Omooba Okunjimi Odimayo is the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Arowolo Group. Jimi, as he is popularly called, has within the last decade, built a vast business empire that spans across oil and gas, agriculture, construction, export, import, and hospitality sectors, while playing a big role in the politics of his environment as well as contributing immensely in the development of the people, especially the youths.
A turnaround expert, Odimayo started his professional career with Acorn Petroleum Plc, where he proved his proficiency in financial administration and crisis management, even as an NYSC member. After Acorn, Jimi has functioned in various capacities in the Upstream, Midstream and Downstream sub-sectors of the Oil & Gas industry, working with some oil companies including Somerset Energy, Bellpoint Energy and Addax & Oryx Group, where he later served as a liaison between the company and the Nigerian Government and regulatory authorities.
Omooba Odimayo spoke with The Podium Media’s Publisher, Demola Akinbola, on a wide range of issues. He is confident that he will clinch the APC ticket and go ahead to win the Governorship election, given his pedigree, leadership experience, and youthfulness. Enjoy his profound thoughts.
Why did you decide to join the race for Alagbaka?
I decided to join the race because it was a divine call from Almighty God. Also, I feel obliged as a bona fide indigene of Ondo State to heed the call to serve my state. Thirdly, I decided to accede to the request of my fans and supporters spread all over Ondo State to come forward and redirect the ship of Ondo State to the shores of prosperity.
I consider it an honour, and a rare privilege to have been invited by well-meaning Ondo State youths, elders, women, and other stakeholders to be part of the process of effecting the desired change in the state.
What is the vision behind this gubernatorial project?
Purely to make Ondo state a state that is commercially viable via mechanised agriculture and investment in medium scale businesses. I will also focus on the creation of an enabling environment through the deployment of modern technology for the security of lives and property. Also, we will ensure the supremacy of the of law as it applies to all stakeholders. In addition, my vision for Ondo State is to make the people happy through the provision of quality education, healthcare, and gainful employment.
What are the new things you are bringing into governance?
There are quite a lot of innovative and creative ideas that I have researched into with my team over the years. I did not just wake up yesterday and decided to contest. This is not a knee-jerk response or a desperate move to become governor. I know Ondo State very well, and I am quite familiar with the issues that we need to tackle frontally with good governance.
There are so many areas in which Ondo state is lagging. Ondo State has not had the good fortune of being well-governed, especially in the last four years. We are not where we should be as an oil producing state that is also immensely blessed with enormous human and natural resources. That is why we have a high rate of youth and graduate unemployment in the state. The State has sadly failed the citizens, especially the youths.
So, we have our plans well-researched and well-articulated. These are time-tested ideas that have worked. For example, in agriculture we will complete the value chain to our endowed Oil Palm and Cocoa Plantations, Forestry and other valuable cash crops. This will create jobs for our young graduates.
We will make our health sector to work effectively by equipping our hospitals with modern and functioning equipment and motivating our healthcare practitioners with reasonable salaries and incentives. We will do something different by partnering countries with first class health system to train our doctors, get modern equipment for our hospitals and there generate revenue through medical tourism.
The Education sector will be restructured to align our curriculum with modern trends and ensure that there is adequate infrastructure in our schools. Teachers will be regularly trained and incentivised to engender improvement in their work attitude and commitment. We will also create a good environment for research and development. Our tertiary institutions will be supported so that they can live up to expectations as veritable research centres.
In terms of industrialisation and infrastructure development, my administration will be firmly focused on creating an industrial revolution in Ondo State. We will partner with the organized private sector at home and abroad to establish industries that will optimise and maximize Ondo State’s competitive advantage in agriculture. To this end, we will work closely with the legislative arm to formulate relevant legislations that will improve the ease of doing business in the state by removing barriers.
What is your message for the people of Ondo State?
I have good news for them. The days of their endurance of the oppressive and insensitive rule under Akeredolu is numbered! Their cries and prayers have reached heaven. God has sent me to deliver them from the cruelty of this administration. It is just a matter of months and they will soon start feeling a new lease of life and bliss in all areas of life.
My appeal to them is that they should be ready to talk with their votes to usher in a new era of peace, security, prosperity and development in Ondo State.
The time has come for the sun to shine again on our people; it is time for them to enjoy the true dividends of democracy, not the crumbs that are grudgingly and arrogantly being passed to them like beggars. The people of Ondo State are not beggars; they are hardworking, industrious, and honest. They deserve a better deal, not the raw deal being served them by the gangster government of Mr Akeredolu.
Are you being sponsored by any godfather within or outside Ondo State?
I do not like using the word godfather because politicians interpret it negatively. However, it is desirable for a candidate or aspirant to be broadly accepted, supported, and endorsed by leaders and elders within the party. After all, the party is the platform that a candidate will use to contest the election.
So, yes, I enjoy the trust, confidence, and support of elders, leaders, and patrons of the party at the ward, state, and national levels. By the grace of God, I am the one that APC stakeholders are looking up to salvage the ship of the state from shipwreck. We are on the brink right now and an urgent and decisive solution is needed.
I am quite encouraged and humbled by the overwhelming show of support by party elders, leaders, youths, and women who desire that a fresh broom, which I represent, should be used to sweep away the problems of Ondo State caused by the visionless and rudderless government of Mr Akeredolu. I feel honoured with the endorsements of reputable leaders such as Senator Ajayi Boroffice and others who have staked their names to endorse me.
