•Senator OLAMILEKAN SOLOMON Tells City People
Senator Olamilekan Solomon, popularly known as Yayi, is not a new name in Ogun politics. Although he has practiced his politics in Lagos for more than 15 years, he has never left his Yewa people. He is currently representing the Lagos West Senatorial District. But he is coming to Ogun State to contest.
In 2011, he attempted to come back home in Ogun State. He joined the gubernatorial race, but he was asked to go back to Lagos by leaders of the party, which he did. Since then, his name has been on everyone’s lips in Ogun State, especially the people of Yewa and Ogun West as a whole. He has been able to keep in touch and see to the needs of his people. He is known for his Philanthropy and unusual empowerment, both in Lagos and in Ogun West.
Unlike some other politicians, Yayi has not left his political party and he is always proud to say that any day. He Yayi has made his intentions known openly that he will be contesting for Ogun West Senatorial District in the 2023 elections, and this time, there is no going back.
In this interview with BUNMI MUSTAPHA, Yayi opens up on all the politics that played out in 2011, his support for Governor Abiodun, amongst other things.
Can you let us into what made you decide to come back to Ogun West to contest, from Lagos?
My journey to come back to Ogun did not start yesterday. It spans over 14 to 15 years. I might have been relatively involved in the activities of my senatorial district. I am doing this today because we are moving fully, into political activities, as it concerns the 2023 General elections, and I am no longer a player in Lagos politics. I am part and parcel of Ogun politics, going forward. I have played a better part of my life in politics in Lagos as a member of the State Assembly, a member of the Federal House of Reps and currently a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Having done all of this in Lagos, why have I decided to come back home? I have decided to come back home for no reason than for my people.
I might see it as a difficult situation, having made two attempts to come back home and those two attempts, I decided to return. But this time around, there is no going back, Yayi is now part and parcel of Ogun State politics. There is no going back in the sense that, I have registered as an APC member in Ogun State, and I have changed my INEC voters card to Ogun State. I am to vote at Ward 1 polling booth 009, in Ilaro District. I have chosen to take this bold step because I believe at a point in every man’s life, you must choose what you want to do and take bold decisions, and this is one of the bold decisions I have taken, I really want to do politics in Ogun State. Yes, there are issues on ground, bordering on the fact that some have said, “Yayi is not from Yewa”. Some “have equally said “his paternity or whatever is in question” and I have continually said, I am a Yewa-born politician that plays politics in Lagos, and that is confirmed. I am of Ishaga Extraction, whose family settled down at Paayi Ishaga in Ilaro here and everyone knows that every Ishaga community all over the world, their headquarters is at Ishaga Orile, it was as a result of the Idaome war, that split the Ishaga that they travelled far and wide and they are scattered, my own family settled down at Paayi Ishaga here. Another school of thought said: “what is the legal position with this that you have chosen to take?” But as far as I am concerned, have I run foul of the Constitution. The answer is No. Have I run foul of the Party Constitution the answer is also No. And I have all the legal briefings that it takes to contest this election, and I continually said I am running an election just to be a senator-elect of Ogun West and not to be a senator. There is a sharp difference between a senator and a senator-elect, if I have run the same election in Lagos while still serving, I will still be referred to as senator-elect, next tenure will commence after the expiration of this current National Assembly, so if I eventually emerge as a senator, Ogun West, it does not mean I am serving two senatorial districts, I am only serving Lagos and once my tenure ends on June 9, I will be referred to as Senator, Ogun West if sworn in as the senator. And there is also some school of thought that said “how can I be representing Lagos and be a senator of Ogun West? I am not going to be, I am not the INEC that says the electoral process should commence 6 months, before the expiration of the current administration, if they have agreed that immediately after the expiration of your term, June 9 another electoral process should commence, there will not be a need for any issue, but because they have set their time table and program, I can’t fold my hands. And that is why I have taken this bold decision to be part of the electoral process for 2023. The question is What about the moral issues, when you look at it, even if the Constitution and law have not forbidden you, what about morals. The issue is that there is no question of Morality here, because this is the journey I have been on for the last fifteen years of my life, I have been part and parcel of the process, I have contributed my own quota to Yewaland and to my people, and the enthusiasm of the way my people have received me shows that they really want me, so for those school of thoughts that says that it’s not moral, the answer is at this point in time, I am not a liability to my people but an asset, because I am going to the senate as a ranking member, a 3rd-term ranking member from Ogun West, and there is no way we can compare a first-term Senator to a third-term Senator in the senate, the kind of influence and what I can do in assisting, in lifting and developing Yewaland from the federal angle can not be achieved by a first time senator, so while it is a blessing to my people in Yewa, it’s a loss to my people in Lagos, I seriously thank them for giving me the opportunity to serve them, for giving me the foundation and platform to exhibit my character and what I am capable of doing. I have seen that as a training ground, but now I am back home to contribute my own wealth of experience to the development of Yewaland.
