Honourable Desmond Elliot is one of the young politicians you can aptly describe as deep, talented and resourceful. He is also one of those you can proudly vouch for and say, this one didn’t go into politics because he was jobless, desperate and hungry. On the contrary, Desmond Elliot was already in the limelight before he ventured into politics, flourishing as one of Nollywood’s brightest exports. He was not just a leading star actor that got the ladies drooling over him, he was also one of the top earners in the industry. Not only that. He was one of the most prolific directors at the time. It came as a huge shock to everyone, particularly his legion of fans, when he announced his decision to go into politics. Many thought he was crazy, leaving a profession that was conveniently paying his bills for a terrain that was fraught with uncertainties…a terrain he knew little or nothing about. He did say then that his going into politics was borne out of a desire to serve his people and does not necessarily mean he quit acting. But he admitted politics would take quite a large chunk of his time and that meant he would not be able to feature prominently in movies like he used to.
Let’s give it to Desmond, he has stunned everyone. Not many believe he could dive into politics with the same passion as he did acting. Currently in his second term as the Lawmaker representing Surulere constituency 1, the very brilliant Lawmaker has shocked many and silenced his critics. He has consistently pushed for bills that would benefit his constituency and goes out of his way often to put together programmes that will enable his people to enjoy some of the dividends of democracy. Recently, he just wrapped up on the second edition of his free Medical and Surgical Outreach program. It recorded massive success as well over a thousand people turned out for the program, seeking medical services they would probably have paid tons of money for. The very efficient Lawmaker who also doubles as the Chairman House Committee on Environment enjoys the support of both the Speaker of the Lagos Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa and his leader in Surulere, Speaker, House of Reps, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila. They always support him whichever way they can because, over the years, they have seen in him a hardworking young man with tremendous capability to become one of the emerging powerful forces in Lagos politics in years to come.
City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL (08037209290) recently engaged the articulate Lawmaker and asked him to share with us his thoughts on the declaration of Asiwaju to run for the presidency and what he thinks an Asiwaju presidency will bring to Nigerians if elected president come next year, 2023. It was revealing. Hon. Desmond Elliot spoke about his national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu with the sort of passion a child would speak of a father he admires and has tremendous respect for. At the end of the interview, one thing was very clear, Desmond Elliot stands very firmly in his belief that only one man has what it takes right now to take the country to the next level, and that man is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Below are excerpts of the interview.
How do you feel about Asiwaju’s intention to run for president next year?
Firstly, I want to thank you for having this interview with me. If there is one thing Asiwaju has taught us, it is that if you have an ambition, hold on to it, it might tarry, but it will come to pass. He’s a man who has been patient. He didn’t just wake up to say he wants to run, which is why you now see a lot of criticisms, whether constructive or otherwise, concerning his ambition. But he has been calm through it all. This is a man who has made sure that democracy survives. Not only that, he has made sure that his ideology as a progressive never wavered. If you look at it, everything about his footprints has always been about him being progressive. He is also a lover of the youths. He always encourages the youths to stand up and go for what they want. He is one veteran politician who never stops believing in the youth. He makes sure the youth are well represented either in elected or appointed positions. If you see a man with such ideology, why won’t you support him to replicate that at the national level? I’m very happy and proud of him and I pray that by the grace of God, his ambition will be fulfilled.
Looking at the myriads of problems the country is facing at the moment, what are the things you think an Asiwaju presidency will bring to the table in terms of quality leadership?
Well, don’t forget that this man was a senator. Let’s not forget where he was at Mobil and how he got to where he was at Mobil before he left to go serve his people. He became a senator in the 90s and worked closely with the leaders of the party at that time. When he was elected governor, he showed that he is a detribalized Nigerian. He had people from different parts of the country in his team. He picked an Igbo man, he picked a Hausa man, he picked a South-south man and other people from other regions. And he ensures he picks only the capable hands. Look at yours sincerely, which is myself, and I always say this anywhere I go to, he didn’t look at whether I was from a political family or not, or whether I am half Igbo, half Yoruba, but he looked at the capacity that I brought to the film industry and the resilience that I showed towards realizing my ambition to serve and little me was honoured. He accepted me. That’s not to say that I didn’t do my work at my constituency but I got the leverage I needed. He creates a platform for youths to flourish. You can see the GM of Lagos State Employment Trust Fund is a young person, the GM, Lagos State Infrastructural Management, LASMIRA, is a young person, I can go on and on, they are all young people. Now, obviously, he’s not the governor but you know these are people that our leader is familiar with and I am sure they came under his recommendation. Asiwaju always puts the round pegs in round holes. He does a thorough analysis of the situation before taking critical decisions. This is the man that can take Nigeria to higher heights from where the president, Muhammadu Buhari would leave it. I believe totally without a doubt in my mind that his administration will take this country to heights that we cannot believe because he has an abundance of experience to accomplish that.
It’s interesting when you talk about Asiwaju’s love for the youth because ironically, today’s youth feel that the likes of Asiwaju and his generation do not even like them at all or have them in consideration for political offices, I would like you to share with us more your knowledge of Asieasju and his love for the youths.
