The Truth About My EFCC Trial – Ikuforiji | Independent Newspapers Limited
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The Truth About My EFCC Trial – Ikuforiji

Posted: Jun 11, 2015 at 1:09 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Sabit Ikuforiji is the immediate past Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly. In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, the Epe-born lawmaker, fondly referred to as ‘Speaker Emeritus’, shares his experience on how he was able to lead the House for 10 consecutive years, challenges in office and his plans for the future. Excerpts…

Congrats on your successful tenure as the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, having first occupied the seat in 2005. How do you feel being the longest serving Speaker in the history of Nigeria?

Adeyemi Ikuforiji

Adeyemi Ikuforiji

Truly I am the longest serving speaker, having served consecutively since my first term as Speaker in 2005. I am the only one who has led parliament in Nigeria for as long as ten years. It is a thing of joy for me because it is a testimony to the fact that God has been there for me and He has given me the wisdom, strength and wherewithal to function effectively and to steer the ship of the assembly which I know I couldn’t have done by my power.


How come you were able to survive those long years without falling on banana peels as is the case with most Speakers in Nigeria?

The honest truth is that God’s grace upon my life is a major factor. Also, the passion for service coupled with the level of enlightenment of the House greatly assisted me a lot. Also worthy of mention is the personal attributes or traits which entail the ability to bring different persons or groups together and treat each and every one of them with respect is also vital. That you know your onions, the importance of your position in the scheme of things is also very important. I always have it at the back of mind that it is not my brilliance, academic prowess, virtue of my birth that made the Speaker of the House. I always remember that I am just one amongst equals. These always make me to hold back when I am being propelled to do certain things.


Did you have any trying moments as Speaker of the House?

I have a lot of trying moments. I really don’t know which one was the most trying but I am glad I came out triumphant and I give the glory for that


What was the most challenging decision you took as Speaker?

There was a time during the 6th Assembly, when the members decided to remove my Deputy who I singlehandedly fought for her emergence as my deputy. She never canvassed for the position but I insisted that ‘this is the person I want to work with’. For me to be on the seat and pronounce her removed as the deputy was definitely a trying period for me. I never liked it at all.  I also remembered when I lost a member, Rotimi Shotomiwa, in the 6th assembly and his corpse was brought into the assembly for valedictory session. I cannot just bear the sight of looking at his corpse. I felt very, very bad because it could have been any of us in the House.


Looking at your trial with the EFCC, do you feel you were unduly persecuted for doing nothing wrong?

Like my mum normally tells me, ‘God will not put a heavy load on a small head.’ If I were not to go higher in life, there wouldn’t have been reason for people to go as far as trying to get rid of me. There have been attempts at my life and it was from within. Sometimes, I don’t just want to talk about these things. But the truth is that obviously, persecution has been used as part of the strategy to tarnish my reputation. There were also campaigns of calumny from different directions, while those I relied on to protect me even made me more vulnerable to these attacks.*  But like I said, God gave me the capacity to withstand all these and today, by His grace, I am triumphant.

Looking back, are there some things you could have done differently?

When I look back at what God has used me to do for the Lagos State House of Assembly, for the business of lawmaking, for Nigeria and my dear state, I am a very happy man. If I have the opportunity again, I will still put in the same vigour and passion I used during my tenure. I have no regret whatsoever because I did everything that needed to be done as led by God for the service of humanity during the last ten years that I served as the Speaker of the state.


What can you say gives you the greatest joy?

My greatest joy is that true change happens in this country in my lifetime. God has used the APC as an instrument to liberate his people from the shackles of depression and oppression. I want to commend our president, Muhammadu Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other leaders of the various political parties that came together to make this a reality.  They made a lot of sacrifices so that this nation can be where it is today. I also thank God for giving them the wisdom to come together because if they had chosen to remain in their various political parties, we won’t be talking of APC today, not to talk  of being the ruling party in Nigeria.


Your quest for a greater Lagos made you run for the governorship position of Lagos State. Now that we have a new governor in the person of Akin Ambode, how do you feel?

It is interesting. I am somebody with an open heart. The first time our incumbent governor, Akin Ambode, called me and said he intends running for the position of governor, I immediately told him to go ahead. I was philosophical about him and I told him ‘I cannot tell you not to run’. You are my younger brother. If you say you want to run for governor and I say no, you cannot run because I am interested, I will create room for those who are enemies to run’. Nobody knows tomorrow, if anything negative happens to me along the line, one of those running with me will be picked. So, will it not be better for me if a person that I see as my own person to be picked if I am not picked than to have my enemy picked? So, I told him ‘Go ahead and I will also go ahead with my campaign.  If I don’t get, you can get it. If you ask the governor this thing, I am sure he will still remember our conversation that particular day.  That is the kind of person I am. I have an open heart and I don’t take things, especially positions as a do-or-die affair. I also gave him examples of what happened in 2007 when I was returning for the first time as speaker. I was the sitting speaker but one of my members immediately after the general elections went all out campaigning for the speakership position. But when eventually everything got settled and I was to appoint a deputy, I took note of what happened in the United States parliament when Nancy Pelosi became the Speaker of the Congress. Then I thought, if Pelosi can become Speaker of Congress, why can’t we promote our own women too?  And so, I insisted that I wanted a woman to be my deputy. Against all odds and thinking of the members of the caucus, I said that same person who went all out to campaign against me will be my deputy. And she became the deputy. Also, my deputy in the 7th assembly was very close to me. In fact, we were very close from the beginning of the 5th assembly and we even became extra close when he became the majority leader of the house. He was one of the few who were adamant, who pursued me with whips in April/ May 2011 saying that ‘he wanted to succeed me as the Speaker of the 7th assembly. By the time the dust settled, and it was clear that I will be the speaker and we were to pick a deputy, it was this same lawmaker I chose. So, I told Governor Ambode that go and confirm these things from our leader, Asiwaju Tinubu, if I was lying. I don’t see anything wrong in people contesting for offices but we must not allow our selfish interest to supersede that of the party or the state. My son can run against me in an open race. The important thing is that when we get to the finishing line, whoever wins amongst us, the loser should support him. When we had that conversation, I never knew Ambode will emerge the flagbearer of our party, but today I am glad he is our governor. Though I wasn’t picked, I am glad because I know Lagos State is in the hands of a competent, tested, and highly experienced administrator who will continue the good works started by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the immediate past governor, Babatunde Fashola.


Mudashiru Obasa has succeeded you as the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly. What advice will you give to him to enable him succeed in his new role?

Lagos needs leaders who are visionary. Our most loved and revered leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has set that example. The Lagos House also needs a visionary leader. Leading the house to success requires passion, selflessness, perseverance and the ability to tolerate insults and excesses of others. Above all, in all that you do, do not allow the things that surround the office get into your head. You should always remember that you are just one among equals. Like one of our senior lawmakers used to say ‘No quail is taller than another quail except for the one that ascends the ridge. The one that ascends the ridge will be spotted first by the hunter and will be shot’. So, it is a very lofty position and a delicate one, too.  As speaker, nothing makes you special than the other lawmakers. The same way you came to the House to represent your constituency, which was the same way they came too. The only special thing is that someone has to lead the house and you are chosen. Be that as it may, I believe the new Speaker as an experienced member of the House is up to the task. I as a former Speaker will always make my door available anytime my assistance is needed.