Cool, collected and calculative are the words that best describe Kayode Olagunju, the Assistant Corps Marshal/Head, Policy, Research and Statistics Department of the Federal Road Safety Corps. Being a pioneer staff of the Federal corporation, Dr. Kayode who is widely referred to as “Olufigaro” has seen it all as far transportation and its safety is concerned as he has won several awards both locally and internationally for his ‘Dedication to Duty’,’ Honesty and Exemplary conduct.’
Married to a top award-winning broadcaster, Seun Olagunju, Dr Kayode, a Ph.D degree holder in Transport Geography in this exclusive interview with DEOLA ADEOTI revealed his road to success, achievements and challenges of the corporation he represents among other sundry issues. Excerpts:
The FRSC recently witnessed a massive transformation, what do you think account for this feat?
Great leadership supported by highly competent, dedicated and committed workforce. The president also assisted with provision of funds and the required manpower and logistics. We have always seen FRSC as “our FRSC, our baby and our organization”. We work beyond the normal working hours and most staff always think of how to move the Corps forward. We bring about innovations. We deployed huge technology. Our activities are premised on People, Process and Technology. The immediate past Corps Marshal Osita Chidoka also provided good leadership. Many staff were also exposed to the international best practices which were domesticated to improve on the performances of the organization.
You are very close to the immediate past Corps Marshal and Chief Executive (COMACE) How would you describe him and what do you think Nigerians should expect from his ministerial post?
I was close to all the past and present Chief Executives of the Corps. From the first, Dr Olu Agunloye, to the last one, Osita Chidoka and the present Boboye Oyeyemi. We learnt to be professional in our relationships early enough. We were tutored from the beginning to make ourselves relevant in whatever positions we find ourselves. If you do, you will be close to those at the helm of affairs.
On my description of the immediate Chief Executive, Osita Chidoka, in military and paramilitary tradition, juniors don’t write their seniors’ testimonials. However, I will say he did so well in moving the Corps forward. He did his best. Incidentally, I was one of the people that strongly opposed his appointment then as some of us strongly felt there were good hands inside that could head the organization. Thank God, the present President also believe so. He just gave the Corps the independence, with the appointment of Boboye Oyeyemi, an insider to take up the leadership responsibility . The president captured it so well when he said if he had joined the Army, he would have aspired to be the Chief of Army Staff just like every competent police officer could look forward to become the Inspector General of police . We are grateful to him on this great decision . There is no doubt, Osita Chidoka performed well and transformed FRSC . We also appreciate this.
On what Nigerians should expect from his Ministerial appointment, I will say great performance . He will transform the aviation industry. I pray the workforce will give him full support as we did in FRSC.
Back to FRSC, what are the achievements so far?
The achievements are numerous. We have been able to raise road safety issue to a national consciousness with great endorsement internationally. Many local, national and international recognitions . The World Bank sees FRSC as the best and model for Africa and developing nations. We have also gathered international support in our logistics and activities. We have drastically reduced road traffic crashes and raised the perception of safety by road users. We have raised the licensing of drivers and vehicles, number plates, driving school standardization and coordination as well as entrenching the culture of safety in fleet management to a great level comparable to best practices worldwide.
What are the challenges bedeviling the body and the way out?
Funding is a major challenge . Road safety is capital intensive. The environment must also be conducive for our operations. Good roads and other infrastructure must be provided. We have seen great improvements in road construction but our governments at all levels must do more. It is still a challenge that people see road safety as government thing while some states believe since FRSC is a Federal government agency, it does not need their support. Some road users also have wrong attitude to safety. They believe it is a destiny thing. That those not destined to die on the road will not die through road traffic crashes whatever they do on the road notwithstanding . I always advise those who feel this way, to blindfold themselves for few seconds and walk on a busy road. Since they are not destined to die on the road, every vehicle driver will give them permission to exhibit the madness. Rather than obeying traffic rules and regulations, some drivers make
sacrifices and go on fasting. They rebuke crashes. We don’t have problems with road users faith and spirituality, but they should not neglect road safety rules and regulations. Road Safety is a function of positive attitudes neglected on the road and the negative actions imbibed. As a way forward, we require better funding and the support of all. Let everybody realize that our safety lies in our hands and the lives we save may be ours. Let’s relate with other road users as if our relations and other loved ones are in other vehicles we share road space with.
