Hon Kehinde Odeneye recently bowed out of the National Assembly having represented the people of Ijebu Central Federal constituency in the last 8years. Described as a kind-hearted politician by many, Odeneye speaks on his foray into politics, challenges, dividends of his former office to his constituents, and more importantly his relationship with the former governor of Ogun state, Sen Ibikunle Amosun and many more.
Let us talk about you foray into politics. How did the journey actually start?
My entry into politics was accidental. Accidental because as at that time, it wasn’t something I planned for. I came late 2009, and it happened at a burial ceremony of one of our leaders in Ijebu North-East Local Government. I was there, and I met a friend who has always been in politics and I told him to ensure he selects people that will represent us very well. He asked about me, he said he has always been requesting me to join politics, and I responded that if it is just about me, then they have not yet seen someone. But I told him anybody he chooses, I’ll work with such person. I got home and informed my wife, expecting her to discourage me, but she said it is okay if I can create a time to do it. She said if I have interest, she will definitely support me, and that was it.
The following week, I met my friend again and inquired about their political meetings, he was surprised. I asked him the reason why he sees me as a potential politician, and he responded that in the history of Ijebu Central Federal Constituency, Ijebu North-East Local Government has never considered, not even at the candidacy level. There was a time Dr. Odunuga came out and he was asked to step down for Daddah Razaq. I consented and told him to let us proceed. I realized we are all making mistakes, if we fold our arms and pretend matters of the society doesn’t concern us.
When I decided to go in, I had two different things in mind; I wasn’t too keen about winning or being selected. If I was elected, I will be fine, and if I am not, I will continue with my daily activities. I will live with the conscience that I made myself available, but if I was selected-fine! If not, then I would have sacrificed my conscience that I wasn’t selected. So, if anybody ask me anything in the future, I would have an answer. That was how it started, and we started attending meetings, I went to my ward, which is Ward 9, and I declared my aspiration to them. As at that time, there was a friend of mine named Kunle Otun, popularly called ‘Kope.’ Kope is a very rooted politician in the whole scheme in Ijebu-Ode, Odogbolu and Ijebu North-East. So, at that point in time, my people at Ijebu North-East were already very supportive of me, because there was no other person that had come from Ijebu North-East. I’m not sure he believed anybody could come and take the ticket away from him (Kope), because he was very rooted and he had lots of support. We started having meetings, I didn’t resign from my office at Ericsson then, I cme here for meetings and visit the political leaders as well. I always meet the leaders, tell them my intentions and gradually, I fully entered into politics.
It is generally believed that it is impossible to be in politics without having a godfather, who was your godfather in politics that made the journey easier for you?
I had no godfather at all, God made the journey easy for me. God made it easy because even till today, it still beats my imagination that it could be possible. Here is someone that was barely known politically, though I lived all my life in Ijebu, and I’ve been able to do my things on a lower level. Politically I was not known, I was supporting politicians that showed interest. I think it was a journey God had prepared, there was no godfather, except my friend that motivated me to come into politics. I later had contact with Otunba Ogunleye, who was a former deputy governor of Ogun State. There was never a serious contact with Chief Segun Osoba, but lot of things happened that forced everybody to change their minds that it has to be me. Having a godfather wasn’t what I needed as at that time, what I needed was to convince people that Ijebu North-East needs a candidate and that Ijebu North-East has a candidate that is capable to take a shot at that position. Those two things motivated me, and it gave people reasons why it has to be me. There was no godfather, but thereafter I was able to put my interest in so many leaders.
During the electioneering that brought you in, did you regret ever coming into politics?
