A lawyer by training, Hon. Victor Akande represents Ojo Constituency 1 at the Lagos State House of Assembly. Elected on the platform of PDP, he moved to the ruling APC last year and in this interview with ADEDAYO ODULAJA, the soft spoken legislator speaks on life as a lawmaker, some of his projects while affirming that Lagos State is lucky to have Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on the driving seat at a time like this.
How has the journey of the 8th Legislative House been for you so far?
We thank God, the journey so far has been wonderful. We appreciate God for the wisdom and also the kind of leadership we have in the House as he has imbued in them that ability to carry us and God gave them the wisdom, especially the speaker of the house, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa, who has used his experience to guide the house and that has made our work a lot easier in many ways.
Although they would have their own opinion on the matter, how would you say your representation has benefitted your constituents?
You know I came into the hallowed chambers of the House through the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and at a point in time, I had to port to the All Progressives Congress (APC) due to being the party with the right direction and everybody wants a party of leaders and direction. Not just that, I have a political agenda and it is only when you see people of like minds that you move in to continue.
Most of us, about eight of us coming from another party, having seen the kind of great leadership characteristics of the speaker and as well the exemplary performance of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, moved to APC to be part of those success stories.
Governor Ambode is a fantastic performer, an embodiment of wisdom and an excellent administrator. He is a performer who would rather work than talk. To him, everything is achievable and as they are really working assiduously to make sure Lagos reaches the next level, you don’t change a winning team. Presently, we are aiming to be a smart city, not even mega city alone anymore.
There is no bill being debated that I don’t lend my voice to, whether the ones generated from the Executive arm or bills initiated by my colleagues. There is also no motion being moved on the floor of the house that I don’t make my contribution on and of course I have co-sponsored some bills by the grace of God which have made an impact on the lives of my people.
I also have some bills I sponsored that are undergoing some processes, one of them is the Property Protection Law bill which was seriously debated and I even went on air to render analysis of that bill and I thank God that I did. Today, it has enabled a positive turn around for the land owners, negative for land grabbers and positive for the state and the true owners.
The cancer bill sponsored by Mr Speaker is another that is so germane and everyone has their input in it. Look also at the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps bill which is about another way of safeguarding life and property in Lagos, I also added my own spices to make it a success story before it became law.
There are so many others like that as the primary aim of coming to this house is to make law. And it is about laws that will impact on the lives of the citizens positively, we have been doing that and God has been helping us.
What role did the people of Ojo Constituency 1 that you represent play in your defection to the PDP from the APC?
Before I took the decision to move to the APC, I held very wide consultations knowing fully well how volatile my constituency is. I consulted with the traditional rulers, artisans, market women, the Igbos because they are in majority, all the sectional heads of Alaba International Market, some of the religious leaders, of both the Christian and Muslim sides to get their view, especially at a time when PDP was giving me a lot of problems.
I sought the advice of the people, I didn’t even inform them that I wanted to leave the PDP; I tabled my matter before them, explained my dilemma to them and asked them to advise me as I couldn’t bear it anymore.
When frustration beckons on you from people you are fasting for so they can be successful, you would be left with no choice but to move on. So I consulted widely and everybody or section, either Igbo, Yoruba, South South, even traditional rulers, offered the same response that I should move. And today, it is a success story whichever way you look at it.
The tag of being a rubber stamps to the Executive is one that hardly any State House of Assembly across the country has been able to shake off. How different is the Lagos State House of Assembly?
It is a relative term, it depends on what you mean. In a situation like Lagos, where you have every bill seriously debated and it is captured live or streamed live, can you still say it is a rubber stamp arrangement when such robust debates are being live?
That’s one, the second issue is if you are churning out these bills and a governor that is clearly the best governor in Nigeria is proactively implementing its enforcement in a way that leads to viable growth and development, does it make sense to just start a problem where there is none? Are we supposed to start throwing chairs where there is absolutely no need for that or are we to go against the governor that is performing so well and hinder him from the great work he is rolling out across the state, would we be helping our people if we do that?
Anyone can look at these facts and judge, is it the existence of harmony and unity between the legi s l a – t u r e and the executive that makes a house a rubber stamp? Rubber stamp means whatever the governor or the executive arm does, we just say yes without looking at it or debating it? Do people know what it takes for us to approve the budget or pass it into law?
The figure might be the same but take a look at the processes involved in that assignment, every detail was carefully looked into, is that rubber stamp? The Lagos State House of Assembly does not rubber stamp anything; we debate vigorously and anyone in doubt would give it to us if they follow our debate via any of the available channels.
Since your defection to the APC, how smooth would you say your integration has been?
I can tell you they have accepted me in all ways. Cross carpeting is a matter of ideology, do you share my ideology? If you don’t share that, I leave you and move on to where that is being welcomed.
Having said that, I am not a political harlot but what happened is known to everybody, which is that PDP has fallen apart and the centre cannot hold.
And since that is the case, you cannot leave yourself in limbo, you just have to find a party to support you so you can move on. Why should I be dissipating energy with my party when I am still going to be fighting to do well in my constituency and I still have the opposition. Common sense stipulates that you combine your problems into a whole and deal with it instead of having it fragmented into different arenas.
What was the response of PDP and what efforts did the party make to ensure you remained with them?
No effort whatsoever was made. It would interest you to know that I was never given a dime. Not one kobo of all the money they were shouting about, they never gave me any money for my election. Also, I was never given a penny by the party when I was at the Tribunal or even at the Appeal Court.
I was left alone to go and source for money to prosecute the case myself although some of them followed me as witnesses and some of the leaders followed me to court but even that was at my expense.
I had to look for money to give them for feeding, transportation to the locations when I was at the Tribunal and also at the Appeal Court. So during the campaign, I was given no money.
I am saying it and challenging anyone to counter that. In fact, they benefitted from me before I left because more of the projects I have embarked upon were done when I was in the PDP. I have only done one viable project again since I moved to the APC. Immediately I came in back in 2015, I gave all public schools in my constituency, both primary and secondary one computer each.
That came to about 40 computers, after which I dug 12 boreholes which were powered with a big generator each across the constituency. After that, I brought the widows and the aged together, about 75 of them and I was paying them N5,000 every month. I later stopped after about a year and half because they still sought for other projects. I also held an ICT training programme for 600 people, out of which 400 graduated. I financed everything; they didn’t pay a dime yet 50 best students of the scheme were given laptops by me.
I also held boxing and Ayo competition to foster unity along with trophies and monetary prizes. Many people have also been empowered including many students of Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education (AOCOED) as I paid the school fess of 25 students from Ojo Constituency 1 there. Every year since I became a member of the Lagos House of Assembly, I have given 150 people free JAMB forms along with registration procedures online which I also paid for. Private lessons for the students as well, some would come and some won’t and I provided buses to convey them.
By the grace of God, I recently bought two long school buses, each of them a 82-seater bus to convey students, both in primary and secondary school students in my constituency to school and back free, it is unprecedented in the whole of Ojo even down to Badagry. I pray for the strength to do even more.
As the 2019 general election year draws nearer, how are you gearing up?
There is little we can do for now, the law is there and he who makes the law should not foul the law. Until it is legal to campaign, you can only prepare with decorum and understudy the terrain to know how we fit in.
Friends have started in some ways as we prepare pending the time the ban of campaign will be lifted so no major campaign can begin until after the primaries. We hope, as we approach the primaries, that all will be well.
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