Pastor J. S Babatunde is Executive Chairman of Orile Agege and a Pastor in Charge of Zone in Lagos Province 10. He has demystified Leadership by choosing to lead by example.
It is a common sight for people living around Orile Agege to see him on commercial motorcycles.
Currently his office is undergoing renovation and he decided to be operating from under a tree in an open space where he treats his document and attends to visitors.
He was recently recognized by the Ministry of Special Duties, under THE PRESIDENCY as the most outstanding Local Government Chairman in Lagos State.
He is fondly referred to as MR PROJECT in recognition of the many ICONIC PROJECTS being executed under his leadership. Worthy of note are the 3 Health Centers currently being built simultaneously in different wards, a Legislative Complex for counsellors, an event center and massive renovation aimed at transforming the Council office to an ultramodern edifice. All these projects have reached very advanced stage of completion.
Following the decision of RCCG to create a Directorate of Politics and Governance, it became pertinent to show Nigerians what exactly CHRISTIANS can do when given the privilege of occupying leadership position.
Beautiful Day magazine found in Pastor J. S. Babatunde a worthy ambassador of Christ in Political leadership and decided to showcase his modest achievements as a PROTOTYPE for CHRISTIANS to learn a few things from his distinguished style of leadership.
He approved our interview request at a very short notice.
Here is an excerpt from our very interactive session with him:
First and foremost we want to say congratulations on your emergence as the best Local Government chairman in Lagos State. Congratulations sir!
Can you give us an idea of the process that led to your being the best Local Government Chairman?
Well, it has been a routine; they have been doing it some couple of years ago and the people from the presidency, I mean the federal ministry of special duties and intergovernmental relationship wrote a letter giving us parameters of assessment of what we have done so far. So they came to our office and we took them round and showed most of the projects that we have been able to do. To the glory of God they were unable to touch just one quarter of what we did and when they got to the last place the one that really touched their heart is that there is a Primary School beside my father’s house and they saw the way I have turned around that primary school with interlocking, tiles, marker boards, chairs and benches and even a playing ground for children and this is a primary school that is situated beside my father’s house. They saw my father’s house and they put their hands on their heads and said is this your father’s house? This is where you were born and you have not even done anything and you decided to uplift this school? They said wow and that was the turning point. They said in fact you deserve an award and that was how they left. We were invited to Abuja for a programme and then we were told that there will be an award night and they categorized it into all the local government in Nigeria, state by state and before you know it they now said we have emerged as the best performing local government chairman in Lagos State.
There are still going to be subsequent one, they are still going to do on Zonal basis which comprises of south west, south south, south east, north east etc. So I am still aiming higher, I am representing Lagos state to compete with other states in south west. So after that they are still going to be a winner, the winner will compete with all the zonal winners for them to pick the best in Nigeria. And as I was told this first category prize goes with having training in oversea, the bill will be footed by the ministry.
Sir, you know in politics money is always a major challenge for most political office holders, in project execution how do you source money to execute all the projects you have been able to do?
Well, we have what we call money from Federal Allocation Committee, FAC which means money from the federal allocation committee, that is pulling all the resources of the country together from there they will share it and it goes to the states, it goes to the federal government and then to the local government. Part of this money comes to us and we equally have our Internally Generate Revenue, IGR which is not something so big but we pull all these things together in order to fund our projects.
What you have just mentioned, other local government chairmen too are having them, why have there not been similar performance in other local government areas?
Well, let me tell you this, number one God in his infinite mercy sees the heart of everybody, God works with your intention, what is your intention of coming to office? What are the vision you have before aspiring to occupy a public office? If your intent is to make money or self-aggrandisement or for self-enrichment, yes the devil will make a way for you to have it but at long run you will meet with your waterloo but if you have good intentions God will bring those that are going to work with you that will share the same vision with you. Once you are tested that it is not about your own self, people are bound to cooperate with you. You know that there is a saying that says that when the head is bad the whole body will be rotten but when the head is good the whole body will be alive. So, in other words the grace from God gives me good intention because when I was coming I said what is my vision for this local government and I said my vision is to renew, rebuild and restore the glory of the local government and by so doing that has been.
