Our mandate is to ensure Lagos wealth really works for people, says Adediran
Dr. Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran, popularly known as Jandor, is the Lagos State governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the gubernatorial election scheduled to hold on March 11, 2023. In this interview with OLAWUNMI OJO (News Editor), he speaks on his aspiration, describing it as a mission to rescue the state from lackeys, and make the wealth of Lagos produce a wholesome development of the state and benefit all residents.
You have been nursing the ambition of contesting the governorship of Lagos State long before you joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). You are now the PDP governorship candidate. Why do you want to govern Lagos?
You recognize the fact that this is a project that has been on for years; it is going to be eight years that we have been on it. For us to be doing it for that long, it shows it is a special project. We have made this a long-term plan because our project is beyond wanting to be governor. We are disrupting the narrative and trying to change the status quo that has been there for over two decades. It is not easy to unseat an hegemony. So, this is not the regular project that has people joining the fray at the last minute or as an opportunist.
We started the project within the All Progressives Congress (APC) and we committed the unpardonable sin of having aspiration to want to be governor of Lagos State. The moment you come out and say you want to be governor, the owner of the party and the structure will mark you for thinking that you can on your own, and rather go for somebody who never prepared or envisioned to become governor so that such a person would forever be at his mercy and always require his approval to do anything in the state. So, it is an unpardonable sin for you to have such aspiration and we deliberately committed it. We knew it was not something we were going to get done within that space.
But, again, it is also not something the PDP as a main opposition political party can do on its own without first creating an impression within the APC. So, that is what we did. We rallied all the disgruntled persons within the APC, gave them voice, and took the lead. We spoke to ourselves and when we got that conviction, we decided to move. And we cannot just move anywhere; we had to move to the main opposition, the PDP, which had been doing 40 – 45 per cent every election cycle. What Lagos PDP needs to cross the threshold is what we have brought into the party, which is a deficit to where we are coming from. This is also why our being on the ballot spells doom for Lagos APC.
So, why did we embark on this journey? It is because we feel it is about time we have another governor in Lagos State. Since 1999, we have had only one governor.
It is about time we birth a Lagos that would be a wealthy state in deed and in truth, as against the current one that is only a rich state on paper. I am sure what you hear is that Lagos has money. On the chart, we are first; the state that is second is poles apart from Lagos in terms of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), yet we cannot see that wealth on the streets. We cannot see that wealth in our daily living as Lagosians. Our coming is to come and make Lagos wealth really work for the people.
If you compare our state with Rivers State, if you look at the chart, our IGR are poles apart, our receivables are also poles apart. And we have a governor here in Lagos who has done budgets cumulatively in the region of N5trillion since he got into office and there is nothing appreciable to show for it in terms of legacy projects. Whereas the state following Lagos in terms of IGR, the governor is commissioning projects every other day. It is about time we make Lagos work for us.
When you go anywhere outside Lagos and you hear conversations about Lagos, the first thing they complain about is the traffic. And it does not take rocket science to fix traffic in Lagos. In fact, majority of the flashpoints do not require infrastructural renewal; it takes just a strong-willed helmsman that will enforce the law, not minding whose ox is gored. Today, minor issues are the ones dragging vehicular movement in Lagos and they have been there for so long. I can speak to the peculiarities of many places because there is no part of Lagos that I have not been to. Before you resolve a challenge, you must be able to identify the solution.
Secondly, even if it has to do with infrastructural renewal, we have the resources to do it. All we need to do is just to look for a better manager that would manage these resources. But if you listen to them, they would be talking about experience. They look at us and say we do not have experience because we have not been employed in the past by their Daddy to serve as commissioner or special adviser or to be in the State Assembly. That is what they classify as experience.
And I tend to ask them, in their 24 years of superintending, what has their experience given to Lagos? They have not been able to resolve the traffic situation.
Every time it rains, there is flood everywhere. Unemployment is alarming; the rate before Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu assumed office was 14.6 per cent, it is now over 37 per cent in Lagos. Poverty rate was 4.5 per cent, it is now 8.5 per cent. These are statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
So someone says he has experience, yet met unemployment rate of 14.6 per cent, pumped more than N10b into the scheme and at the end, we have 37.16 per cent. That means the money further impoverished the people. It means the money disappeared. We must begin to make wealth of Lagos work for Lagos.
Are you discountenancing the infrastructure development the ruling party, APC and Governor SanwoOlu claims to be doing across the state?
Can we subject these so-called infrastructure projects to interrogation? We all live in Lagos and this is almost four years of the current administration. Do you want to count the Blue Line project that has been ongoing for 13 years – the two bus-stop Blue Line they have been building for 13 years? Do not forget, in this same Lagos, during the Akinwunmi Ambode years, we did not need anyone to tell us work was being done. In less than two years, we had seen Flyovers in Abule Egba, Ajah, Pen Cinema coming up; we had seen the road rehabilitation on International Airport road; we had seen the work going on at the Oshodi Transport Interchange, and so on. Without anybody telling you anything, we were seeing work. So, compare to this administration that has spent close to N5 trillion in almost four years and draw your conclusion. Ask Lagosians what development is ongoing in their local councils.
