AS AFRICA’S MOST POPULOUS COUNTRY, LARGEST ECONOMY, AND BIGGEST DEMOCRACY, NIGERIA IS A BELLWETHER FOR THE CONTINENT. WITH THE FEDERAL AND STATE ELECTIONS OF 2019 STILL FRESH IN THE MINDSET OF NIGERIANS BEARING IN MIND THE DEEPLY COMPETITIVE GENERAL ELECTION, WITH SCATTERED INSTANCES OF VIOLENCE, AMID A MOSTLY PEACEFUL PROCESS. HOWEVER, HISTORICALLY LOW VOTER TURNOUT STILL SIGNALS A DEEPENING DISTRUST IN GOVERNMENT AND INSTITUTIONS. OVERALL, NIGERIA HAS MADE MAJOR STRIDES IN ITS DEMOCRATIC DEVELOPMENT, BUT STILL HAS SIGNIFICANT WORK TO DO IN IMPROVING NATIONAL, STATE, AND LOCAL GOVERNANCE.
Nigerian politics takes place within a framework of a federal, presidential, representative democratic republic, in which the government exercises executive power. The real government and the two chambers of the legislature hold legislative power including the House of Representatives and the Senate. Many Nigerians are dissatisfied with Nigeria’s democracy and are skeptical of what the future hold for the great country. However, for Nigerians, viewing their country’s economy and political prospect and hoping for brighter future, considering the fact that things do not change very much for people in Nigeria.
Giving us a background perspective and insight into what has become the Nigeria Politics today, in an exclusive and inclusive interview with one of the foremost senator in Nigeria in person of formal SENATOR OGUNLEWE ADETEGBABO ADESEYE.
EMAGES: GIVE US FLASHBACK OF WHEN AND WHERE YOU WERE BORN
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: I was born in Lagos Island at 8, Okoya Street Idumagbo Lagos. That was in the year 1945. My father was a post master for the federation, normally he commune around Nigeria. The day he return from Abeokuta to Lagos, was the day I was born. He named me Adetegbabo meaning – someone who emerges from Egba. So my names are Adetegbabo Adeseye Ogunlewe.
EMAGES: WHAT ARE YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY AS A CHILD GROWING UP IN LAGOS?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: Very interesting; although not very exciting. Interesting in the sense of relationship and community. Then we lived for ourselves – it’s more of welfare leaving. We lived in different houses, still we always play together, eat and discussed as one family. You could not differentiate the parents of each child. As children then we feel free to go to neighbors houses, we fight for ourselves since we were living as a community. Credit must be given to the British for the clubs they left behind which extended to “Faji Boys and Guys club, Oluwo Boys and Guys club” to mention a few. So as youth we enrolled ourselves to those clubs and we have mentor that we look up to. Some of them are in the University, some in Secondary school. We could relate and play all types of sports together since this clubs were sports based club for all youth on the Island at that time.
We do community football game where different community come together to play football against each other and I tell you, our football and sport tendency grew. Back then we played with Isale-Eko, Lafiaji boys and Itamaga which was fun. Through community inter school sports a lot of young talent were discovered. In fact at that time some of our best played for the National team same as some athlete. So sport started on the Island because our sport was inbuilt and our sport was the best. In the Commonwealth Nigeria was the best where we have the likes of Mudipo Osikoya of MNSS he went to the Commonwealth to represent Nigeria and won gold medal as a student at that time.
Police sport club was once in existence such as other sport clubs then. Today there are no more sport clubs anymore. So how do expect our sport to be doing well when no grassroots sports? recently, the focus of people is on football while at that time it was not so, though it’s coming up gradually which I think it will be of need getting back those who have the knowledge but our youth believes they know it all, that’s why we keep supporting foreign clubs than our own.
How is it possible for a nation to abandon a stadium as that of her National stadium? I think our leaders are confused to have abandoned what is meant to replicated. In 1977, that stadium (National Stadium, Surulere.) was regarded as one of the best in Africa. If you must know; I don’t see any reason why an international match shouldn’t be hosted in Lagos. The money we generate will definitely be in folds because people will come out to watch and pay. Back in the days, two weeks before any match we must have bought our tickets at Leventis and Kingsway. Tickets collection at the gate was being managed by companies not government; because the rights are being sold to this company. But this days government must bring all the money which was not what we grew up to know.
