Prince Dapo Abiodun is a senatorial candidate of the APC for Ogun East district (comprising nine local government areas in the forthcoming February 14, 2015 National Assembly elections. A Successful business magnate, DA, as he is fondly called, in this interview with Femi Ogbonnikan, relives how God has been merciful to him in his early life, as one of the core-investors in the downstream sector of the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry. The Iperu-born politician says the unprecedented landmark achievements of the APC-led Administration in the provision of infrastructures to improve the lots of the people of Ogun State, inspired him to return to politics and complement the efforts of Governor Ibikunle Amosun. Specifically, he promises, if elected, to give his constituents good representation at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly. Excerpts:
Tell us about your humble beginning…
Adedapo Abiodun is my name. I am from this town, which is Iperu-Remo, Ikenne Local Government Area of Ogun State. I was born in Shagamu. I started my early education in Shagamu, because my parents were teachers. They taught in Shagamu. My dad, who was a teacher, turned to be a lecturer, a Professor, and you should know how the civil service was then and each time they just posted him, he would take us with him and so, I travelled a bit with my parents, as they relocated. I am basically a businessman now, and I am in a business of oil and gas, that is where my private business is. I would say I am in oil and energy business, because I own a company, a Heyden Petroleum company which is really active in the downstream sector of the oil industry.
I am actually the chairman of Market Owners Association, called Depot Owners Association of Nigeria. I, also, own a public company called First Power, that is generating electricity out of Lagos. So, these are my primary businesses. I am involved in the upstream sector of the oil industry, as well. Therein, we have Heyden exploration and production company and so, these are my primary businesses. I am about 50 years plus. I became interested in politics and I joined the party then, called UNCP. I contested in the primaries and I won and I became a candidate for UNCP. I further contested in the general elections and I won as senator-elect. But before we got sworn in then, the elections were annulled, because the Head of State then, was trying to transform into a civilian President. Subsequently, I contested for the governorship, with Otunba Gbenga Daniel in PDP and that ambition was not realised. After that, I decided that I was going to focus on building my business and I think that God has been gracious to me.
I didn’t think one day I would come back to partisan-politics, because I believe that, at times, we may explore opportunities in one direction where God opens door for one. I believe my private businesses are in the private sector. However, I must say that the private sector obviously can’t flourish without a good and thriving public sector and democracy. And if in politics of Nigeria today, it is dominated or it has the contribution of people who are by themselves successful in their private practices, people who are of good integrity, people who have track records of organising people, managing people and managing resources successfully, people who have, at least, shown discipline in their areas of focus, if they participate in politics, I am convinced that Nigeria would be a better place, because Nigerians are very brilliant, they are very enterprising, Nigerians who are anywhere in the world, they are very distinct and they can’t be mistaken in any crowd, but unfortunately, the same can’t be said of this country, because we have not been able to harness our human resources that we need ourselves and this is one of the reasons I have come back into active politics. I must say at this point in time that, I am particularly impressed by Amosun, who is also an Accountant. He came from the private sector and he has shown that uprightness and integrity were required in partisan-politics. He has done what we haven’t seen in Ogun State to date and in his three and half years, Ibikunle Amosun has taken this state from being one of the least industrialised states in this country to an industrialised state. He has raised IGR from about half a billion naira to about N5 billion per month.
He has increased employment. He has miraculously done what was unthinkable in terms of infrastructures in this state. On the road network in this state and you will see to date, contractors, conglomerate of contractors, simultaneously in different parts of Ogun State working and this is unprecedented in three and a half years. This man has encouraged people like me to come into politics. He has shown that it can be done, and I am encouraged by that. If Amosun could leave the private sector to come and join politics to make a difference, he has attracted me. I did not want to do this, but I have a lot of people putting pressure on me to come and join Amosun’s administration in the mission to rebuild and transform Ogun State. One of the sermons they preached to me was: Ibikunle Amosun is your good friend, look at the way he is doing and if you join hands with him, with the mission to rebuild Ogun State would be much more easily realisable and you would also attract more of Amosuns of this world to partisan-politics. And I was led to subscribe to that, even though I was very reluctant and I eventually accepted and I am glad that I did. Because I also, realised that, at times, when God blesses us, it is just for a reason and that reason, may be, because we can be a blessing to other people. So, for me really, in terms of personal fulfilment, I am very grateful to God and I think that I am able to do what I have dreamt of doing in my life.
