• Tells City People
Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, the tall and handsome Lagos politician has had a good ride in politics. He has been lucky to have had a distinguished career from the age of 30. He was 30 when he started his political journey in 1990. And his son has since taken over the baton from him by going into the House of Reps. But Koro is still actively involved in Politics. He has not retired.
He started his political journey when he was appointed party Chairman, Caretaker Committee for Surulere Local Government in 1991. The following year, 1992, he was elected State Deputy Chairman of National Republican Convention in 1992. He was elected Council Chairman in 1997. And his career went on and on like that. From the Executive arm, he crossed to the Legislative arm. In the spate of 30 years, he has risen through the ranks in both the Executive and Legislative arm of Governor till he was made Nigeria’s High Commissioner to GHANA.
What has helped him is rich pedigree as a Lagosian and Grace. Musiliu Olatunde Obanikoro was born in Lagos. He is from Bakare family of Ita-Ado in Isale Eko, Ikare and Ilashe in Amuwo Odofin Local Government of Lagos State, the Obanikoro (Ajayi-Bembe) family of Lagos and Idoluwole (Ojo Local Government of Lagos), and the Eletu-Odibo (Oshobile) family of Isale-Eko, Lagos. He attended Saint Patrick Catholic School, Idumagbo, Lagos and Ahmadiyya College (Anwar-ul/Islam College) Agege. He worked briefly as a Clerical Officer at LSHMBS, and at Union Bank as a Clerk before travelling overseas for further studies. While in the US, he attended Texas Southern University where he earned his B.Sc degree in Public Affairs and Master’s Degree in Public Administration (M. P. A).
He served as an intern with Houston adult Probation Department, Houston, Texas. He worked as a social worker and later as the Head of the adolescent unit with Little Flower Children Service (an agency affiliated with the New York City Department of Social Service). He is an honorary citizen of Glenarden, Maryland and Little Rock, Arkansas.
He returned to Nigeria in 1989 and started his political career immediately. He was appointed as Caretaker Committee Chairman of Surulere Local Government (National Republican Convention); he was elected as the State Deputy Chairman (NRC); appointed by Governor Otedola’s administration as Director, LASBULK (Lagos State Bulk Purchasing Corporation); and member, Lagos State Football Association. He has served as Delegate to Local Government Congress, State Congress, and National Convention. He has also served as Elected State Secretary, Justice Forum. He was also the Chairman, Lagos Island Local Government. He was a national Executive member, Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM) under the military government of General Sani Abacha. He was appointed State Commissioner for Home Affairs and Culture in 1999 and served for four years before he was elected Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Musiliu Obanikoro was elected senator for Lagos Central in April 2003, running for the Alliance for Democracy (AD). During the election, each side accused the other of hijacking ballot boxes. He later defected to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
He was appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo as a member of the 2004 Amirul-Hajj Committee.
In February 2005, Obanikoro was among the Senators who urged the African Union chairman, President Olusegun Obasanjo, to use military force if necessary to restore democracy in Togo.
As Senator, Musiliu Obanikoro proposed motions on the surge and overflow of the Atlantic Ocean along the Bar beach shoreline, to stop the incessant increment in the pump price of petroleum products, to protect Lagos State from the menace of flood, to probe into the condition of the velodrome at the National Stadium, Abuja and for the resolution of the clash between men of the Nigerian Police Force and men of the Nigerian Army in Lagos State]. He also sponsored several bills, calling for acts to regulate and control public Buildings, to regulate and control Dredging and Excavation of land, to provide for the Re-Certification of Fuel Pumps, to prevent Casualisation in public and private Establishment and to amend the Federal Capital Territory Act.
During the flagging off of OPP (Obanikoro Priority Projects), hundreds of items were given out to his constituents, including motorbikes, milling machines, popcorn machines, sewing machines, assorted farming tools, telephone lines and phones, etc.
In making education a priority, the Senator established the Senator Obanikoro Leadership and Education Project (SOLEP). Under this programme, he supplied textbooks, notebooks, forms and scholarship funding.
He initiated an Urban renewal bill that is designed to give a face-lift to selected cities in Lagos. He set aside funds to help children and women who need financial assistance during surgery. Dozens of Lagosians have benefited from this fund. He is currently in partnership with a US-based NGO (AWHPI) to set up a mammogram centre that will enable women to test for breast cancer for free in Lagos. In July 2006, Engineer Funsho Williams, who was seeking to become PDP candidate for the Lagos State governorship election, was murdered. Police investigating the case arrested all gubernatorial aspirants of the party including Musiliu Obanikoro but were all later released for non-involvement.
