Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Rt. Hon Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa, cut his political teeth as a councillor in Agege Local Government at the inception of this political dispensation. In this interview, he says the presence of eight members of the opposition PDP in the assembly has further strengthened it in the last one year. He speaks on other issues. CHUKWUMA OKPARAOCHA brings the excerpts:
You, like others, have continued to attribute your emergence as the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly to, among other things, an act of providence. Can you tell us your experience in the last one year?
It is something I will describe as mixed joy. Being a speaker involves so many things. It is so not about heading the parliament alone. You realise you have so many things to contend with, such as the administration of the institution, its diplomacy. And then you have to meet with people from outside of your own territory, be it the diplomatic corps, corporate world, and the like. At the same time, you have to play the political role by attending so many occasions. But we thank God, so far so good; we have been able to cope. We’ve been able to handle these successfully.
You have led the House without any known crisis so far, while also recording very impressive results in terms of the passage of about bills and resolutions?
Actually, there is no magic anywhere. First, let’s give everything to the Almighty Allah who has made it possible to achieve. At the same time, I must recognise the contribution of my colleagues, most especially the principal officers and other members because we have been able to work together owing to our resolve that the success of this institution should be our paramount concern. And l am sure that is the reason we’ve recorded these tremendous achievements. Of course, we are working together irrespective of the party affiliation. We realize we have people from both PDP and APC. But here, party issue is behind us. When it comes to the House, our focus is on the people of Lagos, their progress and the growth of Lagos as a whole. In essence, working together, coming together as a team has been responsible for our success so far.
With as much as eight Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers in the House – the first in history – many had predicted a stormy tenure for you?
I have been a long while in this institution. I realise the fact that you have to reach out to other members of the parliament to work together to achieve success. And having regular discussions, making them known to all members and the need for us to come together is so essential and it is beyond party consideration. The interest of our people and that of the state should come first. Obviously, what we’ve been discussing, all we have done, the laws we have passed are all for the well-being of Lagosians. They are not targeted at a section of the society or particular individuals. So, this is the major reason that we all have to come together, rally together and see through how we make things work in the state.
For the purpose of record, I will like to state that this House within one year has passed about 60 resolutions and six bills, consequently signed into law by Governor Akinwumi Ambode. These resolutions and laws are those that border on the security and well-being of Lagosians, and have direct impact on them. We shall remain undaunted and resolute in our resolve to take Lagos to a greater height.
I wish to reiterate that I am passionately committed to my 10-point agenda, as stated in my inaugural speech. Within one year that I took over the mantle of leadership of this great House, we have had landmark achievements in prompt but thorough passage of the year 2016 budget, timely commencement of plenary sittings, organising constituency stakeholders’ meetings simultaneously for the first time in all the 40 constituencies of the state, holding the MDAs to account through intensive and effective oversight activities and in responding earnestly to the petitions by Lagosians through appropriate standing or ad hoc committee.
Apart from this, we have not relented in organising training programmes for lawmakers and staff, a factor that has improved them. I am delighted to inform you that this House now has a multidimensional and functional website. For the first time in the history of this hallowed chamber in its 36 years of existence, you can now communicate with the honourable members through the official email address of the House. All the website’s social media platforms such as Facebook, twitter, youtube and instagram are also functioning properly. It is our belief that with all of them well harnessed, Lagosians can interact with us and also get first-hand information on whatever t goes on in this Assembly.
What would you say is responsible for the perceived smooth a relationship between the Executive and the House of Assembly and how can this be sustained?
I think there are so many factors that informed this observed cordial relationship. It is not just cordial; it is also a strong one. When you look at the calibre of those who occupy both the executive and the parliament, you will realise the fact that they’ve been in the system for a while. For instance, the governor has been around for quite some time. He was at the local government level as a career officer. He became the Accountant General of the state and now, he is the governor. The same thing with Mr Speaker; he served at the local government level, and he has been in the House for quite some time.
Same thing goes for many members of the executive as well as the parliament. This means that there had been relationship before now. And when you have a relationship, the only thing you have to do is to sustain such a relationship. Secondly, we are from same political party, APC, with those who are from the executive save for the few who are from the opposition in the parliament. And you cannot ignore the party factor also, it is something that is strongly working for us. Understanding and exposure are key in this also as we have all resolved that we want to serve our people; we want to develop our state. By so thinking, you have no choice than to work, cooperate together and make attempt to move the state forward
Substantiated by a recent award and recognition it won, the Lagos State House of Assembly is believed to be the best House of Assembly in Nigeria, how do you hope to sustain this standard?
I am the type of person that has reservations when it comes to awards. I don’t patronise people for awards. I don’t do it. But it (the award in question) is something that happened naturally. Something that I wasn’t involved in its happening. But it just came and I am very happy about it. And I am sure all our members were happy too when we were given that award. You know how it feels when you are invited and hinted that you have been chosen as the best speaker in the country. We can adduce this to what I have said earlier. Our belief is to work together, our desire is to move the state forward and to serve the interest of our people. So, people have access to what we do and I am sure we achieved this through what we have been doing and which we believe we will continue to do.
What will be the main thrust and vision of the House in the next one-two years?
My focus when it comes to the House of Assembly is to see a House that is totally independent of any other institution you can think of, a parliament that can do anything that will bring progress to the state and that will develop the interest of our people without recourse to any other institution. And we are almost there. I am sure, we will surely get there.