Hon. Oluseye Oladejo is the Publicity Secretary of the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview, he speaks on the Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led administration, local government autonomy and the opposition, among other issues. TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE reports
The Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration has been in place for over eight months now, what is your assessment of the government in respect to campaign promises?
There is no denial of the intellectual and institutional experience on those on board. A good number of people that made up the Lagos State government now have been around for some time and they are bound to shine. It also speaks about that passion to deliver on the various programmes of government. The Lagos State master plan, which is all encompassing, is taking into consideration all those issues that have been on ground since the inception of democracy. So, there is every reason to be hopeful. The blue light rail is back on board. Government is paying attention to the issue of transportation; there is more attention now as a result of the fallout of the partial ban and restriction on motorcycles and tricycles, and the rest of it. The waterways are being opened up. So, Lagosians should be rest assured that they have a government that is compassionate and determined to deliver on its mandate.
Many people are of the view that government has not taken Lagosians into consideration given the recent ban on motorcycles and tricycles. What is your take on that?
The Lagos State Traffic Law that imposed this partial restriction was passed in 2012; so it is not a new law. The Sanwo-Olu government is only trying to implement the law passed by the previous administration. The main explanation given by the government for this partial ban is issue of security of lives and property. Anytime a government gives reason for taking certain actions or passing certain laws as regards to the issue of security of lives and property, it is weighty and loaded. You will agree with me that at that level of governance, the government is in the business of balancing issues, development and occurrences within the system in order not to throw the citizens into panic. We cannot dismiss the issue of menace of motorcycle and tricycle riders in our state; we cannot close our eyes to insurgency, terrorism and kidnapping in our state.
Few days ago, a former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, during an event on insecurity, checkmating organised crimes held in Lagos, gave out a piece of information that there was a plan to bomb Lagos in 2013 and that they intercepted 17 suitcases of explosives. I was a member of that cabinet, but he didn’t share that information with us at that level. That should tell you that even a governor needs to manage information; if he has churned out that information, you can imagine the panic it will cause. So, we cannot really identify the exigencies that propelled the government to implement that law now. Even at that, government has shown compassion and understanding because the law itself says there should be a total ban, but it is now partial restriction. That shows understanding on part of the government.
But the risks are there and we all know these risks. We are all aware of the influx of okada riders to Lagos from states where they were earlier banned, and the sky didn’t fall when they were banned in Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Zamfara, Edo, Rivers and Abuja. So, when they were banned, most of them just put their bikes on trucks and trailers and moved to Lagos in droves having nowhere to sleep, having no place they can call their own. Some of them sleep on their motorcycles, kiosks and under bridges. All those things have implications to our security and environment. No responsible government will watch all these things happen and close its eyes.
But some are of the view that government is supposed to have provided a kind of palliatives for the citizens before implementing the ban…
I agree, but we should also be mindful of what could have informed the decision of government and the exigencies. Is it possible that government is trying to manage some sensitive information available about apparent and imminent threats to lives and properties of Lagosians? It is a painful decision, no doubt about that but it is better one takes difficult and hard decisions because if at the end of the day something terrible happens, we will still blame government for allowing things to happen. There are developments that we citizens might not be privy to, but someone at the level of government, the threats are real. Governance itself, especially, between the governor and the governed is a social contract by the virtue of voting him into power.
We have consented certain powers to him; that on our behalf, he should go ahead and take decisions on our wellbeing, welfare and security, among others. That is exactly what we are doing now and I want to appeal that we shouldn’t allow our emotions to boil over this and people should not because of this politicise the good intentions of government.
What are the measures being put in place by government as palliatives, considering that people are still trekking on daily basis and it appears not to be a solution? Gridlock on the roads has also increased…
My take on the gridlock is that it is possible that a lot of Lagosians were not using their vehicles when commercial motorcycles and tricycles were on the roads. So, a good number of people have started using their vehicles. That will definitely increase the number of vehicles on the roads. But government is addressing the issue of gridlock. Just about two weeks ago, over a thousand LASTMA officials passed out from training; those ones are in the process of being deployed to address the issue of gridlock. Since the rain stopped, government has embarked on massive construction and rehabilitation of our roads.
Apart from that, as soon as partial restriction was announced, government rolled out 65 buses, which are not enough and as a result of that government has also ordered for more and is in the process of clearing them, over 500 of them. It is work in progress; it is not perfect. Government is also opening up the waterways. Few weeks ago, eight more ferries were procured for LASFERRY and before the end of the year, government has promised that would be increase to 30. And the light blue rail is back on board too. We need to sacrifice because if we don’t, the implication could be a lot more far reaching than what we can imagine now.
The Lagos State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seems to be waking up from its slumber, looking at the way the party has been taking up the ruling party on some issues. Do you think PDP is a party that can give APC sleepless nights in Lagos State?
As far as I know, PDP is on life support generally and even worse in Lagos. Tell me who the key players are in PDP now. Majority of the key players, the leaders, followers are moving in droves to the ruling party, they have seen the light, they have seen clearly now and Nigerians have not forgotten their 16 years of locust, when they looted our common patrimony. Nigerians won’t forget that in a hurry. There are still problems, but the problems are being addressed. The problems should not be these enormous if they had done the needful when they had power and resources. So, I don’t see any magic and nobody should really pay attention to the unnecessary distractions from PDP members.
A lot of people believe that the country seems to be getting worse now because of insecurity and other issues. Why is APC still giving excuses five years into its government?
You cannot dismiss the very first foundation, the fundamental dislocation of those past five seasons we are talking about, but these issues are being addressed. Are we doing enough, that is visible, are we thriving in addressing these issues, yes we are, people still refer to the colonial era for some dislocation combination and for some marriage of convenience, how much more the recent holocaust called PDP.
As a former council chairman, what is your take on autonomy for local governments and do you think the councils are really performing their constitutional roles?
The whole idea of having local governments is to take governance very closer to the people. The belief is that, every problem like every politics is local; that people at the local level will know what their priorities are. Secondly, how did we come to the level that some of the powers possessed by local government were taken away? There were issues burdened on performance, burdened on delivery on the mandate of the people, even burdened on payment of salaries of local government staff. Are those issues being addressed? That is also germane. But it is also instructive that some state governments have been known to carry out some lawful deductions from local government allocations but the autonomy that we have now; the onus of control is on the various local government to show the country what they can do by getting the allocations directly; to show that there will be remarkable improvement in their various local governments as a result of this autonomy; to show government in those states where they believe they can only get allocation at the pleasure of the power that be, the governor, as it were in those states.
It is also important that local government and state at various levels should also be on the same page because definitely, there are some projects from my experience that are beyond what local government can handle; projects burdened on environment, road construction and the rest of that. They will always need the collaboration of the state government to be able to handle some of it. By and large, it is not just about autonomy, it is about what they are able to do with the autonomy without looking side of the need for collaboration. The issue too should not be unduly politicised because you will also find out that there are not many states where you have one party at the state level, another party at the local government level. Perhaps when we have that, we can really test the water of how much of the autonomy the local government will end up with it at the end of the day. But at the end of the day, it will still end up as a family discussion and they agree on how to go about the various environmental projects in their local governments or the state as it were. So, it is a balancing game; there is a need to leverage on the opportunity provided now but they cannot jettison the role that the state government will have to continuously play.