In April 2007 Musiliu Obanikoro ran for governor of Lagos State on the PDP ticket but lost the election to Babatunde Fashola of the Action Congress.
He served as the Minister (State) for Defence under President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014-2015, after which he went back to school in the US.
He was recently our guest on City People TV Live Chat to talk about his successful political career, as he celebrated at 60.
Below are excerpts of his interview with City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE.
What are your reflections of your life at 60?
Well, they say age is just a number. I’m still thinking. It is often said that wisdom comes with age, I do agree totally. There are things in life that I would have done differently and also things I wouldn’t hesitate to do again if given the chance. But by and large, I think wisdom is very crucial in life. I’m happy that I’m at that stage in life and to be honest, there is still a lot to give to society and I’m looking forward to that. I’m at a stage where I have to speak the truth at all times. I’m not afraid of anybody but of God. God had been very kind to me. What is left now is to give back to the community for what? He had given to me.
How do you see yourself in terms of your career, having worked in the different arms of the government?
The truth is that the system that we have put in place, at the national level and the state level if we continue with it, I’m afraid we won’t get to the promised land as a people. The reason is because the capacity and commitment is not there. For instance, the budget being read yearly is basically a cut and paste document done without the due process of budgeting.
As a people, there must be a consensus for Nigeria to move forward, especially from the elite. The commitment to support the consensus is not there. Our best are no longer joining the service. Unlike other countries that employ the best in the public service. We have made the society and system very unattractive to them for them to even contemplate on managing. Like the doctors that were prevented from moving abroad. Our best have been emigrating. So that has to be checked to create a sane society.
Based on your achievements are you fulfilled?
Yes, I am, on a personal level. Looking at where I was coming from to where I am today, I can’t but be thankful to God. I told you my dad died when I was young and my mum who was not learned, ensured I went to school. Looking back, about 80% of my mates then when I was young has fallen by the wayside. Maybe 10% are getting by, 5% are okay and maybe 2% are at the level I am today. So one must be grateful to God. I was not the best in school but I always passed.
There are early starters that get stunted, then people take over. School of life is not taught in a class, only a guide is given. It is learnt properly in the real world. How you manage it will determine your success in life. Education will also help. Having a masters degree and living in America has opened my eyes to so many things. They guided me. There are things I never expected happened to me in life and I had to deal with them. The choices we make determine who we are and above all is the grace of the Almighty God, being in the right place at the right time. There are ways you say things and behave that would affect your fortune in life. People have gone out of their way to open doors for me due to my humility. After obtaining the education, how you present yourself to society at large is also very important to your success. Managing the realities of life is not easy.
Still, looking at your career and all the political posts you have occupied, how do these shape who you are and your world view of politics?
All that you said are different in their own ways. But they all have one thing in common which is Service to humanity. I set out to Serve and I have been lucky to have served in different capacities. There is a Yoruba saying that states “iriri aye kii tini titi ko tini pa, ogbon ni o fi-nkoni”. The challenges of life don’t kill but strengthen you if you embrace it. All these have to a large extent strengthened me as an individual, focus, perception and disposition towards my fellow humans. I have realised that the best investment one can make in life is the investment in humanity. With that, you can never fail. I am glad I have been able to do that by mentoring younger people, assisting a good number of people without reflecting well enough on what I was doing.
An example is a young man that walked up to me one day and started a relationship with me. As I progressed in life, I took him along. He met a lot of influential people. While I was doing that, I never knew God was planning something special for that young man and today, the guy is everywhere and I am proud of his accomplishments and others like him who are also doing well. I thank God for giving me the wisdom to make those small investments which these young men have turned to something extraordinary in their own ways. So these are the things going through all those layers of positions in the office. I fear no one but God. Whatever you do today can catch up to you tomorrow.
There is one regret that I have. It’s my visibility in things I have no business in. Without being specific, I have been in places I ought not to have been. Let me leave it at that so as not to cause any trouble around that. I’m glad that I’m 60 today and I want you to be on the lookout for Musiliu Obanikoro that is different in terms of outlook, commitment to the society and visibility.
Is it a conscious decision to be different at 60?
Well I have always been different and I believe as human beings, we should always recreate ourselves. If I had not recreated myself, I would not have gotten to where I am today.