Hon. Sola Giwa represents Lagos Island (2) in the Lagos State House of Assembly. An unapologetic advocate of positive mentoring, he is also one of the many who seeks a better future for the younger ones in his constituency. In this interview with www.theoctopusnews.com, he talks about the need for good mentoring and life as a politician.
Your interest in politics dates back to when you were quite young, what motivated it?
I grew up in Lagos Island with politicians. My dad was one, but my major role model was the late Dr. Wahab Dosunmu, may his soul rest in peace. The influence he was able to bring to bear, his political sagacity to the people of Lagos Island was actually one of the reasons that made me decide to serve the people of Lagos Island, and ultimately the people of Lags State. He was actually an uncle. Looking at him, studying him, learning from him, made me to start thinking that to change the lives of people, for you to influence people positively, you need a political clout. Like Baba Awolowo would say, “for you to be a socialist, you have to first be a capitalist.” For me, it’s about training. Leadership is not something that is just bestowed on you; it’s a process.
You are also quite popular amongst the youths on the Island, did this pave way to your current office?
Of course, it did. I am an islander, and both of my parents are from Lagos Island. I also do reside in Lagos Island, so I know my people and my people know me. I understand their pains and I know their gains. I am a hands-on person. When I am with them, I know them; I understand them because I am one of them. I reside on the Island, I’m 44 years old now and if you have been living together with people for 44 years, you will definitely know each other. Don’t forget that Lagos Island is a compacted place and we all know ourselves.
You worked with Kayode Opeifa, did he influence you positively?
Kayode Opeifa played a major role in my life. First and foremost, Kayode Opeifa was my lecturer in the Lagos State University in the department of Chemical Science. He taught me from 200 to 400 level. When I came into government in 2007, as a Special Assistant to the governor on Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA), he was the Special Adviser to the governor on Transportation. Then, LASTMA happened to be one of the areas that he was in control of. So, I was working directly with him. That we had been very close in school and we met again brought about a good working relationship. He is one of my major mentors now with the death of late Dr. Dosunmu. He once told me that he was moulding me to be a leader.
LASTMA was a dreaded agency while your work lasted, why was this?
LASTMA is a creation of government. Meanwhile, don’t forget that the position I was then is still vacant. Nobody has taken it up since I left in 2011. It was a political appointment and I was supposed to be the interface between LASTMA’s personnel and the public. That was the job and LASTMA has not changed. LASTMA has not changed, it is an institutionalised organisation backed by law made by Lagos State House of Assembly. So, it was a very eventful period because what we saw then was that a lot of people were just complaining, saying that LASTMA was not doing this, they were doing that. Do you know that we setup a system that allowed people to call, walk into the office so that we could listen to their complains and suggestions? Through their suggestions overtime, we started putting down data. Through them, we made graphs to realise what was really happening.
Today, officials of LASTMA are handling issues more maturely with more graduate working there, will you take credit for this?
You do not take credit for something. It is the people that should talk about what you have done, your worth. It is the future that will judge you, it’s about posterity. I am a Lagosian; I have no other place to go. So, whatever it is that I did having been given the opportunity by the then governor Babatunde Raji Fashola is service to his government. I am happy that I was given the opportunity to serve then, just like I have been given the opportunity to serve the people of Lagos Island in this government too. I don’t believe in someone doing something and taking credit for it. For me, it’s about service delivery; it’s about giving back to the community.
As the Chairman House Committee on Wealth Creation and Employment, what are your efforts in this direction?