EMAGES: WAS THERE ANYBODY THAT WAS AN INFLUENCE TO YOU AS A CHILD?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: Oh, many of them. I went to Saint Patrick Catholic School. Were we look upto father Layode, and people of his caliber. They’re more of our parents due to the way they show love to us, their good will made us see them as our role model. The way they taught us, discovered our talent, was so amazing. Nowadays, school wards don’t memorize, in our days we memorize the multiplication table, states and capital, the creed and the Lord’s Prayer. We know all this things as infant even till date. Those are the culture we should reverse in this generation.
EMAGES: WHO ARE YOUR BEST FRIEND?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: Dr. Jubril Jinodu a childhood friend from primary 1. We were enrolled into school same day, We lived in the same community and have different character. He’s an extremely brilliant boy – as for me I was not to conversant with calculus, but I was good in cramming. Since Geography, History, Literature are the kind of subject you would have to memorize so I was very conversant with them. We grew up learning together and it was exciting growing up with him, till date we still keep in touch almost every day.
When I was in the ministry as the minister of works this is what I tell the people – The best people who can develop a nation are the engineers, but we don’t appreciate our engineers which makes it difficult. It’s engineers that create wealth for the nation, but here we hype the economist who come on TV to tell us what they’ve learnt in the class room. We do not cherish brilliant engineers we allow Chinese, Lebanese and Indians to be our engineers. Look at the accountant and lawyers they are liberated but it is only engineers that are subjected as second class citizens in their own country. The mistake we’re making will continue to be except we realize it’s only the engineers that can create wealth in a nation and reverse not to subdue them then our nation will find it very difficult.
EMAGES: WHICH OF THE SPORT IS YOUR FAVORITE?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: Football, and despite my love for football I didn’t intend to take it as a career, reason been that it wasn’t fashionable then. Football playing then was more of playing for pleasure due to the kind of community I grew up. From Primary to Secondary we played very well around our community. So on getting to the higher institutions there was no time for sport we’ve to take our academic performance seriously.
EMAGES: IN YOUR DAYS IN SCHOOL WHICH OF YOUR TEACHERS INFLUENCE YOU?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: In my primary school it was my headmaster Mr. Idowu and Mrs. Margret Epeyong. Mrs. Epeyong was the one teaching us all the subjects and the foundation she laid for us was fantastic. In my Secondary school it was Mr. Itanola Omoniyi, who was an undergraduate from University of Ibadan, he was given scholarship by Oriwu College, so he always come to teach us during his holidays. And him being a student of U.I coming to teach us established serious butterflies in us, we enjoyed him teach us and it was very exciting.
EMAGES: KINDLY TELL US ABOUT YOUR SOCIAL AND ACADEMICAL LIFE?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: At that time because of where we grew up Lagos Island we were extremely rascals at the secondary school level. Then we got involved in some youthful activities in our community, we will get caught by our principal, we get punished but we hardly repent. By the time we got to form four (4) we realized we had to drop our rascality and face our studies. To the children of today they’ve to see secondary school as an opportunity to succeed which they’ve to grab.
EMAGES: AS A POLITICIAN, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: I’m a politician by accident not the typical one. I started my career as a civil servant. I entered the Lagos State Civil Service as a Clerk in the year 1965 before I was promoted to the post of permanent secretary; I retired in 1992 or let me say I was retired because it wasn’t voluntarily. My passion is for service and development of project, making sure I impact on the life of younger people. I cannot be rich and live with people who are not comfortable. Because I grew up with people who are extremely rich; it made me come to a realization that the wealth we are acquire on earth are meaningless. But as black people we cherish wealth which is absolutely nothing. At times when I reflect my mind back to those who were so rich then; I am force to ask myself certain questions: where are this rich people have died? After all their struggle and what they’ve acquire where are they today? At the end of it all we go with nothing, so why the struggle because there’s every tendency what you’ve left behind might not be well managed.
EMAGES: WHY POLITICS?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: I had the opportunity working with an Awolowo kind persons. The likes of Lateef Jakande, Mike Aigbe and Mudashiru. Through this people I discovered their love for their country; they provided the greatest group to a greatest number – Building a welfare state for everybody to enjoy the government. Jakande came and built 22,000 classrooms in four years. Today Lagos State has 1200 secondary schools; the foundation was laid by Jakande. Same with houses; two (2) bedroom was six (6) thousand naira; three (3) bedroom was eight (8) thousand naira. I saw their passion for human development this is what actually excites me to try politics.
