Sunday Magazine

Nigerian governors’re too powerful, says Ikuforuji

Hon Adeyemi Ikuforuji, an economist, lawyer and Speaker of the Seventh Lagos State House of Assembly is very disturbed about the state of insecurity in the country. In this interview with BIYI ADEGOROYE, he speaks about current political developments, the proposed National Convention of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), the declaration of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu for President in 2023 and other issues

 

 

How do you see the current ding dong over the National Convention of the All Progressives Congress?

 

I’m aware of the reaction of the people to the Executive of the APC, where some have argued that it has overstayed, but to me there is no cause for alarm. As a people I know we are always in hurry, in most cases even when we are going nowhere. You will see people rushing and at the end of the day, we get nothing out of the rushing. The point is we must understand the stance and style of the leader of the party, especially the President during this last lap of his administration. We should allow him to get things done, and get them done properly so that his legacy will outlive him.

 

Last Wednesday, Governor Babangana Zulum said two of his local governments are under the control of Boko Haram and they even conducted mass weddings for 300 of their fighters. In Plateau, 52 people were killed. How do you see the level of insecurity in the country?

 

Let me be honest with you even as an APC man, and I believe in my party and its capability to take Nigeria out of the woods, but to be candid the spate of insecurity in the country is of grave concern to any reasonable person who wishes Nigeria well. The daily cases of kidnapping, control of some villages and taxing of their residents in Zamfara and Sokoto states are very disturbing. I think a lot still needs to be done. We need to tackle this issue of insecurity and make it a priority. We need to tackle it headlong. Right now we are not doing enough about it. And there is a lot of sabotage from within the government about this. When you look at what is happening, you get worried. But the most electrifying news is that Nigeria is capable of doing a lot better in this regard. It was worse than this many years ago when the terrorists came as far as the Police Headquarters and the United Namore

 

tions office in Abuja. But with the efforts of this administration there has been a measure of improvement. You will recall that Nigeria months ago took delivery of six out of 12 recent A-29 Super Tucano Aircraft for this purpose. We need to up the game because we don’t want Nigeria to degenerate into the situation that now bedeviled many smaller countries on the continent.

 

A couple of days ago, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu briefed Mr. President about his desire to become president of Nigeria. What is your impression about this and what are his chances?

 

Well, first and foremost, we know the antecedents of this man. There are very few Nigerians alive today that fought for democracy in Nigeria as Asiwaju has done. Right from his days in the Senate, through the June 12 struggle, Asiwaju has been there. During the struggle, he stood his grounds, and fought with everything he had. He went into exile and founded, perhaps one of the most virile pro-democracy groups that fought military dictatorship in Nigeria. In 1999, some of us who know his background can recall that he never wanted to be governor of Lagos State, rather, he wanted to go to the Senate, but one thing led to another and he was persuaded to go for the governorship and he did. The rest as they say is history. Before his inauguration, he set up a Transition Committee made up of top professionals which fashioned out a blueprint for Lagos as Centre of Excellence. The Committee covered various sectors as education, health, transportation, infrastructure, environment and even sports. He established the Lagos State Waste Management Authority, (LAWMA) for waste management and disposal, Lagos Metropolitan Transport Authority, (LAMATA), introduced Land Used Charge, Mobile Health Clinic and created 37 local governments which were later converted to Local Council Development Authority, (LCDAs). Lagos turned out to become the number one state in this country under his leadership. He did not only bring what we call modernization into governance, he took the state to the envy of all other states in the country. Within eight years of his tenure, he established the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service and took the monthly internally generated revenue of the state from about N600 million to over N10 billion. Today that IGR has risen to N60 billion    more than the IGR of 20 states put together. He brought in people who were capable of helping him to build the economy of the state, which was the first of its kind in the country, where politicians went to headhunt professionals who can actually help to run the government. He brought in people like Wale Edun, Cardoso; he brought in the current Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo from the academia and people like Dele Alake who you know so well from the media. With these eggheads, he was able to make a solid omelet of good governance in Lagos. Today, there is no single state in Nigeria that can compete with Lagos in terms of revenue generation and development. In fact it has been said that Lagos is perhaps the sixth largest economy in Africa, all thanks to the political and economic ingenuity of Asiwaju. Lest I forget, he played an unprecedented role in the 2015 and 2019 election in the country which culminated in the victory of the APC at the national level such that the party even produced a large majority of seats and produced the leadership of the National Assembly.

 

Now, what are his chances from the primaries?

 

Well, if nothing at all, at least you will give it to him. He is a great political strategist. When it comes to political strategy, he is a magician and it would not surprise me, despite the side noise here and there if he picks the presidential ticket of the APC on a platter of gold.

 

What do you mean by side noise? Are you referring perhaps to rumours that Professor Osinbajo and others are likely to contest for the ticket too?

 

Look, this is democracy and even Asiwaju as a believer in the democratic tenets would not ask anyone not to contest against him. But what we are saying is that people are talking here and there that he is a kingmaker and should remain so. But what is wrong if a kingmaker wants to become the king? I know he is an example of what an administrator should be. He made Lagos a shining example And people also complain about his age. In terms of age, you know that the Nigerian Constitution which is molded after that of the United States is clear, and today, how old is Joe Biden, the President of the United States? He is close to 80. And the previous Democrat President of the United States was the young Barak Obama. What I’m trying to say is that age has nothing to do with it, but how qualified, how capable, how smart and what are the antecedents of the particular candidate? Let us leave aside the issue of age and move into the election.

