Honourable Ibrahim Obanikoro, is a youth and a beneficiary of the ‘Not too Young to Rule’ campaign. On his first attempt to run, his chairmanship election victory was truncated by an Appeal Court ruling in 2015. Undeterred, he ran again under a different platform and today he is currently a serving lawmaker representing Eti-Osa Constituency II, in the Lagos State House of Assembly. In this interview with Sunday Ehigiator, he delved into his early childhood, educational background, humanitarian works, 67 million youth initiatives, the controversial social media regulation bill, and governance, among others
What is your upbringing and educational background like?
I was born of a noble birth to the family of Senator Musiliu Olatunde and Alhaja Morufat Obanikoro of Isale-Eko, a part of Lagos State in the early eighties. I attended the prestigious King’s College, Lagos and from there, proceeded to St Cloud University, Minnesota, USA where I bagged a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science. I also have a Master’s degree in Public Administration (MPA) from Pace University, New York, USA.
As a student in the USA, I acquired a wealth of experience in criminal justice administration. I did an internship at the Court-House in St Cloud University, Minnesota, USA. I also interned as Assistant Liaison Officer at the Brooklyn Borough Districts under Commissioner Turner.
I had a stint at Pace University, New York as a Graduate Assistant. After the completion of my education in the USA, and with the love for my country at heart, I returned to Nigeria to serve my fatherland.
I did the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) with Zenith Bank PLC, where I was retained and eventually rose to the position of Executive Assistant. I then progressed in career and joined the services of MOB Integrated Services Nigeria Limited to become the Executive Director.
My passion for agriculture and business drove me to establish the Ejide Farms and Ilori Farm House, a farm that has become notable for the mass production of tilapia fish, cows and rams.
As an economist, what informed your decision to venture into politics?
Politics has always been in me; it is in-born. It has always been my dream to work for the people, and here I am, fulfilling the dream. I like to be a part of a system that works; to be a part of the engine room of development of a nation.
For someone who’s chairmanship victory was truncated by the court of appeal, it was easier for you to have given up, and perhaps returned abroad; what made you stay?
Well, sincerely speaking, I felt cheated. I was then challenged to prove the judges wrong that things must be done the right way. So, the passion to see things work as they should, and the need for a better representation and involvement of the youth informed my decision to stay. Thank God it paid off eventually.
What do you think about the current youth representation in politics?
Although the statistics are still very low, we are getting there gradually. We are on the right path towards better representation of youth in government.
What are some of the initiatives you are currently championing and how would this be beneficial to your constituents and by extension, Lagosians?
We are currently working on a lot of empowerment programmes, mainly in the areas of skills acquisition. There is an ongoing welding training at one of the ITF facilities in Lagos, where interested youths are being trained on welding of steel and metal sheets. After the programme, they will be given equipment to start their own job. Same applies to catering and fashion design.
As a youth, what are some of those laws you think if in place, could further give leverage to more youth in power?
Luckily, one of such is where I stand as a proud beneficiary, the Not-Too-Young-to Rule Act. I am one of the youngest representatives in the Green Chamber. What we need to do more is to move for further incorporation of youths in governance and leadership roles since the law is already there to support us.
What is this government currently doing at the legislative level to generate employment?
Motions are being moved to establish agencies that will create more employment opportunities for our youths across the nation. Things will surely get better soon.
Can you speak about your 67 Million youth initiatives?
67 Million Youth Initiative is one of the movements I joined during my early struggle to find my feet in politics. It is a coalition of young Nigerians who are passion-driven about active participation of youths in politics and leadership in Nigeria. It goes by the name because of the teeming population of Nigerian youths which is estimated at sixty-seven million. With such statistics, the nation is in our hands, it is left to us youths to harness this avenue for the development of our dear nation, Nigeria.
IBO from a humble beginning has indeed become a household name in Lagos State, what stood you out from others?
Resilience, humility, can-do spirit and my endearing nature have stood me out and kept me going. Also, the unflinching support of my wife, dad, mother, brother and my campaign crew has been the major source of who IBO is today. They have stood by me through thick and thin. All thanks to God for the grace to keep going.
