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Golden chance lotto is built around integrity and openness – Obasa

Golden chance lotto is built around integrity and openness – Obasa

The former Chairman of Onigbongbo Local Council Development Area, Hon. Idowu Obasa pours his mind on politics, lotto business and his sojourn as politician. In this interview with Adebayo Obajemu and Adegbenro Nurudeen, he speaks about himself and state politics. Excerpts.

Who is Hon. Idowu Osuolale Obasa?                                                                                                       By training, I am an accountant. I graduated from University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) where I studied and obtained Bsc in Economics. Had my Msc in accounting from the University of Lagos and a fellow of Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria; a fellow of the Institute of Public Administration of Nigeria. Also, I have worked as a lecturer and credit controller and later Foreign Exchange Control Manager of P.Z industries PLC.            I worked as a manager with Audit firm of KPMG peat Marwick, Ani, Ogunde & CO. I was the founding director of Independent Communications Network Limited, Publishers of The News Magazine and P.M. Newspaper. With the glory of God, I was a two-term Chairman of Onigbongbo Local Council Development Area and now a businessman.

TheNews Magazine used to be one of the magazines that fought for democracy. What is the difference between journalism then and now?                        The time was right for that kind of publication. It was during military era and now, we are in democratic regime; we couldn’t have done what we did then. (Hmm……) The politics of that time was fundamentally different. But the challenges then were different from what we have today. The society at that time had Civil Liberty Organisations that have a say in the affairs of the country. Now, do we have Civil Liberty Organisations and Labour Unions that have mouth to speak? You (as journalists) cannot say you are totally independent. It cannot be claimed. We all know what is obtainable now. The kind of back-sliding that General Babangida’s regime brought to the country was bad. Even in the military, when you look at military rulership of Gowon and Babangida, It was such a bad setting. It was flamboyant, audacity and the arbitrariness to absolutely disrespect to anything that was celebrated during the Babangida’s rulership. We taught military regimes were bad but there was a high level of professionalism when General Gowon was there. The establishment of The News Magazine was necessitated by the exstingency of that time where the military government has absolute power over life and death. It was that situation that spurred the papers like TheNews, Tell Magazine to be founded at that time. I would say that journalism at time was purely excellent. Many journalists were forced to resign under controversial circumstances where they were about to be muscled out.

During the last dispensation of former President, Goodluck Jonathan, the Civil Liberty Organisations, Media and Labour Unions have seem not to do enough to push government over some policies. Why?                                                          The reality of the economic conditions has made some Civil Organisations and Labour to be prostituting themselves. If Labour and civil Organisations had drunk from the well of government, they cannot urinate inside the same well. When people started prostituting themselves particular the media, that want to critique the government and turned to government contractors at the same time. Where is the level of independence that was required from them to carry out their responsibilities? We know some civil society groups who have also turned to government contractors. The civil societies have compromised themselves for personal gains and pleasure. I am not criticising anybody but saying the reality. I am just saying how we find ourselves in this level.               For example, if someone asks me to ready to go to jail now; the way we were ready to go to jail then in journalistic career, I may not be ready. I am telling you the truth.(…laughing aloud)

To your political background, how did you venture into politics?                                               It depends on how you define politics. As a student of society, I do believe that I have been a politician since when I was in the university. Even at the University of Ife, we have been concerned with happenings in the country. Also, I was a member of Young Social Group and believe that we should transform Nigeria into a social country. I have worked in the Labour even while I was working as a manager at KPMG peat Marwick. I was working with the Labour Congress as an education officer under Hassan Sumonu Voluntarily. I was a Volunteer teacher with Civil Service Technical Union under Ejiofo. And we had our aspirations to form Nigeria Ideologically. But I never lost interest in partaken in what was going on around me. Once you are a student of society, you have the tendency to indulge yourself in what can move society forward. However, I found myself in party politics as a result of friends that I moved with. Also, I found myself founding TheNews magazine together with others. TheNews magazine was not an ordinary magazine. It was a radical magazine that radicalised us. We found that looking back would have been suicidal. At that time, we were young enough and ready to take risks. And we took those risks. Some people died, some were injured for life and some have illness that cannot be healed as a result of torture, in-human conditions melted out by the military. Against that background, some people came together after 1999 when military have been chased away; to start business as usual. And some of us said that, with the problems people went through and fought for, Is this the type of democracy we want? That was the reason Civil liberty persons venture into politics like Femi Falana, who wanted to be governor at that time. I was one of those who felt local governments must not be run by mediocre and I came out. How we performed can be left out for you (journalists) to confirm and let the prosperity to judge. In local politics, I have learnt a lot of lessons and prove a lot of points.

