FORMER Lagos State deputy governor, Mrs. Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, clocked 70 recently, but the birthday was low key. The septuagenarian politician and lawyer, had an exclusive interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly on Thursday, June 4, 2009 in her residence on Muri Okunola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos. She spoke on life at 70, her career as a politician especially the grouse with her former boss, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and many more.
Congratulations on your 70th birthday ma.
It doesn’t feel any different than when I was 60.
If you flashback, what would you consider the things you didn’t do right that you want to correct at 70?
The things I didn’t do right can no longer be corrected. So, there is nothing I can do about it. We all make mistakes, we all take wrong steps, so, I think one should not dwell on things that one did not do right but dwell on things that you want to do.
How will you describe your experience as a politician?
It’s been a good experience, politics teaches one about life. It also teaches one about human nature because you meet all sorts of people in politics, as a result of that you learn about life. My experience in politics has been good and bad but I went into politics as a matter of choice. I enjoy politics and I have no regret.
How will you describe your experience with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu?
I keep on saying it, it was a horrible experience. One will not expect a human being to behave the way he behaved especially to someone who had never done anything wrong to him. I never planned anything against him, but such is life. Like I said, you will learn about human beings when you go into politics.
It was obvious that you had a turbulent period under him, what lesson would you say you have learnt from the whole experience?
I don’t know whether I learnt any lesson from the whole situation but as I said, I learnt there are human beings in this world who do not have the spirit of God in them.
Up till now, it seems there has been no reconciliation, was there any attempt at all to reconcile you with him?
Possibly other politicians in the party?
When I was in office, people tried to reconcile us, the Kabiyesi of Ikorodu, Oba Oguntade tried to reconcile us. But I will say Tinubu is a person that when he has decided to get rid of somebody or deal with somebody, he doesn’t believe in reconciliation. He has made up his mind that he did not want me as his deputy so the question of reconciliation with him did not arise.
What is the relationship with him now?
I hardly see him except on one or two occasions because we don’t really move within the same social circle. But there is no relationship as such, if he greets me, I will greet him.
What was even the bone of contention that remained unresolved till you quit as his deputy?
There was all sorts of odd stories put up by the press, I am sorry you press people too did not help matters because when somebody puts up one side, at least you are supposed to find out what the bone of contention was but the press never really bothered. They just followed everything that Dele Alake wrote and gave to them and they swallowed it hook, line and sinker. The real bone of contention was that he wanted to be vice president to Atiku in 2007 and he wanted my support in taking over the party (AD) from the leader. Of course, supporting himself and Atiku for the 2007 election was wrong. I felt the party elders made us governor and deputy. You don’t bite the finger that feeds you. I also thought it was rather too early, they were planning in 1999 while the election was in 2007. I felt it was better to face the task of governance ahead of us rather than plotting how some people will be vice president and president in 2007. That was really the bone of contention, so as soon as I refused to go along with that plan, of course, already he has said he didn’t want me as deputy though he never said so to my face originally. I didn’t want to be his deputy either, I told Late Pa Onasanya that I didn’t think he was a gentleman and therefore I wasn’t interested. Pa Onasanya told me Tinubu listens to him, that he feels he can control him. In the end, I was also persuaded by party members that since Afenifere were the people with the structure on the ground and he just came in as governor, the Afenifere said that if I didn’t stay as his deputy, Afenifere will not have any say in government. It was on that basis, that I involved myself as the deputy governor.
Its like your name is no more ringing a bell in politics as it used to, it seems you are no more interested in politics?
I am not lying low, I am still very much interested and still very much involved. Yesterday, I even had political discussion with some people high up in our party about the situation in Lagos State, so I am still very much involved.
What political post still interests you at this age?
At the moment, I am certainly not interested in any political post. What I am interested in is the restructuring of the PDP to place us in a position where we can face the AC squarely in 2011.
If you were to be the governor of Lagos State, what changes would you like to inject?
I think one of the things I will like to do is to do more for the ordinary people, the masses. Because right now, education is in a mess, there are schools without windows, the health situation is such that you will see a doctor but when they prescribe drugs for you, you can’t afford to buy them. The employment situation is there. What I will like to do, is to encourage small scale industries because I think the bedrock of any economy rests on the small scale businesses. If you look at the developed world, most of the industries they have are not huge but small scale. They are even the ones that employ people, I will try to encourage small scale industries by giving them incentives.
Generally, what lessons has life taught you?
The greatest lesson life has taught me is to fear God. Once you fear God you will approach everything in life with the fear of God, therefore you wouldn’t do what you are not supposed to do.
What is your philosophy of life?
My philosophy of life is a Christian philosophy, do unto others as you will have them do unto you. Love your neighbour as you love yourself.
What are those things you were doing before that you can no longer do at 70?
I can’t think of any.
What are the goals that you set out to achieve that you have not achieved?
I will say I have not achieved all of them, very few politicians will say they have achieved all their goals with this climate in Nigeria at the moment but I will like to think that I made a difference because I was one of those who fought to restore democracy to this country. That is my pride and joy.
You are comfortable and blessed, what else are you looking up to God for?
Not now, I have always been blessed. I have to thank God that He has always blessed me. I can’t say I am looking unto God for anything else because He has been so good to me that it will be ungrateful for me to be asking Him for anything.
Any regrets at 70?
No, not really. I can’t say I have any regret at all. The only regret I have is that I wasn’t able to do more to effect changes in Lagos State, to improve the lives of people of Lagos State.
No matter how long one lives, death is inevitable, what would you like to be remembered for?
It is difficult to say, but above all I will like to be remembered as one of those that restored democracy to Nigeria.
As a politician, what is your assessment of President Yar’Adua’s administration?
He is halfway, people are always trying to pass judgement on others. I believe until he has reached the end of this term, I am not in a position to pass judgement on his administration.
What is your comment on 10 years of democracy in Nigeria, how far do you think we have gone?
We have what we call democracy, but if I really look at it, it is not the kind of democracy that those of us who fought for it envisaged because somewhere along the line, something went wrong, how, why and what it is, I don’t know. Maybe it was the poverty level of the country, I don’t know. Now, instead of having government of the people, we have government of a group of people who are charlatans, 419ers, embezzlers and all sorts of people who have no business running the affairs of this country unfortunately, running the affairs of this country. And it is sad because it is not the kind of democracy we envisaged. The kind of democracy we envisaged is the type that people sacrifice their lives. Late Kudirat Abiola sacrificed her life. Abiola sacrificed his life for democracy. When you look at these sacrifice, it makes one look sad that people were ready to pay the utmost prize, yet we have ended up the way we are with all sorts of characters who have no business in government, governing us. Like I said, I don’t know what caused it. I like to believe it is the level of poverty in the country.
What is your assessment of Governor Fashola’s administration?
Governor Fashola’s administration has been planting flowers, as you can see that I like flowers, I will call him gardener governor. As for the things I spoke of earlier, schools, health, I don’t see any improvement. So, is it flowers that the people will eat? Is it flowers that will give people good health services and schools? I don’t think so.
Can you tell us your experience as a mother and grandmother?
Being a mother is a blessing, one has to thank God that one is a mother. It is a very pleasant experience and I enjoy it. I thank God for it. Being a grandmother is the ability to see your children’s children, which is also a blessing.
If you have the opportunity of coming to this world again, would you like to be a politician and a lawyer?
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, June 9, 2009