Dr. Muiz Banire, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, is a man of many addresses. A law teacher, legal practitioner, politician and convener, United Action for Change, a political advocacy and leadership capacity building organisation. The erstwhile National Legal Adviser of the ruling All Progressives Congress is often viewed in certain quarters as controversial on account of his principled positions on issues. But in all, he is not bothered. Thus, in this interview with Olawale Olaleye and Olaseni Durojaiye , he holds nothing back as he dissects issues of political currency and sundry others. Excerpts:
You were hitherto the national legal adviser of the APC but your people from Lagos rose stoutly against you, till you were eventually pushed out. What was your experience like?
Nobody pushed me out. They couldn’t have pushed me out. I decided to leave, because I believed it was much more honourable to leave office, when the ovation was loudest. I am not sure of the statistics but to a large extent, I want to believe I was the longest serving national legal adviser of the party, because cumulatively, I spent seven and a half years in that office. To that extent, I feel it was honourable to leave, when I left.
Second, contrary to the impression that many people had, there was no benefit for me holding the position. Rather, I sacrificed not only financially, I also sacrificed my services and took a lot of risks on behalf of the party, so, why would one want to continue particularly, when some characters appeared not to appreciate my services. So, having contributed substantially to the development of the party, I can say with all sense of fairness and without any fear of contradiction that I was one of the people that midwifed the registration of the party to the glory of God.
And I had the honour of not only being the interim national legal adviser of the party but the first substantive national legal adviser of the party. By the time you consider all of these, you would want to tell yourself give others the chance to add value to the party.
In respect of my contributions while in office, the truth of the matter is that, in my view, my greatest contribution was the introduction of internal democracy into the party and ensuring substantial compliance. It was very tough and challenging. I have had to make enemies in the process but at the end of the day, today, it is gradually being entrenched in the party.
We must quickly acknowledge that all is still not well within the party but at least, we have moved from where we were before and hopefully, we will continue to move forward until we get to a situation, where it is satisfactory.
To the glory of God, that was my greatest achievement and the fact that I discharged my duties without fear or favour to anybody. That much all of them could say and I was happy that at no time did I get myself corrupted by anybody or institution. I took decisions professionally regardless of whose ox is gored and I believe that honestly speaking, I did well during my tenure.
Did you ever think that your own people would have moved against you?
Candidly, I would never have thought so, because I believed that whatever the differences we had, we should always do things rightly at all times. Then, also, there seems to be a lot of misconceptions regarding a whole lot of people, largely borne out of ignorance, such that disagreement to them means fight or conflict. Unknown to them, what is good for any institution is to disagree on issues particularly, on principles and that does not necessarily translate into having any personal grudges with anybody.
Except you have divergent views, you may not be able to grow a party in a healthy manner and bring the best out of the system. To this much, a lot of them didn’t appreciate. Sooner or later along the line, we had a lot of people who were not only sycophantic but because of their nature in terms of poverty, they were unable to think straight.
So, I believe that a lot of the time, their actions were not borne out of their own conviction, most of the time it was either out of poverty or ignorance and when people start educating them correctly, they start to appreciate the true position, because most of the time my fights was for them and not for me. It had nothing to do with me. If I had taken contrary positions, it would have been much more beneficial to me, but I believe that is not the ultimate thing in life.
The ultimate is when you are in such positions of value, protect the values. So, it was their battle that I was fighting, unfortunately, out of ignorance and poverty, they couldn’t appreciate it at the time. But, like I continually say, I bear no personal grudges with them. I have enjoyed it, because they have made me more popular locally, nationally and internationally. So, I am indebted to them in that regard.
Let’s flip that question. Do you think Asiwaju could have imagined that you of all people would have stood up to him?
Well, I must say that right from inception he appreciated my nature and tendency, even all the times – that we shared intimacy; that I had always stood up to him and tell him the truth and to that extent, he used to appreciate me until around 2014, that I started noticing that something was wrong – like there was a disconnect somewhere.
Before, even those who served in the cabinet with him will testify to this. We shot down so many of his policies; we shot down many of his ideas and he took them gladly without any form of bitterness or rancour against anybody and I continued with that tradition until around 2014, when I raised some issues about the candidature of the current governor of Lagos State, when I asked him to look at certain dynamics. Possibly Asiwaju was hijacked by other people, who poisoned his mind or convinced him to see it as an act of confrontation.
But again, the duty that I owe him as a follower is not that of sycophancy; it is the ability to tell the person your own opinion objectively about any situation, so, I have no regrets about that. I am sure that throughout the time, and I still want to believe so that he knew I meant no harm. But I will always take a position that I believe is proper, irrespective of whose ox is gored. That was exactly what has happened and I still believe that if similar circumstances presented themselves again, I will still take the same position and I think he shouldn’t be surprised about that.
