Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola has drawn flaks from some quarters over the recent demolition in Makoko. But when the THISDAY Board of Editors fielded questions with him last Tuesday at the Government House, Alausa, Ikeja, he took his time to explain in great details what informed the government's action and the rehabilitation plans for genuine inhabitants of Makoko, who still chose to live on water. The governor also took questions on the taxes in Lagos, new traffic laws, his plan for water transportation and light rail project, legacy he intends to bequeath on the state, volteface by Northern Governors on state police and other sundry issues. THISDAY MD Eniola Belloled the team of editors, which included Olusegun Adeniyi, Tunde Rahman, Laurence Aniand Olawale Olaleye, to engage Governor Fashola. The interview was the second in the series - FACE TIME WITH THE BOARD OF EDITORS -, the first being the interface with the Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji...
It's close to six years now since your administration has been on the saddle with the slogan, Eko oni Baje slogan. Why this slogan and what areas would you say you have satisfied "Eko oni Baje" and the areas you've not?
Well, I think the slogan was, perhaps, catchy at the time. I was also relatively new to the political soapbox but one thing that struck me about that was the purpose for which the slogan could be connected, which is to make Lagos better. A lot of people have sought to translate it but I see a translation that says: "Lagos, you must prosper". And in prospering it means that Lagos must come to terms with the responsibility to address the daily human problems and challenges. About whether I am satisfied, I will never be satisfied until I leave because it is a job on which you will never be satisfied. In some states and in other parts of the world, we have seen governments regret. And I say that I speak clearly the minds of Lagosians that value has been added to what we met, and like I always say, I want whoever that succeeds me to surpass what I have done.
Are there no areas you think you have not done what you really wanted to do or the way you expected it to be?
Perhaps, there is a very little area of our commitments that we have not added value. As I said, it is an ongoing process and you must conceptualise assessment or performance. For example, if you cook a pot of soup for 80 million people and you have 21 million guests, can they all be satisfied? Some people are not going to eat. I just told you now that we are coming from a programme to graduate over 6000 trainees of our Technical and Vocational Educational Institute for young people and those are the people who matter most. We have a very high population looking for wealth. When I became governor, the story was that this economy had been taken over in terms of artisanal trade by Ghanaians and Togolese but there is a paradigm shift today. We've unleashed 6,000 well-trained people; we have also created both local and international affiliation for the five schools that we are running. Work is in progress. So, for me, it is not just to graduate those kids but we will also ensure that they are fully employed. Graduating is one hand, we must also continue, for example, to build more bridges, more schools, more hospitals to increase the performance of our budget because that is the only way I can do the work.
Now, let me hit your question. In the area of water transportation, if I knew then what I know now, our promises would have been much more modest. People used to say why don't we use water transportation? I think it is perhaps more difficult than road transportation. The natural asset is there; water. But most of the lagoons are silted and you can see it. So, you have to build the road under water by dredging the lagoon and you have to also put beacons and signals in the waterways; you have to train people the way we have drivers' institute to train drivers on road. You need to adopt protocol that is called SOLAS, Safety of Life and Sea to avoid coalition, accident and all of that.
I did not know all these before but we are making progress now. We now have water guard corps; we have Water Transport Agency (WTA), from a few thousand people when we started, we are running a few million and more and it is increasing. We are waiting for the partnership to mature. So, we are working.
The issue of flooding is a more difficult thing in many parts of the world to the extent that people die as a result of flooding, and Lagos is not an exception. So, what measures are you taking now to combat it and how far have you gone?
Perhaps, the place to start is to say that we are in a very deep sympathy with all of the victims of flooding; those who lost property and most especially, those who lost lives. But in order to contextualise our assessment on how well we have worked and how much better we can do, it is important to understand that within the Nigerian household, we are the state closest to sea. We are the lowest in terms of altitude to the sea level and we are the ones predicted to have the highest rainfall. The fact that we have not suffered debilitating casualty is simply because our people have worked hard and our people have responded to the early advocacy and the continuous advocacy.
The of flooding in coastal areas and non-coastal areas as a result of global warming, rising sea-level, melting of the arctic and ice cap is a reality now. So, we had better decided that we want to adapt and respond. Just recently in a council meeting, we talked about measures so that ours will not be like this island that I am trying to remember its name- they virtually lost all their lands and the whole nation is moving to Senegal. There is another island where they are preparing oxygen tanks and preparing to adapt to living under water.
