Hon Taofeek Olatunde Braimoh is the Chairman of the Lagos House of Assembly Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Petitions and LASIEC. He was also a former Chairman of Kosofe Local Government. In this exclusive interview with thegazellenews.com‘s ADEYEMI ADENEKAN, he speaks on his experience so far in the Assembly and his plans for the future.
Sir, what are those things you have done right to warrant your winning your party’s ticket for a return to the House of Assembly?
Well, firstly, I want to give thanks and adoration to God Almighty and a special appreciation to the leadership of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and of course the leadership of the Lagos State House of Assembly for ensuring my return and to the members of our party who wholeheartedly came out to vote for me during the primaries.
You know it was a direct primary where all the card carrying members participated, so I say thank you to them too. By saying what I did right, hummmmm. I will say the party has a manifesto. Following the manifesto to the letter and the ability to collaborate with my colleagues in achieving the aim of the party and ensuring that the message of the party is being drawn home are some of the qualities I believe were manifested in me.
Generaly, I am completely loyal to the party, so I wouldn’t know the yardstick they used, the people that voted, the leadership that endorsed, I will just simply say all glory be to God.
There is no doubt that you are one of the most performing lawmakers in the Assembly. Coming from the Executive background, you seem to have flow flawlessly into the Legislative arm of government, would you say it is because of your law background or what?
Yes, that can be of help but I will be very immodest by saying I am very grounded in the legislative stuffs yet, let me be honest with you, I am still learning to be a perfect legislator, I want to give kudos and my sincere appreciation to the leadership of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, who has given me opportunity. You see when opportunities are given, one must act quickly.
I remember as a young lawyer, because I was in a one man chamber, I was the only person with my boss I had a lot of challenges because I was given a lot of jobs to do. If I had been in a large chamber, I would not have had that opportunity of being given such jobs. I remember I started appearing unaided at the magistrate courts the same month I was called to Bar.
Three months later, I was appearing unaided at the high courts and in two years, something happened that I will never forget in my life.
My boss asked me to meet him at the Court of Appeal that morning with the file of the brief of a matter on which we need to move an urgent application.
At exactly 10am the court sat and my boss was nowhere to be found, and the client was in court. Meanwhile, it is a matter of urgency and if I was not ready to move the application, that would have shown to the court that we are not serious and it would have automatically disqualified us and we won’t have the opportunity of reapplying.
I did not know what to do at first when the case was called. Justice Sulu Gambari now the Emir of Ilorin, who was the Chairman of the Appeal Panel then proved to be my savior hence, I will never forget him in my life.
I got up as the matter was called and stammered, the other judges were trying to shout me down but he encouraged me by saying, “he has the file and he is a lawyer, so he should go ahead and move the application” and I did.
One of the Judges asked when I was called to the Bar, I was trying to avoid that as I know the rules. But Justice Sulu Gambari came to my rescue again by saying “whether he is five years or two years at the Bar should not be an issue, let’s ask him if he is ready to move this application because this is a matter of urgency so if you are not moving it, we strike it out” and I replied, “my Lord I am ready to move it sir”.
Thus, I moved the application and he was writing his judgment right away, he granted all the seven reliefs that I sought, I did not even hear him very well because he was so fast, my colleagues were telling me I was so lucky that even people that were older than me at the Bar has never been this lucky. At that point, my boss who had been held up in a traffic jam, walked in and he never felt bothered since the job has been done.
My boss now made me realise the advantage of me being with him and opportunity of learning that fast. That was how I broke even and started appearing at all levels of the court. By the time I was four years with him, I opted out and set up my own chamber. I simply told him I have learned enough from him that I will learn every other thing needed on the job. He gave me some money and I left after handing over all the matters under my watch.
Why I said all these is that if the leadership gives you the opportunity to learn you will learn and if the leadership wants to block you it will. If the Speaker had not given me the assignments to test my ability, my proactivity and adaptability to situations, probably, I may not be theoretical or hypothetical thinking I know and I did not know. I thank him for given me such opportunity that probably new comers would not have been given, his confidence in me and it has assisted me in no small measure and where I make any mistake, he is one of the few that correct me because it’s a procedural thing, it is not something you can just jump at. Simply put, the longer you are in the legislature, the more grounded you will be. Sincerely, I have been very lucky to have a Speaker who is magnanimous enough to accommodate me. Being a Lawyer has helped in some ways I will say like in court room procedures and legislative procedures, we use rules there and it is used here too, we use constitution there and it is also used here too, so there are some similarities but not exactly the same though.
