Ambode, supporters not strong enough to upset Lagos APC arrangement – Legislator, Eshinlokun

Deputy Speaker of the Lagos State Legislative Assembly, Wasiu Eshinlokun talks to OLUWAFEMI MORGAN on his work in the Legislative Chamber, his ambition to represent Lagos Central Senatorial District in the Senate and other related matters

As Deputy Speaker of the Lagos State Legislative Assembly, you are undoubtedly a high ranking legislator in the state. Can you give us an overview of your background and your background in politics?

I was born in Lagos Island and am from the Eshinlokun Royal Family. I am also from Eti-Osa, Ajah and surrounding areas.

How did you get into politics?

As a young graduate and single, I was the deputy chairman of the SDP (Social Democratic Party) in my constituency. I was with NADECO (National Democratic Coalition); I did not join the interim government. I was part of the resistance. I was also the first secretary of the APC (All Progressives Congress) in Lagos State.

In terms of elective positions and nomination, I was first elected to the Lagos State Assembly in 2003. I became Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s Senior Special Assistant until around 2007. I was the First Secretary of the Lagos State Microfinance Institution and I was later elected as the Chairperson of the Lagos Island Local Government Area. I served two terms – between 2008 and 2014. After that I became Secretary of State for the APC and was re-elected to the Lagos State Legislative Assembly in 2015. This will be my third cumulative mandate, and I have been the Deputy Speaker since 2015.

But people say you haven’t made outstanding contributions in terms of sponsoring bills around the house?

This cannot be true. Some bills of national significance are important, including the Constituency Development Bill, which became law. This is the law that was presented to the National Assembly, precisely to the Senate, and it has had importance in other states. The second big one is the Legislative Fiscal Autonomy Bill, which I co-sponsored with a friend and colleague. It has been law in Lagos since 2000; I think I slipped into the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria last year.

The most important is that since 2015, no bill can be passed without a public hearing – 95 or 98% of the public hearing; I was the only one to respond to all stakeholder concerns and comments.

You were MP for Lagos for 11 years and are now said to have joined the 2023 senatorial race. What exactly attracts you about legislating because you might have aspired to another political office?

I have previously held a management position; I was president of a local government; I led my government; I have even become a household name on the island of Lagos, due to my role as chairman of the local government. My first love for governance was in the Legislative Assembly; that’s when I was elected to the House of Assembly in 1999. I had tried to be elected in 1991, but I had not succeeded. I even wanted to go to the House of Representatives in 1992, but I did not succeed.

I think I like doing the work, it’s interesting, it involves working with colleagues, trying to build consensus, trying to pressure others to get what you want and all that scheming make it attractive.

How did you determine that your job at the State Assembly level was complete and that you should be promoted?

When there is a vacancy, apparently when the senator representing the constituency, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, has decided that she is not going to run again, it has become necessary for someone to rise up and take on that responsibility.

So, that’s why I thought I should give it a shot.

In late 2020, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu spoke about sending a Bill to the Lagos State Assembly for the Repeal of Public Office Holder (Payment of Public Offices Act 2007 pensions), which provides for the payment of a pension and other entitlements to former state governors and deputy governors. Where is the invoice? Has it been abandoned because we don’t hear about it anymore?

As far as the legislature is concerned, we have done our part of the job and sent it to the governor for approval. We did what we think is right. I was at the public hearing and, as I told you, I responded to concerns and questions during the public hearing on the bill. Everything in the bill right now is what we agreed to at the stakeholders meeting. So it is up to the governor to give his assent to the bill and I am sure it must have been sent to him.

In 2015, the Lagos House of Assembly proposed a lifetime pension for the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. What was the rationale for that and where is the bill now?

The bill is no longer forthcoming. It was dropped by House leaders, so they stopped dealing with the bill at some point.

Why was it abandoned?

I don’t know, but every time we want to work on a bill, we pay attention to what is happening around us; as legislators, we care about our constituents and the environment. I guess we dropped it because we had to.

How Much Do Lagos Lawmakers Earn?