What is the relationship like between FRSC and other security bodies in ensuring a safer road in the country?
The relationship has always been cordial. We collaborate effectively with other law enforcement and security agencies. We strive to achieve same objective- safety of lives and property.
In the absence of your officials on our roads, what are you doing to nab erring motorists?
Road users can report bad driving. Passengers are encouraged to caution their drivers and if they failed to heed their advice to desist from violating traffic laws, they can be reported on the road or through the FRSC Emergency toll free number 122, which they can also be used to report obstructions, traffic gridlock, conduct of our men, crashes and other emergencies.
The Corps is also in the process of deploying technology such as cameras in traffic monitoring. Of course, you know, with the upgrading of the drivers and vehicle licensing schemes, apprehending traffic offenders become easier. Over the years, we have been building strong and credible databases to aid our realization of the corps objectives.
What are some measures the body has put in place to reduce crashes on our roads?
I will summarize these measures in 6Es, which are Education, Enlightenment, Engineering, Environmental, Enforcement and Evaluation. Education through impacting of basic knowledge to would be and licenced drivers. We make them understand the expected behavior on the road after acquisition of the required skills. They must understand the highway codes. Driving schools play great roles here. The Corps also train and retrain drivers. Public Enlightenment is also of great importance. We make them understand defensive driving techniques on the road. What they need to do as situation in traffic environment changes. For example, how do they react when visibility is poor or when it is raining or the road surface is slippery. We use both the traditional and modern media. The press has greatly assisted in this. We have huge presence in the social media with a view to capturing a particular target, mostly the youths. We are on Facebook , Twitter, youtube among
others. Incidentally I coordinate FRSC activities in the Social Media.
Engineering involves vehicle and road designs inputs as well as scientific innovations. Deployment of technology in solving certain problems is apt here. Our drivers licences, number plates, call center, use of certain devices such as radar guns, speed limiters, alcolyzers and breathalyzer among others are part of the engineering solutions. Environment is also of importance. We look at the road conditions, the infrastructure, the road safety audits, weather, light and traffic conditions as they affect driving among others . Enforcement is of great essence. We all know that education or enlightenment without enforcement is entertainment . All over the world, enforcement is a tool to keep people in check. It is human nature to misbehave on the road, but you need strict enforcement to discourage violations. FRSC is an evident based organization, so we evaluate the situation and come up with the right strategies that we feel will address the issues of
concern. We engage in trend analysis. We do a lot of researches. I am in a position to know this as the Assistant Corps Marshal/Head of Department of Policy, Research and Statistics.
In the training of motorists, how far has the body gone?
We have done so much in this area. We do organize general drivers training programmes when organizations send their drivers for training. We do have in plant training programmes too. Operators with at least five vehicles in their fleets under the Road Transport Safety Standardization Scheme are expected to properly train their drivers. You may need to check www.frsc-rtsss.org for more information on our efforts to better fleet management in Nigeria. The Driving School Standardization Program was also introduced to ensure that better and well educated drivers emerge. Please see www.frsc-dssp.org to appreciate what we are doing in this area .
How far have we gone in creating mobile clinics for the victims of accidents on our roads?
We presently have 25 Road Side Clinics and 24 zebras on the highways. Zebras are ambulance points located along critical corridors, crash prone areas on the highways. Ambulances, heavy duty tow trucks were among the logistics support provided by the World Bank to enhance our rescue capability along certain corridors. The government has also made available fund to equip the corps for rescue activities. We even open the doors of our roadside clinics to the local community for free medical treatments though the main reason for establishing these clinics is to bridge the gaps between the crash scenes and hospitals located so far from the intercity roads. Sometimes, two to three hours from the scenes of crashes. The first hour of crashes known as the Golden Hour is very critical in road traffic crash victims survival.
There have been issues of fake plate number, how can Nigerians identify real plate number?
