Echoes of Lucy Ajayi sterling feats,as tenure expires in LITFC, politics in view

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Chief Mrs. Lucy Omosefe Ajayi the immediate past Executive Director and Chief Executive  Officer of the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex Management Board in an exclusive interview with National  Daily had narrated her travails and experience while in charge at the federal agency, where she was able to rake in 1.6billion naira into the federal government coffers,mirorring the ups and downs as well as her new phase of life as she host her Lagos associates and friends, who could not make it down to Edo State for the burial of her father, High Chief Lawrence Aigbokhan Williams Odigie the Obamedo 1 of Ekpoma aged 78 years,who passed on to the great beyond on the 12th day of April 2021.

How do you feel today having given your late father a befitting burial in both Edo and Lagos state?
I am very happy and thankful to God. I am really exited that it turned out to be like this, actually I only want to do the thanksgiving at the church and let it be but I find out so many of my people in Lagos could not make it down to Edo state for the burial because of insecurity and other reasons and it would not be fair to Baba, who lived almost all his life and died in Lagos, so I felt it will be nice to have a function, something similar to what happened in Edo state so that people can as well pay their last respect to him, we are thankful that we are the ones burying him and not the other way round.
Though it is painful losing him because he is still very strong,agile and full of life but I think God loved him the most and has a good reason for taking him to his side.
The event also signals your successful Completion of a four years tenure as ED Lagos International Tradefair, it just seemed like yesterday when you got the appointment,can you let us into what the experience was like holding forte in an area where men held sway?
We came in 2017 and this 2021 making four years, it is a four years tenure appointment and it has expired.  So I am really thanking God because I assumed my duties there with good health and grace of God intact and I am leaving in the same manner with all the stress of working as a public servant. I am really grateful to God for all that and also that until eight months after been given the appointment I could repossess my office. Many even thought I would not end my tenure well because I drove out a fury litigant. That is the word that was used for the other concessionaire,but we thank God that I have added value by the grace of God. People always say you have written your name in gold and there is no story of Tradefair without the mention of the name Lucy Ajayi. That is one landmark I want to really make. I am also thanking God that he is taking me higher because my Bible tells me a thankful heart get more upliftment and that my second appointment is still running,that is prerogative of mercy which means I am still in the system. So I don’t think I have done badly, that informs my gratitude to God that I finished well,some did not,some died,some were suspended,some were sacked,some were sick but I am thankful to God because none of those vices happened to me.
Will you say your set targets as the tradefair boss had been met?
Well some I met fully,some I met 90 percent,so I will say I have tried and the other one that people weren’t expecting me to do, I’m thankful that God didn’t allow me to do it. Maybe some other persons will do it; like taking back the complex back to the government,yes I did that fully,it is with the government now then some of the rehabilitations we had to do like the admin block,reposessing of some areas that were already occupied by traders,like under the bridge and the green areas. We had taken over fully,the 100 chalet motel taken over but not in full operation and rehabilitation of roads. I did almost three quarter before I left and the final one is still on because I have already signed out the 5km road to the Chinese Company CCECC and they are doing them in phases.
We’ve done two phases they are on the third depending on the releases one is ongoing now which I had defended for this year’s budget last year, with the release they would have started that now because I still get report from the Chinese company,they on the fourth phase and I am sure by the time they are done with the fifth phase the whole 5km road would have been rehabilitated,  for years the tradefair people have never felt the impact of government, so they got that  through me too.
You weren’t at the Church my management staff and some stakeholders were there to still celebrate with me, I didn’t owe any staff we did a lot of staff training too amidst the mega overhead that we receive, I think I have done well within three and half years because I spent eight months out of my four years tenure in Abuja. I took possession after eight months so all these were done within three years and few months.
How was it like taking charge at the tradefair?
