Oyewole Aboderin: From Real Estate to Politics
By Rita Okoye
Oyewole Olumuyiwa Aboderin is the Special Assistant to the President on NGOs, in the office of the First Lady.
He is a Chartered Estate Surveyor and Valuer with a Doctorate Degree in Public Administration.
Until his appointment as Special Assistant, he was the Chief Executive Officer of Wole Aboderin Consulting, a real estate and project management firm.
In 2015, he was on the elections monitoring and evaluation team, representing the Youth Directorate, Muhammadu Buhari/Osibanjo Presidential campaign council. He was also the Director, Women and Youth Buhari/Osinbajo Presidential Campaign team chaired by H.E Dr. (Mrs.) Aisha Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
In this interview, Oyewole Aboderin shares his journey into politics and his experiences so far, serving the nation in the presidency.
What motivated you to go into politics when you are by all means successful in your chosen career?
My going into politics was accidental. I joined based on friendship; to support my friend’s dad. Then in 2007, I supported my cousin, after that, a family friend. My interest in Buhari made me forge on to join ANPP Campaign because I wanted to see Buhari become the President of Nigeria.
What’s your turning point or biggest breakthrough since you joined politics?
When we were campaigning for Buhari in 2007, 2011, we were seen as jokers, lepers. People would chastise us, castigate us and ask why we were campaigning for this man. So, in 2007, we contested and lost. In 2011, we contested and lost.
So, I just said I’ve had it all with politics, let me just return to my real estate business.
I didn’t think parties would come together and Buhari will come back in 2015 to contest the election. My biggest breakthrough was at that convention when Buhari won the primaries. I believe Buhari clinching that APC ticket was an act of God.
How has it been working as the Special Assistant on NGO to the First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari?
My focus has been on effective collaboration and coordination, to ensure efficient project execution as well as evaluation, constantly reworking our mechanism for improved accountability and oversight, as well as to strengthen government relations and improved planning with regards to NGOs and Civil Society Organisations.
It has been an interesting experience working with multiple governments (Ministries, departments, and agencies – MDAs) and non-government stakeholders across the country, particularly trying to ensure improved collaboration among stakeholders so there is no duplication of efforts or waste of resources. The leadership of several government MDAs that my office has engaged in, have been very supportive and intentional about their involvement. This has made it easy for our network to support beneficiaries wholesomely.
What are some of the projects that you have successfully completed?
There have been quite a number. I will mention a few of them here. One of my foremost priorities has been the development of a robust database of all NGO/CSO supporting the Nigerian Government across all sectors. This has involved collaboration with the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management and several others.
I have drawn directly from current realities of gender- based violence and multiple incidents of rape and sexual assault, to develop focus area expansion strategy and proposal documents for Future Assured. The idea is to channel efforts deliberately at making a strong impact in reversing ills that plague the vulnerable demography of the Nigerian population. This must be done with utmost resilience and attention to detail.
In collaboration with multiple stakeholders (local and international) and the media, I led several awareness and sensitisation efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, World Sickle Cell day which also included education and distribution of vital supplements to the vulnerable population and many others.
Can you tell us more about the First Lady’s philanthropic activities and is there a special programme to empower women and the girl child?
Dr. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari is very passionate about women and children, particularly the girl-child and the vulnerable in our society.
Through her Future Assured programme, she has focused on addressing the nutrition challenges and broader Maternal and Child Health issues to reduce malnutrition, as well as preventable maternal and child deaths in the country.
We do that through women and youth education and social and economic empowerment. So far, over 5,000 women have been trained in the North and South of Nigeria, and essential materials and community learning centers for women provided. Protection of the rights of women and children, especially victims of gender-based violence, battery and rape also form part of what we do.
Proceeds of her book launch as well as relief materials were also donated to victims of the insurgency in the North East.
What have you learnt since you started working with the First Lady?
For me, it has been the many positives and benefits of partnerships and collaborations. Working together with people helps you achieve more, reduces wastage and duplication of efforts. There is a vast pool of resources in people. I have particularly learned the power of harnessing contacts and using their capabilities for positive impact.
My work with the First Lady has taught me to work from an out-of-body vantage point, where one can overlook all activities with as much attention to detail as is required of anything worth doing.
What do you know or appreciate about her that many don’t know?
