- Lawyer * Politician *Author *Humanitarian Ambassador
Toyin Ogunbambi is many things rolled into one; first a lawyer, then an author, politician and a humanitarian. For over three decades, she has practised law, with speciality in debt recovery, environmental laws, commercial and a bit of maritime. Politically, she cut her teeth in the last general elections, where she ran for governorship in Lagos on the platform of People’s Trust Party. The author of two books, and a third one in the offing, recently clocked 60. In this interview with SUNDAY EHIGIATOR, she reminisced about her grass to grace story, her foray into politics and her recent humanitarian ambassadorial award, bestowed on her by Christian Broadcasting Network Africa, in recognition of her immense support for the needy through the organisation over the years
You recently clocked 60, how easy has it been managing your career with the homefront?
I celebrated my diamond age recently and it’s been a journey. Mixing career and family together has not been quite easy, because they are separate, like words and opposite. The career on one side, and family on the other. It’s been quite tough, but I give glory to God.
I was able to manoeuver somehow. My children when they were younger, I had to take care of them, inculcate what God desires into them and at the same time, I needed to attend to my practice. So what I needed to do was to carve a niche in my practice. The bit I could conveniently tag along with, which is commercial practice. Because I know if I delve into litigation, I might not have time to really satisfy my kids. So what I did was to engage the services of other colleagues (paid salaries). My husband was busy, but I thank God, He took care of it.
I looked at legal practice in its entirety and decided on the area I would go, which was the commercial practice. I won’t say it afforded me the time, but I had to use my number six to spell out what to do and when, because commercial practice was also quite tasking. I made sure that what I had to do were things I could do from any part of the world. I tied legal knots, which you can do anywhere.
How long have you been practicing?
Over three decades. I feel good being a legal practitioner, and I am grateful that my children are doing well as well. Hard work brings blessings. Once you put God first in whatever you do, and you do your bits, whatever you have to do, you’re already blessed. You see a lot of people work so hard and they are nowhere. You see a lot of people, they pray so much and they are nowhere. But one thing I have realised is that you need to do the needful and it is doing the right thing at the right time, and placing God first. So you find out that when you do this, He does the remaining for you.
Being the first time you are addressing the media after the elections, in your own view, what were the pros and cons?
What a great experience in life. We are not yet there in Nigeria, but we will get there. I have been privileged to witness elections in one or two countries. Firstly, you don’t see posters on walls. We need to reduce the amount we spend on elections, and then it becomes less attractive to the louts. We really need to curb our excesses in that regard.
I heard, I saw, but I am praying to God to help us conquer in Nigeria. Maybe In some other places, there are clean, clear elections, I am not too sure. But we need to put things right. I am admonishing the academias, the technocrats and the likes, to come into politics, and salvage the situation. Because if we don’t do that, the less read will be the ones to rule us. They will dictate the terms to us and we will just be grumbling. Instead of grumbling, let’s come out en-masse and salvage the country. And I want to use this medium to congratulate his Excellency, the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwolu. It is my prayer that he will visit a few or all the challenges in Lagos; the traffic, dirt; everywhere is a dumping ground in Lagos. It’s filthy. There is a lot to be done. The election has come and gone, it will be well with Nigeria.
Can you now be regarded as a politician?
Why not? I personally did not like politicians all the years, but really going in, being with them, I know that we need to salvage the system. So, people like me and you should be in politics to make that happen.
Do you intend to run for elective office again?
The climate would decide, just like I didn’t plan to run. Maybe God wanted me to see a few flaws, which I would be grateful if I have the opportunity someday to correct. There are too many flaws in the system and we must correct them. And I seriously feel the younger ones should take the mantle of leadership at all levels in order to change the narrative.
Is it true that you fell out at home as speculated during your election?
Well, I thank you. But that’s an area I feel is so private. I wouldn’t want it to be for public consumption. It was tough, it was a breaking, but God is able. Let’s leave it at that.
Do you think Nigeria has enough female representation in this new government?
