Isha Tejan-Cole Johansen Takes Football To Another Level

African women are rising and taking their place at the world’s biggest tables and Isha Tejan-Cole Johansen, one of Sierra Leone’s most powerful women and President of the West African country’s Football Association, SLFA, is rising with them.


Isha Tejan-Cole JohansenAn ardent passion for the beautiful game gleaned from the streets of Freetown playing football with her brothers and their friends has bloomed magnificently into a distinguished career in football administration. The lessons imbibed from her father who was co-founder of football club, East End Lions F.C. in Freetown and who also took her to see football matches, have undoubtedly formed the building blocks of her success.


Following in her father’s footsteps, she founded her own football club, F.C. Johansen, in 2004, with the objective of providing support and opportunities to children devastated by the Sierra Leone Civil War which raged for 11 years between 1991 and 2002. The club began playing in Division One in 2011 and was promoted to the Premier League the following year. Isha’s glittering dossier is decorated with many firsts. In 1993, she became the first woman publisher in her country’s history, producing Rapture Magazine, an entertainment publication.


She is the first woman to serve as President of the Sierra Leonean Football Association, the only female president of a football association in Africa and one of only a few women in the world to have headed a national football association. She is also the first woman to serve in FIFA’s Security and Integrity committee. Earlier this year she was appointed as the head of the Confederations of African Football (CAF) Women’s football Committee making her the Isha Tejan-Cole Johansenfirst Sierra Leonean to head such a committee in the organisation’s 60-year history.


Through her Power Play footballing initiative, she is providing opportunities for and empowering disadvantaged African girls and women to become better versions of themselves. Although it hasn’t all been crisp and cream in her inspiring and trailblazing career having had her fair share of trials, no one is more optimistic about the future than Isha whose all consuming passion is to use her power, influence and position to empower other African women to fulfil their highest potential and to transform the fortunes of the game of football in Sierra Leone.


She shares her triumphs and travails in this interview with OVATION.


How did your journey into football administration begin


It started here actually, at Hill Station in Freetown just across the road – right after our very brutal civil war in Sierra Leone, which ended in 2002. There were many kids roaming around the neighbourhood and there was a humanitarian project to put back some underprivileged roaming kids who were very talented and passionate about football back into school, helping them to live their dreams, to chase their dreams and in fact to be able to dream of having a dream and to chase it and live the dream.


The club was called East End Lions F.C. and that was how it all started-community league matches, educating them, teaching them social skills, travelling with them round half of the world from Scandinavia, to Europe, to America and having international youth tournaments-that is my journey really.


I call it the field of dreams. And in 2011, I guess with having done all of that, I actually had the audacity to dream of doing what I achieved at the local level on a national scale. And so I actually threw my hat in at the very last minute – maybe two weeks to the closing date to declare myself as a candidate for the FA position, the highest seat in football in Sierra Leone. It never really did occur to me that I being the first woman would be make it a bit harder. I just thought that I would be good at it.


I didn’t have a manifesto because I thought that my walking, talking billboard was FC Johansen. I thought the success we had accomplished at FC Johansen would suffice as my credential for what I would be able to build on the national level. So that is me and my journey and what an incredible story it has been.


And how incredible a journey has it been for you in football administration particularly in a male-dominated field


It has been a bit of a sweet one. It has been a learning curve, not just for me but I guess for most women who aspire to greatness, to achieving, especially for women who dare or have the audacity to dream about becoming leaders – especially in territories where ordinarily, it is a norm that men are the stakeholders or men are the role models in those particular professions.

I think it is also a story and an eye opener for our youths like I said earlier, that if you have a dream, not only should you be allowed to dream and dream big but you should chase the dream. And that the dreams do not just end up as dreams but that you are empowered to actually realise those dreams.


The sweet side is the success of it all. Yes, I come from a privileged background but I also came back to help those who are less privileged or less fortunate and in so doing, that had its drawbacks because not everybody understood where I was coming from and not everybody was willing to accept me as someone who was genuinely out to help and not to exploit. And that has cost me a lot daily. It has cost me my health; it has cost me a lot of emotional trauma, but at the end of the day, it has been a successful journey thus far. This is the reason you are interviewing me, and this is the reason the world is thrilled by my story because it is one of success against the odds where people thought she would fail, she has no chance, or she has no business being in this region, in this profession, in this arena. I have been able to defy those odds and achieved, excelled, and risen above it.


The question now for me is, now that I have it, what am I going to do with it? And I am actually excited and enthralled to find out what I am going to do with this success story. I do not want my story to be cliché-to simply be one about a woman who has beaten the odds or challenged and won in a male-dominated profession. But now that I have actually earned it-the power, the role and gained momentum, what am I going to do with that? So, yes, you asked a question and I always ask myself this question-so what now? What is next?


What challenges have you faced as a woman at the top of her profession and what would you say are the obstacles to more and more African women rising to occupy male-dominated roles in politics, business and other fields

I think the obvious – the obvious being gender is troubling. Let us not fool ourselves and let us not pretend that even in this day and age, Africa is not still behind in terms of gender equality. I am not one who would put a woman in a position or vote for a woman or lobby for a woman simply because she is a woman. I would lobby for a woman who has potential, who has the ability to be given an equal opportunity to develop and deploy that potential -that is what we are asking for. Women want an equal platform as the men. Give a woman that and let her go and perform and if she excels, fantastic, and if not, then we know she was been given a fighting chance. It took me a really long time to realise that the reason I was being given such a hard


The 6th Edition of the Wines Of South Africa at Sheraton Lagos

It was fun all the way at the 6th Edition of the Wines Of South Africa (WOSA) Grand tasting event held at the Prestigious Four Points By Sheraton, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The Grand Tasting event which showcased the diversity, innovation and the uniqueness of South African wines, attracted connoisseurs, captains of industry, consumers, distributors and wine produces was also attended by South Africa’s First Lady, H.E. Bongi-NgemaZuma and South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr LL Mnguni.

According to Matome Mbatha, Marketing Manager Africa, Wines of South Africa, the Grand Tasting event is geared towards ultimately creating Ambassadors for South African wines. “It is designed to showcase quality wines from Wine Producers and exhibit over 200 wine brands from different regions in the Cape Wine land of South Africa”.


He noted that South Africa is currently the world’s seventh largest wine producer and have more fair trade wineries than any other country.

In her speech, Mrs Zuma expressed joy at the continued patronage of South African wines by Nigerians, noting that intra-African trade was one of the best ways of improving the economic fortunes of the continent.The 6th Edition of the Wines Of South Africa at Sheraton Lagos

She stated that in the past decade there’s been a renaissance in the wine industry, with new plantings, new knowledge and a new generation of enthusiastic wine makers, which means that South Africans are constantly improving to appeal to consumers with different taste.


As soft music was wafting in the background, and guests tasting and networking, it was a truly entertaining evening where guests were expected to taste and trade.

The very next day, the Grand Tasting event moved to Accra, Ghana and the venue this time was the 5-star, Movenpick Ambassador Hotel. Again the event organisers, Jon Williams Limited laid out a spectacular setting that was cosy and convivial.

Olabisi Abike Folawiyo Weds Prince Aderemilekun Sijuwade

Scintillating! That is how the traditional and white weddings that united two powerful Yoruba families-the Sijuwade and Folawiyo families, would have been described, but it was more than that. It was something in the neighbourhood of utopia and of course, Eldorado.


The ceremonies which took place over two weekends, required painstaking preparations and were in every sense a celebration of love at its best between Prince Aderemilekun Sijuwade, the bearded handsome son of the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade and Princess Olabisi Abike Folawiyo, the delectable daughter of late successful businessman and former Baba Adinni of Nigeria, Chief Iyanda Folawiyo.


Consequently, sequel to the biblical injunction that he that finds a wife has found a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord, the couple, with magnificent support from their families, friends and well-wishers, set out to formalize and solemnize their relationship at the Balmoral Convention Centre, Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, where the first of the events-the traditional ceremony -took place.


At various centres, events kicked off on the beautiful day in preparation for the high society union. At the prestigious Eko Hotel and Suites where the groom and his men were lodged, an exclusive OVATION photoshoot held to capture the finer moments of the groom’s last hours as a bachelor. There was a beehive of activities at the home of the bride as well, who with a retinue of friends, effortlessly slid into her royal traditional apparel.


A highlight of that morning was Prince Aderemi demonstrating what a helpless romantic he is by surprising his beautiful bride in the early hours of that morning with a brand new white Mercedes Benz car gift which he had delivered to her hotel. Labisi, who owns the popular makeup studio, Facesbylabisi, was as ecstatic as she was astonished by this breath-taking romantic gesture from her Prince Charming-her mouth agape as she saw the wonder-on-wheels for the first time and sat in the driver’s seat for selfies.


This is not forgetting the gathering of the groom’s family at the lobby of the Federal Palace Hotel, where special guests made a royal stopover with pleasantries, clicking of cameras for selfies and the expression of goodwill before proceeding to the banquet hall.Olabisi Abike Folawiyo Weds Prince Aderemilekun Sijuwade


The event itself was everything but low key right from the lobby of the hotel where the Arike Ade Cultural Group from Ile Ife, which came to honour a Prince of their town, kept the atmosphere lively with rhythmic beats of their drums renting the air, complemented by scintillating dance rhythms by a group of three professional female dancers; Temitope Onitiju, Aminat Eluguaju and Yetunde Olaleye.


The drumming and the dancing heralded the arrival of the esteemed guests, ferried into the hotel premises and available parking spaces in their state-of-the-art automobiles. Among such dignitaries were the founder of First City Monument Bank, Otunba Subomi Balogun, former Editor of the defunct Concord Newspaper, Chief Doyin Abiola, amongst others.


It was not long before the call for the business of the day was made, and like a royal carnival, the special guests marched majestically to the magnificently decorated Balmoral Convention Centre, accompanied by deafening sounds of traditional music popping off the well-crafted drums and gongs among many other instruments of various traditional groups that filled the arena. It was a combination of colours ranging from blue to white


The presence of Kunle Komolafe’s Ksquared Security Services ensured that only invited guests gained entrance into the venue.


The arrival of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, caused a positive stir, completely revving up the pace of the atmosphere. His presence intensified the drumming and singing as the reverred monarch waited for the right time to alight from his sparkling-white Rolls Royce Phantom which had come to a halt at the entrance. Once out, he made his way through a path lined up by dancers, drummers and palace guards.


Inside the Balmoral was a distinct fountain which reflected purified colours and more exquisite sight of green and white with each table decorated like the traditional cap of the Ooni resting on a stool. The bride and groom’s corner was another splash of green and white with a sporadic show of lights.