The antidote to fake plate number is not to patronize touts. Go to the designated Motor Licensing Authority (MLA) offices. You may also check www.nvisng.org. Do not also try to process your drivers licence by proxy. You must be physically present. Any license brought to you without you sitting in front of a computer in the Drivers Licence Center (DLC) , for your image to be captured by computer or you signing directly on the computer through the signature pad is fake. Once you submitted your passport photograph for drivers license processing, you are dealing with a tout.
You can check if your number plate is fake by texting verifyplateno (leave a space) then the registration number to 33810 or go on www.nvisng.org and click on verify no plate. Then input your vehicle registration number. No space in “verifynoplate” please. You can also get the link to www.nvisng.org through the FRSC website www.frsc.gov.ng
You are known to be a strong advocate of a bribery free FRSC, what is the body doing to curb your erring officers?
FRSC has zero tolerance for bribery. Every staff knows that proven cases of bribery attract dismissal. We have surveillance teams all over the country arresting those compromising . However, we need the support of all and sundry. Every report of bribery is properly investigated to be sure it is not arising from malice or that you are trying to put a patrol man in trouble because he refused to be intimidated or for not doing your bidding. We have bold numbers on the patrol vehicles while the patrol men also have their name tags sewn to their uniforms for proper identification. You can give us the date, time, route, location and the big coded numbers on the patrol vehicles eg 4112 and if you have the officers name as written on his name tags. All these will help in our investigation. You can send the information to firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com or even to me as the FRSC Social Media Coordinator on firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also
call 122. We don’t cover up any case. All cases are properly investigated. However, we do have the problem of the complainant abandoning the case when he is called upon to serve as a witness. We do hear “I don’t want anybody sacked because of his family. Don’t worry God will catch him one day.” This could be frustrating. We need to sanitize the system together .
On a personal note, what is that philosophy of life that has shaped your life and thinking?
Aiming for the best always and conducting my activities with integrity. Conscience matters a lot. I believe God helps those who first help themselves, so there must be self developments and great hard work. That explains why I had to acquire a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Transportation Geography among other professional qualifications to better equip me for the job. Then I also believe that the reward for hard work is more work. You try to relate with people on what they can offer in terms of positive contributions and not where they come from, their religion or pecuniary considerations. You must show respect to others.
How was your road to success like?
I joined FRSC as a pioneer because of the personality involved then, Professor Wole Soyinka. He is a mentor. I have always admired his courage, brilliance and integrity. These values have shaped my career in the corps. The only major pain I could remember was the assassination attempt on my life on the 13th of July, 2002 when four armed men stormed my residence and shot me twice based on my activity to drive touts and racketeers out of the drivers and number plate system as the Lagos Sector Commander of the Corps. I survived miraculously. It took God intervention and my training as Firearm instructor. I was trained in US as a certified firearm instructor and Armorer since 1992.
Gains? So many. Job satisfaction mainly. I have been exposed to the best practices all over the world. I have been to many Countries of the world to learn and also share our own experiences.I have had good recognitions in the course of performing my jobs. Promotions. Over fifty awards and commendations. I even met my wife in the course of the job. The gains are just too numerous.
Your family is a model of a happy family, what is the secret?
My wife and I are friends. I have a great wife. She is wonderful. Of course beautiful too. She is quite supportive. She does not allow her fame as a multiple award winning newscaster/ broadcast journalist to affect our relationship. She is highly respectful and submissive too. That is Seun Olagunju for you. She is doing well in her career too. Presently, the General Manager, Public Affairs, Transmission Company of Nigeria. But at home, she is my baby, my wife, my sweet angel.
What is your fashion routine?
I love good things. I like jeans, sandals, fez caps, good specs and wrist watches. I love perfume too. Very good quality that my money can buy. (Laughs)
You are a very ardent fan of Arsenal FC; do you see Arsenal lifting any trophy this season?
Well, I have been an Arsenal fan for decades. I am a loyal Arsenal fan.I love the club . They play fantastic entertaining football. I get to know much about the club. I get reports on the club. Get mails from Arsene Wenger on the reasons for adopting certain tactics and other information about the club. The other club I so much love is 3SC of Ibadan. Up soooting. On weather Arsenal will do well this year, I will say yes, it is going to be a great year for the Gunners. We have built another cabinet for new trophies. We just put the FA cup and the community shield won in just three months in the cabinet. More are on the way. Gunner for life. ……laughs