Otunba Ganiu Olusegun Abiru is the immediate past Clerk / Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State House of Assembly and current Chairman of Ikorodu Oga Development Association (IKODASS), the umbrella body of all clubs and associations in Ikorodu. He is presently an aspirant to the Nigerian Senate to represent the Lagos East Senatorial District on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). GOA, as he is fondly called, says his vision is to correct the inadequate representation of Lagos East by past senators from the Senatorial District. He also promises to refocus the people’s attention towards agriculture as the mainstream of the nation’s economy. In this exclusive interview with Pivot News, he reveals his plans for the people of Lagos East Senatorial District if elected as Senator in 2019.
Judging from the vast experience you had in the state civil service culminating at the Lagos Assembly, one would have thought that you would start your political career from the state assembly as it is familiar terrain. Why the senate?
The idea to go and represent my people at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly actually emanated from the people Ikorodu Division themselves. It was after a careful assessment of my achievements in public service and within my short period as Chairman of Ikorodu Oga Development Association (IKODASS), especially with the organisation of the last Ikorodu Oga Day 2017 which recorded an unprecedented success within a short period into my reign as chairman that they felt that I should be given a higher responsibility at that level. And when I was approached, I made due consultations and being convinced that it is a worthy cause, I accepted to offer my service as a concerned citizen who remains absolutely committed to the plight of my people.
Again, you will agree with me that the time has come for technocrats like me, with good understanding of governance to meet the needs of the people, to be elected into government to represent the true voice and aspirations of the people rather than leaving the trust and hope of the electorate in the hands of politians with little or no knowledge about government policies and intricacies of governance, and who have for this reason, always failed the people, especially in Lagos East Senatorial District.
My experince in the Lagos State public service was not only momemtum but rewarding as it gave me the golden opportunity to serve in all government ministries and departments and exposed me to government process and policy making processes coupled with a cordial relashionship with the politians. I was able to work with the political class and know what due representation of the people entails. Hence, I am adequately equipped for the task of representing my people at the senate and bring their dreams and expirations to reality as against past years.
Another thing that attracted me again was the lacuna created in the representation of the people at the senatorial level. We have not really had it so good and that is talking about the people getting the dividends of democracy through their senators. Hence, the people desire someone who rightly feels their pulse to represent them and be able to bring their aspirations to reality at that level. I live among the people, I work with them so I feel their pulse and pains. I have a lot of programmes to adequately take care of their needs; especially the youths.
At the state assembly, I can see that the people representing Ikorodu Division there are doing wonderfully well, though that is not to say there can be improvement in their services. But so far, I think it is good. However,at the senatorial level, I cannot say the same thing; definitely a change is urgently required. Certainly, we are not happy with what is going on there. As a grassroots person, I know what the people want and the things they need dearly. And with my wealth of experience in the Lagos Assembly, I have what it takes to bring their aspirations to reality.
If the zoning system is to be adopted, can Ikorodu Division be considered to use this turn?
If the zoning system is to be adopted, the senatorial seat should come to Ikorodu because every Local Government in the District, right from Ikorodu has had his own turn and if we are starting all over again, in fairness, it should start from Ikorodu Division again. However, I need to add that the Party, (APC) has the final decision to make on this because there is party supremacy. I am not saying that zoning should be the basis for electing the party flag bearer. However, the most important thing is that there is need for improvement in the representation of Lagos East Senatorial District at the Senate and this is what I stand to effect. As a politician, it is quite natural to say I wish to be elected to actualise my vision for my dear people. However, I will try my best to convince the Party and indeed the people for me to be elected.
Do you have the collective voice of the people of Ikorodu Division especially as the chairman of IKODASS?
We are talking about democracy here and naturally, we all cannot be thinking the same way. Certainly, there are bound to be divergent views and that is the beauty of democracy which makes it a government of the people, by the people and for the people. So, it is the overall collective will of the people that will prevail. So, in a situation where we have several people converging, there is the likelihood of one or two of them dissenting. That does not mean that the people are divided. Yes, it is true that Ikorodu people clamoured for the governorship ticket sometime back but something happened along the line. And that indeed confirms the supremacy of the party. However, whatever happens in the world of politics, Ikorodu people are one united family.
However, let me clarify that my interest in politics does not have anything to do with my call to duty as chairman of IKODASS. And I am not using that platform to feather my nest political nest. The two roles are far different from each other. Yes, based on my achievements so far as IKODASS Chairman, it is only normal for the people to want to desire a greater assignment for me at a much higher level. That is not to say that I will use the position as a platform to reach my political height.
Having said that, it is clear from my assessment that the people of Lagos East (Senatorial District) are desirous of a change because they have not had the needed dividends of democracy in past years. If you care as a journalist, you may conduct a public opinion on this and you will realise that 95.5 percent of the people are dissatisfied with their representative at the Senate and are clamouring for a change of baton in the next dispensation. This is why the people have agreed that I am the choice for the realisation of their dreams. And truly I have what it takes to fulfill their interest at any level. As a grassroots person, I feel the pulse of the people and that explains why I accepted the call.