With the Ooni and his entourage seated, the event proper commenced as the compere, Abimbola Akinwunmi, started with ushering in the parents of the couple, who danced in in glory with music befitting of the Yoruba tradition.


This was followed by the entrance of the groom’s family who entered in a blaze of glory, momentarily turning the environment to blue, and then the traditional rites began with communication carried on in both Yoruba and English languages.


The compere welcomed guests and thanked everyone for coming before proceeding to order a minute silence in honour of the couple’s deceased fathers – Alhaji Iyanda Folawiyo and Oba Okunade Sijuwade. The honours were performed according to both Islamic and Christian injunctions. With attendant eulogies rendered to the memories of the great men, the mothers of the couple were obliged five minutes to exhibit their dance steps, and boy did they impress! At that point, it was proved that the ‘old woman is never too old for the dance she knows very well’.

The ceremony moved ahead to the presentation of the proposal letter by the groom’s family, which the Ooni blessed before it was handed over to the parents of the bride. The letter was then read by the bride’s younger sister, Aisha Folawiyo, who afterwards was treated to a dance.


The bride’s family followed up with their own acceptance letter, which paved the way for the triumphant entry of the man of the moment, the hunk-like handsome son of the 50th Ooni of Ife, in the person of Prince Aderemi Sijuwade. His entrance came with pomp and circumstance accompanied by his friends.


At the stage, the compere mandated the removal of caps by the groom and his companions, and at the count of two, all of them were face down on the floor, prostrating in total obeisance to the parents of the bride and respect for the undying Yoruba culture.

With classic music interlude provided by two live bands-Excellent Band and Queen Ayo Balogun and the Heritage Voices Band, as well as cultural groups, the stage was set for the beautiful prize that Prince Aderemi had been longing for Olabisi Abike Folawiyo.


Then, she enetered, clad in shiny baby pink coloured lace attire with a velvety veil over her face, which traditionally symbolises her purity and innocence before her husband to be. She was surrounded by a bevy of gorgeous ladies, dressed in matching colours and attires. At the centre, with emotion running high, she wrapped herself round her mother, and both shed tears of joy and love, as an eventual departure from home for a new life of marriage beckoned.

Senator Daisy Danjuma is 65

When the living legend, Stevie Wonder sang his monstrous hit “Isn’t She lovely” with lyrics that read: Isn’t she lovely, Isn’t she wonderful, Isn’t she precious, Less than one minute old”, he in fact encapsulated the way everyone’s darling, amiable Senator Daisy Danjuma looked on her 65th birthday.

She was simply dazzling and stunning, and did not look any inch close to 65 as she and her husband, the respected Officer and gentleman, General Theophilus  Yakubu Danjuma (Rtd) hosted the cream of Nigerian society to an exclusive birthday dinner.

In deed when people refer to a lady as aging gracefully, it will be a disservice to look further than the evening’s star attraction: Daisy Danjuma

Held at Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, it was not your typical, Lagos Owambe, party that is usually packed with people, full of sound and fury but little substance. This was a classy event filled with heavyweights.

Dr. Adebola Akindele is Lagos State Man of the Year 2017

It was a day of resounding recognition for years of entrepreneurial excellence and innovative enterprise when Dr. Adebola Akindele, the Group Managing Director of Courteville Business Solutions Plc., a leading e-business solutions and advisory company headquartered in Nigeria, was conferred with the award of Lagos State Man of the Year 2017 by the Centre for Policy Development and Political Studies (CEPODEPS). The conferment ceremony held at Eko FM Multipurpose Hall on Lateef Jakande Road, Agidingbi, Lagos.


The venue of the award ceremony was filled to the brim as colleagues, friends and family members of the debonair gentleman turned out in their numbers to register their support in no uncertain terms. Chief Organizer of the award, Dr. Aderemi Ifaolepin Aderemi, stated that the Lagos State Man of the Year Award (LASMAYA) is an accolade given to individuals who are symbols of achievement in Lagos State’s public and private sectors, particularly those who have attained a standard of merit in the eyes of their peers having performed exceptionally in their industries.


“This is a celebration of true, well-refined personalities of immeasurable worth of whom Dr. Adebola Akindele is one. Our assessment is based less on traditional titles and roles and more on creative influence and entrepreneurship.”


“What is popular in our society is to celebrate the celebrated, to praise the praised, and to identify with success; but we are shifting away from the norm. We have decided to look for a way to reward character – the unsung heroes. This award was created in essence to pay tribute to excellence,” Dr. Aderemi averred.

Affirming that the recipient of the award which is in its seventh edition, is picked through a rigorous and thorough selection process, the convener revealed that awardee was nominated alongside nine other notable Nigerians by a 9-man selection committee that comprised mainly of academics, writers, researchers, and media professionals.


He also revealed the judging criteria for the nominations to include exemplary leadership qualities, consistent high moral standard and integrity, outstanding personal achievements, outstanding selfless service to Lagos State and humanity as well as the opinion polls of the public, while expressing gratitude for the overwhelming response by the public during the voting conducted via short message service from Monday, 14th of August, through Sunday, 20th of August 20, 2017.


The shortlist of nominees included Lagos State Commissioner for Local Government & Community Affairs, Hon. Muslim Olohuntele Falemi who finished with 810 votes; the Aholu Henwa of Kweme Kingdom (730 votes); Chairman of the Lagos State Local Government Service Commission, Alh. Babatunde Tajudeen Rotinwa (1, 313 votes); Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Waterfront and Infrastructure Development, Engr. Adeyemi Saliu Abidemi (805 votes) and Lagos State University (LASU) Vice Chancellor, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun (2, 934 votes).Dr. Adebola Akindele is Lagos State Man of the Year 2017


Others were Access Bank Group Managing Director/CEO, Dr. Hebert Wigwe (511 votes); the Olori Oluwo of the Reformed Ogboni Fraternity, Olori Francis Meshioye (2, 084 votes); MD/CEO of Nordica Fertility Centre, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi (2, 038 votes); and the President/CEO of SAF Petroleum Limited, Aare (Dr.) Safiriyu Adebanjo Kazeem (1, 632 votes).


Dr. Akindele emerged winner of the award with 3, 324 valid votes cast.


In his acceptance remarks, he thanked his team at Courteville for their sterling contributions to the growth of the company saying, “We do not have the deepest pockets by any means. We do not have the brightest visibility. We do not have the most number of people but we have ourselves. All we did was just to require that we all put in our best and to see what comes of it.”


Dr. Akindele, who also had special words of gratitude for a couple of his friends with whom he shares fond memories, including Nigeria’s former Minister of State for Finance, Hon. Remi Babalola, quipped, “It was because of them that I moved out of the public sector at the Central Bank into the private sector. In 1989-90, we were struggling ICAN students. We didn’t have cars or homes of our own but we had ourselves and the belief in the things one could get to do. I am sure our wives married us because of the potential they saw in us at that time.”


He also thanked his wife, Mrs. Olabisi Akindele for her unflinching support through the years.


Representing the Professional Excellence Foundation of Nigeria (PEFON), veteran broadcaster, Mr. Seyi Martins, hinted that the awardee, who is a member of the foundation’s council would be further celebrated for his latest honour by his colleagues at the foundation on Thursday, October 19th, 2017.


At the ceremony were Courteville Business Solutions Deputy Managing Director, Alh. Wale Osinaike; the Elejinrin of Ejinrin Kingdom, Oba Rafiu Ishola Balogun and his wife, Olori Mojisola Balogun; the Balogun of Ejirin, Chief Muyiwa Akintola; the Olomijo of Omijo, Oba Kazim Olanipekun Gbadamosi and his wife, Olori Taiwo Olabisi Gbadamosi; Ex-Finance Minister, Hon. Remi Babalola; Lagos State House of Assembly member, Hon. Olusegun Olulade; former Secretary to lkorodu Local Government Area, Lagos State, Comrade Japheth Odesanya, as well as board and staff members of Courteville Business Solutions Plc.


Dr. Adebola Akindele started his professional career as an audit intern at KPMG Peat Marwick Ani Ogunde and Co. in 1987 having obtained his Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1985. In 1989, he joined the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) where he rose to become Treasurer/Financial Controller of the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGS). While at the CBN, he also served as a Bank Examiner on various occasions.


He would later obtain a Master’s Degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Lagos in 1993 and in the same year, having gained substantial regulatory experience, he ventured into the private sector with Oceanic Bank. During a successful seven year stint at the bank, he held various senior management positions including Head of Operations, Chief Inspector and Head of Credit Administration and Loan Recovery and Head of the bank’s Commercial Banking Division.

In the year 2000, he joined Fountain Trust Bank Plc. as the Group Head of Lagos Island Business Group. His outstanding accomplishments earned him promotion to Group Head of Commercial Banking, and later, Divisional Head of Markets.


By 2004, after almost 20 years of successfully handling increasing responsibilities in different organisations, he ventured into entrepreneurship with a vision to found a company that would make a mark in its sector for innovation, service and the value of its franchise. In the same year, he opened Courteville Investment Limited to offer corporate finance services and business process reengineering consulting to organisations. The company underwent a name change to Courteville Business Solutions Plc. in 2011 after it went public.


Under his astute leadership,  Courteville Business Solutions Plc. became the leading data capturing service provider in Sub-Saharan Africa and is the first in its sector to be listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) with shareholders’ funds in excess of USD20 million.


Dr. Akindele is also the Chairman, Fosters Estate Limited; Chairman, Bolbis Ventures; Chairman, Courteville Investments Limited (Sierra Leone) and Director, Synergy Capital and Advisory Limited.


He is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CITN). He is an active member of the World Business Forum, Africa CEO Forum and the Commonwealth Business Forum. He is also professionally affiliated with the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM) and the Institute of Directors (IOD).


He holds the distinction of being the only African on the Advisory Board of the Enterprise and Parliamentary Dialogue International (EPDI), a UK-registered independent, not-for-profit body set up to establish a bridge of understanding between parliamentarians and enterprises. He also sits on the Board of Advisors of the East Africa Business Network (EABN) – the first time a non-East African would occupy that position.


A relentless philanthropist, he is an Associate Member of the Nigerian Red Cross in its Platinum Category, for his contribution in aid to medically vulnerable individuals, especially women and children.

In 2016, Courteville was voted the second best place to work in Nigeria by the Great Place to Work Institute at its 4th Annual Best Companies to Work for Award Ceremony, coming second only to American-owned multinational corporation, EMC and ahead of Sanofi. The company was pitted against heavyweights such as EMC Corporation, iSON, Microsoft Nigeria, Guinness Nigeria, Poise Nigeria, Sanofi, Konga, SC Johnson and CAP Plc.  At the awards, Courteville also bagged a Bright Spot Award for Best Practices while Dr. Akindele bagged a Bright Spot for Excellent Delivery of Leadership.


