Hon. Sanai Oyeniran Bolanle Agunbiade is the Majority Leader, Lagos State House of Assembly representing the Ikorodu Constituency I since 2007. He was a former teacher, Students’ Representative and leader and a lawyer.
The four term lawmaker is currently the Chairman, Nigerian States Majority Leaders Forum and also doubled as the Chairman, Southwest Majority Leaders Forum, the positions he holds due to his legislative experience and great contributions to the development of the legislature in Nigeria, especially at the state level.
Hon Agunbiade, in this exclusive interview with Kunle Adelabu, confirmed for the first time that he would be contesting for the fifth term to represent the people of Ikorodu Constituency I, stating that he is most strategically positioned to continually project Ikorodu positively in the legislature going by his positions and activities in Lagos State house of Assembly, Southwest and across the country.
The ranking lawmaker also bore his mind on some of his achievements as a Representative of the people of Ikorodu Constituency I and as Legislator of the State and why constituents should look at the larger picture in supporting him for re – election to provide better and more quality representation.
The Lagos Majority Leader also spoke on why in his view, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the most qualified to take over the country’s leadership from President Mohammadu Buhari. Excerpt:
THE IMPACT: Thanks for this opportunity to speak with you Sir. We are in another electioneering period and we learnt that you will be seeking re – election, could you please confirm this to us?
Hon. Agunbiade: It is true that I have been in the Lagos State House of Assembly for some time and I am appreciative of members of my Constituency for being magnanimous and loving to have voted for me back to back from 2007 to 2011, 2011 to 2015, 2015 to 2019 and 2019 to this present time. In all, my constituents have voted for me in four elections consecutively, I am now seeking for another term. Reason is that, I have being in the Assembly and I know the workings and how a Parliament runs and how you can exploit the benefits in the legislature for the overall interest of your people and your state.
You are only a representative of your constituency but you are you are a lawmaker of the state and not a lawmaker of your constituency. That is why a member of Parliament is first and foremost a representative of his people but in the overall analysis, he is the lawmaker of the state or the federation if you are in the federal parliament.So, we must not reduce membership of the parliament to that of the constituency alone, we should look beyond the constituency into state interests, making good laws in the interest of the state of which a constituency out of the 40 in Lagos State is a unit.
Why you are thinking of the unit, you must also be thinking of the larger community which is the state. You must fit into the requirement of the two. In the requirement of the constituency, you must be available to your people. You must be closer to them and know their needs. In the larger community perspective, you must be articulate to canvass position in the interest of your people on the floor of the house where you sit with other members to form a legislature and work in the interest of the state. You must join in the process of lawmaking and debates. You must be a party to good laws that would be made of the good governance of the state. So, I know the nexus between being a representative and a lawmaker.
In the interest of my people, I know that you need to garner a lot of experience to navigate the bends and the curves in the legislature. For you to earn your respect, you must be feasible among your colleagues. You must display a lot of skills and knowledge to be respected among your colleagues. You must not be a pushover when it comes to debate. It’s not shouting on the floor, but you can talk soft and still make a lot of points and people respect your opinion and always want you listen to you when you talk. All of these will attract dividends of democracy to your people. Having being in the House of Assembly for this time, I know that there is need for us to continue to march forward and I can say without being immodest that I have given a reflective glowing and shining face for Ikorodu in the Lagos State House of Assembly.
I have had the privileged of representing my constituency over the years, my fourth term of being in the house made it the second term that I have being the Majority Leader of the House. That has widen my perspective, improves my skills in inter – personal human relations and increase my knowledge in lawmaking and legislature. The truth of the matter is that, there are just few starters that can navigate very well on the floor of the House where there are many ranking members. I am in the fourth term, while some are in their third term and some others in their second term and few in their first term. And in the Parliament, there is what we call ranking and there are considerations for the ranking members. That is how it is across the globe. If your constituency does not have ranking members, that constituency cannot take advantage of ranking if anything is to be done on that basis in the legislature.
So, I know that we still need to maintain that glowing and shining face. By being a ranking officer and the Majority Leader, there are so many things that that status have afforded me in the legislature and which has benefited Ikorodu. Based on all of these, I feel convinced that we need more dividends of democracy; we need more of relevance in the scheme of things. On employment, slots are given to members in the House almost on equal consideration but the principals have the advantage of one or two more slots more than other members and if you are well connected, you can use your office and status to get more employment and empowerment slots to the advantage of your constituents. These I have done very well.
THE IMPACT: You are talking about experience, but some people are saying that you also got into the House as a novice and learnt the process over the time, what is your reaction to this?
