Friday, 12 September 2014

"YOUTH EMPOWERNMET IS MY MAIN INTEREST" --Lagos Architect, Tunde Ojo

He is one of the Nigeria’s prominent Architects, and he is doing tremendously well in the Architectural industry which could be regarded as his first calling. Because besides Architecture, Architect Desmond Babatunde Ojo also has business interests in the showbiz industry; this much he has shown over the years in his support and investments in many Nigerian entertainers and their artistic projects and he is still not relenting in his efforts in that regard. Architect Ojo, a multiple award-winning Architect cum businessman is much revered for his giant stride projects including the Lekki Shoprite roofing and the shop front designs as well as most of the airline projects in the country from south African Airways, Virgin Nigeria, Virgin Atlantic, Delta American Airline and a host of others. Many major offices interior designing in Nigeria today also have the magic touch of this genius who is a graduate of Inchbald School of Designs, London. This Architect per excellence would be bringing all this experience to the table as he gears up to represent his people of Oriade-Obokun Local Government area of the State of Osun at the House of Representatives elections in 2015. This site spoke with the consummate politician recently and he told us about his plans for the people of his constituency come 2015 general elections, among others. Enjoy the excerpts: You've signaled your intention to represent your people at the House of Representatives in the coming election, how prepared are you? Yes I have signaled my intention to a few friends and associates to contest for the House of Representatives in 2015 in Oriade-Obokun. There are two local governments for the Federal set of the legislative position and we are working at that. I've been on ground for the last one to two years. We've been doing a lot before now, and so I'm coming for the House of Representatives. So what are your plans for your constituency? Before now, I'm a detailed man. I've always had plans for my people and we've been doing a lot irrespective of political affiliation and even before the advent of democracy. For your information; we are one of the biggest employers in Ijesha land now. For instance, we have a hotel where we employed a large number of Ijesha indigenes. We are also working on a foundation called Architect Ojo Babatunde Foundation. We have an office in Ijebu-Jesha and Obokun. We've been doing a lot for everybody around there, so it's not as if we are just coming in new. We've been doing a lot in that area. We've been doing a lot of empowerment, social programs by way of youth football competitions among schools, and career development. We've done a lot in terms of social amenities in that area as well. When I talk about empowerment, I'm not talking about the usual "Amala" politics. I'm talking about financial empowerment. If you are a tailor for example, we get you sewing machine, if you are a welder, we get you the needed equipment as well and so on. One of the most impressive things we've done lately is obtaining of WAEC forms for a large number of students from the two local governments. So that's like a foundation for us coming out. We know what we want to do for our people and they also know our capability when we get there. Briefly tell us why you want to represent your constituency? I want to represent my constituency for two good reasons. For now, with all due respect to everybody, we have the representation but what we want to have is quality representation. What I mean is that I want to be seen as the right representation for them in terms of delivering all our promises and 2, not being far from my people as well as being in the grassroots. I won't be an Abuja person but I'll always be with my people once a month to interact with them and do everything necessary with them. Still talking about quality representation, I want to demystify the office by letting everyone have access to me. That's not all; I also want to use the influence to attract government projects into my community. What do I mean by that? I'm coming from a business background. I have a lot of clients in the corporate world and for me to use my influence to be able to bring them into that area to do something for my people; they must see that power on my hand. It will be easier to convince them when they see that I'm representing the people at the highest level and that I'm representing them effectively and qualitatively. Also the name matters. The name matters in the sense that the power of the House matters for me to be able to approach them to do this and that for me in my community. Why I'm contesting again is the fact that I want to use that as a means to be able to provide more employments for the undergraduates. I want to be able to use that name, Honourable Babatunde Ojo representing so and so, to be able to walk up to the big guns in this country. Like say the Minister of Finance, Comptroller General of Customs or Immigration. With that I can actually give him or her, at least 10 of my people to employ but if I do that as I am, they won't recognise me.