Politics is about development. So, if you have not developed the lives of the people then what would you say you have achieved with the people’s mandate. They would examine their lives lives before they gave you their votes and compare it with what it is by the time you are leaving office. And if there is no positive change, then there is no reason why you ask for their confidence again. And this is the situation now in the District.
There is this general belief that whatever your background is, you need a political godfather upon whose wings younfly to realise your dream. As a technocrat, do you subscribe to having a godfather?
There is nowhere in the world where democracy thrives that you don’t have political leaders who have been in the system before you and who can mentor and guide you aright. Even in other spheres of life, there are leaders that the juniors learn from. It is the same in politics. So, if you are talking about leaders being godfathers, then there is nowhere that there are no godfathers in a democratic system. It is only unfortunate that people have a wrong notion about godfathers in politics.
However, in our great party (APC), the issue of godfathers is down played as there has always been primary elections to elect their flag bearers. So, nobody can carry you and just place you in an elective office without a credible election. This time too, the national chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomole has said that there will be primary elections to elect candidates for the general election in 2019. And this confirms the feelings of the people that all of us (party members) must collectively facilitate the development of democracy.
Indeed, democracy will thrive where the people have a choice and a say in their own affairs. Where the people don’t have a say in the selection of their representatives, then it is no longer democracy. What I am saying is that APC will hold its primaries and I am sure that the best candidate will emerge.
And how confident are you that you will emerge as the party’s flag bearer?
I am confident because that is what the people of senatorial district are saying and I can see everyone working along that line. I have made my consultations and am happy for all the reports I am getting from so far.
Ikorodu Division is not the only local government in the district. We also have Somolu, Kosofe, Epe and Ibeju-Lekki. Do you have the structure in place to ensure victory at the polls in all the local governments?
Well, God has been wonderful, helpful and benevolent. We have been consulting since I entered the race. I have gone to Kosofe, Somolu, Epe and Ibeju-Lekki, and Ikorodu itself and the feedback I am getting is quite encouraging. This is why I am going along and I am confident that this is something worthy of venturing into. I want to say that the people in all these local governments have been very supportive. I have met with people as groups and individuals and the general opinion is on the positive side.
What should the people of Lagos East Senatorial District expect if you become their senator?
First and foremost, when you look at the geographical terrain of Lagos East, you will discover that agriculture will do very well because of our soil conditions; the various types of soil conditions we have here. But unfortunately, we have not really harnessed the potentials of agriculture in this zone. So, my first assignment will be to draw the people’s attention back to agriculture as the mainstream of our economy; just as we learnt in school then. We are going to look at the sector and see how we can form a cooperative body for all farmers in Lagos East because I know that deficiency. We are going to look at the chain processes in agriculture and link them up with the industries that require their products. The truth is that these small scale farmers do not have money to go into large scale activities. So, they end up selling their products at very cheap rates. So, we are going to form a cooperative organisation whereby a foundation that has been established will be providing some financial succour to them for the procurement of silos for their use.
By the time there is a commission between these farmers and the manufacturing organisations, there is bound to be a boom in the business of agriculture. There are many companies that need the produce of these farmers but because of the absence of a link between the two, the farmers are left to sell their produce at giveaway prices while the rest rot away in the farms due to lack of storage facilities. Government cannot do all of these things , we also have to come in by using our experience and influence to transform the business of agriculture in this axis. We are going to make people see agriculture as a major business and not as a social service. If you look at it today, the little profit made by these farmers makes the occupation look like a social service. We will encourage farmers to cultivate as many hectares of land as possible as there will be a link between them and the organisations that need their products.
Also, the youths form about 55% of our total population and we have not enough for them in the area of job creation. In those days when we were growing up, we had mentors and coaches who guided us on the paths to follow. These days however, most of our youths do not have these. Most of them want to go into politics because they feel that is the way to make money and name for themselves. The truth is that you don’t necessarily need to go into politics to make it in life. There are vocational skills that can engage in to make money. There are vocational skills that they can engaged in and make their money and name. And the issue of ICT (Information Computer Technology) has become so important these days that there is open market for them (youths). So, we are going to build ICT institutions in all the local governments in the senatorial district and encourage to come and learn ICT. this coaching system is what is trending now. If you know software development, write programmes and so on, you make your money without stress. We will also introduce skill acquisition programmes to ensure that our youths are gainfully employed all the time.
We will also have functional offices in all the local governments in the district because that is how to really get closer to the people so that their complaints, problems and suggestions can be tackled. And with my connections and experience as a former civil servant, I know that it is easier to influence the government officials to ensure that some of these good things come reality.
We will also encourage and assist the people in the entertainment industry. We don’t have to wait until some foreigners come to discover our talents for us. Programmes will be in place to hunt for talents as we have abundance of them in the district. And I wish to promise that by the time we have spent one or two years in office, Lagos East Senatorial District would be a centre of attraction to everyone.
There will also be empowerment programmes for the people including members of the Press because of their role in the society. Noone will be discriminated against. We will appreciate it though when the people come to the Constituency Offices to lodge their complaints so that their views can be heard and adequately addressed.