In your interactions with residents during your campaign, what are some of those sore points and areas of discontent where they seek intervention?
Lack of government presence everywhere we have been to. For me, it is a mixed feeling of seeing a total neglect of our dear state and on the flip side, seeing the excitement of the people seeing us. They have never been this hopeful; nobody who has ever wanted to be governor has been to them. I have been doing a ward-to-ward tour, not the regular jamboree of rallies. At the last count, I have been to 193 out of the 245 wards in Lagos; I have just 52 to go. Our campaign strategy has been to be able to understand better the state we want to govern, know what the people really want and be able to interact with them.
This election is going to be different and Lagos APC will have their first popularity test because it is an election like never before, it is an election that they have not gone through before. This is a technology-based election; it is not one that you would have multiple voters’ cards and share to people to go and vote multiple times.
So, you think APC should be jittery?
I think they should be packing their loads.
How have you been able to convince residents in the 193 wards you visited to vote for you?
There is little job to be done in convincing the people of Lagos. They have a choice between the status quo that hasn’t treated them well in the last 24 years and a breath of fresh air. They have a choice between a governor they can only see on poster in their neighbourhood and the one who walks into their abode and sits with them to have a conversation on their livelihoods. So, if anybody is still basking in the euphoria of APC ‘s past glory, it is unfortunate.
So much for what the ruling party has done or not done, what are your plans for the state, should you become the governor?
I have said it over again; the plan is to make sure Lagos wealth works for the people of Lagos irrespective of where you are from. Our plan is to make sure we deploy that huge amount of money we hear Lagos makes monthly and make it reflect on the streets of Lagos. We want to ensure that we bridge the gap quickly, of Lagos having over 2 million out-of-school children.
For instance, in three months on being in office, I will bridge that gap. All I need to do is to invite all the owners of private schools in Lagos – there are 5000 of them registered and about 13,000 unregistered, sit with them and discuss my plan with them. We go into partnerships with a view to establishing how many students I can spread across the 5000 schools. I will give them uniforms, learning aids and everything they need, in exchange for tax incentives or holidays as the case may be.
Secondly, I would go into partnerships with churches and mosques, and urge them to give me the space they do not use during school hours. I will put the children there, put resources there to take care of them. When I am done with that, I would have reduced the number of out-of-school children we have in the state.
We have serious menace in terms of flood in Lagos. What their 24 years of being in the saddle hasn’t given us, we would give it to Lagos from 90 days in office.
For example, there are ways you prepare for these things; we know our state, we know we are below the sea level and therefore prone to flooding. And it is sad that in 24 years of their being in power, they have not been able to increase our water collectors that they met. There are just six of them in Lagos. They are just building their first in Ilubirin; by now we should be talking of about 15 major water collectors in Lagos.
Looking at how they have even managed the ones they met, what sort of treatment have they given to them. When last did they desilt all those places? Immediately I am sworn in, I am going to engage volunteers, those who are in environmental services and who would want government patronage, to start clearing all our collectors. Some of these issues only require thinking and a will to attend to them.
The health sector is also challenged on many fronts, the most recent and pressing one being brain drain…
Brain Drain is not peculiar to the health sector. But there is a straightforward solution to it, which is one of the reasons we say we must make Lagos wealth work for Lagos. The state can make its wages competitive to what is obtainable out there. If you employ people and they are well paid with good work conditions and good welfare package, they are less likely to leave. Rather, the level of their productivity would increase. These are essential services that should be treated as such. These are some of the things we are coming to do.
Our General Hospitals are also in dire need of infrastructure renewal. But we are also going to automate all the public and private hospitals in the state such that they are networked for efficient and effective services. This would also make for effective patients’ management across the state health service.
Housing deficit is an age-long challenge in the state. It is partly responsible for the growing number of slums, which create series of other challenges for government. The current administration has been doing some housing projects, which seem inadequate for its increasing population. What are your plans for housing?
What and how long did it take former governor, the Late Alhaji Lateef Jakande to build all he built? He did under four years? He built affordable housing across the state. Some would say they cannot build affordable housing for the people, but if you can build roads for people to ply for free, then you can build houses for people to live in for free. Of course, nobody builds houses for free but there ought to be affordability. But because we have had governments in Lagos who think they are in government to make profit, that is why we have this challenge.
What do I do? I own the land. The cost of blocks in Ikoyi is the same in Abule Egba, the only difference is you probably have to do piling before erecting structures in Ikoyi. So, I can do affordable housing by going into joint ventures with builders. I will give bank guarantees to them. I will have off-takers from even the informal sector who can pay little in a rent-to-own scheme. This scheme can be used to migrate a lot of people from the informal to the formal sector.
You talk to their associations, they subscribe buy-in into the scheme, you also use it to bring them massively into the tax net and there is an incentive for them in housing. You make them able to pay back over 20 to 30 years.