Everything that I have asked God to do for me, he has done for me. As a young man, what I wish to have in my life, I think God has done for me, as and when and He will get it done. I am grateful that I have accepted to serve and I think this gives me an opportunity to give back to my people. I think God has blessed me for a reason that I can be a blessing to others. I am doing this to serve and I will give my people the representation they deserve in the senate. I am going to senate only, because of them. That is why you will see me, meeting with every manner of interest groups that exist in this senatorial district, name it, every manner of interest group, because it is only by meeting with them then, you can identify with the problems they have. And it is by knowing their problems that you can offer them the representation they deserve, and so, I am confident that, I will make a difference.
I am going to the senate, in terms of representing my people appropriately. We have begun to do a lot of things-we have gone round the nooks and crannies of the Ogun East Senatorial district and we have consulted with the people, trying to identify with their needs, some of the needs we can meet, we have started meeting right away, those we think when we get into office, we will meet them when I get there. I will give you a typical example of the people in Ogun people in Waterside, which is an area where many of them have been in darkness between the last five and 10 years. We went there and they have not had electricity in the last 10 years. And somebody said to me that, look this place as you can see is one of the farthest points in Ogun State. It appears if when God created us, having created everywhere in Ogun State, we were created last, as a matter of fact, God just created us here and forgot us. And I said to them that, by the grace of God we shall try and endeavour to make sure there is electricity there even before our elections.
And immediately, I consulted with Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company, they listed where there was no electricity and they showed us the budget to have it achieved and I decided that, I was going to make a capital contribution and we agreed if I give them N50 million they would provide electricity there within 30 days, and this we did about four days ago. We have mobilised them, we have given them N25 million, contractors have begun work and in 30 days, there will be electricity in Ogun Waterside and this is what good representation is all about. And it is what identifying with the people is all about. As we speak, we have graders, bulldozers and contractors, working in different parts of this senatorial district on roads and drainages, complementing the good work of our able governor, because my job, my responsibility is to complement the efforts of my governor. So, I think that, if we have not got there and we are doing this kind of noble things you can expect a lot much more from us when we get into office.
Let me take you back, were your parents rich?
I must tell you that, I come from a very humble background and my parents are still living. My father is 82 years and my mother is 79 years. Like I told you, my parents were teachers and I did not inherit any money from anybody. My story is such that let me say, if I can be where I am today, anybody can be here, I mean, anybody. And it goes a long way to show that you don’t have to have been born by rich father or rich mother to be successful in life. I will tell you a story that my grandfather would never believe he would have a grandson who would be where I am today.
My dad, after he had me, was when he got into University. My dad would work as a teacher, a teacher in this town, Iperu and he was a teacher that didn’t have shoes to wear to school. I think you will not like a story about people who don’t have shoes to wear to school, my father did not have shoes to wear to school. As a teacher, he would go to school to teach and would give a proceed from his salary to his mom, his mom was selling kola nut and she would trade with it and it was from the proceeds of the grand mom’s trade that my father was able to afford his university education. So, I think, it speaks for itself. Where I am today is just by the special grace of God. God just wanted to change the situations of my family and I think that is why he has raised me to be a blessing to my home.
Which college did you attend? I think, you are trying to make a point. I want to tell you that, being successful in life is not in my opinion about prestige of the school you have attended. I went to some pretty, decent schools, but the schools I went to, was not Kings College, Lagos, neither was it an Igbobi College, Lagos and I have utmost regards for kids that have privileges to attend those schools then, but I didn’t have it. I went to schools that were good schools, alright. I went to St’ Joseph’s College, Ondo town, Ondo State and a few other schools. They were good schools, but St’ Joseph College, Ondo also produced the Governor of Ondo State, Chief Olusegun Mimiko and a few other people. So, they were good schools, but they were not iconic schools and I know so many people that today are MDs of different banks. It is not really about the school you attended, many times, but it is about the person you are, it is about the training and the upbringing you have from homes, it is about the values that are enshrined in you and I think, that is what determines what you will become in life.
Which of the universities did you attend? I attended two universities. I went to University of Ife (now, Obafemi Awolowo University), Ife and also, I attended Georgia State University and it is called Kennesaw State University, Georgia, where I obtained a degree in Accounting.
After graduating from the then University of Ife, which organisation was your first place of work? When I left university I hardly really worked, but when I finished in America and I worked with a company as an Accountant for about a year, after which I came back to Nigeria and I set up my own company, which was into electronic security and safety devices. So, I will say that for the most part of my life I have worked for myself. My employment history is, mostly, being that which I will describe myself as an entrepreneur. My employment was very, very short in terms of working for people.
How many wives do you have?
I have only one wife. Or, do you expect a politician to have more than one wife?
Is your wife in support of your political ambition?
I sincerely hope so…
You are an Accountant, how did you cut your teeth in politics?
