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‘No development, unless we get electoral process right’

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Chief Bode George is a former Deputy National Chairman of the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with YETUNDE AYOBAMI OJO, he decried the planned N250 billion bonds by the Lagos State government just as he warned Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to remember that he has a name to protect after his tenure in office. He said the ongoing attempt to probe former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was a mere vendetta agenda not in the state’s interest. Excerpts.

What is your view on the N250 billion bonds being proposed by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu?
It is procedurally sloppy, morally reprehensible and strategically lunatic. Since the year 2000, we have been complaining about the Alpha Beta Company, which has been the tax consultant to Lagos State. Yet, no one responds to the complaint. And that is the company allegedly created to siphon money from Lagos. It grosses about N8 to N10 billion out of what is accruable to the state. The company takes its own percentage and remits the balance. So, what you see in figures that Lagos earns is not what enters the treasury. I am challenging the government to allow a private accounting firm to audit the finance of Lagos. The state is the greatest debtor outside the debt owed by the Federal Government both local and international.

Now they want to go and borrow another N250 billion; what happened to the ones we have borrowed? The story we are hearing, I am not too sure, is that the government has absolutely no kobo to spend and that’s why since May 29, 2019, the government has not been able to perform. Today, everybody is asking where is Sanwo-Olu? But the reality is that what the man does not have he cannot give.
  
Sanwo-Olu is a younger brother to me because he grew up in Lagos Island, but he must be careful. Imagine the State House of Assembly is eager to approve the loan without doing any serious thinking or analysis or questioning? Nobody is looking at the future of the younger generation of Lagos. What are we going to leave for the upcoming people, a big debt?

 
My worry is what is the government’s programme to alleviate the hopelessness and helplessness of the youths in Lagos? If you remember, Ambode also went and borrowed when he came to power in 2015. So, every four years Lagos must borrow, and when the time comes to return, they must do that with interest. The debt of Lagos is mounting, which is not the culture of the state. The state is a trading port. I have no guarantee that these people have the capacity, the honesty of purpose to lift millions of the people of Lagos from that level of poverty. How do you measure the success of a leader? It is based on how many people you are able to lift up.

The lawmakers are probing Ambode’s government for financial misappropriation, do you see any positive end to the exercise?
It is absolutely a vendetta. The emperor is now speaking because Ambode has offended him and he must be punished. The lawmakers were handpicked and that comes to what I have been saying concerning the procedure of elections. It is so outdated, mundane and absolutely unbelievable that in this 21st Century, with the technology available, Nigeria cannot have credible election. 800 million people voted in India, not the entire population, but nobody went to court. This means the procedure was transparent. But in our own clime, the reverse is the case. I keep saying it that whoever wins at the Supreme Court between President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar owes this country one thing, to completely disband INEC, scrap the bloody nonsense and start all over with modern technology as the backbone. It is not for the courts to determine who the true representatives of the people are. Where is the concern to alleviate the poverty level of the people of this state if those who are lawmakers and the people governing did not pass through the right electoral process where they know that it is the will of the people that would sustain them? I don’t see any positive thing coming out of the probe.You saw the charade of the elections? You saw the activities of the returning officers. Since 1960, election process has been the bane of our development.

But they are blaming Ambode for the predicament facing Lagos now and that’s one of the reasons his government is being probed?
You know, when Ambode came, he blamed it also on his predecessor, Babatunde Fashola. When Fashola came, rather than blame his predecessor, he chose to remain silent. It is now a norm for them to borrow when new governor comes into power.

What are the elders of the state doing to salvage it from bad governance?
When you speak out and say this is my observation, they think you are perpetually trying to undress them but that is not the case. I have been like a lone voice in the manger, shouting, and they are not bothered. However, I have started now to challenge a lot of my colleagues. Some elders stood there and were collecting peanuts, and giving unnecessarily stupid support when millions are hungry? They were allotted some part of the lagoons to sand fill and they feel they are okay. I challenged some of these elders to speak out. Some of the elders who backed the emperor to become what he is today have seen it and are regretting secretly. They have created a monster in Lagos. I can tell you that the elders are complaining seriously, only that they don’t have the courage to come out because of what they are eating.

What’s your take on the state of Lagos roads today?
I read something recently and it made me sad. It says you don’t dodge potholes on Lagos highway anymore; you only carefully select the one to enter. The state of our roads in Lagos, the Centre of Excellence, is as bad as that. 

What’s your advice to Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat?
He should remember where he is coming from and the place of his birth. His family is well respected in Lagos. He knows they are next to righteousness, he shouldn’t allow anybody to use him as a cannon fodder. What he cannot defend when he leaves office, he shouldn’t do. His cardinal point should be to serve the people, to have a positive impact on the millions of citizens of Lagos.

              
 


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