•OYO APC Candidate, SHINA PELLER Tells City People
He has often been described by many who know him closely as one of the simplest human beings you could possibly come across. Meeting Shina Peller, the Chairman of Aquila Group of Companies for the first time, you get the feeling you’re talking to a man who naturally understands that respect for the next person is key, even if you’re regarded as one of the most successful businessmen in the land. And he showed this when he got a text message from this reporter requesting to have an interview with him.
Unlike many others who would’ve responded with a short one line sentence via sms or not even respond at all, this amiable House of Reps candidate responded by calling to work out a date for the interview. And when our initial arrangement failed, he called to apologize and requested that we reschedule, with a promise that he would call to tell when to set out and head for his night club, Quilox, where the interview would take place.
And he did just that. It is believed that apart from his philanthropic nature, Shina Peller’s down-to-earth nature is the reason why his people in Iseyin insisted they wanted him and nobody else to represent them at Federal House of Representative. Inside his spacious and tastefully furnished office, Shina spoke to City People’s Senior Editor WALE LAWAL about his humble beginnings, his passion for business and why he finally yielded to the pressure to go into politics.
Many people would like to know a bit about your background, my brother. Where were you born and raised?
I was born into the family of the late Professor Moshood Abiola Peller and Alhaja Silifat Abiola Peller also known as Lady Peller. I’m a native of Iseyin but was born here in Lagos. I had my primary education here in Lagos, secondary education was in Ibadan Command Secondary School, Ibadan. After that, I proceeded for my university education, I’m a graduate of Chemical Engineering from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology and also had my Masters from the same institution.
I am the chairman of Aquila Group of companies, a conglomerate that has interests in oil and gas with Aquila Oil and Gas. We do building and construction with Aquila Building and Projects and also in international trade with our Bureau de Change outfit and we also have Aquila Global Resources which handles the dredging part of business. In the entertainment business, we have Aquila Records and the night club, Quilox. I also have a restaurant as well called 6ix Restaurant. I can just go on and on (laughs) I’m a very restless person. Once I get one done I move on to another, that’s why I’m always busy with a lot on my hands.
And I guess that perhaps explains why you’re also diving into politics?
My going into politics was a very difficult decision for me to make because I will say, thankfully, that God has blessed me so much and I have so much plans for my businesses. But I believe the time for arm chair politics is over, we can no longer continue to fold our arms and watch things go bad.
The fact is, I have been a philanthropist all my life. Even from when I was young, I was always looking out for others. And when I became more successful in the business world, I have always given back to the society and continue to do so. I have a lot of philanthropic activities I have done across the nation. So, when people from my town saw all of the things I have been doing within the community, they began to push for me to come and represent them. It was something I didn’t want to do.
I always thought politics was only for politicians. But you know as they say, only a fool doesn’t change his mind. When the pressure from my people became intense, with different personalities talking to me, I decided to yield to the call of my people and run for a seat in the House of Reps come 2019 to represent Iseyin/Itesiwaju/Kajola/Iwajowa federal constituency.
Why did you choose to run on the platform of the APC, why not PDP or any other party?
Choosing to run on the platform of APC was not an easy one for me either because a lot of parties were coming forward with a lot of offers asking me to join them. The first issue I had to deal with after taking the decision to contest was choosing which party to join. As at then, it was easier for me to join the opposition party, going by the values that I have. I felt the opposition party needed somebody like me to fight the ruling party to help it win elections but I had to eventually go for the ruling party, APC and I have my reasons for running on the platform of the APC even as it was the most difficult thing for me to do.
Number one, APC had an incumbent House of Rep whom the constitution of Nigeria permits to run for second time and he wanted to run for second term. So, for me to run under the platform of APC was so difficult. But as a politician, the interest of the people comes first, not your own personal interest. If I wanted to think of my own personal interest, I will just join the opposition party where I know I stood a one hundred and ten percent chances of getting the party ticket. But I believe that Nigeria was at its best when it operated under three regional governments, that’s the northern, eastern and western regions.