Unfortunately, the only area I feel a bit pained was that we needed not get to the level of personal enmity. Disagreements are bound to happen and I have always considered them as healthy and he used to encourage it too but I don’t know what has happened in recent time that has made him to be intolerant to our suggestions or disagreements on some issues. The only point of divergence is about this issue of internal democracy, nothing else.
I have always insisted on that and gladly enough, he has come to that realization. Again, all the people in the race are your children, give them equal opportunity and whoever emerges from the process would still acknowledge his leadership that much I know and all those that fall by the roadside are the ones that require your protection against the tyranny of the person that emerge. That’s all. That’s the way I view it.
It is curious to know that you were the first person to stand more or less against the current Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode. You stood against him in many respects. Why was this so? Was it that the two of you had certain connections not known to the public or could it be a case of animosity towards him? However, it would seem that some of what you feared would happen are beginning to unfold, what exactly did you see that made you uncomfortable with his choice?
In the first instance, I regard what we are experiencing in the state right now as a divine intervention in the interest of the state as a whole and that of politicians as well. Like you rightly said, I saw this right from inception but I was the lone voice that shouted several times but the party people never saw it. Rather, most of them castigated and harassed me and kept intimidating me, even victimised me. But of course, I was unrelenting, undaunted and resolute.
Now, God has suddenly opened their eyes to the reality and all of them have now taken the gauntlet and shouting ‘we’re fed up with the governor; we don’t want him again’. In the first instance, he has never been part of the political movement of this state or part of the governance system; he was at best an Accountant General.
He never dealt with the issues of policies, development and programmes with us. We dealt with such. It would have been best if somebody within that circle, who must have known where we left issues; people that we had dealt with; those to be sustained, those to be improved on and those to be jettisoned.
But somebody, who spent the larger part of his life at the council level and suddenly emerged at the state level as Accountant General now governing a state as complex as Lagos? Certainly, it would be challenging to him. I saw the picture and knew we were endangering ourselves generally and I drew the attention of everybody including Asiwaju to it then.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that we were not only coerced into working for him, which we all did. In fact, I used to boast that I was among the top five people that worked for him to get to where he is today, but what did we get in return? Of course, we are living witnesses to my own story.
Regardless, the reality is that once you get to that position, even the people that are highly cerebral will still be receptive to ideas and suggestions from others. But what about someone, who shuts his doors at other people and believes he’s the only one who can do things the way and manner he considers right? The result is what we are seeing today. Today, everybody has now seen including the general populace (not only the politicians) that we are all endangered except something is done. I thank God that I am vindicated at the end of the day.
But what do you think informs his now resentful disposition?
Could it be lack of exposure especially, that you said he spent a major part of his life at the local government?
Well, exposure might be part of the reasons. It is not even about going to school alone. Like we used to joke, some people passed through the university but the university did not pass through them. Beyond that, the fact that you have a degree doesn’t mean you will make a good manager to start with.
Second, experience and exposure matter. You can never discount experience particularly in governance. My experience has shown me that if you bring any one from outside of the system to come and govern any state, he will still be struggling the first two years and by the third year, he will just be laying foundation and the next election is already around the corner.
Beyond that, again, the nature of the person also counts. As a leader, you must be receptive to everybody’s idea and you must be accessible. Once a leader is not accessible, he has already failed. People must be able to reach you; they must be able to interact with you; they must also be able to criticise you; you must be receptive to criticisms.
A leader that is not receptive has failed. Unfortunately, I think it is just his nature. He is just not receptive to others and there appears to be some measure of arrogance in him that will not allow him to share other people’s opinion. You can’t be right on all issues.
The fact that they call you ‘Your Excellency,’ does not mean you are excellent; it is just a glorification. He probably got the title of ‘His Excellency’ wrong to think he could do no wrong. It can’t be. The state does not belong to one person; we are all stakeholders in the state. Any policy that is introduced will affect us all in one way or the other, so when we voice out our opinion, why must you then persecute us, more so some of us are Lagosians of the first order?
A lot of people had done several analyses of him but I really don’t know what the problem is with him. Again, like I said earlier, you can never discount the issue of experience and exposure, which he lacks when it comes to the issue of governance.
As an insider, at what time did Asiwaju realise it was time to pull the plug on the governor’s second term bid?
I honestly don’t know. What I know is that in the last four or five months, there has been a subtle evaluation of the administration, and I could tell from his body language and that of people around him that they were beginning to realise that they were in trouble.