Hon. Agunbiade: Legislature should not be a thing for compensation; this one has gone and another one should go. Some people have asked me that I am talking about experience and that I did start from somewhere too and my answer has been yes, I started from somewhere, but my starting point is not a starting point of a novice. I had been member of a Students’ Parliamentary Council when I was in the College of Education. I had been member of the Students’ Representative Council when I was in the Lagos State University (LASU) before I became the President of the institution directing the affairs of over 30, 000 students as at that time and to God be the glory, I did it very effectively that my tenure was crisis and violent – free despite that LASU was well infiltrated by cultists. I branded my tenure, ‘Redemption Squad’ for LASU and to a very large extent, we redeemed the image of LASU. So, I had seen how Parliamentary activities were been conducted before I got to the House of Assembly, so, it helped me. I hit the ground running in the parliament and in no time, I started to attract encouragement from people. Today, Alhamdulillahi!
Parliament is not the place for experimentation. We need to look at who is aspiring to represent the people. It’s a talk – shop where fluency, articulate disposition and canvassing of points are of essential values. It’s not just something that we will just run on the issue of ambition; I want to be a representative; I want to go the House of Assembly. We need to see the disposition and antecedents of such person. I am not saying that I am the only person that can do it, but as far as the present circumstance is concerned, I am the most experienced in legislature among other persons that are aspiring for the position and I feel that if there should a task that should be done, there is need to consider the ability of an individual to deliver the task. Every swimmer is a swimmer. A man that can swim in the pool is a swimmer, but then, skills of swimmers matters. While some can swim at the low level of the swimming pool, others engaged in the deepest part of it. But not every swimmer can be considered professional swimmer when it comes to swimming in the sea or ocean. Even in our local river called Majidun river, not all swimmers in the pool can swim across the breadth of Majidun. The fact that, Assembly is a place where you can talk should not be a place for just anybody, but antecedents and qualities of individuals going there must be looked into. Presently, I am the most qualified, having being there. You don’t buy experience and lots of it is required to present matters in the House. To your constituency, you must be the face of your constituents. I am a shining face of Ikorodu in the House of Assembly.
And because I think that my knowledge and my skills in legislature will still be useful to my constituency and the state, that is why I am offering myself again. Let it not be said that he didn’t tell us that he wanted to aspire more. I offer myself again to serve. That is why I said that let us look at the bigger picture. When you look at the larger picture, you will not be talking about SOB as an individual, you will talk about SOB as an interest; as an investment in the legislature. I am an investment in the legislature for Ikorodu and I am not a bad investment at all. By my skills, activities, knowledge and support and the magnanimity of my constituents and political leaders and grace of God, I am today, the Chairman of all Majority Leaders in the Southwest and also, the Chairman of all the State Majority Leaders in Nigeria. These are credentials that can be paraded by Ikorodu. So, don’t look at SOB to have done four terms but the larger picture will require Ikorodu to look at the inherent benefits of returning him to the House of Assembly. The larger picture will require you to look at the benefit that an individual will have in representing us in the House. The larger picture is that for anybody that will be representing us, what are the chances and benefits for Ikorodu? Will he make our face to continue to glow or deface it? Will he increases the shining status or reduce it? If we look at it objectively, the people of the constituency can change their representative at any time if such representative is not representing them very well, but I am a good representative.
I know how many people might have rendered homeless in my constituency today but for steadfastness; canvassing valid, germane and strong argument to rescue their houses from demolition. I did that in Aribila, Lambo – Lasunwon and Parafa, where our people wrongly built on government reserved areas. Yes, they committed this offense; yes, the government has the right to demolish for building where you should not build, but we look beyond their immediate offenses and look into the impact of the demolition on the people. You can imagine the effect of demolishing houses belonging to staff of LASPOTECH (Lagos State Polytechnic now, Lagos State University of Science & Technology). The houses were built on Parafa dedicated lands. If those structures that they built were demolished, a lot of them would have psychological problem of teaching and their students will be affected, so also is the academic status of the institution. Those are the arguments, that can we not consider these people? Yes, these place is committed to building a market and they have built on it, but can we not look at the issue that lands released to the family that sold to other residents are not marked for the family to know their limit? The buyers are innocent people, lecturers and non – academic staff of the Polytechnic who were told that the land is free from any acquisition since the government has released them to the family. This requires technicalities and I was not just involved in it but also champion the cause and today, no demolition was made on the land. We also argued that whatever market that the government wanted to site on the land can be relocated elsewhere within the Ikorodu Division and it is one of the reasons that we are having that market in Imota. We saved lives and properties through these actions.
