Why I may not fully venture into politics —Onafeko, Lagos Assembly

Why I may not fully venture into politics —Onafeko, Lagos Assembly

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SUBAIR MOHAMMED spoke with the leading administrator of Lagos House of Assembly, Olalekan Onafeko, on his childhood memories and the demands of his office.

The Lagos State House of Assembly is arguably the most active state assembly in the country. As the assembly clerk, how do you handle criticism and negative feedback?

First and foremost, the Lagos State House of Assembly is not arguably the most active state assembly. It is the most active House of Assembly in Nigeria. I have interacted with many people from across the states. Virtually all legislative houses including the National Assembly, attest to the fact that we are the most vibrant, most up-to-date and the most technologically- driven state House of Assembly. We have earned many awards even from prestigious universities across the world as indicative of that.

These achievements were able to be recorded, courtesy of the speaker, Hon Mudashiru Obasa. His ingenuity, innovativeness and his leadership acumen combined together to play a major role in transforming the assembly to what it is today. He is a workaholic, passionate and result-oriented leader who is always desirous to make the assembly one of the best legislative institutions across the world.

Now to your question, criticism, to me, is an avenue for self-reflection. If you look at the mirror, you can’t see your inner self therefore what the people say about you should be looked into in the context of which it is taken.

So, I will look at it (criticism) and reflect on it and whatever I feel needs to be worked on, I work on it. If I need to make further clarification, I also do the same. So, I don’t take offence to objective criticism, but I hate people making claims without facts. I am a lawyer, I believe in facts, but if your criticism is based within the perspective of knowledge, I will look at it, reflect and work along.


What is the most significant lesson you’ve learnt in life?

In life, I have learnt that patience overcomes everything. What determines the outcome of everything is the extent of your patience. If you are patient, the biggest and toughest problems will be solved, no matter what. Therefore, for me, time and patience are my pillars in life.


How did your upbringing influence your career path?

My personal upbringing influenced not only my career path, but also influenced my person. I lost my father at the age of nine. So, I stayed with my grandparents. You can imagine having a father who was rich in the context of that period and suddenly, you had to move from living a city life, to a village at that tender age.

Looking back now, I think God has a purpose for allowing that to happen because the training that I received from my grandparents, particularly, my grandmother, reflects in everything that I do, in terms of personal finance management and my relationship with people and the issue of trust.

I give thanks to God and my grandparent. I pray to God to rest the soul of my grandma. She had a positive impact in the lives of my siblings and me that we are forever grateful to her.


What’s your motivation in your dark days?

My motivation in life is wishing to be an exception, wishing to be far as much as from the madding crowd and to excel and be the best in all that I do.


What values do you inculcate at work?

First thing first, honesty is it. Honesty in my place of work, then followed by hard work and self-discipline. These are very critical to me.


Could you describe yourself in three adjectives?

It is a difficult task to describe myself in three adjectives because your perception of me will definitely be different from how and what I perceived myself to be. I can say I am a very humble person. I am outspoken and I am bold.


What gives you inspiration?

God is my inspiration. Apart from God, I receive inspiration from successful people. When I look at successful people, I get inspired. I look at them from the perception that they are human beings before they become what they became and that if I work hard and do things well, I can also get to where they are.


You said you were brought up by your grandparents, what memories of your childhood do you still have?

Up till tomorrow, I will say my childhood days were the best days of my life. They were fantastic memories. That generation is past. I don’t think I can ever have such a thing again. I was brought up by beautiful people. Those that truly cared. I cannot even describe them. They were like angels. It is not only my grandparents. They include my aunties. The love was indescribable. I was pampered, cared for without sacrificing discipline, honesty and hard work.

You grow up every day to know your responsibility to yourself, to others and to your community. You know what you are supposed to do and you have to do it without being told. I hope you understand that scenario? I miss my grandma every day.  We were pampered but not spoilt.


As a pampered child, were you mischievous?

I won’t say I was mischievous. I have always been a straightforward person since I was a child, but I was a tough child. I won’t tolerate what I won’t tolerate even if I am going to be killed. I fight the cause of others. If you infringe on other people’s  rights, I took it upon myself to fight on your behalf. This they ascribed to my birth. I am an ‘Ige’ as they called it in Yoruba. So I won’t say I am mischievous because that is a bit tricky.


So, what is your most embarrassing childhood memory?

I don’t want to go into that. Anyways, there was a day we absconded from school. We went to pluck some fruits from someone’s farm. You know like I said earlier I don’t know how to lie. The irony is that if I lied to you now before you leave, I would have to tell you the truth.

So, that day we came back from the farm we went to pluck mangoes and the owner of the farm came to our school to report us to the school authorities. He said someone came to his farm to pluck his mangoes. Everybody denied but because I don’t want to lie, I kept quiet.

So, we were lined up at the assembly ground and as the scolding continued, a dragonfly came from nowhere and landed on my head. All the students were laughing. When you know you are guilty of something and either naturally or something else, a fly just appeared from nowhere to kind of sell you out. It was so embarrassing that I had to come out and confess to it.


What is the most ridiculous rumor you have heard about yourself?

By virtue of the position I hold, one is bound to relate with women and men altogether but it is disheartening when you start hearing that you are dating this and that. It is ridiculous, but as a Muslim, I know my limitations. I follow my faith. Regardless of what anybody says, I know I am accountable to my God. It is very ridiculous when you look at someone and you start making claims that cannot be substantiated.


How do you handle advances from women?

For someone that has my kind of look and smile; I look cool and God blessed me in His own way. As such, women will flock around you, but the truth of the matter is, you can’t take advantage of that if you don’t want to ruin yourself. Most of what I do is that I play along like I don’t understand what is going on but I won’t go beyond the limit.


How do you prioritise and manage your time?

One thing I know is that if I am given an assignment, that assignment is a priority. A whole lot of things usually compete for my time. The good name of this institution is number one. It takes precedence whether I am at home or at work. That doesn’t affect my responsibility to my family. To God be the glory, I have been able to balance everything.


You have been in the midst of politicians and lawmakers representing various constituencies in the state, do you see yourself becoming a lawmaker some day?

Every human being is a political animal but seeking political office, I don’t think so. The only time I contested for anything was during my school days when I contested for the SUG position and even then, the push was from my friends because I usually fight for people’s rights. I don’t think I am cut out for the murky waters of Nigerian politics. I don’t think so.


What would you like to be remembered for?

That I tried as much as possible to be honest and truthful to my callings and that I encouraged people’s careers a lot. Even When I was a younger officer, I was able to influence the development of the careers of colleagues. At one point I was called ‘Mr Fix It’. There are a lot of people that I met here and now they are very senior officers within the service through my encouragement and intervention.

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