In essence, we must give credit to the ministry of environment and other collaborating ministries because it's an inter-departmental work. There is more work to do because I don't know if we are out of our worst rain cycle. The predictions are not accurate anymore. July, we should have had one of the worst rains and gone into August break, I would not be surprised if the August break becomes the August rain. So far, so good, if you go from end to end, you will find one thing and this is the defining thing; our solutions are ready.
Many years ago, Idi Araba was perhaps the worst example of flooding in Lagos even before the advent of global warming. Now, it's gone. It evaporates. We worked there and solved the problem. Before we had climate change, if we had 30 minutes rain, Idi Araba would be flooded but now if we have 16 hours rain, we won't hear complaints from the people there. I don't know the last time you went there but we tackled the drainage problem up to Ilasamanja. But that is only one. Last year, we had problems in Aringbanla in Agege and so, we saw a problem and solved it. The problem did not recall this year.
We had similar problems in Alpha Beach and when we finished our work in that side, we had 11 drainages to deflate from that side to the lagoon side and we have done about five and it has made an impact. The severity of last year's rain is not the same although a new problem has now emerged; Alpha Beach has now become the eye of the storm for coastal erosion from the Atlantic and we have to find the solution like we did for Bar Beach to that ecological problem.
When we see a problem we solve it because problems will never end when it ends we lose our relevance. Then we should all go home because that is the reason we are here. So, once we see the problem, we go there, look at it and find a solution and we move on. It is a continuous thing and of course all of us have to adapt because this is a time of great changes in the history of our common humanity. Many things are happening but I believe that in the next five to 10 years, we will have the most defining rapidity of change we will see in human cycle. I hope that we all survive it.
Development is also about human capital. Right now, there is an issue in Makoko. It is true you want to develop Makoko but there are people living there who are now been sent away from a place they know as home. Is that also governance?
I think first of all, your conclusion is extreme. Sent away from where? And what is the number? Have you taken a population index? Now, let us categorise those who harbour in Makoko and Oko-Baba. They are two separate communities harbouring that stretch of land. For the Oko-Baba people, we have an agreement in place. We tried to reach both communities, we held meetings with them to move them successfully but there are lessons to be learned from that. This time round, we have worked with them in last four years. Relocation is not something you jump into without a plan. The relocation then suffered some project management challenges. I have learnt from that. Luckily, I was a member of the government at the time. We are making progress; we are relocating them to a place called Agbowa where they can do their business. This year alone, we've committed N2billion to that project.
In that community, there are different occupations: those who bring the logs, those who sell it and those who retail it. Now, the people who bring the logs are the people we are talking to directly. And they said they are ready to leave. Our position is that we cannot force them. We left the Makoko people so that if they see change, they will join. But as it is, they are expanding toward the Third Mainland Bridge and that is a major transport infrastructure and I can't put that bridge at risk. That's one. That was why I said, your conclusion was extreme.
The people who are there, we are not disturbing them but we will not allow that settlement to expand beyond what we have accepted. Before I go on, one of the things we also considered was that even if these people decided not to leave, can we help re-order them to make their lives more valuable and fulfilling if they chose to live on water? Because we understand that the Ilaje people are adaptable to water. Our Ministry of Physical Planning is working on a project as Plan B. Incase they chose not to leave, we'll make that place a tourist destination. If the place was in Kenya, Ghana or Zambia we will pay money to go and see it but because it is here, some people take delight in deriding it while some people take delight in escalating it as an instrument of government's failure.
The real reason they cannot expand is that the lagoon drains all of the floods in Yaba, Onike, Iwaya, Akoka, Bariga, Somolu, Oworonsoki and the water from Ikorodu and Ajegunle when we had that flood. They all go straight to that lagoon. That is our final drain in Lagos. All those gutter are just channels and people must understand this. So, they are blocking the drainage by building on it. They have not done anything different from what people have done on the primary channels in the city and if those ones go as we all agree they should go, they have to go, and they can't expand. Many canals drain in the same lagoon and as they continue to shrink that lagoon, they are shrinking its capacity to discharge those water and flood water. That is why we are intervening. That is the most important reason.
The fact that the government plans to develop the area is good thinking because the people there are living inhuman lives. But is it true that it is a World Bank-Assisted programme?
