Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola has expressed his views on the Lagos State Governorship aspirants.
In a recent interview, he speaks about his predecessor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the governorship election in the state, Akinwunmi Ambode, as well as the candidate of the Peoples Democractic Party (PDP) for the governorship election in the state, Jimi Agbaje, and why the latter is not trustworthy.
How would you rate yourself?
You can't really isolate the last eight years from the ones before; there's a momentum and team efforts here and this is why the next elections are important as far as experience is concerned. I was in the first team and it was easier for me to get going and give things my own view, but as I say to people, this is all about human life; being governor is about being responsible for human beings and so the problems won't go away, they would never end. As you solve one, another one appears. And, indeed, the more problems you solve the more challenges you create for yourself. In terms of rating, I honestly can't rate myself because I don't have time to look back. I still focus on the next one hundred and something days; my job ends on May 29.
We noticed that in some areas, the street lights were on and later faded away. Then they came back. An example is the street lighting and landscaping in Oworonsoki which now creates a pleasant drive. How do you enforce this?
Concerning the landscaping you talked about for example, I make sure I go round the state, I am not a one route person. I like to see the state from different routes and all I'm doing is looking out for what is not working. And my ADC and my orderly have their notepads in the car. So, we don't read newspapers in the car; we are taking notes-what's not working? What needs to be fixed? We are having a council meeting once I leave here and once I get to council, I give it to them and tell them these are the ones that need to be fixed. So we are telling Works, we are telling Physical Planning, we are telling the Environment we saw this and this problems. Once we discuss it in the Exco, it becomes an issue that you must come back and report that it has been solved.
You talked about the past administration. Let's ask you. Some people know Asiwaju Bola Tinubu while some don't know much about him order than some negative stories out there. You know him more than us...
I think the point to make is that I have known him now since 1990/1991 just before he went to the Senate (when he was working with Mobile). That's how our part crossed. Working with him at close quarters, I think that's how he has confounded his opponents. His looks belie his thinking capacity and that is it. Those looks deceive you and before you know it, you are off your feet really. He is no saint, nobody is; I am not, but when you look at the passion with which he has pursued causes he believes in, you will understand. He's been betrayed by quite a few people he's helped to my own knowledge. But I think my sense of him is that in spite of all our imperfections, I would rather be fighting in his corner than in some other corners.
I have been able to benefit because I have paid my taxes. I was listening to the governorship candidate of the PDP talking about cheap housing and I don't know how this can be feasible in a state like Lagos where people still complain that Lagos homes is for the middle class but it is quite expensive...
It is not limited to the middle class alone. The problem of affordability is not limited to Lagos alone. It is a national problem. And you see, I have never made promises to the public in order to get votes without having some clarity about how I want to actualise what I have promised. And so when that candidate comes out to say he would build X number of homes without telling us what the price or size is, it shows clearly that he is presenting his position from an uninformed and inexperienced position. The truth is that when you talk about the cost of those flats, one thing you would find out (because I was involved in the design of the apartment) is that the one-bedroom flat is larger than any one-bedroom flat you would find in any part of Lagos, if not in the whole country. I sat down with the architect and I said we want ordinary people to be able to afford these things and sometimes, if you look at somebody in Level 5 or Level 7, give them more rooms because I have lived in places where we had next-door neighbours who lived in one bedroom and a family of five. So I understand it. I grew up in Ijesha, but I had shoes. So I said give them more space. If you go in there now, the way they live, a part of the room, a part of the room is partitioned with a cutton. And that's their living area. It is more than 60 square metres, you won't find anyone bedroom of that size.
There are so many industries in the area using trailers and the rest. What do you do to check them because they are the ones damaging the road.
If you keep complaining that the road would be damaged and therefore you would not do anything, my attitude always is fix it first, give relief to the citizens while the long-term solution is to build rail. That is why when the Federal Government said it is building rail, and celebrating and cart-wheeling all over the place...the rail is not moving heavy duty equipment, not moving containers, not moving petrol, then you just laugh. If you know Adeniyi Jones Avenue, there used to be a rail track, and traces of it are still there, to connect the main rail to the Ikeja Industrial Estate during the time of Obafemi Awolowo in the western region. So it was a by-pass and that is the way you save roads.
