Yayi is currently vying for a seat in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from Lagos West Senatorial District. Nobody is in doubt about his ability and experience as an accomplished politician, accountants and a professional, whose experience is needed for the success of our nascent democracy.
Recently, Hon. Olamilekan Solomon was a guest of League of Soft Sell Publishers, where he spoke about his political journey, his experience in the legislature and revealed some hidden truths about public funds, budgeting and running of government.
You had been in the Lagos State House of Assembly, you are in the Federal House of Reps, now you want to go to the Senate, what is your own view of our democracy since 1999?
As you are all aware, Nigeria’s new democratic process started in 1999, everyone of us was skeptical, we were scared that would it be or not. I was a victim of the struggle for the validation of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election presumably won by the late Chief MKO Abiola, I lost my younger brother to a stray bullet during the bonfire exercise. That was when the freest and fairest election in Nigeria was eventually annulled. Since the military succeeded in canceling the election, we felt we should continue with military rule until 1998, when Chief MKO Abiola died, there were lots of issues in the country, the idea that Nigeria would break up then came up. A month later, the former military head of state, the late Gen. Sanni Abacha died. People believed that these two personalities were the cause of the problems we were having in Nigeria then. Later, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar got to power and he promised to hand over power to the civilian in 1999 and we all felt he wanted to sell a dummy to us. But, a democratically elected president of Nigeria was sworn-in on May 29, 1999 in person of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. It has been the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), they have been in power since then, if they had fixed our electricity, for instance, may be there would be no issue of changing over to generator. Obasanjo came on board and we were hopeful and as the saying goes, the worst democracy is better than the best military rule. In the democratic process, you are governed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, though it was given to us by the military. We made do with what we have and we began the process. After, 1999, there was need for another four years, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo still contested and there was this fear that would the military still come back or not. Then, I decided to seek for an elective office, I was doing my private business and I was doing very well, I felt that I was leaving certainty for uncertainty, what would become of me. I think I should have even stayed back doing that business. If I were still doing the business I was doing, may be you would have known about me from a different platform. But, I chose the service to humanity at the expense of personal interest. I vied for a seat in the Lagos State House of Assembly to represent the people of Alimosho Constituency 02, and by the grace of God, my efforts were crowned and I was voted to represent the good people of Alimosho Constituency 02 as a member of the House. Now, from my own view, talking about our democracy from 1999 to date, my dear publishers of soft sell magazines, I would say Nigerian democracy has not been fair to Nigerians as a whole. If you look at the following indices and data that I would read out, you would agree with me that Nigeria deserves better than what we are getting now.
Due to lack of insincerity on the part of the government and with their inability to give opportunity to the people that would have changed the country for good, what we have today is a mere nascent democracy and not a democracy that we all had been craving for, when there was military intervention. Let us ask ourselves, from 1999, how much has accrued to the Federal Government from the resources that we all rely on, which is oil. Outside the oil industry, I don’t know any resource that we depend on, let us look at the corresponding expenditure and marry the two. How have we feared under a democratic rule, ordinarily, democracy ought to be government of the people, for the people and by the people. Not until now, a lot of us were not interested in the process, which is what has led us to where we found ourselves. Now, there is a lot of awareness in town, everybody is interested for the future of this country to be secured, for its well being to be guaranteed and for us to change this country for good, everybody is interested in the process. It is a welcome development because until we begin to elect good leaders with our thumbs and sending out bad leaders with our thumbs, Nigeria will not change. Let us assume that from 1999 to date, the resolution is that we wanted to fix only the power sector because if we are able to fix the power sector, 60% of the challenges facing us as a nation will disappear, it is a statement of fact. But because we have an insincere government in power, government that is not interested in the overall well being of the people, you can see what is happening. During the tenure of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as President, there was a claim that he expended about $8.7 Billion on electricity; it is no longer news that the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has equally released their own figure, $8.271 Billion, added together; it is almost $17 Billion that have been spent on the power sector. As we speak, in a nation of over 170 million people with over 250 ethnic groups and over 261 languages, the biggest country in Africa what we generate as power everyday is still under 4000 megawatts, while South Africa, as at the last count, generates 160,000 megawatts. By that alone, measuring the level of development, you will know we are not there. Of recent, there was this news in town that Nigeria’s economy is the biggest in Africa, if we are sincere with ourselves, every one of us would be taken aback by this. The Chief Executive of the National Bureau of Statistics, the man who did that job, said to the whole world what almost caused crisis, he was invited everywhere; to the United Nations, United States of America and other places to come and speak and justify how he came about the biggest economy in Africa that we have ascribed to ourselves. To my own understanding, we have only ascribed it to ourselves, but it doesn’t really reflect. I told him and called him to my office as the Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts and I said “DG, you know I am an accountant though I am not an economist, these facts and figures you have released, I need to hear more from you.’ It was not a committee thing, it was one on one. You know what he told me, he said ‘my dear brother, all that were put together to get us this status were not physical things or things that are actually on ground.’ Ordinarily, there are some indices that when you put them together they could give us what he has said. For example, if the Federal Government says they want to build this hotel for N100 Billion and the contract was awarded and they mobilized the contractor with N5 Billion, when they are writing the report, they would take the N100 Billion and if the contractor refuses to do that job or does not complete the job, the issue is N100 has been taken and invested into our economy.