Looking at the statistic, you will note that the rate of unemployment in Lagos State and the nation is very high. I must give kudos to the present Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode for his visionary leadership. Knowing that government cannot provide jobs for every unemployed person, he looked at the reality of things in the country. Then, he decided that instead of saying come and get jobs why don’t we look at small businesses, medium enterprises, small and medium enterprises and startups and then enhanced them, increased their capacity by giving them soft loans at five percent. That is what he did. For SME you get from five hundred thousand to five million at five per cent and the payback period is three years. For medium enterprise, you get from a hundred thousand naira to five hundred thousand and the rate is still at five per cent. What the governor did is to restrict it to existing businesses, so that it increases their capacity and the business owners can employ more people. Basically, he is creating wealth for those who are ready. If you increase their capacity you have created wealth. And then also what this means is that if their capacity increases, they can employ more people. I must give kudos to the governor. It was well thought out. Another thing the House of Assembly has done is to give it a legal backing by signing the bill into a law and regulating it. We also monitor it as part of our oversight function to make sure that the money is getting to deserving Lagosians. So far so good, we’ve loaned out over five billion Naira. It’s an electoral promise that the governor made to the people and he has delivered.
Can you categorically say that the money is going to the right people?
I can assure you based on my oversight function.
You spend a lot of time mentoring kids, is there a particular reason for this?
For me, it is all about posterity. Whatever it is you do now is for the future. I grew up in Lagos Island and one of the major things that I know is lacking is mentorship. Most people that I grew up with who were fortunate to attend the university are now doing well. For instance, immediately after I left school, I was fortunate to start working as a banker, but usually what we see is that most of my mates, once they graduate from school and start working, they move out of Lagos Island and don’t want to identify with the place. Those who are able to gather wealth through nefarious activities are the one who stay back on the Island. Also, those who probably went to school, but are yet to get out of the poverty line, those who are unemployed; they are the one that stay back. So, there is no motivation for youths. Young boys are now wondering what the essence of going to school is when those who went to school and graduated don’t have anything to show for it. Those who are doing illegitimate things are the ones who have the money. Luckily for me, my passion for my area, my origin made me decide that I’m going to stay there. Through ‘Eko Heritage’ formerly known as Eko Youths Congress, a group of like minds have been making efforts to change the situation. We are standing as role models for the younger ones. After getting elected, I told them that I will give them three things accessibility, accessibility and accessibility. I promised them I will shout from the top of my voice to make sure that their yearnings and aspirations are met by the government. This is something, which we have been doing. I know that the youths are looking at me with a larger than life attitude, but I know that I have to bring them to a level where they can know that I resided in the same house like them and they can be like me. All they have to do is go to school, not join gangs. We tell them that you can have a good life if you follow the path we have showed them. We tell them about a particular person who used to have money, but has gone to jail and returned and now has nothing. We teach them that crime doesn’t pay. We show them practical examples that can dissuade them from joining bad people. Every Wednesday, I go to the secondary schools in my constituency and mentor them. I have been doing this for over two and half years now. I go there, sit with them and talk to them and I become their mentor while they become my mentee. So, that is what we have been doing.
How have you given back to the society that made you?
Mercy Children Hospital is one of the oldest hospitals we have in Lagos. It’s over 100 years. So, you can imagine the level of decay that would have been there either because of negligence or bad government most especially during the military era when there was nobody to call to. Being in my constituency, I decided to do the toilet and bathroom for mothers. The place is actually for children alone and not mothers, but there are some children that are there that their mothers don’t have anywhere to use as bathroom and we had to take care of that problem. So, basically, what we have been doing is giving back by encouraging the young ones to build their future so that at the end of the day when we sit down we can say this is what we have done and they can look back and say if not for this people, we won’t be where we are.
What was growing up with your parents like?
My parents were my best friends; my parents were my moral compass, may their soul rest in peace. I was still saying it yesterday that my dad never hit me.
What did he do to correct you?
Anytime I did something wrong, he would say, “Olusola Wa te o”. In English, it’s more like “Olusola you are going beyond your limit and you know what happens when you go beyond them”. That was the only thing that kept me going. When I was in school and we wanted to go and do things that youths usually do, I would remember my dad. What I had for my dad was respect and the respect was borne out of love. I never feared my dad because if you fear your dad or parents, the implication is that the things you couldn’t do in their presence, you will do behind them. But for me, the things I would do behind them were also what I would do in their presence, may their soul rest in peace. We had a very cordial relationship. In fact, my dad was the most influential person in my life.