He took many by surprise when he declared his intention to contest for the Iseyin/Itesiwaju/Iwajowa and Kajola Federal Constituency seat last year. This is because many people felt Shina Peller was already a hugely successful business man and didn’t need to dive into the murky waters of politics to establish himself as an accomplished man by all standards. He has his hands dug into several big businesses. This dashing young man is the Chairman of Aquila Group of Companies, a conglomerate that has interests in Oil and Gas with Aquila Oil & Gas. They’re also into building and construction with Aquila Building and Projects and are also calling the shots in the entertainment and hospitality sector with Aquila Records and the award winning night club, Quilox. With all of these flourishing businesses, many couldn’t understand why Shina Peller needed politics. But what many do not know is that this man whose philanthropic gestures within and outside his community is legendary, was driven to contest and represent his constituency because of his desire to positively affect the lives of his people and transform their communities for the better. And he knew that, no matter how much he spends his own resources, he could only achieve this by using the tools and organs of government. And the results of his sojourn into politics have been astonishing. The reception and overwhelming support he got from his people were nothing short of astounding. It came as no shock therefore when the results of the Oyo State House of Reps were announced and Shina Peller had a clean sweep at the polls, ‘dusting’ the incumbent and winning in all the 158 polling stations in Iseyin alone, a feat that remains unprecedented in the political history of Oyo State. City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL, had a chat with this articulate businessman and now politician and he shared with us his experience so far as a fresh politician during the campaigns and at the polls and what his immediate plans are to bring the dividends of democracy to the door steps of his people who voted massively for him at the polls.
Let me begin by congratulating you on your victory at the polls. Share with us, as a first timer, how did the whole experience go for you?
It was a great experience because I had to campaign vigorously for a couple of months and that really opened my eyes to a lot of things. And I’m happy that I was able to take my campaign seriously because from the beginning of my campaign, I said to myself that I would like to visit every nook and cranny of my constituency. And my constituency is so big. We have about four different local governments. In some other areas, you have like just one or two that make up one constituency, but where I come from we have four local governments. It’s so large. Even with the sleepless nights, we were still not able to cover everywhere, but the good thing is, I was able to feel the pulse of the people. I was able to understand the needs of my people. Even without winning an election and occupying an elective office, I had decided to show to them that I would bring solutions to the table even if it means using my own personal resources to get these done. While moving around, I was able to see that my people do not have access to potable water. Even before I got my APC ticket, I had provided sixteen boreholes, four boreholes per local government. There were issues of not having teachers or Youth Corpers especially in the rural areas, so I decided to build a hostel for the NYSC so that they begin to accommodate them. So, it’s been an exciting time.
You mean you did all of these even before you got the ticket?
Yeah, everything I did, I did before I got the ticket. I was really glad I was able to feel the pulse of my people and feel their needs. It was an opportunity for me to show to my people that I was capable of bringing succor to them even if it required using my own resources.
I am wondering, for somebody who has been a business man and lived a private life all these years, how did you cope with the rigours of politics, of campaigning and dealing with people at the grass roots level? Were there moments you felt like doing a rethink about your political aspirations?
Well, not really. Like I always tell people, there is a similarity between business and politics. The most important factor in business is stakeholders’ management and it’s same with politics. And who are the stakeholders? They are the people. So, you cannot afford to get tired of seeing the people if you want to do well in politics. In the last one year, I have tried to spend more time in my town with the people. Although it’s been hectic moving from one place to the other and I have also had to brush up my dialect because I had to speak with different people like fifteen or more times a day. It wasn’t easy. I heard people saying I had lost a lot weight and wondered if I could cope, but I kept my focus on the elections and I thank God things turned out well.
For somebody who has touched the lives of your people individually and collectively, how does it make you feel seeing how well they turned out massively to vote for you? What does this tell you as a person?
It tells me as a person that I need to live up to expectations. I believe that my people expect so much from me because they have voted in a way they never voted before. It has never happened in the history of politics in Iseyin for one person to win all the polling units in Iseyin. I won all the polling units in Iseyin, even most of all the polling units in other areas. In Iseyin alone, we won all the 158 polling units. Even at the polling units of the present chairman of PDP, the polling unit of the present House of Reps, the polling units of big political gladiators, I won in many of them. The only way that could’ve happened is because everybody believed in me. That will challenge me because they’re expecting a whole lot from me.
Having toured round the entire community and touched base with the people, beyond making laws, what are the things you’re hoping to bring back to the people when you hit the ground running as their representative?
