Asiwaju Yinka Mafe is a renowned politician in the Gateway State. He was recently sworn-in as the Majority Leader of the Ogun State House of Assembly. The Emuren born politician and Solicitor started his political career in 1998 as a councilor in Sagamu, right after he finished from University of Benin where he studied law. He proceeded to Cambridge University and College of London where he bagged a degree in law and subsequently became a Solicitor. He later returned to his homeland to continue his political career. In this interview with Bola Solate, the Publisher of Public Faces Magazine, he opened up on his victory in this year election and his plans for his people.
What is your view about the current statue of democracy in Nigeria?
I think democracy is improving in Nigeria. We have laid the foundation since 1999, now we are roofing democracy in Nigeria because we are now seeing so many things we thought were not possible in Nigeria. For instance what happened in the National Assembly few weeks ago where there was a mix up between APC and PDP on the leadership of the National Assembly and the fact that the out gone President, Goodluck Jonathan quickly congratulated Gen. Muhammed Buhari are few things I think have roofed democracy and I want to believe that within the next four years, we will see the finishing touches of democracy and that shows that democracy has come to stay in Nigeria.
APC is ruling larger percentage of the states in Nigeria, don’t you think it’s only the voice of the majority that will be heard?
Obviously not, because in politics they say minority will have their say, majority will have their way. The minority in Nigerian politics today is not minor considering the fact that we have 108 member of the Senate and 49 of them are PDP members, if a decision is to be made and you have 49 votes, that way you will know 49 members are not minor and I also believe the fact that APC controlling about 20 states and PDP having 13 is good for democracy, it shows that there will be good and healthy competition.
What factor(s) do you think were responsible for APC’s success in this year’s election?
First, everybody wanted change, APC was ready to showcase that it can do it better. I think the word is divine because at times if you say ‘Change’, everybody will stand up and say that is what we want. And like I said earlier, APC governors, Fashola, Amosun, Ajimobi, Aregbesola, Adams Oshiomole, performed in their various states and people started comparing their performance with PDP controlled states. Obviously, Nigerians have grown wiser, they want development and I think the issue of security is also important, we kept hearing ‘bring back our girls’ and towards the tail end of the past administration we were having 4000 mega watts even though we knew it was not enough for Nigerians, at a time we dropped to 2000mw. So I think those are part of the accumulating factors that led to APC’s victory.
In 2011, you were elected as a member of the Ogun State House of Assembly, how has the experience and challenges been so far?
I like the fact that you used the word experience because I have learnt on the job and to me personally I think it is a worthwhile experience. When we came in 2011, we had so many problems including finance and by the grace of God through the financial engineering of the Governor, we pulled through. When we came on board, we had about 750miilion naira as IGR for Ogun State, today we are rolling between 4 to 6 billion naira which is very good. As a legislator, I had also given back to my society, I have learnt that you have to consult the people to know what they want and provide for them. When I came in June 2011, I immediately started free coaching classes in Sagamu and I am happy that till date, the programme is still on for all students that are taking their GCE and WAEC in Sagamu, I also went into renovation of health centers; I went into Mother and Child safe delivery because I noticed that most of our people in Sagamu patronized traditionalists, so I had to bring in medical doctors across the country to train the traditionalists and give them safety kits to deliver babies. I also renovated and built new block of classrooms in about 3 schools; St John primary school in Ogijo, LG primary school in Sabo Sagamu and one in Emuren. I initiated free eye surgery and gave out free glasses. Also, I have a free ICT centre where people who are interested in learning how to use the computer can be trained. Currently, I am looking into providing free school buses for students in Sagamu because I promised I was going to provide that during my campaign and we are doing all the necessary paperwork to make it possible. I think one of the greatest challenges, is being a Christian and a politician and trying to do things uprightly. I am happy that I am among those who God said can be a politician, serve your people without serving another god.
What do you think was responsible for your re election?
First to God, I stood with God 100%. Secondly, I want to give thanks to the people of Sagamu who came out because I got about 15,000 votes and I don’t think I know about 15,000 people in Sagamu and for them to have come out in the rain and in the sun to vote for me, even in the face of the other parties offering them money, I want to appreciate them and of all the APC candidates in Sagamu, I was the only one that won the election there this year, so I want to assure the people of Sagamu that due to the confidence they have in me, I will not disappoint them, I would strive to make them proud and also to let them know that, it was their votes that made me the Majority leader of the house which I am very proud to be.
Rumour has it that you won the just concluded election because you are Gov. Amosun’s favourite?
I want to believe that even if you are the favourite of anybody and you are nominated by the party, you would still have to go to the grassroots because the Governor does not control the grassroots and you still have to go to the electorates. I am not sure the Governor is aware that 15000 people voted for me in Sagamu and I will be surprised if he does. I contested to be a councillor right after I finished from higher institution in 1998 and the same people in Sagamu voted for me, I travelled and came back in 2010, contested again and they voted for me, same thing in 2015 so I am very proud of the fact that my people have confidence in me and now I want to debunk that it is not because I contested with the name of the Governor or with support of the Governor but it might have added to it obviously, but the truth is that I am humbled by the love my people have for me. It is not easy to get that much votes in Sagamu.
