Chief Otunba Demola Popoola is an entrepreneur, accomplished businessman, philanthropist, aviation expert and an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain. In this interview with AKIN ORIMOLADE, he speaks on his bleuprint to develop Ekiti if elected governor in 2022.
Who is Otunba Demola Popoola?
I was born more than 50 years ago. I am a native of Oye-Ekiti. I had my primary education at Salvation Army Primary School, had my secondary school in Ibadan. I graduated with a BSC in Estate Management from the University of Ife, now known as Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. I started my business immediately after graduation. As a businessman, I became the Special Adviser to the Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Jelili Adesiyan Jallo. I was his SA on Project for four years. I manage the air site of all the airports in Nigeria: runway, apron and taxiway. I have over 600 staffs in my employment. I became Director of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Matters to Governor Jide Sanwo-Olu during his campaign. I am the chairman of Iva Valley Estate, for the third time consecutively.
I am the chairman of all the major contractors in Nigeria. I am the Chairman of Aviation Cleaners in Nigeria. I have chain of businesses, including event centres and shopping malls. I am into construction, aviation, etc. I am also a concessionaire.
Ekiti is regarded as the fountain of knowledge, having produced many professors, how prepared are you to lead them?
Ekiti is the only state that is homogeneous in nature. I was with Otunba Niyi Adebayo in his first term. I have gone through a lot of lectures. I was with Fayemi in his first term and second term. I even had an accident a night before Fayemi’s election. I didn’t lose my life. It is a state I am used to. I was born and brought up in Ekiti. I lived there. Currently, I live in Ekiti. Leading Ekiti is not a problem for me. It is the action and what you are producing for them. Ekiti has produced many professors, but they are not comfortable. They want development. I know what my people want and I am going to give it to them. I want to build on the foundation of Governor Kayode Fayemi. He has dug a foundation and I want to lay blocks on it through industrialisation, providing jobs for our people, cottage industries, etc. I don’t want my people, especially graduates, to be riding Okada. I have been doing a lot of philanthropic work in the health sector as can be seen in the media. So, in a nutshell, I know what my people want and I am going to give it to them.
I am working on the development of gold. I have already gone to a factory in Turkey, which has the equipment to turn the raw materials into pure gold. We can sell gold. I also want to mechanise agriculture in Ekiti by giving farmers the equipment to develop and improve agriculture in Ekiti. We will have a cargo section where our produce will be taken away. Don’t forget that I am an aviator, so I know what to do in that area.
I have three teams: the economic team, the political team and the historical team. My economic team comprises a lot of people all over the federation, especially from Ekiti and other parts of the country. They are already going round Ekiti; in order to come out with a blueprint on how to develop the state in two years.
I have a target to develop Ekiti in two years. I can’t fail. You tread the part of a successful man. I have never earned a salary in my life. I have never worked under anybody in my life, but I have chain of businesses.
What will you do with Security vote if elected?
I don’t have need for security vote. I want to impact on people’s lives as I am already made for life. I am not coming to steal public funds. In fact, there is no money in Ekiti. What is the budget of Ekiti? The budget of where I am is over 8o0 billion naira, while Ekiti is 170 billion naira. So, what can you do with that? The reason my people in my estate elected me three times is because they know I will not loot their money. I will not steal and I will not let you steal. That is the problem they might have with me in Ekiti. If you tell me that a bottle of water is N200 and I know it is N50, I will go to the market myself and buy it. Nobody will kill me, except God who created me. I am a destined child. I didn’t plan to be Governor. It was a directive from God.
How did God direct you to contest?
I was on my way to London when I met a pastor in the plane and I told him to come and pray for me in the new house I bought in London. I have many houses in London, so I told him to come and pray for me as I bought a 5-bedroom apartment.
When he was praying for me, he said that he saw a crown on my head, that my grandfather was a king. I told him to pray so that I will not be a king as I don’t want to be confined in the palace. He said that he saw the crown of the Ekiti State governor on my head and that I was sitting on the seat. This was about seven months ago. Also, somebody was praying for my brother in Nigeria and he saw the same message. He called me at the same time the pastor was giving me the same message. However, I will not lie to you, occult people have been trying their best to remove the crown, but as God liveth, the crown has come to stay.
How you will know that god answers people in distress is that I have not even spent five months in Ekiti, but my name is already on people’s lips. The project is all over Ekiti because I am doing what God asked me to do. God is the one connecting me. It is not me connecting myself. I put pressure in it, but God directs my steps. He is the one that tells me what to do.
