Otunba Ganiyu Olusegun Abiru, the outgoing Chairman of the Ikorodu – Oga Development Association (IKODASS), is the former Permanent Secretary/Clerk, Lagos State House of Assembly and Senatorial aspirant for Lagos East.
He’s the first to be re – elected as the Chairman of IKODASS in the annals of the social, cultural and economic group.
In this interview with Kunle Adelabu, the Publisher/Reporter – in – Chief, THE IMPACT newspaper, Otunba Abiru bore his mind on the achievements of his administration, challenges and also charged his successor, whom he said would be known after the Ramadan period, sustain the relationship between lKODASS and Lagos State Government in order to have a successful tenure.
He warned affiliating associations and societies to be mindful of who represents them in IKODASS while also charging them to ensure that they send competent and service – driven individuals to be executive members of the group, stating that IKODASS needs support from elites and the generality of Ikorodu people to succeed. Excerpts:
THE IMPACT: Sir, it’s been four years since you took over the leadership of the Ikorodu – Oga Development Association (IKODASS) as Chairman. First, you were elected for a term of two years and when that tenure ended, you made history as the first to be re – elected for another term of two years. So far, how well sir?
Otunba Abiru: The last four years have been very eventful and a watershed in the history of the Ikorodu – Oga Development Association (IKODASS). Our four years revolutIonized the operations and activities of IKODASS and indeed, one can say that we have rebranded and reconfigured IKODASS in its entirety.
When we came, we observed some of the traditional entanglements, that was when you brought in new ideas. People would say that this is how we have been doing it but l said no and that for the fact that you have been doing things that way does not make it perfect or sacrosanct that one cannot change.
We looked at the generality of the operations to see what we could and where we could continue without modification and also where we felt that we must do something to make the association to be 21st century compliant.
THE IMPACT: Can you state your achievements and areas that your administration impacted on Ikorodu in the last four years?
Otunba Abiru: We achieved a lot during the four years and the experience also was very illuminating and eyes opening in the sense that there are challenges of funds but by God grace and with the support of the Lagos State Government and well – meaning individuals, both within and outside Ikorodu, particularly my friends, we have been able to do something very reasonable.
Of all the achievements, one thing that will gladdens my heart till tomorrow is that for the first time in the history of IKODASS, the Lagos State Government got its activities recognized by enlisting it as one of its annual cultural activities and that in itself is something that I cherish because when you are doing something and the government of that state recognizes you, honestly, it means that you have done wonderfully well.
One of the challenges that we have is funding and that is the area that I want to appeal to the people of this town that it is what you have that you will glorify. Nobody from outside the town will come and glorify your culture for you. You have to do it yourself. But the unfortunate thing is that in Ikorodu, we have not really taken the Oga Day Celebrations as our own. We still look out for ‘Obanta’ in Ijebu Ode which is an event that is culturally enticing and socially attractive. We are also trying to get to that state but it’s largely dependent on the support and cooperation of the elites of Ikorodu. When you look at the people who celebrate ‘Obanta’, they are Ijebu – Ode people who normally come together to do that and once they finish the celebration for a particular year, they start planning for another year. Thank God that we have been trying as much as possible to play the role of a local government because most of the things that we did are complimentary to the activities of the council.
We impacted on schools. Every year, we give out something to schools such as bursary and scholarship which we have been doing consistently in the last four years. We also provided uniforms for the indigent students that find it difficult to come to school in decent uniforms.
Also educationally, we constructed and donated three boreholes with generating sets in some schools (Local Government Primary School, Majidun in Ikorodu West LCDA, Holy Trinity Primary School in Ikorodu LG and Saviour’s Anglican Primary School in Ikorodu North LCDA). These are old schools and when we went round, we discovered that each of these schools has about 700 pupils but there was no water, which is pathetic.
We have also been able to bring in more people to participate in the Oga Day celebrations. Oga Day, for the first time brought in good musicians and entertainers in 2017 in collaboration with Associated Breweries, to make the celebration interesting.
Invariably, I can say with pride that economically, we organized the First Ikorodu Economic Summit that had in attendance government functionaries, politicians, business moguls among others. We also organized cocktails with business executives in Ikorodu and these exposed Ikorodu to the world. We cannot be talking about culture without also discussing the economic potentialities of Ikorodu and that is what we did through the summit and cocktail with business executives.