What were the roles you played in achieving peace in Sagamu which was hitherto witnessing crises?
Honestly I want to say that is the greatest achievement that this administration had in Sagamu. This is so because youths are very important and we are trying to keep them busy by engaging them in various things. As a legislator, I was involved in changing the youth’s orientation. I remembered sometimes in 2011, I had a very massive empowerment programme where I distributed a lot of things just to make sure we encourage them to venture into different trades and there was a time I brought in people to come and train them. But the most important factor that was responsible for the reduction of crises in Sagamu is the Governor’s resolve in making criminals, face the wrath of the law even if such individual has connections, you don’t go to the police station and say release this man, he is my boy. If a suspected criminal is arrested and charged to court, if found guilty and he is sentenced, he will come out and be calm because we have let the court and police do their duty. We also made provisions for OPC and Vigilante in Sagamu and they are working very well and we have been calling on the state police command, we need policemen that know the corners of the city, we need community police because the idea of you bringing policemen from Kaduna to come and work is gone. So, I want to give kudos to the OPC, Vigilante and Policemen in Sagamu because they are always working together.
Being the Majority Leader of the State House of Assembly, what should people be expecting from you?
I want to be seen as a very vocal representative in the house and be able to go back to my people to let them know what is going on. I want to let my people know that being the Majority leader of the house, I will ensure I bring back more dividend of Democracy. I would have the opportunity to talk to the Governor and principal of the house about the representation of Sagamu especially when we are making our budgets.
Talking about the needs of the people of Sagamu, how have you been able to know exactly what they need?
Basically, as a leader your ears should be on ground, I have coordinators in all the wards, Ward Chairmen and I have Executives in all the wards in Sagamu. If today I call a meeting of ward executives in Sagamu, I’ll have over 350 people that will show up and tell me what people need in their area. We have periodic meeting, where we rub minds and get feedbacks from people. I am not saying it is perfect yet, but we are working to improve on it. I am happy that we have started a new term and we will be having our constituency projects soon, already there is a list of about three Kabeyesi’s telling me what they need in their area and by the grace of God, something will be done about them.
How do you deal with the issue of political miscreants?
If you have attended the sitting of the House of Assembly, you will hear me say I represent the good and bad people of Sagamu because I believe no one is perfect. I am not tagging them as bad people because they did something bad, so I personally believe that everybody has his or her own good side and Yoruba Adage says “Omoburuku lojo ti e”. I want to believe that if we are patient with them and they are being encouraged, we would bring out the best in them.
Talking about the road construction, we heard that the road that leads to your hometown Emuren is not yet constructed?
For four years, I have been discussing with the Governor, I told him that 70% of the reason why I contested in 2011 was because of the road between Sagamu and emuren. The Governor has asked me several times that I should name five things that I want and I have told him it is Emuren. He has promised to do it because he has awarded the contract, so I can say mobilizing the contractor is what we are waiting for and I want to use this opportunity to tell the Governor that our people would like and appreciate it because that road has been like that for so long and I will be eternally grateful to the Governor if the road can be constructed.
What are your immediate political career goals in the next three to five years?
The Emuren road. For now I am contented that I am representing my people and I might not have any reason to contest again if the road is completed within the next four years.
Who is Yinka Mafe as a family man, how do you balance work with family?
That is why I always thank God for giving me a caring and loving wife in the person of Yeye Asiwaju Adetutu Yinka Mafe. After God, I want to give her the glory for keeping the family intact. Honestly, the question should be directed to her if you want to get the real answer because to me it’s easy but to her I don’t know how she manages it. So glory to God and so far, we are improving in our relationship and it’s helping us.
What was growing up like?
Growing up was rough for me; I lost my mum when I was seven days old and she had just two of us, myself and my sister in Canada. I was born in Lokoja, a year after we moved to Warri and I grew up there. I attended Tony Nursery School, Igudu Primary School, Mama Primary school, I got an admission to ULC College, Dongolingo College all in Warri then I proceeded to University of Benin where I studied Law and I completed my first degree in 1998. I left the shores of Nigeria for further studies in Cambridge University where I bagged a degree in International Business Law in 2005 then I took some qualified law exams in College of London and I became a qualified Solicitor in London.
What can you say about Gov Amosun?
Ogun State is extremely lucky to have Senator Ibikunle Amosun as the Governor of the state because if you sit and chat with him for 30minutes, you would know the kind of person he is, he is a goal getter, he brings out the best in everybody and he instills Ogun Standard in everybody. So, I think he is a brilliant Governor.