He later sat down for an interview with OVATION to discuss his most recent laurel, little beginnings, big feats and the role of providence in positioning him for life-changing opportunities.


We congratulate you on your recent conferment with the Lagos Man of the Year Award. How symbolic is this accolade for you and Courteville Group

Thank you very much. When the Centre for Policy Development and Political Studies (CEPODEPS) invited me as a nominee, it was a surprise and I wasn’t expecting anything. But I was assured by my team that it was a big deal of some sort. So we agreed that it was in our best interest to give it the best shot. We’re probably the smallest in terms of depth of pocket, visibility and size but we had social media presence and we maximised that. We had friends, family members and networks that allowed us reach as many people as we could to get them to vote for us. One significant outcome of this award is the visibility it has given our company. The award ceremony itself was a massive PR opportunity for, not just me, but my company in particular and all we do. Now we hope we will be able to take this to the next level by making sure that we do not disappoint those who voted for us as well as the Centre that has bestowed this honour. It is still a big deal to us and for the next 12 months, we will run with this impetus.


How did it make you feel to see the immense support you received from family, colleagues and associates during the voting process and even afterwards at the award ceremony.

The massive support we received demonstrates our relevance and the freshness of relationships built several decades back. We were able to garner votes not just from within our organisation but from home. My wife’s alumni associations from her secondary school and universities threw their weight behind us. We had votes coming in from Doha, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ghana, the USA, the UK, and all over Africa. It was simply a good way of knowing that we are still in touch with all the people that we should be in touch with.


Prior to the receipt of this award, many would consider AutoReg, which is the flagship service of Courteville Group’s subsidiaries more of a household name than you the CEO. Would you regard yourself as reclusive and as shying away from the spotlight and any reason why AutoReg has always been more popular than Courteville. In terms of visibility, the brand has overtaken all the other services we offer – right from inception in 2007. It does not predate Courteville but it is what is most popular because it has over 15 million customers across Nigeria and it is visible because of that. Courteville is a listed company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). I have been around business circles and done a lot of things in the past 30 to 34 years. I have been an auditor, a bank examiner, a farmer, a banker and I am now running an IT services company. At 54, I have been around long enough for me not to be considered a recluse of any sort but then, the reservation that you require as an entrepreneur also demands that you operate from the background while your brand creations hug the spotlight. The person behind the service or company does not matter as much as the service being offered to clients and prospects.


Your career trajectory is one of transitions between not necessarily related disciplines-from Agriculture to Banking and Finance, now in IT services. What would you say accounts for these transitions

You find yourself in a peculiar system and you get thrust into reality very quickly. I graduated from the university in the mid-eighties and went for my national youth service. Unemployment was really bad at the time. Those were the years that we eventually had the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) and things were tough. I had studied Animal Science at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and there were not too many opportunities in the labour market for what people read in school at the time. The available opportunities were banking, business administration and accounting-related. So a lot of us found ourselves in audit practice and training regardless of what our backgrounds were. I found my way into KPMG Peat Marwick Ani Ogunde and Co. between 1987 and 1989 and when I was done with training here, I moved to Central Bank where I served as an Agricultural Credit Officer. I moved into the Agriculture Finance Department in 1989 because of my background but eventually I was pushed into roles that had to do with recording data, recording and preparing finance and accounts, treasury, and eventually, bank examination in the Central Bank. Thereafter, I moved into private sector banking in 1993 and the rest is history. As a private banker, it didn’t matter what you read in school really. As a manager, it was all the same, as a science or an art form. Management is management and leadership is leadership regardless of what your background was. What you read simply became part of what you needed to do a good job as a banker at that level. I left banking in 2004 at General Manager level to promote Courteville which started as a business advisory firm but we have since expanded our portfolio because we were striving to offer practical solutions to everyday problems in people’s lives. That was how the AutoReg franchise was born. And after AutoReg, we have created a lot of different services and products that are helping to drive our vision which essentially involves touching the life of every citizen of the world. In doing that, we say we will ensure to give our stakeholders the best in terms of equity, equilibrium, empathy and many other values. We want to make sure that on a daily business, you will find your way to one of our platforms to meet one or more of your daily requirements.


You did say at the award event that your success in life has not been the product of any meticulous planning process but by the grace of God. One would imagine that for someone who has achieved such a level of success, there must have been a certain degree of fastidious planning involved

The greatest planner is God-the Almighty Allah himself. I do not believe that I have achieved anything that many more people have not tried just as hard or harder to achieve and yet failed. I am not the best at anything at which I have succeeded but God has been kind to position me here. The truth about it is that there hasn’t been any grand plan towards where we are now as a company and or where I am as an as an individual. And I will never take glory for it or say it is simply as a result of my hard work. It has been God all the way. The man pushing the cart out there is also working very hard but you need the element of God’s blessings in all you do. In your career, you need to be positioned appropriately and that cannot be by your own doing alone. My total belief in the Almighty Allah allows me to be well-positioned for opportunities and it has been shown to me regularly. I work very hard in one direction and there’s some unseen hand that pushes me in another direction and I find myself in a place better than I had hoped. AutoReg is one of those kinds of situations and I looked for what to call it for decades until I stumbled upon a book about five to six years ago called Synchronicity. You cannot claim the glory for what synchronicity does in your life. It is God.

So you do not believe in the concept of self-made men

God makes man. Man will just make effort not to lose the opportunities when God presents them to him.


At the award ceremony also, you rolled back the years when you mentioned the days of little beginnings with the likes of the former Minister of State for Finance, Remi Babalola and other individuals – days when you had no car or house of your own – and how your wives chose you guys not because of any tangible success you had but because of your potential. What were those early days like

Those were the years between 1986 and the early nineties. We were all young men, not so fresh out of school, but mostly trying to get a foothold in some career or employment. A few of us were in training with KPMG then. My friend, Remi Babalola, who eventually became my best man in 1991 was with Arthur Andersen. We had Aiyedun Fashina. We had the current Managing Director of FMDQ, Bola Onadele Koko in our set too. We had Debo Olasore and Laoye Jaiyeola who is the current CEO of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group. There were quite a number of us at that level at that time. The current Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah was two years behind us in ICAN training. We were all young men and women at the time hoping for the best and the best we could attempt to do at that time was to position ourselves, in terms of our careers, for the greatest opportunities that we would be presented with. None of us had a car even though I was driving my dad’s car. I was still staying in my dad’s home. None of us had anything until we got our first jobs in banks. The current Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo did not even have a doctorate at that time, if I recall well. He was our lecturer in Company Law in 1989 during ICAN classes. You never can tell where you will end up. Here we are now with no knowledge of what will happen in the next minute, hour, year or decade. So, for me, it is about how well you position yourself to take advantage of the opportunities that God brings to you and to pray that God blesses your effort while at it.


I noticed that even though this was a personal award and not a company award, you still singled out your staff for praise and lauded their contributions towards the making of your success story

Courteville has a particular stakeholder that we do not toy with-our staff. It is only when you treat your staff well that your customers will get treated well and not the other way round. I grew up as a professional not having the benefit of mentorship or role modelling and I had to stumble my way through everything I know in most cases. So I have learned that you have to keep telling people that beyond what you can do for yourself, you also need to be allowed to grow and learn from those who have been through it. At Courteville, we have over 200 employees and everyone was involved in the voting. So, my appreciation was on a number of many levels transcending what you can even imagine. They participated at the level of self-involvement. They contributed through their extended families. They went out of their way to call for votes on my behalf on social media. They contributed towards the holding of the event. They took this beyond work. It was a personal cause for them and that, I had to appreciate. And between them and me, it has always been personal. We do not have a company as it were, we have a family. We empathise with our staff. It is only at Courteville that you have such open relationships between the executives and the staff. That is why a year ago, an international agency, Great Place to Work, gave us four awards including the second best place to work in West Africa. And awards keep coming in from different directions. We do things differently here. Our employees are our flagship stakeholders. It is what they project and how they project the company that allows the users of our services see what we have to offer.


As a CEO, what do you look out for when recruiting to fill positions within your organisation

The first thing a leader needs to be good at is recognising talent and potential in people even before the people themselves see their own potentials. You have to be able to discern it from afar. It does not have to be palpable but from short interactions, you should be able to detect that a person would make a great addition in a particular area of need within the organisation. That’s a gift I have always had. I watch out for people with passion and courage. I watch out for people who are not entirely like me but who can complement me in all that I do. You can’t do everything yourself. You need people to provide strength where you are weak.

It has become the singsong of many Nigerian employers that the schools are producing graduates who lack the requisite experience to function effectively in roles in the modern, complex workplace. Do you have the same experience

Oh yes we do but it does not stop there. Your role either as an employer or manager or leader or as a Nigerian entrepreneur is to see the potential in these kids regardless of the inadequacies of the system that produced them. Identify their potentials and train them to be better than they thought they could ever be. I have about 15 employees in my IT department and most of them graduated from Nigerian universities but we have trained them enough to know that they are just as good, if not better than those who come from abroad. I really don’t believe that all the local schools are doing so poorly. Covenant University has won so many awards in terms of what they have produced in different fields. The problem really is the disconnect between the gown and the town but I believe that it is the role of the private sector to collaborate with the educational sector to ensure that the schools are not loading the students with theoretical garbage and churning out robots as graduates.


I see you have an impressive collection of books here. Do books play that important a role in the success of entrepreneurs

For me, it was never about books. Most of the books you see here have come from my mentees. We work on something together at the office and then they get to read a book where they see concepts and ideas I had already discussed with them and they get me the book.  The interesting part is that that can only happen when what you are trying to mentor people about makes sense. I actually read about people and their autobiographies not because I want to be like them but because I can pick one or two things along the way. I read books on management and leadership. I went back to school after about a 20-year hiatus from academic work and bagged my doctorate degree because I felt there were some new things I needed to know. I know that learning has to be continuous and it is perpetual in my life. The day you stop learning is the day you start dying. My motto in life with regard to learning is, know a lot about everything and everything about a lot, and that positions you to be able to have meaning conversations and contributions.