Although, section 11 of our constitution clearly states that the extent to which we can involve in politics. As a result of this, we did not involve nor identify with any political party, but we arose the consciousness of our people to the political activities in the state and also made them to realize that Ikorodu has not had its fair share of the government largesse and office distributions. We wrote a series of letters agitating for the interest of lkorodu people. Today, most of the Commissioners are fully aware of IKODASS. That is an area my successor must improve upon. We must participate in government; talk about government and dialogue with government. We must not immune ourselves against the activities of the state because these make us an integral part of the state.
Traditionally, we collaborated with various traditional groups and in order to encourage them, we renovated some of their shrines to make them look neat. Those that have never been painted were given facelift and renovated to make them look good. The traditionalists are appreciative of that efforts and this make them to always participate fully in our ‘Woro’ activities which are carnival – like. We also introduced a new welfare package for them and I must say that all of them have been very cooperative. My successor must also look at areas where we can improve on our cultural values. We cannot look down on our culture because of modernization. It is our duty to make it to be in tune with modernity and conform with 21st century.
Also for the first time, we declared profit in the sale of Ankara (local fabric for Ikorodu – Oga Day Celebrations) which had never been the practice. When we came in, we wanted accountability and transparency. For the first year, we declared over 3 Million naira, second year, about N2million and the third, about N1million. People that are buying the Oga Day Ankara fabric can see what we are doing with their money and it is part of the money made that we are using in building the Ikorodu Civic Centre which has been abandoned for quite some time but we took it up from the foundation level to the lintel that it is now. I want to appeal to the incoming administration that this is one area that they should also do their best and improve on what we have done so far.
THE IMPACT: Sir, what have been the effects of this First Economic Summit organised by your IKODASS led administration?
Otunba Abiru: Thank you very much for the question. There was a communiqué after the summit and what we did was a cynosure for other divisions and Local Governments to do theirs. I thank God that we blaze the trail in that respect. The Ministry of Commerce in the state did a lot to actualize some of the things that we resolved at at the summit. We also advocated for the development of offshore lines in Ikorodu Division and I am glad that the government has started doing this which is, of course, the development of our coastal areas. The Fourth Mainland bridge that has been proposed will open up our area and our shoreline would also be further developed.
We did highlight in our communiqué that we cannot do good businesses without a good road network and thank God that Governor Sanwo – Olu is doing wonderfully well in this regard. I can say without any doubt in my mind, that of all the last three Governors in the state, I can say, with every sense of responsibility, that the only one that has done so much for Ikorodu within a short period of time is Sanwo – Olu. Look at the roads that he’s handling now, no governor has ever done that for us. He has to be commended for that. These are part of what were included in our communiqué as well as the Ikorodu roundabout redevelopment which the government is now looking into. These are the fallouts of the Economic Summit and I believe that my predecessor will not rest on his oars but ensure that we have the second summit during his reign.
We also collaborated with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) during the #EndSARS saga to organize a forum for residents who have been brutally victimized.
For the first time, we also did a raffle draw in which one Sambo Bashir won a Toyota Saloon vehicle.
One beautiful thing that would have happened but which, unfortunately, COVID pandemic prevented, was the collaboration between the Ikorodu Economic Summit and Origin Gardens and Zoo. Both outfits collaborated with some Chinese but unfortunately the business could not take – off. We actually launched it at the Ikorodu Town hall. Since COVID is now flattened, I think that we should take another look at it and bring up the matter again. It has been good so far because the Economic summit has opened our eyes and exposed entrepreneurs to areas that explore and exploit potentials.
THE IMPACT: We cannot achieve economic development, social harmony and political stability in an environment where there is insecurity. In what way(s) did your administration help in improving Ikorodu security architecture?
Otunba Abiru: That is a very good question because when you do businesses and engage in political activities and display your cultural values, and your security is weak, all these will not achieve anything. I must say that the police are trying their utmost best. We all know their deficiencies and problems which are areas that we want the government to look into so that the police can satisfy the security needs of the people. I must also give kudos to the Onyabo Vigilance Group. They have also done wonderfully well. They have made Ikorodu a safe haven. Although, there are still some areas we will look into but I can say with satisfaction that if not for Onyabo, it would have been difficult to even sleep with one eye closed in Ikorodu. IKODASS has always been helpful in terms of meeting Onyabo’s financial needs and assisting them in the repairs of their operational vehicles which we do regularly and that is an area which I believe that the local government should look into and intensify efforts. There is nothing the government can do if the security of the community is not tight. The primary function of the local government chairman as the number one security officer in the community is to ensure security of lives and properties. Where the government failed to do this as expected, it means that that government has failed. Invariably, we measure the performance of any government with the kind of security profile that exists. I want to urge the local and the state government to see these security vigilance groups as a complimentary arm to the Nigerian Police. They understand and know the terrain very well. They should be remunerated. There should be an arrangement on a regular/monthly basis for members of Onyabo, Agbekoya and VGC who risk their lives for our security. IKODASS has done well for Onyabo and this could be verified from their Commandant, Lanre and others. I just want to urge all well – meaning people in Ikorodu that security is a collective effort and that all of them should also contribute in one way or the other to enhance and help Onyabo to continually discharge its responsibilities.