If I were to tell you, I will not give you details, but I had a friend who at other time was very helpful and we were close and he was a personal friend of mine. He was a senator actually before then. He was a senator in SDP and I used to just go around with him. He is from the north and one day, he said to me, “Dapo, I think you should go and contest election”, and I thought it was a joke. I told him, it was an outright joke and he later became governor of a state. And one day, we came to Lagos and Abuja and I brought him back to my state, Ogun, and he took me to Jubril Martins-Kuye, who was a top politician and they were together in the same party then. He told Martins-Kuye that I was going to contest election and that was where my political career took off. I believe that the man saw something in me that I never knew existed and obviously, it is something I have.
You are a very successful businessman, thriving in your various ventures. Why are you venturing this murky water of politics? I think, I had already explained that earlier, I believe if all of us fold our hands and we just want to do our businesses and enjoy the comfort of our homes and I don’t think Nigeria will be a better place. I think the more of us that are bringing in the experience that we have in our private practices into governance and politics, the better the field will be. Our politics should now be known as politics of those who have experience, those who have integrity, who have been successful in business and who are reputable and who their word is their bond. I think the more of us that are in politics, the better the field will be. It should not be known as politics with some people who are unreliable, who are thugs, who are irresponsible, who have no integrity.
Partisan-politics in Nigeria is very expensive, and do you have enough financial muscles to do it?
I want to say that I am blessed enough. I am in an industry that is very financially rewarding. So, in terms of this venture, I think that my war-chest is adequately provided. I think my war-chest is ready for this venture.
What are your chances of winning this Ogun East Senatorial District, considering the fact that it is the stronghold of the opposition, PDP, in the state?
That is a misconception! How could you say it is the stronghold of the opposition when APC is in power in Ogun State? How come? And what happened to PDP when APC defeated them in 2011 general elections? If it is the stronghold of the opposition, that is a misconception! They are in opposition in Ogun State, there is no doubt. In my own senatorial district, there is a lot of influences or oppositions here, especially when part of our party has broken away to form another party. But let me assure you, I believe that, by the grace of God, on February 15, you will be here to come and celebrate with me, because I think that I am crossing the ‘Ts’ and also, dotting the ‘I’s.
What are new things on your tables that you want to bring to bear on the good people of your senatorial district?
I think that what I have done speaks for itself. I am not in office, I have demonstrated capacity and genuineness to represent my people, promises made and promises have been delivered. Promises have been made before getting into office, promises have been delivered. The League of Imams, I went to see them, recently before the primaries and they said to me that they have a school there, which they built for their children, and they needed a school bus for that school and I promised them that it would be done before our primaries and a brand new 18-seater bus was given to them. They said to me that gesture was unprecedented and they added that the last time such was done was when Jubril Martins-Kuye came to their rescue. People have been complaining they want their roads to be graded and I am doing that, as I speak in five local government areas out of nine under my senatorial district. Also, we have been providing loans for market women at free interest rates, including artisans. I set up that venture through my bank, Wema. I am not in office yet, and so, when I get into office and I am sure, the story will speak for itself.
You are into oil and gas business, declining crude oil prices in international market is already taking its toll on the Nigerian economy. What areas do you think Nigeria can generate more revenues, instead of relying on oil?
It is unfortunate, because that is an industry that I belong to. And this industry is the bread basket of this nation and anything that happens to it affects revenues. I think when things were rosy, we should have been preparing for this time. A country like United Arab Emirate (UAE) was also, completely reliant on the oil industry, but today oil is number two in terms of revenue and number one is tourism. For business tourism, everybody goes to Dubai to shop and Dubai is nothing, but a desert. They produce nothing, they don’t grow anything and it rains only twice or thrice in a whole year in Dubai, yet, Dubai has become the choice destination for many people. I think, we will need to sort out some issues here, before we can begin to think of other forms or sources of revenues, Nigeria is doing well, because of the size of our population, our economy is one of the fastest growing in the continent. However, some things that are fundamental; one is security and second, is electricity. Once those two are in place, I believe that we can begin to now prospect other forms of revenues.
We can begin to prospect them and expect yields from them, but in an environment where there is breakdown of law and order and security, where people are being killed, everyday investors are not very excited. In my industry, we have what we call war-risk insurance and we are paying more to bring in ships, because our country has been described as a war zone. So, if leadership gets it right, security is taken care of and stable electricity, Nigeria would overtake even China and Japan. So, I believe that our tourism sector is where investors should explore and Nigeria will actually be the business hub of the continent, particularly in the west coast of Africa. Our Airports should be the hub of west coast of Africa and our markets should be the hub of it also, and it should be Nigeria where you come and we are manufacturing at a very low cost, in terms of business, trading and commerce and we would get there. But if this fundamental has been in place, otherwise, we would become a net export of goods and services, but there is a negative impact on the currency which we are already feeling now.