Lagos State All Progressives Congress (APC) Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC) member Chief Lanre Rasak spoke with reporters in Lagos on the challenges before the Sanwo-Olu administration, security and state police, local government autonomy and special status for Lagos. Group Political Editor Emmanuel OLADESU was there.
WE have a new government in Lgos. What are your expectations?
Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Dr Femi Kadir Hamzat, our expectation is on high hope because they are highly knowledgeable people who know the terrain and who know what to do. They have been in the party for long and they understand the party manifesto. And they know the thinking of the Lagosians and what their yearnings and desires are and it will not be difficult for them to meet all those yearnings, needs and desires of the people of Lagos State. More importantly, they have what it takes to get the job done. And we have absolute confidence in them.
And more importantly, in Lagos, APC is in charge and we have a leader that has the political engineering system of Lagos needs, who will fix it without much problem. That is our Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. We do consult them regularly to tell them what are the thinking and aspirations of Nigerians. They will meet them. So, Lagosians can be rest assured that the team on ground will do a very good job for them.
What are the challenges that will confront the governor of Lagos?
Well, people can see the challenges which include traffic management. The challenge of traffic management, they need to address it because it wastes a lot of production hours. And it has ripple effects on our economy. So we have told them. Of course, we are equally involved and we have to attack it. Interestingly, they have declared zero tolerance on driving against the traffic and non-compliance with the traffic lights.
Again, they have to address the environmental issues. And they have declared zero tolerance on bad management of refuse like throwing refuse into the drainages and abandoning refuses in front of houses and shops. They should be put in a well prepared refuse bags at clearly designated places for refuse trucks to clear so that we can have a very clean environment.
And again, one important thing that causes traffic jam in Lagos is potholes on our roads. And they have directed those concerned to start fixing the potholes. Those are the first challenges facing the new government. And Sanwo-Olu with his team is capable of handling the challenges.
What are your expectations about cabinet composition?
We expect a composition of mixed grill. We expect professionals, technocrats to be involved. We expect politicians that know the people and can really interact with the people who voted us into power so that it would not be only technocrats who would not be able to interact with the people to know their needs. In short, we expect a cabinet of mixed grill.
What lesson can the governor learn from the past?
A situation where those in government don’t interact with the people to seek their needs and their aspiration should be avoided because it is not good enough. We have suffered it in the immediate past administration and the new team has learnt a lot from it. They are not outsider in Lagos. They have been part of us since the last two decades. They know what we are talking about and that would not happen again.
What about the challenges of transportation?
Well, what I would want you to know is that no government can meet the aspirations of the people 100%. Government just need to provide enabling environment to encourage Private Participation in public transportation. And that is what we are advocating and that is what we are telling the government to look into. Though, the status of some vehicles is not road worthy. Government should ensure that they have the responsibility for the safety of life and property. We are aware that bad vehicles are easy weapons to kill and that is why we are advising the government not to allow rickety vehicles on our roads.
Having said this, government is a major player in public transportation because public transportation is a kind of service to the citizens. And it is expected to be subsidised, it is expected to be of high class standard that would be a mirror to others who would want to be in that business.
The current government is aware of the needs of the Lagos people. They have carried out a kind of research and survey. Just give them two months and see how they would come out with a better arrangement. They are just there now for just about three weeks. Let us give them time to settle down and really understand what is on ground and you would be pleasantly surprised that they would meet the yearnings and aspirations of our people.
How about the on-going and abandoned projects left behind by former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode?
Well, the Ambode issue is a wonderful issue. His was only one government and luckily there is continuity in governance. The same citizens Ambode served are the same citizens that Sanwo-Olu is going to serve. There would be no abandoned projects in Lagos State. He has said that severally and the party encourages that there should be no abandoned projects.
Ones the projects are studied and considered to be economically the need of the people, this government would take them up and get them done. This government is ready to prioritise them and pick all the abandoned projects here and there accordingly for completion. And many of the projects are properly on roads and other infrastructures. There is the need for many roads to be constructed in Lagos State and I can vouch for the new administration that it would not leave any road under construction unattended to. You can be rest assured that they are the priorities to be handled as they affect the public need of the people and the economy of the state.
What about rail and water systems?
The two systems, water and rail, will always compliment the road vehicular transport system. I always say that it is better to synchronise the three to let them work together. With water transportation, people exercise a lot of fear. But if the needful is done, it is one of the safest and fastest way of travelling in Lagos State. And I am sure the current administration in the state would take advantage and study it with a view to providing a better safety elements for using water as a mode of travelling.
On the rail system, Sanwo-Olu has assured that the rail business starting from CMS to Okokomaiko would be completed. And you can be assured that they are already thinking along that line that only the vehicles on the road cannot absolutely eliminate congestion in the city without the compliment of other transportation means like the rail and water systems. So, the government should consider working seriously on the rail and water modes of transportation. I will advise they do that because it would remove a lot of man power hours being wasted on daily basis on the road.
