Issues in governance of Lagos, by Agbaje
MR. Jimi Agbaje, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, at the weekend had his first interactive session with the newsmen on his vision and mission to make Lagos a truly mega city, as presented by Ehichioya Ezomon.
A LOT of money has gone through Lagos, I believe over N4 trillion in the last 16 years, and the question will be; what have we achieved with it?
Has there been progress, yes; there has been progress. But has it been value for money? We say no because with the value of money that has been brought to us, we cannot say we have achieved the basics that is expected of a global mega city, and that is very key if we look at the key areas.
If you look at the World Bank survey for states in our country, they talk about ease of construction permit. If you want to build a house, factory or anything, Lagos is the worst state to build in all the states in Nigeria.
Lagos ranked number 36 out of 36 states, to get permission to build in this country because they make it so difficult for the residents to build.
If you want to build your factory, what you go through does not show that Lagos encourages you to come. And, of course, if we don’t have business, we cannot create jobs.
Also, on the issue of registering properties, we are number 31 out of 36. And if you are observant, you will see that our neighbour, Ogun State, now boasts of having the highest concentration of industries in the country. So, Lagos is losing to that sector.
Also, it is important to know that some of the things that are being played out, like the rail line, the more they begin to work, the less Lagos becomes competitive in the scheme of things.
Lagos is lucky; it is a former capital, the commercial nerve of the country but I tell people that Ibadan used to be the real commercial centre but lost it. So, we shouldn’t think Lagos couldn’t lose that steam.
There are policies that are coming into play that work to the disadvantage of the state. Presently, I can use the railway. If the railway begins to work, it means that people can stay in Ibadan or Abeokuta and work in Lagos.
So, it means the pressure, the yanga (arrogance) that Lagos makes that if you don’t like it, get lost, will be less. We have to realise that there is a trend that it’s not necessarily to the advantage of Lagos being arrogant in the way it does things.
Experience and capacity
I started to run a one-man pharmacy shop — small-scale. The bulk of people that moves the economy are small-scale.
Having said that, I moved on to expand my outlets; I moved on into small-scale manufacturing. I started my manufacturing in Surulere, took a bungalow and moved on to build a factory. Now, that is experience.
I have used it to everything that is possible; I have used it to see the world; I have used it to educate my own children in the best possible way; I have used it to invest in different aspects of our economy; I have used it to participate in different sectors.
I have been involved in community work all my adult life; I have been involved in my profession. I didn’t get honors by begging for them.
When I got my Fellowship of the Pharmaceutical Society, I was the youngest ever that got it for the service to the profession. I got a National honor and I didn’t even know where it came from. I am saying that there is nothing out there that cannot be managed.
After 2007, the last eight years, I have spent looking at this Lagos because I had my eyes that I was still going to run for governor, and so, I have studied, done programmes on development, and I know what I am saying — that I speak from knowledge and confidence.
We have looked at Lagos and I say that those who have changed the world have changed it from the paradigm that you have to do things differently because, if you don’t do them differently, you will get the same result.
Even the National Leader of their party (APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu), the only experience he had before he became governor was probably three months as a senator; he had no government experience.
So, we should keep the politics aside and come in with fresh ideas. The issue is whether I am qualified or not.
From a matter of strategy, we shall build-up to the vested interests. In Lagos, you may find good programmes on paper but you will see that the implementation is being affected by vested interests.
Anything that Lagos does has to be in the interest of what I call vested interests. So, if you look at the light rail, the blue line was supposed to have been completed in 2012, and this is 2015. By God’s grace, we will complete the project. The question is; why is it not completed?
Again, the model is wrong and so what you find is that there are very good policies on paper but the vested interests affect their implementation.
Ideally, the government should do the lines and they give the private sector the service to run. But if the vested interests want to corner the market and they don’t have the resources; in fact, the resources are taken from here and there, then it is going to be delayed.
The BRT is not working again because there are vested interests’ factors involved. It pays the vested interests to do commercial housing than to do housing for the people.
We have a vested interest that is affecting the social, economic and political life of our state.
You cannot have any big project in Lagos unless you take into consideration vested interests. That is affecting our state and we are saying that it is time to remove Lagos from this bondage.
Whether meeting interests of his godfather may not also affect his performance if elected as governor
You see, in the course of political campaigns, you throw everything at the other person and one is that I have a godfather, and I laughed.
