Mrs. Laurentia Laraba Mallam, former Minister of Environment, in this interview with Mary Ekah describes Engr. Tunji Light Ariyomo, one of the APC gubernatorial aspirants in Ondo State as a tested solution provider who is needed in the state
As a former boss, how would you describe Engr. Tunji Ariyomo and what specific experiences can you share about him?
A leader must be able to identify authentic talents. Within my first five minutes of ever meeting Tunji Ariyomi, I knew I had a very different aide with me – somebody who could see the bigger picture. He had originally come to the ministry to pitch a technology product but I told my S. A. Political, Hon. Jonathan Asake, he should recruit him unto my team. While working for me, Tunji initiated the ministry’s environmental intervention scheme targeting outright malaria elimination.
I assigned him to lead the project. He led the development of a comprehensive guide and a seven-year pre-elimination master plan for the country that the President openly acknowledged as detailed and fantastic. On October 13, 2014 when the ministry made a presentation to Mr. President at the Villa, the president was so impressed and did say at the presentation that he didn’t know that there were civil engineers that knowledgeable about public health.
That shows I wasn’t the only one who spotted something. In fact, I recommended him to the President to lead the national implementation without any reservation. He was my Special Adviser on Flood, Erosion Control and Coastal Zone Management. He is a brilliant engineer that belongs in a rare class of excellence. I can boldly affirm that Engr. Ariyomo is a highly cerebral mind that has creative solutions to most national challenges.
Even at the level of being a tested solution provider, he still stands out. He stands out in the sense that you immediately see his capacity to translate such solutions into reality. That was what I discovered when I carried out a background check on him. It is a rare quality to concurrently possess the ability to envision and implement.
Are there other attributes you found endearing that could inspire others?
Selflessness. Altruism. While working for me, Tunji served the federal government pro bono. He never collected a kobo from the ministry throughout and he never complained for one single day. It is not unusual for people to pester ministers for contracts, but not Tunji. Never. He was focused – always wanting to solve one national problem or the other using very creative means. That was his passion. He was like somebody on a mission. If many more people maintain his kind of attitude in the service of Nigeria, we would have less number of problems. And he was super-efficient.
I remember when the ministry was having problem accessing presidential approval over the matching grant for the NEWMAP project. He was my secret weapon that I assigned to fix the problem with the Permanent Secretary Mrs. Fatima Mede, because he is technically sound. As a consequence of that intervention, Mr. President gave the approval. That was how I solved that problem and preserved over N22 billion in promised development partners’ commitment to our country. On such other attributes as integrity, character and proven capability to deliver under intense or difficult schedule, Tunji is in an extraordinary class of his own.
Do you have any advice for the government?
If the federal government implements that Malaria elimination scheme as we conceived it under the NICoM programme, it would gradually reduce malaria related deaths currently estimated by the World Health Organisation at over 200,000 per annum. Eventually, it would get to a stage we would eliminate Malaria altogether just by suppressing the population of its vector. The NICoM national framework is also critical to abate the threats posed by deadly diseases such as the Zika virus and any other future deadly surprises.
The strategy is to embrace vector control as a holistic preventive measure across tiers of government, rather than fixation with solely medical intervention, which has turned our country to some huge malaria ‘market’. Under my leadership, what the Ministry of Environment did was to properly articulate a national framework for this as a national environmental intervention initiative and initiated a request for a seven-year pre-elimination period. Harmonisation had been concluded with the Ministry of Health before I left office. The framework advocated by the Environment Ministry would be cost effective, sustainable, environment-friendly and all encompassing. All the required paper works and technical documentations should be available in the ministry.
Ariyomo is contesting the governorship of Ondo State; do you have any words for the people of Ondo State?
If I had an idea he would run for the governorship, I would have convinced him to run under PDP. I do not know who PDP is fielding. Anyway, the people will know better. If not for platform difference, I should rightly be in Ondo State knocking on the doors of the elders there with my eyewitness account that they have an extraordinary son whose service could change their history.
Anybody above 60 years old should be concerned primarily about what the future of this country would be or look like for generations yet unborn. The survival of future generations depends on ensuring that our best hands are saddled with leadership responsibilities today, especially those with excellent leadership qualities. It is not a common thing to have someone like Tunji who knows what to do and how to get it done and whose personal history reflects having successfully done what others would usually fail at. So I can only pray for him and hope that his people would be able to do the right thing.