I wish I had become a professional footballer - Lagos Speaker, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

I wish I had become a professional footballer - Lagos Speaker, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa

Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa
If there is something that The Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa misses, it is not having turned a professional footballer as a young man.
Back in the early 70s, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa recalls that, his, was a big name in football among his peers in his neighbourhood in Mushin, Lagos, where he grew up. "Football was my thing," said the Speaker, sitting up in excitement at the mention of football, in his cozy office at Alausa. 

"Those days in Mushin, we moved about, playing football wherever that we fancied, from out street to any school compound that was around. I love football with passion. I still play soccer. I wish then, I had the opportunity to play football at the professional level, but unfortunately, I didn't have that opportunity. But then, I played for my primary and secondary schools and for my community.

Though still young and youthful in looks, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa is a long serving legislator with enormous experience in the Lagos Sate hallowed Chamber. A lawyer by profession, the Speaker, in this interview with Paul Ukpabio, relives some of the memories of childhood that shaped his lifestyle today.

What does it feel like to be the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly?

I don't see anything different in being a Speaker, maybe because I have been here for quite some time (Since 2003). Except ofcourse the increased in the responsibilities that I have taken on as different from when I was just a member of the House. As the head of administration now, I have more responsibilities, more duties, more assignments, and more engagements. Being a speaker is fine. It has its glamour side, and then also it has the stress aspect. Then the demanding aspect too. The glamour aspect is actually a smaller aspect, especially for someone who does not really attach much importance to glamour. I try to remain the same way I was before becoming  the Speaker of the House because, I know that a time is coming in future when I will not be a Speaker again.

What does a normal day look like for you?

(Shakes his head) A normal day is a very stressful one. That is because; I start thinking of tomorrow even from today! I have to study today all itineraries, appointments and even the intended activities for tomorrow. I have to consider the protocol, the House process and proceedings that are intended for the next day, today. So for me every day is tedious. Along the line, I still have my family, friends and public engagements that I have to attend to. It is the same thing from Monday to Friday. And on weekends when i ought to be at home, i still have to attend to engagements, public or personal. A lot of Associations that i know or may not know wants me to attend one programme or another. Well, i guess that is the glamorous aspect of the office. You have to be everywhere. At the end of the day, i do not have enough time for it all. I found out that the 24 hours in a day is never enough to go through most of my programmes and itinerary. That is, for the things that i have to attend to, directly not even the ones that i have to delegate. So most time i am in the office till 11pm and sometimes till 1am. And sometimes, the following day is the House sitting day. In which case i have to rush back to the office and be seated for commencement of the House proceedings at 10am. But we thank God; He is giving us the strength, the health and wisdom to find a way around it all.

So who influenced you most, your mom or your dad?

I will say my mom that is because, as a child, I saw much of my mom around more than my dad. He had to go out to fend for the family. Mom used to come back earlier to take care of us. We interacted more with mom because, we saw more of her and she always made sure that everything ran smoothly at home.

Tell us about the Lagos you grew up in and the Lagos that we have today

I think that there is a wide gap between the Lagos that I grew up in during the 70s, and the Lagos that we have today. I can remember when I started primary school; we were walking a distance to get to school. We were living at Mushin then around Ogunmokun area. But I was schooling at St. Thomas Aquinas in Surulere behind St. Joseph School. There were so many schools around that area then. I realize now that it was a far distance to walk. But that is what we used to do every morning. We also trekked back home after school. Whenever we used public transportation, we still had to alight somewhere and trek another distance to get to school. And the public transport was not used every day and it was not regular.

Also, though we had taps at home, but there were days when we woke up and the taps were dry. No water from the Water Corporation. On such days, we had to go a long distance to fetch water for the day's use. Unlike today where almost every compound in Lagos has a borehole or can source water close by. Those days we had to trek to Olorisha in Mushin with our pail and rubber buckets on our heads. We still even had to cross the main-road or use the pedestrian bridge. I could remember that ironed pedestrian bridge at Mushin-Olorisha then (Laughs). And that reminds me of a particular day I had carried what we called then la'epo (a big size basin) to fetch water. It was a bit bigger than the regular buckets that we normally carried. So that day, I went to fetch water with it, and managed to get to the house. But just to climb the steps that will take me to the passage, there was no more strength in me (Laughs). At that point, the strength departed me. I stood at one spot crying with the bucket on my head!  Somehow, I held unto the bucket so that the water did not pour away, until someone came to help remove it from my head. That was the Lagos that I grew up in. But then there was lots of fun for us children. Most often we could enter any of the houses on the same streets with ours and we could eat there as well. In fact, we all used to come out in the evening and played together, something that is no longer available today. These days, children are locked up in the compound and not allowed out. Those days, we moved about, playing football wherever that we fancied, from out street to any school compound that was around.

