Interviews

‘God has been good to me’ – Hon. Joseph Bamgbose, Chairman, Badagry West LCDA

HON. Houtonu Joseph Bamgbose, Chairman of Badagry West LCDA, has every reason to thank God for where he is today at 52.  He was barely a year old when he lost his father.  And he was the last child of the man.  With the help of his mother, he scaled through his primary and secondary education and from there, he saw himself through university education before venturing into private business.

It was while doing business that he ventured into partisan politics in 1997.  Since then, God has been crowning his effort with one success after the other.

Today, at 52 (he turned 52 on Saturday, June 21, 2014), he has been a member of Lagos House of Assembly for two terms and chairman of Badagry West LCDA also for two terms.

He told ENCOMIUM Weekly the story of his life in this interview.

How do you feel turning 52?

I feel happy, I feel great and I give God all the glory.  I give God the honour and adoration for where I am today.  Turning 52 in a country like ours is certainly worth giving God the glory and adoration.

Do you feel your new age?

Not at all.  I feel as if I am in my 30s. In fact, a lot of people ask me if I am sure about turning 52.  I tell them it is the glory of God that is radiating in me that makes me look younger than my real age.

Is there anything you are doing that makes you look younger than your real age?

Yes, eating very well and moderately and not putting too much on my mind.  That is, not worrying too much about any problem or challenge.

Do you do any form of exercise?

Very well. I jog around my house at least twice in a week and I have a bicycle I ride around the estate.

What was your growing up like?

I wouldn’t lie to you it was a tough one because I lost my father at a tender age.  I was barely a year old when my father died in 1963.  So, the responsibility of raising me and my other siblings was basically that of my mother and we are four.  She single-handedly raised the four of us.  She made sure we had at least secondary education.  It was certainly not an easy task for her.  I went to St. Thomas Primary School, Badagry for my primary education and Victory High School, Abule Onigbagbo, Ikeja, Lagos, which was a private school then.

From Badagry to Ikeja?

It was a private school which has facilities for both boarding and day students.  This was before the take-over of private schools by Alhaji Lateef Jakande administration.  I left Victory High School, Ikeja in 1981.  I didn’t make all my papers at the same time. I started working with Nigeria Cocoa Board, Apapa.  This was after I worked as contract staff with Guinness Nigeria Plc for six months.  Despite working in the account department of the Nigerian Cocoa Board as the pay master, I never lost interest in furthering my education.  So, as I was working I was attending remedial classes to pass my WASCE and GCE.

I had terrible experience before I gained admission into Lagos State University to read Biology/Education. In my desperation to gain admission into higher institution abroad I was swindled by 419ners.

How much were you duped?

I was terribly dealt with, I wouldn’t tell you the amount but it warranted closing my account in the bank then.

All your savings?

Yes, all my savings.  But thank God I was able to recover on time and decided to seek admission in other Nigerian higher institutions.  I was lucky I gained admission into Yaba College of Technology, Yaba and Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos.  I didn’t like the course I was given at LASU, Biology/Education but people advised me that because it was a degree-awarding higher institution, I should go to LASU.  I also thank people like Professor Okebukola, who gave me a fatherly advice to remain in the science department.  He was then the dean of the faculty. I came out with Third Class but I thank God that I didn’t have to spend extra semester before I graduated.  I did my Youth Service in Jos as an education instructor at a military school.  After my service, I came back to Lagos. I couldn’t get any job and I started doing some little businesses here and there to survive.  It was while doing this that I joined politics in 1997 during the Abacha era.

All this while were you married?

Yes, I got married shortly after my youth service.

Were you living in Lagos then or you moved back to Badagry?

Yes, I moved back to Badagry. It was while in Badagry I joined NCPN headed by Chief Don Etiebet and I contested for the House of Assembly election, I lost.  Unfortunately, those who won the election then were not sworn in before General Abacha died and the whole process was cancelled.  I joined Alliance for Democracy (AD) then and I was the secretary in my ward.  When they called for nomination of candidates for the House of Assembly election, I joined and fortunately, I won the nomination as well as the election into the House of Assembly to represent Badagry Constituency 1.

When will you say is the happiest moment of your 52 years of existence?

It was when God showered his favour upon me by giving me a son after having three daughters.

Was it that you were desperately looking for a boy?

Not me personally but my wife.  She was worried I might marry another woman if she did not give me a boy.  Despite all the assurances I gave her that I will not marry another woman, whether she gives birth to another girl or a boy.  But as God would have it when she went for a scan, it was a boy.  This is not to say that I did not love or appreciate my three girls, but having that boy put a lot of pressure off me.  I know of a friend who in the course of looking for a boy has 10 girls now.  There was also another who has six girls in the course of looking for a boy.  So, you can understand what I mean when I say that the birth of our son was the happiest moment of my life.

