HONOURABLE Tayo Oduntan is the Deputy Chief Whip of Lagos House of Assembly. She has been a member of the Assembly since 1999, when she was first voted in to represent Alimosho Constituency II.
She missed returning into the House in 2003 and 2007, due to what she called political intrigues within her local government area then.
She was back in 2011 and 2015, thus making her a three-time member of the Assembly.
In this interview, she told us how she was elected the Deputy Chief Whip and her experience in politics.
We want to start by congratulating you on your election as the Deputy Chief Whip of Lagos House Assembly.
Thank you very much.
How does it feel to be made a member of the principal officers of the Assembly?
Whatever position one finds himself or herself in life you should first of all give God the glory. So, I give God all the glory. I also thank the party leaders and my colleagues in the House of Assembly for believing in me.
Was it something you were expecting?
Not really, but I assumed I should be a principal officer based on the number of women in the house and my ranking status.
So, it was something you were expecting then?
I expected but if I did not get it, I wouldn’t be disappointed. I will just take it as one those things. But I thank God that I got it.
What exactly does your work entail as the Deputy Chief Whip of the Assembly?
I am the secretary of the parliamentary caucus and the principal officer’s caucus. When the Chief Whip is not around to assume his position and his responsibilities too.
So, how has the experience been in the last few weeks that you been in office?
It’s okay. A learning experience. I have been learning on the job and my colleagues have been very cooperative. It’s been a smooth sail.
There were a lot of intrigues before the emergence of the present crops of principal officers of the Assembly. How far has the division created then among members been resolved? Is the house united now?
Of course, the house is united now. You know all returning members of the house are potential Speaker or principal officer. Everyone was qualified to vie for any position but only one person can be Speaker or any other position. Yes, there were a lot of intrigues then but since someone has emerged Speaker, everything is back to normal. We are one united house.
There were so many caucuses in the course of electing the principal officers then. Does that mean the caucuses do not exist anymore?
That was basically for the position of the speakership and such was not unexpected but since somebody has emerged as the speaker the caucuses are no longer there anymore. The only caucus we have now is that of the 40 member of the 8th Assembly.
Do you love the situation where the number of female members of the Assembly dropped from seven to four now?
Certainly not. I would have loved to see more female members coming into the house. That is what some of us have actually been canvassing for and we will appreciate it if our leaders will give more women opportunities to vie for elective positions, particularly the legislative arm of government where laws which affect mostly women and children are made. We are not going to give up on this. That is why those of us who are here are doing our best in terms of our contributions on the floor of the house and in other responsibilities so that we will serve as role model to many other women out there who may want to become a lawmaker in future.
You first became a member of the 4th Assembly (1999- 2003), but you did not make the 5th and 6th Assembly. You made the 7th and now the 8th Assembly. What would you attribute your comeback to?
God and resilience. Whatever cause you believe in you should be consistent about. Life is full of ups and down. When I did not come back in the 5th Assembly, it was not because I didn’t do my job well but because of intrigues within my constituency then. But I was not deterred. Nobody brought me into politics and nobody is going to chase me out of politics.
Was it the same political intrigue that was responsible for your inability to make it in 6th Assembly too?
I did not contest in 2007. As a matter of fact, I wanted to contest for the chairmanship of the council then. But then it did not materialise. I felt then that I will make more impact on the lives of the people if I were in the council but unfortunately, it was not part of God’s plan for me that year.
How will you describe your experience so far in politics?
It’s been a mixed grill of sort. In the past when we started politics, political campaign used to be less violent than what it is today. Today, the way people brandish guns at political rally is alarming. Politics should not be a do or die affair. If you are in politics to actually serve the people why then killing one another over that?
What then will you say you like about politics?
Touching peoples’ lives. That is the most rewarding part of politics. The number of people one is able to impact their lives through policies and laws that you made is what gives me joy in politics.
What would you say you don’t like about politics?
The violence that is involved in the way we play politics in this country is something that really put me off. Like I said earlier, campaign grounds have now become real battle grounds with everybody brandishing gun here and there. You now have to go to campaign ground with a lot of security. Many people were surprised when they saw me at campaign without retinue of security officials. God has always been there for me.
What are you doing to curb this violence in politics?
The solutions lie basically on shoulders of the Federal Government in creating enabling environment for the economy to be buoyant again. Once the economy is buoyant more job opportunities will be created and the restless youths will find something worthwhile to do. The states too should be alive to their responsibilities of engaging the youths positively by creating jobs for them. Once the youths are positively engaged they will no longer be attracted into the violent world of thuggery.
A lot of people adjudged you as one of the best dressed women around. What would you say informed the way you dress?
I don’t know about being one of the best dressed women because I just dress simply to suit the occasion. I am not the flashy type. I just put on anything that sit comfortably well on my body. In most cases, I just put on simple Ankara fabric that is sown by our local fashion designers. Just simple and elegant.
Do you have any favourite accessory?
The only thing I cannot do without is my ring. I can do without necklace except when I go out for social gatherings.
Don’t you love shoes and bags?
Of course, I love shoes. I love good shoes but I am not particular about bags. As I am getting older I prefer to put on wedge because it is more comfortable for one’s legs and there is less risk of falling down.
- TOLANI ABATTI