By that time, they had begun to realise that if the governor was presented for a second term, the success of the party at the poll was endangered. Again, information reaching me shows that there have been some polls, which showed that there was a looming problem if the party went ahead to field the current governor in the polls.
Since the drama surrounding the second term bid of Governor Ambode began, a lot of people have been speculating what the shortcomings are. Can we have you address the specifics?
There are a lot of issues and I do point them out but people were like why say it and I am like why won’t I say what I know. Take the issue of Environment, for instance. I personally know the state of the environment when I left as commissioner. Again, take the issue of climate change.
As of that time we were among the first 10 in the entire world. Our activities on climate change earned us a seat on the Board of World Health Organisation during that period. There was hardly anywhere in the world where the issue of climate change was to be discussed without involving Lagos State, because we escalated the issue and took it so seriously so much that we became a force to be reckoned with. Where is the issue of climate change today? It is as good as dead.
Look at the issue of waste management. We had succeeded largely in empowering people by way of private sector participation in waste management. We were getting it right and improving. Suddenly, somewhere somebody came with one funny policy and one funny company, maybe from space, emerged to manage our waste. So, Nigerians can no longer manage our wastes and we had to go and get a foreign company to come and help us manage wastes.
When the company came in, I granted an interview wherein I said from what I have seen of them, definitely, the company had no experience in waste management. The moment I started seeing wheeler bins on the roads – nowhere in the world do they put wheeler bins on the road except at construction sites and where they are normally put them are hidden areas or designated dump sites.
What you find on the roads and streets are litter bins, smaller ones like drums. So, immediately I saw that, I said definitely this company does not have experience in waste management. Yet, Lagos State went ahead to give guarantee in billions for such an inexperienced company?
Then they started putting up wheeler bins on the road thereby legalising dumping of refuse on the road and turning the spots to dumpsites. So, people were populating the spots with refuse and they couldn’t cope. Eventually, see where we are today. Half of the state is in state of epidemic as we talk. You need to go to the hinterland – Mushin, Ajegunle and others – in fact, as far as I am concerned, those ones live on refuse dump.
Look at how flood now ravages the state. We had conquered flood largely. We took the issue of flood control very seriously. We used to prepare for the rainy season as if you were preparing for marriages or any social event. Apart from the fact that we had a programme to clean all the drains every quarter, few months to every rainy season we’d mobilised all resources and cleaned all the channels.
We will mobilise all the local government councils, they take over the tertiary drainage and we take over the secondary canals. We would clear all the drainages immediately. What they do today is that they will give out works. I saw one of them, the contractor claimed to have done three kilometres whereas he only did the first 300 metres, so, they will only peep and say, ‘see that one and they’d say yes the job is done’. That is the kind of scenarios that you see today.
When I was in the environment ministry, it dared not happen. Some of my members of staff are still alive. We would go from one end to the other; we were on the road all weekends and our phones were open to all residents to tell us anywhere there was problem. We don’t sleep, we were alive to our responsibilities and challenges, but all these are no more in place.
During the Fashola administration you dared not engage in construction works and endanger the populace; you dared not litter the place with stone or iron rods, not all what you have today. Doing so not only constitutes danger to residents, it is also an abuse of the environment. In fact, the aesthetics of the state is largely gone.
Talk about transportation. I saw the buses that they just imported and I started laughing. How could anyone have thought of such buses in this age and time in a city like Lagos? In fact, Lagos is more than a mega city; we are in excess of 20 million. A mega city is a city within a population of 10 million.
Right from the period of Jakande, we had known that what we need in Lagos are Mass Transit buses. How could we bring in those types of buses at this age? We are going back. The buses will only compound the traffic situation.
Again, we have enough bus stops that are not being used in Lagos, yet, they are building more and more bus stops all over Lagos, when people will not use it. The funds being wasted in that area if I were in his shoes I would have expended it on motivating LASTMA officials, get them more logistics to manage the traffic in the state.
In London, they make use of high capacity buses – mass transit buses – yet how many layby do you see around London, because they are supposed to be moving? At each bus stop, they can spend more than a minute. Why would somebody want to build houses for miscreants and shops for ogogoro sellers and petty traders? Just be patient, you would see that in another three to four months, that is what it would turn to. You are creating another social menace, because that is where all of them will turn to as their new market.
These are part of the dangers of not looking at things holistically. You must always look at things holistically. Look at the BRT initiative. I introduced BRT to Lagos State and we had our plans. They have distorted it now. I feel ashamed when I see the construction going on along Agege Motor road; I feel ashamed at how they have messed up the whole road and how they have technically shown the physically challenged the red card.
