Rt. Hon. Lasun Yusuff is a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. In this interview by ADEOLU ADEYEMO, he speaks on a wide range of issues, including the politics of Osun State and his relationship with a former governor of the state, Mr Rauf Aregbesola and the incumbent, Mr Gboyega Oyetola.
You recently distanced yourself from a new political group, The Osun Progressives (TOP) set up by a former governor of Osun State, Mr Rauf Aregbesola. Why that decision?
This interview will take weeks if I delve into that issue but I will try and make some explanations. This is a story that started about sixteen years ago. I went back to Lagos in November, 2004 because I believed Lagos was larger and bigger than Osogbo. I wanted a larger environment where I could re-discover myself and I just had my daughter in September. I went to Hajj by November, 2005 and I came back on January 6th. At the airport, I met one of my closest friends, Alhaji Fatai Diekola Oyedele. We agreed to meet later and a date was fixed. On our day of appointment, when I got to the venue of the meeting, I was told the person we waited to meet had not arrived. Eventually, it turned out that we were waiting for Mr Rauf Aregbesola. I asked him if he was looking for those who would work for him. He said yes. I bluntly told him I could not work for people again, since I also had governorship ambition but I had no financial muscles then. At the meeting were Rauf Aregbesola, Fatai Oyedele, Nike Omoworare, Gbenga Fayemiwo and one other person. I made them understand that I would work with him on the condition that any post I asked for in his government would be given to me. I remembered then that during Baba Akande’s emergence as AD Governor in 1999, I was the Secretary of the logistics committee that conducted that election. When Rauf was a Commissioner in Lagos I was playing big politics in Osun State. So, why must Rauf and some people now think they are my seniors in politics? I repeat that I began politics before the likes of Rauf Aregbesola. I supported him. I used all what God gave me to ensure that he won the election. I thought we could align and work together for a long time. I can tell every single detail of how Aregbesola emerged as the Governor of Osun State.
Aregbesola later decided to fight me because I wanted to be the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He had forgotten those fingers that fed him. You would not believe it that Aregbesola was the first person I confided in that I wanted to be the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He first accepted it, then two days later, he asked me what would happen if Tinubu brought Femi Gbajabiamila and I replied that I never knew Tinubu and that Femi was from Lagos while I was from Osun. He told me he had 100% allegiance for Tinubu but in my opinion, I had allegiance to my state, to my party and to myself.
I became the deputy speaker. Then Rauf told everybody not to talk to me again and that I should come and explain myself to the party why I became the deputy speaker in Abuja without their knowledge. But I’ve made up my mind that no matter the frustration, I will not leave my party. Rauf nearly ruined me. I have about 1,200 hectares of land in Iloba in Ijesa land and Rauf instigated people against me and they are still in court today. He almost ruined my business. For a person that fought me like I should not exist…such a person who fought me for six years because I became the deputy speaker and because of my attempt to be governor, to now say the only thing you think I deserve is for some people to summon a a meeting and call me to your house to come and form a splinter group within our party! I would rather sit at home and live a quiet life. I’m too big for that because I don’t see him as my leader. I am not his servant or follower in politics. We met on equal basis and I was never and I am not his follower in politics.
Interesting. But you have been very quiet since you left office in 2019, what have you been engaged in?
Answer: To the glory of God, I exited office in sound health and mind. I left as Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives on June 11, 2019 and since then I have primarily come back to my base as an engineer and as a business man, and I thank God that while I was in office or in the politics I have not left my profession for once. I remain so professionally glued to it. Additionally, I have got myself involved in commercial farming. These are the things I have got myself occupied with since 2019. I got into politics not to jeopardize my profession. A politician should not do that. In essence, I would boldly say that I am a professional engineer, a seasoned politician and an agriculturist of value.
You must be missing politics then?
Sincerely, politics is in my blood and without doubts, I have sorely missed it to a certain extent. But from another angle, I feel sad these days the way politics is being played. Most politicians do not see themselves as servants of the people holding positions of authority. What is so appalling these days is that our so called politicians serve themselves and not the people. I am yet to see the synergy among governance, politics and people’s welfare. So, because of this chain which is missing, I make bold to say that I have not really missed politics so intensely because I am a person who feels that politics that ultimately transforms into seizing power and which does not serve the people is no longer fashionable. Politics should be beneficial to the people in all ramifications. Your impacts as a politician should remain in the hearts of the people, especially those at the grassroots.
Your supporters may not agree with you if you say you are leaving politics…
I have not said I am leaving politics at all. I remain a dogged fighter in politics. I am only waiting for the right time. I am not saying time in terms of space, but time in terms of probably seeing a situation where people with goodwill can later get into politics, get into government and make impacts in people’s lives. I am a grassroots politician and it is the most dangerous part of politics. To be a grassroots politician is not easy at all and for me to grow to this level. I am today, to the glory of God, what I am. It has been very tough and difficult. But I remain a solid rock which my antagonists are unable to pull down. They tried but failed people. For those of us whose parents are not rich, we find it so difficult to fit into politics. We struggled when we started to fit in. Our sincerity of purpose made us relevant. We were not born with the silver spoon. It was even difficult acquiring Western Education. But as fate would have it, we are here today to the glory of God and still politically relevant. We got involved in politics by moving from one house to the other summoning people to meetings. If you passed through the poverty process, full of several challenges and you eventually rose to the top, especially where I rose to, you would not abandon your grassroots at all. About 10% of our politicians did not pass through this process. They got into politics all because of they wanted to serve themselves; because they were self-centered. Politics never loved me. I loved politics instead because I always feel the pains and sufferings of my people and it is my utmost desire to lift and better their lot. There is no way I could have an opportunity to have an office and fail to affect people positively.
I am only waiting for the right time when people of goodwill and intention will understand what politics means in terms of security, politics and welfare. I remain a professional in politics that cannot just wake up in the morning and go to another politicians house and start meetings and begin to look for patronages. In the last couple of years, nobody has ever called me to any political party meeting. In the last six years, nobody has invited me to either local,nstate level or even federal level meeting so I have to shut up. Because we have people who believe they own all the space and know it all, then I decided to keep quiet and “siddon look” like late Bola Ige would say. Though a lot of people have been wondering why I have been so passive especially as the Deputy Speakership position I occupied was so consequential. I decided to keep quiet until I see people who will speak in the morning and stand by the same speech in the afternoon. I mean those who are tested and trusted in all ramifications. So, I’m still in politics and I’m confident. I remain a politician with a difference, and someone who knows that his being in politics purposefully is to serve the people.
Where do you belong between Oyetola’s and Aregbesola’s camps as we move towards the 2022 governorship election in your state?
I am in APC and the only thing I cannot do is to fight the party in a way that will reduce the strength of the party. I fought Aregbesola when I was the deputy speaker. I’m in APC but they have not called me. So why wouldn’t I keep quiet when people see they can determine my life, existence and everything about me? For the 2018 election, I told them that you may insult me but nobody can win elections in this place without my input. What I’m sure of is that if I’m in a party and you don’t give me recognition, you can’t win an election. If they want to test it again, let them test it and let’s see if they will win.
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