Hon. Lateef Rotimi Abiru is 49 and serving his three consecutive terms in the House of Assembly, representing the good people of Somolu Constituency II.
He was the deputy Chief Whip in the 7th Assumably and the Chief Whip in the 8th. He holds a Bachelor degree of Science in Chemistry and Masters’ in Chemistry
How has it been in one year that you’ve been the Chief Whip of Lagos House of Assembly?
To God be the glory. To a reasonable extent, it has been very challenging in discharging this role.
So, I can say so far so good. As the Chief Whip of the House, I have been getting by and I have been getting maximum cooperation from members.
Are there privileges attached to being the Chief Whip of the House?
It is indeed a privileged position because we are actually accorded respect from our peers.
We also enjoy the privilege of maintaining and running our principal offices. To a reasonable extent, it is a prestigious position and it comes with its own perks.
What would you say has been the most exciting moment of one year as the Chief Whip?
It was the period we met with the officials of the party (APC) in Lagos State at the party secretariat. Again, as the Chief Whip of the House, it is my responsibility to interact with the leadership of the party. It was at the meeting that many issues were sorted out between the members and the party.
We made a pledge at that meeting that the 32 man APC members in the House would resume the responsibility of payment of party dues. Ever since, we have been doing that as at when due.
Had there been any challenging moment since you became the Chief Whip of the House?
On the issue of Hon. (Mrs.) Tejuoso, when she was announced the Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Petition and LASEIC. It was indeed a challenging period and as the Chief Whip of the House, because, her action that day was challenged by some members on the floor of the House.
We give glory to God Almighty that the matter has been put behind us today. But it took the intervention and the wisdom of the Rt. Hon. Speaker to put the House of Assembly under control that day. I, being the enforcer of the rule was seen that day by my colleagues as not abiding strictly to the tenets of my office.
I took it in good faith, I also know that we continuously learn. Irrespective of whose ox is gored, the rules of the House has to be strictly applied.
Since then have you had any cause of wielding your power as the Chief Whip?
Sure. I feel very happy doing that because, I do that right in the clear glare of the concerned member on the floor of the House. It has been more of corrective measures on some of our colleagues and they also take it as such.
Has anything changed about you since you became the Whip?
I have indeed been a principal officer before now. So, I am not a first time Principal Officer. It is indeed a privileged position but of course, one has to tread carefully and gently. At all times, irrespective of whatever position one finds himself in public service, one should see it as a call to service and continue to be himself and continue to do his best to the service of humanity and mankind.
You initially gunned for the speakership but ended up getting the Whip. How easy was it for you adjusting to that?
Once you are a ranking member of the House, you have every right to be interested and contest any position you desire.
That was what prompted my aspiration. I also know that it is only God that crowns men. Sometimes you may desire something and that may not be God’s desire for you. I equally know when we’re jostling that it is only one of us that was going to emerge as the Speaker. I resolved that whoever emerged would enjoy maximum support, loyalty and cooperation from me.
Again, the man that God has chosen to be the Speaker among us is somebody that we have been together in the House of Assembly for nine years.
So, it wasn’t much of worry or bother to me. I quickly adjusted myself to pledge my loyalty for the success of this administration.
But what will you say didn’t make you win the speakership? Was it because you didn’t belong to the right caucus?
Man proposes, God disposes. Irrespective of the caucus that you belong, what remains important is for you to have the support of majority of your colleagues. I equally give glory to God Almighty that having jostled, I was still considered by my colleagues as one of the principal officers of the House.
Has being a principal officer in anyway affected your primary responsibility for representing your constituency?
Yes, it has only taken a toll on it. Other than representations, and oversight, we also discharge some responsibilities which actually have been taking my time. Such issue borders on development of this institution. We spend more time than ordinary members in the course of seeing to the day to day running of the House.
But in all, I think it’s also an added advantage to one’s experience about the legislature.
Have you had any experience of members of your constituency harassing and embarrassing you?
We are getting very used to that because representation can be very challenging sometimes. We cannot overlook the fact that there is much hunger in the country, there is so much poverty in the land. A situation whereby everybody that voted for you feels strongly that he is part of who you are today, it becomes a very big problem. Constituents come with a number of demands. As human, who also has limited resources, it is not likely one will be able to meet up with all their demands.
So, you will find some people who are not really happy with you.
Given the opportunity, would you prefer to be in the executive arm of government or the legislature?
Given the opportunity, I will want to maintain my lane in the government which is the legislature because of its nature and independence.
In the legislature, we are all equal. The head of the legislature is there because others want him there. That gives us leverage and independence.
On the other hand, as a member of the executive, you are there at the mercy of the governor. The governor may wake up one day and ask you to leave his cabinet because he does not like your face anymore.
Where do you hope to see the House of Assembly in three years?
I want to see the House greater and mightier than what we have today. We have seen some improvement, despite the fact that the Speaker is new on the seat.
The Speaker has shown a great sign of knowledge and improvement on his personality, his carriage and his delivery of service as the Speaker of the State.
More members are coming with private members bills. This is a clear improvement from what we had in the 7th Assembly.
So, I see this House of Assembly in a much higher pedestal by the end of this 8th Assembly.