Courteville is breaking new grounds in business domestically, across the African continent and around the world. Do you mind sharing with us some of the strides you have taken in the past decade

It continues to be a challenge trying to work in Africa. We have a wholly-owned subsidiary in Jamaica. We are in the process of setting up offices in Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos. In Africa, we started operations in Sierra Leone but it has stalled. We have our operations in Zimbabwe and another is coming up in Liberia and hopefully, in Ghana soon. It has been so difficult, especially in the ECOWAS sub-region to get any cooperation from any other economy for Nigerian businesses to operate and thrive. We had a 10-year contract with Sierra Leone and we were only able to work for six months for nationalistic reasons. Everybody is scared of a Nigerian businessman. They say we are too aggressive and we take over everything. The same scenario plays out in a lot of other places. There are some economies around us here whose names I will not mention that have unwritten policies of not letting Nigerian businesses come near, let alone thrive.


Nigerian entrepreneurs suffer simply for being Nigerians out there. We try to overcompensate to be able to get any foothold out there. Then we come back home to Nigeria and are still disadvantaged because government favours foreign companies or local affiliates of foreign companies well above local companies with no such affiliations. I find that rather unfortunate. We need to start believing in ourselves as Nigerians. We have to start trusting what can come out of here. We have shown it in Courteville with a lot of our services. We have shown it with our people. We have won awards that are beyond Nigeria and Africa. We have given the Nigerian government the kind of visibility that they have never had in places like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. We have done things that nobody could have imagined would have happened here. AutoReg is the first of its type anywhere in the world and it still remains so. It is the only system that allows you go into a vehicle registration centre and come out with your vehicle documentation in less than five minutes. It happens nowhere else in the world.  Courteville is the only company that can give you what we call the AutoReg Inspector that allows law enforcement agents to access a one-stop system on their mobile phones to verify vehicle documentation. We know how to use what we have to get what we want.


Courteville boasts an impressive portfolio of innovative IT-based business solutions-could you give us a quick run-through

We are most popular for AutoReg but we have a bouquet of other services that we have in our hands that allow us say with pride are relevant in solving business and other problems here. If you have to do anything with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in terms of registering your product and getting required approvals, what you’ll need is NAPAMS which is an acronym for NAFDAC Automated Product Administration and Monitoring System. It is a web-based enterprise software solution that we designed and developed for NAFDAC for e-registration of new products and renewals, data capture to create an authentic database of all products currently approved and registered with NAFDAC and remote verification of all NAFDAC-approved products in Nigeria. It is the service that won the best application in the Commonwealth – a competition held in London last year and convened by the ICT Ministers of the various nations in the Commonwealth. If you have to do anything about your vehicle insurance and your marine importation business – the e-solution for documenting your transactions – the Nigerian Insurance Industry Database (NIID) – came from us. In collaboration with the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA), the solution was developed to create an authentic and verifiable database of all insurance policies issued in Nigeria. We have Egole Shopping – which really is the first e-commerce site in Nigeria-only that it was not straight up commercial. We have other products designed for other specific sectors – education, business and much more. The SMELite was developed to help small and medium scale enterprises grow into world class business by simplifying their processes and helping them to eliminate bottlenecks that impede growth. The challenges of SMEs in Nigeria are clear – lack of transparency in their operations, lack of accountability and lack of financials. In conjunction with some banks, we designed SMELite to address these three issues and then also create visibility for the product or service. You don’t have to do anything technical other than to simply enter your transactions and your accounts are produced on online databases. The banks will know what you have done by seeing your numbers. You yourself will see your own numbers without prior training as an accountant. You can also print your records for anybody to review. At the end of it all-you can get this premium service for as low as five thousand naira-the cheapest such service anywhere. We have gotten interest from the Jamaican Stock Exchange and gotten interest as well from Coventry University. They are trying to get us to remodel it to suit their own purpose. What we produce is world class and they can be repurposed to meet market needs anywhere in the world


As a very busy Chief Executive, how do you balance your responsibilities at the workplace with your responsibilities as a husband and father

I don’t take work home and I don’t bring home to work. I compartmentalise. I learned that from Chinese traditions where you can actually build something akin to Chinese walls in your mind so that you can give one hundred per cent of your focus and attention wherever and whenever it is needed. I do the best I can at work and do same at home. I don’t work at home and I don’t do home at work. You won’t find a work desk at my house.


You had glowing words of praise for your wife during your remarks at the award event. How would you describe her and the role she has played in your life

At the event, you know I mentioned that the extended family has named her apoti aje which means treasure chest in English. She is the homemaker even though she is a businesswoman. She is the wife, mother, daughter, sister to every one of us at home. She is the all-in-all after God to all of us at home. She keeps it all together and allows me to focus on all we need to do to be able to give the family the best we can afford by God’s grace. She’s a central point in most instances.

She is a mentor to a lot of people. She believes that I am too open – even to a fault – but it is because she has not stood in front of a mirror because she is exactly like that. My choice of her was by divine orchestration in 1990 when I saw her. I knew right away that she was the one I wanted to marry even without her knowing. And by 1991 we were married. I cannot separate the blessings of this company or mine or of anyone around us from her efforts. She has put in 120% of her being into everything we have done together and it has been good all the way. Challenges come as an inevitable part of life but we are thankful that we have waded them successfully together.


Tell us about your kids

I have four kids and I am quite grateful for all of them. They are lot more intelligent than I am. I never try to teach them new things because they know the new things. I can only teach them old things. It just gladdens one’s heart that all one’s investments and efforts are not going to waste. I only wish all parent could afford the same kind of opportunities for their children. The first recently graduated in America with a degree in Global Business Management and has just started work. The other three are still here in the American school system and they are a delight to have around. The way their curriculum works allows me to tap new insights that I bring back to work and discuss with my teams. I am grateful for the blessings of God on my family.


What interests do you pursue in your spare time

I stay home. I watch TV, sports. I read sometimes.


(Rtd) General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s Daughter Weds

Apart from their famed humility, one thing that members of the Babangida family knows how to do better than most is hosting colourful and classy parties-and at the wedding of Halima, the second daughter of Nigeria’s Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (Rtd) and Auwal Abdullahi, they went a notch higher.

(Rtd)General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida's Daughter WedsFrom the Wedding Dinner which was held at the El-Amin International School, (established by the late matriarch of the family, Mrs Maryam Babangida) to the wedding fatiha and reception, held at the Babangida’s Hilltop Residence,both located in Minna, Niger State, the décor was simply amazing.

As with all Muslim weddings, the high point of the celebration of love is usually the wedding fatiha which unfolded at the Babangida Family Mosque located at the General’s Hilltop residence in Minna Niger State. The short ceremony which ended with prayers was conducted by the Chief Imam of Niger State in the presence of the elders of both families.


Hours before this ceremony, the venue was a beehive of activities as Nigeria’s who is who arrived for the occasion. Though the venue is just a few hours from Nigeria’s capital Abuja, many of the guests came in private jets!


Halima, the second daughter of General Babangida and Auwal, a businessman who holds the traditional title of Sarkin Sudan Gombe were introduced to the whole world at the reception which was exquisitely decorated by the team from Elizabeth R with the keen supervision of the bride’s elder sister, Aisha Babangida.

That reception had in attendance former President Goodluck Jonathan and wife, Patience, General Abdulsalami Abubakar and wife, Justice Fati, former First Lady, Mrs Turai Yar Adua, Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogora and so many other important personalities.


What can be termed the highest point of the occasion was when the couple was invited to cut their cake, they fed each other and then took pictures with the invited guests and family members.


There was so much merrymaking at this event. Guests were served special local cocktails like Kunu, Tangerine Juice, Zobo etc by well-clad waiters while food was at every one’s beck and call. The Babangida family members were at their hospitable best, little wonder that many guests went home with huge smiles on their faces.

Brigadier-General Raji Rasaki (Rtd)

Brigadier-General Raji Rasaki (Rtd) has this no nonsense look that most people associate with soldiers. As Military Governor of Lagos, the fear of the then Colonel Raji Rasaki was the beginning of wisdom. He tackled robbers, He built roads and levelled the dreaded shanty town called Maroko, which has given birth to today’s Oniru/Victoria Island Extension. He is an epitome of discipline and has zero tolerance for lateness. When we fixed this interview for 10am in Ibadan, Oyo State, his aides warned us not to be late.

Therefore, when we got to his gate by 9.30 am, he beamed with a smile-and the first thing he said was “ I am impressed, if you had come one minute late, you would have been dismissed and asked to return another day”. We then spent over one hour discussing his years as the number one citizen of Lagos

Sir what was your reaction when you heard you had been appointed as the military Administrator of Lagos state

Let me correct that impression. I was not a Military Administrator, that was Abacha’s own coinage, I was a Military Governor of Lagos. Before coming to Lagos, I was in Ogun State. In fact I was a member of the Armed Forces Council and by 1986 I was moved to Ogun state and by 1988 August I was moved to Lagos State. I cannot say much about the criteria used by the then military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, but without mincing words, when we look at the army officers that were around at that time, I can say that I was one of those that could be reckoned with.

Was it because General Rasaki was seen as a tough man that can handle the complexities of Lagos

No it was not that, a military man’s action to a civilian seems like he is tough, but we are trained to be disciplined, to tackle unfavourable environments which to the ordinary eyes will give the impression of toughness.

What did you meet on ground when you came to Lagos

I took over from the late Admiral (Mike) Aikhigbe. Like I said earlier, I was in Ogun, a state that is filled with enlightened people, people who are very sound and politically aware. And anyone who rules such a state must be ready to think ahead of the people and be creative. I will say I had a good preparation for the Lagos assignment from my experience in Ogun and maybe that was why General Babangida moved me there.

Lagos was the Federal Capital and the commercial nerve centre of the country, in terms of the people living in Lagos, it was a complex mix of people from across Nigeria, you had the elites, the poor and all the diplomats too living in Lagos. Lagos is an international nerve centre of Nigeria because whatever happens in Lagos affects the whole country.

I must confess Lagos has been very lucky in the sense that continuity has always been there, when a governor comes, whether a project is good or not, his successor always tries to finish or improve on it.

That has always been my own concept as a Commander, if I take over a Command, I will first ensure I finish what was started by my predecessor because at the end of the day, any project that you build now may not seem useful now but can become so in future. Abandonment of a project is gross waste of tax payers money.

I give you an example, in Ogun, we built Political Party offices for Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Congress (NRC), and after Babangida left, the parties were scrapped but those buildings became health centres and some were turned to Local Government offices.

I must confess that is one thing that other states in the federation are suffering from and I must commend past and present Governors of Lagos for that spirit of continuity.

What these governors do not understand is that they have only four years, maximum eight, so if you ignore projects started by your predecessor and start all by yourself, how many can you actually complete? That is why if you go round the whole country, you will find lots and lots of abandoned projects that have gone through three or four governors.