And now how do I achieve that which is my mission statement? It is to just having it at the back of mind that I want to leave the local government better than I met it. And while we were in school, there is what we call national economy. In this national economy, they draw a movement, in that movement you have what we call leakages and once you are able to just block those leakages you have enough money to do some other things. For example look at the Redemption Camp, the camp is not been funded from any foreign mission, it is from the tithes, offerings and supports and they are making good use of it. The Redemption Camp is as big as a local government. In fact, the Redemption Camp deserves a local government and look at the turnaround it is because of the managerial skills of those at the top making best use if the resources available. Mind you the Redemption Camp is generating its own electricity by itself. Look at the road network, if it were to be a governmental agency that is holding this, do you know there will be a lot of abandoned projects here because of leakages. That is why I said the first thing is to block the leakages once you are able to block the leakages, you make use of them. For example, we are talking of insecurity, the insecurity starts from you and I, and it starts from those in government. The money that is being allocated and allotted to some certain projects; are we actually making use of that money for those projects? Are we actually doing what we need to do? If we have not been embezzling those money now we will see the need to recruit more policemen, we will see the need to recruit more soldiers, we will see the need to buy more equipment and that will be creating job opportunities for some people. But we are not doing that so the resultant effect is that some people will take to crime. We don’t have natural disaster in Nigeria but our own natural disaster is ourselves, is it the corruption? Not that we are saints, let’s be factual, I am not hundred percent pure but the little opportunity, for examples if you see the schools we have built I always challenge people to come and see what we have done. The editor of The Nations newspaper came and I told him to come and see what we have done, when we went round we couldn’t finish it and he said there is a question unanswered, he said how do you get money for this? They have been so many insinuation that how are you getting this thing done, it is the passion for the job. When you have passion and let me tell you there is a portion in the Bible that keeps me going. Psalms 41:1-3 that says” Whosoever that will not turn their eyes away from the poor that God will keep them”. So I always remember the poor so that has been helping us.
In the face of the problem we are having, the problem of integrity in the midst of most of the politicians, can we know how your political journey began?
It’s a long story. When I was in school I never had the intention to come to politics. I wanted to leave a quiet life, working in a company, go back home to my family and relax. Then somewhere along the line the question of who among our own village will represent our own town in Agege; we called the place Alagba and there is none of the children participating in politics that was how an old woman invited me into politics that I should represent the interest of the people, that was how I got to politics. When I got into politics I have planned to become counsellor. That’s why I said it is a long story. That was 1987 thereabout. I couldn’t get in as a counsellor, someone else became the counselor. By the time they gave me the ticket, free ticket, and then there was one of our elders, elder in Redeemed he was the party chairman then, and he gave me the free ticket. That was when Abacha took over in November1993.We were about going for the primaries and I said no, am not contesting for counsellor again that I wanted to contest for the Lagos state House of Assembly. I contested for the Lagos State of House of Assembly that was 1996/1997 and I won as an Honourable member and we are waiting to be sworn in when suddenly Abacha died. You can see my story. I started with him I ended with him. I was without form, no money I tried AD that was 1998 but I couldn’t muscle enough. But while the House of Assembly was on we are preparing for the National Assembly, that was when an in-law of mine came to my aid that I should not worry he was going to sponsor me. I remembered then he gave me 250,000 thousand naira and I was been assured of scaling through. In fact, they picked my name, my name was filled as a man to represent Agege constituency at the National Assembly. By the time they got to His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu he was even the one that assured us that I would be the candidate of the party and they fill in my name. Lai Mohammed then was his Chief of Staff, he said they were waiting for Agege people to bring their nominee. So that was how they put my name and they took it to Rural hotel to vet it was then I was told that Pa Emmanuel Olayande had a candidate. Anyways, that was how they picked some else.
At that point the whole future look bleak and that was the period of Lekki 98 and I told myself if I can’t move forward, I can’t move backward let me go to God. I wasn’t born again Christian then but I was a moralist. I said these people going to Lekki let me join them, let me go for the programme. I just entered a bus but the traffic was so heavy I have to come back; I couldn’t get to Lekki 98.
Then one day I was mistaken Redeemed church of God for TREM. I was believing that, Redeemed copied Trem because Trem is easy to pronounce. But one day, nobody preached Redeemed to me, Holy Spirit directed. I was looking for where I will find Trem, I was just passing through the church at Agege and I saw Redeemed Christian Church of God and the Holy Spirit says this is the church. I entered into the church and peace came upon me.
Then in one of the conventions, I think year 2000, one of the AGOs preached a very beautiful sermon and he made an altar call and I came out and then daddy G.O came after him telling us that, AGO was his Sunday school teacher, that AGO is daddy Aderibigbe. He preached a very beautiful sermon. After that I started coming having faith in God. Then, one man just came to me and said, you are going to be our local government chairman. Before you know it, people were saying I am a member of the Redeemed that I should go and meet daddy G.O to talk to Asiwaju or anyone of them and I said I will not do that. I said we should allow daddy G.O should face the ministry, I should not bother him with my own, why must I go and meet him after all, I’m not in Redeemed because of politics. I got baptized, before I could get baptize I saw daddy G.O in my dream when he was saying either you have done baptismal class or not if you are giving your life to Jesus Christ and you want to be baptized now come out and in the dream I didn’t respond. When I woke up I said this is a glaring call that was when I joined the baptismal class immediately, after I joined the baptismal class I became a worker before even becoming a worker the Holy Spirit was telling me that, before I could be anything in life, I have to settle this issue of my salvation.So I became a worker before you know it I became an altar minster.