IKODASS also tried everything possible to ensure that the rate at which cultism was going was checkmated. We did that in collaborative efforts with other agencies of government.
THE IMPACT: There is no doubt that IKODASS has attained a height where everybody wants to be part of it and lead, especially after your four year tenure. There was stalemate at the last election, what is the situation now?
Otunba Abiru: Actually, there was a stalemate and at same time, there wasn’t any. What really happened was misunderstanding of the process. We have a constitution which, of course, is the ground norm. It is the basis upon which we operate and act. Anything we do outside it is ultra-vices and not acceptable. It happened that on the day (of the election), some people did not understand the stipulations or dictates of our constitution and as a result, while we were trying to put to them what the constitution says, they didn’t want to listen. They thought that we were trying to play a game and when we realized that the temper was high, we now decided that rather than allowing people to wound themselves because of the high tension, we decided to shift the election. I am glad today, that the area of the confusion has been solved and by God’s grace, actually by the first or two weeks after the Ramadan, new executives would be in place. The problem that came up on that day has been solved. So, I can say now that there is no problem and everything is okay.
THE IMPACT: Sir, your parting words for the incoming executives and the generality of Ikorodu people?
Otunba Abiru: I want the incoming chairman to look at some of the programmes that we have done and areas that we have introduced some innovations and ensure that they are sustained. We did a mini – trade fair which enabled small business entrepreneurs to display their wares. Even those that are producing and manufacturing in Ikorodu were given opportunities. That, to me, is good and the incoming chairman should continue in that line and see how we can improve on that. Our carnival (Woro) is something that showcases our culture as a people, I want him to look at that too. The challenge that my successor would face is money and money and if there is another problem that will militate against programmes, it is also money. Funding is very fundamental and I must use this medium to thank Lagos State Government. The state government has been very wonderful. If not for the government, some of the things that we did in the last four years wouldn’t have been possible. Lagos State generously supported our activities. I want to urge my successor to further explore the possibility of involving Lagos State in the cultural activities of Ikorodu people.
For the first time in the history of IKODASS, we introduced the Long Time Outstanding Performance award which is not just given to anybody. The award will be given every four years and it is meant for outstanding indigene of Ikorodu community who have carved a niche for himself/herself and contributed immensely to the social, economic and the political developments of our community and the first recipient of the award is Dr Ajenifuja which everybody were happy about.
We also encourage that IKODASS awardees should use their award titles after their names. For instance, we have Grand Commander of the Ikorodu – Oga (GCIO) which is only meant for the traditional ruler of Ikorodu Kingdom and when Kabiyesi’s name is written, you will see GCIO added to it. The same thing goes for the Merit, Fellows and Associates awardees. Invariably, what we have done is to institutionalize our awards and ensure that people can be proud of them. These are areas that my successor should also looks at.
Most of our schools are not what many of us can be proud of. So, we have to mobilise funds for our friends and people. I want to enjoin my successor to do more than I did in this area. There are many poor pupils in our schools whose parents cannot provide uniforms and sandals for. The situation is pathetic. Most of these schools do not also have good water and hygienic toilets. Government cannot do it all alone; the community must also come in to see what they can do. IKODASS is like a local government. The only thing that we don’t do is construct roads but we do every other thing that the local government does. We renovate schools, give bursary and scholarships, provide uniforms, and agitate for political emancipation and economic development. Culturally, we also enhance and do everything to make our culture relevant and things that everyone of us are proud of.
Invariably, we can say socially, we have touched lives, politically, we have made an impact and culturally, we have elevated our culture to a state of tourism. One can say with pride that the Ikorodu – Oga Development Association has become a force to be reckoned with. We will continue to do that and I also hope and pray that the man who will take the baton of leadership from me will do better than what I have done.
To our clubs and societies, I want to say that IKODASS has gone beyond a place where they can just send anybody to represent them. I want to use this medium to implore clubs and associations sending representatives to stand for elective positions to send people that are credible and capable of identifying their left from right. We need people that are conversant with happenings of the day; that can add value; altruistic and ready to serve sincerely because some of them came with the notion that there is money here but at the end of the day, they realize otherwise. Associations must also support IKODASS in terms of regular payments of their dues.