Dapo Lam-Adesina, a former Commissioner for Youths and Sports in Oyo State, represents Ibadan North-East/South-East in the House of Representatives. He speaks with Deputy Editor, DAPO FALADE, on his recent motion on the infrastructural decay at the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan and affairs of his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
It has been over one year since you won an election into the House of Representatives. How has been the experience?
It has been quite challenging, hectic and sometimes, I can say, it could be very frustrating. But, we thank God, the Yoruba will say, ‘ibi ti o ba le la ti nba omokunrin’. But for somebody who has never had the experience of being a lawmaker-all my life, I have been in the executive arm of government, it is really very tight. But I just said to myself, ‘I was not born into the executive arm also, yet when I got there, I was able to make my little mark’. So, for me, it has been a learning cub so far, but gradually I am getting my feet.
You recently moved a motion concerning the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan. What informed the motion?
First and foremost, maybe coming from the background of a sportsman and a former Commissioner for Youth and Sports who had seen some of these things and the fact that the stadium is the first in Africa with international facilities and it was named after one of the greatest men that trot the sand of Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The stadium is also situated in Ibadan where I am from. I believe that it is supposed to be a tourist centre; it is supposed to be our heritage.
For one, anytime I go there, I feel very disappointed that we can allow such a facility to rot away. I remember the very good days of 1999; it was just shortly after my father (the late Lam Adesina) won the election as the Oyo State governor that we were invited to come and watch the Junior World Cup. I saw what it looked like then; the bright floodlight and other beautiful facilities. One would look at the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium now and it is a shadow of itself. So, this is what exactly what informed the motion to call the attention of the National Sports Commission (NSC) and the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports to look at that edifice. I believe that it should not be allowed to rot away; that even if we are going to start to build new stadia, I believe that the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium should be well taken care of.
Beyond moving the motion, what other steps are you taking to ensure an effective maintenance of that stadium?
What can I do? I am not the Minister of Youths and Sports so, what can I do? And let me take you back a little: the Lekan Salami Stadium that I fixed as the Oyo State Commissioner for Youths and Sports, am I maintaining it? I can only do my bit. When we have opportunities, we can only do our bits. The onus lies on anybody and the career officers in the civil service to make sure that things like these that are done by politicians are not allowed to rot away. So, there is little or nothing that I can do. I can only speak now, as a legislator, in favour of things; to make sure that things don’t go the wrong way.
But you are in a vantage position now to liaise with people that are concerned…
What of if I talk to to them and they go to do what I want them to do and after I leave, they turn around to do something else? We have had experiences; while as a commissioner, anytime I get to the Lekan Salami Stadium, the civil servants and the career officers will troop out to do all sort of things. We cleaned together; we picked dirts together but when I leave, they say all sorts of things. I have left the place now but have they continued with that process of cleaning? They did not. It is only when you are there that you know that you can correct whatever anomaly that is in place; it is only when you are there that they seem to do the right thing. When you leave, you cannot force them to do what they are supposed to do.
You left office as a commissioner to became a federal lawmaker and fortunate enough, the same administration under which served at the state level is still in office. But don’t you think that there should be a linkage, even concerning the Lekan Salami Stadium? I believe you can still have the ears of the state governor concerning the rots you mentioned.
Is it the job of the governor to clean up the state? It is not enough to talk to the people, that is what I am trying to pass across. It is for the people to want to do the right thing. For example, I can assure you that if the governor enters Lekan Salami Stadium tomorrow and starts to pick dirts, you will see everybody trooping out to pick along with him. But immediately he leaves, they will be saying and doing another thing. The next day, they will not pick on their own. So, it is about all of us; it is not about the people in position. Government is supposed to be a continuum; the career officers are permanently there but politicians would come and go. So, either it is my political party that is there or it is another party, what is supposed to be constant is for the career officers to be doing the right thing. We can only come, do some good jobs but it is for them to continue to maintain the good jobs. It is not the job of a politician to monitor. For example, if I go there tomorrow and talk to them about what they are supposed to do, if there is an argument, the media will be the first to say this guy is intruding; he has gone to where he is not in charge. So, knowing that as a politician, I will be very careful because that will be a bad PR for me. A lot of people will not bother to investigate why there was an argument. The news will just be, ‘Lam Adesina’s son in fisticuffs with civil servants’.
Away from the digression, what areas did your motion looked at concerning the rots at the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium?
First and foremost, we were informed that they have just one gardener for the whole of the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium. How can it be possible for just one gardener to cater for the whole of the stadium? They have just one cleaner. Also, there is what they called running cost which they are supposed to be using to buy diesel, brooms, brushes, cleaning rags and all those stuffs. But the money has not been coming. Are you expecting career officers to be using their money to do all that?
So, like I said, it is about all of us. If you want somebody to go to the farm and you have not given that particular person cutlasses and hoes, is he going to use his teeth or bare hands to work? Also, when you now provide the cutlasses and hoes, it is not enough to provide, it is enough for that person to also want to farm. There is this common saying that you can only force a horse to the river but you cannot force it to drink from the river.
What are the other things you looked into in that motion?
When you look at the indoor sports hall of the stadium, it has now become an avenue for social parties now. When you look at the training pitches, they are all dilapidated. The most annoying one is the hostel where they are supposed to be the sportsmen/sportswomen and athletes. You cannot camp anybody there. If you do, you are just suffering them because it has dilapidated. It is not the fault of the people running there; it is because the infrastructure has dilapidated. So, for me, it is not even the issue of floodlight. Who plays football in the night in Nigeria these days? But if it were to have been in place, two things are necessary; there must be consistent power supply. If you don’t have that, how do you power the floodlight? You know how much it will cost to fuel the generator to power the floodlight? So, it is a big challenge.
