Prince (Dr.) Lanre Tejuoso is the former Commissioner for Youth and Sports under the Ibikunle Amosun-led administration in Ogun State. He was also Commissioner for the Environment as well as Special Duties. He recently resigned his appointment to contest the Ogun Central senatorial seat, under the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the forthcoming general elections. He spoke to ENCOMIUM Weekly’s DAYO RUFAI in Abeokuta, on his foray into politics, his Senatorial ambition and the assassination attempt on his life among other sundry issues.
God bless you for that question. Do you realise that Nigerian democracy would have grown and more matured than what we have now, if people from the private sector as well as sons and daughters of traditional rulers, like you put it had been occupying elective positions in this country? The reason is that such elected persons would not want to bring disgrace to the royal family or whichever establishment such people came from.
They would be conscious of the fact that if they fail to perform or embezzle funds meant for development projects in their constituencies, the electorate would cry out and before you know it, such traditional ruler would have called him or her to accountability and order. But look at what we have today.
We have situations where some politicians would misappropriate funds meant for their constituency projects and they get away with impunity. My vying for the Ogun Central senatorial seat is to bring a remarkable difference in my constituency and therefore will not be ‘business as usual,’ I can assure you of that.
Many of you, my friends in the pen profession, were quick to refer to Abeokuta as a glorified village in your past write ups, but look at what Amosun has turned everywhere to now. We are now very proud indigenes of Ogun State, happy to show off the various development projects to our friends and prospective investors, when they come calling.
Back to your question, in my own case, let me quickly tell you that the main issue is that this is the first time the Egba Traditional Council will be represented in politics at least in Ogun State. This is the first time the Egba Traditional Council will have a candidate from the royalty coming out to say that he wants to represent them. And that is why I have been consulting and seeking our royal fathers’ blessings on this journey to the hallowed chamber. If there is no success in this journey, it will be a failure for the council in its entirety. God forbid.
A lot of people are of the opinion that you just came to snatch the ticket from politicians who are older than you in the party, how true is that?
I have been on this project for 10 years. I was with Senator Amosun in the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, in 2006. That was when I contested for the senate under the ANPP. Then, nobody believed in ANPP, not only in Ogun State, but throughout the southern part of Nigeria. Majority of the politicians believed we were on a suicide mission, saying ‘How can you bring a political party that belonged to a Hausa man from the north to us here in Yoruba land?’ It was only in his house that we were making some little noise and I was a senatorial hopeful. We did what we could, but the rest like they say is history.
Around that same period, some hoodlums attacked me in the hotel where I lodged. It was some minutes after 2am, when I saw five people; they invaded my room and brought out their guns. They asked how I got the effrontery to run for Senate.
They started slapping me, they said they were asked to assassinate me. They ordered me to lie down on my bed; that they were going to kill me. It was a horrible experience. You see my forehead? (pointing at a scar on his forehead). Honestly, I don’t know how I survived. Blood was everywhere. God just saved me.
I then said to myself, if I didn’t die then, God must have spared me for a purpose. I shall serve Him and serve my people. Hence my resolve to pursue this ambition and that is why I am here for the Ogun Central senatorial contest. There have been so many gladiators along the line, but people do not know how far I have come.
What plans do you have for the people of Ogun Central senatorial district if you are eventually elected?
I am confident of victory, by His grace. First of all, I think one needs to ask oneself what the work of a senator in this dispensation actually entails. To me, a senator is to be a participant in developing policies that should benefit the people of Nigeria. After thinking about Nigeria, then you talk about your own constituency. How can I benefit my people in Ogun Central? What are their problems? How can we make national policies that will benefit them directly? Ideally, that is what we should be doing.
Then, you now talk about the constituency projects. Maybe, they give you money to execute projects that will benefit the people of the constituency where you come from. Of course, that money they gave you must be judiciously spent in that area where you represent. But these days, many senators receive such money and they don’t even care about the people and the authority does not even see what they are doing. God forbid that kind of a senator in my own situation.
Again, there are so many employment opportunities for our people at the federal level, in addition to drawing federal presence to our state. Without being immodest, a lot of the people at the top are mostly one’s friends or business associates. All of these contacts would be used to better the lot of our people.
For instance, the recruitment for the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, which they had last time. A senator must be able to establish good rapport with those that matter particularly with members of the cabinet; the ministers, the permanent secretaries and so on to enable him fix unemployed members of his constituency in such vacant positions and others that may open up. For four years, such opportunities have eluded us in this state because all our senators were busy fighting the governor. How many federal projects can you point at here, by our senators?
How would you react to the notion that you are not too close to the people and not accessible to the people of your constituency?
You have said it that it is a perception and perception is nothing but perception. The people know that I am close to them and that I am very accessible. Ogun Central senatorial district has a very large population and it all depends on who you’re talking to. Presently, we are on a meet-the-people drive. Every day, we keep on consulting with the people, because we want to hit the ground running. We must bring smiles to their faces.
What is important is for one to nurture and maintain the good relationship which has already been established with the people. Recently, in partnership with a Lagos based microfinance bank, FinaTrust Micro Finance Bank, I facilitated loans for the funding of small and medium scale businesses in my constituency.
There are however, some people who have made up their mind even before you meet them and their perception about you is negative. Many would say, “Oh, he is a prince, all princes put their shoulders high”! They therefore expect you to be very proud.
Even before they meet you, that is the impression they had already formed. But by the time you move close and talk with them, they now calm down and express surprise. I have gone through all that many times.
For instance, some people I have never met before would tell me that they’re afraid of shaking hands with me because they see me as Kabiyesi. But I often tell them that my father is the Kabiyesi and not me. I am just like you too. If I hold their hands, they would then exclaim “ah, see him, holding my hand”. In the summary, those who hold that perception are the ones who feel that as a prince with all the royalty, one should be arrogant whereas it is not so and I am not.
That is the beauty of democracy. It is not a problem but first, I want you to know that what every contestant needs to do is to perfect his or her homework. All I have to say about that for now is that when we get to the bridge, we will look at how to cross it but I don’t see that as a problem for now.
Other aspirants for the ticket on APC platform are aggrieved over the conduct of the senatorial primary election that produced you as the standard bearer of your party. How do you intend to placate them?
Of course, I am going to reach out to them so that all of us would have to work together as a team and win this election for our party. At the appropriate time, we will definitely do the needful after the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, may have released the final list of contestants.
All of us have to work together because it is such that only one person would emerge as the winner. And if indeed all of us have the spirit of fair play and the overall interest of our party at heart, then I believe we’ll all resolve our differences and work for the success of our great party. Just like the way you saw General Buhari supported by other contestants who lost the ticket after the presidential primary.
That is the spirit I believe all of us must have because that is exactly what I would have displayed if I had lost the ticket. It is not a do-or-die affair. If it were to be a do-or-die matter, by now, I would not have remained steadfast, even after the attempt on my life. I forgave the assailants and their sponsors and I have decided to run again. And this time, by His grace because He spared my life, I shall be victorious.
Is it true you are Governor Amosun’s anointed candidate?
Is the governor a pastor or what kind of an anointing are you talking about?
The rumour is that the governor influenced your emergence as the APC senatorial candidate for Ogun Central. Is it true?
If that is what they meant, then it means that I had been anointed over 10 years ago when the governor and I had been weathering the storm.
We have been contesting together. I have been with him for 10 years, through thick and thin, so what is the meaning of being an anointed candidate?
The man dies in him who keeps mum in the face of tyranny.