I also recall that quarterly, medical personnel used to come around to our schools to check on our health status. And it was free. They examined every part of our body. We also had sanitary inspectors who came round to check our environment. We had everything needed to sanitize our toilets at school. We were never lacking in toiletries and sanitizes for our toilets: But as time went on, such things, started to disappear. However, if I have to compare both periods, I will say, our environment and lifestyle is better now. The children today do not have to trek long distances to school. They have schools that are closer home and they now have access to transportation. We also have more hospitals today. In Lagos actually, the policy now is that there is a general hospital for every local government. Yes, we had more fun in those days, but we have more development now.

Back then as a boy, did you imagine that one day you will be a top government official like the Speaker of the State House of Assembly?

I never thought about that. What was on my mind was to be a banker. I had an uncle then, who was a banker. He was the Chairman of our family. We all respectfully looked up to him. He was working with First Bank. I wanted to emulate him, to become an accountant and work in a bank. But the interest in politics started building up when I started sitting with the elders. I used to sit with our parents when they are discussing politics. The common name that featured in their discussion was Chief Obafemi Awolowo. That name started ringing bell in my head. I took further interest and I can say that Chief Awolowo influenced me into politics.

Do you recall when you were not in government, the feeling you had about people in government, and now that you are today in government, what difference do you see?

When I was not in government, I had this notion that everybody in government is a thief! I used to believe that they are wasting money or resources and not doing anything. That was a common believe then. But when I got into government, I began to see things differently. I think it was my tenure as a Counselor that actually opened my eyes to see that it is a different thing to be inside as compared to when you are outside government. I took this up sometimes ago with our former House of Reps member Hon Amunikoro and Dr. Adejare. I had served as a counselor, but two of us were coming in as Members of Lagos state House of Assembly, while he Amunikoro was going to the Federal House of Representatives. We were in the same car discussing about the wardrobe allowance of legislators for instance and I said it does not work like that for instance; you want to buy clothes for the period that you will be in office. What will it cost to buy clothes for four years? Top government officials don't go to the open market to buy clothes; people bring the clothes to drop at our offices at exorbitant rates. When you cost it for four years, it gives you an idea of an amount.

What would you say has encouraged the harmony that is in Lagos state between the legislature and the executive arm?

That is not far-fetch. If you look at the people that we have in Lagos state government now, you will realize that they have been in the system for some time. Governor Ambode has been in the system from the local government. I have been in the system in the last 14 years starting as a Counselor. I moved to the House of Assembly. Likewise, some of the members here! Some have been career members, while some served at the local government level. The Deputy Governor was a lecturer who came in as SSG before now. The interpretation of this is that we have formed a bond; we have developed a relationship between us. The continuity of our party in government is also a factor. All these are the instruments that have helped easy interaction between us and helped decision making as it affects the people of Lagos state and for their benefits.

How can this be enhanced?

For every relationship to sustain and survive to become robust, there has to be sacrifice. There is no way that you will interact with each other without lapses but when such happens, you make corrections where necessary. It is give and take. When you want to make correction you do it in a constructive manner, so that the person that you are trying to correct will accept it in good faith. You have to ensure that every question raised should not be seen as a means of antagonism. With that, we will continue to move ahead. 

At what point did marriage come in for you?

I got married over two decades plus ago, my first son is in his early 20s.

Was it love at first sight?
Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa with the National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
 Yes, I was young; I think I got married before I was in my mid-20s. I remember we were courting and after a year and some months, we got married.

Was that in Lagos?

Yes, right here in Lagos. As a matter of fact, I have lived all my life here in Lagos.

You certainly married early

Well, at that age it wasn't too early. At least it wasn't 18 or 19 (laughs)!

What encouraged you to go early into marriage was it like your parents were putting pressure on you to get married? 
I think it was more of peer influence. All my close friends were already married. They had invited me to their marriage ceremonies and were at that time even having babies. So they were inviting me to their baby christening ceremonies. That was when I decided to get married too. Moreover, I had already met love, somebody who I knew would be worthy to be my wife.

Politics is said not to be all rosy. How did your wife react when you decided to go into politics?

She was supportive and she has all along been supportive. I guess that is because she understood why I was going into it. The way we started, we were into it to catch our fun. We were a group of friends, young people within the same age bracket who decided to delve into the political arena out of fun. We were just interested in winning our communities for our party, whichever party we belonged. So during the formation of AD, at the Ward meeting, I was the one chairing the meeting as young as I was, and when it got to the point of declaring for positions, people mentioned the positions they wanted but I was quiet. So I was asked what position I wanted. I simply said I just wanted to be a Councilor in my local community. Everyone looked at each other. But they all accepted that I should go ahead. Their judgment and decision to allow me contest also was based on my contributions to the leadership of the party and the party successes.

Just like you said much earlier, you are mostly at work on each normal day. So how does the family cope with your absence most of the time?
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos state (left) with Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa
I must tell you that first of all, Almighty Allah is in charge at my home front. Secondly, I have capable hands at home. My wives are in charge of my home, they take care of our children and they know what is right for us. I thank God for that. And when I have opportunity of staying at home, I make sure that I do.

