FACING FACTS WITH ‘TAYO ADERINOLA
Popularly known as ARK, Hon. Adedamola Richard Kasunmu is the youngest member of Lagos State House of Assembly. He is also one of the most resourceful legislators in the current 8th Assembly, As the Chairman, House Committee on Youth, Sports and Social Development, he oversees one of the most strategic standing committees of the House. He shares his experiences with us in this interview. Excerpts:
Good afternoon Sir. Kindly introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Hon. Adedamola Richard Kasunmu, currently representing Ikeja Constituency II at Lagos State House of Assembly. I served as the Chairman, House Committee on Youths, Sports and Social Development for 2 years until recently when our Standing committees were dissolved. Right now I am representing Mr Speaker as the Acting Chairman of the same Committee. I was born into the families of Mogaji, Tinubu and Kasunmu of Lagos. I started my education at A.B.C. Nursery School, Ifako-Ijaiye, Lagos from where I proceeded to Modupe Memorial Primary School, Magodo. I had my secondary school education at Kings College, Lagos before proceeding to D-Ivy College for my A-Levels after which I left the shores of this country for higher educational pursuits at Irwin College, Leicester to prepare the ground for my university education at the University of Wolverhampton where I studied Law. Upon my return to the country in 2007, the mantle of leadership of Modupe Memorial Group of Schools, Magodo, a blossoming educational institution founded by my mother (Chief (Mrs) Abiodun Arafat Kasunmu) fell on me because of her demise that year. I was saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the running of the school as the School Administrator. During this period, the school was strategically repositioned to emerge as one of the best schools in Lagos state. Our students won academic and sporting laurels across the state and in the year 2011, I was honoured with the “Best Education Administrator of the Year” award.
Thereafter, I delved into political activism. I started with a group called The Democrat Group of Nigeria in 2011. It was a gathering of like minds who were majorly professionals in their various fields but with keen interest in political happenings in the country and I was the Founding President. We took part in various political activities before and during the 2011 General Elections through voters’ mobilization and sensitization. Our aim then was to make sure that the dynamics of democracy – in terms of popular participation, good governance and relationship with the people – was entrenched in our democracy. The group was later rebranded as Revive Active Democracy Coalition of Nigeria (RADCON) and I had to step aside for others to lead, so that I can concentrate on my direct involvement in the political process. In 2013, I started preparing for the Lagos State House of Assembly race and during our party primaries in December 2014, I emerged as the APC Flag bearer for Ikeja Constituency 2. At the general elections in April 2015, I won with an overwhelming majority of votes and here we are today. It’s been quite a journey but I give all the glory to God and I also sincerely appreciate out Party leaders at all levels and our party members for their support and hard work.
Have you practiced law ever since?
As I told you earlier, because of my mother’s death, the onus of overseeing the educational institution she left behind fell on me immediately I returned from the United Kingdom. She was a passionate educationist and there was the need to sustain her legacies, therefore I had no choice other than to sacrifice my desire to practice Law in order to keep her vision alive. But suffices to say that my knowledge of Law added great value to my performance as the School’s Administrator, so technically speaking, I can tell you that I have practiced Law but not in the conventional sense of it. I applied the educational aspect of Law to the day-to-day running of the school and it paid off.
Oluwaleyimu Sports Center is the only Sporting arena in Ikeja and it is considered inadequate; in your capacity as the Chairman, House Committee on Youths, Sports and Social Development, what are you doing to ensure that sport loving youths in Ikeja are not discouraged?
Thank you for this observation. I am glad to inform you and our people across Ikeja that, in my capacity as the Ikeja Constituency 2 representative and Acting Chairman, House Committee on Youths, Sports and Social Development, I have taken note of this and it is one of my priorities. Ikeja as the capital of Lagos State, deserves a befitting and standard sporting facility for the benefits of our teeming youths.
As a result of this, I have already drawn the attention of the Sports Commission to Oluwaleyimu Sports Centre issue. I am confident that very soon attention will be focused on it for comprehensive rehabilitation, restoration and upgrading. This will happen soon because that facility is key to youth development in Ikeja and environs.
Apart from this, we are also in search of two suitable locations to be recommended to the state government for the construction of state-of-the-art sports arena, one each in Ojodu and Ikeja.
As a privileged youth, what are your specific initiatives to better the lot of the youths of your constituency as a springboard to bettering the lot of Lagos youths?
The greatest thing that I can do to better the lots of the youths is to represent well, perform well and be seen to be doing well so that other youths can be given opportunities to aspire. And that is what I have been doing. I am one of the beneficiaries of ’30 percent Youth inclusion’ policy of our party, and I am very grateful for this. Definitely, if we get it right, if we do it well, and our zeal and tenacity to succeed are recognised, these will certainly lead to an increase in the percentage of youth inclusion public governance from 30 to probably 50 or more.
Again, talking about initiatives to improve the lives of the youth, we all know that one of the most powerful factors in Nigeria is Sports; this is why I sponsored two important Bills on Sports, which was passed by the House and signed into Law last year by His Excellency. The Lagos State Sports Trust Fund Law for instance is designed specifically to address the issue of poor sports funding in Lagos state and also enable our sport loving youths and sports entrepreneurs have better access to funding. If our youth can key-in to this and take advantage of it, definitely they will be better empowered.
