After a period of heated political campaigns and emergence of Mudashiru Obasa, TheNEWS takes a critical look at the new Lagos Speaker
He was one of the first among his colleagues to get to the Lagos State House of Assembly on that Monday morning of 8 June, 2015. It was the day the eighth session of the state House of Assembly would be inaugurated. Dressed in an ash-coloured suit tailored to match his chubby body, the average height, dark coloured Mudashiru Obasa, the representative of Agege Constituency 1 at the House, sat quietly, grinned excitedly and endlessly toyed with his ipad, making journalists at the event to conclude that he must have been reciting his acceptance speech.
Signs that the odds had favoured him to lead the House as Speaker got clearer with each passing second just before Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode got into the chamber to inaugurate the House. First, Obasa was distinctively dressed apart from his colleagues. His colleagues, almost all of them, were dressed in white native attires with a blue cap each to match. Then, he had an unusual air around him that suggested that he looked forward to something good. One after the other also, some of his colleagues came to where he sat at the right front row of the chamber, congratulating him and posing for a photo shoot with him even though some of them still nursed grievances over the way the new Speaker emerged.
There were over eight members of the House who wanted to be Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly and this was not surprising. The seat had become so attractive as the Speaker of the Assembly is believed to be very powerful as evident in the paraphernalia of his office. Apart from this, the Lagos State House of Assembly is one of the very few in the country that enjoys financial autonomy. According to insiders in the All Progressives Congress, APC, the party with the majority, the seat eluded the Lagos Central senatorial zone because of bickering among the leaders of the party concerning who, among the lawmakers should be supported. Governor Ambode is from Lagos East, Dr. Oluranti Adebule, the state Deputy Governor is from the Lagos West. There was Moshood Oshun, the most ranking member among the contenders from Lagos Central.
Gbolahan Yishawu and Wasiu Eshilokun-Sanni, a former Local Government chairman, were also in the race and this polarised the leaders in the zone. The Lagos West had Adefunmilayo Tejuosho, a former Deputy Speaker of the House, Obasa, and Dayo Fafunmi and Lanre Ogunyemi. The Lagos East had Rotimi Abiru, the only surviving principal officer from the seventh Assembly and Sanai Agunbiade, the House Committee Chairman on Judiciary and Public Petition in the seventh Assembly.
Many meetings were held, various compromises made and betrayed, coupled with the influence of the party, the inauguration earlier slated for 4 June, was shifted by four days. As guests turned out for the inauguration last Monday, many expected drama, maybe the kind which played out at the National Assembly days later and in some other state Houses of Assembly. But this set of guests were disappointed as the event held peacefully. Oshun, one of the major contenders became the man who nominated Obasa on the floor of the House in what many now attribute to his political maturity and contentment.
Obasa’s nomination came unopposed after Governor Ambode had inaugurated the House and handed Ganiyu Abiru, the clerk of the House, a letter empowering him to continue with the day’s proceedings. Ambode, who congratulated the lawmakers for their victory and noted that they all faced a great task, not only in the complexities of governance, but in sustaining the high standard set by both the immediate past legislative and executive arm of government, appealed for their support and promised to be open to them. “In line with the provision with Section 105, Subsection 3 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as Amended in 2010, I have issued and handed over to the Clerk of the House of Assembly, a proclamation for the commencement for the Eight Assembly of the Lagos State House of Assembly on this 8th Day June, 2015.
I wish you all a successful legislative time,” Ambode declared.
No doubt, Abiru was able to show a grip on the activities of the day. He told the lawmakers some of the things they needed to know while noting that the Assembly trusted Ambode to perform as the governor of the state. He warned the lawmakers to be mindful of why they were at the Assembly and never play away their mandates for percuniary reasons. Known for his straight talks, Abiru lamented that most people do not still understand the crucial roles the legislative arm of government should play at all times. In Lagos, like in every other part Nigeria, it is common to see people meeting lawmakers for sponsorship of their children’s naming ceremonies and such others. “The legislature is a serious business for serious-minded people,” he told the members while urging them to brace up for the challlenge ahead.
Abiru was not also happy with the way 20 members of the seventh Assembly lost out during the election, warning that situations like this, puts democracy in danger. “In Lagos Assembly, for instance, 20 out of the 40 members were returned and this portends grave danger as the experiences gannered through many years of training and exposure have, unfortunately, gone down the drain,” he lamented stressing that with new members, it means more money would be spent on training and retraining. To the new ones, he warned that their re-election would be predicated upon their performance and ability to rise up to challenges of representation.
In nominating Obasa for the position of the Speaker, Oshun painted the nominee in glowing colours, noting that while the Agege representative served his people at different times, he had also served his God at all times.
