Since 1999, Fouad Oki has been the director general of all the campaign organisations that produced the governors in Lagos State. Segun James looks at the life of this silent but strategic political leader
In a country full of ambition and dreams, the political field is most often strewn with frustrations and dashed dreams. Such is the situation with many a young and ambitious men who ventured into the Nigerian political minefield without a godfather, a mentor or brother to take hands-on into the inner workings of politics in the country.
Without doubts, Mr. Fouad Oki has expanded the frontier of Lagos state political landscape; albeit, silently. For emphasis, he embodies the best of political engineering in the state. What’s more, he has not only mentored young politicians, he has made a few of them.
But what are the chances of those without such opportunities? That is the most crucial question. To him, politics is a reality game that must be taken seriously; and he never fails to drive this home to people who ask him for advice on the issue.
It was at a youth political leadership forum organised by the GLEEHD Foundation with the theme: Nigeria’s Emerging Political Leaders Forum – 2019 Election and Youth Participation in Political Leadership in Nigeria: Prospect and Strategies for Young Leaders.
To a lot of people, it sounded like an easy question for any half-competent politician to answer: What are the chances of the youth on the political turf if septuagenarians are still contesting for political positions in the country?
Given the noise that is now being made about it, is there any hope for the youth in the scheme of things?
Oki told the youths that contrary to their feelings, money is not the first priority in seeking elective position but having ideas, aims and goals and a strategy to achieve them. According to him, they must make themselves relevant by participating actively in the activities in their party of choice.
“Don’t expect power on a platter of gold” he told them. Oki counselled them to shed the toga of too young to run even as he told them that nobody was going to hand power to them simply because they were young.
Oki said that any of them who have something to offer must be ready to throw themselves into the ring to be seen and be heard.
He said that in politics, all was not about elective position as there were other areas where the youth can be useful. “If you have something to offer, you must be rebellious. Let people see you as someone who have something to offer. Not everyone can stand for election, so you must understand your capacity, ability and where you fit in the scheme of things.”
While every other discussant at the event focused on what it takes to be a politician and what is required to be a leader in the crowded field; he told the young men that nobody give them any chance. “You have to muscle your way into the political arena. Get yourself notice and make yourself relevant. You must dare to be different.” He told the young men to a round of applause. This is realistic politics.
He told the young men to quench the assumption; the truth, he said was that nobody would give them a space in the political forest, adding that the idea of it was the turn of the youth would only be realised if the youth worked to take over the process.
“You must be ready to push and shove; but more importantly, you must know however that politics is not all about elective position alone. You must know where your strength lies by consolidating yourself and talent in that area. If you do, people will be forced to recognise you and your worth. Not all politicians go for elective position. And politics is not all about elections.”
He asked the young men: “What is your niche? What area of the political field do you fit in naturally? Seeking elective position is not the ultimate in politics; it is recognising your niche. You could be an organiser or even a natural special assistant to political leaders without venturing into elective position. Whichever way, you are contributing to the political process.”
Oki understands the essence of positioning in the ever scheming world of political intrigues and intricacies. He knows that it can be about monsters and vampires. He also knows that it can be very rewarding.
He admits that politics can be part horror and part thriller; but more importantly, it has a dizzying effect that charms someone permanently.
Welcome to the world of Mr. Fouad Oki, a scion of the royal Abibu-Oki family of Lagos. The kingpin of Lagos politics! Surely Oki knows what he is talking about. He has been the director general of all the Lagos State governorship campaign organisations from the coming of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to Babatunde Raji Fashola to Akinwunmi Ambode.
After he successfully engineered the victory of Mr. Ambode as governor of Lagos state, the very grateful governor made him the Director-General of Lagos State Safety Commission. A position he held for some time before moving on. What’s more, he is set for a repeat performance come 2019.
Born almost 60 years ago in Lagos, Fouad however is a Surulere boy where he grew up along with former governors Rotimi Amaechi, Babatunde Fashola and Donald Duke and Alhaji Aliko Dangote.
While most of his contemporaries have since moved out of Surulere, Fouad has kept the home front.
For someone who has held such top job in Lagos politics, he has never sought any elective position, even though he could have any position he wants if he so desires as a reward for hard work and loyalty. But no! Not Fouad. He sees himself as an organiser, a tactician and strategist. He is the ultimate machine in successful political engineering!
The highest elective position he has ever held was being elected vice chairman of the Lagos Central Senatorial District of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He would not even be the chairman of the zone let alone compete for the position at the state or national level.
Oki is a master strategist and grassroots mobiliser per excellence. He was instrumental to the formation of the Independent Campaign Group (ICG) in 2002 which successfully campaigned for the re-election of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 2003. Then, he was the Director of Research and Strategy for the ICG.
In 2007, Oki was appointed Director General of Babatunde Raji Fashola Campaign Organisation overseeing the successful election of Fashola as governor of Lagos State. A feat he repeated for Fashola’s second term and again for Ambode.
He sees himself as an organiser, a tactician and strategist. He is the ultimate machine in successful political engineering