They are building some funny looking pedestrian bridges all over the road. In the first place, how does the physically challenged get to the middle of the road to join the BRT buses? What you have on that road is what is called design error. The BRT should have been on the outer lane. They didn’t know how I introduced or why I introduced the one on Ikorodu Road, because they never asked. Instead of them to ask how we arrived at that conclusion, they didn’t ask; they just went there and started replicating what we did on Ikorodu Road, without factoring several other considerations.
They thought the solution was to put pedestrian bridges in place. Even the pedestrian bridges are so ugly. Some engineers have even queried the stability and integrity of those pedestrian bridges. From my perspective, the beauty of that place has been disfigured completely.
Somebody was talking about Airport Road and I said to them that it was during my administration that we designed the Airport Road. I gave him the design.
The construction ought to have taken place during Fashola’s tenure, but for the fact that the federal government at the time said after the construction was completed, they would be the ones that would collect revenue from the adverts on the road, then we said how can that be? How can I be playing for IICC and be collecting salary from Rangers Football Club? It doesn’t add up. That was the basis upon which we could not go ahead.
Then Fashola said now that I am the minster, I am ready to construct the road with federal government funds, he said no. He said he would do it with Lagos State funds, the money that could have been diverted to several inner roads that are in terrible state now. He made us miss that money. Fashola came around and said he has appropriated money for that road in the federal budget and it will be done, and you take another place, the next thing was blackmail.
What are the interventions in schools? I go to the General Hospital in Ikeja and I see patients on the floor in state. With N30billion internally generated revenue? This is part of the problem caused by somebody, who has not been part of the system and suddenly assumed leadership of the state. If it had been any of these two people that are being paraded now, Obafemi Hamzat and Babajide Sanwo-Olu, apart from the fact that they have been part of the system since 2003, they know everything about what we have been doing. They are best suited for the job. They know who and who did what; they can always call people up to ask questions: what happened during so so and so project? What did we conclude on?
Why didn’t we go ahead with that project? In my own very strong view, that is what is called continuity. Somebody that has been part of the system takes over from one person and who takes over from that person is also from within the system. That is what is called continuity. When I was raising these issues, everybody was abusing, denigrating me and saying all manners of things. Am I not being vindicated today?
Do you think it is too late to get him a re-election ticket?
No, it’s not too late, and that is one of the misconceptions that get me angry since this drama started. He took nomination form, Hamzat took the same form and Jide Sanwoolu also did the same thing. So, what has Asiwaju got to do with it? Asiwaju has even said everybody should go for primary, so let him go for primary now. Let him go for primary election – he has everything to his advantage. You are the incumbent governor and I want to believe you have more people to donate money to you.
Some people say he doesn’t have the political structure.
That is news to me. Are they saying he is not a politician? Is that what they are saying? I need to be educated, because if you want to occupy that position you must be a politician and to the extent that you are politician, you must be part and parcel of them. So, what you will be saying is that if he doesn’t have a structure, then, he is a foreigner to that system and that simply means you don’t belong there. But if you had the opportunity to be there, you better honourably leave the place.
But is it unfair to subject an incumbent to primary election? No incumbent had been subjected a primary election before, including Asiwaju himself, why him?
I have told you how we arrived at the present situation. I told you that initially it was not fashionable to even have primary. But when I became the national legal adviser of the party as the custodian of the rules, I started enforcing it. Today, it is established.
Something starts some day and somewhere. You cannot say because something has not worked before, it will never work. Since it is now working, let him subject himself to it. Why must it be automatic? It cannot even be automatic anyway, because there is a process in the constitution of the party and you must follow that process otherwise, every other thing becomes illegal. It is as simple as that.
With the whole drama that has played out in the past couple of days and how he has been humiliated, what do you think will be the implications if he was eventually handed the second term ticket?
Nobody is humiliating him except he is humiliating himself. To the best of my knowledge, what has happened is that some other people have come out to contest for the party ticket with him. They have been doing their ground work, contacting people and mobilising support. Let him go about too, contacting people and mobilising supports.
The people now are the constituency of all aspirants. So, go to the people, marshal your arguments, convince them and note please, there is no reversal, because nothing has happened. The screening exercise will soon take place let him go for screening, then primary. It is after then that we will know who the party structure wants.
There are insinuations in certain circles that it could be suicidal for Asiwaju to give him the ticket, because given the governor’s nature, he might fight back. Would that be reasonable enough to stop him?
