegated these responsibilities to other members of your team so you can rest more?
One thing that is ever constant is truth. And that truth will always evolve will time. You might realize that people are not really appreciating the truth you’re saying now, but sooner or later, they will. Yes, I do have my SA on works and he knows about practically everything we are doing. But I am the one that was given the money to do these things, the one who signed upon the receipt of these monies. What am I doing in government if I can’t constantly visit projects? I am here specifically to help the people and make life better for them within the environment in which they reside? Why should I be simply sitting in the office, cracking jokes and entertaining guests when there’s plenty of work to be done? There are about ten or eleven different departments that handle different things like sports, vocational centers and what have you, and I do visit each and every one of them. Most of the time, I go round the council, walk into each of the offices and ask them what they need and what their challenges are. You can go there and ask them what I have just told you. But these days, because I have been restrained largely as a result of my ailment, I don’t do this as often as I would’ve loved to. But I still find ways to reach out to them. For me, I’m comfortable with what I’ve been able to do so far. This enables me to return back to my home feeling satisfied and fulfilled and be able to sleep well every day. I have always felt that the people deserve good governance. I lived abroad for thirty something years and I saw how things were done over there. So, why can’t I come back here to replicate things in my own little capacity? My position has always been that whenever you’re given the responsibility to give service to people, you must do it thoroughly, with diligence and honesty.
Tell us a bit about your background, sir, where were you born and raised?
I was born right in the heart of Lagos in a place called Ofin, in Olowogbowo area of Lagos Island. I was born and bred there, same with my father. A large chunk of my life has been lived in Lagos. When I left Nigeria, I traveled to the UK and finished my studies there. I was in the United Kingdom until 1996. And then, I started thinking about the things I could do for my people.
What were you doing before you got into politics?
I had two companies I was running. That’s why, when I started this hospital project, I have been very passionate and articulate with the way I’ve gone about it. I had been thinking about what I wanted to do. I knew exactly what I wanted. I thank God that my experiences from the other side of the continent did not fail me.
When did politics start for you when you got back and how easy was it for you to get into mainstream politics?
I have been playing politics for as long as I can remember. It all started when I was still back here in Nigeria. My dad was a strong member of Awolowo’s party, the UPN. My god father is our leader now, Tajudeen Oluyole Olusi. He named me Tajudeen as well. My dad and baba were good friends, that’s why, in his book, he mentioned my dad several times. He was a pillar in his team. It was not too hard for me to get into politics because all my thoughts at that time were geared towards doing things for my people. I was not into night clubbing or partying, whenever I leave the office I went straight home and I was always thinking of what to do next to make an impact on the people. When you hear people say I have done almost 50 roads, do you think it’s a joke? I’ve been working inside the sun, the rain, every day. There is no day I don’t work, even on Sundays you will find me at different sites working. That’s what brings me joy, happiness. That’s why they call me a social worker, because I don’t have any other thing to do other than work.
Are you not worried that you could be putting a lot of pressure on your health when you keep pushing yourself this way every day?
You can see for yourself that I’m much better and stronger than before. You saw me about a year ago. That time, I couldn’t speak as well as I do now. Even now, I still mix up a few words, but it is far better than what it was before. I am much better now. It is a mental ailment so the recovery pace has been gradual. I have to think before I say things because the brain is so complex. But I thank God for everything. Now, the people who attacked me and left me with the injury will probably be cursing themselves. They were saying to people then, that this man can’t do it o. But it’s only God who decides who can do it and who cannot. I thank Asiwaju so greatly because, all these things I’m doing would’ve been wasted and nobody would even think about them. He was under a lot of pressure to put somebody else there but he stood his ground and now, I’m adding a lot of value to the government.
I was going to ask you tell us the role Asiwaju played during that very difficult time when you were just recuperating from the attack on your life?