At least, I wouldn’t bother myself to have more than the four that we have now.  We have certainly reached our bus stop in terms of having children.

When would you say is the saddest moment of your life?

When I lost my mother in 2007.  Even though she was 89 when she died, she was too dear to me. I really didn’t want her to go.  Ironically, the year she died was when I was planning for election into the House of Representatives.  But I have to abandon this to take care of her when she fell sick and to give her a befitting burial when she eventually died on Sunday in my presence.

You’ve been in politics since 1997, what lessons of life would you say politics has taught you?

When you are in politics and you are fortunate to be in office, it is good to be closer to people and their interests.  As a politician, you must always strive to know what the interests of the generality of the people are and serve it.  Politics, like any other vocation, is full of all sorts of characters.  You as a politician must learn to tolerate all of them.  In politics like they say, there are no permanent friends but permanent interest.  You must know how to deal with that as a politician.  You must be extraordinarily careful about your security.  Lessons of life continue as long as you are alive.

Life is an encyclopedia you cannot finish reading throughout your life.  So, is politics.  In all, you must have the fear of God and love your people. You must be passionate about serving your people and their interests.

What would you say you like most about being in politics?

I like listening and talking to people.  I like being in the midst of people and sharing their happiness and sorrows. I like inspiring and uplifting people’s spirits.

What is it you don’t like about politics?

Lies, lies, lies and too much lies.  Telling lies does not in anyway honour you.  Don’t tell lies to give the impression of what or who you are not.  It may help your situation at that time but it will not in the long run.

Will you consider yourself a lucky person or politician?  You were a member of Lagos House of Assembly for two terms and a chairman of a local government for another two terms.

I always look at myself as one of the lucky guys around. But it is not by my power or might but by the grace of God. I will say I am lucky because it is not that I am the most educated or because of my wealth or that I know more people than any other person, it’s just the glory of God.

That is why I said earlier in the course of this interview that all glory, honour and adoration go to the Almighty God for where He has brought me today.  One thing I know very well is that apart from the glory of God, I have been truthful to my people, I have been there for them and they have reciprocated by being there for me too.

You’ve been a member of the legislature as well as member of the executive arms of government.  Which one will you say you prefer?

Legislature.  As a legislator you depend solely on your salary and allowances and people would probably not expect too much from you. But as an executive member, people think you have the key to the vault of your office. If you do anything like building a house or buy a car they will allege that you are spending their money or you have stolen their money.

As a legislator, people will only criticize you for not representing them well but nobody will accuse you of stealing their money.  Frankly, I will tell you I love the legislative arm of government and that is going to be my next line of action. I am targeting Abuja.

As a member of House of Representatives I suppose?

What do you want to be remembered for as the chairman of Badagry West LCDA for two terms?

I will be leaving behind one of the best primary schools ever built by any local government administration in the history of Lagos State.  A school that will be the pride of both the parents and pupils.  A school that has all the equipment that will enhance the learning of the pupils and make them compete favourably well with any pupil from private schools anywhere in Lagos.  A school that will bridge the gap between the community. The first one I built at Apa, Badagry, was endorsed by the governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) as the model for the state.  The school was named after Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.  I also built an ultra-modern secretariat for the local government that will be the pride of the people of the local government area for years to come.  We would commission it any moment from now.  We have constructed many roads to link different communities to enable them carry out their daily economic and social activities.  Our public health centres are also some of the best around.  We make sure they are well-equipped and staffed so that when people go there, they will always be attended to.

I am sure for a very long time to come people will also remember that they had a chairman who had listening ears. No matter how little we are always more than willing to assist people who are genuinely in need of assistance.

Where and when did you meet your wife?

We met when I was still living somewhere around Somolu.  I was with a friend when I saw her pass and I inquired from my friend who she was. I think she came to buy something in one of the shops around then. Immediately I saw her enter the shop I gave her a chase.  Like they say, boy meets girl and they start talking.  That was how it started and seven years later we got married.

Seven years?

Yes, we courted for seven years.

What would you say was the attraction then?

Her cool headedness and discipline.  She was too cool headed for her age.  She was 19 when we met and yet she refused to let me have my ways then.  You know what I mean.  And despite seeing other girls around me, she never complained.

Were you having other girlfriends then?

What do you expect from a university student then? But the fact that she refused my sex advances and told me point blank, what I asked from her was marriage not sex got me to be more interested in her than other girls. She told me she was still going to school.  We became closer when she lost he father two years after we started and I was like playing the fatherly role to her since then.  During her 21st birthday celebration I was also there for her.

Frankly speaking, her well cultured manners and discipline got me to be more interested in her and I started praying that we end up marrying each other.  As God would have it that happened in 1997 after about seven years of courtship.

-TOLANI ABATTI

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