There are two people that I would always salute for their work in laying the foundation for what Lagos has become today: General Mobolaji Johnson and Alhaji Lateef Jakande.

I started modernizing schools, though (Gbolahan) Mudashiru also did some work there,  because Baba kekere (Jakande) did a lot of work  in that respect.

People were rubbishing him, he put up sheds, he put up poultry as school buildings, but he got the job done. And go round Lagos today, you will find schools everywhere, if you want to start a school of that nature now and at that scale, you know how much that will cost? So what we did when I came in was to begin to modernize the schools.

Imagine reducing all the shifts to one period. That was a tremendous achievement by Jakande, it made our work easier and he had also acquired a lot of land for it too, so all we did was continue from that foundation.

So what were the major projects that you executed

We did a lot because my focus was rural development because I happen to come from a rural area. So my dream was to turn around places like Mushin, Ajegunle etc. And then upgrade Isale Eko. Then I wanted to improve the environment.  We also invested in Agriculture and built the Farm Institute in Epe area.

The beauty of the Institute was that when the students finish, we will give them maybe two hectres each to begin their work. It worked very well, we did the rural roads, the Coastal Road from Akodo to the boundary of Ogun State. It is a pity other governors did not continue that road that would have taken you all the way to Bar Beach.

We upgraded the Adiyan Water Works. I found something strange when I visited Iju Water Works. We had the Water Works but when you get to as close as Agege there was no water. Jakande did the mini water works, we boosted it. The Colonial Masters were so funny, from Iju, water was taken straight to GRA Ikeja and environs and none was supplied to the people of Agege.

Another aspect was the Model Schools, it was the creation of Akhigbe, he began the five Models schools and we came and completed them, one in each of the five divisions.

There is one thing we did that anytime I remember, I am always very happy. The day I was to arrive Lagos, maybe the armed robbers did not know the fellow they were sending to Lagos, they welcomed me with a serious armed robbery operation around the toll gate.

So I called the Commissioner of Police, I also called I think either Shagaya or Bamaiyi, one of them was Commanding the Military in Lagos, I met them and we created a special force, I now bought unmarked vehicles for this force.

Remember, there were reports that we were training a killer squad underground and all that, yes, it was true, they were specially-trained  to combat armed robbery. The robbers had become a menace, and we had to change tactics to combat them.

The Special forces were posted to dark spots, they were in mufti, and they will pretend as if their vehicles had broken down and surely the robbers will come and they will engage them.

One day, just to see things for myself, I led one operation myself, it was around Ahmadiyya Grammar School in Agege, this one happened in broad daylight.We got about three of them that day.

My instruction was for them to arrest these criminals, but when they engage the team in gun battle, I told them don’t bother to make any arrest, kill and leave the place. I told them, I did not have money to feed dangerous criminals.

People were complaining that there were so many dead bodies on the streets, I just kept quiet, those bodies were those of the robbers. In no time, Lagos was too hot for them and they moved to other parts of the country.

Imagine what is happening with the issue of kidnapping today, the Government has to do more about it, they have to establish a crack team. By now we should have a full report of the Modus Operandi of these kidnappers, once that is discovered, they can be easily countered.

The force should have special training. The whole of Lagos and Ogun Coastal area is now so dangerous that no one is safe. Urgent action is needed in that direction, we have to all sit down and map out strategies to deal with this.

I am told they come in pretending to be fishermen, I said, we can start by imposing a curfew in that area. What will a fisherman be doing in the creek around 12 midnight? What type of fish do you want to catch at that time? We can say anybody seen after 6pm, we will deal with you, in any action there will be equal reaction.

If they come during the day, it is easier for them to be tracked, so they strike at night or dawn. Our team will be there 24 hours and moving from one hideout to the other because that is how this criminal boys are moving.

We have to map out a good security architecture to end this nonsense. Ambode is trying with the kind of investment he has made in the area of security but he has to do more in this regard.

I must add that when I took action against the robbers, I insured the lives of the Police and Military men that were part of this special force. We used to do continuous training and change them every six months so people don’t get comfortable at the post and start misbehaving or become compromised.

I don’t think it is okay to send soldiers to go and mount road blocks for three months, six months, at the end of the day, they will lose credibility.

Lastly, the third mainland bridge.

Yes, a lot of people do not know that you were instrumental to the construction of the famous Third Mainland Bridge, tell us the full story

By the way, I am very much in support of what Governor Ambode did, by speaking up about his frustration concerning the Airport/Oshodi Expressway. Sometimes, you need to blackmail the Federal Government to get some of these things done. I did the same thing with the Third Mainland Bridge.

I remember General Babangida had come back from a trip and I had gone to receive him, despite the fact that we were using siren, it was tough passing through traffic because we passed through Yaba to Dodan Barracks.

So when we got there, I saluted and turned back. I could see that he was looking very unhappy. Akhigbe had tried with the issue but the next day, I went to Babangida and said, sir this traffic situation is bad, can you please let us sit down and discuss how to finish this bridge.

General (Mamman) Kotangora, who was the Minister of Works, said the end, that is the Oworonshoki side is a built up area and it will be impossible to navigate it. I said sir, can you please give me the map, they said it is with Julius Berger.

When I left there, I went to Julius Berger, I got the map, and in the process of checking that map, I saw the Coastal Road up till Calabar, that was how I began the Coastal Road. That map is there, we can still look at it. So I went to him and said, Sir I know this is a Federal Project but it is my people that are suffering, can we do this 50-50. If we can’t pay, you can take it from source.

That was how we then introduced the Development Levy, it was for the Third Mainland Project mainly. That was when Gani Fawehinmi took me to court. I was not bothered because I knew we were doing something that will benefit majority of Lagosians.

We then started work, we had got half of the way, I think that was around 1989, I believe I had just lost my wife. Babangida now said, there was no money. I said that is not possible. I told him, I have been to Abuja, I saw what is happening there, so I told him: the method you are using in Abuja, let us use it in Lagos, even if we are going to use oil to exchange for the funds because Lagos was too critical to the nation’s economy.

Bode Emmanuel used to be the Chairman of one of the construction companies, that is how we became close. I told him you are a Lagosian, please let you company continue the job, we are working on payments, I also called Julius Berger and gave them assurances. There was one Dafinone that also came to our rescue, we then also told Government to collect some of the money from source too.

That was why I was on that site every day to ensure that work was going on as scheduled.But we had a problem at Oworonshoki, one Baale and one Imam, came, they were complaining about the houses that were in the right of way, I told them, please this road is greater than all of us, nothing must stand in its way.

They were still complaining. I just kept quiet, I went to the Army Engineers, I think Ihejerika was in charge of the Army Engineers, I told them I want that place cleared for the road in 24 hours. I told them that they should clear everything on the path of the bridge on the weekend, so that they cannot go to court and stop us. Fadayomi was my Commissioner of Justice and Baba (Teslim) Elias was with us, I also went to Rotimi Williams, they said start the operation by Friday and before they can go to court on Monday, you have completed your operation. I loved that idea.

I was happy with the kind of advice I got . Just as we were talking, one man came in from Julius Berger, a very nice man that I worked closely with during the project.

He said, I should not use Army Engineers that there was another way we can do it, that if we use the Army, we will be blackmailed.I said I don’t care. We cleared the bridge area, there were no houses for many metres, but today, the plan was to allow space in case there is future expansion.

But today I have seen houses on both sides, when I noticed that Ambode was doing some work there, I thought he will bring down those houses, that is the difference between the civilian and military government. We do not care about re-election, we just get the job done.  When we cleared the place, off course, the people went to court, but the deed had been done and that was how Justice Esho used the word Executive Rascality, and you the media starting singing about it, but we did not let that disturb us. Today, we are all enjoying the Third Mainland Bridge.


Another thing we did that made me happy was those beggers we cleared in Ebute Metta and sent them to Kano. I read the Quran very well, there is nowhere where you should be a beggar permanently. Sanusi said the right thing. How come there are no beggers littering the streets of Saudi? I saw them as a nuisance dirtying the state, I was happy that Babangida did not react when I took that action.

Now, lets talk about Maroko, the every contentious issue, what made you take that decision

Honestly I have no regrets for what we did at Maroko.That area I know very well, Victoria Island stopped at Adetokunbo Ademola area, the other places was marshy land. We used to carry out training exercises there. General Garba used to take us there anytime we had promotion exams because that time in the Army, you cannot move up except you pass your exams. I don’t know what operates there now.

The place where I stay now in Lagos is part of the extension. Anyway, I had planned to begin some redevelopment in the area, but one of these days we went to Epe, and Babangida was in the vehicle. We were returning at about 8pm and we were attacked by robbers.

Before them, I had been getting terrible reports from the area and on two occasions, I have had to ensure that the Inspector-General removed the DPO of the area.

Anyway, we were returning from Epe, we passed the first wave of attack, and then there was this terrible one around the present Lekki Phase one. We heard gun shots. I asked my Oga (Babangida) to continue, I jumped out of the vehicle and confronted them. We pursued this people and they all ran into Maroko.

The next morning, I called the Baale, I ordered him to fish out those people, he began to give excuses. I kept quiet but later went to apologize to Babangida for the incident.

Before taking the Lagos appointment, I had asked Babangida that he must hold me responsible for any action I take. I am a very principled person, even my children know this, and when they complain, I tell them once a soldier, always a soldier. Anyway, I went to Babangida, I told him sir this Maroko incident, I said I wanted to level the place. He said Rasaki, you cannot do it. I said have you forgotten about our agreement, he said, no don’t do it.

At that period, I called Mr Adeyemi, he was Permanent Secretary of Environment in Lagos State, he said he cannot do it  and that baba Jakande tried but he failed. I said me, I am a soldier, I am trained to make the impossible possible.

I said I have heard you sir. Babangida was travelling outside around that period, I called my group, I have a team of officers that I trained at NDA.I went to signal, I went to Armoury, I told them by Monday morning, I don’t want to see Maroko standing.

Babangida was going for two weeks so I gave the people, one week notice, we went again on Friday and by Monday, we levelled the place. What we saw was shocking, we saw shallow graves, we saw fake hospitals, I wanted to prosecute the Baale but for the plea of Oba Oyekan.

We moved some of the residents who had genuine papers to Abesan Estate. Whatever you say about it, you have to give it to Babangida, when the people like Oniru family, Dideolu Estate came with their claims, he said we should give the land them. Look, we demolished houses owned by military offices too

So that was how we did Maroko. I have no regrets at all.If we did not clear Maroko, the people in Victoria Island and Ikoyi would have had no rest.I did it with good conscience.

