Hon Bukola Olapade served as the Commissioner for Youths and Sports in Ogun State under former governor Gbenga Daniel (OGD). After office, Hon Olopade went into sports management, which he said has paid off for him.
However, he joined others to work for the success of Prince Dapo Abiodun as the new Governor of Ogun State for fours years.
Speaking in his office in Magodo area of Lagos State in an interview wiith Malik Ibitoye and Oladipup Awojobi of Ogun News Express, the politician stated that the new Governor of Ogun State was the greatest thing to happen to the state and that he was excited about his emergence. The sports management expert also speaks on politics and why he went into sports management and other issues.
How would you explain your transition from the government sector to the private sector
This is a question that makes me feel excited. It was the head of Corporate Affairs of Cocacola that first raised this observation after my presentation to the company, that how was I able to transmute from ‘agbada’ to blazers. Actually, I never wore ‘agbada’ as a commissioner. I have where I was coming from, I was operating in the corporate world even in the United Kingdom before I came to Nigeria. Otunba Gbenga Daniel inculcated in us, the young people working with him, on the need to have a second address. Every time he mentioned it to us during our stay with him, the necessity to have a business and to have something to fall back on after leaving public office. I actually wanted to go to Law School in Nigeria, but I didn’t, as I have interest in sports. OGD had given me that experience to excel in sports management.
Are you saying that OGD helped you discover your interest in sports business or it was something you decided to do after leaving office?
It is a combination of all of these. Most significant of it is that OGD gave me the motivation to discover myself. After the Gateway Games, and after the first term of OGD in 2007, I wanted to contest for a seat in the Federal House of Representatives, but OGD said to me that it was young people like me that he wanted to work with in his second term of office and he had already made me a commissioner. He said he wanted young people like me to help drive his vision for Ogun State and he begged me not to run for the House of Reps. He then asked me if I understood the kind of money I could make from sports and he said I should begin to look at the opportunities in sports administration. In 2010, he called me that, “Bukola I need you to resign and start a company that could manage and hold shares in all our stadia that we have built.” My eyes became open and I thought about it and I said I was ready to do that. But he later told me not to resign because he was facing a lot of political battles towards the end of his second term and he said “I need all my men on board.” But he told me to continue to study the business of sports and what I could make from it. Immediately I left his office, I began to think about it and that was what led me to Switzerland to go and learn about sports business. He basically paid for it. It was a two week course. But shortly after we left office, I went for a course in sports at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. It was a post graduate course in sports management. I was in government when I applied for the course and the result came out two weeks before I left government, and I went there to go and study sports management. I did that between September 2011 and June 2012. OGD really exposed me to this and I added a dint of hard work to it. But no matter what you do, if politics is in your blood, you would go back to politics.
What are the challenges you have faced on the job?
The first challenge is the image Ogun State left me with. Ogun State actually gave me a positive image, but I am talking of the image the evil people in Ogun State gave me. There was a time I ought to get a job with one international body that controls sports and then they googled my name and they saw a lot of lies about me. They said they knew they were propaganda, but that all these matter when they do their security checks, that was how I lost that job. But my father told me that challenges and problems are events that would bring another event to you. Don’t forget that sports has to do with marketing and brand management and everywhere one goes to do presentation, people knew us, and that made people to put their trust in us. They feel that they are looking at one man that could project their image and to God be the glory, every client we have worked with has come back to say that we are good at what we do.
The other challenge has to do with integrity, we have been able to clear that and many organizations have been coming into sports. They wanted organizations that could give them value for the money they spend on sports. Aside from that, it is a fantastic job.
Are you still in politics?
Yes, in a quasi manner. I was involved in the last election. The politics I play now is a politics of neutrality, trying to look for people that would work for the progress of Ogun State and that of Nigeria as a whole. I do not belong to a party, I belong to the people. I support people that would add values to the quality of life of the people of Ogun State and Nigeria.
For example, I found myself sponsoring people in ADC, ADP, PDP, APC and even Accord Party in the last general elections. I worked for the Governor-Elect of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun of the APC. I had actually been supporting Gboyega Nasir Isiaka of the ADC. But, when we sat down and we saw that we needed to stop the dictator called Governor Ibikunle Amosun in Ogun State, we decided to support Dapo Abiodun. I had to talk to my leader, OGD to lead us to support Dapo Abiodun. Luckily, our strategy worked and we were able to stop Governor Ibikunle Amosun from producing a successor in Ogun State.
