He is just 35, selfless, a goal getter, and the youngest senatorial candidate of the major political parties. With three degrees and one from one of the best universities in the world today (MIT), he has passion to see a better Nigeria. He has many years of working experience with top organizations here in Nigeria, and most importantly, he is a detribalized Nigerian. He may eventually emerge as the youngest senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria after the February 16th, 2019 general elections. He believes that it’s time to kick out mediocrity in the representation of Lagosians. He is Gbadebo Rhodes – Vivour, the senatorial candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) for Lagos West Senatorial District. In this interview with Abel Lazarus, he expresses his displeasure on how mediocrity has taken dominance in Lagos politics and Nigeria at large.
TAM: Can we meet your sir?
GRV: My name Gbadebo Rhodes Vivour, an architect by profession and at thirty five am currently the youngest senatorial candidate of any major party in the country. I have three degrees, bachelor in architecture, a master in architecture from MIT and a master in Research and Public Policy from University of Lagos. I am a very passionate Nigerian that believes we complain too much and instead of complaining we need to get into the arena and try to push for a Nigeria that all of us can be proud of so that there will be no day we will tell our children that in my days Nigeria was better.
TAM: Would you like to tell us what your growing up was like?
GRV: My father is from Lagos Island of the famous Rhodes-Vivour’s family in Isale Eko while my mother is from Azumini in Abia State. So my growing up was that of a detribalized up bringing in which we saw people first before where they were from. We were raised to love our neighbours, our country; to take responsibility and to focus on solving problems instead of complaining about problems. I went to Chrislad Primary School and International School Lagos (ISL) to JSS III before proceeding to Ecol Artive Berlin in Paris where I did my A Levels before going to University of Nottingham for my undergraduate degree, my masters at Boston, Massachusetts and my second masters at University of Lagos. Since then I have been practicing architecture and have worked with very notable architecture firms in Nigeria like SISA, Patrick Wayi, and Cliff Consulting now called Building Partnership CCP.
TAM: What has your delving into politics been like?
GRV: I got into politics through activism. For about three to four years I was involved in anti-Genetic Modified Organic (GMO) activism on agriculture policy that the then minister of agriculture and the minister of science and technology at a time were trying to push and shove down this foreign technology down the throats of Nigerians. It is a technology that has been linked to cancer and eloquent dysfunction, leading to poor environment, and poisoned waters. About two or three months ago, the company paid an African American gentleman about $250 million on account of a court ruling ordering the company to pay the gentleman the amount for proving that his cancer was as a result of the production and consumption of GMOs. It was something we fought very hard then with the former agriculture minister Mr Akinwunmi Adeshina debating on various media platforms and dailies. We led a two thousand man rally to the Senate and provided resource material to try and push away this agenda. Then I realized that protesting can only take you so far but we need to be at the table to make this decisions. The first thing I did was to run for the office of Ikeja local government chairman under KOWA party which had no structure in Ikeja then as we were building the structure and campaigning which was a very difficult task then. Yet my party came third without buying any single vote. Our mandate then was to never pay for any vote and it taught me a lot about grassroot politics, though am still learning the politics of Ikeja, Lagos and Nigeria at large; before joining the PDP about a year and half ago and here I am running for the Senate.
TAM: At 35, one would have expected you to have gone for the State House of Assembly or even the House of Representatives, what informed your decision to contest for the Senate?
