LAGOS Lawmaker, Hon. SEYI LAWAL
It is not often times that you meet politicians who are naturally humble by nature. Most times, what people get to see are politicians with over bloated egos who think too highly of themselves. Their position of authority often always fills them with a measure of arrogance that keeps them further away from the very people that elected them into office. But there are still a few who still stay humble and treat their constituents with respect. One of such politicians is Honourable Seyi Lawal, the legislator representing Ikeja Constituency 1. The minute you spend a few minutes talking to him, you realise you’re talking to a gentleman whose word is bond. As a politician, he will not promise you what he cannot offer. He has genuine passion to serve and over the years, he has proven that he is a true servant of the people of Ikeja.
Presently, Honourable Seyi Lawal is serving his first term as a member of the Lagos state House of Assembly. He was elected into office March 2023 and he has settled well in the House, going about his legislative duties. Last week, the duo of City People Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL (08037209290) and NIFEMI KAZEEM, had a a revealing interview with this soft spoken Lawmaker and he opened up on all that went down before he was elected into office. Enjoy excerpts of the interview.
Give us a bit of your background.
My name is Honourable Seyi Lawal, member Lagos State House of Assembly representing Ikeja Constituency 1. I am the Chairman, Committee on Science and Technology. I was born and brought up in Oregun. I started my primary education in Oregun there, from Oregun, I went to Agege and from Agege back to Oregun. Started my secondary education in Oregun and finished it up in Ejigbo in the early 90s. And I have been within Oregun from that time till now. I have been a supervisor on Agric and Rural Development for three years and later I was elected as a Councilor of Oregun town, which was also called Ward C then. This brought me a lot closer to my people. I became more familiar with what they need and the challenges they have within the various communities. And because the people were impressed with my performance first time, they re-elected me again for another term as councilor. I soon became the leader of the council because most of the other councilors had served two terms and did not contest again. Immediately I served two terms as leader of the council in 2002, I decided to be on my own. I am a young farmer. So, I went back to the farm which was the business I have been doing all the while.
Tell us about how you began your journey to the Lagos Assembly. And I understand that you got the Assembly seat at your very first attempt.
Yes, its so hard to believe but the thing is that our people had been agitating for an indigenous representation. They wanted a son of the soil to represent them. And that was the first time a true son of the soil will come out to contest the Assembly election. And so, I came out and said to them, since you want your son to represent you, I am available. At least, you know I was once your councilor, and I served you well. I know what you people need, I know where the shoe pinches, I know what you want and they shall be given to you. Just trust in me. Send me there to go nd represent you and I will not disappoint you. All the leaders I expressed my feelings to, gave me my blessings. We were about four that expressed interest to contest. The leaders spoke to us but nobody wanted to step down. But at the end of the day, the party leaders prevailed on the others and persuaded them to allow me to go. Everybody thought that because of the status of the person representing us the, Lai Mohammed’s son, Folajimi, everyone thought it was a no-go area, that nobody could unseat him. But the truth of the matter is that the people had spoken, they wanted one of their own represent them because thy felt like, yes, some of the non indigenes who represented us in the past tried their best, they still cannot represent them the way a son of the soil would. They believe as an indigene, you won’t be far away from them. You cannot run away from them because you have your house there, your family house is there, your parents, if still alive, are probably there too, so you can’t abandon them when you get there.
By the time we went for primary, it was clear what the people wanted. The incumbent could see the people wanted their son to represent them. Eventually, I won by 16 to 9 votes. And when the elections proper came, it was a landslide victory. Even the Labour party that people were shouting about were nowhere to be found. They came a distant second position. I got over 12,000 votes while the Labour Party got about 5,000 votes. PDP came third with about 2,000 votes. And so far, I think I have been doing my best to give them quality representation.
So, how has it been so far for you in terms of the pressure from your people and meeting their demand because a lot of them still think you have executive powers to make a lot of things happen for them in the constituency?
Well, its been a wonderful experience so far. But so the fact remains that you cannot satisfy everybody. But you must learn to manage them. How do you do that? By listening to them. Be accessible to them. Do not promise them what you cannot give them. Don’t raise their hopes. Let them what you can do and what you cannot do. The expectations from the people are quite high. They believe there is one big bag of money that you just pick money from. Very few of them understand that we are only here to legislate on their behalf, to act on their behalf and checkmate what the Executive arm of government is doing and also carry out oversight functions. We don’t have power of the Executive arm of government tht can give out contracts or do a lot of projects for the community. What we do once in a while is we use our salary to give little back to the people. I meet with them everyday and explain these things to them.
Here at the Assembly, I mingle well. The fact that I was once a councilor too has helped me. As a first timer, I am trying to learn because we learn everyday. And as we are learning, you watch your steps and stick to the doctrines of the house because every house has its doctrines. Once you understand these things, everything becomes a lot easier. You know what you’re doing and how to give back to your people.
How would you describe the reception you received from the ranking members, especially the leader of the house, Rt. Honourable Mudashiru Obasa?
We got fantastic reception. The Speaker has been wonderful. He pulled u close to him and explains to us why we are here. He tells us all the time that whatever we need, we should feel free to come talk to him. The ranking members have been great too. They are encouraging us. We do things together. They invite us to their committee meetings so we can learn a thing 9 or two. They leave their doors open for us. Whenever I need anything, I can walk into the office of any of them and ask questions or simply go and relax with them. I love the chemistry we share right now.
Let me take you back to the elections, sir, considering the momentum the Labour Party had gathered back then, were you a bit worried that things could go really bad?
No, I was not worried. I had that confidence right from the start that I would win. I have been doing elections for years. I had won elections as a councilor and I had all the wards still within my constituency, and I won that election twice when the PDP was very strong in Lagos. The PDP guy I contested against was very strong and he was also an indigene. So, when the Labour Party people started boasting that they would defeat everybody, I was just looking at them.
But they won Lagos state during the presidential elections?
No, they didn’t. It was a case of Lagos versus Lagos. It’s APC versus APC. All those votes they claimed to have gotten were from within the APC. These were votes given to Labour Party by the APC members out of anger. Some were angry, saying I wanted this one, they didn’t give me, I wanted that one, they didn’t give me. I worked hard for the party’s victory last time, they didn’t give me anything. So, it was the votes of these angry party leaders and their followers that went to the Labour Party. Even in my constituency, something like that could’ve happened. But it was averted because my constituency presented an indigenous man who knew and understood the people vey well. I firstly worked closely with the chiefs, then the youths and then the Iyalojas. And I also spoke with the other tribes such as Hausa and Igbo. At the end of the day, all that thy said to me was, when you get there, don’t go and change and become a different person entirely. I told them that will not be possible with me because I am Seyi Lawal, and I can’t take my house out of that town. My great grand father is the owner of that town, so how will I run away from the town that belongs to my lineage or treat the people badly? My family is there. If I get there and start misbehaving, there are so many people in the family that can call me to order. I do realise that there is nobody that’s perfect, only God is perfect, but I promise to do my very best to represent my people in the best way I possibly can.