I think Fashola should have done same when he wanted to flush out Makoko. That shanty is not benefitting anybody.

So how do you feel when you pass through the area today

I feel very happy that the shanty town has become modernized and decent.

Have you heard that you had a nickname, who build this gadder

(laughs heartily) Of course, I heard it and when I checked the dictionary. I discovered that there was nothing wrong in what I said since gadder and bridge mean the same thing, I am a telecommunications engineer, so I just laughed over it.

Any regret?

Yes, I was not happy that we were not able to do the Ijanikin Road to meet the Ring Road. I had just six months.We wanted to do a road passing through the (Federal School of Arts & Science) FSAS pass the Officers Mess all the way to Niger Dock Area. Babangida said I should award the contract. I used to drive around myself and I see things.

The road was to cost N2.2billion at the time. That would have solved the problem we have today at Mile 2. That is what I see that Ambode is doing and I commend him. We were to also do the 4th Mainland Bridge.

Are you happy when you come to Lagos these days

I am happy because each time I come in, there is always something new.

So Lagos is 50, what would you like to say to Lagosians

I congratulate Lagos. My Lagos of the future is a Lagos that looks like Sweden or Denmark. By improving the human resources in Lagos, developing ICT Industry and improving the Acquatic Economy.I have travelled very wide, and seen things, I believe with the IGR of Lagos, Lagos would be a Mega city

Lastly, there was an issue you brought up at the CONFAB on special status for Lagos

Yes, I am a strong advocate for a special status for Lagos. I want us to have 50 oer cent share of whatever monies we make here in Lagos. Look at NPA, the ship for instance, it is the people of Lagos that bear the brunt of the environmental pollution. The useless smelly oil, the fumes etc. So why can’t Lagos have 50 per cent of the money realised from this activity. We were the first to put up a dec ree on environmental pollution.

I kept speaking to Babangida about it and they eventually said they were working on ecological fund.I did not receive it, but Otedola did. When Tinubu came, I used to tease him that he should have gone to join the army, he did a lot of things, without caring about the political implication.

We also fought for Population to be added as criteria for sharing, Lateefat Okunnu was my Deputy then, she was in the Federal Ministry, and brought her experience to bear.

How come you are not in politics, like other Generals

I tried it but I have seen that it is not for me. People do not like men like me who are principled with intergrity. Also, I am a man of tradition, I cannot stomach the way these young boys are abusive and the general lack of discipline, when we used to go to Baba Adedibu’s house, you will see all these boys jumping on his bed, doing all manner of things, dirtying the whole place, When I was involved, they all wait outside my gate. My wife and some of my children are there.

That is enough, we will contribute from where we are.



Lagos is 50

Some say it is the land of opportunities; others say it is the land of possibilities, yet others describe it as a haven of prosperity, considering that 90 per cent of Forbes-listed Nigerian Billionaires work, live and play in Lagos, it cannot be anything but a Centre of Excellence.

One thing certain is that Lagos, Nigeria’s Commercial Capital and the nation’s most populous city has its own verve, its own colour, its own uniqueness and its own style. Little wonder that you just cannot but Love Lagos, the state of aquatic splendour.

This year, Lagos State is celebrating its landmark birthday. Yes! Lagos is 50-and this golden moment is being celebrated in grandeur, after all, it is not for nothing that they say Lagos never sleeps, and the fun never stops. The famous Eko For Show was in full flow as the city celebrated this important occasion.

Providence must have known that at this remarkable period of its existence, Lagos desired a visionary leader, an ideas man and a workaholic par excellence. That man is Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.

When His Royal Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai in his book, My Vision: Challenges in the Race for Excellence wrote thus “ The most gifted leader is one who does not shape only the present, but a good part of the future. An even rarer type of leader is one who uses his astuteness, intelligence and leadership skills to produce events that shape life and consequently, history. He, in fact, must have been referring to Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the Golden Governor of Lagos State.

The man who runs Lagos today, the God-appointed Chief Executive of the state at this momentous moment, who now has the tough task of laying the solid foundation for the next half a century.

As an insider, a dedicated Public Servant, who rose to the enviable position of the Accountant-General of the state, Ambode knew full well that his dream of turning Lagos to a smart mega city will take a lot of work.

From the outset, he said it will be business unusual and that it was time for more work, less talk. His plans were clear from his inaugural address on May 29, 2015.

According to him “As we collectively face the challenge to make Lagos a better place to live in, we must recognize our strength in diversity. A common national identity where everybody counts. I shall run an open government of inclusion that will not leave anyone behind. No matter your age, sex, tribe or any other Status, as long as you reside in Lagos, we will make Lagos work for you.

“Lagosians are hardworking people. Lagos is striving because of its undying entrepreneurial spirit. However we must realise that there are no short-cuts to success. To our youths, we must nurture good family values to succeed in any endeavour.

“I want our younger ones and children to draw some lessons from my story. Anyone of you can rise up to be the best you want to be. Your background and circumstances cannot be an obstacle to your dreams. In our country, particularly in Lagos, you can always succeed. This is the Nigerian dream where hard-work, courage, perseverance, persistence, merit and rewards pay.

“We must therefore embrace new thinking and be determined to succeed at all times. I am ready to encourage and nurture that dream in our children, youths and every hard-working Lagosian. We would reward merit, hard-work and loyalty to the State. The future is for those who dare to dream and find courage to pursue their dreams.

“We are all witnesses to the economic downturn and dwindling revenues at the national and state levels. The present economic situation has affected the financial profile of most states in the country.

“The state is blessed that the foundation of its financial autonomy was designed and implemented by that visioner and our leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Thus, the state has been partially shielded from the negative trend flowing from the federal level.

“For us to sustain the progressive and radical transformation on-going in the state, we have to redouble our efforts on all fronts for our commitment to excellence. While we must be creative and innovative; we are not citizens until we become responsible tax payers. I want to assure all of us that I will make your taxes work for you. You will surely get a transparent and incorruptible government that will give you good value for your taxes paid.

“Creativity is the most valuable asset in any public institution. Progressive governments must reward contributors of good ideas. Therefore, wherever practicable, we shall practise government by incentives and not government by enforcement. We shall implement creative ideas and concepts that reduce the cost of running government; ideas that make life simpler and happier for our people.

“I, therefore, invite you all, to join hands with me, to offer new ideas that will pull more resources to cater for the poor and needy amongst us. This will be a compassionate government.”

That maiden speech was a testament to the fact that he knew where Lagos was and had a clear vision of the direction he was taking the state.

In the last two plus years, infrastructural renewal and rural development has formed the core of his interventions. He has touched many aspect of people’s lives from education to transportation, security to agriculture, Lagos has not been the same. Change has truly come!

Ambode is silently achieving, meticulously planning, religiously executing and brilliantly giving results to Lagosians.

Ambode shares Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s deep knowledge of history, his strategic vision, his appreciation of both the interest and values of Lagosians, his tough-mindedness about policies and the ability to be unfazed by challenges.

It is this synergy of ideas that probably informed the open endorsement by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the way and manner Ambode has been running Lagos.

According to the man fondly called Jagaban “Experience is a great teacher and I am experienced. I am on the spot and I have watched things in Lagos since my tenure ended.

“I was worried hell when you (Ambode) took over, not about your credibility, character or capacity, but because however wise or smart a man is, if there is no resources to back the ideas, production would be zero, progress would be zero.

“When you (Ambode) took over, I know you inherited a burden of debt. The debt profile of Lagos was high, I was wondering how you will reengineer and face the challenges to make progress.

“Today, I can see your report card, you have scored well, and you have shown prudency especially in the judicious use of resources of the State. You didn’t disappoint us.

“All over Lagos, we are seeing the results. At Oshodi, on our way down here, you can see what is happening there, that place is a construction site. It used to be a den of robbers but what is going on there now is developmental activities for the benefit of the entire country.

“Ambode is very quiet, very peaceful, not a noise maker, but he is delivering on the job.

“Today, you (Ambode) have given me a good birthday present.

This is a great opportunity for me to be very proud again. Therefore, if we can continue in this direction of infrastructural development in the manner Governor Ambode is moving, Lagos will soon match international states or country anywhere in the world”. What an accolade!

This praise from no less a person than the man fondly referred to as the Architect of Modern Lagos has not slowed down at all, he knows full well that the reward for success means more hard work.

As if that was not enough, Nigeria’s number 1 citizen, President Muhammadu Buhari also spoke glowingly of this latest Action Governor “I have already seen so much attention being paid to security and just earlier on we were at the LASEMA rescue operation unit which we just commissioned. Also here, we are about to commission several security equipment donated to the police and security agencies. In fact virtually all the security agencies including immigrations and Customs including NDLEA are to benefit from this latest gift of the Lagos State Government.

“I must also say that I am impressed with the fact that the whole effort at security is an integrated one and so we have the Light Up Lagos being an important component of that whole effort. I want to say that the Governor of this State deserves our commendation and all of the praise and support that he is getting”

He assured that the Federal Government would continue to support the State Government to actualise several of its projects.

In addition, Former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, also showered encomium on the Governor of Lagos State for his administration’s programmes and policies at improving the lives of the people of the State.

According to the man fondly called OBJ “I can see the things you are doing here and there to make life worth living for the people of Lagos. Keep it up.” Nothing more to add, the elders haven spoken!

Yes, the task has been challenging, but with the deep theoretical grounding obtained as a dye-in-the wool Accountant, he has brought his expertise to bare in using the scarce resources of the state judiciously despite the recession.

If there is one thing Ambode has in abundance it is the will to innovate, to do things differently. He seems to have taken to heart the words of the late Businessman and Politician, Bashorun MKO who said at a speech delivered on August 21, 1989 in Detroit, USA at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence that “What we need is a technological leapfrog as well as a leap in imagination”.

A good example of his administration’s imaginative thinking is the creative restructuring and layby constructed at the Oworonsoki and Ketu ends of Third Mainland Bridge. Also worthy of note is the dismantling of roundabouts on the Lekki-Epe Expressway. These actions have drastically reduced rush-hour traffic in these areas. In fact one commentator described the feat as a brilliant and bold assault on the Almighty Lagos traffic.

Self-effacing, polite and humble to a fault, a Governor who exudes charisma and determination, Ambode burns with the zest of youth, at 54, he does not show any signs of weariness in the discharge of his duties.

After hectic engagements, some stretching till late into the night, stories abound that he is usually the first on his desk the very next morning.

