Ladi Adebutu is a grassroots politician representing Remo Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives and son of billionaire Kessington Adebutu, also known as Baba Ijebu. He shares his hopes and challenges in politics with Bayo Adeoye
What really was the attraction in politics when you went into it, given that it is often described as a dirty game?
I want to assure you that what I do is a calling. That I come from a wealthy background is a privilege. I am on this path because I believe it is a calling. Some are called to be priests, lawyers, medical doctors etc. But for me, politics is a calling. I believe in the necessity of life that some of us must leave our comfort zones for the betterment of all. It has not been an easy process because I have had to sacrifice great resources. Most important, I have had to sacrifice my upward mobility as well. In fact, it has cost me time and money that could have made me a more affluent person today. However, I made this sacrifice because if good people don’t so, we will be left in a situation where dirty people will pursue the dirty governance and then good people will be slaves to dirty people.
How did your father react when you told him about your interest in politics?
The truth of the matter is that, I have always had the desire for community service since 1992. When the opportunity came to go to the third National Assembly, I felt sincerely that it was like aluta in the university. When I first got the idea, my father rejected it with passion. He said he had steered clear of anything that could tarnish his image all his life. He also said that if I must continue with politics, I must go and build my own house and do it there. Thank God, he has a very good friend, Chief Bayo Ayoku, who convinced him that various people have various ways of thinking. So, he reluctantly supported me. That was my first assignment as a member of the third National Assembly.
So, how has the journey been so far?
Very turbulent! When I started the journey, I thought it was going to be easy, straight-forward and rosy; I thought that people had no option than just to do what is right. So, I pursued this with passion. But one of the first shockers I got was when Abiola won and the election was annulled. We had the opportunity to discuss it at the National Assembly at that time and it was very interesting. For the first time, I discovered that what is right for this person might not necessarily be right for the other person.
Some people have attributed your success story in politics to the fact that you are wealthy. Is that true?
The truth of the matter borders on the character and content of the character. For example, I am a member of the House of Representatives, where we have 360 members having equal vote and voice. But the only thing that works in that House is superior argument and intellect. We have billionaires in the House. I think with time, we will get there, where superior intelligence is the basis of our success. Being in the National Assembly is quite different from the politics of the electorate. As I said earlier, being in a position to fund extensive campaigns does matter and that is the reality. In a situation where we have abject poverty, the content or message might not be much most of the time, but the availability of bread and butter to the people. I like to think that I am lucky. My upbringing and pedigree afford me character and content of character; and by the grace of God, I have been able to rally support from different quarters to propagate my agenda.
Your party, PDP, is now the opposition party. How would you describe the fate of the party in the political calculation of Nigeria, since power has changed hands?
The truth is, for democracy to be viable, there has to be a ruling party and an opposition party. Any genuine democrat must be able to play on both sides. If you are in the opposition, it gives you room to sit back and think of how you can do it better. The PDP is in that position now. So, the PDP is now thinking of the failure of All Promises Cancelled, APC. We are thanking God that we succeeded where they are failing now and we are also learning from their mistakes now, just as we are also learning from our own failures too. But definitely, our failures brought this situation on. As a party and as a people, I am certain that we will do better in 2019.
Do you think President Muhammadu Buhari is on the right path with his anti-corruption war?
Buhari is just creating a scene, as if he is doing something; Buhari is not doing anything new. The BVN was a product of the last administration. I can assure you that anybody trying to move money out now can be easily identified. The Single Treasury Account is the creation of the last government. This is one of the tools that control the process of corruption. If you develop institutions that are able to make corruption less, then, you are on the way to combating it. But if you simply undermine those institutions, you will find out that you are doing very little.
For example, I am sponsoring a bill to assist the EFCC to become more independent and if one is able to do that, we will be reinforcing the EFCC. The commission will become less open to persuasion from the government. Those are the institutions that can guide against corruption. In the last few weeks, there have been issues on court orders, which are an insult on the judicial system; it is the height of corruption. There is no way you can handle corruption, if these institutions are not properly in place. In my own opinion, all the people who are being harassed are all PDP members. I have not seen an APC member being accused of corruption.
