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Passion for human development inspires most of the things I do-Muiz Bello



Muiz Bello

Muiz Bello

Muiz Bello, is a successful legal practitioner and social crusader. In this interview with our REPORTER he talks about his youth empowerment programmes and why he is going into politics.

You have focused on youth empowerment for some time now, what is it all about?

I am grateful to God first of all for giving me the ability to support different kinds of people in different endeavours. We have a reputation for supporting youth development in the last couple of years. Recently, we are concentrating our attention in supporting gender based groups particularly young women to improve their business acumen and also to increase the political awareness and rights of the minority especially women, aged and physically challenged people.

A lot of people would assume you setup these programmes as a path way to politics; is this correct?

That would be a wrong conjecture because for me, it is the passion for human development that inspires most of the things that I do. I am very much concerned about the state of our social economy and I consider myself as one of those people who should lead the process of defining new frontiers in economic development in Nigeria. I have never done anything with the plan to seek political advantage. I have always contributed my quota to human development because I am passionate about it. I see human development as a catalyst for social development, education and economic empowerment. I started this about 10 years ago when I never thought I would be going into politics. In any case, for those who know I work in the oil and gas sector, I am very happy and I am fulfilled with my job and I am not in a rush to leave it. So, going into politics for me is a personal sacrifice to lead by example and of course there is a clamour for young people to come into politics. We need to show people that we are not just talking, but we are acting and working the talk. Our support for human development is not designed to be a political launch pad.

What does the scorecard of your organisation look like knowing you have been into human development for about 10 years?  

Over the years, we have been engaging students across the country through the national career fair that holds in University of Lagos. The inaugural edition had over 10,000 people in attendance, the second edition which held in 2014 had about 12,000 to 13,000 people in attendance. We had very important personalities like the Lagos State Commissioner for Works, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, the internal revenue board boss, Tunde Fowler, we had Mr. Jimi Agbaje, Muiz Banire and several other notable people. I would say we are making a lot of progress in terms of the areas that we have focused on, particularly youth development.

Would it be right to tag your youth empowerment programmes a misplaced priority knowing most of them have been focused on Lagos Island and you are from Epe Local Government Area?

To be honest with you my constituency is the entire Nigeria and I would not be biased towards Epe Local Government Area. To any event, we have been supporting sports development in Epe Local Government for the past two and half years. We have been promoting education by awarding scholarships to indigent students; we have been promoting health by using the instrumentality of my office to ensure that we promote healthcare in Epe Local Government. We recently moved into women empowerment; we are working with a group of women known as Young Ladies Group. We are identifying soft projects for young and old women in Epe and we are funding some of these projects.  So, I disagree with you that it is misplaced priority, but in any case we are spreading our reach now.

A lot of people would ask you what more are you seek for knowing you have a good job and your family is comfortable.

Governance is a personal sacrifice. If you look at the developed countries of Europe and America you will realise that people go into politics when they have fully achieved their potential in the private sector. They then want to go back into politics to contribute their own quota. So, first of all, it is the need to make a sacrifice for the people, secondly there is the need to have quality leadership. The problems we have had are the quality of people we have had in governance in Nigeria. I think it is time we begin to ensure that we have not just professionals, but the right kind of professionals in politics. I am deciding now to lead that pack, but definitely, I am not going to be the first person to do that. I am just trying to basically lead by example. I believe that being in public office gives you the power and resources to implement great ideas. For instance as an individual if three people need N500,000 for their business it would be difficult to give them that, but if I had the instrumentality of office it will be easier to ensure they achieve their aim. So, the purpose of going into politics is to use the instrumentality of the office to support a larger number of the people as opposed to what I can do now in my personal capacity.

You are an elite in your field, do you think you can play the typical Nigerian politics?

Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State has created a template that some of us can follow. He has been fair, he has been impartial, he has delivered on the job even if he has had some issues with the party. Basically, he has provided a template that younger professionals can follow. Politics as far as I am concern is all about values. We are the change generation, so we are coming in to breathe a new lease of life into politics and I am confident that we will survive.

With your education and intellect one would have expected you to aspire for a higher post perhaps the Senate or House of Representatives, why the chairman of a local government?

Development should start from the grass root and the local government is the lowest level of government to the people. If you really want to drive the government at that level I think you should consider starting from the local government. In any event, if I had decided to go to the House of Representative or Senate for instance, I would just be one voice in a house of about 200 to 300 people. As the chairman of a local government, I take responsibility for formulating and implementing policies in my local government. So, I see myself better even to deliver in an executive position. A local government chairman, with due respect, is a very high office. You are the mayor and governor of your local government and you can use that as a template to show what you can do in higher office. I think young people should consider starting small, politics like business requires starting small. We don’t know where we are going to get to, but I think it’s a good way to drive development to the grassroots.

What has been the response in Epe Local Government Area since you declared intention to contest?

What I have discovered in my different meetings with the people of Epe is that they are all yearning for change. And there is a clear vacuum in leadership. The people want to be tied around a leader, people need direction. So, I see change really coming and Epe I must tell you is a town with a very high youth population. These guys are constant on Facebook and Twitter. They feel the revolution; they feel how the young people are driving the revolution around the world, so they are also yearning for change and for me 2015 will signal the best thing that will happen in not just Epe town, but the entire Lagos State and maybe Nigeria as a whole.

What is the edge you have over other aspirants?

First of all, I am qualified to hold the office by virtue of my experience. I started as a lawyer, I practiced for nine and half years, I work with a multinational company doing government affairs and development work. I have basically met and interacted with most of the governors around the Niger/Delta and I have worked with a lot of development organisations. I think I am well positioned in terms of planning, development and implementation. I don’t know about the competition, but in terms of qualification I think I am well positioned. And then more importantly, our administration and government will be underscored by the humility that we will bring into office. So, if you ask me that question what is defining you from the rest? I will say it will be our humility and passion to serve. We are coming here to serve our people. I am comfortable by myself and I am grateful to God I can take care of my family and my friends, but we also need to consider the larger majority of people and that is why we are coming here.

Away from politics, what was growing up like for you?

I had a very good upbringing. My parents were middle class, my father was the manager of one of the leading accounting firms in Nigeria, Akintola Williams. My mother used to work with NITEL, so I had a decent upbringing. I schooled in Lagos and Kaduna, as far as good education goes, my father and mother, did their very best.

What was your childhood ambition?

I wanted to be a lawyer which I am now.

How do you relax?

I have three horses now. They are at the La Campagne Tropicana; I make time to go there, I ride my horses, swim in the ocean. La Campagne Tropicana is my place of relaxation anyway.

The complexities of taking care of a horse can be expensive, isn’t it?

Incidentally, that is what people think. They don’t really have that large life style; just make sure they eat; they get some water to drink. They like sugar a lot so you buy a lot of sugar cane and cube sugar for them. Then you ride them that is all. They don’t demand much. The reason why people say that is because of those they use to play polo with. I don’t play polo, I just ride them. I just use them for exercise. It is a bit expensive to acquire, but not that expensive to maintain.

How did you meet your wife?

It was on a Sunday and my dad came to call me for prayers, but I told him I wasn’t ready. He told me he wondered if I would ever find a good Muslim girl to marry. So, as soon as he left I said to God in my mind that this week I want to meet the woman I will marry and she has to be a Muslim. That was on a Sunday, on Wednesday I was taking a walk on Lagos Island, Broad Street and a beautiful girl all covered up walked up to me and said hello. She took me to the mosque we prayed and I left, but when I got back to the office it came to me that I was looking for a Muslim girl to marry this is a good one. So, that was how it happened, six months later we were married. That is the story of my marriage. Marriage is a school and you need to keep learning things every day.


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