Toyin Ogunbambi, the Lagos gubernatorial candidate of People’s Trust Party, is not just your ordinary politician. Prior to her foray into politics, she had practiced law for over three decades, with speciality in debt recovery, environmental laws, commercial and a bit of maritime. In celebration of the International Women’s Day, Sunday Ehigiator in this exclusive interview picks her mind on how she hopes to govern Lagos without the influence of godfatherism if elected, amongst other sundry issues. Excerpts:
What can you tell us about you?
I am a legal practitioner of over three decades. I am a specialist in debt recovery, environmental laws, commercial and a bit of maritime. I resigned from Nigerian Ports Authority in 1991 as the Port Legal adviser; container terminal to be precise. And since then I have been in active practice with the name Toyin Ogunbambi and Co, which later in year 2000, metamorphosed to Gracefield Solicitor and Advocate in order to go with the times and likewise accommodate partners.
Why are you running for governor?
I am running for two reasons; one has to do with the spiritual aspect, which entails correcting anomalies, and generally, when you see things that are not right, as a godly person, you need to correct them. We all grew up in Lagos. It used to be a very clean state. We could even sleep in front of the house till the following day. But now, we have a lot of wrongs, everywhere is filthy. But I never thought I will someday be a number one candidacy, all I kept doing was praying for Nigeria and Lagos state in particular over the years, and contributing my little quota in trying to eradicate poverty from the country through diverse humanitarian services cutting across youth and community empowerment.
But I realised that there is little you can do outside authority. To make maximum change, you need to be in control of power to some certain degrees. So after moments of prayers, I had this nudge to go into politics and put in my best and correct all these things I have disdain for. Hence I chose a completely new party; ‘Peoples Trust’, without an iota of idea that I would be chosen to carry the governorship flag for the party, till it happened. Hence, I considered it the will of God and accepted the call to service.
Peoples Trust Party is relatively new, how has it been especially in keeping up with the popular parties?
We need to be educated. Even those of us that are well read, some of us are not educated. They went through universities but it never went through them. We need to put things in proper perspectives. We need to sensitise them to do the right things so we can have the best. We must get it right within, change peoples mindsets before we can achieve a physical change.
Personally, I thought there would be a political climate for at least one of the new parties to thrive, but I tell you, the conditions were too stringent for new parties to thrive in this country.
Everything is attached to money. Like the issue of party agents. We can have agents without paying them for goodness sake. In Lagos state there are over 8,000 polling units. Where do we get the monies from? The minimum an agent would want to take from you for that day is N2,500.
I don’t have a godfather, and neither do I have any money, but my party has put in the best they could for me. And I know by the end of the day we can’t be a failure. We would do our best as much as we can to convince Lagosians to trust us and give us the privilege to serve them. We will show them quality governance if they vote for us.
And where you have over 8, 000 polling units, what then do you do to raise about N20 million to satisfy agents. Where you do not have any agent at a polling boot, even if a million people had voted for you, they would record zero for you. And I think that is one of the reasons most of the new parties couldn’t make it in the presidential elections like we saw. So it wasn’t a keen competition. A keen competition would give equal leverage to everyone, so there is no superman coming with super money. These are some of our reasons we tagged our campaign ‘Lagos Rebirth’.
You mentioned sanitation as an area you would look into. Why is that?
I read environmental Law at first degree level and masters. And I know what it is for a place to be filthy. Everywhere in Lagos is filthy. The bible says cleanliness is next to Godliness. That means for you to have God come around you, you must be clean. And for you to live healthy, you must consciously maintain a hygienic environment. I salute the past governor’s including the incumbent, but I want to come in and add my values to what is existing. When we talk about cleanliness, we also need to address the issue of thugs; it is also part of sanitation. What are they doing on the streets? As a mother, I am not happy. We need to take them off the streets and put them in one vocation or another. And I know we can can do it. If Apapa trucks can be cleared within a day during the president’s campaign visit, though they returned after he left, we can do same in the area of taking thugs off the street. We also need to sanitise ourselves. We need a lot of awareness.
Asides sanitation, what other areas would you be focusing on?
