-12 page special on the 40 member, House
Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa, the Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly is 43 (will be 44 in November 2016). He is serving his fourth term in the Assembly, representing the good people of Agege Constituency I
In 2003, he was elected a member of Lagos House of Assembly and in 2015, he was re-elected for the fourth time. In June 2015, he emerged the Speaker of the Assembly. A year down the line, he told ENCOMIUM Weekly that with support of his colleagues, he has achieved more than his expectations. Rt. Hon Obasa holds a degree in Law from Lagos State University, Ojo.
How has it been in the last one year that you’ve been the Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly?
I want to thank Almighty Allah for everything. Certainly, it has not been easy, but with the support of my colleagues, we have been able to achieve the little that we have achieved so far.
What precisely will you say is the function of the Speaker?
The Speaker has a lot of functions. Aside his constitutional responsibility, he performs the administrative functions, political functions and social functions. So, the Speaker’s function is a multi-purpose one.
As the number three man in the state, the Speaker’s position is a powerful one. Are there some privileges attached to this powerful position?
For me, I have not seen or felt the power because I simply operate as a member of the House. I still see myself as a representative of my people. I don’t see myself as number three man in the state. I am just the way I am.
I have not seen anything extra-ordinary about being number three man. I still go where I used to go and I still live where I live.
Did you say you still live in your personal residence before you became the Speaker?
Yes, I still live in my residential house in Agege.
But there is an official residence of the Speaker.
Yes, there is. I only go there for official functions such as receiving visitors and so on. But at the end of each day, I go back to my Agege residence.
What would you say has been the most exciting moment in the one year that you have been the Speaker?
The achievement of the House so far. When we first came in, people were saying it to my face that the previous Speaker has left a big shoe, how am I going to step into it? I told them that if I could not step into the big shoes, I will look for my own size.
I thank the Almighty Allah. He has been so kind. With the support of my colleagues and staff of the Assembly, we have been able to achieve a lot in a short time. We introduced innovations that have not only made us efficient but effective. For instance, the screening of Commissioners and special advisers was first of it’s kind in the state.
Also, we held our Town Hall Meetings simultaneously, the first of its kind which was successful. Even, the Federal Government has taken a cue from us to organize its own town hall meetings.
The last budget we passed was passed by the end of December and was submitted to the executive for assent. Some people raised eye brow asking us why we passed the budget within a month. If I don’t have any reason to hold on to the budget, why should I do so?
We followed all the procedures of passing an appropriation bill. We met with the executive and we parleyed with them. We did everything we are supposed to do. We discovered we were done on time. So, why do we have to hold on to the budget? Is it to make people believe we are working? We thank God today, the budget is performing, the executive is working and the House is doing its oversight function in monitoring how the budget is being executed.
I am also excited that within a year, the House has recorded eight or nine private members bills. That is unprecedented in the history of any House of Assembly in Nigeria.
Nine private members bills! They are not just frivolous bills. These are bills that will touch lives of our people. That will impact on them.
We are certainly not doing badly in our first year of the 8th Assembly. We know we still have to do more.
What would you say has been the most challenging period in one year of your Speakership?
That certainly will be the process that led to my emergence as the Speaker. There were a lot of tension, acrimonies and aspersions on my person.
But we thank God today that we have left all that behind us. We are working together as one. We are working towards the same goal, and to some extent, we have been able to achieve that. We thank God that we have been able to manage it all.
Did your emergence as Speaker come to you as a surprise or it was something you were expecting?
I wasn’t expecting it at all. Though, some of my friends posted a poster that, Agege deserves a Speak, but in my thinking, I was eyeing the Deputy Speaker seat. We had one of us who was the most ranking member then, Hon. Kolawole Taiwo. We had all concluded that he was going to be our Speaker. But unfortunately, he lost in the general election.
It was after he lost in the general election that it dawned on me that from the three of us left as the most ranking members, I could take a shot at the Speaker’s seat too. That was how it started.
What then would you say got you the Speakership?
Waoh! The first thing I will say got it for me was divine intervention by Almighty Allah. Then our party leaders and my colleagues. Both the party leaders and my colleagues played significant roles in my emergence as the Speaker of the House.
It was a combination of both. I must give it to all of them and sincerely appreciate them all.
What would you say have changed about you since you became the Speaker?
I don’t think I have changed in anyway. I strongly believe I am still my old self. Except you want to tell me I have changed. I still live my life the way I lived it before I became Speaker, except that I don’t have enough time for myself anymore. I am here from morning till night and when I get home, I try to stay indoor to conserve enough energy for the next day’s activities.
Aside from this, I am just the way I am. I am not willing to change from what I used to be, because the life of a Speakership will come to an end one day and you will still remain yourself. I have not seen anything that has changed, except people tell me I have changed. Maybe my weight, because these days I hardly go out. That could add to my weight.
Before you became Speaker you were very well known in social circle. What happened to that now?
Yes, I was well known in social circle then because I have friends who invite me to their social gatherings. But now, because of loads of work I have to do, I have reduced my social outings. I still honour my friends but not as it was before.
As the Speaker, do you still have time to perform your primary assignment of representing the people of your constituency?
That is what we are doing here. To represent their interest and go back to give them feedback. That is why we were elected, to represent their interest. t tell government what they need. I am sure we’ve been doing that adequately.
But do your constituents have access to you now as it was in the past when they can just walk into your office?
I don’t have that luxury of time to attend to them. I can’t really claim that. But I still find time to attend to their complains, but it is not as it used to be.
Where do you hope to see the House in three years?
The House of my dream is the House that will be independent of any other institution, be it executive or judiciary. I hope and strongly believe that we will get there, where the House of Assembly can initiate anything without recourse to the executive.
But there was a bill that was passed into law in 2002 which gave the Assembly financial independence?
Yes, that is true, but there is a limit to the amount that you can spend. You cannot compare that the executive which seems to be a major shareholder in this arrangement. You still have to go back to the executive to seek support and assistance. They will tell you this is the limit you can get. So, we cannot claim that we are there (financial independence) already. But we thank God for where we are today.
There has been a cordial relationship between the legislature and the executive since inception of democracy in 1999. What has been responsible for this?
Yes, I agree with you that we have a very cordial relationship between the House of Assembly and the executive. There are many factors responsible for this. One, the same party produced the governor and majority members of the legislature. That certainly will go a long way in promoting cordial relationship between the two arms of government.
Two, most members of the two arms of government have been part and parcel of government since inception of democracy in 1999. For instance, the governor, the Speaker and most members of the Assembly have been in the system for long. We’ve been working together for quite some time. So, that also helps.
The most important factor is the fact that both arms of government have the interest of the state and the people at heart. When you have the interest of the state and the people at heart, you have no choice than to come together to work and bring benefits to the door steps of our people.