Looking back as a Local Government Chairman of Onigbongbo LCDA, what were the achievements you can mention?                                                                             Eight years after I left office, it is a question that is open to Onigbongbo residents. I charge you with the responsibility of going to town and ask questions about my administration. I can only summarize my achievements. During my administration, both friends and foes respected the government. They felt that they were part of government. They saw the evidence to justify our being in office. We did not achieve everything but we came out successfully. If you go to town, you will see few people talking bad about our government and many people saying good things about our past administration. The important thing is that we have not been forgotten.            In our administration, we focused largely on health care facilities. We made medical test to all and sundry. We made it a routine. If you are doing something good, people will assist you. We got doctors that used to spend some time with us free. I remember Dr Shola Shonubi. She was working with Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) then. She used to come every Wednesday and support in the health care centre free of charge. NYSC cooperated with us and gave us a lot of nurses and doctors. They were the one we are using to take care of our mobile clinic and health centres. These were structures that stand till today. In the area of sports, we discovered that the children of poor cannot become Serena or Venus Williams. How could a child from poor home enter a tennis court? We contacted the ministry of youths and sports for tennis court and repaired it for children’s use. Through that, we were be able to train them and took the children to Uganda, South Africa and Accra in Ghana for tournaments. Also, we founded the Onigbongbo Widows’ foundation. It is still existence till today. We started with about 250 members. In Onigbongbo LCDA, eight of the 14 Police barracks in Lagos were located in the local council area. If Policemen went for duty and got killed, their wives (widows) were neglected. Reality is that Police authority used to throw them out of the barracks. We started getting lawyers to defend their rights.      During my Administration, we mixed governance with politics. We believed that we had greater responsibility to the people and then party. In one year, we built over 17 roads. Some of which they were telling us it was built by the state government. I would just laugh. These were roads that were never built before my administration. Like Ajegunle street at Onigbongbo, Adeyemi street, Olayiwola street  at Oregun, Bankole street at Oregun

What is your view on Local Government autonomy?                                                             The (Nigerian) constitution has lapses in this regards. It does not give full fiscal independence to local authority. That is what Governor of Kaduna state (Mallam Nasir El-rufai) has just done. He said the federal allocation should go straight to the local government. But the problem is who determines the allocation? Is local government represented when there is time to allocate resources? What is the formula that is used? These need reviews. Without these, there can never be financial independence for local governments. In fact, the local governments supposed to get the largest share of the allocation. Because that is where the people live. 99 percent of Nigerians do not know where Aso rock villa is. And they don’t care to know. But they know their immediate environment. And their environment determines where they live and die.

As an Ex-Local government boss, how do you think every local government can increase its internally generated revenue?                                                              For any local government to increase its IGR, there must be an economic reality. Let me give an example. If a local government creates an infrastructural development in an area, there will be more people to live there. Surely, the tenement rate will increase because you have encouraged movement into your local government. Providing conditions that allow more businesses to come to your area will increase IGR. Your revenue from permit will increase. If you (State governments) continue to starve the local governments, there will be no conditions to create that kind of environment. A lot of governors want to micro-manage the local governments. Some of them want to be local government chairmen themselves. Secondly, a lot of people who ought not to be local government Chairmen found themselves there. People who cannot manage a net worth of N500, 000 are being asked to manage an entire government. Unfortunately, they are in the majority. And those that are supposed to be advising the local government chairmen are incompetent. If people see good services, they are ready to pay.

