by Godwin Akanfe
Since emerging as Speaker of the Assembly in December 2005, Rt Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji has gone on to record the feat of becoming the first Legislator to serve as a Speaker for two consecutive terms in Lagos state.
Apart from his role as Speaker of the Lagos state House of Assembly for nearly a decade, Ikuforiji also belongs to a number of Committees within the House. He is a Member of the Education Committee, the Commerce and Industry Committee and the Member of the Environment Committees.
Having made his mark as Speaker, Ikuforiji believes it is time for him to take the next step in his political sojourn, by contesting for the Governorship of the state under the All Progressives Congress. He says he’s the right person to pilot the ship of the state, given his experience, capability, know-how and innate knack for excellence.
In a recent sit-down with YNaija, the Honourable Speaker stated the motivating factors behind his yearn to become Governor of the commercial backbone of Nigeria, Lagos state.
He said, “The main reason why I really want to be governor this time is because I think the masses of our people are still not getting the best of bargains. I think I can give them a better deal than they’ve ever had before. The reason I really want to be governor is because I want to bring succour to the masses of our people. I have gathered enough experience as far as governance is concerned, and I have this belief that the best of bargains is still far from our people. The gap between, I can provide it. I have a knack for excellence. I believe in putting smiles in the faces of our people and I know it is possible to make life more abundant for our people than it has ever been.”
Ikuforiji also highlighted a perceived disconnect between the government and the citizenry as a major reason for the disenfranchised feeling of the populace, adding that he intends to get Lagosians more involved in governance and provided them with basic amenities.
“I think our people deserve to have better roads, they deserve to have their people go to school with less pain, they deserve to have their children gainfully employed after they have gone through years of preparation, they deserve to have the three square meals, they deserve better housing, better healthcare delivery system. Above all, they deserve closeness to their government, they should be made part of the government. I think we have arrived at that spot now where Lagosians should be the major reason if governance, they should decide what they want and they should get what they want. I think we should get our people more involved and I will bring this before the people,” Ikuforiji said.
The Speaker admitted that quite a lot of things “are done not in accordance with the books” in the government which he belongs to, saying that there is “a dirt of tradition that is difficult to change.” He stated that the people need reorientation and people who will lead them by example, adding that “The system is still not benefiting from the principles from the presidential system if government.”
He stated, “There is supposed to be three arms of government. The first is the legislature. It is the arm where you have the representatives of the people, it is the arm where the people are supposed to actually display or show their interests. That arm makes the law, it legitimises activities and actions of government. And then you have the executive arm that executes the law and the judiciary that adjudicates whenever there are misunderstandings, discrepancies or conflicts in the system. But of course we can only argue that the system is only 15 years old because the legislature is only 15 years plus. The executive and the judiciary have always been there. They are both 100 years old in Nigeria while the legislature is only 15 years old. But interestingly, the 15-year old legislature is constitutionally empowered to oversight the hundred year old executive and judiciary, hence the first conflict because in our traditional system the Oba, the Emir or the king is the number one person in the kingdom or the community.”
Speaking further, he said, “The problem in our current system is that we have taken the power of that one man and shared it into three. But because the people are not used to it yet, they still see the governor or the head of the executive arm of the government as the number one person in the society who cannot be challenged. In the Yoruba system, the number one person, the Oba had the appellation of “Kabiyesi”, that is the one who cannot be queried, the one whose deed is final, who cannot be questioned or challenged. But in our current system, because the number one citizen is not supposed to be on his toes, challenged, questioned and queried and even made to sweat to answer questions. What we get out of it is confusion. The same people whose representatives are supposed to be protecting their interests, and who are supposed to be querying the executive and judiciary on their behalf, feel offended when the number one citizen is called to answer questions on his activities. Yes, we have few people who encourage the the sanctity of the constitution but the greater majority still do not understand. That is why we are not getting the best out of it.”
The legislator, who has a Master’s of Science degree in Economic Planning and Cybernetics from Babes-Bolayai University and Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies in Romania, says the people have to start questioning the actions, as well as the inactions of their leaders.
