The Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa in this interview with Kazeem Akintunde, speaks of his achievements in office and plan for the people of Lagos State through effective legislation. He believes that Lagos is under policed and stresses the need for the recruitment of more policemen just as he bares his mind on the raging debate over the clamour for a unicameral legislature as against the existing bicameral system in the face of the current economic challenge in the country.
One year after assuming office, what can you point to as the achievements of the Lagos House of Assembly that you lead?
I will say we have achieved so much within the year and that reminds me of when we started, I mean the whole house. Before now, the question was that the former Speaker left a big shoe, how can I fit into it? I made it known then that I am not concerned about the size of his shoes but that my own concern was to find my size of shoes and walk comfortably in it and I thank God that today we have so many reasons to thank Almighty Allah and also to say a big thank you to my colleagues and as well as the management and staff of the Lagos State House of Assembly. Within one year, we have done tremendously well in terms of achievements, legislatives business. Beyond that we have been able to surpass most of the things we met on ground.
Within a year we have passed almost 10 laws, the first of its kind in the history of this House of Assembly. Within a year we organized stakeholders meetings in all the 40 constituencies at the same time, that was the first of its kind in our attempt to get the opinions of our people in the state; we organized a stakeholders meeting on Yoruba language which looked at measures we can use to encourage both public and private schools to allow our children speak Yoruba freely, and it was successful. All our first class Obas, the Alaafin, the Ooni, the Alake sent representatives. The governor of Ogun State also sent a representative, Governor Rauf Aregbesola was here, our own governor was represented by our own deputy governor who stood in for him, and it was a success.
Again, I am happy to tell you that we are the first parliament in the country to embark on live streaming of our plenary; a lot of such wonderful programmes are in the works. We thank God that we have been able to achieve all these, we couldn’t have done so much without the support of management and staff of the Assembly and that of our amiable Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode who has been very supportive and friendly in everything we do and we have been collaborating, working together in the interest of our state and in the interest of our people.
Are you getting all the necessary support you need from the members of other parties in your midst?
We are working hand in hand like it should be; like brothers, friends and colleagues. We do not see ourselves as outsiders and I must use this opportunity also to say thank you to members of the PDP in our midst, we have eight of them, our concern has always been the state and its people, it’s not about the party, we are not representing party here but the people of Lagos state and this has been a good tonic for us. We work for the interest of the people of Lagos State.
Some of your members who do not understand the Yoruba language complain that you use the dialect to hold plenary on Thursday, is there going to be a shift in this policy?
Well, I don’t know what you mean by some, it is only one member that is not a Yoruba person in our midst. Look, the question we should ask ourselves is this, is it possible for a Yoruba man to go to the East and contest election? Talk less of winning the election. So when you have somebody from the East or from the North that won an election in Lagos State, it shows the kind of development in Lagos State, how advanced Lagos is and that is the interpretation to me and that person, Honourable Joe Idumogo, has been enjoying utmost cooperation with me and other members, we are not treating him like an outsider, we are not treating him like an Easterner, he has been benefiting like other members are.
The state belongs to Yoruba-speaking people and you can’t deny those that own the state the privilege of speaking in their indigenous tongue, I think that will not be fair. Everybody has the right to exercise their freedom of speech and expression and that is what he has done. To me nothing is going to stop us from using Yoruba on Thursday’s, in fact we are trying to move a step further. Instead of restricting ourselves to Thursdays, we will get to that stage that we will allow members to contribute to any issue on the floor using Yoruba and English together, we are still working on it because this is a Yoruba speaking state. We can’t deprive our people the benefit of listening to our debate on the floor because some of our people are not educated. Can you say we are not representing those who can’t speak or understand English? We are representing them, we will get to that stage and that was part of the reason why we organized that summit on Yoruba. We will soon be coming up with a law that will make it compulsory in our private and public schools in the state to speak and teach Yoruba.
The 10 laws you have passed so far, are you satisfied with their implementations by the relevant organs of government?
I am. But when it come to implementation, there is a unit you need to empower and that has to do with the Police. You know the Police is not directly under the Governor but they also have their challenges, we have shortage of policemen and it is also under the control of the federal government. So we are doing all we could. If any of those laws are not being enforced, it could be due to lack of security personnel to enforce the law. When you assent to a law that is the law, it has come to life, it is in existence and the governor has done the needful. So it is left to those that should enforce the law and they don’t have enough personnel and that was why we also passed a law-Neighbourhood Security Safety Corp Law, which has just been assented to by the governor, it is to support the existing security operatives in the state so that we can be sure of protection of lives and property all around Lagos State.
But the House can also canvass for the creation of State police if you believe that will help in improving the security situation in the state?
We have been doing that. This house has been at the forefront of the agitation when we had our first year anniversary we invited the former IGP, Alhaji Musiliu Smith, he was here. Mr Femi Falana, SAN, Prof. Itsay Sagay, SAN, and so many of others were also here. We deliberated and they all agreed that there is the need for states all over the country to have state police to compliment that of the federal government, that is the only way we can eradicate crime in our society.
Due to the recession that the country is facing now some Nigerians are calling for a unicameral legislature at the National level, what is your view of this?
If it is because of the recession then to me the reason is not tangible because we should consider where we are coming from. We are used to the bicameral legislature and because of recession people are now calling for a unicameral legislature I don’t think that is right? If there are other reasons then we can start thinking of that. But it depends on what the people of Nigeria want. The people at the National Assembly are representing the people so also those of us at the states level. We can’t dictate to the people, they have the authority; they have the power to decide how they should be governed. Ours is to ensure that we protect their interest and do things that we make life easy for them.
For me I think what we should be thinking of is how we should manage the situation, the bad economy facing us, and I think we cannot manage the economic problem without addressing the political part of it because both of them to me are interwoven. You can’t address one and leave the other. So, why we are trying to restructure our economy, we should also try to restructure our political system as well. There are a lot of burden the federal government is saddled with. We need to give more incentives to the states so that they will be able to generate more money and such money can also be shared among the three tiers of governments. It will mean more money will be coming. For now, we run a mono economy and all the states have to depend on Abuja to get money. So, it is now a problem and unless we change that which is a political problem, there is no way we can manage the economic problem.
Lagos State is now an oil producing state and at one of your sittings some members are canvassing that the host communities should be carried along so that the problem we are facing in the Niger Delta won’t repeat itself in Lagos state. Have you agree on a way forward now?
We were only thinking aloud and as a way of being proactive. We are all witnesses to what is going on in the Niger Delta, and it is still happening, we do not want same in Lagos. So, before oil exploration starts fully, there is the need for us to come together to look at what to do and the measures to put in place so that it will not lead to what is presently going on in the Niger Delta. That was the essence of the resolution and the conclusion was that we should call for a stakeholders meeting between the investors that would be exploring and drilling for the oil and the host communities as well as the government of the state and even some agencies of the federal government especially NNPC and those involved in issues like that, including environmental experts that will advise us as the representatives of the people. We need to talk, discuss and see what we can do, what we need to put in place before oil exploration starts fully.