Well, I am not aware of any such assistance and this is very important. There are a lot of people- I must say with deep regret- taking advantage of these people. People are taking grants in their name and it is not getting to the people. These are the things we are working to expose. So, as long as that place exists, it is of benefit to them. I don't know of any World Bank grant and we have standing relationship with the World Bank on so many things. On waste management, on physical planning, on education and even the programme I came from is also being sponsored by World Bank. But I am not aware if the World Bank grants exist but I will like to see if it exists.
I think a point must also be made that there are many little solutions that we are looking at. There is a property we just acquired in Makoko that I said even if these people chose to live in water, let's build a first-class school where they can go to, and we are working on it. It took us a while to even get the land. From the court case we had to settle, to paying compensation and all of that. We have our plans for them, we are not oblivious of their problem but sometimes when we see a problem, we go in and try to understand it and you won't see our impact till we solve it. There are many solutions we are looking at there.
We are also planning how we can provide clean and potable water there. There is another risk there; there are lots of illegal immigrants from the west coast of Africa. People who have no papers, people who cannot be identified. I understand that the Ilaje people are our people. But despite our free ECOWAS movement, you must have papers while are you here. We must be able to track you and those are the people who are increasing the number there, bringing more people from Cameroon, from Republic of Benin, from Togo and nobody is looking at that.
There is this belief that living in Lagos is very expensive because of the high taxes you have to pay. How true is this?
Perhaps, the general response is to say that any global agglomeration like Lagos creates the challenges of economic competition that escalates the cost of living generally. The cost of living in Lagos will of necessity probably be higher than the cost of living in Ibadan while Ibadan may be higher than Ekiti as Abuja is higher than both of them and as Port Harcourt may become the echo distance. As London will be higher than Portsmouth, Accra would probably be higher than Kumasi. It must exist that way. Now, I have asked every person who have made this argument to show me by numbers. It is perception and unfortunately I don't disagree with the perception but it is far from reality. Show me by number how the taxes have increased. First of all, the tax that the Lagos State government collects is the taxes of the employees of companies and of government in Lagos State but the law that places that tax is a federal law. The Personal Income Tax Act in 1960 but there was amendment in the 2011 Act and indeed that 2011 Act has given more relief to certain class of citizens. What we have insisted on is that if you have a job, we must collect tax from you and using our population, we are 21 million now. If you use global demography, we have people that are 65 and above who are not working, the women and children, the rate of unemployment, the under 18 who are not in the employable bracket, if you use this standard demography and apply it to our population, you find out that we have about 8 million people who are employed and it is only about 3 million of them that are paying tax, when it is supposed to be about one-third of them. Something is wrong!
In a democracy, the ultimate test of the legitimacy of a government is the capacity to collect taxes. I have no apologies to every tax that legitimately belongs to this government. We are dying from corruption - from N600 million when my predecessor took office to N7 billion when he left, now, it is about N16 billion. That money did not just come overnight; it has been in people's pockets to the detriment of all of us and that is the money they use to do big man. That is the money some of them use for CSR and that is why I said any company that wants to do CSR must first show me its tax compliance because you cannot deny me tax and then say you are donating borehole to me.
The most successful government in the history of Nigeria is the government of Obafemi Awolowo in Western Region, which was delivered on taxation. They fought him. Free education was funded by taxes for those who don't know. He first said it was free education and the cocoa farmers fought him that he was taking away their labour from the farm. Then, after he survived it, he now told them that you are going to pay tax. Women rioted and 40 years after that is the period of prosperity we still came to. We pay the lowest tax rate in the whole sub-region; Ghana is about 31 per cent. If you move to Europe, they are paying taxes as high as 43 per cent in Spain (income tax). I was speaking to one of our professional footballers the other day; he said they remove 50 per cent tax when I get my 70 thousand pound a week.
We have three levels of government, the state, the federal and the local government, and each one of them has its responsibility to the citizenry according to the constitution and the only way they can fund it is by collecting taxes. The federal government collects all of the petroleum tax, the petroleum profit tax and charges from port. They made N242 billion just this year from Tincan and Apapa Ports, not one kobo came to Lagos and yet, those trailers are the ones reducing the life span of our roads. The local governments too have their own responsibilities. They are in charge of sanitation, primary education, primary health care, where are they going to get the funds from?
