*Says, ‘Violence cannot scare me’
BY JOSEPHINE AGBONKHESE
Brave, assertive, intelligent, are words that best describe her. Adetokunbo Tobun-Agbesanwa is the only woman among 14 aspirants vying for the All Progressives Congress (APC) 2015 guber ticket in Lagos State. Her foray into politics dates back to her university days as a student of Political Science at the Lagos State University. Tokunbo, as she is fondly called, also grew up amongst forceful politicians. Her father Chief Adekunle Tobun’s political activities during the Third Republic taught her a lot.
Her mother, late Major Moji Adekunle-Obasanjo, also influenced her greatly. Not to mention her stepfather, former president Olusegun Obasanjo, one of the forces that have shaped Nigeria’s political history. A proud mother, Tokunbo is also happily married to a Political Scientist. She had resigned from the Lagos State civil service after a career that spanned 13 years to join active politics. Tokunbo has since served in various capacities on appointment basis and won both local and international awards for her achievements. The Founder of Moji Adekunle Women Leadership Foundation, Tokunbo who currently serves as Senior Special Assistant to Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola on School Environmental Advocacy speaks on why Lagos she joined the Lagos guber race.
At what point did you decide to run for the Lagos governorship race not minding the number of men also contesting for the same ticket?
The urge to serve has been in me for a long time. But, as with all human endeavours, without planning and focus, one will fail. Over the years, working in the civil service and serving on appointment with Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, I’ve had a lot of experiences on governance. In the previous government, I was Special Assistant in the Office of the Secretary to the State Government, handling high policy political matters. So, it’s only natural for me to desire to take my service of the people to a higher level now that I very well understand the times. It shouldn’t be when I’m sixty.
Also, I’ve been an advocate for women’s participation in governance. Being mothers of the nation, we mould the next generation. And if we have that responsibility and are living up to it, what is wrong with taking decisions that have a lot to do with the future of our children? And like I always tell people, there is no difference between a boy and a girl child.
Another reason, which is the antecedent, is that my mother strived to make a mark for women. It’s only natural for me, as her child, to take up the gauntlet because it is our time. We have a female president in Brazil in person of Dilma Vana Rousseff. We have Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia. These are presidents, not even governors. So, for the struggle of women like my mum, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, and all of those that stood for women, I want to make history.
How does it feel to be the only woman in the race?
I was brought up as a girl child without gender bias, in an atmosphere of equity, social justice and a lot of confidence. That was why I had six distinctions and two credits when I did my WAEC. I was never made to feel I should limit my abilities because I’m a woman. So, being the only female aspirant, for me, is nothing. Apart from our natural make-up, which, God has designed because of the role we play in the society- carrying the unborn generations, there is nothing different between the thought processes and abilities of a man and a woman. But there must be division of labour.
Have you considered the chronic violence that is akin to governorship contests in Nigeria?
If you want to lead a change, you must push aside your fears. We all must die someday, anyway. So, if I have to die, why don’t I die for a good cause? Violence will not scare me. Talking about violence, my mother was a medical practitioner and an army officer and she always told me she had signed for this country for one bullet- to die.
What changes are you bringing to Lagos State?
I’ve been part of the success story in Lagos State so far because I’ve been in advisory positions and served as a civil servant. The change I want to bring is an emotional change. We have done a lot in terms of infrastructure and building up institutions. In fact, right now, Lagos State is on auto pilot because the current governor has done a lot with then foundation laid by his predecessor, Asiwaju Bola-Ahmed Tinubu. I want to put a heart in those institutions. I want to bring into our educational system more qualitative education. Like what I’m doing with environmental education presently. We need to do more.
That’s why my slogan is continuity and good governance. We want to empower people more, create jobs, and more. A lot can be gained in waste management and recycling for example and that’s one thing we are looking at because developed countries are making a lot of money from them. Developing the human resources is very key to me. We will focus on more food for the people and better housing to take care of the poor. Most importantly, in my agenda, is the issue of taxation. A lot has been said about tax even though Lagos State has had one of the best and most efficient tax collection system in Nigeria. My general emphasis is on good corporate governance.
As a female governor, I intend to extend what is in Osun State- feed a child at least once a day in school and build their brain. There is a need to put that human feeling into governance. The government of today also has to deal with climate change and ocean surges, problems brought upon us by past generations.
There are rumours that Akinwunmi Ambode is being sponsored. What are your chances of surviving the party primaries?
I will not talk about anybody’s aspiration because mine is what is foremost to me. If you’re running a race, you look ahead and not get distracted. All I’m saying is that men have been handling Lagos State since inception. For once, a woman should be allowed to take up this mantle and prove women’s leadership abilities. So, I’m going to try my possible best at the primaries because my chances are great.