GRV: First I have to correct an impression that is gradually becoming a norm which is that of some leaders who believe they must always be in power till death. That has made people to believe that it is only those in their sixties and seventies that are expected to be at the Senate, whereas, those that fought for our independence were young men. That was when Nigeria felt the explosion of policy and governance that Nigerians have seen and not just to come sit in the Chambers and feed fat on the nation’s resources. They had agenda and purpose. The likes of Enahoro, Awolowo, Azikiwe, Tafwa Balewa and many more, how old were they but now what we have is like a retirement home where former governors come to retire. We need to correct that. The Senate should be a place where the representatives of the demographics of the country sit down. The youths make up about 67% of the population of this country so it should be an anomaly for those not up to 50% representing the country. It should be something all of us should see as abnormal. In fact, it should be an important to rule that anyone above fifty years of age should not be in the Senate. We are working to correct that through the ‘not too young to rule’ movement and the aspirations of younger ones to be in governance. It is abnormal to have these men above sixty years signing and borrowing monies from the World Bank for healthcare, infrastructure etc and yet they will not be alive to pay it as they will live about ten more years or more before their death hence the recklessness. But the younger ones will live out the time of any such loans or bills. The second reason is that I feel the Senate will give one a platform to address national issues. I also feel it’s a platform that allows you to push policies at the highest level because that’s what we need. I did not just jump into politics, when I wanted to go into politics I went back to school to get Masters on Research and Public Policy, a two year program. So the idea of consensus building, and pushing policy; the idea of what is valuable policy and what matters to people, these are the things I have gone to build up myself with. So it’s not by an accident then when you look at the dynamics of the party. There are certain windows that will open for one to cash in; for instance the case of Obama who did not win when he contested for the House of Representatives but he saw the window becoming the President of America and used it. You will agree with me that if he had not capitalized on that opportunity he would never had become American President. That is life, you have to be prepared and when you see a window you boldly go through it because in your heart you know the window is open for you.
TAM: Talking about the open window what would you liken as the window this time?
GRV: I see a window that demonstrates our tiredness for mediocrity. People are angry, angry but they might not be able to vent it the way they vented in 2015 because they are choked and grossly disappointed. So they are looking for viable alternatives. They are looking for fresh cases; they are looking for people who do not have any financial related crimes and criminality hanging on their necks. This is where the PDP has done very well by pushing for the not to run bill sponsored by Honorable Tony Nwude representing Oshodi-Isolo Federal constituency which also is under Lagos West Senatorial zone. You see that the PDP has produced the youngest senator in the country. So great things are happening in Lagos West and that window is what we have to capitalize on. Also there is the need to have vibrant people in the Senate who have the required mental capacity and not by demonstration of rascality in politics usually adjudged by the number of thugs a politician has which does not add anything in moving the country forward. It should be about one’s stand on policy and the fresh ideas to be brought to the table. A lot of people that can move the country forward are pushed off by thuggery in politics and the belief that a politician must appear in certain way with his thugs, reason why some of us were advised to stay off politics as it is seen as a dirty game and for the bad people now when I want to go somewhere with just two or three people am seen as not behaving like a politician, but the cost of having the crowd, because one must cater for their welfare, is wasteful. It’s not a war and that’s the reason why our politics is expensive. When someone does not care about how much he is spending to campaign there is no way he will care how he spends the money when he gets to the office. These are some of the things people have to consider.
TAM: Representing the biggest and most populated senatorial district in Lagos state, how well would you say you know Lagos West?
GRV: I know Lagos West Senatorial district very well, though it’s impossible for one to know the entire district street-by-street. However, the campaign process has made it very possible to meet with leaders in the senatorial district and identifying their major challenges By the grace of God when I become the senator I will put in place a mechanism that will see my office move from one local government to the other on a monthly basis. This this will create a focus on each local government to research, to identify their needs and plant an administrative seed in each of the local government that will continue on the works and further help to know each local government intoto.
TAM: What would you say are the most pressing needs of Lagos West Senatorial district?
GRV: Top of the list is Badagry express road which has been abandoned for close to twenty years and has become a mess and embarrassing to us as a nation despite representing an international route into Lagos and Nigeria at large. Also also there is need to have proper infrastructures especially as regards the ports which share boundary with Lagos West through Oshodi Isolo, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Amuwo-Odofin, hence any spillage from them spills to these areas. There is need to divest the containers that are littered everywhere through creation of dry docks, barges and maybe to formulate policies that ensure the dredging of our other existing ports to optimally perform so that containers meant for other regions can be moved closer to them without coming to Lagos. This will further create jobs. Another thing we need to tackle is youth unemployment and empowerment. Also we are going to introduce community healthcare coverage. The current models of healthcare are not effective hence the need to localize the models into community healthcare and community health insurance and the education sector as well.
For Alimosho LGA we must correct the failures of the past and even present by attracting industrialization into it, building business economic centers and empowering its youths who also represent the key focus of our presidential candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubarkar whose policy is on how to empower, reengineer and create jobs for the youths so that the country can work for everybody. The population of Alimosho must be harnessed for both economic and social benefits. For us to have alignment there must be efforts to deliver all the candidates of PDP from the Lagos House of Assembly Honourable Chizoba and Honourable Owolabi, the House of Representatives Honourable Azeez Akinsanya, the gubernatorial candidate Mr Jimi Agbaje, presidential candidate Alhaji Atiku and myself for the senate so as to have a flow in the governance to deliver these policies. Alimosho deserves a quality healthcare policy going by its population which requires much more health centers, and primary education facilities. It is very wrong to say because Ikeja LGA has one health center that Alimosho should get same. It won’t be effective going by its special status.