All of us have to contribute money. We take bank loan because we have other things we are servicing from the IGR. For example, this month, we got about N8 billion and the salary base is about N6.5 billion. It was N2.1 billion when I became governor in 2007. The minimum wages, all sorts of wages, doctors' CONMESS, that is the environment and then, add that to the depreciation we have seen. We use to buy dollar at N118 when I became a governor but it is now N160. That is the kind of environment we are working in. If you have to fuel, the cost of petrol has gone up to N97 and we have operating vehicles too and people want the cost of governance to come down but they don't want government to borrow. They say we have borrowed too much. So, now if I am going out, I have to reduce my deficit, so that my successor does not take too much of a burden to kick off. These are the benefits that you have to balance.
On transportation: one, are you cashing in on the opportunity created by the partial closure of the Third Mainland Bridge; two, are there still plans for the Fourth Mainland Bridge. Three, how far have you gone with light rail project?
Let me say that we have a plan which I had shared before. We are building three jetties across that Lagos Lagoon; one at Ikorodu, another one at Badore and one other one. Ikorodu and that of Badore are almost finished but the triangle is not complete if we don't finish all of them, and the way we designed them, each of them has car parks where our BRT buses and taxis will be. But we won't be stampeded until our plans are ready.
On the third mainland bridge problem, what I quickly want to say is that, I think we have exacerbated the anxiety beyond the reality. We are maintaining the bridge and that is a federal government asset and we must be thankful that, at least, they are doing it something. They did four joints in 2008 and now they have come back to come and do the eight. By the time they did the four joints, Western Avenue was under construction and Carter Bridge was very difficult to pass, Agege Motor Road was blocked down at that time and you hardly could pass through Oshodi. But now Oshodi is passable, Western Avenue is done, Carter Bridge is free. I think people should just calm down and let the process go on because we can't have maintenance without discomfort. In terms of the light rail, the programme is still on but has been challenged by finances. The equipment and the manpower are there. But we are moving only as our finances can take us.
For the fourth mainland bridge, it is still on the table. It's supposed to be financed by private equity but of course, it suffered the global finance challenges and crisis. That is why it is important to keep an existing conception viable and going and those are reasons we stood by our partners in the Lekki-Epe corridor with their concession because if there is one bad news about one concession, all of them will go and you won't have a fourth mainland bridge anymore. Even the third mainland bridge was built by the federal government and now we are looking at the fourth and even a fifth mainland bridge.
There were issues between the Lagos and the Ogun State governments about those who live in Ogun State, in Akute, Alagbole, etc and paying taxes to the Lagos State Government. Has this been fully resolved?
There are also people who live in Lagos State that also pay taxes to Ogun State Government. There are border issues, in fact, he (Governor Ibikunle Amosun) was on the phone with me this morning. We are working to resolve it. We have set up inter-governmental committees at both levels to be chaired by the deputy governors of both states and progress has been made in some places and it is something that will be resolved. There is a property that is in Lagos State but Ogun State is charging taxes on it and it was taken to court but we have resolved that and that is progress and there will be more.
It is an ongoing process. There are a lot of things this institution has neglected to do, it is probably all coming out now when you have governors who want to solve problems.
The bill you just signed into law on traffic regulation in the state prescribes stringent penalties for offenders and people are already complaining about the law. What really is driving these new laws since we have some traffic laws in place already?
Who is complaining? Is that person complaining trying to drive on the one-way lane? It is not a new traffic law. Transportation is one of the major things which if you get right, life will be a lot better. We have talked about waterways; we have talked about the fourth mainland bridge and many others. You can't build your way out of congestion. There is congestion in London, there is congestion in Accra and there is also congestion in Abuja. Going to meeting in Abuja from my lodge to the Villa used to take me 10 minutes, so, I'll leave home 15 minutes before my meeting and get there five minutes before the meeting. But now, for a 9am meeting, I must leave home at 8:30am because congestion has increased.
You can build all the highways, the bridges, if people misbehave on them, they won't serve the purpose. I told you how we got the solution to Oshodi. We were trying to build a bridge where people could pass but we now realised that look, why are we avoiding solving the problems down there? People are trading on the road and that was the problem. Remove the traders and movement will be free. So, if we had built that bridge that probably would have cost N16 billion and there will still be congestion. So, nothing that has happened here that has happened without the law. If people do the right thing, there won't be problem.
