Recently, an aspirant for the Federal House of Representatives, Oshodi- Isolo Federal Constituency, Dr.Bashiru Dawodu had an exclusive interview with Newsmen, below is the excerpts:
A Seasoned Politician Canvasses Better Representation
A medical practitioner turned politician, Dr Bashiru Dawodu is seeking the All Progressives Congress (APC) ticket to represent Oshodi 1 Constituency, Lagos State in the House of Representatives. ROBERT EGBE examines his prospects.
ONE of the things that a Medical paediatrician, Dr Bashiru Dawodu finds unusual about life in Nigeria is, how little things that can make a difference in people’s lives are left undone.
Dawodu said there are some important routine practices in America – where he was resident for about 15 years – and other parts of the world that are yet to catch on in Nigeria.
He explained: “For instance, there’s something called an immunisation registry, which means that every immunised child has a medical record that is digitised and available online.
“So, if you go to any health centre, your name is entered in a system and your immunisation records come up.
“The advantage is that when you go to primary school, your school can look up your records online. No need to ask the child to come with an immunisation card. Double immunisation is also prevented.”
The Mayflower College of Ikenne, Ogun State and King’s College, Lagos alumnus observed that there also seems to be “a focus on treating diseases rather than preventing it,” unlike the mindset “of the Nigeria of the 70s and early 80s.”
Dawodu, who went abroad in 1991 and returned fully to Nigeria between 2015 and 2016, feels one of the major reasons why this state of affairs persists, is that, unlike in America, Nigeria’s relatively young democracy seems to find it more difficult to put its most qualified people in political office.
He said: “In Nigeria generally, the best of our people don’t govern us. But we are lucky in Lagos State; we have a good governor in Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.
“We run a system that is not an ideal democracy; there are still loopholes. Thankfully, INEC is continually reforming itself – same as our people – recognising that the process needs to be better and more transparent and we have to ensure that the party and the people are able to choose the leaders they want.
“Even when we think we’ve found the best person to represent us, it shouldn’t end there. There has to be a way to review the person’s performance, whether the person is representing us well. Abroad, if the person is found to be underperforming, his punishment is that he won’t come back. But we have a situation in Nigeria where people don’t do well, yet they are returned to office. Something is wrong with that system.”
It was one of the things he has been trying to change, the former Chief Medical Director of Mitchel County Paediatrics, Camilla, Gerogia, noted, a glint of excitement in his eyes.
“We have to find a way to make things work,” Dawodu said, adding, “Because you measure a society by the quality of life of its people.
“You measure your society by its infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, life expectancy, by how many youths are unemployed: those are the indices by which a regular, sane society is measured.
“Thankfully, the All Progressives Congress (APC) government understands this. It is a government that is not corrupt and is trying to do things right.
“The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) destroyed the country for 16 years, so, it’s very difficult to turn things around very quickly. The onus is thus on folks like us, when we get to the House of Representatives to change things from the highest level.”
To reach such high office usually requires navigating treacherous political terrain, but it is a path Dawodu is familiar with, having thrice tried and failed to secure the APC ticket to represent Oshodi 1 Constituency in the House of Representatives.
Nevertheless, the native of Oshodi in Lagos State is undaunted and intends to seek his party’s ticket for the same office for a fourth time in a row.
He said: “My structure is stronger now, because I have my own group in every ward which is integrated in mainstream groups. So, my situation is different now, because basically it looks as if all the structures over here support me for this House of Reps 2019.”
Dawodu’s optimism seems reasonably placed. A look at his socio-political pedigree, both at home and abroad, suggests that his political opponents will get a run for their money when he officially joins the race at the All Progressives Congress (APC) primary for the 2019 polls.
Dawodu told reporters that he has been a longstanding member of the APC in the Diaspora, and a member of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), a broad coalition of Nigerian democrats, who called on the military government of the late Gen Sani Abacha to step down in favor of the winner of the June 12, 1993 election, M. K. O. Abiola.
The aspirant said he was a founding member of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), as well as that of the Action Congress (AC), which later became the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
He added: “I was also a founding member of the APC in the Diaspora, of which I am still an active member.
“In the US, I was very active in my community. I was a member and Patron of Eko Club International. It was an association of Lagos-bred Nigerians, or Nigerians with Lagos interests in the Diaspora. It carries out a lot of charitable activities in hospitals, or schools, or taking care of orphans in Lagos. It’s different from the Eko Club in Lagos, Surulere.
“I’m also very active politically in the US. We were able to organise and mobilise Nigerian-Americans to participate in US elections. We tried to get Nigerians to run for office as Mayor or Council men, candidates that we felt were going to be favourable to not only Americans but also the Nigerians there, whether they were Democrats or Republicans.”
