Honourable Tajudeen Ajide is one of the most popular council chairmen in Lagos state today. Mention his name within the political circle in Lagos and you will be surprised how many people will tell you they know him pretty well. This is because the gentleman is making waves presently within the Lagos political circle as the most outstanding council chairman in Lagos state. He has amazed everyone, including his political rivals, with his remarkable performance. The quality of the many roads he’s done, the quality of the structures he has built, is second to none. And the people of Surulere couldn’t be happier with him. The man is hugely loved by both the young and old in the community. He does not joke about the well-being of his people. He is their son in whom they are well pleased. He has done over 50 roads in Surulere in just three years with an ultra-modern health facility nearing completion and an eye-popping Customary court in the works. These are just a few of his accomplishments in office. That is why many feel the coming council chairmanship election is a foregone conclusion, the man is as good as getting another term in office.
One of the things that have endeared Hon. Tajudeen Ajide to his people is the fact that he is extremely accessible. You can meet him walking on the road while monitoring contractors at work and speak to him. The people know he will always go to various sites where construction works are going on because those sites are actually where he runs his office from. And he is unbelievably humble too. This probably explains why he enjoys so much support and affection from the elderly, within and outside the party. Indeed, Hon. Tajudeen Ajide knows how to properly wash his hands, so he is eligible to wine and dine with the elders. He is also a man of style. He dresses well and knows exactly what suits his frame. He loves quality, and this reflects in his work as well. This explains why he accepts nothing but quality job from his contractors. He likes people to see what he’s done and be amazed by its sheer quality. Without a doubt, Hon. Ajide has surpassed all expectations as the Executive Chairman of Surulere LG, raising the bar as council chairman by bringing to the people the dividends of democracy in a way they have never quite seen before. In this second part interview with City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL (08037209290), Hon. Ajide and Chief James Olutayo Adenekan, the Apex Leader of APC in Surulere and one of the incredibly brilliant minds who stood by the chairman during those difficult days when he was attacked and left to struggle with his health, took us through the breathtaking transformation that’s going on in Surulere at the moment. Enjoy the concluding part of the interview.
How have you been able to meet the various needs and expectations of the people around you?
To be honest with you, it’s not been easy. I try to do the best I can. I know nobody can possibly please everybody. Many have been impressed with me and they show their appreciation. This is why, just a week or so ago, while we were inspecting work going on in different sites, I told my aides I wanted us to walk some distance and drop the car. They were surprised and didn’t know what to make of my suggestion. I did that because I wanted to test my own popularity. I wanted to see at close quarters the people’s reaction when they see me, whether they would be excited owing to the work we’ve done or they would just be indifferent. But I was pleasantly surprised at the love and affection they showed me. Some even came to meet me to personally express their appreciation. And they showered me with prayers. Like the woman, a professor, who met me at Census. She said they have not had a chairman who has done the kind of roads I have done for them in that area. When you do good to the people, it will show. I was moved by the outpouring of affection showed me. I cannot begin to give everyone who comes to meet me for help money, because it’s not my money, it’s the people’s money, but at least I will provide for them the basic amenities I am supposed to provide. What I can do, I will tell you. The ones I cannot do, I will also tell you so you know where I stand. Look at the road leading to my street, I am just planning to start work on it just so that people won’t start saying, ‘can’t you see he started with his own area first?’ The job has been approved, all that is left is for work to begin. Our responsibility is to provide better amenities for the people and that’s exactly what I am focused on doing. Tomorrow, when my children return home, nobody will confront them and say, ‘what did your father do for the people while he was in office?’ I believe my work will speak for me.
How do you handle the pressure from those in the party who are not interested in the great job you’re doing but in how they can get you to share the money amongst them?
Well, there will always be people like that. And they have their own roles that they play. I have learnt to manage such kind of people. Their needs must also be attended to. We have stipends, like poverty alleviation stipends that we give to them. But I’m also very careful how I respond to their requests because there must be moderation and accountability in everything we do here.
Sir, if you have the privilege of changing anything within the local government system, going by your experience, what would you like to change?
For me, personally, I would like people to value us a lot more than they presently do. They should also give us more time and space to work and perform well to our optimum best. For me, I give my utmost best whenever I am working. All I seek to achieve is quality work. That is what gives me satisfaction.
We know you have done a lot of work and completed many projects, I will like you to share with us your strategy. How were you able to achieve all of these knowing full well that what you’re getting most times is insufficient? And how have you dealt with the issue of imbalance in the allocation of funds to the councils?
Well, even the Almighty that created us did not spread wealth evenly amongst us, did he? When things are distributed in our favor, we celebrate, but when it’s the other way round, we complain and grumble. Things change constantly. The government no longer gets the kind of money they used to get owing to the covid-19 pandemic. Do you have any idea what the government has spent on curbing the pandemic and on palliative measures alone? So, we cannot get money like we used to, that’s the truth.
