You have been elected into the Nigerian Senate from the Lagos State House of Assembly, which means you have joined the league of lawmakers, who moved from the Assembly to the National Assembly. What have been your experiences in the last eight years as the Deputy Speaker and what are those things you would have loved to do better?
I’m not the first person to go from the Lagos State House of Assembly to the Senate. During the Fourth Assembly, Dr. Adeleke Mamora went from being a Speaker of the Assembly to the Senate. Also in the Fifth Assembly, Solomon Olamilekan Adeola also went from here to the House of Representatives and from there to the Senate. Also Hon. Babajide Omoworare, after leaving, went to contest for Senate in Osun State and he was elected for two terms. He is currently working in the Senate because he is the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly matters. For now, there are five of us that have moved from this Assembly to the National Assembly. Is there something I would like to do better? I think I gave it my all with the prevailing circumstances and I don’t think I had any let or hindrance. I think we try to do what is best for our state and what is best for the institution, the Lagos State House of Assembly. So, with the prevailing circumstances, I think we gave our best and we did our best.
What should your senatorial district expect from you as you head to the Senate?
I think that they should expect effective and efficient representation. They should expect robust contributions on the floor of the Senate. They should look forward to the initiation of bills that will aid the development of our country, Nigeria. And in terms of impacting my constituents, I will take a cue from Her Excellency, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, and what she was able to do for our senatorial district. She did extremely well. She was exceptional. I hope to borrow a leaf from what she has done. I thank my people for re-electing me to the State House of Assembly in 2015 after I had gone to the Assembly in 1999. Thank God that the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is from Lagos State, so I believe that he will do much for the state and we will support him.
A new government will be coming up on May 29, what do you think the President- elect should focus on immediately he gets to office?
Well, apparently, his target is specific and all the sectors should be impacted positively. There is no sector that has not been given a specific allocation but as we speak in Nigeria today, what we should be focusing on is the security issue both internal and external. Internally, Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), banditry, kidnapping, and others are those things we should focus on with a view to minimize and reduce it to almost zero because the primary purpose of any government is the security of lives and property. For any meaningful development to take place there must be absolute security of lives and property. So, I think that is one of the things the incoming administration must focus on and even external security threats.
Our country must be protected from any external aggression be it religious or armed conflict, so that we will be able to focus on development. Aside from security, we as a nation must tackle the issue of power generation. The National Assembly will work with the president to ensure that we have adequate security in Nigeria, and we will work with him to end all forms of banditry. We will also support our soldiers with modern equipment. Power generation must increase and its distribution must improve because that is the only way our industries can compete. For now, most of our industries cannot compete though in terms of labour, we have enough labour force but the salary being paid is reduced. When you add the cost of power, our products will not be able to compete effectively with products from other nations and that kills our industry. So, we must tackle power, so that we can unleash our potential as a nation. We must also tackle challenges faced by the education and health sectors.
We should be able to reduce as it were, the incessant strikes by certain sectors of the economy. Strikes without limitations by lecturers should be encouraged, and if anything happens in that sector, I think all arms of the government must be involved. Even if it is a strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the National Assembly should be involved with a view to resolving whatever the agitations might be about. A situation, where you have our students in their various houses for six months or one year cannot be tenable and strikes by our lecturers for certain months should not be encouraged. And there are also critical sectors like the health sector; all those strikes, we must find solutions to them.
They must protest whatever is not good for them but it cannot be indefinite because everything would be affected. In organised climes, what they do is to give notice of strike, it could be three days or two weeks and when the two weeks lapse, you go back to work. We cannot allow indefinite strikes in such sectors and you cannot toy with the future of our children. It must be a give and take something, the lecturers must be able to give and the Federal Government must be able to take.
Recently the Oba of Lagos bestowed on you one of the sensitive chieftaincy titles of his palace. What do you think warranted this position on you and how do you intend to make use of the office for the good people of Lagos State?
I don’t know why they chose me; that is the honest answer. For me, the title is a call to continue to give exemplary leadership, serve the people and continue to contribute positively to the development of Lagos State.
Your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has anointed some lawmakers-elect for the leadership of the National Assembly but there are discordant tunes over that. To prevent a repeat of the 2015 experience, what do you think your party should do urgently?
For the leadership of the 10th National Assembly, either the Senate or the House of Representatives, I think the party should play a prominent role in view of choosing the leadership of both houses. There must be other factors that must be considered in choosing whoever is going to emerge as the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. For the Senate President, it is very obvious that it must come from the South and he or she must be a Christian because during the last presidential election, there were issues about Muslim-Muslim ticket and churches getting involved in the electoral process, which ought not to be. The President-elect and the Vice President-elect are both Muslims, so it makes a lot of sense to give the Senate presidency to the Christian South. In Nigeria as we speak today, only three senators are qualified to be the next Senate President and if you put that factor into play, they are Godswill Akpabio, Orji Uzor Kalu and Osita Izunaso.
So, it is either we give it to the South-South or the South-East but it also depends on the roles those regions played in the victory of our great party. And luckily, one has been given the Senate presidency and the other has been given the position of deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. I think it is a fair share. For the North Central zone that is saying that they were not carried along, they have the right to complain and I think that it is not only going to be the Senate presidency, Deputy Senate presidency, House of Representatives speakership and deputy speakership that should be at play right now. There are other positions they can also take. We have the party and the government, so they should look at other things they can give to them. However, it is their right to complain, it is also right for the leadership of the country and the leadership of the National Assembly to look at what they can give them. I think it is not rocket science and everybody should be accommodated, it mustn’t be the Senate presidency or speakership of the House of Representatives, there are other things we can give to them.