One of the high points of Dawodu’s political life in the US was a pro-democracy rally in New York City by Nigerian activists, following which the city named part of Manhattan’s 44th Street and Second Avenue after the late Kudirat Abiola, wife of Moshood (MKO) Abiola.
He eyes lit up as he recalled the experience.
He said: “This was in New York,” Dawodu said. “We called it the ‘Mother of all rallies in New York’, because it shut down a particular major highway in the city of Manhattan, New York, so, they had to name the road Kudirat Abiola Way. When you go to New York, you’ll see it. It’s in front of the Nigerian Embassy. So, the Mayor of New York gave us that concession after Kudirat was murdered.
“I was also involved in a lot of non-governmental stuff; I established and planned programmes for the local government where I practiced. I designed policies, for instance, I designed asthma programmes, immunisation, sickle cell, teen health programmes etc. I also started Free Clinics, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO). Free Clinics organised free medical missions and healthcare to several African countries including Ghana and Nigeria. We’ve been doing that every year; we come to Nigeria, for instance, bi-annually. We were in Lagos just last month. I bankrolled most of our operations myself. Of course, we had volunteers.”
At last month’s event, a two-day free medical checkup for residents, commuters, traders and businessmen/women in Oshodi community, the beneficiaries got drugs, nutritional packs and food items, including rice, tomatoes and garri.
The programme cut across all ages, gender, tribe and political interest. It lasted for about 10 hours each day at Oba Elewu way in Oshodi and Alhaji Yekini Street, Shogunle.
Dawodu said the gesture, which costs millions of naira, was informed by his belief that the private sector must assist government because government cannot do it all.
He also described it as a way of giving back to Lagos State and his community for what the state did for him while growing up.
He believes he would be able to do even more, as a legislator.
Dawodu explained: “For about 10 years now, I’ve gone round identifying their needs and I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the things I’m doing now on my own are better done via the government. So, the government is better placed. But thank God that we have a great government in Lagos that is doing so much.
“But the government cannot do everything. The needs are so immense. So, it behooves on individuals and the private sector to help the government. So, if we find that the best person is a medical doctor, a lawyer, an engineer and he has better ideas, he can govern better, shouldn’t we give him a chance? We should. We just need the best person to get there.”
But, does Dawodu, a doctor, have what it takes to withstand the rigours and navigate the maze of Nigerian politics?
Hear him: “Governance is about helping the people. This entails ensuring that we have water, electricity, education, unemployment is low. So, when you look at the moral philosophy of governance, what God has told the people that are in a position to help, or have wealth, is to assist Him to take care of the needy. So, once you have that kind of motivation especially me that I know I’m a child of the community. Everything that I’ve become is from this local government, ko kin se gbogbo awon eyan ni o ni mo ire. I feel that the people and this community have done a lot for me and I’m really motivated to serve them with my all.
“If you talk about violence, yes, I’ve been through it, my life has been threatened, people have done a lot of dirty things against me, talk about abuse, they’re still doing that on social media, but the problem with those of us that mean well, especially the progressives, including people that have been abroad coming home, is that we tend to look at these challenges as obstacles. No. we just have to sit back and rise against that, because the more the best of us are not participating, the more the worst of us will continue to govern us. That’s why Nigeria is not moving forward, that is why Nigeria is behind and if Nigeria is behind, the black race is actually behind.
“We are even lucky we have an excellent governor in Lagos State who is progressive-minded and knows where Lagos needs to be because he’s very exposed. So, we need to create an atmosphere for the best of us to govern us.
“Violence, challenges, no doubt is a reality, but people close to me know that I’m very tough, I’m resilient. I’ve contested thrice already and I’m still standing, I’ve not run away and I have nowhere to go. They are going to have to face me again in the next election.”
Godfatherism is not an uncommon feature of Nigerian politics. Will he be relying on a godfather to succeed? Dawodu preferred to view such phenomenon through the prism of mentorship.
He said: “Politics is not practiced in a vacuum. You need guidance, mentorship, just like in any field, whether you’re in medicine or journalism. So, you need help from someone that is more experienced and knows the ropes, otherwise how are you going to win an election? You can’t go to every home in every ward knocking on doors. People are going to have to knock on doors for you, they are going to have to get people to the polling booths for you. So, you can’t do the job alone, you need people around you, not just a godfather, from the lowest to the highest, the market woman, the Iya Alata (pepper seller) to the mechanic. So, it’s not something I can do alone. But I know that we have been able to reach people across board. But when it comes to the issue of mentors, I do have a lot of mentors within the Lagos State political structure. I’m not oblivious of the fact that you need support from the top to get it done.”