Leader of the Isolo Local Council Development Area, Hon. Remy Shittu, is a politician per excellence. In this interview, he speaks of the challenges he faced to become one. The love for community service has always being his passion; he says it is one of the major reasons he was pulled into politics. He also speaks on his passion for children with Saturday INDEPENDENT’s Oyinkan Somorin.
Did you ever think you would come this far, going into politics and being where you are currently?
I really never thought I would come this far, but then that’s the way God operates. I give him the glory for where I am today, even though I have always been an ambitious type of person. My real passion that brought me into politics was strictly for community development. This thing that brought me into politics is something I have been doing before I was put into office.
And what is it that you have been doing before you got into office?
Community work, making sure that things are going well in the community. I also help in empowering students and making children happy by paying for their exams such as GCE, JAMB and WAEC. I’ve been doing little things like that before I ever got into office. It was when people saw this that they clamoured that I should go into politics. They said I am trying and suggested that I contest for a position since I have been doing all this out of my own volition. They sold the idea to me, I never thought about it or had interest in politics until when people said I should give it a try. I gave it a try and they supported me full time.
When did you join politics?
I have been in politics since 1999, since the advent of democracy in Nigeria. I have been participating in politics but I started contesting in 2007. It took me 10 years to realise my dream to become a councillor. I took my first and second attempt before God said yes to the third. This is the first time I won and this is my third attempt for this particular position for the office of head of councillor for Lagos State since 2007.
What are the achievements you have made so far since you have been in office?
Before I say anything, I want you to know that my primary assignment is to make laws, and as a councillor, we are meant to make laws for the betterment of the people and the country. So one of my achievements is to make byelaws for the improvement and betterment of the country. Example of this is the law in respect of children, which stipulates that any child that is seen hawking during school hours, the parents would be jailed with no option of fine. Children must not be seen hawking.
But something like this occurred a few years ago, and actions were not really taken and children are back on the streets with full force.
Well, there is something you need to understand, there are three arms of Government: the legislatives, the executives and the judiciary. My own duty is to make laws as a legislator. After making such laws and there is a violation of the law, that is the work of the law enforcement agents like the police and other agencies to apprehend those who are not going by the law. This means they are criminals, as criminality means they have broken the law and they would face the court, which is the duty of another arm of the government. That arm is called the judiciary and theirs is to judge. So I can’t be the lawmaker and be the judge at the same time. So if you are talking about action, you are not talking to the right person.
Since your time in office, what would you say is your greatest strength in terms of your career?
Well, since I am a councillor, I would say it is to make laws. But then, you can’t say it is only laws one will be making. A councillor also carries out some side functions in the executive, in terms of projects, because I am talking about public funds here. As public fund must be applied to anything that is being implemented in the executive, it’s our duty as councillors to be watchdogs to the executive to make sure they do things according to how the budget goes. These are the two primary duties of a lawmaker. But then, I cannot rest on all that as a lawmaker, I have to get back to the people.
For some reasons, people don’t believe in laws anymore, as they would say “na law we wan chop?” So because of that, and to make my tenure unique, I go the extra mile and out of my way to do some things to help the people. Most of the time, I have to borrow against my salary to be able to please these people. Funny enough, not everybody would appreciate what I have done like the children program recently done. I know how much I have put into it, as I have to take funds above what I am given to be able to achieve my aim. In my position there are no excuses, as programs need to come up. With programs, I need to let people feel my impact. One cannot say one is sitting down and making laws without seeing the impact of the person in position. Though it is not easy and it is expensive, but it is something that has to be done.
I noticed something about you and that is your interest in children, what’s your history with children?
That is a question I don’t really have an answer to because I have always loved children and I believe in this project called Nigeria. And there is a saying that if you believe in a project, especially in Nigeria, then you need to invest in the children as they are the future of Nigeria. I also believe that every child is born with a gift, so the best thing we can do for the children and the country is to help the children discover themselves, which is something I am doing through talent hunts. I expose these children to different programs and through it; one can begin to identify talent in a child. It’s not every child that is destined for a professional job, so by helping the children to discover themselves early enough and building them with their talent, I think I am making progress with them. Look at Bill Gates for example, he doesn’t need ‘yahoo yahoo’, look at Okocha, he doesn’t need to be fraudulent, what about people like Magic Johnson or Jordan? These are people that have made it with their talents and don’t need to be fraudulent to make it. Look at even footballers too; they are making it on their own. It’s when the children are doing the wrong thing that they find it difficult to do the right thing. That is when they think of extra ways to earn money fraudulently.