What is the bond between you and Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola aka Yayi. He operates in Lagos State, while you operate in Ogun State
I followed Yayi’s campaign for the Senate between 2012 and 2015 in Ogun State. Then I said to myself that this is a man with so much capacity and brilliance. He also has a knack for the grassroots. I love anybody that has the fear of God and who loves to support those who don’t have. I believe that when the Lord has given you any sort of wealth; either academic or economic, I believe that God wants you to share with others. Whatever money that is given to you by God, you must share. That is why we must respect the Wole Soyinkas of this world who churned out intellectual materials for people to gain from. The same thing happens in politics, if God has given you the acumen to help, you must go ahead to do it. That was what I saw in ubiquitous Senator Adeola Olamilekan aka Yayi.
When his senatorial plan in Ogun State did not work, I felt it was high time we supported someone from Yewa to be the Governor of Ogun State. So, when I went to meet him in his office, I told him I wanted him to contest for the Governorship of Ogun State, then he had not started talking about running for governorship. The rest is history, he opted out. After he opted out, he called me and said “egbon mi, egbon mi, Dapo Abiodun la ma se oooo” meaning that we will support Dapo Abiodun for Governor in Ogun State.
So, all his structures went for Dapo Abiodun. I have a strategy I deplore, I don’t say no to the people I care about. I care about Yayi. I call him “Distinguished Excellency”, and I said I would get back to him. After two weeks, I called him and said that we will support Dapo Abiodun and I went straight to OGD to inform him of the development
Yayi is a fascinating man, the leadership of the senate should put him in a position in the senate that would touch lives. That is a man that believes in empowering people. If you sit down with him, you would gain. If we are saying that we need younger people to drive this country, someone like Yayi still has a huge role to play in this country.
You are the chairman of the Sports subcommittee in the Transition Committee of Prince Dapo Abiodun, what is your mandate?
Our mandate is to look at sports within the next four years and let the incoming governor see sports as a tool of empowerment and also put the state where it belongs. Governor Ibikunle Amosun did well in roads construction in Abeokuta, but he performed woefully in sports. He destroyed the legacy of OGD, which did so well in sports nationally, locally and internationally as governor of Ogun State. OGD was all about capacity building and he saw sports as a tool of empowerment. Under sports, we employed thousands of people.
Can you give us a rundown of what OGD achieved in sports as Ogun State governor?
I don’t feel this is the right time to discuss the legacy we left, we should be talking about what we want the incoming governor to do. We have prepared a report and I will tell you that I had an opportunity to work with very fantastic young people, who came up with suggestions and if the Governor-Elect follows the suggestions, sports on Ogun State would be better for it.
What would be your personal advice to the Governor-Elect?
My personal advice to the Governor-Elect is that he should work with the document we have submitted. The document is rich in content, it is rich in vision and in mission.
Are you thinking of the government making money from sports?
I won’t tell you what is in the documents.
Would you say Prince Dapo Abiodun listens to advice?
He is a fantastic man, he has even replied a text message I sent to his phone yesterday. He is a patient man, you saw the way he handled his campaign despite provocation upon provocation. He is the first governor that his opponents would congratulate through visits at home. In the past, we used to congratulate them on the phone because of the vitriolic we would have poured during campaigns. Apart from Hon. Adekunle Akinlade of the APM and Governor Ibikunle Amosun, every other opponent went to greet him at home. Look at his Transition Committee, every camp was represented. I am still excited that we elected someone like Prince Dapo Abiodun as the next Governor of Ogun State.
What is your advice to the people of Ogun State?
The people of the state should give him all the necessary support. The challenges would be much, I know Governor Ibikunle Amosun very well, he would not just stay in Abuja to face his senatorial work. So, Prince Dapo Abiodun needs our supports and prayers. I have no doubt that Abiodun would be the best governor in the modern day Ogun State.
How is your sports programme under the sponsorship of Access Bank?
Access Bank are our sponsors and the Lagos State Government is our partner. We are excited about the Abeokuta Road Race that is coming up on November 3rd and the Remo Road Race coming up on December 7. We are so excited about it because the two are taking place in my state? Lagos State has helped us in building our capacity on road race and we are taking it back home. One must also give Governor Ibikunle Amosun credit for the roads he has constructed because the one that stretches from Onikolobo would be very useful for our road race with all the aesthetic values.