Aside all these, in the last two years plus, one of my major areas of focus is the issue of youth unemployment. So far so good, we are making good progress in this direction. I have facilitated the employment of a number of youths from the Constituency to government agencies like LASTMA, Neighbourhood Security Corps, Cleaner Lagos Initiative, as well as some who have been fixed into the state civil service like the Judiciary, Health sector and Teaching Service.
I have also established a level of relationship with some of the multinationals and corporate organizations in our Constituency, hopefully something good will come out of this for the benefits of our Youths in terms of gainful employment, business and sponsorship opportunities. Last October, I organized an Employment Enhancement Scheme for our unemployed graduates. The scheme was executed in partnership with CV-AFRICA and about 50 graduates benefited from it. The scheme is currently yielding good results as some of the beneficiaries have started receiving invitations for job Interviews.
Also around the same time, I organized a Women Empowerment Scheme tagged ARK MICRO-TRADE ASSIST. Over 100 women drawn from across the Constituency were empowered with various sums of cash to support their businesses.
Also in the next couple of weeks, I will be empowering about 150 young persons through the ARK FOOD-INCOME EMPOWERMENT SCHEME (ARK-FIES). This is an empowerment initiative structured to serve the dual purpose of providing regular, continuous and multi-level food supply and cash income to the beneficiaries. A total number of 5000 persons are being targeted under the entire scheme which has been streamlined into phases. Under Phase One, which is currently going on as the pilot scheme, I have concluded a fully paid registration process for One Hundred and fifty (150) Constituents; the beneficiaries were selected evenly from cross the Constituency.
What are the positive signposts of your legislative contributions to your constituents and what are your planned contributions for 2018?
I have earlier mentioned some of my legislative contributions which have generated multiplier effects on the constituency. As a legislator, my primary duty is to move motions, sponsor bills, perform oversight functions and make laws that will have positive impact on the lives of the people. This year 2018, I am going to focus more on that and I am also going to embark on more youth and women empowerment as well as executing notable projects in the constituency.
What is your advice for youths aspiring for political positions or even youths hoping to set up their own businesses, considering the state of the economy?
My advice for aspiring youths is to be focused, be well-informed and be determined to succeed. Youth aspiring to succeed should also learn to develop relevant relationships and maintain them. Setting goals and timeline of achieving them is also important. A good name is better than silver and gold; youths should protect their integrity by shunning crimes and vices. I believe that with enough strength of character, self-motivation, they will achieve their desired goals.
We know that being a public figure can be socially demanding. What will you say are your strangest experiences and challenges when dealing with the public which you represent?
Out of everything God created, we humans are the most difficult to deal with. So when you are dealing with millions of people, you can imagine how challenging it will look like. Be that as it may, I must point out that anyone aspiring to public offices, must have done his home work properly and fully prepared for the task. So I can’t really point to any strange occurrence so far because I was fully prepared for the office before coming on board.
I observed that apart from the national level where the National Assembly, at times, try to put the executive under pressure. It appears that the state legislatures are lenient with the governors. You never see them holding them to account most of the times. Is it right to say that members of the state assemblies are just rubber stamps of the governors?
Let me say this clearly and emphatically; Lagos State House of Assembly is not a rubber stamp legislature because we do everything possible under the law to put the Executive on their toes in terms of appropriation, detailed scrutiny, oversight functions, ensuring that government follows due process of legitimization and making sure that we provide excellent service delivery to the people of Lagos State. A good example here is the 2018 Budget which was presented to the Assembly by the Governor in December 2017. The House is currently working hard through various committees to look into various segments of the budget to make sure that all is well before it is passed into law. In order words, if we are a ‘rubber stamp’ assembly, the budget would have been passed the second or third day after presentation. The fact that it appears that we have a very cordial relationship with the executive does not mean we are not playing our roles as legislators. Our seeming harmonious relationship with the executive sometimes is in the interest of the people and that does not mean we don’t have issues but we always find a way of resolving them in the interest of the people. Unlike the National Assembly we don’t believe in media dramas. In Africa today, Lagos State House of Assembly is unarguably the best state parliament in Africa. In terms of infrastructure, in terms of standard parliamentary practices, in terms of quality and number of Bills passed into Laws, in terms of defending the rights of the people, name it, Lagos state House of Assembly towers ‘above the common standard of excellence’ and that’s why we are the best.
Considering that you are almost three years into your tenure in this Assembly, what are your plans beyond this time in office?
My response to that is what I posted on social media this morning and that is, “Take pride in how far you have come, and have faith in how far you can go”. So my plan beyond this tenure is ‘when we get to that bridge, we will cross it’. It is my belief that I will cross it because, one way or the other, we will get to the other side.
With the nation hovering on the edge of recession, what positives or upsides do you think this government can offer to improve the quality of life?
Officially Nigeria is now out of recession. But beyond that, even when the country was at the peak of recession, Lagos state soared above the economic downturn. This was possible because Lagos is a state with great vision governed by great minds. Lagos state has put in place everything necessary to boost the economy of the state and its citizens. The budget for this year is N1.046TRN. That is the first in the history of Nigeria and I believe it will go a long way in addressing many post-recession issues because there will be more infrastructure and more social amenities for the people.
Thank you distinguished honourable, it’s been an honour.