The race to fill the vacuum created by the death of Hon. Tunde Braimoh ( Kosofe 2) in the Lagos State House Of Assembly is getting hot day by day, as the Assistant Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Hon. Abiodun Musiliu Salami, has thrown his hat into the ring.
Recently in an interactive session with journalists, Salami, who had been into party politics for over 35years, said that he would improve on what the late Braimoh had done. OKUNADE ADEKUNLE was there.
We will like to meet you and why you are vying to replace Braimoh in Lagos State House of Assembly?
My name is Hon. Abiodun Musiliu Salami, currently I am the Assistant Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State. On my educational background, I was born into the family of Alhaji Salia Agbaje Salami. My father hailed from Ijebu Ilese in Ogun State and my mother hailed from Epe in Lagos State. I went to school in Lagos. I went to Ladylak Primary School, Yaba and also in Bariga. I later went to Ansar Ud Deen Primary School, Falolu, Surulere, Lagos, when we used to have morning and afternoon sessions. I further went to Methodist Boys High School for my HSC then for preparation for the university. From there, I moved to the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), Ogba in Lagos State, where I did pure Mass Communication. I later proceeded to The Polytechnic, Ibadan for my Higher National Diploma. I had been trying to make ends meet in life since then. I have been part of practical politics for 35 years. I went to politics early in life. My father used to be an active politician then. He might not have got the name like others. I know the rudiments of politics through my father. I have always seen politics as service. What one should do is to do his best at all times.
On my political antecedent, I was elected as the Assistant Secretary of the then Somolu Local Government, when Ikosi Isheri, Kosofe, and Agboyi Ketu were under Somolu Local Government. I was elected as the Assistant Secretary of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Somolu Local Government. The records are there and before you do that you have to be a delegate and I contested as a delegate and won. Among the delegates, I was elected as the Assistant Secretary. In 1996, I contested as a councillor with the largest polling booth at that time, then we had 139 polling booths. It used to be called Ward F2. I won the councillorship with landslide victory and with my activities I was elected as the Supervisory Councillor for Agric, Rural and Social Development that same year because we used to practice parliamentary system then, that was during the UNCP era. We were contesting for some other positions then. Later, I became the Personal Assistant to the then Minister of State For Finance, Senator Jubril Martins Kuye.
I am a modest person, I don’t look for money desperately. I was privileged to have been elected as the Assistant Publicity Secretary of the APC in Lagos State. It is not that I could not be the substantive Publicity Secretary of the Party, but it is about zoning and the position that was given to our area is the Assistant Publicity Secretary.
I was elected to the position in 2014 and I have been there till date.
I have always been a loyal party man and whatever decision that is made I abide by it. The current Publicity Secretary of the party, Hon. Seye Oladejo is doing well and I support him. I will continue to support him to succeed. I want to commend my former boss, Engineer Joe Igbokwe, who gave me all the opportunities to work and this gentleman too is doing well. I pray that God will make him to succeed.
Why are you in the race now?
The late Hon. Tunde Braimoh was very eloquent, and sagacious, and he was a lawyer. He did his best for the people. He was my friend for over 30 years. Nobody ever thought he would die, I never expected he would die, when he did. When he was coming out to contest as a member of the state house of assembly in 2015, I was there, the same thing happened in 2019, I was there for him. Nobody ever thought he would die, but God knows the best. I am not happy with his death and I pray that God will be with his family. Whatever Hon. Tunde Braimoh was doing well for the people, I was part of it. He is somebody that never settled for anything less than quality representation. That was his watchword. The way you represent your people matters. You can see that my people are here today, even when I didn’t tell them I will be meeting with the media today. The moment you allow people have access to you then you will go far. What they see when they go about you don’t see it. I have not left my house since morning, what you see on the way I didn’t see it. I am not a super human, and I am not different from you. A responsible politician should be accessible to his people, you should feel what they feel. You should identify with them. Anything you are doing should be for the people, and you should be selfless. Public office is about being selfless. I am still living in a rented apartment despite serving with the former Minister of State For Finance.
We are not taught to siphon public funds, I am a contented person. One thing that is very paramount to me is quality representation. When you are closer to the people what matters is for you to identify with them. My own is to get the job done. Things like infrastructure development is not my job, but you can facilitate it and make things work in your area. You must know what your people want. I have been in Ketu since 1976. So, I know everything about Ketu. If somebody says I am a Ketu man, it is true. I know everywhere up to Somolu, and I know what my people want. I know how to go about it having got the legislative experience, executive experience and party experience. I can move mountain with this.
What are the qualities that give you an edge over other candidates?
Without being immodest, I am always a bad example of being egoistic. What matters is what you can do, what do people know you of. I have been an outstanding and a different person. I have always been an activist. I have this background. In my days at NIJ, I was the Assistant Secretary of the Students’ Union. I am always active anywhere I am, I have been involved in Community Development Association (CDA), it is not just about politics. You have to go through the process, and the experience i have garnered gave me the edge and people would respect you for who you are. I will be able to lobby, legislature is about lobbying or else you will not get anything. You must mix with people, you must lobby to get things done because you are not the only person. What stands me out is that I am a clean person. I am not saying others are not fantastic, but I am more fantastic and more super than them because I mix easily. I am not a proud person.
You are known to be a party man who is involved in publicity for the party, what is your relationship with the people at the grassroots?