Many people have accused your party, APC, in Lagos state; of appointing candidates rather than electing them                                                                             (Cuts in) that is not true! How do you elect your candidates? Is it not by primaries? Are you aware that we held primaries? Everybody has a right to be sponsored by people. Even in U.S.A, people have godfathers. But the point is that everybody comes out and gets elected. May be that would have been happening in the past; I don’t know. We did primaries in the open. What people are talking about is that why it is that candidates of the leaders tend to win. But the truth is that every leader has done his/her home-work better. Which of the candidate has no godfathers?

What is your take on crises rocking the National assembly over principal appointments?                                                                                                                                               If you don’t go to bed with strange birds-fellow, this is what you get. Somebody’s personal ambition has so overtaken his sense of reasoning that he is ready to align with the opposition party (PDP) to promote himself and pull down his party’s stand. It is ridiculous! But for students of politics, it is something to study. The party is looking to it. If you enter a National Assembly as an individual, you can never be a majority. You become a majority because of other members of your party are there. When you become a majority with members of another party behind you, you are in trouble. What philosophy are you going there to espouse? What principles are you going there to set? Is it the principles of PDP or APC? Saraki is even thinking of having majority leader from the opposition party (PDP). A member of a minority wants to be a major leader. Is that not a contradiction in the house? For someone who is ambitious to be president. It tells us which kind of president he would be. He may go and align with Chad against Nigeria if he needs something. He can sell party for the pot of porridge. A lot of Senators and Members of House of Representatives may not have won if not because of the party (APC). There were governors that won because of Buhari won.

As a member of APC in Lagos state, what will be your advice to the party on National Assembly crises?                                                                                            They should continue to stand on party’s supremacy. And the President must give them total support. It is a test for democracy.

In the last elections in Lagos State, many party supporters expected you to contest for an elective position, but you did not. Why?                                                  (Cuts in) By the grace of God, I may not contest for any elective position again. But I don’t mean I will reject political appointments, that will be justified by my time and energy. I am a professional businessman. I want an appointment that I will be remembered for many years to come.

Since year 2007, Winner’s Golden Chance Lotto has become a toast of many people. How?                                                                                                                         We started lotto business that will not be built around an individual but a structure that can survive. I am a professional manager. We have shown our esteem customers that Golden chance Lotto is real. Although, Lotto market is large but we tend not to play pranks at all. You will notice that we are the only lotto company that have live draws on television at the moment. I think we have been known for transparency, structural confidence and truthfulness because we are not selling product that is not open to all. The only problem now is that those charged with responsibility of lotto business in Nigeria do not understand the market. They usually mistake lotto for lottery and lottery for lotto. They are not the same and every time we try to explain to them. Lotto is a Ghanaian- made by Nkrumah. In lotto, promoters are never sure of who will win. There is no limit to what you can win. And that is the risk involved. Whereas in lottery,  it is a dividend status. There is limit to what the promoter can pay out. In lotto, both the promoters and players pray to God. Our prayer at winners’ Golden Chance Lotto is that let the players win but not everything. And that is a fair prayer.(He smiles)

How has the technology improved the lotto business?                                                  The technology has helped lotto business tremendously. For instance, when you play through our POS, within two seconds, it will be recorded on our server. Immediately, you will be informed that our server has recorded your game. It is simple and honest.

How have you been coping with internet scammers?                                                            Well, we have those that are charged with responsibility of securing out websites and they are doing that.

Finally, what is your advice to President Muhammadu Buhari?                                                  I will say that he should continue to promote democracy. Some things are already falling in line. Like electricity, the job that ought to have been done is now being done.. People are beginning to do what they are paid to do. The fear of Buhari is now the beginning of wisdom. He should be bolder with Boko Haram and secure Nigeria. His anti-corruption crusade must not stop and he should continue to be straight forward to Nigerians.


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