Hon. Dipo Okeyomi is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Ojokoro area of Lagos State. Popularly called Carry Go by his political associates and friends, he enjoys a great followership in the political circle. In this interview with OKIKIOLA LAMIDI, he speaks on how, according to him, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode stalled his ambition to become the chairman of Ojokoro Local Council Development Area in the last election. He also speaks about his recent 50thbirthday bash among other burning issues. Excerpts:
Congratulations on your appointment as the co-ordinator of the Sanwo-Olu campaign group in Ojokoro area of Lagos State. We like to know what the appointment means to you?
I give all the glory to Almighty God. I am very delighted to be given the appointment as the co-ordinator of the campaign group in Ojokoro LCDA. I want to appreciate the Director General of the campaign group; the incoming Deputy Governor, Femi Hamzat and the incoming Governor, Sanwo-Olu. I want to appreciate the Director General of the campaign too, Hon. Tayo Ayinde; Director of Organisation, Cardinal James Odumbaku and Director of Mobilisation, Enilolobo. I also want to thank my boss, Governor Rauf Aregbesola, and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. They considered me worthy and gave me the task. I feel very good about it. By the grace of God, I am going to deliver.
What does the appointment mean to you?
By the grace of God, it is a sign that bigger things await me. We have thousands of people in Ojokoro, but I was chosen. It is a recognition of my ability to mobilise people. I am a mobliser. For example, I have over 60,000 registered members of Change Agent International; these are people who have voters’ cards; people who can make things happen. We have agreed that we are going to vote for Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat as the next governor and deputy governor of Lagos State respectively.
How easy or otherwise do you think this task would be?
We are expecting to give Sanwo-Olu at least, 2.5 million votes in Lagos State. In Ojokoro, I can assure you that all the votes here are for Sanwo-Olu. The people of Ojokoro love me and they give me the needed support over anything I embark on. Everybody is my friends – the market women, the students, artisan, the teachers, farmers… Everybody is my friend and they are coming together to ensure that we give Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat the needed support to make them win the coming election.
What is the implication of this appointment on your political ambition, considering that despite your popularity, in the last local government election, some forces worked against you?
The implication is that despite what happened during the local government election, despite the machinations of the forces against me, I still remain relevant. People can only try, they cannot stop the star from shining. That is exactly what has happened now. My popularity remains acknowledged and my chances are brighter than ever.
Having said that, you must realise that there is hierarchy in the party; we have leaders and they believe in one step after the other. One thing I know they don’t do is renege on their promise. Whatever they promise, they do. In my own case, they know what I can do. They know what my capacity is in terms of politics here in Ojokoro and in Lagos State in general.
You talked about the leadership of the APC not reneging on their promises. What have they promised you?
I don’t know… They didn’t promise anything. They said I should be working and I am working. I believe they are full of wisdom. When the time comes, you will see things too. The last time, the leadership promised me and signed the papers to the effect that I was the consensus candidate for the chairmanship of Ojokoro Local Council Development Area. Asiwaju said Okeyomi’s mandate was irreversible, but because somebody somewhere felt he was greater than Asiwaju and Aregbesola, he withdrew the mandate that was given to me. Now, you see what has happened to him. You can’t boss the people who put you in a position. The consequence is what happened to him.
Who are you actually referring to?
I am talking about the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode. Having been put in position of authority, he considered himself as equal or bigger than Asiwaju and Aregbesola among other people. He tried to rubbish them for reasons which some of us still can’t fathom.
Let’s talk about the last local government election in Ojokoro and how it affected you. We heard so many stories of unfair treatment and claims of stolen mandate. What really happened?
After I had spent millions, over the years, campaigning from house to house, moving from one group to the other, mobilising to become the chairman of Ojokoro LCDA, I emerged as the consensus candidate. The leaders picked me as the consensus candidate because it is allowed in the party and the constitution of Nigeria. All the leaders and the party chairman signed. All the party faithful agreed that I was their choice as the chairman of the LCDA. But because Ambode did not like the face of Aregbesola, he refused to allow an “Aregbesola boy” to become a chairman under him. Immediately he saw my name, he changed it. As a governor, he had the power to remove my name and he did. Asiwaju advised him against that, but he refused to listen. He removed my name because he did not like Aregbesola.
What did Ambode say was the problem he had with Aregbesola?