That one is common knowledge, I don’t know what you mean by how much they earn.

I mean, in terms of salaries and allowances?

Salaries I’m not sure but after tax it’s around N769,000.

The Lagos Central Senatorial District you are targeting is currently occupied by Mrs Oluremi Tinubu. Do you have her support and that of her husband, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who is the leader of your party?

As the first leader of Lagos, Asiwaju has played his fatherly role and we commend him for that, and the current occupier of the Senate District, they have played their part; they have been the fathers and mothers of all aspirants.

So, do you have his blessings for running?

I said they played their part and we are in tune with the role they play. They didn’t tell me they weren’t giving me their blessings. If there are many of us, as a father you would be careful, and for us they gave us a level playing field to explore.

How do you assess the performance of Senator Rémi Tinubu?

I think she performed well. Before her, we had other senators and I want to say that she was the best of the lot. I think she’s done wonderfully well, that if you come to replace her, you should strive to match her performance.

For me, if she is to be noted, I think she has made a name for herself. You know the Yoruba will say, won ki f’ola ji’yo (it is not proper for one person to enjoy all the benefits), especially when you are there and you are the wife of the national leader, and so on.

But for her, she did so well that you couldn’t ask for better. She is very diligent, honest, hardworking, resourceful and dynamic; she is a wonderful woman. We only hope that we will continue with what she had done. She has a role model on how to give back | so I’ll try to keep up with the times and hopefully we can add my part to it too.

With the current emergence of heavyweights in the South West, do you think former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu would emerge as the APC’s presidential candidate?

I don’t know the classification, whether it’s heavyweight, middleweight or lightweight; all I know is that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu deserves this position more than many of them. When you look at the track record of APC and its contributions, its contributions to the political development of the nation, that it was there for NADECO, a sponsor, an activist, and so on, and that may have helped most enable them to access various positions. That they are out is their right, but Asiwaju Tinubu is, for us, the best candidate.

Do you think there are any items from the exclusive legislative list that should be added to the concurrent list of the Nigerian constitution?

The exclusive legislative list is too heavy, so some of these items should be added to the concurrent list. Even for me they shouldn’t necessarily be added to the concurrent list because the items are just too many, they should just be left to the states to administer and legislate. If you put them in the concurrent list and there is a law or a law of the parliament of the National Assembly, it will replace the law made by the States, so we will always talk about the same thing. I think they should just be left to the states to legislate without interference from the center.

You have been in politics since 1999; do you think Nigeria and its citizens have made progress since the return of democracy in 1999?

Well, it’s not Eldorado, there is still a lot to do and I think that over time we will get there. For now, in Nigeria, democracy is the preferred option. I think in 1999 when we were elected, Lagos was the dirtiest city in Africa; that was the name then, but today it is the most beautiful city in Africa. That is to say some people have done some work, it may not be great but I am sure that Lagos State is doing its part to justify the enthronement of democracy in the country.

As far as the federal government is concerned, I know the concerns of the population, the issue of security and the economy. The problem is due to the emergence of COVID-19 and low crude oil prices in the international market. The amount of crude oil produced also fell. But right now it’s not, it’s gotten better over time but it’s not where it was in Jonathan’s time.

There appears to be an aggrieved Ambode caucus within the Lagos APC. Do you think they have a solid base and can they undermine existing party structures?

Not possible, they don’t have one (have a solid base).

But do they stay in the party despite their grievances?

I don’t know if they have any grievances; I am not aware of this. If they have any grievances, I’m sure Governor Akinwumi Ambode is a member of the governance advisory board, he has also been given appointments and roles by the national body of the APC. I’m sure he knows where to air his grievances and seek redress. He is a great party man.

How would you rate Governor Babajide Sanwoolu of Lagos State?

I will be biased because that is like saying I should mark myself because where there is a separation of responsibilities between the executive and the legislative but we still work as one and whatever performance he has, that rubs off on us and it is our prayer that he continues to fulfill to the satisfaction of the people or citizens of Lagos. For us, he has a passing grade, which is why he gets the green light for the second term.

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