I’m happy you said beyond legislative duties, because the primary obligation of a legislator is to propose bills, to make laws and at that level, I want to first of all check the present laws that are being passed to see the ones that have been implemented and the ones yet to be implemented, I would push to see the executive implement them. I also would like to do an audit on the present Laws to see the ones that affect the lives of my people. Concentrating on bills that affect the lives of my people is something that I’m going to work on to make sure they get implemented. Aside this, I want to create a land where peace, oneness and unity reign. I want to create a land where businesses can thrive, where an average person that wants to set up a business in Lagos will say, I’ll rather go to Iseyin and set up my business. I want to make my constituency a model constituency that every constituency in Nigeria can emulate.
Now, having passed through that baptism of fire at the elections, how much of a better politician would you say you are now, compared to when you first declared your intentions to run several months ago?
I am a fast learner. I can say that I’ve learnt a lot in the political terrain. I can say that I see politics as something very interesting. The results recorded at the polls shows that I’ve done the job of a good politician. The incumbent had about 12,000 votes while I had about 44,000. For me to have scored that kind of result shows the amount of work that we put in. I can say that I’ve learnt politics more and definitely I’m better than who I was when I first started. And I’m still learning as well, I know I’ve not seen it all. But I can assure you that, as time goes on, expect to see a better politician in me.
A few cases of violence erupted in some parts of Oyo state during the elections, how did that worry you as a person?
It gave me some cause for concern and it is sad that we have not been able to find solution to the problem of violence in our political system. I think it’s high time people understand that politics is not a do or die affair. I believe that when you have four of five people vying for a position, it is very possible for you to lose just as it is possible for you to win. For me as a person, I always do my risk assessment before I do anything. And doing my risk assessment, I saw that the worst that would happen is that I could lose the election. And if that happens, what will I do? I will go back to my business knowing I’ve given it a trial. Politics should not be a do or die affair and I hope all other politicians will see it that way. I am hoping that, under this administration, we will be able to achieve electronic voting system in Nigeria. It will solve a lot of problems. It will make the politician to do more for their people other than thinking that they can buy votes. I think Nigeria should invest in it because it will eradicate violence and there won’t be any ballot boxes to snatch.
What would you say are some of the things that made you stand out from the other contenders that made people vote so overwhelmingly in your favour?
First of all, what I did during my campaign is unprecedented. The people hadn’t seen somebody coming into politics for the first time doing sixteen boreholes, a laboratory, a library, a hostel for NYSC and a lot more. And I made them understand that I will run an all-inclusive system. I will always bring feedbacks to the people on a quarterly basis. We will sit down and have a feedback town hall meeting. These are some of the things my people are looking forward to, having somebody that they can work with.
Apart from the potable water that you noticed your people lack for which you already provided 16 boreholes, what other things are they lacking that you are already planning to have on your to-do list?
A lot of things. There are bad roads, lack of power, our resources are wasting away. There is a place called Ikere Gorge Dam. The Dam has a capacity to give power and water to the whole of south-west and this project has been abandoned since 1979 so I’m looking forward to facilitating the rehabilitation of this Ikere Gorge Dam. I also believe there’s a lot to tap into in the tourism sector, especially from my local government and that is the suspended lake that we have there. There are only two suspended lakes in this world, there’s one in Colorado while the second one is in Iseyin local government and its called Ado Awaye suspended lake. I’m actually looking forward to reviving this suspended lake as well and make this place a tourist attraction centre. And we also have mining sites in other areas that I believe we’re not tapping into. Even our land, we have very, very fertile land and yet over 70% of our people are still involved in small scale farming. I have an intention of starting something like a processing plant and give more opportunities to the farmers in order to step up agriculture in the state.
APC suffered some major loses in Oyo state at the last elections. One was the loss of the governorship election and the other was the loss of the incumbent governor at the senatorial polls. How would you say this has rubbed off on the strength of APC in Oyo state?
Definitely it will be rub off on the strength of APC in Oyo State because it means that in the whole of the south-west presently, Oyo State is the only state that is PDP controlled. And it’s not something that is god for the state because I was looking forward to a situation where we would have a one region party was part of my own plan to develop Oyo State. I believe that having Oyo State under APC will help to link the state to the federal body. Well, there’s nothing we can do. The most important factor in politics are the people and the people voted. And they have a reason why they voted PDP and whether we like it or not we have get our acts together and work with the governor in order to take Oyo State to the next level.