There was no time I had regrets, though lots of things happened, and as God would have it, most of the negative things that happened pushed me forward, rather than set me back. There was an event that happened at one hotel in Oke-Owa, there was a senatorial meeting; that was a serious beginning of the journey, because I was attacked at the meeting, before I even got the party ticket. I was attacked at the hotel, and got almost killed. But as God would have it – the noise was loud, that even Chief Osoba heard it and asked about the situation. I went straight to Otunba Ogunleye that night and narrated what happened. This actually made people pity me, and I got sympathy from people. That could have chased me out of politics, but because I believe in myself that I possess what it takes to serve the people, I remained steadfast.
Ex-Governor Ibikunle Amosun was the sitting governor all through your tenure in office. What is your relationship with him?
Unfortunately, it wasn’t cordial. It was very unfortunate, because I personally thought being an accountant, being a fellow of the institute like him, I should be one of those people that should be close to him. But I realised something eventually that, we entered the party at the same time. At that particular time, every one of us that contested were seen as Osoba boys. There was this impression then that Chief Segun Osoba does not want him as the governorship candidate, so anybody associated with Chief Osoba then, are not supposed to be his friend. Again, we have been selected before his own selection, and he felt like coming from a group, followers of his own group should be also be given party candidacy tickets. Again, he took samples of opinions, and he heard that belief that some people are more popular than the selected persons. So, he wrote a particular letter to Chief Olusegun Osoba that he is not in support of some of us. He specifically mentioned me, Bukola Buraimo, and Adeyemi Adekunle. He said Bukola Buraimo came from abroad, and he is related to the wife of Baba Ogunleye, that he cannot win. He said Odeneye is barely known, that I cannot even win an election in my household. All these things never allowed us to have a very good relationship. Because he has stamped us to be Osoba boys, and rather than keep us closer, he packed us aside. That really left a lot of gap in our relationship with Ibikunle Amosun.
What are the key achievement of your 8-years at the National Assembly?
First and foremost, I campaigned with two things which are ‘Human Capital Development’ and ‘Infrastructural Development.’ In terms of Human Capital Development, I aim not to only give people food, but to train and teach people how to make their own living and I have achieved that. I have done several empowerment programmes. Also, I promised ‘Change’ and that change is to the effect that people will not be running after monies from politicians, and we have achieved that in Ijebu Central Federal Constituency to a large extent. Now again, people know things that their representatives could offer them. A lot of people that have represented Ijebu Central Federal Constituency are not too close to the people to let them know what opportunities are available at the National Assembly that they could bring. Empowerment is a major achievement I have done. In terms of infrastructure, I have touched many areas. I have imparted on people, particularly in education and sports. I still organise an annual football event, and recently I just formed a volleyball team. In terms of achievements and infrastructural development, I am so fulfilled now because I have delivered everything I promised. I might not have been able to give everything people expected, but to the best of my ability, I have delivered.
What does your political future look like? Are you calling it a quit politically?
I do not know what future politics hold for me, but I know that I still intend imparting lives and empowering people as much as I have the opportunity to do. I intend being close to everybody including politicians. I still intend using every opportunity that I have for the people. So, when you talk about my intentions, I do not know what the future holds. If it is an appointment – good, if it doesn’t come, it doesn’t stop me from being a party member. I do not intend leaving APC as a party, I still want to remain a progressive, I still want to continue to contribute my quota to the development of the party and the people, even beyond Ijebu Central Federal Constituency.
What is your message to the people of Ijebu Central Federal Constituency?
I thank and appreciate the good people of Ijebu Central Federal Constituency for the opportunity they have given me, the opportunity to represent them. I also thank them for supporting me to deliver my electioneering promises to them. Whoever I might have offended during the period of representation, I “say sorry. Whoever that might have offended me, I bear no grudge against anybody. I am available at any time to be able to contribute my quota to the development of our society. Everybody should join hands with the new representative of Ijebu Central Federal Constituency, Hon. Kolapo Osunsanya to be able to move the constituency forward from where I left it. We are still lucky that we are still having an APC representative here, Hon. KKO will continue where I stopped to be able to bring smile to the faces of the people in Ijebu Central Federal Constituency. Thank you.