EMAGES: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE POLITICS IN NIGERIA?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: Very pathetic, I said that because we run internal colonialism, unless we look at the structure of Nigeria properly we will not be able to see the colonialism or feudalism in whatever we do in Nigeria. Unless we change the structure and adjust properly we will be sitting on gun powder which may explode someday. In Nigeria we hardly allow for competition in our system – since we don’t talk about federal character, innovation or research.
All over the world today, it is knowledge that brings money, example Instagram, Facebook; Twitter etc are all knowledge based innovation before money comes in. Our own is stolen as much as we can and oppress other person in the system. Hardly have we built a knowledge based economy. I can boldly tell you we are being laughed outside this shore of sitting on wealth yet do not know how to utilize them.
The person I appreciate most is Chief Obafemi Awolowo because his politics affect every individual positively. He was never a perfect person, yet he knows what is meant to be done; such as providing education for every child from their infant to adulthood. Before Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s introduction of free education, it was so bad parents can’t afford to send their children to a preschool or crèche since Nigeria government do not have any arrangements to that effect. The rich are those who were able to register their wards in a private pre-school or crèche. Which was the responsibility of government to care for every child in fact even before they were conceive; connoting any child shouldn’t wait till six(6) years old before they can be enrolled to school.
EMAGES: WOULD YOU SAY WE’VE FOUGHT FOR ANY PURPOSE IN NIGERIA POLITICS?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: No! Our own politics is commercial with the aim of making money. Every Nigerian child must be taken care of from the day they were conceive and if any government is not doing that we are not helping the situation of any Nigerian child. Not to talk of employment, houses nobody cares whether you go to school from age 1 to 6. Those are the things we lack in our national development.
EMAGES: HOW WOULD YOU CHANGE THE NEGATIVITY IN OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM? SUCH AS CHANGING THE ATMOSPHERE BOTH SOCIAL AND POLITICAL?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: First is to restructure the country. The country as it is now is bearing a burden up stairs which Nigerians cannot carry unless we increase to revolution. Let an angel descend to earth he can never run Nigeria properly because we are too large in number despite the resources. If we divide the numbers of people and money we make it’s totally insignificant. Thirteen million children are out of school. The government couldn’t care for them, their parents could not afford to care for them as well. Nobody care if you do not go to school from age 1 to 6, nobody care about where you live or rest your head. We are not a country yet hardly we care for the children and for our country to develop we ought to engage brain innovation from childhood, this will enable them be innovative. We have to build our children with enough vitamins and proper nutrition to develop the functionality of their brain.
EMAGES: HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE A NIGERIAN POLITICAL OFFICE?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: They are there to make money. There’s always competition. Truth be told – they believed being there and didn’t make nothing for up keep people refer to them as a moron or see them as a ‘suffer head’ that’s the mindset. So the competition to amass whatsoever since the initiative has been the fear of rejection after office overwhelmed which brings about gathering on what to fall back on. The system was never prepared for the people who have been for decade.
EMAGES: IN THE AREA OF CRITICISM AS A LEADER HOW WOULD YOU HANDLE YOUR CRITICS?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: The more I’m being criticized the more focus I am. Due to my working experience background, I’ve worked in the ministry of works; I was the pioneer Managing Director public co-operation in Lagos State. I was used to works matter which is infrastructure probation. At that time my vision was for every Nigeria road must be constructed by Nigerians engineers. Not using expatriates to build our road anymore. We’ve knowledgeable and durable people; the only thing they lack is equipment and funds.
Government provides money for this foreign engineers to work but do not provide funds for our own engineers to survive. If we must know, it is not possible to build a nation on nothing. Though the truth is our current engineers are second eight they’re not the best, the best engineers have gone.
They were lot of demerit which do not allow government build confidence in them. Still we will have to encourage our engineering companies. In the aspect of indigenous content it should be the other way round the content should be provided by the expatriates as a staff not as a boss.
Look at Dangote, no construction company or engineer can boost he built Dangote’s factories. He pays the manufacturer of any equipment he bought. This man provides uninterrupted power for all his factories. He is a good project manager, he is a person Nigeria need to run our country on project but nobody is ready to listen to him.