Now, there are so many traffic laws over the years and this has been a major problem for Nigeria, particularly Lagos State. People are not complaining about that and now, why are you complaining about the management strategy to harmonise all our laws into one place. We see people deliberately driving against traffic. We have gone to the elected representatives of the people, 40 of them. This is the people's law and not my law. This is the law made by their representatives in all the 40 constituencies in Lagos with a public hearing; it is not a decree. It is for me to assent to what the people said they want.
If you listened to the radio this morning, almost all the people that called said ban Okada. It is not me. I am here to represent the people. If the majority of the opinion is that this is what the people want. It's either you do it or you leave it. Now, back to the law; first of all, it is not that when you drive one-way and you are arrested, you are going straight to prison, no. You are going to court. It may well be that you will be able to establish your defence in court. It is also true that you are presumed innocent until you are found guilty. It is either we are ready to live by laws or must be ready for a total collapse. The only thing that can protect is our laws, and if you look at civilisations that have collapsed, they abandoned law.
The great democracies, great societies, the Asian Tigers were able to be where they are today because of their laws. The biggest corruption is the corruption on the highway. Those that built the cars said drive them like this, and you want to drive them against one another. No, we won't stand for that and that is the only way the state can be sustainable. It is our responsibility to ensure that the law is not used to oppress or intimidate the people. We hold ourselves and our officers accountable and I have told the Attorney-General and he has done well defending Lagos. Now is to prosecute offenders. That is the kind of Attorney-General I need now in our society. That is what is missing between us and those other places we want to be like? You can't drive against traffic in United Kingdom, it is inconceivable. Difficult time, we have seen it encroaching and before it becomes irreversible as government, we have the responsibility to act.
The problem really is how to enforce laws because the laws have always been there. But there is the feeling that Lagos has always had its way with the judiciary?
I think we should not be afraid to confront change. I think, we have to be optimistic and every success brings on new problems and we must be ready to engage with the problems when they come. First of all, Lagos judiciary is a judiciary that we can at least say has done well and there will always be room for improvement. Second, I think that even in the best society, there are abusers. There are people who abuse security agents, you see a police man being beaten. It happens. The responsibility of society is to reduce those incidences and punish those who do it. It is my Attorney-General who used to go and prosecute LASTMA officials that we caught extorting money.
We don't send lawyers, the Attorney-General must go while the Commissioner for Transport must go and give evidence to show how serious we are because once you wear that uniform it is an authority of the state, and you cannot use it for anything less than honourable. You may not have the capacity to catch everybody but once we catch you, we will give you the option, depending on if you are convicted but you must be convicted. If I catch a prominent person and I put him in a famous roundabout and I have him there to pass traffic for five weeks. He won't go to work and we'll show him on LTV every day. The moment you finish that, you will change. It is not just to send people to jail, you will go to driving school.
Those are part of the options the magistrate would have. All we want is voluntary compliance because the road is an asset. If we all share it in reasonable measure, it will serve its purpose for us. You can't stop in the traffic and you are buying pepper, cutlass and you will expect traffic to move. Now, if the traffic doesn't move, it means that you spend more time in traffic and lose more money. But if we improve on that, it will have a concomitant effect on how much it costs to deliver a basket of tomatoes to house from Mile 12 because it is transportation cost- fuel time that escalates that cost of living you have alluded to.
There is this general belief that any case that is taken to Lagos State Court the state government wins. They are saying that the state is in control of the judiciary. Bode George used to put it this way that he was arrested for alleged corruption and taken to Lagos State Court and was jailed.
The question to ask is; did he commit a crime? That's the question to ask, it doesn't matter the court you were jailed in. Another question to ask is, when persecuted was it us or the federal government? If they chose to come to our court because of the reputation of our court, that can be anybody's problem. I repeat the question to ask is not who jailed you or in which court you were jailed but did he do something wrong?
Perhaps, to make a point, whether it is the state court or in the federal courts, judgements have been given in our favour and against us and we have complied. We have won in Supreme Court which is more less a federal court for whole federation, we have won in the Court of Appeal and we have lost there, we have lost in the state court and we also lost in a federal court and we have complied. The judgement we think we are not happy about, if we think it is necessary to appeal, we appeal. There are cases even in our own court that we think shouldn't go for trial, we'll settle it. In fact, we have been very lucky; our Attorney-General will always tell you the truth. He will tell you that governor, we don't have a defence here, I think you have to submit to judgement and pay compensation. If I see, I will sign up and surrender. Recently they took us to court over an issue between LASTMA and Okada and the judge ruled against us and many people didn't know and the judge was my classmate.
