Hon. Gbenga Adisa Bankole is the council representing Isheri-Oshun Ward in Igando-Ikotun Local Council Development Area. In this interview with Our Community Newspaper’s Paul Mbagwu and John Ogunsemore, he talked about his political career and developments that have occurred in his ward over the years.
Can you give little details about your background?
My parents are from Ogun State. My father is from Ijebu-Igbo. However, I have a link at Ikorodu in Lagos state through my mother. As a true Yoruba son, I am from Ijebu-Igbo but I was born and bred in Lagos, in the Lawanson area of Surulere. I was born in 1968, but growing up was very challenging. I attended Ansar-ud-Deen Primary School. Later when Jakande came on board, we were moved to Shitta Primary School. That was the time Jakande created many schools. They had to move us to Shitta Primary School, where I finished my primary education. I later proceeded to Government College, Eric Moore, in Surulere also. I wasn’t born into a rich family. Due to my family’s financial constraints, I had to leave secondary school in Class Four. Later when I had politics in mind, I had to proceed to Nigeria Teachers Training Institute where I got my Grade II certificate in Education. I also have my School Leaving Certificate.
Can you give little details about your family?
As at now I have two wives and children.
First of all, what is the job of a politician?
As a legislator, we are to legislate, promote good laws and serve our people in the area that they need amenities from the government or need government’s assistance.
When did you become a politician?
I joined politics during the time of SDP (Social Democratic Party), that is, during Abiola era. I was in Surulere at the time. But when I got to Ikotun in Alimosho, I started my politics in Alimosho during the time of zero party. After zero party, UNCP, NCP, and during the time of NRC. I later moved to Ikotun between the NRC and SDP era. That time, a friend of mine called Lukman Akindele contested and became the councillor under NRC. It was four of us then. But now I thank God that I am the fourth person to become a councillor and all of us became councillors. Akindele represented Ward E1 during the time of Alimosho 1, when the local government had not been divided. My second friend, Wahab Balogun, who I always moved with also became a councillor. From NRC we joined Alliance for Democracy (AD) when it was being inaugurated. Balogun became a councillor during the time of AD. During the time of APC, my third friend Ganiu Akinwande known popularly as ‘The Best’ later became a councillor too. Now I am a councillor. I had aspired to become a councillor three times and this is my fourth time. I thank God it came to reality.
Around what age were you when you joined politics?
I was between 24 and 25 years old.
Why did you join politics?
If you come to my area, people know me as an easy-going person. I am charitable too; I cherish giving and assisting people with the little I have. I had planned that if one day I became fortunate to be at the helm of affairs, I would agitate for the wellbeing of my people. That is what has been in my mind for long.
As a politician, how do you tackle challenges on the job?
As a politician, you have to take things the way it comes. Like when I was contesting three tenures before our own tenure, I was contesting against the likes of Hon. Richard Alakinde. When I was about getting to the field for the primary (election), my leaders like Alhaji Osho Ogunnaike, Baba Oshosanwo, Iya Kalejaiye, the leader in my ward called Baba Enioriyo, and other leaders of note in my ward, called me. They said the game I was playing, they would like me to step down for Richard Alakinde. I wept. I cried. But I believe that our party is a progressive party. We are not the conservatives. PDP are conservatives. They don’t have leaders and they don’t respect leaders, but we have leaders and we respect them. When they told me that, I went straight to consult all my followers. I told them to take heart. Although this thing concerned me directly, I could not go behind my supporters and write a note that I step down. I had to let them know. I told them to cool down. Next, I went to my table and wrote my withdrawal letter to the party through my ward chairman. They said that I should write that I stepped down for Hon. Richard Alakinde, and I went straight and did what they asked me to do. At the end of the day, Alakinde emerged as a councillor. We did the campaign together and he emerged. I believed that when my time would come, everyone would celebrate with me. After that, we started another journey. I contested but due to rotation in our ward (I am from Ayanwale axis), the leader told me to cool down again because the councillorship was going to Isheri. I did not take it as a do-or-die affair because I knew where the ball would fall.
When my time came, I emerged with no stress with the support of my leaders and elders, men and women, youths and all the members of the party in my ward. We have leaders all around. My thanks goes to Baba Ojosanwo and all the leaders in our ward and LGA – Hon. Jimoh Ajao, Baba Ope (our party chairman), Hon. Omotayo Oduntan (our House of Assembly member), the entire G-12 in our local government. With their power and support we made it, and our party won all the seven wards in our local government with our able chairman, Mrs Morenike Adesina Williams. A very nice woman, she has been very supportive. Also, Hon. Wale Okedara and his entire family have also been very supportive. They are like my family.
What do you like about your job as a councillor?