But the more I was promoted in the spiritual work I got promotion in politics. So, when I was baptized after I have been a worker that was when I was made the vice chairman of the local government and I tried the 1st, 2nd, 3rd terms. People said, you are a Redeemed member, go and meet daddy G.O and I said no it is not done. I just prayed and God Himself, have mercy.
In 2017 when all hope were lost, God actually arose for me and did it for me. To the glory of God it was a miracle. They changed the law of Lagos State just because of me. The 1, 2, 3 readings of the law that they can change the name of candidate three days before the general election was passed into law. That was what brought me in.
Having passed through all these things let me tell you I don’t have any other options than God today. I give all glory to Almighty God that I did not drag the name of the Almighty God in the mud and the name of the Redeemed Christian Church of God because People will always make a reference, ‘don’t you know is a pastor’. Most of our projects that we have done some states in Nigeria cannot boast of it. I say those who came to give us an award asked me if I were a state governor.
In discharging your job, how have you been able to reconcile your pastoral role with your duty as a politician?
Yes, I have time for everything, when am in the office I do my job. It is like your secular job, I am not a full time Pastor, if I am not a full time pastor what is expected of me I will have to do it and not only that, I also make use of my time for God’s service.For example I don’t go to club and hardly see me going to parties. If you invite me to a party it is a burden on me, it is more burden on me if it is a party I cannot escape so I have time, I plan my time and that has helped me.
How have you been able to manage people who probably don’t believe in holiness I mean people who just want to cut corners and they want you to play along with them and they are stakeholders probably even in your department, how do you manage to cope with them?
It is a peculiar task.Number one,people will know you for whom you are. I told you that I have been in politics before I became born again but that has helped me to let people know the reason. It is in the first or two encounters with you that will bring problem, if the first two encounters with you is a very serious issue they will not bring it back to you. You know I said it earlier one our major problems is corruption in this country. I made up my mind that what is due to this people will be given to them but at the same time one must be very careful because no matter how rigid you are you must allow some flexibility because you are operating a rigid system, the system has to interact with them and some kind of flexibility should come in, and if you are operating a flexibility system some kind of rigidity should come in.
What are the major things that you will attribute your success in politics to?
The major thing is determination and passion for the people, and mankind. A change, there should be a change, there should be departure from the way things were being done before.
RCCG has just established a directorate of politics and governance, what is your opinion about this decision?
It is a welcomed development. Number one, it is a way of sensitization, and it is a way of mobilizing the Christian brothers and sisters to tell them that there is a need for us to get the PVC and there is need for us to vote, there is need for us to participate, but not the church dwelling in the murky water of politics. The first thing we need to do is to bring everybody together.
In the church on Sunday I asked the congregation, how many people are having the PVC? To my greatest surprise just 20 or 25 percent of people are having PVC out of 100. About 75 percent don’t have, and we will be criticizing those who are ruling us. So if the establishment of the Directorate is toward that angle then it is a welcomed development but for the church to fully participate in politics they should dare not because it is murky water that is going to polarize the church and the church doesn’t need to be polarized.
What legacy do you hope to leave behind at the end of your tenure in office?
I want to leave a legacy. Number one, I have told you our mission statement is to leave Agege better than we meet it which is actually what we are doing now. People are comparing our administration with the past administrations, so they should be able to compare the incoming one; the one we are succeeding with my own and I am telling you anybody that is taking over from us will know that they need to do a lot of work. They must not lower the standard, so we are leaving a legacy of great infrastructure, good roads, good schools. I am having 24 primary schools and I can beat my chest now that about 16 to 18 of those primary schools are in good shape. Not only that, I did not limit myself to primary schools alone I have junior secondary schools with great infrastructure which I helped in provision of chairs and tables, provision of good classrooms tiled with fan and with suspended ceiling. We want to leave a legacy that people will remember us for good that for a very long time we will be in their mind, during the ENDSARS protest my local government was not touched they didn’t bother to come to the council. I walked freely among the people, I take ‘okada’, I ride on ‘okada’, I walk on the street without solider without security because I know what we have done.
In view of this your outstanding performance so far, what are your future political ambitions?
That one is in God’s hand. Let me tell you among the politicians in Agege today people are saying if I should venture to come out for the House of Representatives that I am going to defeat all those on the field now but I decided not to because I have an assignment at hand at the local level. I am not yet satisfied, if you check our Facebook you will find the pictures of some of the empowered. Wehave empowered over one hundred residents of Orile Agege with hundred hundred thousand to start up a business. I also did it two months ago, I did it for about fifty people, not only that even last week coming to this week I was on Okesanya street laying the interlocking. It is on the Facebook. I recently declared opened a digital marketing training for the youths in Orile Agege. So we are not stopping; we are moving on the fast lane to make sure peoples’ lives are better. This is to tell them that when a Christian is in politics it will be better for the people, not only a Christian but somebody who has conscience.