This was confirmed by his Chief Press Secretary, Habib Aruna in a birthday tribute titled: Ambode: Celebrating The Product of  “Coconut at 54“

“ Ambode moves about most nights to certain parts of Lagos and whatever black spot he discovers is addressed almost immediately. So once everybody knows that the Governor will personally monitor, they do their bits as diligently as practicable. All the projects he has executed so far are products of a well thought out idea though he invites others to make inputs.

“ His day starts at as early as 6am when he usually wakes having stayed up working till about 3am and sometimes, he may have just returned from inspection of projects around the city. He usually flips through online editions of the newspapers and then the print editions, before setting out to act on matters concerning citizens of the state.

“One day, the Commissioner for Information, Steve Ayorinde and I left the governor at around 1:00a.m. and we agreed to meet him by 9:30a.m. later same day so that he will go through his speech which was scheduled for state wide broadcast at 11:00a.m. To our surprise, the Governor was in the office as early as 6:30a.m. to prepare his speech himself; he only gave it to us to proof read when we got there at 9:30a.m.! Such is the nature of Governor Ambode who has an uncommon passion for the job”

This is the evidence of a man who is disciplined and committed to the cause of taking Lagos to greater heights.

Governor Ambode is the kind of person who strives to get things done, even when they seem impossible. Growing up in the middle-class neighbourhood of Ebute-Metta in Lagos Mainland has ingrained in him a never-say-die, Can-do spirit that propels him to seek for success.

He is passionate, driven and certainly a model of the kind of leaders that Africa desires at this time if it truly wants to move from the nadir, to the zenith of development.

Brig-General Muhammed Buba (Marwa Rtd.)

Everybody remembers him as the handsome, ever-smiling Governor of Lagos who was well-loved for his people-oriented policies. Brig-General Muhammed Buba (Marwa Rtd.) spoke to us about his tenure in Lagos.

Military men are generally known to be unsmiling and tough-looking, but you have always had this calm, friendly mien. Was this a deliberate decision to be different

The Marwa family is 4 Generations of soldiers beginning with my grandfather who served in the Royal West African Frontier Force and then my own father who served in the Royal Nigerian Army and then my humble self and my son, now a Major, not forgetting my late younger brother who rose to the rank of Major General.

Brig-General Muhammed Buba (Marwa Rtd.)I started my military career at 12, at the Nigerian Military School; I actually handled weapons, live firing at that young age. So the military blood is thoroughly in my veins. However as the saying goes the hood does not the monk make. So wearing military uniform, or being trained as a soldier does not affect someone’s facial disposition or calmness and stuff. It all comes down really to the individual character of the person and his philosophy.

What was your first reaction when you heard the news that you have been deployed to Lagos as the military governor? Where were you and how did you hear the news

My first reaction was denial. At the time in 1996, I was Defence Attaché to the Mission of Nigeria to the UN in New York and it was my third year and I was trying to wrap up my tenure towards the end of the year and return home.

As it happened, the day before the announcement was made, I was in Nigeria, I was actually leaving that day back to New York. I passed through the Villa to give my farewell to the then Head of State, General Abacha, but he kept sealed lips, he didn’t give me the slightest hint that they were going to make the announcement the following day.

I went on to Kano to take my night flight and arrived New York the very day the appointment was announced.


I got to New York about 1pm, by 2pm I believe I was home and after the prayers and the meal, I went up to bed immediately to wear off the jet lag.

But within a few minutes my wife woke me up and said she had received calls that the government had made some postings and that we were being recalled and appointed to Lagos state as the military administrator.

Immediately I told her somebody was playing pranks on her. That in any case I had just finished being Governor of Borno State merely 4 years ago, and in the Defence Attaché job I had been the first to be appointed twice at different occasions.

In the past you had people who moved from one post to the other in Defence Attaché positions because in one streak, they were serving in Zimbabwe and then relocated to London for instance. But I had done the military attaché job twice separately, in the 80’s and now in the 90’s, so I thought I would be the last person to be appointed as Military Administrator again. But later, a couple of calls came through that confirmed the appointment.

By that time there was no internet presence in Nigeria so you could not easily access the internet and get news on current happenings like on facebook, Instagram, twitter and likes.

Before you took over what did you consider the major problems of Lagos state? What was your impression of the state

Like most military officers of my day, we all knew Lagos in a general sense, in my case, even more so because I came to Lagos as a child in 1964 where I concluded my primary school, then I went back in the 70’s to work at the Army Headquarters where I was privileged to be Aide de Camp (ADC) to then Chief of Army Staff, General TY Danjuma. In the 80’s I was back again to Lagos to work at the Armoured Corps’ Headquarters in Bonny Camp.

The two things that came to mind by way of impression of Lagos and that was before my appointment was made, was that Lagos had a lot of security challenges and secondly the perennial hold-up (traffic).

Did any of your earlier military posting prepare you for the tough task of running Lagos state

Certainly, as a military officer by training, you are an adaptive animal and are prepared for any posting. But more than that it was my experience as former Military Governor of Borno state that proved very useful in governing Lagos state.

What did you meet on ground and how did you set about to tackle them? Were there some priority areas

Well, it was almost like saying what is it that was not wrong with Lagos?. I am sure all my predecessors had all done their bits. I met lots and lots of challenges in practically all spheres – security, crime was rampart, violent crime especially, bad roads, inadequate housing, public transportation challenges, water supply problems, area boys, health care issues, education, sanitation, lack of funds, flooding and at the time, a lot of people were still talking (complaining) about the June 12 annulment and the Abacha government; I am talking about the activists.

Clearly when you are faced with a multitude of problems as these, you may run into the problem of spreading yourself thin if you don’t prioritize especially when funds were lacking.

Immediately I set off 3 priority areas; the first was security and that to me was the first thing to tackle because whatever you achieve, unless the citizenry feel safe and secure, that is all nonsense. Second priority was to sort out the bad roads and third priority was to broaden our revenue base so that we can have the wherewithal to execute our programmes.

Can you recall some highlights from your first address to Lagosians

In my maiden address I expressed appreciation of the warm welcome which I received and I gave my assurances and commitment to serve diligently and of course I did state clearly in my speech that I will first focus on the resolution of security and roads challenges.

One thing you were known for was roads, any particular reason, why this was a priority

The issues of road impacted on everyone because of movement, everyone moves from point A to point B by road in the ordinary course of livelihood – to work, to market, to schools, appointments etc and apart from the frustration of bad roads, you lose man hours due to holdup.

And security-wise, the criminals stay at those areas they can ambush because of the bad roads, not to mention the effect of bad roads on vehicles. So I had to face up to these problems right from the beginning.

Why did you enact the Rent Edict and many years later, it seems that law has been unenforceable

Well, first of all I must say that during our time it was enforced, it was a very successful edict.

We presented a government with human face at the time and it worked. We all know about the exploitative nature of Lagos landlords. The Jankara way of eviction orders, arbitrary rent increases, lengthy and unending litigation and huge commissions,

I recall that when we enacted it we didn’t have commissioners. I remember the Solicitor General then, now Justice Okuwobi, assisted by Arthur Worrey worked very hard and crafted an edict which we believed would assist the downtrodden.

It was mainly for a particular bracket of citizens. I could remember well those whose rent exceeded N250, 000 or so, were excluded.

We thought that they didn’t belong to the people we wanted to protect but those below that were the focus, the face-me-I-face-you housing and similar types of housing. The areas of focus were Bariga, Shomolu, Ajegunle, Agege, Mushin, Isale Eko, Badia, Amuwo Odofin, Yaba, Ebutte-Meta and such.

While reading for my Masters in the university, I recalled one of the courses I took had to do with public housing and stuff like that. They explained that it was difficult to do a rent edict that will work where the housing market was a sellers’ market due to scarcity.

So you cannot do a rent edict that will work unless you provide sufficient housing stock to compensate.

Bearing that in mind, we embarked upon housing estates and we built nine housing estates, two of which were started by our predecessors and I made sure they were completed and named after them (Otedola estate, Raji Rasaki estate).

Majority of the nine estates we built were low cost. Six were low cost and three were medium, in Ikorodu, Ikeja, Lekki, Ojodu, Amuwo Odofin etc.

We created rent tribunals and they were very successful in our time. I could remember that the edict was sold on the street at N20 per copy; people bought it to know their right.

Tell us about operation

I didn’t set up operation sweep, Oyinlola my predecessor did. We only reinvigorated it and we had to do that taking a cue from similar experience in Borno. Eventually it became a template nationally. Operation sweep was so successful that one of my colleagues in the South East was going to launch his own version and he invited me to the occasion. I told him I would be unable to attend personally, but that if he didn’t mind, could I send a representative and he said no, that I had to be there myself.

I asked him why. He said if I am there personally at the launching, all the armed robbers in that state will run away.

Security like I said is critical and a cardinal area for any government to make sure they resolve. In a larger sense if you look at the present government, you see that one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s key policy areas is security of which he has made considerable success of it especially in effectively decimating the insurgents.

The modus operandi of operation sweep at the time was first of all to fight in a responsive manner, meaning to fight crime aggressively and remorselessly. Once crime is occurring anywhere in Lagos we were able to be there with our patrol cars within 5 to10 minutes.

We had about 400 patrol cars in total operating 24/7 and the heat was on for the robbers.

I remember in December 1996, robbers actually wrote me a letter addressed through the headquarters of Operation Sweep which we fully publicized.

They said it was Christmas; that I should let off a little bit that they want to celebrate Christmas because they also had families to feed, and we responded to that also publicly.

Of the 400 patrol cars, we had a component of a secretive force of about 100 patrol cars, those cars were unmarked and the occupants were also in mufti and their purpose was to work with information to go after robbers. So the robbers knew we were hunting them down, we were not waiting for them to attack first. Remember we also created the Neighbourhood Watch in their thousands who operated in the communities and had radio sets.

We had our security meeting every Monday where we reflected and determined what went on the previous week and what we ought to do in the current week.

The last bit of operation sweep which was known only to me and I can now divulge was that it was also an anti-coup early warning arrangement.

Apart from safeguarding the federal government of the day, I wouldn’t want to be sitting in Lagos House as Military Governor, tending to the affairs of Lagos State and ‘Some Criminal Soldiers’ creep up on me and shoot me dead in a coup attempt; nobody would like that to happen.

So Operation Sweep by virtue of the way it operated with over 400 patrol cars working 24/7 around the nooks and crannies of Lagos, there was no way anybody of soldiers would move at some ungodly hours of the night to anywhere without my knowledge.

I can also say now, that I had, with the permission of General Sani Abacha then, and as an Armored Corps’ officer, I actually positioned a Platoon of tanks directly under my command in Dodan Barracks prepared for any such eventuality. I must say that the Police and the Armed Forces did very well in Operation Sweep and they are to be commended.