I don’t know! Aregbesola is a very straightforward person; he is very sincere. He respects people and would not want to hurt anyone. So, what could he have done? Honestly, I don’t know. But it was based on the Aregbesola factor that he removed my name as the chairmanship candidate of the APC in Ojokoro.
At a point, we learnt that Ambode’s argument was that Aregbesola had been given concession in Alimoso area, hence could not have come to Ojokoro to demand for the same treatment. What do you have to say about this?
No. That is not true. Those people were chosen on merit; they were chosen based on their popularity and not as a result of any affiliation to Aregbesola. They won at the primaries. The same thing happened here. I won as a consensus candidate here too. I emerged because of my popularity too. I have the documents. I was given a form to fill. This man just came, and overnight, changed everything. I felt bitter, I felt really bitter about it. Although people have been calling that I should forgive him. I have forgiven him, but I am yet to know what the sin of Aregbesola is to Ambode. I am not bothered about what he did to me any longer. God has paid him back in his own coin. He collected my ticket for the LCDA and his own ticket for a second term has also been collected by God.
How did you feel when Ambode was denied the opportunity of a second term?
I pity him! Despite what he did to me, I pity him. He is from my state. I pity him. I am a Christian and a preacher in my church. I pity him. It is the law of karma that caught up with him. What we should all realise is the fact that power is transient. If you are in power, don’t misuse your authority. Take it easy because one day, you will no longer be in the seat of power. That rod you use against others may still be used against you. You can’t underrate anyone. Learn from what happened to Yemi Osinbajo. Osinbajo was a Commissioner of Lagos State at a time and Fashola was a governor at a time too. Today, Osinbajo who was a commissioner is now the Vice President and Fashola who was a governor is now a Minister under Osinbajo. That tells you that anyone can be whatever God wants him to be. I can be a governor; I can be a president; I can occupy any big position God wants me to occupy. Power is transient, so, we should be careful what we do when in position of authority. There are people you don’t tamper with because they have been anointed by God; if you dare tamper with them, the consequence of your action awaits you. We have to be careful.
You must have felt really bitter.
Why would I not?! He denied me what was due to me; what I had laboured for for so many years; what I had spent money for over the years. He didn’t even call me; he didn’t advise me; he didn’t even give me anything; he did not even pacify me! That meant: “Who is he? Let him go to hell!” He thought I did not have God. God is always there for me. God has fought for me.
I wondered what I could have done to warrant that. How could anyone have denied me my ticket because I am “Aregbesola’s son?”
How did your supporters take the development then?
So many of my supporters suffered shock and they were hospitalised. They could just not imagine what happened. It was indeed a terrible situation.
If your followers felt that terrible about what happened, how did you survive it?
I survived it because I have God. I am a preacher in my church and believe whatever is destined to happen will surely happen. Wherever anyone is destined to be, he will sure be. Not even the enemy can stop you.
Did the withdrawal of your ticket for the chairmanship affect your political ambition?
No. I don’t care. I still give out to people. The pain is that it affected my followers. Some were too devastated. It does not change anything.
What is your next political move? What’s your next ambition?
I can’t tell you now because we work according to directives of the party leaders. They know where we are fit to work, they know our capabilities and they have their plans. They registered the party and they are in control of it. You have to respect their positions.
But this is democracy. You should be free to determine what you want.
Yes, this is democracy, but the leaders must have their own input.
You celebrated your 50 years recently. What does it mean to be 50 years old?
To me, 50 years means one has to tread softly. If you want long life for yourself, you need time to rest. I have worked very well, I have made my name, and if I do not hold any political position, it doesn’t change anything. I have made my name as a security expert all over the world; I have made my name as a philanthropist; I have made my name as a preacher; I have also made my name as a mobiliser both in the political circle and in the church. More than before, at this age, I will be closer to God more than before.
What are your regrets at the age of 50?
I don’t have any regret. I give all glory to God. The only thing is that if my father had been rich, I would have gone to school early in life. I went to school very late for lack of money.
What is your guiding principle?
I believe God is God, he is never a man. You have to behave like a believer; you have to respect others. You have to be sincere and truthful in all your ways. Money will come if you are sincere. Cutting corners is not the best. I believe I should always say the truth no matter the circumstance. It makes me feel free, it makes me feel good.
You are into philanthropy. Is this informed by your political ambition?
It is not because of my political ambition. When I was suffering, my wife and I prayed to God to give us wealth; we said if He could bless us, we would continue to bless mankind. That is the reason we have been giving and the blessings have not stopped. So, we cannot stop giving because God is also blessing us.