Rt. Hon. (Dr.) Najeem Salaam is the current Speaker, State of Osun House of Assembly and a governorship aspirant in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Osun. In this interview with AbuSatar Hamed and Abiola Rufai, the cool & collected gentleman opens up on his over-seven-year sojourn as Speaker and his ambition to become governor of the state. Excerpts!
Q: Sir, how has it been as Speaker, State of Osun House of Assembly, for more than seven and half years?
Well, I think I have had mostly good times as the Speaker, Osun State House of Assembly. Mostly, we get it done with the support of my colleagues in the House, but sometimes, when the executive wants us to go in one direction, I find it difficult to convince my members to reason along with me on why they should go in that direction. All the same, I have had a good time in the House and I do not have any reason to regret being the Speaker for the time I’ve spent.
Your leadership as Speaker in Osun has been described as unparalleled and the best in the country. Can you tell us the secret, sir?
There is no other secret than God. I have my God and I have the people of the State of Osun behind me and that is why I’m performing. I’m doing the best that I can do and people agree with, and accept, me. So, it is God, it is prayer and my steadfastness. And I so much believe in joint-work. I do not see myself as a leader; rather, I see myself as a servant and I join hands with others in discharging our duty. And for that reason my members see me as somebody that has remained his lowly himself; that isn’t taking undue advantage of his position. They see me as myself, not as the Speaker, and for that reason they appreciate me and that is why we have a peaceful working relationship in the House.
What informed the good relationship between the Legislative and Executive arms in the State of Osun?
It’s because we are contented in the House of Assembly. We have reason for being contented. This is because we want our state to develop further, we want development rather than promoting selfish interest. Wherever you have people going about their selfish interest, definitely there will be crises between the Legislative and Executive arms of government. For the fact that we are contented in the House, that’s why I’m leading; and because of the way I operate and handle my members, there can never be crises. Plus the fact that Aregbesola does listen to our advice – whenever he wants to make a decision against the wishes of the masses and we advise him, he listens. For God’s sake, why do we have to fight someone who listens to our advice and more so, he is developing the state; and if we want him to develop us there will be crises. Wherever you see crises between the Legislative and the Executive council, find out, it is either the lawmakers want the Executive to give them ‘‘something’’. Look at what is going on at the National level and in other states too. We have the friction between the executive and legislature, mainly because of the clamour for what is percived to belong to me that has not come to me. But in our own case, it is what is supposed to belong to the people of our state, not what belongs to the members of the House of Assembly. So far the Executive is able to meet up with this, there won’t be crises with us.
Sir, what really informed your decision to join the governorship race?
That’s a nice question. Whoever that has the opportunity of successfully leading the House of Assembly, where we have equal members with equal rights and equal mandate, and leads them for years; then such will definitely have what is required to lead the state. Unlike what we have in the Executive, whereby the Governor of the state is the only supreme-being, in the House of Assembly, we have just one Speaker, who is one among equals.
We are all equal, so if you can lead people from different background and you lead successfully – just like God has allowed me to do – you’ll know what their requirements and expectations look like. So I have the aggregation of all this, and I think it is better for me to be the Chief Executive Officer of the state so as to allow me to meet up with the yearnings of the citizens of the state. And I want to say that, as the Speaker of the State House Of Assembly, this is a very good platform for me. I have learned, I have listened to people and I have proffered solutions to their problems within myself, of which when I’m given the chance to lead the State of Osun in Executive capacity, I will definitely deliver as Governor of the state.
It was gathered that it’s only your Senatorial District – Osun West – that has not been allowed to have a big-enough bite of the highest position in the state. What, really, is the situation?
Yes. It is not even that we have not produced. We’ve produced the Governor once – for one year and ten months. And that was the late Sen. Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke, the first executive Governor of the state, who was there for just one year and ten months before the Military intervention in politics in 1993 . Since then, as if it has not been the right of the people of Osun West. The rotation has been between Osun Central and Osun East. Not even the post of Deputy Governor of the state has come to Osun West. The Central and East have been doing it between themselves, and what we normally have in Osun West are the Speaker and the Secretary. And we all know that, for you to meet the demands of the people, definitely you must possess Executive power.
Thank God, Osun West this time around are clamouring for their elusive right; they are now saying that we want to be at the helm of affairs in the state. Having paid our dues, contributing to how others emerged as the Governor of the state in the past, it should be our turn. The political understanding should be there, political alignment should be there, that the West should produce the next Governor. We are part of this state, for goodness sake, and we’ve been paying our dues, I mean, our votes for whatever party we belong to. It is now high time for the people of Osun West to enjoy the right of being the Governor of the State of Osun, and that is exactly what we are clamouring for. Now it is our turn, it should be our turn.
It was scooped that the aspirants from the West have come out united to assert that it’s their turn. Sir, what do you think informed this, because it’s never a common thing for aspirants to come together to fight for a common cause. Sir, can you tell us what is really happening?
Yes, because of the allocation in the history of mankind and a particular society, there must be people that are ready to liberate their fellow beings. In this wise, the aspirants from Osun West are all ready to liberate the zone from the shackles of marginalisation at all times and we are now seeing that it is the time for Osun West, and we came together. It is very easy for us to do such because we have suffered the same fate together. We have the same history and we have the same objective. We pursue the same goal and it has to be Osun West. We don’t even mind whoever emerges as the Governor of the state amongst us, but it has to be from Osun West, for development.
Sir, what is the position of the current Governor and the APC Chairman of the state in this particular struggle from Osun West?