That was when Chief Obafemi Awolowo was the Prime Minister for the western region. At that time, we were on the right path. Things started getting bad when the military took over power and merged the three regions together and we were made to adopt one system. I have noticed that since the beginning of democracy, what is happening now, hasn’t happened before, that is one party controlling one region.
I noticed that APC already had Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ogun, and even now, Ekiti, so I felt we were beginning to retrace our steps back to where we got it wrong, so I didn’t want to obstruct that formation because if I’d joined an opposition party I’m sure I would still be able to make an impact but it could also disrupt the balance of that regionalized government.
Under a one party region, five states can come together and be able to take on big projects that is even bigger than one state which will be easier for them to achieve if they are all under one party. That way, they’ll be able to speak with one voice.
What part of your background prepared you for all of these responsibilities that you have on your hands? You are a successful businessman, you’ve made remarkable success in your various businesses and now you’re making a great start in politics, what prepared you for these roles?
For me, I’ve always seen life as a challenge. It is normal to want to get onto something at a particular time. Whatever that you do, the most important thing is commitment. If I can be able to commit myself into what I’m doing and I develop an interest in that thing, I want to be the best in it. That is what drives me.
You appear to be liked by most people, how would you describe your personality?
I’m a very simple person.
I thank God that I’m a well-loved person and that has really helped my political aspirations. Even on the day of the APC primaries, everyone, including people from other parties, came because they couldn’t wait for me to be announced as the winner. One of the things that have helped me is that I never attach importance to anything in life and I believe there’s nobody on the surface of the earth that has lived forever.
Death will surely come one day. That’s one thing that gets me going. I have also come to learn in life that the best way to worship God is how you deal with fellow human beings. I personally will not do to people what I cannot take, so before I do something I always put myself in the shoes of the other person. This has really made me who I am and made my life to be very simple.
Were you not scared that you could get smeared by the murky waters of politics?
Like I said earlier, death is inevitable for us all, what however is important is, how well you have lived your life. I went into politics because I want to make a difference and impact on the lives of people. Once you commit your steps and your motives to God, and you have a clear intention, I believe that things will always work in your favour, which is what is happening now.
So, politically, how far are you willing to go, beyond your being a House of Reps member hopefully next year?
Position is not something that’s a big deal to me. I can remain as a House of Reps member for many years and make more impact on the people than even a governor. The most important thing is that I want to be part of the system. I want to contribute my own quota to see how we can have a better Nigeria.
I think that, at the end of the day, my performance as House of Reps member will determine what my people want me to do. I will leave that for people to decide because they are the ones who asked that I should come and represent them. I believe I’m in it already, so I have got to make the most of the opportunity.
How were you able to break into that political corridor, given the fact that you have always been a private person? Who were the personalities you first reached out to when you decided you were going to give politics a shot?
Like I said, in my own case, my people reached out to me to come and represent them. And at that time, it was different people coming from different parties, not just people from APC. But I was hesitant to take that decision. Let me say here that the Alaafin of Oyo was one person that actually made me change my mind. He spoke to me passionately about the need to change and embrace politics and made me see the need why I needed to heed the call of my people. He said he would give me all the support I needed and that all I had to do was ask if I needed anything.
Another person who persuaded me was my king, the Aseyin of Iseyin, who gave me the title of Are Gbobaniyi of Iseyin land. He always sees me as someone who brings respect to the king because of the things I’ve been able to achieve in life as a man and as an indigene of Iseyin, so he encouraged me to contest and heed the call of my people. And that was how it all started for me.
But how do you possibly hope to do politics and run your businesses at the same time? Do you not fear your business might suffer because Aquila Group is a handful already, and now you’re adding politics to it?
Like I said, I’m a very restless person. Once I get something completed I move onto the next. As it is, all my businesses are functioning regardless of my absence. I have set up structures for my businesses to function by themselves and I have very efficient General Managers for my various businesses. They give me daily reports and I am in constant touch with them. Lately, I have been focusing most of my attention on politics and less on business and still everything’s been running smoothly.