The Patriot Institute of Journalism and Arts (PIJA), Lance Magazine is a public-centric independent media organisation dedicated to fighting injustice, fostering social justice and community development through the telling and retelling of the marginalised-oriented stories.
Since his appointment on September 18 2021, Abiodun Oluwaseun, popularly known as Laurel, the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology’s former Students Union Government President has been the talk of the town among residents of Oyo State, especially the students of the Institution. While some men and women, young and old, and students were filled with awe, many others were still flabbergasted about how the Ondo born manoeuvred his way to earn the trust of the incumbent Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde and of course, procure himself an opportunity to serve under him as a Special Assistant on Project Delivery.
In this interview with the PIJALance Magazine, Laurel narrated his experience—how he rose from the dirty water of politics untainted and met Seyi Makinde whom he risked everything for.
PIJAlance Magazine: Can we know you, sir?
Laurel: I am Abiodun Oluwaseun popularly known as Laurel. I am from Ondo State, Akure precisely. I had my primary and secondary education close to Owo before proceeding to the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, where I got the opportunity to serve as the Students Union Government President.
PIJAlance Magazine: How would you describe yourself and your political journey?
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Laurel: Well, I was admitted to study Agricultural Science, but along the line, I found out that leadership is my calling while striving for others to do a lot of things. Eventually, I was made the Class Representative of my department. I was making connections, meeting people and getting popular, then I joined a political organisation called the Liberal Movement in LAUTECH, after that I began showing interest by supporting people to become presidents of their departments and faculties yet, I was building connections and investing in other people’s political career and when I got to 300 level it was my first major elective post after the Class Representative. It was a keenly contested election which I won with just 9 votes. From there I became the SUG President.
I believed in performance and I have prepared ahead; learning and understanding a lot of presidents before I contested, so after I contested and I emerged I understood that it was time for me to perform and show to a whole lot of people who have given me their mandate and the support to become their president; I will not fail them. So I made up my mind to deliver on all my promises and mandate to make sure they do not feel betrayed by giving me their full support. And at the end of it and by the special grace of God, the antecedent, the name, the project, the goodwill and everything are there for all to see, and it has propelled me to the outside world politics where I joined the People’s Democratic Party, Oyo State, worked for the emergence of the current Governor of the State Engr. Oluseyi Abiodun Makinde who is now doing fantastic works in the state. And as God will have it he appointed me as Special Assistant on Project Delivery. This has been my journey. It seems short in summary but it’s nothing to call empty. It has been ups and downs like a zigzag story but I want to say thank you to Almighty God for bringing me this far.
PIJAlance Magazine: In 2019, you made some moves and took some steps when Engineer Seyi Makinde came to Ogbomoso to campaign; can you throw more light on what you did and the results of those things?
Laurel: When you see that people are suffering, others will say I am lucky and indeed I am, but looking into the political part, there are a whole lot of other achievements that are supposed to be attached to, but at that time (2019) it was wrong to support the opposition of the incumbent whereas the incumbent Governor has suffered us.
To add to I was on MTN Scholarship all through my stay in the school without failing any course but I spent more than the number of years I was supposed to spend in school.
Logically I should not support that kind of government, so the best thing for me to do is that I support the opposition party knowing that the opposition camp is ready and willing to make sure the institution gets better. So they always rely on me as the leader of the students to bring my people ahead and to support the government that is willing for the student, fund the institution, see to the progress and growth of the institution and end the crisis condemning the institution before. So these are the reasons why I took those steps, which people call gambling or risk but I call it steps of faith because we needed to do something to change the status quo which today the result is a good one to everybody and while others would say many things but most of the reviews have been positive and excellent.
So I will say I did not regret taking those steps then because not just me have benefited but also students and the community at large because it is vast and stakeholders have also benefitted from that decision.
PIJAlance Magazine: Can you tell us the steps you took and what was the outcome before the incumbent Governor of Oyo State emerged?
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Laurel: I joined forces with the People’s Democratic Party, convinced Students to get their voters card, and convinced them of the need to vote for the Engineer; Oluseyi Abiodun Makinde, to make sure he emerged as the Governor of Oyo State. Though there were underground works too, the highest I can disclose is that we worked assiduously and canvassed our people to vote Engr. Makinde.
PIJAlance Magazine: What was the reaction of the incumbent Governor then?