Oh! it was a great experience, each area you go to you see a different experience, I have never been trained neither had an appointment before or employed as a C.E.O of a market, you might call it a Federal agency but I believe I was running a market, because the concessionaire had already turned it from a tradefair to a market and we are trying to bring back the glory and sanity. Though that was not easy because the concessionaire had held sway for several years and it can’t take just three and a half years to restore sanity but I tell you the stakeholders are really awesome.
They show understanding, people feel they are difficult but they are not. They are only protecting their business and trying to obey the government laws and policies.
Holding sway in an environment where the men has the  commanding heights,how was it like?
It takes God’s grace, I can’t say how it happened but all I can say is that it didn’t start from tradefair but I think it’s been God all through,everywhere I had worked had always been all men with me being the woman, in Kosofe we had five local government chairmanship aspirants and after the primary and congresses,I remain alone because at some points others chicken out, back then we were using the twenty local governments federal areas and I was the only female local government chairman at the end of the day in CPC though it was tough. Many petitions; why will a woman get the highest position, it was the same when we gotto the merger level, out of the 18 member committee that Buhari initiated, I was the only woman. The petitions were so much. Initially I was not taking any cognisance of that that why will somebody be writing petition against me that I got somewhere? But I later discovered I was dragging with the men what they think probably belonged to them, God still helped me through,  so I think in all of these it’s God and the President.
I got used to that so coming to tradefair I didn’t know it was a market I thought it’s going to be a corporate thing,you know when you talk of an agency you feel it is an already structured environment, I got in as a corporate person but I became a market woman too because for you to be able to manage them you have to be part of them, feel their pain,feel their gains too and then try to bring in the government policy and make it as friendly as possible, let it wear a human face when translating them because they would say oh! you want to concession you don’t really need to do that. I will tell them no, we will want to reconcession some part because we felt the government cannot manage it and we want to make money. We want to go into DPP arrangement but not with your properties that was what I was telling them,it is what I have been preaching and I’m still preaching till date,but I don’t know if there is another translations from other quarters and that gave us a lot of problems because they were saying Madam no, you don’t know what you are saying I think the government want to sell our properties. I said well as far as I am concerned I have taken some properties off the concessionaire and I felt that could be reconcessioned, I didn’t  take your properties from the concessionaire you’ve always had your properties, so if any other quarters is saying otherwise I don’t know, but that has been my report consistently for three years that some of these areas can be concessioned that is it.
Though you have shown you had a firm grip of the situation, does it mean there were no down times at all while are the tradefair?
Yes I had some down times, you know human beings but most times I don’t look at the challenges, maybe that is why I could pull through,I always look at how am I going to come out of this,I don’t think of the challenges I rather find a way around it because if you dwell on it you won’t be able to surmount it. Many times I have received panic calls, oh! the market is on fire,some people are going to fight,they have cultlasses and other weapons, madam don’t go,if you go there they will hack you down,you will get burnt and all that and I would still go,I will talk to them and they will listen,that was why I said it is just God because after I finished talking to them some will be asking did she use juju or what? How come we said we are going to deal with her but you are now backing out oh no, no and I will beg them,that was the way and maybe the feminine power came into it. Just take it or leave it women bring their warmth into every situation, if you have a committee without a woman I feel it is going to be very strict, even at the merger when the men are quarrelling I used to beg them, I was like a tea girl to all of them,they were like my fathers too and when you give them respect I think it is reciprocal,they will respect you too. So I think the feminine thing helped me too because I used to address them like my father and husband and there is nobody you treat like that that will still want to hit you hard. I will let them understand why certain moves were made,they are all human beings these guys are very wealthy people,some of them are PhD holders but decided to go into business, so they are well read too.
Now that you are leaving the tradefair,where is the likely next port of call?
 Of course back to my politics, they’ve been waiting for me anyway, I have not been attending meetings, the campaign is coming up,we have another election in 2023 so we are in 2021,we have the primary and congresses, I wasn’t part of the primary here because I was burying my father, so if I am not in a paid job or employment I am doing my business and politics, I’m a full time politician, I’m a politician for life.