We would solve the problem. The industries themselves don't exist in a vacuum, they exist to produce goods which we consume, they exist also to provide jobs. So we are in a situation where you probably can't win until you have a national government that focuses on its responsibilities and deals with them decisively.
You started most of these projects, but where the man after you does not see the same vision with you, there is a problem. So what is the plan for continuity?
The way to continue really is to route for what works for you and I say one of the things we have not celebrated (because if there's anything, it is the people of Lagos that should be celebrating because they have the credit)...but what I am saying is that one thing I am very proud of is the institutions that we have built and things have started working whether the governor is around or whether he is not around, people are holding on. So the next governor should find things easier to propel forward and add his own touch and colour to things.
Back to housing, one of the things we were accused of even when we were building was that we have sold the houses to ourselves and it was a big debate in our committee when I said let's put the houses online. They said no that some people were not educated and I argued that if these people want to go for Hajj or America and Dubai, they go online and somebody can process it for them and in that way, reduce pressure on our staff and officers and ourselves and ensure that if you are not a tax dodger and live in Lagos, you would be qualified (because we don't want to give houses to people who don't pay taxes here, they buy it and then sell it).
We've seen the APC campaign. Do you trust Ambode to take this vision forward?
Do you believe in him?
I do absolutely. You see, first of all, I worked with him when I was Chief of Staff during the Local Government crisis. We were dealing with the financial angle (myself and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who was the Attorney-General), him and Asiwaju (Tinubu) were financing angle and that was how the team functioned. That's how we got the Local Governments alive. That's one.
He worked with me for six years as Accountant-General when I became governor. He left in my second term. He said he wanted to go and take leadership courses and wanted to do some other things because he felt he had spent much time...I was sorry to see him go and that's why you would see in the letter accepting his resignation, I couldn't help but commend him.
Knowing the kind of person you are, is there any proof for the alleged tax evasion of Jimi Agbaje?
The issue about his tax evasion is related to the property at number 9 Randle Close and that is where JK Pharmacy operates from. There are two properties here, there is one at number 1 Bombay Crescent which presumably is his residence. And that (the residence) was the one there were no tax issues about. And that's the one the government issued a commendation letter on because we acknowledge when you pay to us. It is his own parties that his struggling to account for the money it collects. The point is that as far as JK Pharmacy is concerned, he has outstanding tax for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. He paid 2013 and 2014. This won't go away unless it is paid because it is money that helps the Local Governments he says he is so concerned about.
What is the government doing about touts at motorparks and bus stops because they are causing nuisance in Lagos State?
These are some of the things that the Road Traffic Law was supposed to deal with and we've been implementing these solutions in faces. Now, some of the things we are telling the motorpark people is that we really must get people out of the parks and modernise the parks in a way that they are safe and become office places. Some of the things I have asked them is: can you bring your children to where you work? And that's a way I have set the agenda for them. You can come to my office, my kids can come too, but can your kids come to where you work? They said no, and I said but transport business is a very good business if you organise it very well. We will help to organise it. It is one problem at a time and that's why I said earlier that the problems don't go away.
Political office holders often get fat, but you have remained slim. How do you do that?
I think my physique is largely hereditary and genetic and I don't eat at night. I eat breakfast and launch. If I don't eat launch and it gets too late, I wait till the next morning. I take a lot of fluids and I play soccer. I try to play soccer twice a week, but right now, for like three weeks or four weeks, elections have made that impossible.
How do you fend off the girls that chase after you?
I don't fend off, I just get on with my job.
We need to commend you because Lagos State Government offices are not like the offices we used to know and we are sure you must have had a lot of enemies in trying to put things right...
Interestingly, I didn't have enemies. Getting people to embrace an idea is first challenging, but when you sell the merit of the idea to them...This journey started since 1999 and we are taking it one step at a time.
It should be noted that Fashola has served Lagos for 8 years. He succeeded Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on 14 April 2007 and was sworn in on 29 May 2007. He was re-elected on 26 April 2011.
He will be handing over the governorship position this year to whoever wins the governorship elections holding on February 28, 2015.
Recall that Governorship aspirant, Jimi Agbaje expressed confidence in his ability to defeat the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Akinwumi Ambode, in the Lagos gubernatorial poll.