Hon. Adefunmilayo Tejuoso is a member of Lagos House of Assembly serving her fourth term, representing the good people of Mushin I Constituency.
She is lawyer and married to Prince Kayode Tejuoso, the son of Oba Adedapo Tejuoso, Osile Oke Ona, Egba, Abeokuta.
She told us in this interview her 13 years experience as a lawmaker in Lagos State House of Assembly and more.
As one of the three most ranking members in the House of Assembly, how has it been in the last 13 years?
We have to thank God. The word of God says, In all things, we should give thanks. We should give thanks for over 27 million people in Lagos State and if God has been kind enough to us to be in the House of Assembly to represent the people of a particular constituency this long, we must appreciate it and continue to do the best that we can.
It’s an experience, a wonderful one. We learn every day. I thank God for it.
When would you say was your most exciting moment of these 13 years in the hallow chamber?
You do not think about excitement as you get longer into it. It becomes part of daily life for you.
I think I am always happy to have the opportunity to help. It is a wonderful thing to be a legislator. I think it is a thing of honour.
People don’t just call you honourable. It is actually an honourable position. If you would carry yourself in a dignifying manner, you will be accorded every respect that you deserve.
There must be something you must have done in the House as a legislator that brought you so much joy and excitement?
I will say the Domestic Violence Law. It is a private member bill that I sponsored before it became law.
It gave me satisfaction not excitement. It gave satisfaction that I am able to touch the lives of many people. Because, after the law was passed, the state government built a shelter for victims of domestic violence and that has actually helped a lot.
There is also a response team for rape victims or another form of abuse.
Then there is the Child Rights Law which I worked in conjunction with the executive and some NGOs to make that. We have an all encompassing law, so that our female children can be more protected in the Lagos of today.
All these give me satisfaction not excitement.
What would you say was your most challenging moment in 13 years?
Life is full of challenges and since 2003, I have been able to overcome it. I remain standing because I believe in myself. I believe in the education that I had.
I always tell people that I went to school. I read myself, nobody sat exam for me. I am sure of myself. I am sure of my qualifications.
My late father often told me that challenges are meant to make you stronger, you don’t dwell on them, you don’t make them an issue.
Are there privileges attached to being the most ranking member?
It is just the respect you get from your colleagues. As a ranking member in any legislative house, you get regards from fresh members.
It is not easy to be voted into the same office four times. Some people tried it, they never survived it.
Two, when you speak on the floor of the house, whether they like it or not, they will see the wisdom in what you are saying. Because, you have experience and experience always counts no matter where you are.
It is good to be a ranking officer, you get the respect, you get the regard from people who are not members of the House.
You vied for the speakership?
Yes, I did.
You were unable to clinch it.
Yes, I was not.
What will you say was responsible for your inability to clinch the post?
I think it’s because I am a woman. I don’t think there is any other thing. I think we are not prepared for women in this society. We need to move away from that. I believe I am capable and qualified to be Speaker. I am glad I came out to vie for it. Otherwise, they will be saying, oh! she didn’t ask for it. That is why we didn’t give her.
However, at the end of the day, we all have to agree on who we wanted to lead us. We all agreed we wanted the current Speaker to lead us.
I don’t think there should be any hard feelings about anything. You tried, you got something. If I had been elected as Speaker, I am sure he (Rt. Hon. Obasa) would have rallied around me to support me. So, I have to support him because there must be success in the legislative arm. That is what we are doing.
Besides, he is a nice person. I don’t have any problem with him. I believe that he is somebody that I can get along with very easily. He is not a difficult person to get along with.
You’ve had the occasion of working with three Speakers. Which one would you say you like his leadership style?
I like (Rt. Hon.) Pelumi and I like (Rt. Hon.) Obasa, but I wasn’t too crazy about (Rt. Hon.) Ikuforiji. I didn’t like his leadership style. I think he was a bit of a dictator to me. I wasn’t too pleased with his leadership style.
But as a House of Assembly and as a party person, we have to work together to move the state forward. Take our differences aside and work together as a unit. I say that out of the three, I like two of them. Because they were more accommodating. They know that they also are not perfect and don’t expect perfection from other people. I don’t like hypocrisy. Certain people believe that when they are in position, nobody else matters. But at the end of the day, we will leave the position.
Before us was somebody and after us will be somebody. I personally wasn’t too crazy about Ikuforiji’s leadership style, sincerely.
I am not saying he is a bad person or something like that, but his leadership style, to me was not what I expected of him.
You’ve been voted into the House of Assembly four times by the people of your constituency. What is the secret?
People get to accept you for whom you are, I am not a pretender. If my constituent come to me for anything I cannot afford, I will tell him or her I can’t afford it, I am sorry. The one I can do, I tell them, I will do.
Then, my constituents are loyal people. I have to be sincere. They are very loyal to me. They are very kind to me. They accepted me as their sister and friend. I think that is an important factor. I don’t have any problem with them.
Also, I do what I am supposed to do. Things that will make life better for them are what I do. But I don’t promise things that I cannot do. I bond with them, that is why they keep voting for me.
You are a lawyer who has been practicing even before coming to the House of Assembly. Do you still have time to practice now?
Unfortunately, I can’t practice now because legislation in Nigeria is a full time job. I continue to read, I am pursuing my Ph.D. It is not easy combining legislative duties with academics but I have the desire to have my PhD and by the grace of God I will do so.
If for whatever reason you are no longer a legislator, will you still go back to law?
Yes. My wig and gown is there (in her office) in that pouch. The good thing about law is that once you are qualified, you just dusk your wig and gown and you are good to go. If you can read as a lawyer, you will never be hungry.
Where do you hope to see the House in three years?
We are very ambitious. I feel that and the Speaker is aware of that. We expect a lot from this dispensation. We don’t want it to be business as usual. We want everybody to be encouraged to bring out the best in them. We don’t want people to just come in to mark register and leave.
We must not lose focus of where we are going. We say Itesiwaju Eko, Ohun lo jo wa loju. That must be our guiding principle.