There is no way we will not ask you about the Bomb blasts, how did you feel about the spate of blasts in Lagos

I remember very clearly as if it was yesterday, 16th December 1996. At that particular instance when it happened, I never thought it was a bomb blast or that it was an assassination attempt.

Every day I normally leave my Isaac John residence to go to work at 8am more or less and I took the same route believing there was no threat. It was not as if I was unpopular in Lagos and so had to change my daily route to work and so on. This was a routine administrative job in Lagos as Governor. And I never did anything nasty to NADECO to say that somebody out there would try to assassinate me. In fact, throughout my tenure I never ordered the arrest, let alone lock up anyone.

On this particular day at about 7:20am I discovered that I was all dressed up and ready to go to work. But my convoy was not set because they did not expect me to be ready at 7. 20 am – My ADC  and my orderly were not yet out, only my Chief Detail was ready. We were not complete in the convoy but I said let’s go and we left.

I believe that it was this early and unexpected departure, by the grace of God that caught those who were waiting for me at the ambush point unprepared. So we took our regular route to Alausa through Airport Road (Now Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Road)  and soon after turning that corner of Sheraton Hotel, the blast went off right behind me. I heard the blast and I looked back and saw a huge mushroom of cloud of smoke and dust, and the first thing that came to mind was; was Julius Berger doing some repair works involving blasting on this road which I was unaware of?

As soon as the cloud cleared I found out that there was no other car behind me, as my immediate back up security car which was positioned running almost parallel to my car had been blown. My car was now the last in the convoy. There were normally about 3 or 4 vehicles behind me and suddenly they were nowhere to be found. Instantly I thought that this must have been a targeted attack on me and the military training kicked-in. In such ambush situations, we were trained to charge through.

Eventually I discovered that it was some agents of the federal government that tried to assassinate me but in my own mind and to this day I am quite clear that the head of state Gen. Abacha and his deputy Gen. Diya were unaware and not part of the plot.

The federal government quickly made a statement that it was NADECO who did it and I knew that it was not. I was the victim, why was somebody now telling who attacked me? Shouldn’t I have been allowed to make that statement? So I went on to make a statement that even though I did not know who tried to assassinate me, I knew who did not. And I said definitely it was not NADECO. That put me on the war path with some of our senior administration colleagues.

On that day we had an event with the Family Support Programme. I went up from the scene to the hospital to see those who were injured in the bomb blast and from there we went and continued our programme for 10am.

There were spates of bombings after that, in fact two days later i.e on 18 December, a bus carrying soldiers was bombed close to my office, in which a soldier was killed.

There were also several more bombings outside the military cantonment in Ikeja, Base Workshop, Yaba and so on.

In my opinion those other bombings were arranged to mislead the public that it was NADECO going after the Army instead of targeting one man, myself. I would think that had this assassination attempt (against Marwa) succeeded there would have been no further bombings.

How then did you feel when people accused you of having a hand in the delivery of the letter bomb that killed Dele Giwa


The report was absolute rubbish. I was not and could never have been a or the bomb courier. Sometime in 2009 I remember very well, I was sitting at my desk as High Commissioner in South Africa when my PA brought to my notice that a man, I don’t recall his name now, had written an article; that he met one military officer in New York who told him that it was I that carried the letter bomb. This was 23 years after the Dele Giwa bomb incident!!!

I had returned from Harvard in July of that year after my graduation and was actually far away from Lagos at the period of the Dele Giwa incident in command of the Army’s Test battalion Field Training Exercise (FTX) in Azare, Bauchi State.

Each year, one battalion is selected from the Army Headquarters to do a Test field training exercise (FTX). It was the turn of 3 Armoured Division to do the FTX for that year (1986) and my battalion, 233 tank battalion, of which I was the Commanding Officer, was selected. The exercise code-named ‘Exercise Gwada-Karfi’ ran from September to December, that year.

When Dele Giwa was killed it attracted national attention if not international attention and whoever delivered the parcel would have been seen by members of the household or the gatemen (certainly who ever delivered the parcel handed it to someone and there was no report that he was wearing a mask).

For me to have served as a Military Administrator of Lagos state for three full years; even winning the ‘Man of the year 1997 award’ from the NewsWatch magazine, would it not have been very absurd that no one in the Dele Giwa household drew attention, recognized me as the person who showed up that faithful day carrying a bomb?

And all those years that the case went up all the way to the Supreme Court? Until 23years later, some ‘crackpot’ comes out of the woodwork and lays some abnormal claims!! Please give me a break. What utter nonsense and rubbish!! To this day, I have been unable to locate the man who made this claim nor the reason behind making it – now I remember his name, Ogunade – but at least I found a response from Professor John Amoda, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Political Science, City University of New York who knew Ogunade personally. The Professor wrote a strong rebuttal entitled “Dele Giwa, Buba Marwa, John Amoda In Ogunade’s Fictive Account of History-An Explanation” which can be googled, or found in saharareporters. John Amoda’s piece thoroughly destroyed Ogunade’s thesis and showed that Ogunade needed the attention of a psychiatrist.

You were in charge when MKO Abiola died, take us through that period, how tough was it for you

Actually that was my most challenging period in Lagos. The day Abiola died we were in Abuja preparing for a joint Council of State and Armed Forces Ruling Council meeting the following day.

Sometime between 5 to 6 pm on that fateful day, I got a call from the Villa that the Head of State, General Abdusalami Abubakar wanted to see me. He was still living in the residence of the Chief of Defence Staff, at Niger Barracks. I went up there and immediately I was ushered in he told me that Chief MKO Abiola had died. Immediately I heard the news I said I needed a plane to go back to Lagos because Lagos will be on fire when this news is released and at that time he said the news had not yet gone out.

When we got to Lagos, it was aflame, we had to negotiate our way from the airport, we took different routes before we got to our destination, Lagos House, Marina, just to stay away from the disturbances. On one occasion, my escorts had to shoot into the air for us to have enough time to clear the blocked road of all the burning debris and everything that blocked the road

That same night I called an extra-ordinary security meeting of which in attendance were the Oba of Lagos, DSS, CP of Police, Army/Navy/Airforce appropriate Commanders and so on, I remember Cardinal Okojie, Archbishop Adetiloye, Archbishop Sunday Mbang were also in attendance. They all made meaningful contributions. The whole purpose was on how to douse tension and bring Lagos back to normalcy.

In the morning information came to me that the disturbances had spread and that they were going after northerners, killing them at sight. I also got a call from a particular northern Emir that they got information that this was happening in Lagos and that there will be reprisals in the North and I assured him that I will deal with it.

So I decided in my security meeting that morning to take the bull by the horns and go out to the streets myself.

I was advised against going out by the security council as the climate was not conducive, disturbances were ongoing throughout Lagos and there was still the killings going on of Northerners and their houses being torched. There and then I told them that anyone who did not want to follow me to the street was free to drop out. Quite a few dropped out. So we went out on the street, directly through persuasion and by the grace of God we were able to calm things down at the end of the day and end the killing spree.



Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande

Alhaji Lateef  Kayode Jakande is the first Executive Governor of Lagos. He is fondly called the Action Governor based on his zero tolerance on laziness and tremendous work ethic. He was also celebrated for his welfarist programmes and projects. Baba Kekere is indeed a man of modest life style, as we found out when we conducted this interview. He still lives in the same Ilupeju, Lagos home he was living before he assumed office in 1979.

What propelled you as a journalist into politics

Though it is said that man is a political animal, as a journalist, we are usually more involved in the goings on in the country because as a member of the Fourth Estate, we were part of the process of nation-building.

However, I got interested in partisan politics because of what I saw as the poor state of the people. Improving the welfare of the people was a major reason for joining politics.

Fortunately,  I was an ally and later a member of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Party, Action Group, and Awolowo being the great leader that he was, mentored and inspired us to participate and we had no choice but to follow his wise counsel having learnt a lot from him

I am grateful to God for giving us the opportunity to serve our fatherland and for doing the little we could to impact the lives of many people as the Governor of Lagos. We already had a blueprint for the party, the Unity Party of Nigeria, so it was just to have the political will and the discipline to implement them.

One of the major problems that has led to our stunted growth is that lack of self-discipline, people are generally too sentimental and selfish at times, for me, once something is for the common good, I never looked back.

Sir, years after you left government, people still say LKJ was a great leader, how does that make you feel

Let me say I have great admiration for the people of Lagos State because they they have kept appreciating my service and up till today they are doing everything to express that appreciation.

I find it very comfortable, very rewarding to served the people in various ways which I would say was due to God’s own blessing. We were able to achieve all we did while in government because we were committed and God was on our side. When I took over as Governor of Lagos state we did our very best to make life better, I had two big programmes, the first was Education, and the other was Housing.

In Education you must remember that education was not free in Lagos and also we had three shifts in schools, morning, afternoon and evening.

When I told my team that we were not only going to deliver free education, we will have only one session, in the morning. Some of them said it was impossible.

That is why earlier I had talked about political will and following things through. We began to build the schools and people called it all kinds of names but  we went ahead and announced, there were challenges at first but it became stable later. You can imagine the stress that we removed from people’s lives with that decision.

We did not only deal with primary, we also did same in Secondary and also established our own University. So we wanted to take care of education from beginning to the end. That was a tall ambition and we thank God that we achieved it. And today, it is the norm for many states all over Nigeria to use this same template for their own education programme. It was when we achieved these promises, and the other people-oriented interventions we carried out within a short space of time that people began to call me Action Governor

The second as I mentioned, was low cost housing for the people of Lagos. We were ambitious and began projects all over the state. We are very fortunate because my successors in government have followed through with similar programmes and provision of low cost housing has now become part and parcel of Lagos state.

Talking of your successors, are you happy with the state of Lagos since you left

I am very happy with the successive administrations, each one had contributed to the momentum that we started. If you go around Lagos, there is evidence of progress, I am delighted at that. We do not have too many abandoned projects like in other states.

Lagos is celebrating 50, what is your wish for Lagos

I wish Lagos becomes the mega city that we have all dreamt of, I wish Lagos will have a all the amenities of a modern city like a very good rail system and road network. Talking of rail, one matter that really bothered me was the metroline project that did not continue. Imagine if we had done it then, it would have eased the transport system in Lagos. Traffic is still a major problem in Lagos, yes, all major capitals have this same problem, but it will be greatly reduced if we have something like a metroline.

I am happy that a form of it is being pursued by the present administration, Lagos cannot become great except we get a functioning train system that serves the metropolis. If and when that is completed, I will be very glad. I wish Lagosians well as we