Nigerian politicians are mostly different from their counterparts almost everywhere else in the world where true democracy thrives. They mostly carry along with them, in their every day dealings, the toga of poor performance or, for want of the right phrase, extreme non-performance.
It thus becomes, most times, odd to see or hear that a political office holder decides to throw off that cloak for which they have become known, to do the extraordinary like meeting the needs of the people.
Interestingly, the citizens have adapted themselves to the failures of their supposed servants. It is easy to hear one being asked if one is a politician simply because one makes comments or promises that look too good to be true.
In the face of this negative attributes, it is, however soothing to, once in a while, find a politician whose inputs, both direct and otherwise, play great roles in community, state and national developments.
On Monday, June 8, 2015, Mudashiru Obasa made his first speech on the floor of the Lagos state House of Assembly as its speaker. Did he make promises? The answer is obvious since he is a politician. He told his colleagues that day that he was hitting the ground running. Some of his promises centred on regular townhall meetings across the 40 constituencies of the state, improved capacity building and introduction of youth parliament in the state among others.
Since 2015, Lagos lawmakers have held regular town hall meetings and Lagosians have been the better for it. Just before the budget is prepared, the people of the state have the opportunity to list their areas of need. He has met that promise. He has also fulfilled the creation of youth parliament like he said he would do.
Obasa, who represents Agege constituency 1, did not promise to head a legislative assembly that would be the first in Lagos to bring together prominent Southwest traditional rulers including the Ooni of Ife the Alaafin of Oyo, the Alake of Egba and others to champion the course of a strong Yoruba identity. The speaker never promised to come up with a bill that would ensure the Yoruba language is never allowed to die. But he did. It can never be forgotten the accolade he has received for this move. Today, it is difficult to say Obasa is not held high in any of the palaces in the Southwest states as a result. The language is now compulsory in schools while the speaker has played host to various traditional rulers, mostly on a ‘thank you’re visit.
To ensure religious tolerance in the state, Obasa, a Muslim, became the first speaker in Lagos to ever attend a retreat of the Deeper Life Church. It was not a part of his promises. But he fulfilled it.
As speaker, Obasa only simply promised to support the executive arm to make the residents of Lagos enjoy the dividends of democracy. He did not state how he hoped to achieve this. He did not tell the people of the state that he would sponsor a bill for the establishment of the Neighbourhood Safety Agency to oversee a set of residents that would help combat crime. Today, at least 5,000 people are recruited into the Neighbourhood Safety Corps. This two-way approach of helping the state has paid off. There is relative peace and a lot of people are employed. This singular achievement is now being copied in many states of the federation.
One thing Obasa never promised was combating kidnapping. If he did, people would have asked how he hoped to achieve this when he is not in the executive arm. But the speaker achieved it. Thus, the highly celebrated trial of alleged billionaire kidnapper Evans can be attributed to the speaker’s foresight. It is his bill, which became law, that is the reason Evans is being tried in Lagos. It is also as a result of this law that Lagos and its residents can sleep with their eyes closed considering what kidnapping has turned some other states into.
Again, Obasa never told the people of Lagos state that through him, a cancer institute to provide for the promotion, aiding and coordination of researches relating to the ailment as well as assist in its control would be established. But it happened.
This same man did not say in that his first speech that he would be known to sponsor the highest number of private member bills since 1999. The number of awards and honours he has received so far confirm his understanding of the yearning of residents of the state where he is the third citizen.
A long stretch of an ongoing flyover bridge has reshaped what used to be known as the Pen Cinema area of Agege that used to hell for motorists. The speaker did not promise to facilitate it, but he knew that under his watch, the project would take effect.
He never told anyone that since the Lagos legislative arm is not rubber stamp, he would not condone any provocation no matter how little. Yet, he never reacted to any. In his everyday dealing, he has never been known to lose his cool no matter the situation. He has carried with him that mixed air of being a leader and a servant. Obasa busies himself putting smiles on the faces of the disillusioned, a perfect example being the revival of a woman whose husband disappeared from home because she gave birth to a set of triplets.
It was therefore not a surprise to many that he emerged the chairman of the conference of speakers of the 36 state Houses of Assembly in Nigeria, a cap only a person like him could be honoured with.
As he moves to speak again, it is already established that Agege constituency 1 has a person to be proud of, one they can picture as the face of true governance. It is also worthy of note that he was made in Lagos and Lagos is receiving back from him. In the next four years, like this one just ending, he will make little promises again and achieve big. It is an assurance.
Oserah, a social commentator, writes from Lagos.