A lot has gone wrong and when you talk about infrastructural decay, it is not only about the stadium. What about our roads? What about our schools? What about our hospitals? What about almost everything? I am sure you will not expect those people in government to use their personal money. When the money is not there, it is simply not there and there is nothing anybody in power can do when the resources are not there.
It is about 17 months of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. Given the campaign promises, can you give a dispassionate view of this government?
I think we still need to be a bit patient. I know it is not easy but Rome was not built in a day. Sincerely, the system had been bastardised and Buhari cannot come in one day and turn it around. I know he is also facing a lot of challenges. Let us give him more time; he has been elected for a four-year term. Let us see what he can do. I cannot give a verdict on this government for now. We should give him time as he was handed over a dying nation…
Are you saying this because you are part of the government?
It is not! I am only just a very realistic human being. He was handed over a dying nation; a nation that was in comatose. When somebody faints and you take him or her to the hospital, it is not immediately you the person to the hospital that he or she will start walking and start talking.
Do you want to say the man was not aware of the state of the economy before making those campaign promises?
Well, I was not there but I believe that he has a lot of plans for this country. I know that things are quite challenging for my people, but let us give him time. My prayer is that he gets it right so that all of us can have our nation back. I believe that he will get it right. I pray that he does because it will pay all of us for the country to be back on its feet.
At the formation of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), fears were being expressed that it is a party of strange bedfellows coming together just to achieve one purpose namely to effect change of governance. Given what is happening within the party now, can you say the fear had been justified?
What is happening within APC now is normal. There is no where in the world where you have a political party that takes over government, especially in a place where their democracy is evolving, where you not naturally have what is happening now; power tussle and people trying to outdo themselves. This is normal. But what we are concerned is just to deliver to the people, either there is power tussle or people trying to manouvre each other. What matters is delivery; making sure that we deliver those promises we have made to the people. You will also believe with me that when the other party was in position, they had issues too. It is normal for any democracy that is evolving and that is the truth about it; everybody will be trying to outdo themselves to be in charge.
But don’t you think the distractions can be strong enough to affect the focus on delivery?
I don’t think so, as long as the person in still in charge. If you are the one driving, you know naturally when you are on the road and you are carrying people, when you make mistakes, you will have so many drivers in the car saying, ‘you should not have driven like that’. But it is for you to concentrate and do what you are supposed to do as a driver. That is what I feel. There will naturally be distractions; you will see people on the road trying to wave you down; you see people even trying to stop you. But you should not be distracted.
It is a public knowledge that there is a wedge between President Buhari and the APC National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, on who controls the soul of the party. Don’t you see this as capable of polarising the party?
I have only read what you are saying. I am not the president; I am not the party leader and none of them have called me to say there is a rift. So, I don’t believe there is any rift. Until I heard from them, I will not be able to say that truly, there is a rift. The president is my leader; the leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, is my leader and also my father. He has not called me to say there is a rift and he has not even acted as if there is a rift. So, I don’t think there is any.
You are still saying this in spite of Senator Tinubu’s utterances in respect of the APC ticket for the Ondo State governorship election?
But it is not Buhari that he mentioned; he didn’t mention the president. He only just spoke his mind about issues that happened there. I know Senator Bola Tinubu very well; he is a very brave man and I know that he will speak at the right time.
And you still don’t see any rift in his call for the resignation of the party national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun?
Well, the national chairman is different from the president. He might have his own issues and he has stated clearly in a press statement his allegations against the national chairman. But the truth of the matter is that you would have seen them together after that; there are pictures of them being together after his call for the resignation of Chief Odigie-Oyegun. And you have not even heard Senator Tinubu speak after that. All is extremely very well within the party; we are fully in charge.
How do you explain this your optimism, even when the APC deputy national spokesman, Timi Frank, recently expressed the fear that the party might not last till 2019?
That is his own opinion and he has a right to his opinion, very much. He is a strong member of the party but sometimes you have such members who may be angry and sometimes you have strong members who may not be happy with certain issues. But that does not mean that, tomorrow, when we resolve our issues, they will not another thing. So, Timi Frank might have issues with the party and with certain things that he does not like but we will resolve all that. Timi Frank is our egbon and we would resolve all that at the right time.
The other party have more issues than us but we will resolve ours; it is a family affair. If you have five children, they will naturally have issues within themselves. The onus lies on you to resolve such issues; you call all of them together to a family meeting and you resolve their issues or differences.
You are sounding so easy, even in the face of the glaring sharp divisions…
There is nothing like that. Have you forgotten that in politics, there is no permanent enemies and there is no permanent friends? Today, we can be saying somebody should resign; tomorrow, somebody can be saying the party cannot last and next tomorrow, you see all of us together, hugging and talking. The most important thing is that nine of them has left the party. You are a media person and I am a politician. What is happening is just an in-house feud. You cannot understand and when we resolve tomorrow, you will still write about the harmony in the APC house. That is the truth.
In 2007, President Buhari contested and Senator Tinubu did not work for him. But in 2015, we worked together. So, it is normal; in politics, a lot of things will happen today and we disagree and next tomorrow, we agree. It is as simple as ABC but I want to assure that we don’t have issues; we are a family.