So as a ranking Senator whose tenure ends on June 9, by the middle of April next year, we will know who our next Senate President is. And for those of us who are part and parcel of the process of who nominates the next Senate President, everything would have been taken care of before the new ones join us. And by the time they join, they just join as Members, not as ranking Senators, and I believe Ogun West deserves better, that is why I am putting myself forward before my people, that I can serve them, and it will be my joy to do so.
There are other schools of thought that say that what is the position of the Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun? I make bold to say that the relationship I have with my big brother, the Governor of Ogun State has been very cordial, and every move of the way, I have made sure he is fully aware of whatever I am doing. So, there is no issue, and I am for the second term of the Governor 100 per cent because he has done exceedingly well. He has taken the bull by the horn from the first day of coming to the office. Despite taking over, from a very hostile predecessor, he has been able to find his feet and his voice and he has done a lot to develop the state. Therefore, I am for the governor’s second term and I am here to contribute my quota to that success story at least from the Ogun West point of view.
Some people have also said they have not heard of me for a while in Yewa. Why now? I don’t know, maybe my name is not Odebiyi or Olabimtan or Isiaka. My father is a humble man, with a small hut, I am just trying to build a name so that in the future when they say Yayi, people will say Yes, we know Yayi and these are his children, every one of us is trying to find a foot to give ourselves a name our parents could not give to us, and I can tell you for free that I am bringing to the table representation per excellence that I have done in the past from where I am coming from and this I am ready to repeat as a serving senator of Ogun West, I have done it in the past, I know what it takes, I have the wealth of experience, I know the workings, I am not going to start just as a new Senator. I am just going to continue what I have been doing and reposition and put things in order, for those and for anyone who likes in Ogun West, you will agree with me, with due respect to my brothers who are also showing interest to contest the same seat, they are duly qualified to do that, they have all it takes to represent us, but at this point in time, I think we deserve a one-step forward from what we have and I believe I remain that step that we need to take to give Ogun West a good and quality representation.
Why was the hatred for you so much in 2011? And why were you denied the opportunity to contest the two times you have shown interest in Ogun?
You asked why the hatred was so much in 2011? It is because I am a factor, and that is why I am being hated that much and part of the hatred that they had for me caused them a lot as we speak, they hated me so much that they never had a predecessor. You can imagine if I was part of the train, maybe there would have been a predecessor from them, so I believe I won the game and they lost out, so I am not bothered, God has given me victory. I am happy that we have a governor that is leading the state and doing very well. About the major road you asked, for those who are keen watchers and have been following my activity, they know that I have moved a motion on the floor recently concerning the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, with emphasis on Sango from Tollgate down to Abeokuta, there was a motion on the floor of the Senate, and part of the motion was that some funds have been released in the past, and we requested that the Senate invite the honourable minister for works and infrastructure to investigate the position of the funds.
What will you say concerning those saying you are not politically strong in Lagos, that is why you have come to Ogun to contest?
At no point was my political strength threatened in Lagos. My people want me and they will get everything they want or how do I explain when three hundred and seventy-something Baales came together and endorsed me? How do I explain when 57 kings came together and gave me the title of Aremo Oba of Yewaland? How do I explain when the Christian and Muslim communities said they want me to be their senator? What more do you want? All these people endorsed me because my relationship with them did not start today, it’s been over fifteen years, we are all in this town while paying attention to Baales, taking care of the kings, while every other person was busy looking down on them, so when it is now time, they are talking as if it was just yesterday I have been with them, so what has Yayi done differently? That should be the question they should ask themselves.
Which state will you be representing as a Delegate of APC?