But it doesn't really matter. We met at a dinner and people were surprised that we were laughing. So, those impressions are unfounded and I think that they give no credit to our judges who are fair-minded and who also understand their role as the third arm of government. The progressive judicial work that helps the society is also part of the function of the judge. You must not just be a lawyer, you also be a social engineer. I remember one case where after an investment of over N12 billion, some people now went to court to claim that they were the owners. And you expect that judge to stop that business that has employed over a thousand people, the construction process that took about four to five years broad day light. So, if those are cited as an example, will you give that kind of judgement?
It seems the LSDPC has deviated from its main responsibility of delivering houses to the masses and is now a money-making body and when it does create houses its always beyond the reach of the masses. What is the approximate number of houses you think is ideal for Lagos State because it appears the state is not building enough for the masses?
You have come to one conclusion you have not supported and you are playing the devil's advocate. I think we must come to terms with the realities of our economy. When LSPDC was used as a vehicle to deliver housing during Alhaji Jakande's time, naira was stronger than the dollar. So, the houses were delivered at the rate of N1,000 which was less than $1,000.
So for that $1, I need N160 to buy one. Look at the building material components, iron rod mostly imported. Now, if we go to the bank to borrow money, that is public trust, it is your money. So, if you pay me a tax of N1, as trustee of that tax I put in any investment, the minimum I owe you is to return that money and not to return it as less.
Now, we don't control the tariffs, we don't control the exchange rate, we don't control the import duty, it is what we get from the source that we can sell and those are the major inputs in the housing market. I don't know how many houses as you said but we are looking at a million homes. It is not just building houses but building houses in a sustainable way and that is what the state wants to achieve. We have settled for a first floor design including the ground floor and on each floor we have one bedroom that is about 65 metres, the two bedroom apartment that is about 50, 70 and 100 square metres. Why did we do that? We wanted to integrate our society.
We want the young graduates to be able to live with the middle level and meet the higher level civil servants so that the society can mix together; so people can cross low level and migrate to middle class, the way other societies have done and as you move on you can change from one bedroom to two bedroom and to three bedroom and when you graduate there you can move on. Currently, we are building in Agbowa, Ilupeju, Mushin, Igando, Omole, Magodo, Surulere and others. We are all over the places, just rounding up because once we open up, we want to be able to sustain the supply. We want to live a model that is workable long after we had left.
The Eko Atlantic project is believed to have contributed to the problem of flooding in Lagos. Has the project kicked off?
Of course it has commenced and let me tell you what it is about. It is about reclaiming land that the sea took away; it is not reclaiming land in addition to what we have. The shore line of the Bar Beach was not where it was when I was in charge. It was about two kilometres or more. Where they built Apapa Port so that vehicle could sail into the port. So, they disrupted the natural flow of the Atlantic. First of all, that project is going to re-establish that. Over the years, the natural boundary and the map of Nigeria that you see is not accurate because the sea has stolen part of it. So, what we are doing is to go and take back from the sea what it stole and then protect the project that we called the world globes.
If you go to that place, you will be very proud of what we have done there. That place was not motorable in 2004 when the President of Nigeria visited the place. Not only that, all the banks that left the place have all come back, hotels that were not there are back. So, it was eminently sensible to do that project. Go and ask the people there how high flood used to be there but now it has gone. So, those that are saying it is the project that is causing the problem of flooding speak out of ignorance. That project is a multi-billion naira project. The engineering firm in charge of it is one of the best in the world.
Lagos had been relatively safe for some time. But recent developments in the state have shown that Lagos is no longer what it used to be in terms of security. And then, look at this side-by-side the issue of state police and the recent disagreement between the Northern and Southern governors over state police.
