Barrister Babajimi Benson was the former Company Secretary/General Counsel, Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC) and All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for Ikorodu Federal Constituency seat. In his first ever direct interview, he spoke for 15minutes with Kunle Adelabu, The Impact Publisher/Reporter-in-Chief and Azeez Sulaimon on his agenda, his party chances in the forthcoming elections and the Ikorodu of his dream. Excerpts:
Impact: Once again, I want congratulate you as the APC candidate for the Federal House of Representatives election. Sir, your entrance into Ikorodu politics was sudden and within this short period you evolved a scientific campaign and at the end of the day defeated the big wigs in the recently concluded primaries. How did you achieve this?
Barr. Benson: Thank you very much. I belong to the third generation of Bensons and as you know we are politically active. My great uncle was instrumental in the development of Ikorodu and its environs. Politics naturally runs in my blood and I have seen the way Ikorodu has been going and really wanted to contribute my quota. Up till few weeks ago, I was the Company Secretary and Legal Adviser of Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC). In the good old days, LSDPC used to be known as second government, the biggest housing corporation in Africa and by virtue of my position in that office, I have helped to fashion out housing policies and I got involved in number of developmental projects within Lagos metropolis and in doing that I have met with a whole lot of people- highly placed and professionals across different disciplines who have helped me shaped my life and these contacts are very valuable like the saying goes, ”success is a collection of relationship”. In my little ways, I’ve help to further the interest and course of Lagos State and now wanted to contribute more to Ikorodu and Lagos State by putting my experience into use at higher level of representation. Going back memory lane Nigeria was created in 1914 with the merger of the two Protectorates and Colony of Lagos – Northern, Southern and the Colony of Lagos. While the Colony of Lagos is still intact, it only became Lagos State in 1967 with some parts of the Western region being merged with it. Among the divisions that made up of Lagos State is Ikorodu and as a people we have contributed immensely to socio-economic and political development of the state committing both human and material resources to its greatness. But has Ikorodu today take its pride of place among its peers? The answer is resounding no. We are Ikorodu Oga but we are not Ikorodu Oga indeed. My coming into politics is to work with like-minds and help take Ikorodu to greater height. I want to commit my time and all the network and skills that I have in advancing the course of my people. So, it is a course I believe in and I am ready to put in my best in ensuring that Ikorodu regain its lost pride.
Impact: You have been traversing the length and breadth of Ikorodu Division campaigning and getting to meet and know where people needs your representation. How will you describe the constituents state of being?
Barr. Benson: What I am trying to do is to enlighten the people that their power is greater than the power of those in government. I am trying to let them know that they have the power to select or choose government that will lead them. In my journey throughout the local governments, I get to know that their state of being is poor. I see lot of deprivation, unemployment and abject poverty. So, one of my agenda is to use my strength, network and legislative skills to ensure that projects that will alleviate these observations are brought to Ikorodu opportunities that will help reduce the poverty and unemployment rate.
Impact: I have been speaking with those in opposition parties too and there is this allegation that since you don’t stay with the people you are seeking their mandate, how will you be able to help them. What is your reaction to this?
Barrister Benson: I understand that the opposition will have to be an opposition. I stay with my people and my people know that I stay with them. I truly care about my people and they have seen that I care about them. In my own little ways, I have gone extra miles in providing infrastructure for the people and tried to meet with their needs. I will like the opposition to show us what they have done to the people of Ikorodu that they claim they stay with. I would rather stay in America and impact on my people positively than to stay with them without doing anything. Please, let’s talk about issues that will improve the well-being of our people.
Impact: How do you think that your network of connection would enhance your legislative duty and directly benefit Ikorodu people?
Barr. Benson: I have said something that I thank God for my pedigree in LSDPC. It made me have many friends in different quarters and some of my friends are also currently serving legislators and attracting federal presence into Ikorodu also has to do with your skill because we are talking about limited resources which are being competed for by over 300 House of Representatives Members and 109 Senators. I think the job for me is just to prioritize the needs of my people and constituency and devote my skills and connections into influencing projects and opportunities that would benefit Ikorodu and Lagos State as a whole.
Impact: In your manifestoes, you highlighted your agenda for local government system which has generated some controversies. Can you please explain what the agenda is all about?
Barr. Benson: The local government system in my agenda is simple. We want local government to be created base on population and the best tiers of government that can handle that is the state. We want the state to create local government based on its population. I will give an example; Lagos State has 18 million people, so, definitely Lagos State should have more local government areas than any other state in the federation. Lagos State created additional 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs), but they have not been recognized till date because it is not in the constitution which recognizes 774 Local Councils. Actualization of full-fledge local council for the LCDAs is an integral aspect of my agenda in the house. We believe in local government system which was designed to bring government down and closer to the people in the grassroots.
Impact: Sir, in a few weeks time we will be having the general elections, what are your expectations on the elections?
Barr. Benson: I will start with the presidential election and I believe that Buhari stand out as a man that will fight corruption to a standstill, create employment, manage our economy very well and bring about discipline in our polity. He recorded good deeds when he was the military head of state. I know Prof. Osibajo, who was my lecturer in school, an erudite scholar, a competent man, I believe he stand a good chance of making history and I see it happening by God grace in May 29, 2015. In the state level, I see our candidate, a bright scholar, a chartered accountant and an astute administrator as the most capable person to take over from the incumbent governor, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN). In my own case, I believe we have stated out the issues clearly and I believe Ikorodu people wouldn’t select bronze when they have gold. In the House of Assembly, I see Hon. Agunbiade, popularly known as “SOB” emerging as winner in the election,because he has done very well. I believe Ikorodu Constituents have seen the good deeds he has done. He is going to be a ranking legislature and I believe that he’s going to attract more projects, more infrastructures to Ikorodu. I also pray for “Bibire” Nurudeen Solaja’s success. I believe he has the characters to do well. All I see is victory for our party, APC.
Impact: How do you see Ikorodu in the next four years?
Barr. Benson: With the team we have, I pray we do well in number of votes cast in Ikorodu for the gubernatorial and the presidential elections because with that, Ikorodu can be compensated with the commissioner slots and other opportunities. We are going to work together as a team. More so, our party’s symbol is a broom which implies collectiveness. With my good self, SOB Agunbiade, Solaja and couples of commissioners teaming up together, Ikorodu development will be fast forwarded in the next four years by the grace of God.