He said, “In the system where we borrowed this construction from in the United States of America the legislature is so powerful that many times the president’s actions are questioned. He is made to answer questions for his deeds. The legislature queries the actions and inactions of the president. That is still absent in our system. We have not developed the capacity, the techniques that will get this done for the benefits of our people.”
“When you have representatives who can say ‘this is what my people want, this is the direction my people want to go’ and the people feel more comfortable holding their representatives responsible or sending them on errands as they are supposed to be, then the people get the best from their government. Today that’s not the case. We have tried very hard particularly in Lagos State to build a legislature that stands head and shoulder above others around here but that is not to say that we have arrived at the position that we are supposed to be. We have built a solid base for its take-off but we still have a long way to go. To get to that point, we will not only need men and women of courage in the legislative arm, we will also need a governor who is fully and totally committed to democratic practices,” he added.
Ikuforiji stressed his long-standing service, sacrifice, commitment and understanding of the role of the executive as factors which make him stand out from others who have aspiration of contesting at the next gubernatorial election of the state in 2015.
“The difference lies in the fact that I have over these years led the legislature and I have made necessary sacrifices to make the legislature attain the height that it has attained today and I know that the lacuna that exists between where we are today and where we are supposed to be to get the very best from our government can only be filled by a strong democrat as governor, by a man who is seriously committed. That type of commitment is not the one that you just imagine in a man who has not really got this experience. No matter the number of years you spend in the executive arm, particularly in this system, they simply do not understand what the executive us all about. I will provide that gap. I’m in a better position than anyone else in the system to provide that gap and lay the foundation so that any other person coming after us will meet a solid system that is a near perfect one and that cannot easily be corrupted.”
He also declared his intention to re-organise the educational system, by creating a balance between formal and informal education; thereby empowering the youths by encouraging them to take up artisanships in different fields.
“We start from our education. We have laid too much emphasis on certification than education. We go too much after certificates and degrees, content is not relevant. I think we need to change that. We need to make our children to be more handy than never before. They should be able to use their hands and their brains in a manner that will be more productive than ever before. We need to create more centres for re-education, centres for training if artisans and masons. Isn’t it a shame that today if you really want to build a house and you want a good job done when it comes to the cabling, tiling, woodwork or furniture, we do not have enough hands and we resort to engaging hands from Togo. Isn’t a shame that in this large army if unemployed youths, we cannot have capable hands for such jobs? We will intensify training in that area and we will encourage all young men and women to take active interests in their lives more than they’ve ever done before. We will engage hundreds of thousands by empowering them with adequate training. Besides, how do you send our children to school and a graduate of computer science who has never for once opened a box? We can’t get it right that way. We will ensure that these are taken care of.”
Ikuforiji, who has to beat other candidates at the All Progressives Congress primary elections to emerge the governorship candidate of the party, says the revival of the maintenance culture’ can provide ‘thousands of jobs’ to the unemployed youths.
He said, “There are many things that I know can bw done to engage the youths. For instance, maintenance alone can engage the youth. Everything about us, we do not maintain. Maintenance alone will give jobs to many thousands: maintain the roads, the environment, the offices and all other things and you have provided job opportunities for thousands of youths. When you look at our healthcare delivery system and even our schools, some of the things that we have to do to get our schools or hospitals running at the level that they should be, we are not doing it. That’s why government should spend more and create an enabling environment. The more the government spends on some sectors, the more jobs will be created for the youths.”
Still speaking on the issue of ‘youth unemployment’, the Speaker said part of his blueprint, if elected, is to encourage thousands of Lagos youths to utilise ‘technology’ to create employment and empower themselves.
“I think so much about knowledge economy for our youths. You have heard of Alibaba in China, what ?do you think they do? It’s all about the use of new technology, the use of IT or the Internet to create and recreate. And many thousands of our youths can be engaged in those areas. What about tourism? That’s an untapped goldmine for us that can employ thousands if youths,” he concluded.