I told you I have contested elections before and those elections have to do with the grassroots. I was staying in a face me and face you house before I packed into this apartment. I am a free person and I am proud to be like that. In my youthful age, I was a fantastic footballer and I thought I was going to be a professional footballer.
I was even known in the state and I have always been a grassroots person. If I should bring my HSC Certificate, the Principal wrote “He mixes freely with his mates, we expect him to do well in life.” I am quoting him verbatim. It has always been in me to mix with people. I have always been a grassroots person. So, winning an election is not a problem for me based on my antecedents. I have always been here among my people. Even when I was in Abuja, I always come to Ketu every weekend in those days that we used to go through night and day buses before we started going through airplane. I give thanks to God who has been helping me.
What assurance are you giving that when you get to office, you would not be elusive. Also, in the Assembly, there has been so many caucuses and rancour amongst the legislators, how are you going to correct these when you get there?
Like I said, going to the Assembly is a different ball game. When you are in the Assembly of about 40 people, you have to really understand the setting. In journalism, there is what we call ‘ House Style’. You must understand the politics of the House or else you would have problem. That will make you to stand out, when you understand the intrigues there. I am not too old and not too young so this will help me. My experience in the legislature will help me and I know how to manage issues. Several things would come around and the ability to manage it will help you. Even your posters would be destroyed by the people if you are not good to them. Nigerians would appreciate it if you are good. They appreciate good people no matter what happens. It is easy to operate in the House if you know your onions. Even whatever that is not good you can only correct it if you know the system. You cannot correct it if you don’t know the system. This is something that is inborn, this is something that has been in me. When the principal wrote about me, I was still in my 20s. You don’t mix, when you don’t feel the pulse of the people. I appreciate the word ’empathy.’ I was never born with a silver spoon. I struggled a lot, and I am still struggling, I want legit money, legitimate things and I want to be myself.
What are the things you will correct about the performances of the previous occupant when you get there?
I am not going to correct anything about his performances, I will just improve on what he has done. I saw the late Hon. Tunde Braimoh as somebody I value, someone I cherish, I respect his native intelligence. It is not about education alone, your native intelligence matters to me. The one that is in you is always there. That is what I respect in the late Hon. Tunde Braimoh, forget about being handsome, being rich or being a lawyer. He is a man, who knew where he was going and he was very accessible. He was my kind of person, I don’t just follow people blindly. It is about the totality of the assembly, it is not about Tunde Braimoh. In the past, Lagos State House of Assembly used to be a model to the entire nation. I would ensure that there is absolute unity in the House, I would not encourage division based on my antecedent as a party man. You should see yourself as the image maker of the system and the party generally. I would always encourage the House to be united.
On my constituency, I have never been far from them, the kabiyesi, the okada riders, the market women, people in the motor parks and others. Go and ask everybody about me, they know who I am and I am not ready to destroy the name and I would not encourage my children to destroy it. The only legacy I am giving my children is education and morals. Also, I will encourage sporting activities as a footballer myself, a big time footballer. I will encourage football and other sporting activities. We lost it when we stop focussing on sports. Those days when we had sporting events, things were okay. Nowadays, you see our youths roaming about and the talents are there. We should encourage sports, which is what I cherish about the present Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu. An idle mind is the devils workshop, when you have something doing you would not commit crime. In those days, we used to play football and we were being engaged and employed. I will encourage sports because I don’t want idleness. The youths would go to school and participate in sports. I will also encourage the CDAs to relate more with me. Some of them want employment, the more you are accessible to them, the more you would get things done easily for your people. My antecedents show who I am. When I was working with the minister, I know how many people I facilitated employment for. How do we go about it, we had a format, the minister drafted papers and I draft too, he would sign and he would put his career at stake to sign for you. We get people employed into the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Customs and other paratstatals under the Ministry of Finance.
There is news going round that you have stepped down from the race, what is your reaction to this?
Those that are peddling such rumour must be afraid of me. How could they imagine that somebody like me stepped down, step down for who and why? That is not to say that we don’t have system. It is about the leadership, they give directives on how the process would go, it could be through consensus, direct or indirect primary. If they want to go for consensus, I don’t see anything wrong in that, I have always been a party man. If the leaders say that it is direct election, no problem and if it is general primary and somebody wins, no problem. But, when we have not gone midway, how can I step down? I am still very much in the race, I would be going to the LGA now and I would meet the laders to submit my application. Why should I step down for anybody having suffered and laboured for the party, no, there must be reason if anything would happen. All of us are still in the race, we have not picked anybody. We have not exhausted the process, nobody can say anybody has stepped down not to talk of Abiodun Salami, the candidate to be by the grace of God.
What advice do you have for other aspirants who might see this as a do or die affair?
My advice to aspirants is that we should see this as game, you lose some, you win some. We should ensure that we do this thing with decorum. We should respect ourselves, we should respect the party. The moment you start doing the contrary, you give those of us who are the image makers of the party problem and it is not fair, it is not good, it is not responsible. This party was not formed by you, you don’t have to say it must be you at all cost. It cannot be you all times. If you are contesting an election, you are an aspirant, the moment you win the primary election you are a candidate and once you win the election, you become a statesman. You bring everybody on board and forget about party. I am still an aspirant, if I become the candidate by the grace of God, I would represent the party. If I win the election, what will concern me will be Kosofe Constituency 2. I want to advise my colleagues not to see this as a do or die affair because that would be irresponsible of them. We should see ourselves as one family, APC is one family.