Babajide Obanikoro, the lawmaker representing the Eti-Osa Constituency of Lagos State in the House of Representatives, discusses the need for state police, among other issues, in this interview with VICTOR AYENI.
What qualities do you believe a candidate needs to possess in order to secure the House of Representatives ticket as a federal lawmaker running for a second term? Does it ultimately come down to political sway; community mobilisation, or both?
Clinching a second term ticket is much more difficult than the first because. As a second timer, one should have aligned with the majority of the interests, at least 60 to 70% of the interests of the people, because it is all about the interests of the people, and as long as your interests are in alignment with theirs, one’s re-election will be easier.
However, if there is a clash of interests, then it will be a lot more difficult. Interests do vary because we are dealing with human beings in different areas. What is accepted in one area is different from another.
Adding to that, one’s performance during the first term is also important. It can either help you out or not. In cases where interests are clashing, performance can also give you an edge.
Are you certain that your first-term accomplishments will truly contribute to your second-term electoral victory?
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I am very confident that the performance we have put in over the last three years and one month today, would guarantee us a second term. It was an unprecedented performance for a first-term legislature.
I have facilitated seven roads, two health care centres, three schools; lighted up over 10 roads with solar street lights, installed a 300KVA transformer for the Falomo community; provided a free school bus ride for children; empowered well over 500 constituents with a cash grant to enhance their business capital; secured employment for four constituents within both government and the private sector; and so many more that I can go on and on about. On the floor of the House, I have moved seven motions, and three bills are awaiting second reading.
What challenges have you faced since you were elected to the House of Representatives in 2019?
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One of the major challenges is balancing the interests of various stakeholders in Eti-Osa. The National Assembly is a huge institution; it is large, you know. We oversee the executive arm of the government, and you know how big the federal government is with all the ministries, departments, and government agencies.
One definitely needs more than four years to understand how every committee works. We have various committees on this and that and you cannot belong to every committee.
A lawmaker is subjected to, I think, about seven or eight committees, and a committee can have as many as 10 agencies under it as a ministry.
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Sometimes, one’s committee can cut across ministries, so it is difficult to navigate the National Assembly within a term, almost impossible. Therefore, the challenge would be balancing the interests of the people and understanding the nitty-gritty of facilitating or bringing back developments to your constituency.
Also, in terms of legislative core responsibilities, that is, passing motions or bills that become laws, Nigeria is a big country, and in our constituencies, the laws that we want to apply to us would not necessarily apply to the ones in the South-South. The ones in the North would clash with what we want in the South, so we have to find a common ground where whatever bills or motions you want to pass would definitely suit every nook and cranny of the country.
Like I always tell a lot of people, we have a lot of laws in our system. Our constitution covers a lot of laws. All we need to do is to edit, repeal, or have the executive arm of government enforce them, and then we will start seeing a lot of progress in our lives.
In your statement issued on Nigeria’s 61st independence anniversary regarding insecurity, you strongly denounced terrorism, so I want to ask, do you support state policing and/or a reform of our security outfits?
I am 110% in support of the state police. I am of the opinion that security forces have shown over time that the situation we have is more than what they can handle, so we need local and state policing and then the Nigerian Police can be the parent body to run an effective security outfit that can secure lives and property.
Also, to do this, there has to be a lot of strictness because, in some cases abroad, police stations generate income for themselves via tickets for traffic violations, one-way traffic offenders, speeding, illegal parking, and many other petty things, and use the penalties charged to run the station. If we can adopt that system as well, whereby the police station can start generating income to run itself—I am not even saying they pay salaries—but run itself effectively, I think that way, we will see more security for our lives and property.
Looking at the current security situation in the country, is it possible for us to have a free and fair election?
There is nowhere you go in the world where you have what you call a free and fair election. The United States of America, which prides itself on being what we all see as the icon of democracy, still has issues with a free and fair election. Elections can be free, but the fairness now depends on the yardstick you are using to judge.
However, I think the Independent National Electoral Commission has tried in recent times to show that the nation can conduct a free election. I don’t know about the fairness because, like I said, that would depend on the yardstick you are looking at it from.
The fairness or freedom also has to do with us, the people; it is not foreigners that are obstructing INEC from conducting the elections or inducing them. It is some individuals who are dictating the direction in which INEC is going to go in some places.
In some localities, once INEC comes around to conduct the election, the people dominate and turn INEC into the party of interest. So, I believe we can have a free and fair election as long as the people allow it.
There was a report during the All Progressives Congress House of Reps primary election in Lagos that Prince Oyekanmi Elegushi stepped down for you, and then it was later reported that he didn’t step down. What really happened?
Whatever happened between the prince and me is a party affair that is left within our party. It is a family affair, and I believe that we have handled it within the family. We have agreed to move on and we have moved past the saga of the primary election, so it is best said that I will be flagging the party’s ticket for the 2023 general elections.
What are the policies and specific initiatives that you have created for youths in Eti-Osa constituency?
For the youth in Eti-Osa, we have tried to empower them via training for those that are artisans. For petty traders, we support them with funding, which we give them to increase their business capital. We understand that we don’t have the means to provide for the teeming population of youths. We have helped some of them to secure jobs, both within the government and private sector, and we also sent the majority of them to be trained as artisans and some, as farmers.
These are the things we have done in the last three years and one month to encourage our youth. The majority of the policies come from the executive arm of the government.
For legislators to pass policies, it takes a lot of time, so I have been working on a policy for the new upcoming means of income for our people, which is the financial tech company.
Despite the rigorous process of the National Assembly to make policies, I am more determined to ensure we work on the policies and other more beneficial ones.
Understanding the know-how too is crucial because you can’t just say you want to make a law, you have to make sure that the policy you are trying to put in place is going to be accepted by the executive arm of the government.
Are you confident that you will defeat the PDP House of Reps candidate, Banky W (Bankole Wellington), in 2023?
I don’t want to come across as arrogant, but with the work done so far and the efforts we (APC) are still going to put in, I am confident that I will emerge victorious in February 2023.
People are saying your family is demanding too much. You are seeking a victorious return to the House of Reps and your father also contested a senatorial ticket. What would you say about this?
Well, my dad is no longer running for the senate. It is now the former deputy Governor of Lagos State, her Excellency, Mrs. Idiat Adebule, who is the standard- bearer for the Lagos West Senatorial District. My dad is no longer in the race.
I am the one representing Eti-Osa Federal Constituency. I am contesting a second term in the House of Representatives, so that is no longer an issue at the moment. I don’t think the family is asking for too much.
What is your advice to the youths and adults in your area?
To the teeming youths and adults that have not picked up their permanent voter cards, I ask that they go pick up their PVCs and register to vote. I have a feeling that this is the most important election in the history of Nigeria. It is important that people follow the campaign issues. This is not about the individuals or parties anymore; it is about the issues that are being campaigned on.