Education is key in achieving a lot. Every child must go to school. This would be mandatory in our administration. We would urge every child to go to school right from creche because we learn from the cradle to the grave.
Infrastructure as well. We can have alternative routes. While we are trying on the gigantic projects, we can make alternatives for ourselves to make things easier. We have portholes everywhere, we need to really go back to the drawing board. We will have a team that would go round Lagos and see where we need to make amends for improved maintainance culture and ease on commuters. Then power would also be focused on. If everywhere is illuminated there will be no hiding place for crime. Thank god it has drastically reduced, that is why I give kudos to the past administration and the incumbent, they tried, but I want to come in and take it further.
On economy, I think we would looked towards reducing taxes to achieve maximum compliance. Why would someone earning N100,000 be made to pay N75,000 as tax? Entrepreneurs are worst hit. Sometimes they don’t make money as much as they made the previous months, yet they are heavily taxed. They end up folding up.
I want to bring farmers to the market. I want to close that gap between farmers and the consumers. Why must we always bring produce from the north before we eat? We can have hectares of farmlands and call it ‘The Agric Areas’ in Lagos. We will grow as many crops as we can, and get the marketers to come and buy right from Lagos. That will reduce food prices, bridge gap between farmers, create jobs among others. As it is said, according to a local dictum, “where there is food, there is no poverty”.
Then our government would be youth inclusive. The world has gone global. Youth-led innovations are making difference all over the world. There is a need to inculcate youths in government, so we can compete globally. We would make youth commissioners and put them in strategic positions so they can drive the state forward. Generally, the citizens welfare would be paramount.
What stood you out that made you emerge your party’s choice?
I happen to be a very optimistic person. I believe everything is possible. I am a Christian, and if God says that He can do everything and we are created in His own image, I think I do can do everything. I believe among others, what stood me out; because I said to them, I don’t have money for politics, I just want to be a member and add value to your party. I think my being optimistic that we can make it went a long way in making them trust me to fly the party’s flag in that respect.
What are the challenges deterring women from politics in Nigeria?
First, we are mainly and usually intimidated. Secondly, most people feels that there are some positions a woman should not fill. But when it comes to bearing children and raising same, we are the ones that go through the pains and hurdles. So if we could do that, why should people think we cannot play other roles nicely?We are more careful. And from this little time I have come out, I have realised that men do not want to even give women space at all. So it is a societal construct.
Do you think Lagosians are ready for a female governor?
That I cannot answer because I cannot pierce through their minds. But I know as a woman, that they had better be ready because we have to get it right and somebody has to do it. I have offered myself to serve.
If elected, what would your focus be within the first 100 days in office?
Firstly would be the environment, so we can have a base to lay other foundation on. I may maintain the PSP’s but they would be strategically modified and supervised. Also the civil service must be upgraded. They need to be trained for awareness and they need to be updated. Including every security agencies we have in Lagos-they need to be updated because crime is not static.
What does Toyin Ogunbambi represent as a brand?
I represent probity and accountability. Until we get to that level where you can account for every kobo you spent, that is when you have a rebirth.
Will you agree for a coalition?
That’s for the party to decide. But personally, I can step down and support a candidate I believe can do a better job to form a coalition and become the third force to challenge the two existing most popular parties. This was what I expected from the last election but it was unfortunate that non of them were willing for that, which amounted to why their votes were insignificant compared to the bigger two.
Your campaign isn’t flamboyant, any reasons for this?
I said in my preamble that the narrative must change. We don’t need to be in ‘Aso-Ebi’ or exhibit too much paparazzi before we can win. What we were asked to do is to campaign either through door to door or publicly, and we have adhered strictly to that. As said, we are not a money bag party, we are here to correct abnormalities. And change comes with so many sacrifices. We won’t engage in defacing the walls of Lagos state with our posters but explore other sanitised and effective means to campaign which we have been doing. I guess that’s the reason you feel that way, but surely the end shall justify our means on that day. We would take a lot of people by surprise by our performance tomorrow.
On a side note, how do you unwind?
I read to unwind. I just pick a book with my suya and any juice or water by the side. I take my time to go through every lines with a relaxed mind.