That’s very easy like I have given examples of agencies, which you can check. There are over ten agencies that you know the heads came under his recommendation. LASA is one of them, you will find out these people are young people under 40 and if you find out, they came under his recommendation. Myself, when I just came into the office, I just hit 40. We have over five members at the statehouse of Assembly that goes for his blessings and I can name them. The Jimi Mohammeds, the Ajani Owolabis, the Adedamola Kasumus, the list is endless. These are people who are just about 40 years and are doing wonders in their various places. Look at the people around Asiwaju, when you see pictures of him leaving the country or returning to the country, look at the people around him at the airports, you will find out that they’re youngsters. Asiwaju is one person who knows what the young people are asking for. Unfortunately, there is a huge gap between the government and the people in terms of the trust. Trust is a major issue. And it’s like that all over the world except in a few places like Norway where there is almost 99 percent trust in their government. I visited there and I was shocked with the way the people talk about their government even though they also pay taxes. It’s not like they are rich, but they just have average up class and middle class, I think Nigeria should be somewhere like that, that’s not to say we should not have rich people. But most of the citizens must be at least middle-class people, not lower class.
Middle class means you can fend for yourself and your family, with three to four children. You can send your children to school conveniently, have access to the mortgage, have access to health care, have access to loans with very low digits and so on. These are the things Nigerians are asking for. Once the youths can see these things happen, then you know you’re headed in the right direction. Before Asiwaju came, Lagos State was one of the worst states in the country. It was the dirtiest state, lots of shanties everywhere with an exploding population and it was Asiwaju that changed everything. Within the first four years, he was able to change the IGR. All of the funds that brought about these transformations were from the increased IGR. Today, we are talking about the Fourth Mainland Bridge, the blue line, and these were all in the developmental plan of Lagos state. The blueprint for all of these was made possible by Asiwaju. That’s why I say don’t criticize the man by what you hear, ask yourself, what is his record? What has he done? This man is a progressive. He doesn’t care where you’re from as long as you have the capacity. I believe that among all the contenders in the party, he stands head and shoulder above the rest.
You are one of those who must’ve had the privilege to watch Asiwaju from close quarters, what do you make of this talk about his age and health not being sound enough for somebody who intends to rule the country?
I smile because I ask myself, this is a man who barely sleeps. And ever since I have known him closely for the past six to seven years, he barely sleeps, round the clock, he’s working. Yet people are still saying he’s fragile, he’s weak, yet he works harder than so many of us. Now he’s covered so many states in his consultations, how many have the capacity to do such? Yes, age is important, but capacity is much more important. Do you think he has the capacity to deliver? My answer is yes, unequivocally. He can deliver because I have seen him work. This is a man that has walked all the way from Maryland on foot to Surulere, holding the broom, shaking hands with people, so what are we saying? Asiwaju knows that it’s a lot of work if he becomes president and he is sure he can carry the pressure. Joe Biden is way older than he is. It is the capacity that matters. Does he have the capacity to bring the youths together and bring about the future generation that we want? Yes, he has the capacity. He is modern, he is very informed. He is an astute politician that can harness the north, south, east and west together, not minding whether you’re a Yoruba man or Hausa man. What we need right now is a leader who can perform.
How concerned are you about the fact that Asiwaju is having more challenges and more mudslinging coming from within his own people than even from outside?
The truth is, before you become fine wine, there’s going to be bitter taste, there’s going to taste for too much salt, there’s going to taste for pruning, grooming and all that, and then you become the fine wine. That is number one. Number two is, Yoruba people as a race, we are one who believes in leadership. And we know within ourselves that when push comes to shove, everybody will align. Even the opposition will align so that the rest of the country will understand that these people are together. So, for anybody who wants to cast aspersion, there’s nothing you want to say about the man that he hasn’t heard before. Show us what you can do, let’s go to the debate. Let every aspirant come and show us what they can do. How can you change the status of this country? Asiwaju is my candidate and I mince no words when I say Asiwaju can take us to the new frontier.
Tell us two key things about Asiwaju that you admire the most.
He’s a lover of young people. His interest is always aroused when he’s around young people. You can see from his conversation with the youth when he said you too will become president but after me. He loves to encourage the youth. The day Asiwaju told me you are resourceful, in fact, I was over the moon. He just said to me, ‘that’s good, you are resourceful.’ He doesn’t hesitate to tell you, good job, keep it up, keep moving. He encourages the youth. Secondly, is his undivided loyalty for loyalty. He does not mess with loyalty. And if he’s loyal to you, he expects loyalty in return. He does not expect you to be over the top, just be honest enough to be loyal.
How would you advise your party to rally around Asiwaju at this point because there’s a whole lot coming out right now from within the party that’s not looking pleasant?
To my party, I would like to say to them, Asiwaju is a man that has thrown over a hundred and one per cent of support to the progress of the party. When it’s time to appeal, we will appeal, when it’s time to demand, we will demand. But most important is the progress of this country, the growth of this country, the spirit of oneness of this country. And I know, and they know, and every member of the party knows that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a front-burner in all of these, the type of man who will make sure that every part of the country is recognised. Give it to the man who can do it. Let us look at it critically, at this point in time, who has the capacity to carry on the legacy of this party, to carry on from where we are to where we ought to be? It’s this man called Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. So, let’s do it. Let’s bring hope back to the youths, to the elderly, for health care, through the Asiwaju Presidency. Let’s throw our weight behind him and give him all the support that we can. To the party, I wish us well and I say. Let’s make the right decision and that, to me, is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Jagan Borgu of Nigeria.