First of all I think it is perhaps unfair to say that and it is unfortunate that those incidents happened. They defined work that we still have to do. What I say about security is that we have to be right all the time but criminals have to be right only once. The reality is that sometimes it is when the crime comes closer home that we will recognise that. There are other people who are victims in other parts. The shooting of The Sun Editor, Steve Nwosu is very unfortunate and I know that it touched the media family but those are the metaphors for the reality of where we come from, the continent where guns are cheaper than food. There is no sufficient gun control. Can you say that the most advanced democracy, the military power house of the world with its swags has lost control when somebody goes into a cinema in Colorado and begins to shoot people or the guy from Norway that did similar thing?
There is no crime-free society and I don't know any nation that has disbanded its police and said yes we have achieved it. It is a continuous effort and you will have events that challenge you often times, also because of the personality. Personality shouldn't make a difference. It should be safe city for everybody, the high and the low. All I want to say about that is that it goes back to law and order. You will not have big crimes if you address small crimes. It is what I called the broken window theory. When window glass cracks in the house and you did not fix it, it will expose the wooden frame to the element, it will begin to rot and if you still did not fix it, it will spread to the main structure of the house and expose the iron rod and the supports and when it corrodes, that house will go down.
Most of those people who drive are normally on Paraga, Alomo and 77. We go to motor parks sometimes going to talk to them about abuse. That law is not an isolated thing. We are coming with things you cannot do in our parks and everybody must play ball. Selling Indian hemp close to your house is not a problem to you, one day they will come and attack you if you close your eyes to it and that is where they will come and deposit guns. So, all of us must go back to the law and order page. If you go to my inaugural address on re-election, law and order was the theme of my address. So, we are now on our take-off point to deliver on that commitment because no infrastructural that we build will endure without law and order.
In terms of state police, I think we'll do ourselves great disservice. At the last constitutional amendment exercise, I sent them a letter that it was great disservice to tax-payers to the extent that it did not deliver state police and to the extent that it did not decentralise distribution of power but focussed only on electoral reforms. This time round it won't get any value if there is no state police.
On report credited to the Northern Governors' Forum, I cannot make a comment because first of all, I want to speak to them and find out what was their reason. It may be a reason that hasn't been addressed and if it is addressed, their position can change because I know they are committed to security as we are. It is a process of engagement to know what their fears are. But my position on the state police is that it is eminently sensible because if you have a Federal university, a federal legislature, a federal judiciary and central police and you have state universities, state House of Assembly, state judiciary, then you don't have state police, to me it doesn't make sense. If you open our constitution, you'll see Federal executive, state executive, National Assembly, state House of Assembly, you will see federal and state judiciary and the only thing you will see is the final control, the police. So, how do you enforce laws when you don't have the law enforcement capacity? All sorts of arguments have been made, they said it will be abused and let us assume that it is true that 36 of us (governors) are irresponsible, is our irresponsibility more dangerous than the loss of lives? The constitution says that we should protect lives and property. Now, let us go back, that we use to have this regional police before and it was said to have been abused. So, there was a problem at the time.
Government, at a time, like you and I, changed it about 40 years ago and decided to call it a central police because they wanted to solve a problem. Now, there is a new problem 40 years later, if we change it and it does not work for us we will change it again. We cannot continue to do the same thing and expect a different result, it is technical insanity. So, they are ruling us with the decision taken 40 to 50 years ago and we are afraid that Fashola is going to use it for election.
What is the value of election any way if it can't protect my life and life of the people who elected me? And we are seeing clear results as we go on further. I won by 83 per cent of the vote cast here because of the work that we did and we will do more. Edo Governor won with about 75 per cent of the votes cast after he was de-populated. So, the game is changing.
What is the update on Apapa traffic control and regeneration plan?
On Apapa traffic, we are making progress. It was long but it was a planning period. We don't just jump in because there is a problem. We spent about two and half years planning how to approach it because we didn't know where it was coming from. That's how long it takes sometimes to plan. We did not jump to Oshodi overnight. We are in Obalenda now, where we are doing regeneration. We did not just jump there overnight, we spent so much time. We sent people there for reports.
We spent several hours in this Executive Council checking the photograph slide after slide. Now, we have a plan, we know what we need to do. It is going to cost us a lot of money to rehabilitate that place. The figure we are seeing is about N11billion to make that place workable at the moment but there is a lot of transport asset, road network, rail infrastructure that joins at Tejuoso to take cargo out, so that we can stop using trailers.
But that would be a long journey?