And how about your strategy, sir, how have you been able to do all of these projects and at the rate you have done?
That’s my top secret. And I am not supposed to share my secret formula with the public, am I? Yes, I do have a few strategies, and one of them is the fact that we do have our own block industry here in Surulere but there’s a whole lot more than that. But like I said, that’s my top secret.
(The chairman asks Chief James Olutayo Adenekan, the Apex leader, APC, Surulere, to join us in the interview)
Share with us, sir, your general perception of the honorable chairman as a person?
Thank you very much. My name is Chief James Olutayo Adenekan, the Apex Leader of APC in Surulere. Let me start by saying that, as a local government, we’re lucky to have what people thought is impossible. When the race for the council started, not this tenure but the first one, he was really okay, there was no problem but he was handicapped a little by the councilors and supervisors and those who he had to work with. When this tenure that’s about top end started, we all thought that he would be able to walk in easily and perform very well but he was attacked and wounded. It was fatal. But we still believe that a wounded lion is much better than a boisterous dog. We didn’t even know that a wounded lion can even be better than an unwounded lion, and that’s the scenario that we have seen playing out. I am not saying this to patronize him but the facts are there for all to see. Since he took over, he has performed beyond the expectations of any of us in terms of infrastructure, in terms of relationship with party members. You need to go round yourself and see the roads that were done as well as the quality of those roads. Same with the buildings, the quality is there for all to see. You can go and take a look at the hospital and you’ll be shocked that that hospital was funded by the local government. The court building, which is meant for a Customary court, by the time its completed, even a Magistrate court won’t be better. These are facts. So, we are all excited and we feel that here in Surulere we are all lucky to have him. And it’s easy to compare this when you look at the local governments around us, having the same amount of allocation. You will see a local government chairman doing something like 48 to 50 roads in three years and his counterparts are doing about six within the same period. The other day I saw governor Wike on television, and I’m not being arrogant about this. He was commissioning some roads and flyovers and I told my wife who was seated beside me, I said what he’s doing, I cannot even compare it with Lagos state, I can only compare it with Surulere local government. And that’s a fact. You can put it side by side with Surulere. What is going on in Surulere is a miracle. I want to thank God for his life. Because of his state of health, nobody gave him a chance and he has proven everybody wrong. And I wonder if he was not that wounded from the attack, what more he would have done. Those of us who stood by him then are now arrogantly proud that, yes, we said he could do it and he has done much more than what we expected. We can only pray that Lagos state will continue to produce people like him. And it’s apparent, ask him where his office is, he has no office. I quarreled with him initially but he said no, his office is at his projects. When he leaves home, he goes to his projects. When you want to meet him for anything, you meet him where he’s inspecting projects. Maybe that’s one of his secrets, I don’t know. He is so committed to the development of his community and I pray that we will have him with us for a long time.
You are someone who has known and worked closely with the chairman for a long while now, what would you say are some of his greatest assets, sir?
You know, you’re asking me questions that I won’t be able to answer. When you look at somebody who is doing what he’s doing, you may not be able to pin it to something. But what I’m saying is that a miracle is happening right before our very eyes. You go to that hospital and you’ll see what I’m talking about. You need to have the power of a state government behind you to do that. What is driving him to do all these things, I don’t know. Maybe it’s that desire to show that, they say I can’t, but I can. Or maybe because he grew up in these parts and he knows where his people are lacking and now that he’s in the position to do something, he has gone all out to do whatever needs to be done for the people. The whole thing is strange to me but we thank God.
You said a while ago that many of you who stood by him then are now arrogantly proud of his achievements, but I know it couldn’t have been that easy. How tough was it for you, sir, convincing others that he was still the man for the job despite his state of health?
It wasn’t easy. It was very difficult. Nobody would believe you. I remember people came to me and said, he can’t even walk well, he can’t even talk well, how can that one be the council chairman. People didn’t believe and that’s part of the miracle. This is somebody that’s like a castaway and then you bring him into the position of authority and the beauty of it all is that he has proven them wrong. He has shown to them that he can.
Which of the many projects of the honorable would you say stand out for you, what would go down as one of his outstanding legacies?
Let me tell you something, you know Alhaji Jakande just passed on not too long ago. A few days ago, we held a meeting in my office, we were trying to see what we could do to remember him and somebody said something, Alhaji Jakande has done things for people to remember him by when he was alive. Look at a place like Jakande Estate for instance. Truth is, even if you didn’t like Jakande, you can’t forget him. The same thing goes for him. The things he has done will continue to live after him. I can’t tell you that this particular project that he executed is better than another one. They are all great jobs. Look at the quality of the roads he did. I told you about the customary court and the hospital. Even a hundred years from now, people will still ask, who built this hospital? We are just grateful to God that in our own lives, somebody of that level can perform that well.