At 26 years old, Mr. Abdur-Raheen Adebayo Shittu was the youngest member of the old Oyo State House of Assembly in 1979.
He was elected on the platform of the Obafemi Awolowo-led UPN. And he was vocal, too, to the discomfort of his leaders with whom he soon parted ways.
He has since served in several other positions: Oyo State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Home Affairs (in the Olunloyo administration); and Commissioner for Justice (in the Ladoja government).
Shittu is now vying to become the governor of Oyo State on the platform of the Buhari-led CPC. He spoke to Bashir Adefaka on his life
Who is Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu?
I come from Shaki in Oke Ogun area of Oyo State and there I come from a very fantastic Muslim home. I went to public primary and middle schools in Ghana, where I had the first 10 years of my educational experience. Thereafter I came back home in Nigeria and attended Baptist High School in Shaki where, within three years and three months, I succeeded in coming out with a very good result that distinguished me, at that time, in the whole of Oke Ogun area of Oyo State. Oke Ogun now comprises 10 Local Governments.
Thereafter I went to University of Ife as it was then called for my first degree in Law between 1974 and 1978 and subsequently I attended the Nigerian Law School at the end of which I was called to the Bar in July 1979 as a Barrister-at-Law and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
When did you begin the journey into politics and what informed your interest in it?
I started politics early in life so much that even while I was in the Nigerian Law School, I contested election into the Oyo State House of Assembly. I won and thus, at the age of 26, I became the youngest Honourable Member of the Oyo State House of Assembly in the Second Republic and I was there between October 1979 and September, 1983. That was on the platform of Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN.
In a political grouping known for asking the younger electorates to go and queue, how and what political experience did you acquire to pave way for you to contest the House of Assembly election?
In my days in the University of Ife, I was attending meetings with the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and I’m very happy to say that I participated in the writing of the policy papers, which became the guiding light for UPN governments in their various states of the South West when eventually they came to power.
And in the House of Assembly where I was for four years at that time, I distinguished myself as the most active and most contentious legislator. The records are there that in my time as a Member of the House of Assembly the people of Oyo State always had something new to hear from the then Oyo State House of Assembly. Of course I had brushes with the governor of Oyo State, Chief Bola Ige, at that time but those things were on issues of programme and all that.
After Chief Bola Ige left office following the 1983 election, which brought in a new governor in the person of Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, I became the Commissioner for Information, Culture and Home Affairs. I had a very nice time as Commissioner for Information; very challenging time serving in that office.
After the sack of your government by the 1983 coup, what happened?
I went back to legal practice and also to active socio-religious life writing books and I can rightly say that I have written 13 books for the period of about 15 years. And again I had the good fortune of being a member of the National Political Reforms Conference in 2005. Again I was a very active member of Oyo State Judicial Service Commission where I introduced a lot of important reforms in the judicial system in the state before I eventually became the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice.
All along I have been a politician and politics has been my first calling even though I’m a lawyer. And it is my prayer that the ongoing 2011 election process will give me the opportunity of becoming the governor of Oyo State which will really be a watershed in my political career. I have suffered greatly in politics but I have no regret and I don’t want to be intimidated by any adverse circumstance. I am in this thing for a very serious business and I’m happy that God is seeing me through.
What are you offering the people of Oyo State as governor?
I have pledged and it is contained in my handbill that I will never steal or mismanage public funds and other resources as it is the current practice among many privileged government officials, but will rather channel everything towards ensuring a life-more-abundant for all citizens and residents alike.
When I say ‘citizens and residents alike’, it implies that anybody who lives in Oyo State will be regarded as a citizen of Oyo State and will enjoy the benefits of our six-cardinal programme, free, qualitative and functional education at all levels, comprehensive health and medical reforms which comprise ensuring and guaranteeing free medical services for all new born babies from age zero to age 15. All ante-natal and post-natal cases will be freely treated.
All physically and mentally challenged people will also enjoy free medical services in all government hospitals and all adults above 50 will also enjoy free medical services in all government hospitals.
The third programme is going to be the integrated infrastructural transformation for the state. This will include durable roads and public buildings, portable water, electricity for all communities and cheap housing for the masses.
Our fourth programme will be full employment for all and number five will be integrated agricultural and rural development that will also entail re-establishment of farm settlements, like Chief Awolowo did, to improve agriculture and create an enabling environment for people to take agriculture as a proud profession.
The last of it is the industrial transformation of Oyo State which again involves setting up, on a massive scale, small and medium scale enterprises for people.
On top of it all, government’s loan for people to do business will be interest-free and I emphasise “interest-free” by the grace of God.
General Buhari at the national level has a pastor, Tunde Bakare, as his Vice Presidential Candiate and you as Oyo State Gubernatorial Candidate of the party has a deaconess, as your running mate. What does it really mean?
You see for people who don’t have ideas, people who fear merit, people who cannot bring their points to the people to be rationally dissected, they keep bringing religion into political issues by claiming that oh, somebody is too good or active a Muslim to be entrusted with power perhaps he will Islamise everybody and so on and so forth.
In order to create social balance and in order to give Christians a sense of belonging that I will not discriminate against anybody and that Christians who are serious are being brought into governance so as to establish a political equilibrium at the topmost leadership of governance.
That is why for the past four months I have chosen a very serious deaconess, Esther Adedokun, as my running mate. She is a very intelligent, very brilliant and sociable woman, who is neck-deep in Christianity and I am happy that General Buhari, who perhaps has been a victim of this …. campaign at the national level too, decided to bring in a very serious Christian of the calibre of Pastor Tunde Bakare to create a political equilibrium so that seriously every interest group will now have a sense of belonging for the good of the nation.
Name: Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu.
Date of birth: March 23, 1953.
Place of birth: Oyo State.
Present position: CPC governorship Candidate,
Strength of character: Godliness, courage and helpfulness.