How about holidays?

(Laughs) There is no holiday right now for me. We do have recess, but even doing that recess, we still do have to come to work. (He turned around in the swivel executive chair, in the cozy, rectangular large office. He pointed at a huge well-arranged heaps of files behind him) You see the files there, they all need urgent attention. Today alone, you will be amazed at the number of people I have seen and attended to. I have also gone out today to address those who were holding a protest rally, and came here to drop their complaints. There is no holiday in this job except when I am not in town. And when I am not in town, then I am on an official trip, maybe a conference to attend. When I am on such official trip, I do not see it as an opportunity for holiday because it is work. When we are on break, it only affects the hallowed chamber which then is on lock, but the committees are still at work during the break. If I don't come to work, who will attend to the daily administration? So work is always on here. 

Tell us about your style, what men's fashion appeals to you?

I don't consider myself a fashionable person. My style is simple: Easy to wear clothing, appeals to me.

Why, is it because of your work?

Oh, that is just me. Fashion to me means clothing my body. I believe in neatness and simplicity.

We understand that you are a lover of sports, which sport exactly?

I love football with passion. I still play soccer. I wish I had the opportunity to play football at the professional level when I was younger, but unfortunately, I didn't have that opportunity. But then, I played for my primary and secondary schools and for my community then. For other hobbies, I love playing table tennis, I do that regularly. I also love watching movies and reading. However, I must confess that I do not have enough time to read and watch movies the way I would want to do.

We also hear that you still play novelty soccer these days, is it for health fitness?
(Right to Left) Hon. Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode and Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa
Yes, I thank God He has given me good health, but I still take time to do health checkups when necessary. I also do not drink alcohol. I do not smoke. I stay away from things and food that can injure my health. That is my health secret. And I also remember that Almighty Allah is the giver of life.

What does success mean to you?

Success depends on each person's perception. What you consider as success might not be same with I consider it to be. Success to me is not when you have different types of cares, jet and mansions. Success is when you are comfortable with a roof over your head and you have what to eat. Success is also when you ensure that your children are being educated and you can maintain the payment of their educational fees. The other aspect of success I believe in is opening channel of success for others to grow. Not just about your immediate family. I think that is what is deepening poverty in our society. We are focusing too much on our families alone. We need to change that attitude. We need to cultivate the habit of giving to others, not by giving money but encouraging others to grow. If your neighbour cannot pay his or her child's school fees, as a successful neighbour you can come to such aid. But it is also better when your neighbour does not know that you are the one coming to his or her aid. If you have members of your family who cannot afford to pay house rent or school fees, you do not have to wait till they come to you. There are two things that will need most at old age. That will be our God and our family. Your certificate will not be needed by you, even you will not be able to drive your Range Rover or use your jets because at that point, you are getting close to take off.

Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. (Mrs.) Idiat Oluranti Adebule Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa
What kind of music appeals to you?

I love music though I do not know how to dance (laughs). Music is a language, even if you do not understand it, the lyrics and sound will communicate to you. My love for music has no boundary. I listen to all kinds of music, fuji, reggae, I love Haruna Ishola, Juju music, Ebenezer Obey, Sunny Ade, Shina Peters' music appeals to me, and so on. I also listen to R & B and Hip Hop music.

As a successful man how do you handle the overtures of women who find you attractive?

I welcome everybody. If anybody admires me, it’s okay. I cannot tell you not to admire me. But no matter how close we are, there are extents that we can go to. I can admire women too, but it doesn't mean I want to take them. I have married enough. I do not want another marriage. If you are in public domain, you cannot help being friendly and being polite to people. But I know the boundaries and limit.

You also made it early in life what advice do you have for the youths?

I will say that the scenario has changed, in those days when we started, what came to our mind was work. But these days most youths are not thinking of working, they are thinking of making money without working. But how can that be? Again the youths of today wants to all work in blue chip companies. But if your father is not Dangote or Otedola or Adenuga or Okoya or Tinubu, how can you be able to just walk into a job in blue chip companies except you study hard and be diligent to merit it. So my advice is that as a young person, when you are out of school, do any legitimate work you see or come across around you. That is the way to start. For me, there is no work that I have not done except armed robbery. I didn't do that because of the fear and training that I was given at home when I was young. As a young man, you must look for a legitimate job to do. And today, as a lady, you must look for something to do too. That is where to start and with prayers, Almighty Allah will elevate you. Go to America, you see children of rich people selling in McDonald. You see young chaps at the airport cleaning and mopping floors but here young people don't want to do the work. That is what we should introduce to young people here. There is no shame in work. 

Also, I see young people come out of university and refuse to sell food like their mothers. Meanwhile, it is the food business that the mother used to train her to the university level. Our youths need to change their perception and attitude. In Italy for instance, children come and take over their parents businesses. You see businesses that were set up in 1888 being improved upon from a family generation to another. We can do that here too.

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