What I have realised is that most people think of the division as important. Whether you’re a Christian or Muslim, or a man or a woman is not important. Whether they give men 35 per cent in the system is irrelevant. You need to put square pegs in square holes not round pegs in square holes. If a woman does not have the qualities you need, why would you want to put her there for goodness sake? So the earlier the better it is for the country. All of us must begin to close that gap by de-emphasising on the gender issue. Yes, we want to flow with the world. But I want us to know that we are Africans. Whether you are a Muslim or Christian, it doesn’t matter, what we need is your brain, and how you can add value to the growth of our country or the states or the world at large.
We need to bridge that gap to enable us move on in life. Whether you’re Urhobo, or Yoruba or Delta or Hausa, it should be very irrelevant. What the nation needs is the value you can add, so we can move forward. It’s my prayer that we can all go back to the drawing board and do the needful. I salute all of us who came out to contest in whichever capacity in the 2019 elections, particularly, the courageous women. I am cocksure we all learnt new things.
What have you been up to after elections?
Well, I have authored two Christian books over the years. And I was on the part two of a particular one before the elections. The first book I wrote, is entitled, ‘The Assignment, What Follows Goodness’. Then I wrote on ‘Life’. I was on ‘Life’ part two before the election. By the way, I got into the election race at the last minute, so I paused, and after the election I did a few pages and proof read.
Life is what happens to every other person. As you are talking now, it’s life. It is about the experiences, mine and some other people that we are ready to share, and how to live well and right. It’s a Christian book, I am still on the part two, and it should be out any moment from now. By the time I am through with ‘Life’ part two; I would like to be a peace Ambassador. I think I have seen a lot. I mean after writing about life and being able to capture a lot. My next line is peace. How it can be achieved in the country, around me and wherever I find myself. Money is not the end, yes it’s good for us to work and make money, but I think it’s better to help the people around us. In that way, our country will move forward.
On a lighter note, you once said you don’t have a godfather during the elections, how about now?
I still have no godfather, but I have a father in God. I actually have a few people I admire so much. It falls into several parts. Corporate wise, I have a few names, and when you talk about people generally. I have respect for a few as well, the likes of our Vice President, Prof. Yemi Oshinbajo and the Vice Chancellor of Lagos State University, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun. Those two were my lecturers along the line, and I admire them a lot. They are very brilliant, and we have people like Ibukun Awoshika, we have Mrs Folorunso Alakija, for her milk of kindness programs. Also Dr. Siju Iluyomade, for his Christian programmes and style. And in the banking sector, I really appreciate, Hebert Wigwe of Access Bank. When we talk about life, we can see its encompassing, everything we do. Whether you are a philanthropist, a corporate person, whoever you are, you’re living life.
So tell us how you celebrated your 60th birthday?
You see, I had an elaborate 50th birthday celebration. And I told myself that when I clock 60, I will do a silent one and thank my creator, which was precisely what I did. There was no fanfare, aside from the fact that I give glory to the Almighty God because I feel accomplished and I am very grateful. You know, when you say from grass to grace, that’s the way I see it, from nothing to something. God kept building me till today. It calls for thanksgiving, maybe later, but that day I decided to do it alone, by myself. Everyone that asked me what I was going to do sometime last year. I did tell them that my 60th birthday will be personal. But I now decided that I was going to mark the birthday itself by tagging along with the program by BeeJay Sax, his live praise concert. So, my children and I with a few of my siblings and friends went to praise God on that day and we really enjoyed ourselves.
It was a great day, not just about celebrating the 60th birthday but also worshipping God. I thought it was the end of it, but the following week, Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) Africa decided to make me one of their ambassadors, and I was honored with a plaque, so I am grateful, I feel accomplished and I give thanks to God.
Also, I was amazed when one of the representatives of CBN Africa, being the Head of Partners Relations Department in Lagos, Mr. Enoch Oyeduntan said they would like to mark my birthday by reaching out to 150 pregnant women and giving them drugs to aid their delivery. I was amazed, and I thank CBN so much. God is beautiful, always He is.