We also did it in Lambo – Lasunwon when people went to build on the WAEC land when the body relocated to Abuja. WAEC later came back for its land acquired from the state government. We went into it and to the glory of God we resolved the matter in the interest of our people. Same at Odo – Nla. I have saved lot of buildings from been demolished. It’s not that I am encouraging impunity or people encroaching on government lands, but, I was able to differentiate the offense from the global and larger effects on the people.
When Ajagungbales are ravaging Ikorodu mindlessly, it required courage and prayers for me to come up with the Bill that was passed into law. Today, we are not saying that there are no more Ajagungbale activities but it has reduced tremendously. That is another impact that I have brought to Ikorodu.
I was the Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Public Petitions, that reviewed all the laws of Lagos State from 50s to 2015. We reviewed it with the cooperation and support of the legal department of the House. We reviewed all the laws in the state; laws made from the First Assembly to Sixth Assembly. We reviewed the laws, amended them, repealed those that cannot be amended and all of them were re – passed as Laws of Lagos State 2015.
We all know how Ota – Ona to Itamaga to Ijede used to look like, I raised the matter severally on the floor of the house, fortunately for me, the then Speaker, Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforoji was coming from Epe and driving through Awolowo and the car got stuck at Eruwen. When l heard about it, l went there to mert him. That gave me the opportunity to raised the matter concerning the road, with him and he encouraged me to bring the motion and we did and thank God the Governor then listen to us and approved the road from Ota – Ona going to Ijede and will be done in phases. The first phase was from Ota – Ona to Erunwen river where a culvert was constructed. The second phase was from there to Itamaga junction while the third phase is from Itamaga to Gbodu from where it will connect Ijede. However, because of the human density in Gbaga, Gberigbe, Mowo – Nla and Agura who are facing annual hell whenever there is rain, we brought up the argument again, and we thank God that the listening Governor Sanwo – Olu, persuaded by his Deputy who oversees Ministry of Works and the Special Adviser, considered these axis too. They are further persuaded by the fact that there is Rice Mill in Imota and that is a good route to Imota if you don’t want to go through Sabo – Itoikin road which is narrow and dangerous. These are things that we have done aside interventions on other roads.
Immediately that I assumed the 9th Assembly, I paid a visit to the Deputy Governor where I highlighted our challenges on roads in Ikorodu. I emerged from that meeting and placed the information on the social media that I have gotten government assurances that the entire road that I mentioned will be attended to. As a matter of fact, some of these roads are already on his table. The government fulfilled the pledge and all the roads like Suberu Ogunsanya, Empire, Eyita – Ojokoro roads and others have been fixed. Palliative measures were done on others. A lot of people have met me and asked why I am not putting board to let the public know that I facilitated these roads, but my responses is no, because you cannot see any road or project done in Lagos State and you will see a lawmaker placing a board to depict that he facilitated such road. The working of the government is that all activities in the state have to be conducted through the Ministries and agencies. You can only facilitate but you cannot execute. In Lagos State, when you even facilitate, you may not know the day that the road will be flag – off because the execute arm have taken it up and the state is doing the job. It is when they want to commission the road that members who facilitated the road or others in whose constituencies that they executed the project will be invited. The idea is that you have done your own work as a legislator by facilitating the project and the execution of it rests with the executive.
We have to understand the workings of a legislator. There is a legislator that would use his own money to construct road. Is either you lobby for it or have it allocated to you by virtue of the arrangement on ground. In Lagos State, as a legislator, you will not earn any money in doing any project. Your requests are to be directed to the appropriate Ministries, Departments and Agencies who are to take it up since they have been budgeted for. State projects are different from federal projects that have to be executed in the state through our representatives. These are clear distinctions of how things are done between the federal and state governments.
THE IMPACT: What have been the effects of your Chairmanship of the Nigeria Majority Leaders Forum and that of the Southwest Majority Leaders Forum, and what roles are the bodies going to play in the coming elections?
Hon. Agunbiade: You have to look at it from the perspective of what I said earlier that you are a representative of your people and also a lawmaker of your state. As Chairman, Majority Leaders Southwest and together with my colleagues, we have caused a major reform to be achieved in the Southwest and we are the only region/geographical zone that have done that, others are copying us now. We harmonized the rules of how business is conducted in the legislature. Previously, Lagos State had its own House rules likewise other states with their different rules, but now, we have harmonized to have a uniform House rules and that has helped the cause of making laws in the Southwest.