 

What about the issue of health? You can recall how many times President Buhari traveled abroad for medical treatments. People are saying Asiwaju is not in the best of health?

 

I will like to be spiritual about that. In my language, there is a saying that Oku nsukun oku. The dead are crying over the dead. Who is the doctor who said Tinubu is not in the best of health to be President of Nigeria? We have people who are younger who appear healthy but death came calling. Have we not had people that long before the election of President Buhari complained about his health? Even about three months into his presidency, everybody thought he would not come back from foreign medical trip but today he looks healthier than many who are far younger than him. So I don’t know where this issue of ill-health is coming from. Is it because he has issues with his legs recently and he has since been treated and returned to the country?

 

The elections are coming close, and looking at the level of security and even the economy. Don’t you think the Peoples Democratic Party can exploit these failures?

 

It is true that people easily forget, but I don’t think Nigerians are not smart enough to have forgotten the 16 years of PDP in this country. In the 16 years of PDP what did they do to the country? What legacy did they leave behind? During their tenure, Nigeria had the highest revenue and realised so much from sales of crude oil. What did they do with it? They led us to the situation we are in now. Sometimes  people would say ‘we knew we had a problem and that was why we voted out PDP; you are supposed to solve the problem.’ Yes we know we were voted to solve the problems but the problems created in 16 years cannot be solved in six or seven years. PDP is not an alternative and we all know this and if we really want to be honest about it, look at the figures. Look at the facts on the ground. Look at the level of infrastructural development this government has carried out within these six years. It is unprecedented. The Buhari administration has completed several roads and still has hundreds on-going ones across the country. These include the Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki Expressway, a vital economic gateway and the backbone of our import and export business. Other projects include the Second Niger Bridge which started in 2018, and completion is scheduled for this year. We also have There is also the 375km Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway, the reconstruction of  the Benin – Ofusu – Ore – Ajebandele – Shagamu Expressway; the Enugu- Port Harcourt Expressway, and the Kano-Maiduguri Expressways. The Loko-Oweto Bridge, linking Benue and Nasarawa States, an important interstate project started by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, is being completed by President Buhari. Do you want Nigerians to go back to the years of locust? No. we will not go back there and I know that Nigerians are wiser.

 

As a former Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, how do you see the relationship between the National Assembly and the Executive, because the latter is said to be a rubber stamp assembly, and by the same token, how do you see the state assemblies as well?

 

To be honest with you, I don’t agree with you that the National Assembly is a rubber stamp assembly to the Executive. We do know of some decisions that were taken by the National Assembly in the exercise of its constitutional powers. The National Assembly should work interdependently with the Executive if we must move the nation forward. Yes, there have been few cases where the National Assembly has bent to the demands or requests of the Executive, but that is not enough reason to say that the National Assembly is a rubber stamp. I have even seen situations where the Executive wanted things this way and the National Assembly said ‘no.’ We have had cases like that and we will continue to have such. The most important thing is that the National Assembly should exercise its constitutional powers at all times. On the other hand, I still don’t know what we are going to do about the state assemblies across the nation. You and I know that if there is any group whose power appears unchecked and overbearing over all others in this country it is nothing but the Nigerian governors. The governors are just too powerful, and of course, I believe that some of the reasons are responsible for the relative weakness of the state assemblies Hon Adeyemi Ikuforuji, an economist, lawyer and Speaker of the Seventh Lagos State House of Assembly is very disturbed about the state of insecurity in the country. In this interview with BIYI ADEGOROYE, he speaks about current political developments, the proposed National Convention of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), the declaration of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu for President in 2023 and other issues across the nation. It is one of the reasons the National Assembly passed the Act on financial autonomy for the state assemblies and local governments throughout the country, so that they would be free to exercise their constitutional powers. But I think we need to do more to empower the state assemblies and remove them from the stranglehold of state governors.

 

What are your expectations for the Ekiti and Oyo state governorship elections?

 

I don’t see any major issue in both states for the APC in those states. In Osun State, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola is doing well and he is so loved by the electorate. Initially most people did not see the governor as a top politician that was capable of delivering dividends of democracy as much as he has done in the last three years or so. But I think the people of Osun will definitely give him a second term. I am aware of the friction between him and the former governor, but the fact is that the APC Reconciliation Committee has visited the state and they are addressing the issues. The Peoples Democratic Party cannot give us any trouble there. In Ekiti State, the second coming of Governor Kayode Fayemi has been very beneficial to the people of the state. He has done really well so far such that he has been making efforts to vie for the presidency of the country. Look at the caliber of aspirants collecting nomination forms in the state and you will also agree with me that the APC has highly qualified aspirants to govern the state. You are also aware of the internal wrangling in the PDP in the state. So to me the governorship election will be a work over for the APC this year.

 

What is the next thing for you in politics?

 

That is a very good question. I cannot say categorically what is next for me now, but I can tell you that I will disclose it as time goes by.

 

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