What leadership and managerial experience do you bring to the table for the task ahead?
I have proven records when we are talking about management and leadership. Firstly, I will run an inclusive and participatory administration in which all Ondo State indigenes at home and abroad will have a say. I will be the Governor of Ondo State, and not that of a section or group. I will be the governor for all.
Secondly, I am a team player, hence I will submit to party supremacy. I believe in working within laid-down rules, and I believe in honouring agreements. The party’s interest will come before my own personal interest. I will not subvert the party’s interest as some people are currently doing.
Thirdly, I am professionally equipped and well-trained for the task ahead. I am an accountant by training; I wrote and passed my professional ICAN exam within a year. I obtained my post graduate degree in Corporate Finance from the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom. By dint of hard work, honesty, and consistency, I rose to the position of Head of Commercial in an international oil company – Addax and Oryx Group.
Now, as the Group Chairman/CEO of Arowolo Group, I have the right managerial experience and expertise to adequately and efficiently manage Ondo state.
Can you tell us what your focus will be when you become the Governor of Ondo State?
My major focus would be to address the raging poverty in Ondo state, to build people, majorly our unemployed youths and women, and revolutionize agriculture using modern tools and equipment to encourage our youth into agriculture. I will be intentional about supporting entrepreneurship among the youths because that is the surest way to creating enduring wealth.
I will work hard to change the perception of Ondo State as a Civil Service State. We must change that perception and turn Ondo state into a veritable industrial haven.
Given that the people of Ondo State are well educated and enlightened, how do you intend to exceed their expectations?
It is simple. I will run an open and transparent government. I will be sincere and carry all stakeholders along in all our programmes. My government will be people-oriented in the conceptualization and implementation of its programmes. We will practise inclusion and will not alienate those who voted us into power like the current government of Akeredolu is doing.
How will you ensure the integration of Ondo State into the mainstream of the South Western Region economy?
One important thing to do is to make good use of our endowed Coastal resources. Ondo State has the longest coastal line in Nigeria, stretching from the riverine areas in the Ijaw/Arogbo/Igbokoda communities and delving into the Atlantic Ocean.
Sadly, we have under-utilised this advantage. Ondo State is long overdue for a seaport. A seaport in Igbokoda for instance, will reduce the pressure on Lagos Apapa wharf and generate massive revenue for Ondo State. We can also develop the state’s water transportation potentials by investing in ferry services which will earn us revenue and reduce the pressure on the Ore-Shagamu-Lagos expressway. Our people can easily commute to and from Lagos using ferries and speed boats.
Another area we will explore is the construction of inter-state carriage roads that will easily link Ondo State with the neighbouring states of Ekiti, Oyo, Ogun, and Osun.
The South West Governors Forum is another platform that my government will latch on to for regional economic integration. I am aware of efforts that are being made by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN Commission), a technocratic institution empowered by South West governments to ventilate their desire for sustainable regional economic integration. Ondo State will actively participate in the DAWN Commission and seek to maximize its membership.
Why did you choose the APC as your platform?
APC is the party to beat. That is the party that is truly national, and that is home to fair-minded progressive politicians. We can all see the positive differences that the APC has made in Nigeria within five years of being in charge of government at the centre. Under the leadership of the incorruptible President Muhammadu Buhari, APC has been busy repairing the damage done to Nigeria and Nigerians by 16 years of PDP’s brigandage and pillaging.
I am proud to be in APC at this critical time when President Buhari is rebuilding the foundation of Nigeria and ensuring that we become self-sufficient in food production. That is the model I intend to operate in Ondo State when I become the Governor by the special grace of God.
I also chose APC because of the strong emphasis on Agriculture by President Buhari who is a role model to many of us youths who are attracted and impressed by his agro-centric policies and programmes. He is a man without blemish in terms of corruption.
In what ways are you better than the other aspirants in the APC and PDP?
I have the advantage of being young and I am familiar with modern leadership and management principles which have been lacking in Ondo State. As a successful entrepreneur and CEO of a thriving international conglomerate, I have the advantage of being experienced in job creation, wealth creation, managing people, and optimizing resources.
These are the qualities you need to govern a state. You must have a track record of performance. I surely have that. I have a pedigree which is hard to fault. I am not a professional politician who is hungry for power and fame. I believe that I have already proved my mettle in the way God has helped me to successfully manage the Arowolo Group of Companies. I believe that is why the leaders and elders of the party are supporting my candidacy.
Another vital edge I have over the other aspirants is that I have no political baggage. I have no blemish. There is no allegation of wrongdoing hanging over my neck. Without sounding boastful, I think it is right for me to say I am the man to give Ondo State a new lease of life and a new beginning.
Why should the Ondo State people vote for you if you eventually emerge as the APC flagbearer?
I think this question has been sufficiently answered in my previous responses to your earlier questions. But let me recap by saying that Ondo State will experience real visible change under my leadership. It would not be “audio” change if I may borrow that common parlance. The people will experience significant positive changes that will directly Impact their lives. They will see an accessible and listening governor.
We will put Ondo people first in all our policies and programmes. My government will not outsource or franchise the economy of Ondo State to my relatives or in-laws as Mr Akeredolu is currently doing with so much impunity. I will not tie the hands of Ondo State indigenes while allowing non-indigenes unfettered access to the commonwealth of the people.
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