He was incredible, I must tell you. He was very supportive. Asiwaju is not one of those leaders who believe that once you’re down you’re no longer useful to the party, so let’s leave him. No, he’s not that kind of person. Asiwaju will lift you up and bring you back. He will help you. That’s why I tell people that anything Asiwaju wants to do, I will be there for him. I am not a fake person o, go and ask anybody, if I don’t like something, I will tell you. I will say things exactly the way they are. People don’t know that we are here on this earth for a purpose. God has a reason for putting us in the position we have found ourselves. All you have to do is to strive to do the best you can and leave posterity to judge you. I think this is my own purpose on earth but I can’t speak for others. I am fully conscious of the fact that nobody can satisfy the whole world. Even as multitudes acknowledge the fact that I, Hon. Tajudeen Ajide, has done very well, a lot of people may also hold a different opinion. I know a particular person who was saying it loud and clear that I couldn’t do it. And I’m talking about a prominent party leader. But today, the same person has come back to say, I’m sorry, I thought you were going to embezzle funds. So, I am proud of what I have done. If I get another chance, I will do the same thing all over again. Most of the roads you see around here were done during the Jakande and Mobolaji Johnson era. They are all old. But we have done a lot in terms of either rehabilitating or constructing the roads from scratch. And we do top quality roads. A lot of our roads are done with interlocking blocks, they will last for as long as 30 to 40 years or more. With the interlocking, once a particular spot goes bad, you simply take it out and replace it.
How did you overcome the aftereffect of the attack on your life because many would simply have gone into depression, seeing how challenging it was for you to walk again or even talk?
It was God that I held onto. He, it was, who made me survive the attack and gave me the strength to overcome the depression that would’ve followed. I remember that, on that fateful Sunday, I was in my house, and two people came over to the house to meet me. One was called Gabriel and the other Embor. We were together and we chatted for a long time. After a while, I stepped outside and we still gisted for a while. Apparently, unknown to me, the attackers had been lurking around. And they struck. (He shows this reporter the spot on his head where he was struck). For 19 hours, the doctors battled to save my life via surgery. I had to undergo a brain surgery. Afterwards, I could no longer speak properly. I had to begin to learn to speak all over again like a baby. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t read, and to think I was a book worm before the incident. It was a very traumatic period. But I thank God for everything. I had to go for other operations in the United Kingdom and I saw other people in worse situations.
What about the depression that must’ve set in at some point, how were you able to deal with that?
I fought the depression and I over came it. In fact, as far as I was concerned, the only way you could send me into total depression is by not allowing me to work. After my recovery, I threw myself back into the job. In the rain, in the sun, I was working. People said I couldn’t do it, but I wanted to prove them wrong. They said I was incapacitated, I showed to them that there was nothing wrong with me. The Shitta road that we did, it was during the rain. I would take a seat somewhere under a shade and wait for the rain to subside then we continued the job we were doing. I did more than 20 roads during the rains. The Kilo road that’s been bad for as long as I can remember, go and check out that road now and see what its been transformed into. The Olufemi road, I did it.
What has been the reaction of the people when they see you out there with the contractors working? How appreciative have they been?
To be honest, people have been appreciative. They come out and pray and encourage me to go on. What they don’t know is that my zeal is from God. I am at my happiest when I’m busy working. I don’t see myself as a leader, I see myself more as a servant. Look at Asiwaju, even as he is our leader, he still recognizes some people as his leader. Even sometimes, those around me run away when I’m working because they get stressed out and I’m still pushing on.
But I must say, sir, that you’re a very strong man to have fought hard and gotten back on your feet so quickly because even the doctors will tell you that it’s you that would have to fight all by yourself to be on your feet, walking and talking again..
I was taken to a medical facility at Wolverhampton in the UK. I was the one making everyone in the ward happy. I even had to ask the doctors to take me out of my private room to join the others in the ward so I could be gisting with them and cheering them up. When I returned to Nigeria, my brother was even suggesting that I shouldn’t talk, but I said no, that I would speak whichever way I could. If I couldn’t pronounce words properly, no problem, they should bear with me. And that was how I started forcing myself to speak. When people started grumbling that how can somebody who can barely speak be the chairman, I told them, give me a year, I will be recover my speech, and that’s what happened. They even went as far as making their agitations against me known in the newspapers. The attackers actually wanted to split my head into two but God didn’t let them. Even here in Nigeria, the doctors were saying, while I lay on the bed, that I had just two possible options, its either I am reduced to a vegetable or I’m able to recover a little of my health and smartness. I heard everything they were saying as I lay quietly on the bed, but they didn’t know I heard, they were telling the people around me. I cried only twice during that period. I cried the day I woke up after they were done and I realized the people who were behind the attack. The second time was the day I was leaving Nigeria for treatment abroad. That’s one of the reasons why I built such a magnificent hospital. But I thank God that, today, a lot of the people that gave me problems a while back are now working under me. Many of them are now SAs under me, supervising various projects.
(To be Continued)