Comrade Razaq Olokoba is the National Convener of the Campaign for Dignity in Governance (CDG) as well as the Leader of the June 12 Vanguard, a coalition of human rights organisations. He spoke on the celebration of June 12 as Democracy Day, among other issues. OLALEKAN OSIADE brings excerpts…
As one of the pro-democracy activists that fought for the realisation of June 12 as Democracy Day, how do you feel with the celebration?
I feel excited. Who among the members of the pro-democracy groups would not feel excited to realise that our collective efforts at enthroning civil rule in the country has become a reality? It simply means that our struggle for the emancipation of humanity is at long last, yielding dividends.
Do you really think civil rule has become a reality?
With this landmark achievement, never again must we allow our country to slip back into a situation that dragged the country into such an agonizing period, 27 years ago. What we went through; our traumatic experience in the hands of the military junta, must be transformed into pure and undiluted dividends of democracy. Nothing short of that can assuage our agony and the persecution suffered from the jackboot.
What led to the traumatic experience you are referring to?
Our offence was our constitutionally permitted agitation to demand for righting the electoral wrongs committed by the military dictators who annulled the freest, fairest and most credible election in the annals of this country. Some of us were killed, some jailed, some detained without trial, some haunted into exile, simply because we were fighting for our rights.
The 1993 election result was not announced. Don’t you think you were fighting a wrong battle?
It is on record that the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election was won by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Bashorun MKO Abiola of blessed memory. But instead of declaring him winner, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) annulled the polls to the consternation of the whole world. Abiola was later detained and perhaps, murdered in detention under the military junta.
What is your assessment of the democratic rule?
We have come a long way in our determination and commitment to see June 12 recognised as the true Democracy Day. And I can assure you that any governor that is offering the people what they demand and genuinely pursuing promises and manifestos would be commended and seen as the one keeping the flame of our struggle burning. At least, in Lagos State, there is no doubt that we live in a liberated democratic zone. From the time of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 1999 to the present day of Babajide Sanwo- Olu, Lagos has been savouring the aroma of good governance. The state governors had played commendable roles in sustaining the June 12 memory. What Lagos government did had been part of major encouragement that the President got to recognise the day as true Democracy Day.
But Sanwo-Olu is just one year in office. Can we really assess him now?
It is not in doubt, and not a surprise that Sanwo-Olu is performing wonders in just a year in the saddle. He has never been a stranger in in the state. As a public servant, he began his political career in 2003 when he was appointed as Special Adviser on Corporate Matters to the then Deputy-Governor, Femi Pedro. He was later made the Acting-Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, the post he held till 2007 when he was later reappointed as Commissioner for Commerce and Industry under Tinubu. During Babatunde Fashola’s tenure, he was appointed Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions, a post he held till 2016. During the tenure of Akinwunmi Ambode, Sanwo-Olu was made the Managing Director and Chief Executive of Lagos State Development and Property Corporation, and he was there held till he was nomi – nated as the gubernatorial candidate of the APC in 2018.
Do you think that is a valid assessment?
Governor Sanwo-Olu has created in our mind the impression that the good people of Lagos State did not make a mistake when they voted him in 2019. He has proven his mettles beyond expectations that he was ready for the office before aspiring to occupy it. Since his first day in office, he has left no one in doubt that he was ready for the job. And his scorecard in the first year is excellent. And the Lagos people, who are cosmopolitan in nature, are so intelligent to put sentiment aside and gave him a pat on the back for a job being well done. It is crystal clear that, even the blind can see the concrete achievement of the governor clearly. Even some chieftains of the opposition have been giving this administration kudos that he is doing well. When Sanwo-Olu was inaugurated last year, there was a clear sign of somebody who was prepared for the serious business of governance in state with Mega Status. So, we were not surprised when he hit the ground running.
Has he done anything spectacular?
He stole the hearts of the people with his commitment to pay N35, 000 as minimum wages for the workers against the stipulated N30, 000. He was the governor was the first governor that allayed the fears of the working force in the state over the minimum wage and he has not disappointed since then. The governor has also shown commitment to a secured state and administration of justice, by putting effective strategy on ground, which is already yielding fruitful results. The all-inclusive manner of his government on the security issues has also encouraged people across all the social, economic, religious and social strata to support the state by donating generously to the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF). And to guarantee adequate administration of justice in the state, the governor sometimes ago presented 50 new vehicles to Magistrates to boost their morale and elicit better performance and effective justice delivery. On the empowerment schemes, he has put in place to reduce crime by making the people to be financially reliant and economically buoyant and independent. About 4, 885 applicants graduated from the 17 Skill Acquisition Centres across the state and this initiative is a veritable way to engage idle hands gainfully and by extension curb the rate of crime in the society.
We know how far acquisition of skills in several trades like Fashion Designing, Hat and Bead making, Aluminium Fabrication, Shoe making among others would improve the socio-economic status of individual beneficiaries and by extension increase the number of micro, small and medium entrepreneurs in the state. And you can see how COVID-19 brout out the best from the governor. His administration’s prompt steps taken to prevent the deadly disease called coronavirus, was a testimony that this government is full of people with competent professionals. His action saved the country a lot of trauma because it’s power of fast spreading into the hinterland was curtailed at the point of entry.