As an Architect, where do you think your experience will come to bear in this? It will come to bear in a lot of ways. In the last three years consecutively, I've been the Best Young Architect in Nigeria by the Young Achievers Awards. What this tells you is that I've done a lot of projects to deserve that. Now we have a lot of committees in the House, on Roads, Works, Lands and Physical Planning etc, so in any of these committees that I will find myself I will be able to contribute my quota. How I will I do that? I won't just go into the house and load my brain with all the tasks. I'll set up a research team that would comprise people from my industry so that I can actually make laws and presentation that will yield overall solutions. What do you think are your chances as a young person vying for that position in The State of Osun? Things are changing now as regards the chance of a young person like me in The State of Osun. I was involved practically in all the electioneering process for the re-election of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and I've said it times without number that I always want to be associated with people that connote change and that was why I worked with him then. Also things are changing like I said because if you look at all the political office holders in The State of Osun state right now, they are young guys like me who are close to 40 and early 40s as well because we are the people that make things happen. We are the people that know where the shoes pinch. We are the people that know where our people need our attention the most because we are close to them. Don't also forget that before now, there is always imposition but now even the governor knows that imposition is no longer effective because he himself wasn't imposed on us. If not for the grace of God and the fact that the people actually saw what the governor did, and they still desired that he continued the change which he stands for, they wouldn't have voted him. Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola was qualified and they gave him that chance. So people are actually not looking across party line any longer; it's now about someone who has the knowledge, acceptability and wherewithal to deliver to them the dividends of democracy. How close are you to Ogbeni Aregbesola because he was reported to have commissioned your Hotel, Springhills, in Ilesha some months back? I'm not too close to the governor but I know him one on one and he knows me one on one. I also have people that know him one on one. However, the truth of the matter is that, okay fine, the last time I saw him, he was like Tunde sorry I couldn't make it to the commissioning of your Hotel because of my engagement then. But the governor will always want to associate with good people with vision for the grassroots. Moreover, I'm a stakeholder in The State of Osun as one of the Hoteliers Association members. So even if people don't know me, they've heard about my hotel. The truth of the matter is that I'm always with my people and they know me. What lesson do you think Ogbeni Aregbesola's victory has for Nigeria's political terrain? We have the best schools in Osun, best roads, proper drainages, everything you can think about. So I don't know what the opposition was actually campaigning against. In fact, they were not even campaigning; they were just attacking Ogbeni Aregbesola's personality because there was actually nothing they could campaign against. I believe if you are campaigning you marshal some developmental points and use that against your opponent, but instead, the opposition was just attacking personality. So the lesson is that the people's will and the candidate’s achievements will go a long way. What are the chances of APC winning the Presidential election next year? Is it possible? Why not? If we have a good candidate. What I have noticed in this country is that people are desirable of change. When it comes to change, fine, there are some party addicts, but the majority of Nigerians will vote if they know that a candidate will better their lots. That is also becoming easier now because there are a lot of elites coming out to vote. Let me use The State of Osun as an example, during the last election, a lot of elites came to the state from far and near to decide their future. So it's about individual. People now vote for individual they connect with his or her vision. So if APC has the right candidate, it can win the Presidential election. And secondly, if it has the right Vice Presidential candidate, it will make it even easier because zone will determine a lot of things. Then three, if we have the right atmosphere. I mean if INEC is sincere. What's your opinion about the just concluded Confab? My only reservation is that the youths were not represented at the Confab. We have fresh minds that can contribute to development, so why do we have mostly older people there? That's just my only reservation. Could you give us a low-down of your career background? I'm a qualified Architect. I studied Architecture. I was at Yaba College of Technology and Inchbald School of Designs, London. I also attended Lagos State University for my MBA. I've been practicing since 1999. I've been involved in a lot of projects. I was involved in the Shoprite in Lekki, the roofing and the shop front. I've been involved in most of the airline projects in the country from South African Airways, Virgin Nigeria, Virgin Atlantic, Delta American Airlines and a host of others. Before now I have been into Banking Architecture but I'm now more into Office interiors. In the last few years I've majored in office interiors. And when I say office interiors, I mean full office interiors such as Integrated Data Systems, Data Rooms, Power Rooms, just name it. Then recently we delved into hospitality with Springhills hotels. We hope to spread that Hotel business around. But very soon we are leaving all that for a while to serve our people.

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