There are ongoing debates about social media regulation, how would you react to this?
The social media is indeed an important tool for information dissemination. It is vital in this modern age. It has come to stay to break the hegemony of the traditional media, and has created a lot of job opportunities for our teeming youths.
However, its regulation in democratic societies has traditionally been a delicate balance between the rights and freedoms of citizens, and the responsibilities that come with the power of publishing.
The regulation issue in Nigeria has been hot ever since it has been raised. I will say government should be careful so as not to muzzle the freedom of speech and association in the bid to regulate the extreme cases of hate speech, fake news and defamation in which social media has been used as a veritable tool.
Mind you, Nigeria is not alone in this call for regulation. There are growing number of nations and diplomats who are also calling for greater regulation of media technology as a whole.
We all know the abuse of the social media platforms has precipitated violence and stirred misinformation in various quarters. However, the government should be holistic in its approach to regulate it, so as not to result in media clampdown.
How important is this administration’s ‘THEMES’ initiative, especially the digital inclusion in the educational curriculum at basic levels, to the country’s development?
The world has become a global village. We are now in the digital age where education, skills acquisition and many others thrive on the benevolence of the digital technology.
This has triggered innovations, improved financial transactions, grown MSMEs and transformed the society. To achieve more in this regards, people, especially children, need to be fully equipped and educated to be able to leverage on these digital innovations, in manners that benefit the state and the nation at large.
Hence Governor Sanwo-Olu holds no joke with the implementation of the THEMES agenda, especially in the education sector.
Sanwo-Olu recently announced that Lagos State budget for 2020 pays better premium on the health and education sectors, how would you react to this?
For me, it’s a positive reaction. The bedrock of any functional society is education. Recall that there has been infrastructural deficit in the education sector across the nation, and Lagos being the ‘Centre of Excellence’ will always set the pace for others to follow in terms of development in this sector.
Nothing is too much to invest in the area which serves as the bedrock of the economy. Governor Sanwo-Olu, understanding this, has given priority to Education and Technology in his THEMES agenda for the state, hence the attention to education and health in the budget. So, this is a move in the right direction for the growth and development of the Centre of Excellence, Lagos State.
From your current position, what next, and how would you want to be remembered when you leave office?
I think it is better to keep one’s plan in the secret until the time is ripe to unveil it. As for my next move, keep your fingers crossed; when we get to the bridge, we will cross it. On what I want to be remembered for when I leave office, it is simple and straightforward; When we mention certain individuals, what readily comes to our minds are greatness, life of significance and purpose. People like George Washington, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi lived a life of great impact in the development and emancipation of the people and nations.
Look at what Fela did in music; he is celebrated worldwide, even after his death. Let’s even narrow it down to Lagos State. Our dear Baba Lateef Jakande till tomorrow is still a point of reference in terms service to the people.
Going by this, I want to be remembered for being an individual who has touched the lives of people from the voiceless, to the downtrodden. I want to leave a footprint in the hearts of people for being a benefactor and a pillar of support in all areas of human endeavours.
How do you unwind?
Home is where the heart is; I don’t joke with my family. My free time is always spent with my wife, watching series movies on Netflix. I also engage in a lot of sporting activities and exercises to keep fit.
Therefore, if I am not with my family to unwind, I will probably be playing football, cycling or working out in the gym. I also like to attend ‘owanbe’s’ (Parties) and political gatherings.
Any advice to the youths?
My advice to Nigerian youth is for us to be more patriotic, diligent and keep pushing for a better Nigeria by contributing our quota through our various talent pools.
Nigeria is ours and we cannot afford to stand aloof while older people take up our roles. Nigerian youths need to be more proactive in order to break the chain of laziness and frivolities that have eaten deep into our system.
We need to take up the challenge of building Nigeria that will compete with the developed countries in manpower development and technological advancement. I believe in the Nigerian dream, and I also believe that our youths are indispensable tools for the attainment of the dream.