Well, as an aspirant I don’t want to talk about the position of the Governor nor that of the party leader/Chairman for now, but I know that the elders who serve as an advisory council to both the government and the party in the state have agreed and I’ve said it severally that this time around, the next state governor must come from Osun West. As to the positions of the party Chairman and the Governor, I think at the appropriate time they will speak to us and address us about where they are going.
It was gathered that about 27 aspirants are aspiring for governorship position in the State of Osun. Sir, what do you rate your chances among them?
Because I belong to my people and I live among them, I know what they want and they believe what I stand for. They know what I can do – this is not my first time of serving and they have seen what they like in me. Definitely my chances are as bright as anything, as Number One that will lead the state.
Sir, if you eventually become the next Governor of Osun State, what should the people expect from your administration?
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have said much now because people know what I stand for: I believe so much in justice, equity and fairness to everybody, and service to humanity caps it all. As good citizens of the state, methinks everyone must have a stake in the government. Definitely, my programmes and my outlook to life plus the way I relate with people and my management of resources, as well as people’s understanding and belief in me, of course, the teeming people of the State of Osun shall make me the next Governor of the state. Because they can see the best in me and the way they can see the best in me is by giving me the chance to be the next Governor of Osun. And for that reason, the people of the state already know me. And I want to say that we intend to continue with the 4 Cardinal Points vis-à-vis the 6 Integral Action Plan of Governor Aregbesola that captures all the areas that one can think of, plus other new areas that have been neglected, that we need to touch, that we need to add to it, because as we are developing and moving, ideas improve.
Having worked with the State government for the past seven years, how will you describe Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the governor?
Thank you for that question. Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is a special being, a super human being, highly intelligent, an enigma, a phenomenom and a visionary leader. And his passion for developing the State of Osun has shown that he is a great man, a great thinker, a good manager of human and natural resources, a philanthropist. Call him any name – an achiever and mobiliser. He has done a lot in the State of Osun, he has shown exemplary character worth emulating in terms of development of human beings and physical structures. He has put together the megre resources of the State of Osun to improve the lot of the citizens of Osun. All these have shown he is a super human being; a super human being that we all love. He is a good man and he believes so much in the rule of law and abides by the provisions of the laws of the country and of the state. He is a man that believes in soul. He is a man that has quite a number of principles for the development of the state. He remains unbending when it comes to development issues, he remains very adamant when it comes to developmental issues in the state. So, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is a man that one can’t even describe with one word. I tell you, he has introduced scientific improvement and a lot more in all phases of life – in education, health sector, road networking and other infrastructure, including electrification in the rural areas and other areas he has touched. He is a great man indeed.
Sir, we have seen a lot of work done and still going on in the state. Despite that, in some quarters people still complain that he has not done much so far. What is your take on this?
Well as a human being, you can’t finish everything, you can’t satisfy all human beings, even God does not satisfy all of us, even some people have much money they have ten cars while some people have nothing, they walk barefooted, so there is no way you can satisfy human beings and there’s no perfect being in life. Having said this, Ogbeni Aregbesola has done his best and his name will forever remain indelible in the history of the State of Osun. You can’t equate Aregbesola with God, and having been part of this success story in the state, that is why continuity is very important, and must continue from my humble self.
That is why we are saying that it is desirable that somebody that has been in the system like me take over from him, so that no trainer will start afresh. It necessarily has to be somebody that has developed his ideas and somebody that is advanced in technological know-how on how to develop the state that takes over from him. So, Ogbeni Aregbesola has definitely done his own best and he will leave the rest for others that are following. That is the essence of continuity; otherwise, the government would have stopped at where Aregbesola stopped.
Your friends do call you “Assignment Man”. What is the meaning and why?
Assignment, means still searching; that you have not got to the end until when you are there. Given Assignment also means you will be there looking for the best for our people and looking after their welfare, giving yourself job, an Assignment, of how to develop human beings, how to develop your state physically, structurally, economically and so on. So you must be up and doing. Given an Assignment to do means you must be up and doing to tackle the challenges of the state.
What about Iwaloye?
Iwaloye means somebody that gets to a throne because of his good behaviour and character; that one’s deeds could take him to the height of his career, be it a Senator, Governor, Politician or whatever. It is my real name and people do call me that name because of what they discover in me, my character. Of course I cannot judge myself, but am trying to be of good character in everything.
What else do you want people of the state to know about you?
People should know that I have been living here since my birth in the State of Osun. I have been part of them and I will ever remain part of them. I don’t have any other place to call my home except my home, which is the state of Osun. They should believe in me, I will not disappoint them. I want to say that they should forge ahead and keep on supporting me to the higher level that I’m aspiring to. Giving me the opportunity of serving them as the Governor of Osun State, I will turn the state to a wonderland and people of the state will benefit immensely from that.
Sir, your words to the youths of the State of Osun?
Well, the youths of Osun State, including the youths of Nigeria, we the youths are the leaders of today and not tomorrow again. We should be of good behaviour, now that the National Assembly has passed the bill of Not To Young To Rule. We should know that we should always be of good behaviour, even at the family and societal levels; They should do away with social vices like armed robbery, drug abuse, cultism and many other social vices that can put them in trouble now and in the future. They should be good examples to those young ones coming after them and they should remain law-abiding citizens.
What is your view about life Sir?
My life is simple; simplicity is my way of living. I don’t believe in having so much money and property before I can live, as much as I can take care of my family and the people around me, they can feed, they can live. I can assist my fellow being, I am okay, I don’t need much money to live. Simple life is my way of life and my watchword.
Who is Rt. Hon. Dr. Najeem Salam?
Najeem Salam is a very gentle guy, peace-loving person. A family man, somebody that believes in development of his area, through equity, fairness and justice. I’m a complete gentleman, a farmer and a politician.
Thanks for the audience sir
You’re always welcome