TAM: How would you rate your acceptance in the Lagos West District?
GRV: I would say my acceptance is very high ranging on some factors. Lagos West with its large population of which the youth are more is one of the factors. Another is the fact that there is great number of non-indigenes, the Aworis, and Arewa. There are people that have relationships with other states, like those from Kogi, Benue that know that the PDP is the only party that can effectively handle the various insecurity challenges in the country and the suffering they are meted with in Lagos State. So I have these working for me and another important factor is am a true Lagosian from Rohdes-Vivour family so people that want true Lagosian to represent them have me to vote. They want their interest protected with threats to jump into lagoon for failure to vote a particular party. As my mother is from Abia State while my wife is from Umunze in Anambara State, am a solid Nigerian hence I cannot look away when things are not favouring any part. More so, people are angry that the person representing them will take their constituency project funds to pursue his personal political interest in his state trying to be Ogun State governor. I think he should be asked to account how much he spent between 2015 through 2017 on flights and chartered jets flying to Ogun state so that we will know how much of Lagos West money he spent. A lot is going for me and another is the mental capacity, I went to MIT the number one university in the world and the hardest school to get into.
TAM: What would you say is your major campaign challenges so far?
GRV: The major challenge remains being a young man who has not stolen government money and do wish to campaign with people that have been in government for almost twenty years. Only God knows; we cajoled that Lagos state is printing their posters. We know the amount that is generated in Lagos state and that is under declared. It is impossible to cope with campaigning with those, but I tell people that we are the under dogs, like the biblical story of David when faced with Goliath in a battle and was equipped with all the amours but he could not wear them even people and Goliath were all mocking at him by calling him a boy but David remained focused knowing his strategies and hope in God and at the end he was victorious.
TAM: Are you the David of our time?
GRV: Yes, am the David of our time and by God’s grace victory is mine.
TAM: What are your strategies to make sure that the votes count?
GRV: We are making great efforts by training our agents by letting to know and understand that the enjoyment is in the victory and not on the election so it vital for each and everyone of them to deliver their polling boots for all PDP candidates from Alhaji Atiku to Jimi Agbaje and others so as to have a full line in government so as to avoid straining one person and it is then that there will be flow of democracy dividends. For instance we all know what happened to the present Lagos state governor despite his efforts we saw how he was rewarded for not being a good party man. This cannot continue. We can’t reinforce such acts where Lagos will be determined by the wills and caprices of one man. We are tired of them bringing those rejected in Kogi state to represent Lagos state in the House of Representatives, a person rejected in Ogun state to be representing Lagos West Senatorial District. Lagos is called centre of excellence yet its sons and daughters are deprived of representing it.
TAM: How well would you say you know the incumbent and your major competitor senator Solomon Adeola aka Yayi?
GRV: I know him and his antecedents because I have researched on what he has done and my assessment is that he is a self-centred politician and not the people’s politician. The bills he tried to push are really not people friendly but rather to maintain his relevance and status for future political gains. There is nothing of credence that he has brought to the 8th Senate in the last three and half years. I think his mission of going to the senate was to become the governor of Ogun State and fortunately he failed as he was blatantly rejected.
TAM: What would say will be among your first bills to be sponsored for the benefit of Lagos West?
GRV: Great! There are quite a number of bills to be sponsored. The first will be to make sure appropriation is made for the completion of Badagry expressway though we have heard of same done in the past yet the road remains undone hence there is need to investigate that and know why it’s not done. Were the funds released or not and what might be causing the delays. I will also work with other distinguished senators to see that appropriation is made to refurbish, turn around the existing ports outside Lagos. Another major thing is for the improvement on appropriation on teachers’ training because it’s the bedrock of development. Educational development is not only about building classes like the case of Osun State where you see blocks of classrooms with the only gain of stealing monies and not concerned with the development of the teachers. These are the things we are going to address on how the quality of teachers can be improved upon, the need to understand the role of education in national development.