Rt. Hon. Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni, the Deputy Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly, is one of the luckiest politicians in Lagos State. The Isale Eko born politician, who turned 56 recently, has been holding one political office or the other since 1999.
He started as a member of Lagos House of Assembly in 1999. He later became SSA and SA to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, when he was the governor of Lagos State. He was a two term chairman of Lagos Island Local Government Council before he berthed at the Lagos House of Assembly in 2015. He is presently the Deputy Speaker of the most vibrant House of Assembly in Nigeria.
He told ENCOMIUM Weekly about his political trajectory at his 56th birthday celebrations recently.
How do you feel turning 56?
I am still the same person.
Don’t you feel your new age?
Nothing has really changed about me. As I said, I am still the same person I was in two, three years back.
Physically and health wise, do you feel you are in good shape?
I am in good shape.
Do you feel lucky that at 56, you have crossed the average life expectancy of Nigerians?
I don’t think the World Health Organization is correct to say life expectancy is low in Nigeria. For example, if you look at the number of people you grew up with, you will realize that those of you alive are still far more than those that have gone.
That said, I feel lucky that I am still alive because, for every additional day to one’s life, one should be thankful to Almighty God for sparing your life, guiding and protecting you. So, I feel indebted to God.
When would you consider the happiest moment of your life?
I am not that kind of person that openly displays his emotions. Even in the face of victory, we are taught to be magnanimous not to over celebrate. I am a very sober person. I do not see myself being over joyous about anything.
Not even your children’s achievement?
Well, on that I will say I am happy because when we came to the House of Assembly in 1999, my first child was just five while some of my colleagues’ then were in higher institutions. I thank God today that one of them has graduated. Another one is doing her housemanship and the third is also in higher institution.
As a parent, you will be happy seeing your children growing in the right direction.
Personally, I don’t glow over personal achievement. Rather, when I am in position of authority, I will like to reinvent myself. So far, all the positions I have taken before now, I thank God that I have been able to reinvent and equip myself very well.
On that note, I thank God on this one (Deputy Speakership). I am still praying to God to guide me through so that I will not found short of expectation.
When would you consider the saddest moment of your life so far?
As I said, I am not that kind of person that considers any bad or good moment. Whatever happens to me, I consider it as the design of the Almighty God. I don’t have saddest or happiest moments. I am always thankful to God in whatever situation I found myself.
Looking back, did you ever dream of being where you are today?
No, absolutely not.
What did you dream of becoming?
My dream when I was growing up was just be well educated. I found out early enough that God has given me the wherewithal to be educated. In my primary school, I was always on top of my class. In my final year in secondary school, I came out in grade one. In the university, I had the best result in my final year. God has blessed me with the brain.
What did you study in the university?
I studied Agricultural Economics.
Which university is that?
I went to Ogun State University for my first degree. I went to University of Lagos, where I studied International Law and Diplomacy. So, my dream has always been to be educated and be useful. I know that when you are educated you have limitless opportunities.
How then did your path and that of partisan politics cross?
By accident and design of God. I won the vice presidency of my course association, but because I was a popular footballer, playing for the university, somebody told me that I should vie for the directorship of sports since I was a sports person myself.
That was how I gave the vice presidency to the person who came second, who happened to be my friend. Incidentally, today he is a director in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. That was how I became the Director of Sports of my department and later of the whole university.
My friend, who I gave the vice president slot of the department later became my campaign manager when I ran for the director of sports for the Student Union Government. That certainly was the beginning of my political career.
My participation in student unionism certainly affected my ambition of becoming a lecturer because the school authority saw me as a radical and did not give me the opportunity of being a lecturer despite having the best results both in my second and final years.
Agains, when I left the university and started working, I was really not interested in partisan politics, though I was a card carrying member of Social Democratic Party (SDP) then.
One day, I was standing in the front of our house when I saw some young boys passing and complaining bitterly. I called them and asked what the matter was. They said they were just coming from the ward meeting of their party, SDP and the elders of the party told them that out of the 26 positions, they were going to give the youths only one slot. I told them when they are going for the ward meeting the following day, they should call me.
The next day, I followed them to the meeting. I told the elders that it is either they give us 10 slots or we throw the whole thing open through elections. They refused. So, we had to go for elections. So, I was compelled to vie for the post of the vice chairman of the ward.
Surprisingly, we (the youths) won 21 out of the 26 elective positions in the ward. That was how I found myself in partisan politics up till today.
Believe me, I tried to get out but I was unable to get out. Honestly, I don’t know why.
Why did you want to leave?
Because I felt I have done my bit. I have led the people aright. I have offered myself for service. I really want to go back to school to acquire more knowledge and probably be in the academics myself
Are you saying it was never your intention to be a full time politician?
No, it wasn’t.
But since 1999, you’ve held one political appointment or the other. What then is responsible if you say you never intended being a full time politician?
I don’t know what was responsible. You will need to ask my ogas and my constituents.
You’ve been in both the legislative and executive arms of the government. Which one would you say is most fulfilling for you?
I don’t know yet because I have not done any comparative analysis of the two. But all I can say is wherever I found myself, whether legislative or the executive, I tried as much as possible to reinvent myself and to do what is expected of me.
As a member of the legislative, my responsibilities are to make laws and oversight the work of the executive. I do not need to tell anybody that I was one of the co-sponsors of the constituency bill which many in the country have adopted today. We did the self accounting law then too. We did so many other things.
As chairman of a local government, I also did my best to do projects that would benefit the generality of people in the local government then.
I was able to do free education in addition to providing the pupils with free school uniforms, sandals, socks, bags and books including exercise books. I was able to about 70 wards government.
Old people who are 65 years and above collect stipends of N10,000 every month with free drugs and food.
Did your successors continue with these goodies for the old people?
Yes, they tried because there was a bye law that made it compulsory for the head of the LG to continue with such project. We also rehabilitated all the primary schools in the area and even built new ones.
So, I did what Professor Jerry Gana said one time. If you are a manager, you must manage well. If you are a legislator, you must legislate well too.
Would you say you have any regret being in politics?
No. even though, I could have been a professor (if I had pursued academic career) it might not be as fulfilling what I am doing now. Nothing is as fulfilling for me as the fact that I was able to kit about 10,000 primary school pupils for seven (academic) sessions.
Also fulfilling than is the fact that I am part of those who initiated the constituency projects law that is even adopted by the National Assembly. All I want to do is to thank Almighty Allah for His mercies on me and my constituents for standing by me.
I also want to thank my colleagues in the House of Assembly for reposing their confidence in me as their Deputy Speaker. I want to thank Mr. Speaker and other principal officers, for their cooperation and leadership qualities.
Tell us about your wife.
We’ve been married for 25 years now.
Where and when did you meet her?
I met her in my area, Isale Eko. I met her in Prince Ademola Adeniji’s office.
How many children has the marriage been blessed with?
At 56 would you say you are fulfilled?
So far, so good. Like I said, whatever situation I found myself, I always thank God. I cannot thank the people of Lagos Island enough for repeatedly voting for me anytime I asked for their votes.
- TOLANI ABATTI