Laurel: They felt bad, regarding why we tried to challenge the status quo, they called the Vice-Chancellor and threatened him, even requested for the school to be closed down, few days to the election I was asked to strip off my studentship, so as many other threats to the extent that they sent someone to kill someone so to accuse the school. So all of these were the aftermath of my decision but praise God today I am a graduate.
PIJAlance Magazine: Was it during this period the SUG was cancelled in the school?
Laurel: Yes, when the issue happened the SUG was proscribed and when the Governor emerged the SUG was reinstated that was why I returned as the SUG President to continue after four Months interval, though it was late I had to finish my tenure so when I finished it was already late for another election and they needed to bring in caretaker.
PIJAlance Magazine: What if Governor Seyi Makinde was not elected then, what would have been your fate?
Laurel: Humans might fail to keep promises, because then he promised that he would send me abroad for my school which, I know him to be a man of honour, so he would have fulfilled his promise. However, I can not say this is what would happen
to me after that time, probably be rusticated as a student if he did not emerge but I believe it would have been a good thing too if I have gone to another school to start all over again I was ready to go.
PIJAlance Magazine: Since you see Governor Makinde as a father, on November 18 2021, you were appointed by him as Special Assistant on Project Delivery, in this regard, did you foresee it at all in doing what you did in 2019?
Laurel: No, I did not. No one knows tomorrow. You are not sure what will happen to you in the next five minutes. I only did it for the aforementioned reasons that “my students were suffering, the university community were suffering, staff and Ogbomoso community felt the heat of LAUTECH saga. So that was the major reason I did that then. So it is his decision.
PIJAlance Magazine: No one as long as LAUTECH and Ogbomoso are concerned that does not know you back then for your effort in LAUTECH, so as during the Osun and Oyo ownership of LAUTECH and the way it was got back from Osun State, knowing that you were not the first SUG president then, what made you think LAUTECH should be owned by Oyo alone so as the secrets, what propelled you?
Laurel: Then in Oyo State, the major issue in regards to LAUTECH is funding and ownership tussle. On the funding aspect, the Osun were always defunding; they did not have funds and were even paying a quarter salary but it was the opposite in Oyo. So someone who looks into the future has a belief that things will be better and things can change, the continuous ownership issue and finding issue should not continue after my regime. So I took it upon myself that this battle will end because in the end workers will be paid their salary but students do not get the years that have been wasted back. I have not seen anyone (Student) who was compensated for spending more than the normal years which was supposed to be spent? No. So as a SUG president, I had to look for a way to put an end to it. So I started by writing to NUC proposing to them the things they need to do, to make sure there is no issue and to stop xenophobic attacks on campus. It all started from there. They called us for a meeting in a committee in Ibadan and gradually the school, and due to Engr. Oluseyi Makinde and Engr. Gboyega Oyetola who both unanimously agreed that Oyo State should take charge which they deserve kudos because politically they are not expected to intervene but now LAUTECH is doing fine. So it is a thing of joy to me that I did all of these things for the sake of posterity and the younger ones coming after me for them to have the feeling of what a true University is and LAUTECH is living up to that.
PIJAlance Magazine: Trust you are aware that changing of names is now ongoing on LAUTECH, what is your view of changing LAUTECH to L.A.U, don’t you think it would cause a setback for LAUTECH?
Laurel: It is a two-way thing. Some people are arguing in support of LAU while others are in support of LAUTECH. For someone like me, I will wait till there is a superior argument before I take a stand. But whatever the stakeholders decide; whether LAU or LAUTECH, it is fine.
PIJAlance Magazine: LAUTECH is now known as one of the best institutions in Nigeria by giving out Bachelors in Technology; a degree known to be higher than Bachelors in Science, if the changing of name is successful will this be maintained or will it change because this is the fear of the general populace?
Laurel: Since to earn BSc is four years while still in other courses in LAUTECH a year or two, the likes of Economics, Accounting, Business in Management courses, etc and yet they are being given the BSc, so it shows that the two can stay.
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PIJAlance Magazine: Upon all Governor Seyi Makinde has done in Ogbomoso, people said it cannot be compared to Ibadan improvements, like the houses, roads there e.t.c only street lights which seems like the only project aside from the success of LAUTECH, were vivid in Ogbomoso, why?
