OTUNBA Hon. (Arc) Ekundayo Adedeji Alebiosu is a two-term member of House of Representatives. He represents Kosofe Federal Constituency of Lagos State and he is the Chairman House Committee on Treaties and Agreements.
He has just added another feather to his ap. He has been conferred with an Otunba title by the paramount ruler of Ijebuland, His Royal Majesty, Oba Sikiru Adetona (CFR), the Awujale of Ijebuland.
His installation comes up on Saturday, January 25, 2014, at Awujale Palace, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State.
He spoke to ENCOMIUM Weekly on his new title and sundry issues.
It is second to none. I have always loved the saying that you cannot say you have experienced life until you have lived it. God has given me the opportunity to live it for seven years and it is a wonderful experience. It’s given me the opportunity to know Nigeria and I will forever remain grateful to God.
What will you describe as your most exciting moment in the House of Representatives?
To be honest with you, we have had most exciting moments. It’s been exciting all through, I remember the Rt. Hon. Patricia Etteh saga. That was what we were welcomed with in 2007. All through the life span of Sixth Assembly, it was always one issue or the other like wanting to impeach (Rt. Hon.) Dimeji Bankole, whom we all elected. He was not the choice of his party (PDP), but he was the candidate of the National Assembly because we rallied round and supported him. There was always this issue of him not being accepted or wanted. We experienced a lot of external fingerings all through that period.
Again, history repeated itself in a different way with (Rt. Hon). Amiru Tambuwal. He also was not the candidate of PDP but it has been interesting. There is always one issue or the other that kept it interesting.
What would you say has been your most challenging period in the last seven years?
The challenges were in the beginning because it was a learning process. In the beginning you have to learn by heart, the House Rules, have an understanding of the relevant parts of the constitution. You have to think quicky on your feet and check with the constitution and see whether the discussion is in line with the provision of the constitution and so on.
Those were the challenging moments. It was a learning process. It’s still a learning process but I will say after about seven years, I think I can lay claim to some level of veteranship.
You were once a member of the executive as Senior Special Assistant on Housing and a member of the Legislature. What lesson has this taught you about governance?
It has implanted versatility inside of me. Going to the legislature was what I will refer to then as another life. The legislature is where democracy thrives most. This is where you have to lobby practically all the members, in this case 360 members, to see your views and opinions. With the executive, I have been able to experience service. They are completely two different things, you can’t compare them. The experience I got from the executive arm is what has really helped me in maintaining a wonderful relationship with members of the committee that I currently chair, which is the Committee on Treaty and Agreement.
I have experienced a wonderful support from them. It’s been unbelievable to be honest with you. I really appreciate them. I owe all these to Almighty Allah.
If we start by saying the basic responsibility of the government is to provide basic things of life like food, shelter and clothing, are these things actually basic? Are policies of government actually in favour of the masses? They say only a mad man does the same thing over and over again the same way and expects different result. That is why the people are rising today. To be honest with you, I have seen a lot of things happen, and I will say that those claims are legitimate until we’ve been able to identify and provide the basic necessities. That’s part of why I fault some of the policies of the present administration. For example, the tariffs that are being introduced to discourage used vehicles and clothings. I completely disagree, where there isn’t true alternative. Change is something that people will resist where there is nothing in place to cushion the effect of the change. I wonder how many more people need to die before Lagos/Ibadan Expressway would be done.
Basic infrastructure like water, electricity are not available. We all know that the cost of production of anything in Nigeria is expensive than anywhere else in the world. Hotels are expensive because they have to run on generators. Airtime in Nigeria is expensive more than Ghana because they run on generators. They say you cannot miss what you never had. But in a case that you can see what is happening next door, it is not a case of the grass just being greener on the other side, you begin to wonder why grass cannot be greener on your side as well. And it is the same sun that shines, it is the same rain that falls. So, I will be honest with you, they are legitimate claims.
How much of your father, Otunba Busurat Alebiosu’s popularity and influence would you say has rubbed off on you?