I will vote where my name appears. And like I have said, I have changed to Ogun APC and that is where my name will appear and I will vote from there, as a Senator, I am automatically a delegate, a Senator that is not representing us anywhere now is also a delegate, and as a delegate, you are to vote, I can vote as a Lagos or Ogun delegate. It does not change anything. I am voting as a Senator. So, as a senator, I can vote. So if I want to streamline it to which state am I voting from, then I can vote from either Ogun or Lagos.
Some of those aspiring to the senatorial seat as you had been saying you have pocketed all the party members, that they have no access to them because you bought them off, what is your response to this?
This journey started about 15 years ago. And all this while, I have been a progressive core member, I have never been in any other party, this APC is a progressive party and it’s ours, for anyone who comes, they have come to join us, they met me in the party, I have been part and parcel of the process all these while, my connectivity, my connections with the people didn’t start today, when the governor said we should go and bring councillor everyone went back to their ward, I never went to anyone’s ward to pick their councillor for them, When it was the turn of the Chairman, everyone returned to their Local Government, we picked our Council Chairmen, I never went to anyone’s Local Government to pick their Chairman for them, but at the end of the day after doing all this and they come together, they said all of them are Yayi, the question is how was it Yayi, I didn’t pick the Chairman or Councilor. Then Yayi must be doing something others are not doing. That is the question we should ask ourselves. The kind of politics that I play where I am coming from, the kind of training that I have is quite different, we play politics the way it is meant to be played, don’t forget that I made attempt to run for the governor of this state and all these people have been with me for how many years now? At no point have I done anything extraordinary, the process was put together at the state level that dovetailed to the senatorial level, and don’t forget when Governor Dapo Abiodun wanted to contest for the state governor, everyone moved around with him, so why is everyone saying I have taken over members, no I have not, they keep forgetting they came to meet me in this party, I have been a progressive all my life, I have never moved from the party, so these are the issues, no one has pocketed or bought anyone, I stand to be corrected, the leader of the party in the state is the governor, so the governor gives directives as to what.
Have you met or spoken with the current senator, Senator Tolu Odebiyi representing Ogun West senatorial district to make your intention known?
When Tolu Odebiyi came on board, Amosun directed that they should all go to APM, he said he won’t go and Amosun started working against him. He came to me and explained his predicament. I supported him with everything I have. When he got to the Senate, the first set of people that he fought were those people that supported him, I called him I said don’t do this, you need to be careful, at the end of the day he dumped everyone that supported him in APC and went back to Amosun’s APM camp. He is now taking care of those people that voted against him, all because he believes I am coming back into the system.
When Prince Gboyega was contesting to be Governor of Ogun State, out of respect, we engaged ourselves, set up a meeting in Lagos about three times, we were trying to know ourselves, and when the final decision came that I have to move back to Lagos, the first person Gboyega Isiaka met on the matter, he told the person we have used night masquerade to chase Yayi back to Lagos. The person was saying why are you saying this sir, why not call Yayi to talk to him about the development and let him come out openly to say he supports you, if he does that maybe we would have been able to actualize his ambition if my presence is intimidating them.
You are an advocate for Governor Abiodun’s second term and you have said it many times that your support is for him. If there is another guber aspirant from Yewa tomorrow, would this change your story?
Let me tell you this. No governor would have done first and would not want to do a second term. All this game they are playing, writing petitions, trying to do this and that, they will fail. In all ramifications, they will fail. They have failed.
My support for the governor is 100 per cent. Let them go and write the petition from all over the world. They should read my lips. They have failed, because Governor Dapo Abiodun is returning for a second term, for we in Ogun West and Yewaland, we don’t want to deceive ourselves again, we want to support Governor Dapo Abiodun to run for a second term. And we will support him to win so if anyone comes from the opposing party because, in our own APC Ogun West, no one will run for governor. But if anyone comes out that he wants to run, he is on his own. And we will go round and check our people, it should not be every season contest. When it is our time, everyone will see and we will all be out there, and people will see that we are ready.
If on the negotiation table, you are asked to drop your ambition like before, what will happen?
I want to strongly believe that my ambition will not be placed on the table, because there is no basis for it. I am of the winning team, willing to deliver, and we would use our strongest. It will be difficult for my ambition to be put on the table. And if it does, that means they must have thought about it twice. But for me, I am playing my politics in Ogun State. And the evidence is that I have registered all my voters right in Ogun. So, if that happens, I will have to start all over again. There can be no negotiations.