Sir, coming into the Assembly, what do you think will be the most challenging issue for you?
What I believed will be a major challenge to me was that I was coming from the Executive background, though I have councilors that I worked with but then I was the head of the team.
I was the one that had a covenant with the people but coming into the House, I knew I will have to work as a team player with other hounourable members. I knew I won’t be able to move at my own pace that I have to move at the pace of others. Being somebody that moves at my own pace from the onset, I found that a little bit challenging. But sincerely, I have adapted to it.
Coming from the Executive background where provision of social amenities is not alien to you to a Legislative world where the major function is to make law, how have you been able to cope with people’s demand at home?
That has been a very major challenge as well and I believe it will continue to be a challenge to us as a country, because people can hardly differentiate between the functions of a legislator and the executive member.
People think once you vie for the office of the Legislator, they believe you perform same function as the one you do as a member of the Executive. They bring all their problems to you and you must not turn them back for you to continue getting their votes.
One need to just let them know the level at which you could be involved, once they are acquainted with that, you will now make an assiduous effort to make proper representation for them at the Assembly. Your major job is to be their mouthpiece anywhere, not necessarily in the Assembly alone even when it comes to relationship with the Executive; you need to intercede for them with the MDAs and other authorities. All they need is just do the job, they don’t really care who does it like when I was the Executive Chairman, people do not know the difference between state roads and local government roads, all they want is construction of their roads.
You seem to have a very robust relationship with the people of Kosofe since your days as the Chairman of the council till now that you are a Member representing them at the State Assembly, how did you manage to achieve this?
Well, it is something that you have to make a conscious effort to cultivate and retain as somebody who is public oriented, somebody who has opted by his own volition and election to serve the people, so you cannot be alien to the people, you have to live the people, sleep the people and think the people at all times.
You must all be connected at all times, what does not bother other person should bother you when it comes to your people. Even as a Lawyer, I was connected to my people, in fact, that was why they dragged me into partisan politics, I have always been a student activist but never thought I will be an active politician. What really dragged me into politics is the MKO Abiola debacle, and people in my area knew I was studying law; they started drawing similarities between me and MKO. I just told them why would they compare me to the great MKO, but people saw some traits in me and they started encouraging me to take up leadership roles and that was how I came into politics.
So I contested in the then Somolu Local Government, Kosofe Local Government was not yet created then, I came second and that kind of support I got from my people spurred me in contesting as the Chairman when Kosofe Local Government was created.
What was your family reaction when you told them you wanted to go into politics?
Ohhhhhhhh, none of them like the idea, not even my wife or my mother, they did not like it because of the kind of imaginations and intrigues attached to politics, most of the people around me never liked it at all.
My wife always complain that there was no privacy, people just barged into our house at any time of the day, sometime with songs, with fights or whatever. But today, she is living with it.
What are your thoughts on the coming general election?
My thought is just that people’s will shall be paramount. We politicians should make a lot of efforts to sell ourselves to the people, people should not be taking for granted as they are getting more and more sophisticated and more aware unlike before. They are beginning to take ownership of the processes than before, so, politicians could not afford to be lazy; there is no form of arm chair politics anymore.
By the grace of God in the 9th Assembly, you will be coming in as a ranking officer, what will be your main priority for your constituents?
Yes, my priority is to continue what I have started, there are so many things I intended achieving but I was unable to, so I will have to work vigorously in achieving them in the 9th Assembly. There is a bridge we have been planning to achieve in Agboyi area; it’s going to be one of my priorities. There are some other things dear to my heart that I strongly believe are achievable.
Your message to the people of Lagos?
My message to Lagosians is simply to stay off violence and embrace peace. They should engage in dialogue as it is well known that communication is very key. We should try as much as possible to meet at the round table and engage in discussion.