So I am going back to politics while my other appointment is still running. That is the prerogative of mercy,we go visiting the correctional centres to get list of those the federal government should pardon, we went round the whole facilities in the country in 2018/2019 and Ambross Alli was part of those that were pardoned, we advised the President to have mercy and pardon them but because of COVID we’ve not been able to go round our correctional centres, I was called up weeks ago that we might be having meeting soon.
How do you plan to give back to your community?
I am already part of Kosofe,you can’t take me out of Kosofe, I’m saying we had our local government primary elections, some of my boys were there,one of our leader in Kosofe was here earlier,Hon. Dayo Bush and they have picked some people to go for it.
Tradefair was a 24hours job, I think I now have some time to myself and family, I have time for my friends too,my grassroots politics and then my business.
Even till now the management still consult with me,so if anybody come seeking my advise I will oblige. Government is a continuum, anybody that will be there even though a civil servant will be an APC person.
How about an idea of having  a humanitarian foundation to impact the society a lots more?
I had one but I couldn’t go into it because of my appointment,as the appointment takes one off many things, there is Lucy Ambassadors it is an NGO with a political undertone to help people it’s been on, that is one foundation I would want to give more life but because of my appointment I cannot now,however we are still performing,we are still doing what we can with them,like if you have employment opportunities majority of them are youths,we try to engage them but it is still on.
The prevailing insecurity trend,many say it has much to do with the dearth good role models in our society,what will be your take on this?
It is not about good modelling, it is about unemployment that is the way I see it and that is why this government is trying to reduce it to its barest minimum, this unemployment didn’t start with this government,it started before and there are no Infrastructure that were created, no job opportunities in time past. In any country you have Infrastructural developments it means some people are gainfully employed, since I entered politics not because  I am in APC now, I haven’t seen much Infrastructure as I’m seeing now. All over Nigeria I see them rehabilitating roads that will last more than just one tenure because if you see how they do it,though I don’t have their terminologies but you see them scrapping,what I used to see in the past is patching of roads and once the rains come calling you have the potholes back but with what they are doing I don’t think with this rainfall we would have any potholes.
I however,think they are trying because it is not only in Nigeria that we are having this economic issue,it is all over the world and we inherited the dearth of all these. So trying to make up for the arrears and then coming to meet your target is not gonna be easy,I am sure that this government felt that as soon as they get in they would hit the ground running,  but we were shocked at what we met. Okay look at me not having an office for eight months, I could as well not have an office for four years if I didn’t  try hard to claim it back and make such monies that I made, meaning that if I was lackadaisical or just waited for government to get me my office back that same concessionaire will be making money into their pockets rather than that of the government,this is just an agency out of so many agencies, we just had to start from the debts behind,starting from arrears rather than starting from on a new leaf, the concessionaire left nothing so you have to go back take care of the past like me I had so many inherited litigations, I  had to make them come and say okay how can we reconcile,so if
I didn’t meet litigations but met him already paying to the federal government what is due it could  have been easy for me to just kickstart from there, but you see I had to go back for reconciliation, begging to make them see reasons they need pay back to government what is due, before you know the four years is just gone.
I did made money for the government at least 1.6billion in three years and prior to that time the few stakeholders that were very religious with their payments could only turn in 44million,that was what the government was making per annum then all because the stakeholders felt it is better for them to pay to the federal government rather than pay to the concessionaire the records are there, it was 44million.
I would have however done much better if the structure was already in place, also if we are not thinking of concessioning the place again because that is causing a lot of misunderstandings and some things laying fallow. The mini stadium is there,the halls are there and the motel. So I think we would have done better but it doesn’t still matter they can do better by doing DPP arrangement we would make more money.
What will be your charge to women who are passionate abour imapctìng their environs positively ?
To women out there,they should not be discouraged or distracted because that is the first thing they do to you. They would distract and discourage you,even threaten you out of your jobs,so many times I have gotten threats and I say okay you’ve threatened me once and I come back haaa! No threat will work. Let’s just be steadfast anyway and put God first with that no threats will work.