Hon. Dipo Olorunrinu represented Amuwo Odofin Constituency 1 in the Lagos State Assembly between 2015 and 2019. In this interview, he speaks on the need for inclusiveness and deepening of the nation’s democratic system. WALE ELEGBEDE reports
What was the experience like as a lawmaker who served in the Lagos State House of Assembly for four years?
The experiences were that I was able to understand the process of legislation proper. For me, it was a privilege, and secondly it was something I had to do. I discovered that I had to be a role model to a lot of youths in the state and in the country at that moment. I had a lot of experiences based on the fact that I had my own ideology.
You were in the opposition, when you got the Assembly in 2015. How was it like then?
Life is like that, you cannot have it all. I believe that you can make do with whatever you have and get what you want. I knew that I was coming to struggle and make sure that my people benefit. I was in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) then, but the kind of politics I played wasn’t opposition per se.
What would you say are the major impediments to our democracy because we still have issues of corruption, insecurity and the rest, 21 years after uninterrupted democratic government?
Democracy is all about people. Even in the western world, the great countries that we look up to have their own issues. There is no democratic system that does not have its own expectations.
Of course, democracy is democracy; it depends on how you look at it. Under democracy, people have the ability to express their views. Some people say that we don’t have true democracy in Nigeria.
For instance, in a country like the United States, each state has its own constitution, supreme court, police and other features of democracy.
What do you think is wrong with our system?
Everything is still in process; don’t compare us with those countries. It was 60 years ago that we got our independence whereas the United States got hers’ about 200 years ago. It is a gradual thing, it is a process, you cannot rule out challenges, but change is a continuous thing.
What is your take on the electoral system and the judiciary, which is part and parcel of our democracy; are you satisfied with the way we organise our elections?
It is getting better.
We have discovered that we need to change some things. We are working on our electoral reforms and the ability to know your civic right is very important.
The masses too need to do a lot by actually becoming part of the system. You cannot just sit at the background; you need to contribute your own quota to the system.
We see a lot of things on the social media, you see people criticising the government. You cannot rule out politics in every area of life. It is about lawmaking, election and decision making. You don’t just sit down and complain, you need to contribute your own quota.
Politics is not a profession; it is something you do in your part time. I am a professional, I have my masters degree, I am a developer, I do a lot of construction and business development.
But I understood that I needed to be in government to be part of the development of my area, the state and country. You don’t just sit back and complain. When you come into it, you will understand a lot of things. I have also discovered that everything is a process.
Let’s look at the issue of corruption, some people in this government have been accused of corruption despite the fact that the All Progressives Congress APC came on the mantra of fighting corruption in 2015.
Do you think we are winning the war against corruption five years down the line?
The issue of corruption is very serious.
Corruption is a thing of the mind. It is not just about the government, we need to have a change of perception. A lot of people have corrupt minds and they find themselves in government, they are in the corporate organizations and they are everywhere.
There is corruption and politics everywhere. Even there is corruption in developed countries, though it might not be as pronounced as what we have in Nigeria.
Like I said earlier, we need to go back to the basics. We need to offer helping hands to our neighbours. You see someone being robbed in the neighbourhood, but you are not offering help. An average Nigerian has a corrupt mind. We need to work on our mindset, we need to encourage ourselves.
What actually attracted you to politics?
I actually got into the Lagos State House of Assembly at the age of 32. I was one of the youngest. It is a drive for life, a drive for success for good life, better life for all. I believe in live and let live. I believe in let’s have it together. I believe it is possible. If you look at the western world, you cannot oppress anybody. If you have your money, you have it for yourself. They don’t even want to live a big life.
They don’t want all those things that we tum after here. They just need a small house, a wife and children. They go on vacation and come back. We should change our attitude.
Our problem is more of a system that has been psychologically bastardized. It is a kind of system, where people are looking at successful people and they are angry, yet they want to be successful. You want to be successful and you hate successful people.
We are saying democracy is not transparent, but it starts from you, are you transparent?
Is democracy part of you?
When you are coming to equity, you come with clean hands. I have passed through government and people wondered how you cope as an opposition. As an opposition, nobody wanted to patronise you.
It is about you staying there to prove your integrity and loyalty or you cross and be part of the majority and fill your belly. Thank God for His mercies.
What next after the Assembly, you left the PDP for the APC, while in the Assembly?
Everybody has his own career. No matter how you are given the opportunity, it is for four years and four years is not much. God is a provider. I saw life at a very young age, from age 17.
My mother died, when I was just 16 and I saw the other side of life. I have raised cash, facilities, I know what it is to network, I know what it is to be involved in joint ventures, I know what it is to start a business. I know much about management. You cannot rule those things out. Just ensure that when you are given the opportunity to serve, you serve properly.
Service is not just about your initiative, it is not a one man thing, it is not you going there and you want to ride on people. When I lost election, I lost with just 278 votes whereas my House of Representatives member won with a margin of 30,000 votes and his election was two weeks before mine.
The political parties have no issue but almost a majority of our people have issues.
We need to believe in ourselves. We need to make sure that we support our leaders. Also, as leaders, we should be there for the people. Even if you cannot solve some of their problems, give them hope. There is power in hope, hope is life. A lot of people are dying out of depression, hopelessness and frustration. Psychologically, give them life. Try to encourage them.
The same thinking that causes blood pressure is the thinking that brings joy of the lord that becomes your strength. You have to be there for them. They can come to you for N20,000, while you could only afford N1,000, give it to them, they would appreciate it.