As seen from what Oshun said about him, Obasa was born on 11 November, 1972. He began his early education at St Thomas Acquinas Pry School, Surulere, Lagos after which he proceeded to Archbishop Aggey Memorial Secondary school, Mushin, Ilasamaja, Lagos. He had his university education at the Lagos State University, LASU, where he obtained an LLB degree in law in the year 2006 and thereafter enrolled immediately at the Nigeria Law School, Lagos for his BL.
Obasa’s political life began in 1999 when he became a councillor at the Agege Local Government Area of the state and later became the Deputy Leader of the council’s legislative arm. He became a member of the Assembly in 2003 and had since then enjoyed re-election and served as member of numerous committees including Committee on Lands and Housing and Physical Planning. At different times, he served as Chairman of Committee on Rural Development, House Committee on Public Account for Local Government for six years and Chairman, House Committee on Budget and Economic Planning. Oshun revealed that under Obasa as the Chairman of Public Account for Local Government, the ratio of recurrent expenditure to capital expenditure was reviewed in favour of capital expenditure for local governments and Local Council Development Areas, LCDAs, in the state to witness rapid infrastructural development and that this led to sanity in the financial transactions of all local government councils in the state.
“The man I stand before you to nominate today as Speaker for this session of the Lagos State House of Assembly has not just made his marks on the legislative eco-system, he is also an exemplary grassroots politician of note. Let it be known that this man first contested elections as a Local Government delegate to State Congress during the Social Democratic Party (SDP) era to elect the party’s candidates. Let it be known that this man was elected a Zonal Chairman under the UNCP for Alaagba Zone, Agege. Let it be known that this man became a Member of the Ward Executives for Ward E, Agege Local Government during the UNCP era. Finally, let it be known that this man served as the Chairman of the Campaign Committee for Local Government Election for the Alliance for Democracy in Agege Local Government until he was himself elected a Councillor in the year 1999,” Oshun told his colleagues and guests as he also reeled out the various workshops and seminars the nominee had attended in the past.
To Oshun, Obasa’s emergence serves to underscore the lesson the people of Agege Constituency 1 are sending out to the rest of the nation; that the legislative tradition can only be learnt through consistent experience.
Those who have followed the issues since 2014 would say Oshun was factual about the support Obasa got from his constituents. As early as February 2014, some people in Agege had begun canvassing for the speakership of the state to the area. Many people became conscious when posters, with silhouette of Obasa and his customised cap and with the inscription: ‘Agege Deserves Speakership’ littered the area. A smart politician, when he was asked about such an ambition even when preparations for the 2015 elections had not commenced, Obasa told journalists that this writer had earlier asked him same question.
“The correspondents of PM NEWS in the House sent me an SMS on the issue after the posters emerged in Agege and I told him that with my years in the House of Assembly, I am mature enough to understand that speakers are not elected or selected on the road or in the local government. It is the responsibility of the leaders of the party and members of the House to decide who would be the Speaker of the Assembly. Also, I think there are still many hurdles to be crossed such as the primary elections, and the general elections; so if we are still in March, 2014 and somebody is talking about being Speaker, that person cannot claim to be a member of this House of Assembly.” He was quick to add, however: “it is not out of place to nurse an ambition or have interest in any position. But, I wish to tell you through this medium that I have no knowledge of the poster and I don’t know those behind it. On if I wish to become the Speaker or not, the party leaders and members of the Assembly would decide, when the time comes.”
Beyond the glowing tributes aimed by Oshun to market Obasa on the inauguration day lies Obasa’s humble beginning which some of his colleagues advise that he must always remember as Speaker to help him treat everyone with dignity and respect if he is to succeed. In March last year, Obasa confirmed, as published by P.M. NEWS, our sister publication, that he started life just like every other child who believes in hustling to earn to a living. He even confirmed how he sold wristwatch and other items to survive. “I grew up in Papa Ashafa area of Agege, and while there, there was hardly anything I did not do apart from engaging in armed robbery. Talking about doing one activity or the other, there is nothing people do to make money that I did not do. However, I did them out of my own volition, not because my father could not send me to school, but close friends of mine were always in one engagement or the other. We would go to Agege Market to sell nylon bags, then we sold nylon bags in dozens, we did bus conductor, labourers, just mention it. If your father is not Aliko Dangote, you have to find something to do to cross to another level in life,” he said about himself.
Obasa told his colleagues he is hitting the ground running. Some of the things he hopes to achieve include regular town hall meetings in our 40 constituencies, introduction of Ward Legislative Assistants, publication of abstract of annual budgets, regular and time-tabled Executive Legislative Summit, improved capacity building and relevant training exercise, public access parliamentary library, regular publication of House Committee reports, introduction of the first parliamentary custom software solution for the Public Procurement Oversight and management in Nigeria, better improved welfare facilities for members and visitors to the House of Assembly, and establishment of the Lagos Youth Parliament.
With anxiety, Lagosians now await how he implements these promises and carve a niche for himself. People want to see how he succeeds, but many say he must be genuine in his effort to reconcile the “warring” members of the House.