Many manufacturers lament about multiple taxation and how it is almost frustrating them out of business and out of the state. How do you plan to harmonise tax collection in the state?
It is just due to laziness on the part of the people steering the wheel of the state. It goes to show that they know nothing about running the economy. What they do is that they run after every player in the economy for money. That’s not how to get more money. If you need more money, you grow the economy.
We have had a lot of manufacturing companies leaving our state because of multiple taxation. A manufacturer who is servicing the economy and helping to provide jobs has his trucks and vans being accosted on the road for all sorts of agencies collecting levies. What you need do to take away all these bottlenecks. If other manufacturers that have left see you doing things right, they would return.
I would rather expand my space for more people to come and play in my economy, which will give employment to my people. From this, I will draw payee as government and boost my economy. If you have 10 people from whom you draw N10 each, which they pay through their nose, you can make more money by expanding the space to have 40 people from whom you could collect N4 each. The implication is that you have more money and more jobs in your economy. But they are lazy; they can’t do that.
In January 2022, the amount of Lagosians in the state’s IGR tax net was 4.5million people. In November that same year, it fell to 3 million. That means the economy is bad and people fell out of the tax net probably because they do not have jobs or their business is no longer thriving and they can’t pay taxes. You now want to strangulate the 3 million that is left so as to meet up.
Unfortunately, the people in office don’t know how to run the economy; all their lives most of them have been salary earners and have not employed people before.
My running mate and I have both been employers of labour in this harsh economy. We have had cause to source for money and turn around the fund, pay salaries, pay taxes, pay back loans and make profit, to be what we are today.
There has been some development going on at the Ibeju-Lekki axis of the state. But there are fears there is insufficient infrastructure to support the development, and that the congestion that happened at the Apapa end may likely reoccur in no long a time. Should you become governor, how do you intend to handle the impending challenge?
Apapa would be a child’s play compared to what is springing up in the Free Trade Zone. With a deep seaport, a refinery and other projects. If you decentralize development, you would make a lot of things work. By now, I thought we would have built a dry port somewhere and ensure that all the heavy duty containers are being taken through the waterway to a dry port at the exit of the state where they can load and offload, and take pressure off the road.
In Apapa, what you need is a mad governor that would not mind whose ox is gored and just do the needful. There is a trailer park already built, you just need to enforce its usage. Drive your policy, people would always find a solution and alternative.
Connecting places like Badagry, Ikorodu, Epe with massive transport infrastructure would decentralise development and truly open up Lagos State. But it has been a huge challenge for successive governments…
It is time we have an independent governor that would sit as governor of Lagos State, not as a placeholder. Such a governor would be able to utilise the resources of Lagos for the benefit of the state. By now, we should be talking about integrated rail line system in the state.
Do you know we have 36 ferry routes on our waterways? By now, we should have a Ferry Service that would take you from Ikorodu to Badagry via water. The only routes they are doing now are Ipakodo to Lagos Island, Lagos Island to Ojo, and that axis to Badagry. We have not served the people of Ibeju, Epe, all the traffic coming from Abule Egba that clusters the Third Mainland bridge. What I would do to take care of that traffic, for instance, is to build a Park & Ride with a beautiful mall on the Oworonsoki end of the bridge where people can park there cars and join the Ferry to Lagos Island. That would reduce the number of vehicles that you would have in the Central Business District (CBD) as well as the vehicular movement on the bridge. In the morning, we could even come up with a policy that says if you are the only one in your car, you cannot not access the third Mainland bridge; you have to do park & ride except you are three.
With the elections around the corner, there have been pockets of violence and attacks on some Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) facilities. Do you think these could affect the elections and outcomes in any way?
Every election cycle, we do have such occurrences but they are not enough to dent the integrity of the elections. INEC has expressed readiness and all security formations have also expressed readiness. And the federal government too has assured that they would not tolerate purveyors of violence.
At the national level, you have Atiku Abubakar as the face of the party. Why should Nigerians embrace an Atiku presidency?
This is because he has given practical solutions to the problems that we have as a nation. Insecurity is largely orchestrated by unemployment, poverty and poor economy, but just one policy of Atiku is enough to resolve all these challenges. For example, he has said he would set aside $10billion for youth and women empowerment. I asked him how he intends to raise the money and he said he would sell all moribund refineries adding no value to our economy. This would truly bring the $10billion to resolve the youth and women issues. Do not forget that the consortium that would buy the refineries would also pump new funds into the refineries and the economy. This would create jobs. There would be youth employment in the North. Poverty rate would reduce because there would be empowerment for women. This is how to run the economy.
Of what benefit would a PDP and an Atiku-presidency be to Lagos State and, indeed, the Southwest?
Look at the $10billion for instance, Lagos would have its fair share of that money, Ogun State would have its share. And it would be used to empower our people and to resuscitate this economy. Lagos, with a poverty rate of 8.4 per cent as we speak, and its high unemployment rate, would have a status change as a result of the funds injection.
Second, Atiku is the only candidate that has promised it would devolve powers to states… talking about restructuring, state police, local councils being able to function independently and the like.