A member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, representing Ajeromi Ifelodun Constituency 1, Hon. Lukmon Olumoh, who chairs the House standing committee on Public Private Partnership, has stated that the Lagos State University will soon have hostels on the campus. The lawmaker also spoke on the need to brand Ajegunle’s positive vibes which he notes outweigh negative tendencies. Olumoh touched on other salient issues, in this interview with OLADIPUPO AWOJOBI. Excerpts…
People believe that Ajegunle breeds negative tendencies; many people see the place as a place for people of all forms of bad characters, leaving one to ask if anything good could come out of AJ? Am I not great?
So if Ajegunle can produce two lawmakers in the state house of assembly, has one in the Federal House of Representatives, are we not great? There are some constituencies where they import people to come and represent them.
What is the percentage of people of your status in Ajegunle?
This must have a relative meaning, relative in the sense that you look at the age categories, what is my age compared to those of youths coming up currently? You say most of them are in Sports and Entertainment, is Davido from Ajegunle? Is he not a child of the wealthy and he chose music. Femi Otedola’s daughter is a D.J despite all the qualifications that she has. So entertainment to me is part of our culture, it’s a way of life, so if you decide to take advantage of this to make a leaving, then Ajegunle’s youths should be celebrated that they are dynamic. Some of them are educated, at least to secondary school level and it is the only way to take them out of crime. When it takes four, or five years to get admission after even getting the right score in JAMB, you decide to venture into entertainment or sports there is nothing wrong in that. It does not mean that you will end up a failure, so Ajegunle and our youths should be celebrated and let me tell you we are well read oh! I can tell you for free, go and do your empirical findings; we have the largest number of functional primary schools in the whole of Lagos State. Go and find out the number of schools we have in the two local governments in Ajeromi Ifelodun area. That tells you that we catch them young and that is the essence of the Universal Basic Education; get every child to school.
How functional are they?
If you are talking about the condition of the schools, it’s another thing entirely, but I am talking about getting the children to school. If there are no classes where are you going to put them? I am telling you that we have the highest number schools in Lagos State, go and find out and see if I am lying. Then you can appreciate what we are doing in Ajegunle. That is public schools, then talking about private schools, we a have number of them, so the people in Ajegunle are desirous of education. But the general impression about Ajegunle is about issue of slums, thuggery, touting and all of that. How do you disabuse the mind of the people about that, what strategy as a representative of the people of Ajegunle are you going to put in place to correct the narrative that an average Nigerian has about Ajegunle? I’m going to tell you something and I want you to take it for a fact, if you decide to market yourself very well, beautiful, if you de-market yourself, it’s another thing. When you talk about youth restiveness, thuggery, hooliganism, cultism, they are not peculiar to Ajegunle, these are national problems and if you are going to put it on percentage, I don’t think Ajegunle would have .0001 in the right perspective or context. So, I tell people that they should not de-market Ajegunle. What happens in Ajegunle happens in Mushin, Ketu, Oshodi, Agege and everywhere, so you cannot just isolate Ajegunle and say its youths are no good. Yes, we have slums, but slums are everywhere, we are all trying to bring ourselves out of the situation we’ve found ourselves which is an issue in the country. This country has gone through a lot since independence and our democratic experience is something we also have to look at critically. In fact successive Lagos State Government has done so much to take the state out of poverty line in Ajegunle. I just told you now go and find out the number of primary schools that we have in Ajegunle, that is part of the indices that you have to look at critically. If people are doing well, education is one of the best areas that we should look at, then you look at other things. But apart from that, I tell you, we are not as bad as they paint us and I tell people from within that if you don’t market yourselves properly, you’ll have problems, people outside demarket you and you also celebrate them de-marketing you. We have big markets in Ajegunle. Some states in Nigeria do not have the amount of money that exchange hands in Ajegunle, some states in Nigeria do not have the kind of GDP that Ajegunle has. Localize it in an economic terms and see what we are talking about. Ajegunle is a fantastic place, I am not saying we don’t have crimes or criminals, I am not saying we don’t have youth restiveness; I am not saying there is no cultism there, but Ajegunle should not be singled out as a bad place. I can tell you that for everybody that comes to Lagos State from anywhere, he or she has relations in Ajegunle, even you my interviewer, if I ask you, you will have a relation there. If you come to Lagos and you don’t know anybody the first place you will settle is Ajegunle. We receive people because we are complete Nigeria, we are the melting point; we have all the tribes in Ajegunle.