I said, ‘so all the abandoned contracts are part of it,’ he said, ‘hen, the abandoned contracts is built into it.’ I said, DG, he said yes, he said that contracts awarded since the days of Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida and Obasanjos of this world that are abandoned, all of these put together is what forms Nigeria’s GDP and make it the biggest economy in Nigeria. Are you not taken aback? I asked him one question that if we say we have the biggest economy in Africa, what is the per capita income of an average Nigerian, and he said, ‘we know now, that an average Nigerian is living under $3 dollars par day.’ I now said, for the last 10 years, can you say if this reflects in the lives of the upper, middle and lower classes of Nigerians, he said no. I said then these figures are not realistic figures, why are you saying it and you would continue to see that if care is not taken and we are not doing the right thing in the right direction, we would only be living in a deceitful world. Don’t let us forget, United Nations, in one of their reports said that 70% of Nigerians are living below the poverty line. To my judgment, we don’t have that 30%, we have just 10%, the true statistics is 10% because we don’t have the middle class again; we only have the upper and the lower classes. I believe that this is not Nigeria of our dream, the cost of everything, either in naira or dollars, compared with the salary of an average Nigerian is high, you cannot relate the two. How can you say of a man, who earns a salary of N18,000; he has children, those children have to go to school, he has to do other expenses, he has to feed, he has to pay his house rents and at the end of the month you want that man to be a normal human being, and he is working so hard so that he could guarantee this N18,000. Once we cannot relate what we earn to what we buy, then we cannot say our democracy has feared better, rather it is nothing to write home about. If you ask me, I would say we are still under military rule, but this time around, we are not wearing uniforms because that is the way our economy is being run and that is the way we are going about this. So, I want to believe that the Nigerian democracy has not feared better, it has not improved, and it has not impacted on the nation’s development. All these indices and data are pointers to the fact that we still have a long way to go to build our own democracy.
How did you become the candidate of the Lagos West Senatorial District because we know that a lot of people vied for the slot during the primaries? We even learnt that the Deputy Governor of the State had to step down for you. What did you do to get the slot?
Number one it is God, ‘by strength shall no man prevail, but by my grace, says the Lord of hosts.’ In terms of experience, I have 12 years cognate experience in the business of legislature, and if at the end of the day I am elected to represent Lagos West at the Senate, I would be the first lawmaker in Lagos to move from the state house of assembly to the Federal House of Representatives, and now to the senate of the Federal Republic. Initially, ordinarily, once you are voted into office, I am of the firm believe that representation is about the people and it is a rare opportunity, the seat, which I am sitting on in the green chambers belongs to all the people in my constituency, which is over 3 or 4 million people in Alimosho Area of the state. But I have been chosen just to represent them, so whenever I am sitting on that chair, I am sitting on behalf of the 4 million people. Whenever I am standing up to address the House, I am speaking on behalf of over 4 million people. So, that is what I have put at the back of my mind, which has guided me since the last 12 years. When the issue of the senatorial seat came up, as you all know in Lagos, we don’t contest for senatorial seats at the primaries; it could be a fallout of the governorship primaries. As you have rightly said, heavyweights; a former minister in Nigeria, Mr. Demola Seriki, my own sister, the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, my local government chairman, and a host of others, wonderful people vied for the seat. I believe that if any of them is given the ticket of the party, they would equally do well; they have also demonstrated to the best of their ability what they could do for this senatorial district. But, you see, in this our challenging democracy, we need experienced people, and people who are tested and trusted and who can really deliver. As I said, I was packing my bags and baggage, I was preparing to return to the Federal House of Reps, but there was this public outcry, most especially from my constituents that my next point of call should be the senate, but I did not answer because I believed the seat is not always vacant. But as events started unfolding, the incumbent senator was not returning, all the people that I thought should be interested said they were not interested in the seat and people encouraged me to throw my hat into the ring and see if I could be lucky. So, as they say that charity begins at home, I had to go to my constituents, seek for their support, and I said I would love to go to the senate to represent them and I had their supports, 100% at all levels, which was how we started. By the grace of God and the supports of the leaders of the party, who gave their blessings, I stand before you as the Senatorial Candidate of the All Progressives Congress for Lagos West Senatorial District.
There was this confusion that you were going to contest from Ogun State, can you throw more light on this?
I knew you would go there; I was just waiting for who would ask that question. Yes, I am a system person, as I have said earlier on, I believe so much in the system and I am a party man to the core. Irrespective of what whosoever or whatsoever anybody wants to offer me or ask me to do, my party comes first, every other thing follows. It is true that I made a political journey to Ogun State, I am from the state. That is where I am from and I cannot lie. I am from a place that since February 1976, when Ogun State was created, that part of the state has never produced the Governor of Ogun State. But, the usual question and answer is that we don’t have anybody there, I said how can you say we don’t have anybody. Though I am in Lagos State and I am doing well, ordinarily, nobody would take such risk, they would dissociate themselves from the people, but I am not like that. Yes, it is true I wanted to run for this office from Ogun State, sometimes man proposes, God approves, I made an incursion into the state to a large extent. Everywhere in the length and breadth of Ogun State, everybody was shouting ‘Yayi, Yayi’ but God said it was not yet time. When I was called to return to Lagos State, I said ‘okay’ and I was asked to return to the House of Reps, I said ‘okay,’ but may be God has stamped it that either here or there, you must go to the senate. So, it is true, but I must say this, it is good for us, for our party and for Nigeria. Now, in that part of the state, nobody can say that they don’t have somebody there. That is much I can say I have achieved with that aim and purpose.
What are those things that you can say has given you joy to be in politics and how would you rate the activities of our politicians?
Don’t forget that I am a professional in politics, I am a professional accountant and I am also a member of the Federal Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, a chartered member. I am of the belief that our own involvement in politics should make the difference.