The way our grassroots people take it, I can say they don’t understand the role of a councillor. We are to legislate, make laws and check the government. But our people think a councillor has the power to tar roads, construct gutters and give them all the amenities. We don’t have the power to do those. Every power at the local government belongs to the owner of “green biro”, which is the executive chairman. As I am telling you, we have a very nice, good and supportive chairman. And we are one family from the leader to the entire councillors. There is no division within us even with the chairman. Sometimes, the chairman will prepare food from her home to give the councillors and sometimes we go to her home. We will say, ‘Mama, what are we eating today?’ She will go to the kitchen and prepare it for us. So, she is our mother. Also, we have a nice clerk, HOA, HODs, and others.
What is it you don’t like about your job?
To some people, politics is a dirty game but it is not so for me. I believe that when you have good people, you will also have bad people. However, the bad people in the midst make our people believe that politicians talk lies. For me, I can’t promise what I can’t give, because if I disappoint, they will put the blame on me. That is why I will let them know my position so that they will not be expecting too much. In my area, when they complain of gutter, I just tell them that I will let chairman know. Our government is still young; we have not used up to a year. I believe that by God’s grace, with the support of the chairman, Igando-Ikotun will excel and Isheri-Oshun will have good amenities from the chairman. Any councillor that does not have good rapport with his chairman will find it difficult to get something in his area. But if you work like a family with your chairman, better things will come.
We are barely seven months in office but the chairman has provided us with utility vehicles, with a good car. What else do we want? She is also giving us all what we want, and we all work as a family with our supervisor for works.
There is this belief that Isheri-Oshun does not have the same level of development with the other wards in Igando-Ikotun. What is your reaction to this?
I can say you are right, and I can say you are also not right. This is because the Lagos State Government constructed a road that links Jakande to Isheri. I know the nooks and crannies of Isheri-Oshun and I can tell you (that you are not right) because I have been in this Isheri-Oshun when everywhere was thick bush. Isheri-Oshun to Jakande was just a path road. There’s no day that you would pass there and not see one dead person with his head cut off. The road was very narrow. The Lagos state government spent over N7 billion on that road, which could have constructed many roads in Lagos. Let us give thanks to Hon. Jimoh Ajao because he was Special Adviser on Housing then to Governor Raji Fashola. He persuaded Fashola to construct that road. When they started the road, there were lots of casualties: there was bomb blast, bombing of pipeline that led to the death of a lot of people. They had to stop that road for some years because the people in the area took the state and local government to court. After all those, the state government came back to complete the project. That’s the first step of the road. We are expecting the Lagos state government to continue with the good work, from Ijegun to link Ijagemo. We pray God helps us with that in this our government. If you go to Isheri-Oshun, there is a good health centre which some wards don’t have. Just of recent, about a month or so, the state government came to do a lot of repairs there. That is part of our work. We are not relenting; we are moving and consulting so that a lot of things will come to our area. And by God’s grace, in my tenure Iyana-Isheri to Isheri-Oshun (that is Isopako to Isheri-Oshun) will be done, likewise Ayanwale. I pray for those two roads and Fagbile, wonders happen at Fagbile and White Sand area, which is part of my ward. We still have a lot of challenges in that area, but we will do our best and leave the rest. But I believe the best will come in my own era.
What are your greatest moments as a politician?
The first one was when I emerged at primary. The second was when I emerged at the election proper. The third one was when my chairman, Chief (Mrs) Morenike Adesina Williams, presented me a key to a Toyota Camry popularly called Muscle. I was very excited, and I pray for God to assist her to do more for us the councillors and the supervisory councillors.
How do you relax?
I can’t leave my people. If you go to my area at Ayanwale, there is a place called “Abe Igi”. That is where people from different areas gather – from Fagbile, Isheri-Oshun, and so on. That is where I have been relaxing and playing all my days. Ask all my friends, even the ones that were councillors before me. So, you cannot cut me out without talking about this place, and I cannot do without my people. Since inception as a councillor, I make sure that every day, I am present there. Some people have told me to stop going to the area, that I am belittling myself. I tell them: After my tenure as a councillor, is it that time that I will come back there? My people remain my people.
If you come to “Abe Igi”, it is full of fun. We different people with different nicknames, like “The Man Try”, “Ololo”, “Baba Egun”, “Alhaji Alaja”, “Alligator Pepper”, and so on. It is just so much fun. If you visit that place in a day, you will make sure your presence is noted there every day. I thank the owner of that house. In fact, many people thought the man’s my father or that I live there. But I am not living there. However, I am part and parcel of their family because I am used to their family and I take everyone as my father and mother. Alhaja Ayanwale and Boltex have been very nice to me.
What message do you have for your people?
The message I have for my people is that I will advise, beg and plead with them to pray for our government and in a short time the dividends of democracy will get to their doorstep little by little.