One of the sectors that badly hit by COVID- 19 is the entertainment industry. There have been no shows, parties and this is an area where AJ people excel. What suggestions do you have for them to restrategise so as to ensure that the pandemic does not affect their livelihoods?
Well necessity is the mother of invention and the world is a global village. We are moving the way things are moving; the effect of COVID-19 on entertainment is global. Ajegunle happens to share part of it and also the way people are going digital; technology is also evident in Ajegunle. So whatever they are doing in the world we are not being left out. We have an Icon in the entertainment industry known worldwide in the person of Daddy Showkey, he sells our image, Saheed Osupa, a popular Fuji musician, is also from Ajegunle if you don’t know. He can claim affinity to Ibadan, but he was born, and brought up in Ajegunle. He is a home boy, we have a lot of them like that. Father U-Turn and some others are also from Ajegunle. So these people are modeling other people, they are serving as our ambassadors, they are also carrying youths that are interested in entertainment business along. So I am not saying that we are having it hundred percent okay, but we are adjusting with the way things are adjusting globally.
What have you done to tackle the ecological challenges confronting your constituency to ensure a better environment for your constituents?
First, I want to appreciate Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, he has a listening ear and he gives you opportunity if you can make use of it. When I first came to the House, the first thing I spoke about on the floor was the issue of flood in my constituency and and then our resolution was communicated to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who is also a very good person and he listened. Some few weeks or months later, he awarded contracts for clearing of all the canals. You are aware that there was an adhoc committee of the House that looks into all the canals in Lagos State and they came up with a report of which my constituency was a major one and the Governor awarded the contracts for the canals to be cleared. That was one of the first achievements I had in the house. So I can tell you that System Five has been cleared, Signal Barrack canal has been cleared, Baale Okoya canal has been cleared, Ayinke was not cleared because we had done some jobs there earlier. So, within my constituency it is virtually all the canals that have been cleared. The issue of flooding in my constituency has reduced. I am not saying if rain falls, there won’t be issues, but they have reduced significantly. Yes the rains would come with volumes of water, but it will not be the kind of experience that when a little rain falls ev-erywhere is flooded; no, the situation is better now. So in terms of flooding we have done greatly in my constituency. I’ve intervened on road constructions, a lot of roads have been fixed within my constituency through my intervention; the most recent being the award and reconstruction of Nba Cardosso Road, a major road within my constituency, which houses about 28 magistrate courts, it houses the General Hospital in Ajeromi Ifelodun, it houses mosques and big churches. There are lots of business interests on that road and it is the only road that can take you out of Ajegunle if you want to take Mobil Road to link other parts. So, work is ongoing there. We have fire station that is coming up as we don’t have a single one in the entire Apapa and Ajeromi Ifelodun aside the one in Marine Beach.
What would be your message be to the people as regards ecological problems caused by their indiscriminate waste disposal, through which plastics and pet bottles find their ways into the canals, which constitute more environmental hazard?
Yes we will continue to educate them, my experience during the clearing of the drainages and canals was that most people have occupied where they were supposed to dispose their waste. They built shanties and some of them were demolished. Officers of the Ministry of the Environment had difficulty going through this process because we were with them all through. So we are educating them and they all know that if you dump refuse in the canals it will come back to your house. When the problem starts you will be the first person to suffer it, they won’t touch me because my house is a little bit far from the canal. We have been educating them about the dangers of the dumping refuse on the canal, but some of them listen, while some of them don’t listen.
What are the challenges of the committee you chair in the House and how have you been able to work round them?
Well it is a committee of the House and the sole responsibility belongs to Mr Speaker. He was just gracious enough to say ‘Lukmon go and chair that committee,’ and when I took up that responsibility I found out that there was no precedent of such standing committee in the House. It had always been part of one committee or the other, so I had to go through it, study a lot and define how to go about it. Since we started, we have been doing a yeo man’s job. At least, we are bringing all the agreements in the state under PPP to have it under one umbrella so that we will be able to speak to it and say Lagos State is worth maybe 1billion, 1trillion dollars in PPP.
That is the focus and that is the way we’ve been working and we have done one or two things since we came. We have done the optic fibre infrastructure, we call it Dig 1 Lagos Policy, that will bring all the mobile telephone networks under one umbrella and you can see all around the state that there is a lot of work going on with the PPP project of the state and we have so many. LASU hostels have communicated to us and we are working on that. LASU does not have hostels, so the PPP committee is working on agreement targeted at ensuring that the provision of hostel is achieved in no distant time so that investors can mobilise on the project. All PPP agreement must be brought to the House, we will scrutinise it to ensure that Lagosians get the best from its partners and also our partners get the best from us.