To me, I am inclined to feel like we had a time when it was the ICPC that was used to chase various political opponents. I want to make a point here: these institutions are being controlled for limiting corruption. But in this era, where we have a selective imbursement of foreign exchange at preferred rates, can this government give us a list of those who have received foreign exchange over the last six months? If that list was published, it would be the offence of the government and ruling party. If you say you are curtailing corruption in one way and then you are opening up a new medium of corruption, it’s all lies.
How strong is the PDP as an opposition party?
You must recall that one of the beauties of the PDP is an opportunity for politicking and dialogue. You find it a policy to engage people to stabilise the party. They are many in PDP, but they are not PDP members. They are businessmen, but they come and foster disunity in the party. So, when this happens, that is when things go wrong. In spite of the reported differences, we believe that PDP has a better platform for Nigeria than the All Promises Cancelled (APC).
We understand that you currently have the PDP structure in Ogun State. How were you able to achieve that?
Let me quickly correct this notion; I don’t have the party structure in Ogun State. What has happened is that the good people of Ogun State now have the good fortune of taking and cutting their party back. The party is back in the hands of the masses, the true Nigerians; so, democrats now have their party back. We have now been able to get out of the shackles, where a businessman high-jacked the party and held everyone to ransom. Every ward and polling unit now has its stakeholders in control.
What have you done to empower the people in your constituency?
As you are aware, we arrived June last year and the truth of the matter is that except for programmes that have been ongoing, the budget we have now is one with a question mark. It is coming late -midyear 2016. So, a lot of that budget will have to continue for the sake of continuity. Our personal and input direction will not even come into this budget, except we tidy up things that are ongoing. However, we were able to start pushing bills that will impact positively on the lives of our people. I am now processing a bill for e-library. I believe seriously that unless we have access to knowledge, we won’t have freedom from poverty.
One of the constraints our farmers have is capital. I am processing a bill, which will enable us have a land registry that can confer ownership on individuals, and will translate into a kind of collateral that can help them do a kind of advanced agriculture. If some people have N20, 000, it will make a lot of difference in their lives, but they don’t have it. If we have an agric land registry to convert ownership and you get an opportunity as collateral, then, it’s like making money available to rural famers. This is because every rural dweller has a small parcel of land with which they can do farming.
We are doing a few things and that is where empowerment comes to play. If everybody in my constituency has that capital to work with, I would have done a great service. Also, one must not, particularly when God gives you the opportunity, close one’s eyes to the sufferings of our people.
I have used my own personal asset to empower people. I provided transformers for communities in Remo land. It’s a shame that in 2016, you hear that a transformer is faulty for two years, thereby subjecting over 10, 000 inhabitants to darkness. We have a large expanse of land that is suffering from serious erosion because lot of water has not been diverted to the right channel- a case study is Agura in Sagamu Local Government. The flooding there was serious, but I have been able to channel the water to the right channel, and life is better for the people there.
Anybody travelling to Ogijo, Ikorodu, Isawo, the old Trunk A Roads will see the bad situation of the roads. But I have tried to include it in the budget and I am hoping on God. I am working towards the old Trunk A Road, and the new express linking Ogijo to Shimawa to be rehabilitated. So, whenever there is a crisis in one of the roads, we can make do with the other. It has been included in the budget. Also, as we are doing government intervention, we are also doing intervention with our own personal resources.
We made tricycles available to our people; we intervene also in the area of medical care and are making a strong arrangement for hospital in Remo land where we can direct our people. We do lots of intervention in the area of education as well; we provided sports facilities for the Federal Government Girls College, Shagamu. In various schools, we have continued to take steps for the rehabilitation of their facilities.
There is a rumour making the rounds that you will be gunning for the governor of Ogun State in the next election. How true is this?
I can assure you that if the good people of Ogun invite me to be a councillor today and they feel that is where I can serve them best, I will accept their request. If am invited to be their governor, I will answer them. Ogun State is so blessed and endowed; we have had the fortune of producing a former president already. So, if I am called to be president, who am I to say no?