Laurel: The major economy of Ogbomoso depends on the Students and LAUTECH? Have you seen Ogbomoso to iseyin road? Project is going on there which include road, education and security. The Teaching hospital belongs to Oyo State which was also going down like LAUTECH but was revived.
Health: LAUTECH Teaching Hospital
Road: Ogbomoso Iseyin and a proposed flyover is coming up.
Security: Amotekun Also, the town football club is under work and a bus was given to Crown FC who are currently playing at the Nigeria Football League (NFL) which was not there before. Apart from salary, the welfare of people is our priority.
PIJAlance Magazine: we overheard it somewhere that NURTW has commended the effort of Governor Seyi Makinde but complained that he is not giving regards to elders they said he is only concerned about the young ones and they have said will join another party that knows how to give regards to elders. What do you think about that?
Laurel: That is a misconception because they are being taken care of, lately the pensioners and retirees have come to show appreciation unless you mean the old politicians, but concerning the old people in the state there is no issue between them and the governor. There is even a place in Oyo which says he recognizes them as people who are alive while the other Governor said he has not settled the people that are alive not to talk about those closer to their grave. So the difference is clear that there is a Governor who likes the old people and there was one who wanted them to die.
PIJAlance Magazine: What about your Social Media reply to Deji Adeyanju about Seyi Makinde Project?
Laurel: We all know Deji Adeyanju who is paid to blackmail people, so should we categorically believe in what such kind of person would say? Why should we continually give credence to what he says? For me, Deji Adeyanju is not different from Femi Fani Kayode; just give him money and he would do anything.
PIJAlance Magazine: Can you clear the controversy on why Seyi Makinde could not use Solar System and rather diesel for the lightUp project?
Laurel: There are companies in Nigeria who knows that there is solar electricity, which they know they can do windmill and solar yet they went for diesel and we should ask why. The reason is that when something is cost-effective it means it will serve you well. Not just for beautifying the environment but for security reasons too, which is the reason for the light project. Meanwhile, the previous government has been doing solar electricity, how many stood the test of time? Either the battery gets stolen or the panel. I am not saying the government has approved these project which, they plan to take to other towns in the State, according to what I saw I think some of these project is there also to serve as an alternative to the existing ones just like the generator that you may pass and won’t notice a generator around but looking at the cost is the point.
PIJAlance Magazine: About the question, using diesel is not the problem but because it was more expensive the solar power. It was based on buying diesel all the time while Solar can just be charged?
Laurel: Each room can have a Solar and the cost for one is less expensive. Some people might charge while some might not because there is also a disadvantage too like the rainy days what will happen? If Nigeria is a working system we should not be talking about both diesel and Solar, the normal power should be okay. We do not have to be sentimental about these things because if your life is important to you, you will not mind the cost. Someone is trying to secure you but you are worried about the cost which you do not know yet if it will be less expensive than the solar.
Someone can hold you at night or in the Dark and collect all your property and no one would know but when there is light the person will be seen. So which is more important, diesel, Solar or the cost of your life?
PIJAlance Magazine: You are a young Politician and have just started your Master’s Degree already, so is there no rose on the bed?
Laurel: What do you mean?
PIJAlance Magazine: is there no one special in your life, like a spouse?
Laurel: No, not yet.
PIJAlance Magazine: and what is the reason that you’re getting older?
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Laurel: I have so much to cater for at the moment, I am the first child of my family, I have siblings, my mother and father are alive and some other members of the family depend on me. Masters is not easy, not because I am a politician I should not do well. Nevertheless, opportunities come, you might meet somebody ready to work with you side by side but when you do not have which I believe God’s time is the best you just maintain your lane and manage what is around you at the moment. So if it comes fine and if it does not I will remain a Reverend Father.
PIJAlance Magazine: Everyone has their goals in life. You are a Politician and a special assistant to the Oyo State governor, a position some labour to attain, what are your vision, do you wish to contest any position in the 2023 election or anytime?
Laurel: Yes, I can in the future when I have money because I have the vision, antecedent and goodwill, People can support me with a loan but no, until I am ready, not now, so a business and a means of livelihood is important first. I still want to further my studies and see life more differently, not going for a position with the little I am supposed to use to cater for myself.
PIJAlance Magazine: Do you have a running business since you mentioned it?
Laurel: Yes, I have things that bring money but I can not mention before people start searching for a politician.