I said they said they didn’t make you governor in one place because you cannot be bullied or forced to do things you don’t want to do. Then, on the other hand, they now said you have gone to another godfather.
So, it’s now a case of saying, I ran away or refused to work with one godfather, then I will now run to go and work with another godfather; but such an issue doesn’t arise. I don’t have a godfather in the way that they have put it.
Again, I will be a bit sensitive because we are moving forward and not looking backward. But just for the record, there is no godfather.
You said you haven’t seen Chief Bode George in our campaign; Chief Bode George is an elder; he is a leader of the party. Chief Bode George is not the one that is going to run the campaign.
When it was time to choose my running mate, I chose my running mate; nobody chose her for me. Naturally, you go to the leadership of the party and make known your choice.
The issue of godfather hampering whatever service delivery is not even on the table. I want the people to believe me that it won’t happen.
Fallout of the primaries
I think it is clear that we are united. There is a common purpose that we need to take back Lagos from vested interests; on that we have unity of purpose and it overrides all other issues.
Maybe I won’t be the best person to ask whether the reconciliation is complete but from our own angle, we are working together because there is that unity of purpose.
Tax burden in Lagos
The tax net in Lagos has to be expanded to lighten the burden on the few that are over-laden. And the way you expand the tax net is in provision of services to the people.
By the time you do health, education and others, you will be capturing more people into the tax net. So, more would share the burden you put on the few. It is because people do not feel government that is why you can’t capture them into the tax net.
The ocean economy is a new frontier of opening up the economy; it is also a source of funding and that is the reality.
Like I did say, it is going to get tougher with the oil price fall but when it gets tough, the tough gets going but we are fully conscious.
A few days ago, I was at a forum and I made it very clear that the toll on Victoria-Island-Epe axis will be cancelled. On that tollgate, there is no more public-private partnership.
You want to build a tollgate, you said it will cost you N50 billion to put that road all the way to Epe and that you will have tollgate.
You took it to VGC, and you said you are not doing it again and you collected N80 billion back. Now, officially, it is government that is collecting toll on that road; we hope it is so.
Illegally acquired properties
The properties acquired by the vested interests — the ones we can take back, we will take back. Those ones that have been acquired illegally and cannot be properly accounted for, we will take back.
The ones we cannot take back and have been done in a way that the people have been shortchanged, will be addressed. That is why I said this election is about continuity or change.
Power supply, and SMEs in Lagos
We all know that power is now in the private sector and we know that it will take some time to put power where it should be because the cost of buying those companies is heavy on those that bought, and they now have to borrow a second time to be able to put services in place.
In the Epe axis, in the past five years, there has not been light. The question is; what is the problem?
Now, if we say we want to start an ocean economy, it is that axis that we will take off from. So, it is in the interest of government to call the DISCOs and partner with them in a way that will be beneficial to its own objectives.
Of course, the issue of independent power for government establishments should be reducing as the DISCOs are improving.
On support for SMEs, I said something about re-training and all that. Our entrepreneurs do not know how to get money or where to get the money. For example, there is a N220 billion SME fund from the Federal Government through the CBN but people don’t know.
So, in most cases, they have given the states but what you find is that the money will be cornered and this may not be peculiar to vested interests in Lagos; it is a general thing.
It is time to have a serious one-stop shop to help our micro, small and medium enterprises. We must understand that we need to find job opportunities for them.
Re-introduction of Okada on major roads
I believe the government in Lagos has been arrogant in governance. Even the same party in another state that banned Okada didn’t do it the way Lagos has done it.
That is why I said the Lagos government couldn’t be said to be a progressive government. I am not saying it hasn’t made successes in some areas but it is not about the people.
The same party in another state banned Okada but called them, gave them taxis and all but what Lagos did was, ‘get lost; you are not wanted; go and die.’ That was the aspect that was faulty.
The Okada people are human beings, they are citizens, and they have a right to live. When you remove something, you give back.
I think we have moved on; there is recognition that the 37 LCDAs have come to stay. Even in the PDP party structure, it is 57 and that is the recognition of where we are. So we have moved on from there.
Having said that, we are hoping, as President Jonathan has said, that the Constitutional Conference that has recommended that the local governments be removed from the Constitution, would not even matter on the numbers you have.
Because, officially, the Constitution does not recognise those 37 (LCDAs). That is why INEC will come and recognise 20 local governments.