You passion for children, does it have anything to do with your childhood?
I won’t say it has anything to do with them, but since I was young, I have had that urge to always be around children. I just love them; they make me laugh, they are so sincere. Just like what happened on the field during Children’s Day. A child was leading the march past, and when he got to the front, he left his team behind and came to us that were ready to receive their salute. Laughing, we asked him why he left his team behind, he said to me “they have to wait for me, it’s not yet time for them to come. Children are so sincere. When I was born, I wasn’t really born with a silver spoon. I had my challenges too but the challenges are not like some cases where they were in serious difficulties, because I can remember that I came from an average family and we were okay as a family. Most of the time, I was in boarding house, so talking of challenges, I don’t remember having any
With your current position how do you link politics with your passion, what time do you really have for being a philanthropist?
Sincerely I don’t have the time. It is when people have closed for the day that I start working. People think I am resting inside but I am not. Most of the time, I carry work home. I work till I go to bed, so what I do most of the time is to plan ahead. Every Sunday evening, I plan my week. I take a pen and paper and write how I want my week to go so as not to get it jumbled up during the week. The paper is always with me anywhere I go.
Recently you supported children and schools with books and funds. Is that true? What do you hope to achieve doing all this?
That is true with pictorial evidence and videos. It is known that no particular government can do everything, they also need our support to do one or two of those things, so I decided to leave an impact in my tenure. I approached the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) when they wanted to carry out the Children’s Day program and asked them what they needed. They itemised what they needed and I saw a way of helping them lift some of those things they needed and that includes cash gifts to first, second and third position winners. That is first, second and third for each category like spelling bee, marching among others, and this also includes giving them trophies and certificates.
What you do for the children, is it for political reasons? Would you want to contest again after your tenor ends?
Yes and no. No in the sense that this is my passion and it is something I have always done even before I came into politics. And being in office doesn’t mean I should stop doing it, which is why I said no on one side and yes on the other side. That’s because when I was campaigning, I made some promises. I put up some manifesto and part of the manifesto is giving back to the children even after being put in office. I gave a promise and I am bound by my words. I made a promise I would get back to them, so that is the political part of it. Also, after my four years in office, people would want to know what I have been doing during my four years in the office, so these are the things I am going to show that I have done during my tenure. With this, I can seek for re-election or a new position or office in the near future.
How successful would you say you have been since you resumed office, did you get the support of the people?
When it comes to responses and comments, I would say yes. Though not everybody sees what I do as important. Some believe I am wasting money, like I don’t know what I am doing, but the right thing must be done. The truth must be told and I am happy with what I am doing. What one needs in life is not for everybody to appreciate a person, once you get one or two people appreciating and encouraging you, then you will know you are on the right path. I have them so they are okay for me and I appreciate them too.
Any tough times?
A lot of tough times. Before the election, someone tried to correct me. He said “oga you are not campaigning like a politician, nobody would vote for you the way you are talking, you are too sincere. That was because I told the people that there are some things I would not do for them when I come into office. Things like house rent, school fees, hospital bills and others. I said this because I don’t want them thinking I have the financial capacity to help them do that. But with God on my side, I still won the campaign.
The tough time I am facing now is that despite me telling them about this, they still come to me. Many come to me crying about one problem or the other. Some even call me telling me about their problems. This is something I told them from the beginning that I won’t do. What they don’t get is that even my salary is not enough to pay somebody’s house rent. These are the major challenges I have everyday, and that is why I tell them being a councillor is not for someone to give out money when they have problems. Funny enough, people judge me with this. Some say I haven’t given them more than a thousand Naira or two. But what about what I have been doing with empowerment programs? They don’t look at that because they feel I haven’t done anything for them.
I won’t lie, there are times I feel like quitting. And at such times, I ask myself what kind of problem I have put myself into. But then, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. I just have to keep up.
How do you work under stress and time constraints?
I work better under stress. When there is stress that is when I wake up.
How do you create balance between your personal life, work and family?
My people are getting used to it already. They understand that their father and husband is a public figure who gets the attention of the public. But it doesn’t mean I don’t create time to be with my family. I do that and most of the time, I wait for when there is a holiday. I make sure we are together during those period. So I try my best to make a balance.
The post I Have Passion To Help Children Before I Came Into Politics – Shittu appeared first on Independent Newspapers Nigeria.
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Author: Oyinkan Somrin