It is not a long journey, if we have the kind of money we expect we will do it. I am planning to take memo to the National Executive Council because this is a national economic problem. It affects our ports. Apapa Industrial Estate is first industrial in the whole of this country. But to clear that place cost me over N100million; renting trucks, bulldozers, fuel, clearing, paying labour and nobody has given me back the money. Now, maintaining peace there, we need 10 patrol vehicles and we are paying monthly allowance to police men that are maintaining law and order there. That is why the trailer people have not gone back.
In three years time, your tenure would be over, what legacy do you want to put in place, that you would like to look back and point at when you live. Again after putting down such a legacy, you need to ensure its nurtured, are you working on picking your own successor, the same way your predecessor did with your choice?
America always elects its president for four years but the President ends up serving them for three years because he spends his first year learning how Washington works and who is important to Washington. He spends his second and third year trying to govern if they let him and the last year for election. But I believe that Lagosians elected a governor for four years and I have done my best to ensure that they get four years service. So, in answer to your question for me, history will define what my legacy will be. My role here is simple: to improve the situation I found so that my successor can get started and continue from where I stopped and not starting from where I started. For me, this is part of the journey of life. Do your best as best as you can give in the circumstance you find yourself and move on. So, there is no personal legacy. This is just another job for me like many other jobs I have done in my life. Simple philosophy always says add value to what you do and move on. It's the way I did my job.
What about your successor?
I am too busy at this time. You don't go and start knocking the door to look for successor. Nobody has shown up yet. It means they still recognise that there is still a governor.
What is your view on the news making the round that virtually every appointee in Osun State comes from Lagos, especially the planned appointment of the Chief Judge?
I think we must be very careful. The governor is a governor that was elected by the popular mandate of Osun people. He will be in the best position to speak on what is happening in his state. But I can tell you that he has not visited me officially since he became governor. He will be most welcome if he visits me like most of my colleagues who visit. I was there 10 days ago to give my contribution as a guest lecturer at the university's graduation ceremony as part of our collaboration and he will be most welcome if he comes.
Do you have a farm land in Osun?
Yes, we have a farmland in Osun but it was from a private owner. It's a developed farm and the process had been on for a long time before he became the governor. It was consistent with position I expressed at a time that if other states can own a property here, why can't I own farmland there for farming because we are constrained by space for farming? We applied to him, we applied to Ogun and Ogun has replied and I think he has replied too. We also have in Abuja. So, we are expanding our farm settlement.
When I said that our civilisation was going to face challenges in next few years, the internet was one of the things I was alluding to because a lot had been said that one has to be very careful with. It is a very useful medium but a lot can happen there. They can remove your head and put the head of your wife and put somebody's hand on top of you. And this, unfortunately, is a minority. It is a very useful medium and I think if it's been used for the development of humanity for which it is intended, things will be better.
Your party, ACN, prefers consensus mode of selecting its candidate and this generates a lot of rancour which is quite ironic. Now, if you emerged through such process, how can that affect our style of democracy?
Well, again, you are entitled to your minority opinion about how free and fair is the process that brought me in as governor. The honest truth is that if you belong to an association whose rules you don't like, you cannot benefit and complain. There is a moral high ground somewhere. If you don't like it, leave it and then complain about it. But you cannot complain after it has failed to perform for you. There is a principle of collective responsibility. I find it difficult to think of anyone or a political configuration in terms of parties where candidates don't emerge by consensus. What other consensus that could explain a presidential primary where the opponent got only one vote. That's consensus. Don't misunderstand it. If they leave us here for a long time, we will form caucuses and we will still be one family.
Go to Ikoyi Club, there is tennis section, there is swimming section, there is golf section, there is snooker section, those are caucuses in the club. When elections are coming they will begin to add numbers. Go to Island Club, there is bar 1, bar 2, main bar and others.
When election comes, they will form caucuses and support somebody. It is the same way we have caucuses in our party in Lagos.
At the national level, we have caucuses. What do you want to do when you are contesting an election? You want to go and win. So, your consensus will be built on your perception or your measures of electability. For example, in some states, they said the governor is the leader of the party in the state and I said no, that it doesn't work for me because I have a lot of leaders behind me here, let them be leading the state politically; I want to lead the state in service.
So, when I bring that and they bring the political arrangement, we go and crush any opposition, and that's why the opposition has continued to lose with bigger margin in every election, and the margin is getting wider. So, let nobody complain about consensus. That is what it is all about.