Eminent people are migrating to Lagos from the five Southwest states due to kidnapping. What should Lagos government do to prevent insecurity?
One piece of advice I want to give the people of Lagos is that they should be observant and be very security conscious. The little we are doing in the state as far as security is concerned is because we are having very effective information networking. That prevents a lot of insecurity issues. And I know without that arrangement it would just be running here and there after problem had happened. We should prevent, pre-empt and attack the cause. If that is done, I am sure Lagos would remain safe for all Nigerians.
What is your view on state police?
My advice again is that we should encourage State Police. We should put in place as quickly as possible machinery for the establishment of State Police. If personnel recruited are 80% indigenous of the state, there is no terrible hot spots they would not know and to curb crime and arrest criminals promptly would be very easy. But that cannot be said of non indigenes who would have some considerations and sentiment for their kinsman involved in crimes.
State Police would be very beneficial to Lagos State as well as to other states in the other parts of the country. With that system, Nigeria would be safer and more secured for all the citizens and non-Nigerians alike. Apart from the Federal Police, State Police should be brought I, trained properly to be very effective to compliment the Federal Police and by that, the country would be better for it.
How is the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC) of which you are a member guiding the new administration?
I have said it earlier that we have the leaders of the party under the able leadership of patriotic and dynamic Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. We meet when the need arises and we do look at the situation across all the thinking of the people either on road, education, health, and infrastructure or on commerce and industry. And we do give good advice to the people in government especially to our governor and his deputy. And interestingly, they have good listening ability. And you would not see a situation where they would not be effective. Two good heads are better than one. We strongly believe in that because some of the eminent people sitting in that Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC) had gone through the system before and they have a lot of experience to share with the governor. The governor himself is a member, he sits with us. He is the person to carry out the job. We are there to advise, he listens and only go out to carry out the information and contents of governance he must have received from the Council.
Is Lagos not entitled to a special status?
It will not be too difficult to get Special Status for Lagos State this time around. One, the party in charge of the federal and Lagos is the same party. And luckily we have put in place the leadership of the National Assembly that would see the need to cooperate with the Executive to achieve the desired need of the people. So, I am looking forward to something better this time around.
With friendly National Assembly, Nigeria would go through better experience because as the National Assembly members are looking into the need of the people and what to do about it, the executive is also putting its ears down anticipating that when it puts the Bill across to the National Assembly, it would get priority attention.
With this situation, Lagos would get the best because the state has been the Federal Capital and a lot of infrastructures that belong to the Federal Government are here unattended to for the 16 years rule of the PDP. And you can see that things are changing in the last three weeks that Buhari has assumed second term office. The Federal Ministry of Works has been around surfacing and resurfacing the roads to tackle the menace of Apapa gridlock. So, you can look forward to better things this time around. And the relationship between the National Assembly and the Executive would turn out to be better.
What is your position on local government autonomy and federalism?
They are two things that can never meet over the world. In Nigeria, Lagos State is the country’s economic capital. So, you cannot abandon a state where you make all the money to maintain the rest of the country. About 75% to 80% of the VAT comes from Lagos State. There must be the consideration that if the state has been doing this to support the rest of the country, you cannot afford to fold your alms to see the infrastructure of the state in decay. Morally, how do you feel and do you want the people of the state to pay their taxes without them complaining. There must be give back from the federal government to Lagos State.
The issue of federalism is very important in democracy. We are not in the military regime where the Head of the Government is a military man that believes that every state is another battalion that he controls absolutely. And that is why we are saying we need true federal system. Let a state plan how much it would be able to pay its workers. How much can it collect from people as taxes? Let a state decide and agree that when it has money, this is the way it wants to spend it. If states raise funds for their states; affairs, let there be issues of autonomy to a certain level.
A lot of things in our Executive List that should be removed and moved to the Legislative List. Let the states be able to generate their own power to energise their towns. They should not need exclusive interference on that. Railway should not be on Exclusive List. The states must have rights to a lot of things put on Legislative List. And that is why people are saying that we need complete federalism.
Having said this, on the issue of Local Governments, we must encourage autonomy for the councils because they are the alms of the government that is closer to the people. What Nigerians should encourage they do is to continue to expose open, transparent and accountability of funds that go into Local Governments. Government should publish the funds on monthly basis. And those in charge must tell the people what they would do with that money. Once there is transparency, accountability and commitment, it is better for the Local Governments and the states to have a better share of the Federal Revenue. So, if we are ready to do that, the country would be better for it.
The Federal Government has been working on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway for the past 25 years and has not been able to achieve anything reasonable as far as I am concerned. If it were to be states’ project, you would have seen the result. So, it is better to increase revenue to the states and same to Local Governments and allow absolute true federalism in Nigeria to work.