You have to be somebody’s son. There is a tendency that if your father is a carpenter and you are exposed to that trade at an early age, you might be influenced to pick up the trade. So, I wouldn’t say his popularly has not rubbed off on me but the exposure. I remember at the age of seven, I told him I wanted to design houses. He asked me what are they called, I said house drawers. He said, no they are called architects. Today, I am an architect. When I was 17 going on 18, I said I wanted to be a politician like him. Today, I am a politician. I believe we are coming at different times. He played politics for over 40 years and it will be unfair to compare his 40 years experience with mine. My prayer, however, is that he will be alive to see how his influence has rubbed off on me.
You trained as an architect but today you are known more as a politician. Do you still practice as an architect?
I still practice. These are my products (showing centre tables and settees that he personally designed). It is more than a profession to me. It’s been a passion.
Similarly, politics has become a passion to me. In my free time, I do some interior designs.
You don’t design houses anymore?
Even before I went into full time politics, I was into construction and interior design. I find them more challenging than designing houses. Both architect and politics are jealous professions. If you are involved in one, you actually don’t have time for the other. So, I have chosen politics as a profession and architecture my hobby. There is so much to do in politics.
On Saturday, January 25, 2014, you will be installed Otunba Fuwagbuyi of Ijebuland by Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona. What will you say informed such an honour by the Awujale?
It beats me o, we have to ask Kabiyesi o (general laughter). For me, it’s been an honour. I was really amazed when Kabiyesi mentioned some things that he had followed about my political activism. For example, he mentioned the tobacco bill. He mentioned the compensation of the Dana Air crash victims and a few other things. I really was amazed. I was amazed that at 80, with his tight and busy schedule, he was able to monitor me. I will forever remain grateful. It’s a big honour, especially when one realizes the former holder of the title was late Otunba Adeniran Ogunsanya. This is more of a challenge to me to do better than my predecessor. I am actually grateful to Allah and to him (Kabiyesi) for the honour.
I am glad, maybe my physique gives the impression that I am young but if you look at it, my father is 78 and he’s been playing politics for more than 40 years. He’s been an Otunba for about 30 years. When you take away 30 from 78, that is 48. I am in my 40s as well. Likewise, my mother has been an Otunba for about 30 years as well.
What does being an Otunba entail?
You are challenged. It’s like saying what is your responsibility as a prince. It’s a ruling house title and when it’s bestowed upon you, it means that you will assume certain responsibilities. It means that you will be involved in certain things such as being instrumental to the development of the community.
Does it involve some rituals or being a member of a secret cult?
My mother is an Otunba and I don’t think I have ever heard or seen her reciting some incantations. Those who know my family know that we are staunch Muslims. We are not hardliners but we believe in God. God has shown us several things. You are aware of my sickness, they had written me off as a bad case.
Tell us about your illness, what really happened?
It was as a result of consumption of caffeinated energy drinks. I was practically living off them. That experience was what I was reacting to when I sponsored the motion. I don’t want anybody to experience the pain I went through. It was like dancing with death cheek to cheek and God rescued you back. I don’t want anybody to experience such. That was what inspired my sponsoring that motion.
What is the motion all about?
It is a motion to control the consumption and sales of caffeinated energy drinks in Nigeria. I was worried that only few of them have NAFDAC registration numbers. Even those that have NAFDAC registration numbers, I have talked with them. We consume them without knowing what the contents are. I was angry with myself for being silly to have not checked the contents. A lot of people consume these drinks out of ignorance. People are made to believe that the drinks can serve as an aphrosidiac. There is one that says you can fly. All these are misinformation.
We know that over 300 (brands of the drinks) are sold in Nigeria. So, it is not about just kicking them out but to ascertain the danger it portends.
What exactly was the ailment that the consumption of the drinks caused you?
If you check on the net today you will see what it can cause. It can cause irregular heartbeat, blood clot. You know what blood clot is all about. Once the blood stops supplying a particular major organ like the brain, the lung, heart and the intestine, gbom! That is it, light out (death). So, for me to have come through that, it was not by anybody’s doing. I didn’t survive just because the doctors treated me. I am grateful to them (doctors). But I think I survived first because Allah wanted me to survive. So, it is misinformation that you have to belong to some cult or things like that. It is like saying for you to be a chief or prince you must belong to a cult. It is not so. Those who know me know that I am an Alhaji and have already exposed my children to the tenets of Islam. You know I am a father of girls. But whether boys or girls, you must make them to imbibe the tenets of Islam at an early age.