EMAGES: WHAT ARE YOUR APPROACH IN RESOLVING CONFLICTS?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: Well it is meeting. Meeting has to be held among workers to resolve conflict. In resolving conflicts one should be very conscious in hearing when solving issues. It is not always right to hear from one side and neglect the other. It’s advisable to have good listening ears. It’s good to be patient in conflicts resolution. As a leader it’s always good to listen more don’t jump into conclusion, people you are talking with may be wiser than you; don’t talk too much listen more.
EMAGES: HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO CONVINCE YOUR ADVERSARIES TO YOUR ALLEY?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: I don’t need them once I am focus on what I believe. You know, it is a believe system where you don’t force people to believe what you believed in, in as much as our upbringing is different. In networking, I have a structure and mandate. My mandate has a structure all over Lagos state. My political alley will come together to talk about life, tell them what to do in politics and what not to do.
EMAGES: LOOKING AT THE ADMINISTRATION OF PMB, HOW WOULD YOU WANT TO DESCRIBE HIS ADMINISTRATION?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: The current president personality is what I admire a lot. He is somebody I’ve admired all my life. His personality and the kind of person he is, is what I am pleased with. I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet with the president one on one interrogated with him, I was able to distinguish his personality “the Buhari he is”. Upon all presidents Nigeria has had, they all allocate oil block to themselves but this man said he didn’t need it. This shows his kind of person as an unusual person. But what I feel he doesn’t know is the way we rule in democracy. As a leader of his kind of person; he is like a lone voice in the wilderness. So there’s every tendency people around him can never be faithful like him. We can see that he has put so much in them and that in a way will mar his legit personality and that I don’t really appreciate.
EMAGES: CONSIDERING THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION BY THE CURRENT ADMINISTATION, HOW WOULD YOU MEASURE THEIR PERFORMANCE SO FAR?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: I was once among the committee in the senate that passes the law on corruption the ICPC and EFCC act. Then we went around the world to see how they fight corruption. After our findings a law was tide to every Nigerian citizen to declare their assets, the worst offence is not to abide to the law. That development was supposed to be in our law, but it was removed. Reason why we find ourselves fighting corruption after it has been committed. Over there, government provides for their citizen’s needs; that way they curb corruption. Same thing is expected to replicate here but our government don’t care.
EMAGES: LOOKING AT A GOOD SOCIETY WHAT IS YOUR VISION?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: There’s no hope for this country absolutely no hope. I’ve read everything they promised to provide but the passion is not there to execute them. I worked in the ministry and I’ve seen people with passion for national development – Jakande is one distinctive example; of all he did for four years was detailed – God! I’ve never seen such ever so far. JAMB will bring forth a projection stating 1.5million students to sit for the exam and they have space for 5 hundred thousand, loosing 1million students per annum and that doesn’t bother anybody. It is only in Nigeria you finish school as a graduate still render jobless because there’s no plan set aside to that effect and I am not excited at all. Although there was a plan just that this plan was not use for the welfare of the people. We are tired of the GDP stories in theory those are not national planning; national planning give details.
EMAGES: SIR WOULD YOU SAY YOU ARE A SUCCESSFUL PERSON?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: One should just appreciate God for all the opportunity he have had. We pray for long life so as to enjoy what we have labored for. And to the youth, do not rely on people before old so as to avoid suffering.
Meanwhile, my definition of being successful is good health. To be able to manage yourself, to be able to think on your own. Don’t rely on people all your life. Being successful simply means to do things on your own because things may not be the same as you might think. Whatever position you are today, you need to know it can never be rosy for life. At times it could be rough you just keep going don’t give up.
EMAGES: WHAT IS THE MAJOR ISSUE ERODING THE COMMON GOOD IN OUR COUNTRY AND WHAT DO YOU THINK WE CAN DO TO CHANGE?
SENATOR OGUNLEWE: Change/restructure of the country by 50%, would solve most of the country’s problem. Give more power and support to the local government to provide food and shelter for the citizen. But because of greed our government would never do anything to support local government. If local government is lean the citizen will be sick. Poverty is prevented at the local level; people looting won’t make it happen. I can tell you about what they allocated to all local government in Lagos State is 8billion naira. They don’t get 10% of that money; so how do we expect the people to survive? Who’s going to do their road and their primary health care?