We have facilitated seminars, conferences and workshops for different committees in the various Houses of Assembly across Southwest and that is impacting well on the activities of the legislatures. It is what is happening in the Southwest that made other regions came up with the idea of a national forum to replicate what is happening in the Southwest throughout the country. They also want to move in the direction Southwest is moving, which brought the idea of the Nigerian State Assembly Majority Leaders Forum and because of the fact that in the Forum, I am the most ranking Majority Leader and I am the one that championed the activities of the Southwest Majority Leaders, they agreed by consensus to elect me as the Chairman of the national forum. Don’t forget that all the Houses of Assembly in the country are not controlled by the APC. Some are PDP, while others are APC and because of that, we have to be careful in the way things are done so that we would cause friction, crisis and division in the forum.
Yes, we have roles to play, but also don’t forget that in any legislature, the first among equals are the Speakers who also have their own forum. We do not intend to rub shoulders with the Speakers of our Houses of Assembly, we only want to complement their roles and activities. In whatever way that we can be useful, we will be useful and we are telling ourselves that we must look beyond party politics and look at problems with Nigeria. The larger picture for the country is for Nigeria to have a President that can drive the economy of the country, oversees issues of security and curtail security challenges; a detribalized President that can harmonized all the ethnic groups together; a man who is well connected and would be respected as the President; a man that is articulate and will make Nigeria proud in the comity of African countries and global leaders; a man that would speak and bring pride to Nigeria and a man that knows about financial management and fiscal challenges of the country.
Since I became the Chairman of the Nigerian Majority Leaders Forum, I have facilitated employment opportunities for three persons in three states of the federation namely – Ogun, Oyo, that is not even an APC state and Kano States. These are people that have finished their services (NYSC)) and wanted to be retained in their places of assignment. All that I did was to call the Majority Leaders in those states and beg them passionately to dignify me with the request of those Corpers to be retained and today, three of them are working. These are people I don’t know but only contacted me through some persons.
THE IMPACT: Lastly Sir, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recently declared to contest for the number position in the country, whereas, there is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and others in the race, who do you think is most qualified for the position?
Hon. Agunbiade: Without mincing words and looking at the political antecedents, I always talk about antecedents because a man who must lead must know the way. He must have the skill and the courage to lead the way. In political antecedents, Asiwaju (Bola Tinubu) stands out above others. He was the governor of Lagos State that laid the foundation for a new Lagos that we are witnessing today. He drew the template for the development of the state and for the Lagos State Governmet. Due to his intellectual capacity and financial acumen, he was able to raise the internally generated revenue of Lagos State from N600million to what it is today. When President Obasanjo refused to release the allocation for the state because of the creation of more councils, we were able to survive that challenge without allocations because of the IGR and other financial strategies that were employed. Lagos survived the onslaught from Obasanjo. Today, Lagos is working. We may not be there completely yet, but today, Lagos State has an economy that is strong, viable in African and in the world. Asiwaju took us through the turbulent period. It’s enough to say that this man has credential of merit and excellence when he was Governor of Lagos State and Lagos today is still standing. Lagos does not owe workers’ salaries, it’s a template that has been built overtime. So, let us give Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu the opportunity to do for Nigeria what he did for Lagos. Which state can compete with Lagos in term of democratic values, economic achievements and peaceful atmosphere? Lagos State is thick with human density, vehicular density, yet, it is not volatile as some states in the country. The security is kept in proper shape with the assistance of God and other things that have been plugged into it. These should be enough credentials for a man who has done all that to contest for the Presidency. It’s not about sentiment. If Jagaban is not a Yoruba man but possess all his credentials, I will still vote for him, so as to benefit from his ability to deliver. He was also part of the struggle for democracy through NADECO which some of us also took major part in. A lot of the beneficiaries of our democracy are not part of the struggle. He is one of the gladiators of the Nigerian democracy. He spent money, sacrificed his time, peace, safety and comfort and using NADECO to fight the military junta. Today, the military are back in the barracks, but where are the prophets that fought for our democracy? Asiwaju is the only man that remains among the symbols of the struggle for democracy, others are elsewhere doing other things , but Asiwaju is the most visible now and he posseses the intellectual capacity to rule the country. He is the best man for the job around now. He has the intellectual capacity as it relates to governance, financial and fiscal management and democracy. For those reasons, I pitch my tent with Asiwaju and we will campaign vigorously, pray fervently to God to give him the opportunity to do for Nigeria what he has done for Lagos State. We thank God for His mercies on us and we thank God for Asiwaju who laid the foundation. It’s not about political lineage or tribal sentiment but the ability of this man to deliver.