I wake up each day with God directing me on what to do. I believe so much in God. It is God’s project, that is why they call it Ogbo-Ekiti…glory of Ekiti has come. Ekiti people are very happy with my coming. They have been praying that God should not allow Governor Fayemi to make a wrong choice. A lot people that left APC for PDP have returned. It is all about APC now and we are all working together.
How do you plan to unite the factions in APC?
We have united different groups in APC. That is part of what I came to do in Abuja; to call them to a meeting and resolve everything. Ekiti is going to speak with one voice. APC is going to speak with one voice. APC is APC, it will not be destabilised. I can assure you that. I am part of them. I am the only one who does not offend any of them. I am a socialite, I don’t fight people. They all know me and I know them. I have never been in the opposition in Ekiti to offend someone. Maybe after my tenure, somebody can say I offended him and I will go and beg him. I am quick to say sorry, because I am not better. It is only opportunity that makes me better and ahead.
How will you tackle stomach infrastructure?
We are trying to re-educate them, which is very important. If they can’t stop thinking about who will give them money, we will keep having issues. But I will do my best. I am doing a 50 million naira empowerment project on October 22. Ekiti people are very happy because they are coming to me and I give them the little I can offer. I am empowering them now. If you give people fish, they will come back, but if you teach them how to fish, they will be made for life. Stomach infrastructure is a dirty language. There are other words to use. You are making it obvious that we are hungry. It is a slap on Ekiti, because we are learned. I won’t diminish or demean Ekiti to that level by using that word. I am going to do something similar, but not in that context. I will use my votes to take care of my people. If I give them money, it will not be enough for them, but I will make sure they fetch for themselves in a quick way. If I am sworn in today, the following day, I will be on the street working. So, I will take care of that. I have been paying a lot of school fees, hospital bills and settling people’s problems.
Dr Kayode Fayemi called me during the peak of COVID-19 to come and fumigate Ekiti and I fumigated the whole of Ekiti for free, without collecting a dime from the government. I spent close to 80 million naira on that. This is because I didn’t want more people to die. I have been doing that. I have been paying bills of 3 million and more. The information is there in national newspapers, TV and other media outlets. That’s even before indicating interest in the governorship race. I have been doing a lot of philanthropic work for many years now.
How will you improve the IGR of Ekiti?
My teams are already on it. In the next three months, the blueprint will be ready. We’re working on it. We’re not going to increase tax. I will use Ekiti people to implement the blueprint. They are my people and they’re working on my emergence. Like you said, there are a lot of professors in Ekiti, so you use what you have to get what you want. I am not going to bring Lagosians to come and be doing their job for them. But I am going to have them gathered together, wherever they are in the country or different parts of the world. I will go round and shop for the best heads all over Ekiti, who are Ekiti people, to come and be part of my economic team and government. They will not take commissioner or other positions, but they will be part of the setting that will draft Ekiti developmental plans. Since 15 years, Ekiti has been developing. The problem of Ekiti is lack of succession.
When Governor Niyi Adebayo did his project, Fayose came and stopped it. Fayemi came and tried to continue, but Fayose came and stopped Fayemi’s project. The City Center, for four years, they didn’t touch it and so many things. So, we’re killing ourselves with our hands. But if there is a succession plan, as I believe there will be when APC continues in power, then there will not be a setback.
All the projects Fayemi is doing, all I have to do is to call the contractors together and ask them the stage they are and how to continue. It is not about party. Once you emerge as governor, it should be about the development of the state.
How will you convince party men?
I am going to be governor of Ekiti state. I am going to use 8 years straight, by the grace of God. Your behaviour is very important in governance. I am going to demystify governance. Everybody will have access to me. I am going to be holding townhall meeting every month in every area. I will be rotating it, not only in the town. So, I will know the problems of my people and solve them. I am going to take governor’s office to them. When you say that democracy is of the people, by the people and for the people, people are just saying it by the mouth. I am going to demonstrate it by bringing the office of the governor to their doorstep. I am going to be different from other governors. That will yield me results because I am going to feel their pain. It is not about the governor they elected and they’re not seeing again, how is he going to feel their pain? You can’t feel their pain now. The same place I am going to beg for votes, I will go back there and hear their problems when I become governor. That way, they will love you. Pick a date one Saturday for townhall meeting. Let all of them or their leaders come. Gather them together let’s hear them out. We cannot do everything at once, let us do it stage by stage. You will find out they will not leave you.