Her Excellency is very compassionate. She wants to attend to everyone at their point of need. She is genuinely concerned about issues; especially about women empowerment and the girl child. She never backs down from anything, she does not take no for an answer, and I have come to find that this is the singular trait that ensures success in whatever endeavour a person embarks upon.
You recently concluded a course on Policy Design and Delivery from Harvard Kennedy School, what inspired you to further your education and what was the experience like?
Education is a continuous process. I have always been a voracious reader and I quickly jump at chances and opportunities to learn something new. Even though the knowledge or experience might not be of immediate advantage, still, I strongly believe that it will be of great use some day.
So, it’s in the light of that, that I took out time to further invest in learning. My choice of Policy and Innovation delivery was borne out of the need to be able to understand the very core of innovation scaling, and how best to drive a policy and bring it to limelight, especially in a complex and diverse society like ours.
I was privileged to meet people from all walks of life; many from outside Africa who were captains of industries, CEOs, and men/women of repute. So aside from the rich and in-depth knowledge I acquired from the program, my encounter with new people and my professors was a great experience.
It will not be incorrect to refer to you as a ‘Buharist’. Why do you have much faith in President Buhari?
Growing up, my dad used to talk about the exemplary leadership qualities of President Muhammadu Buhari out of all the Presidents Nigeria has produced. According to him, he wished that Buhari would come back one day as the President of Nigeria. So, I used to wonder if it’d be possible.
So, when he contested in 1999; I’ve always been supporting and voting for him since the first time he contested because my Father inculcated the ‘Buharinomics’ into me.
I became very active in 2007 when my cousin joined ANPP. I followed him to ANPP because Buhari was a part of ANPP. I’ve been supporting Buhari since that time. It got to the point that they were looking for someone to be the Youth Director, to lead their campaign in 2021, and they needed a ‘Buhari supporter’ from South West.
As luck would have it, there was a friend of mine who told them that he knows one ‘Buharist’ from Lagos that would fit in for this job. That’s how I was called, interviewed and given the position of the Youth Director, the ‘Buhari/Bakare’ Presidential Campaign 2011. So, I’ve always been a ‘Buharist’ as my Dad instilled in me the knowledge of his exemplary leadership.
What are your best and worst moments in politics?
My best moment in politics was when Buhari won the primaries and the election eventually.
My worst moment was during my campaign in 2007, under ANPP in 2011 as the Youth Director. There was a huge challenge in finance; we had to travel by road.
There was one time we went to campaign in Ibadan and ended up in Adeshekola’s house at about midnight. The president’s car broke down there. Adeshekola was able to release his Limousine that took us to Lagos that night. We got to Lagos at 3 am.
What are some of the big lessons life has taught you?
Life has taught me to be more patient, especially being part of this government. I found out that patience and perseverance is the key.
I’ve learnt a lot. The experience I’ve gained in being part of this government officially since 2019, has taught me a lot. With the people and what I see inside, the kind of commitment, passion and zeal that this government has to move Nigeria forward is second to none. I’ve gained a lot of experience from this government and administration and I’ve learnt patience.
What is your advice to Nigerian youths who wish to run for political offices in the next election?
My advice is for them to join APC. Get involved. There is a lot in stock for them. They are also working on getting a reduction for nomination forms. The President has signed not too young to run the bill. We just had a youth conference, the first ever to happen in Nigeria. The President has also made his promises; you know he always keeps his promises. Let the youths join APC and be patient too. Just like the President that ran more than three times before he won. So, patience and perseverance is the key.
Can you share some of your exciting childhood memories and aspirations?
I was brought up in a strict, disciplined way in Ibadan. I never thought there was any other place better than Ibadan. Ibadan was everything to me then. I had a good time growing up in Ibadan.
How do you find time to relax despite your busy schedule?
Sometimes, I don’t even have time for myself. So, most times, I just go to the gym, listen to good music. I also look forward to functions. I feel relaxed going to events.
What’s your style?
Fashion is an innate thing for me. But I look at other people and I gain from their fashion sense. Being part of the government, you have to dress in a certain way. So, for now, it’s just moderate and simple.
Where is your favourite holiday location?
I’ve been to so many places. However, of all the places I’ve been to, I’d always love to go back to Cape Town. I love Cape Town so much as it’s so amazing. I’d love to visit more places in Japan too. I also love African countries. There are a lot of things to see and experience.