Well, in the first place, I have told you that this thing has nothing to do with Asiwaju, because when I read about those nonsenses in the newspapers, I get angry. Will Asiwaju be the only one that will vote at the primaries? It is the entire party structure that is saying this is the way they want to go, it has nothing to do with Asiwaju and honestly speaking, the man needs to be shielded from the process. Let everybody go to the field.
Besides, it is not Asiwaju that will conduct the primaries; it is the national secretariat of the party that is going to conduct the primaries, so his handlers should desist from involving Asiwaju in the matter. Let them face the two other aspirants and tell them how they are incompetent to compete with him.
Recently, you were nominated as the Chairman of the Asset Management Company of Nigeria but again, opposition to it came from your own people. How do you normally feel having to go through this time and time again?
It is expected and normal. There is no way you will stand for proprietary and not have challenges. It is not shocking to me at all and that is why I always say whoever wants to stand for proprietary must be prepared to face the consequences, ranging from harassment, intimidation and victimisation and so on and so forth.
So, I expected all of that which was due to some misconception and that misconception is gradually going away, because everybody seems to be seeing the light now, that what I have been saying seems to be the right thing to do and that is enough source of happiness for me.
Those who know me know that of course, I am not a jobless person. I am a man of many addresses and I’ve been given an opportunity to add value to the society as a whole. So, if there is an assignment that His Excellency, the President feels I can perform and some people feel otherwise, well, for me as a Godly person, I always leave such things to God.
This is because it could be good instrument for preventing me from any hazard or taking me away from harm’s way, because not everything that ordinarily appears to be good is actually good for you. It is only God that knows which one is good or bad. So, at times, God will use some people as instrument to guard you against dangers. So, if they are the instrument, then, I thank God for that.
It will also go into history of Lagos that certain senators rose against one of their own, when there was an opportunity for him to midwife a particular agency. It would be written against their names that they became champions of that cause too. I laugh everyday and tell them to continue to protest against me. I am enjoying it, and like the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi always said, stand up for what is right even if you are the only one standing.
Why are you so controversial? Is it that you enjoy controversy?
I have never at any point in time liked to be controversial, but in our own clime now, proprietary is an aberration, so, when you don’t toe the majority line, then you are a controversial person. Again, like my late mentor, Professor Jelili Omotola used to say, the fewer the greater share of honour. So, it is even better to be in the minority always. Even heaven will not be open to majority, it is fewer people that will make heaven and in that process, minority will always enjoy it. They made the whole thing look controversial.
By my nature I am not a conformist. I am not wired to be one, either by way of legal training or by being a teacher. In being a teacher, we have our own analytical mind. We are not pro-establishment. We query establishment. Anybody that is educated should know that somebody with such background can never be a conformist.
We are trained to probe issues. Why should this be? Why must it continue in this way? Is there no better way of doing it? Are there no alternatives to it? These are the issues that keep ruminating in our minds all the time. So, when that happens, some people will say why must you query establishment as if establishment is God?
Establishment can never be God. God would not have invested us with brain if he didn’t mean that we should keep thinking. It is this thought process that provokes some of our positions on those issues that make people think we are being controversial or that we are being confrontational. It is not that I enjoy being controversial or that I am a controversial person, it is simply that there are some minimum standards that even if we were hungry, we will still refuse to toe the majority line particularly if we knew that they are wrong.
Of course, the majority is not always right. Like BRF likes to say, democracy does not translate into good governance and I agree with him. I share that thought with him.
There are speculations that some people particularly, in the camp of Asiwaju are not happy that things are not as chummy as it used to be between he both of you, considering that you used to be in the very core of the camp. Are there plans in the works to reconcile the two of you?
There is no quarrel between us. We are not fighting. Again, there is a misconception that there is a quarrel between us, at best, I will say we are disagreeing; and it is worthy of note that he also trained us along that part. Recall his days with former President Olusegun Obasanjo and others.
It takes courage to do all of that. He was courageous and I believe he is still courageous. How then can his disciples be jelly? There is a Yoruba song that says ‘You can’t begrudge a child for taking after his father’. I have been patterned after him and he isn’t annoyed with me.
But the disagreement
appears to be creating a gulf between the two of you?
It is the sycophants and scavengers that seized the opportunity and are still seizing the opportunity to create a gap between us in order to create an opportunity for them to feed. We all know them. As far as I am concerned, I have no quarrel with Asiwaju at all.
But on issues and principles, we are bound to continually disagree. Somehow too, we are getting old, will I be somewhere now and I will be referred to as a leader of tomorrow? Which tomorrow? You cannot possibly be saying at this age I cannot think again.
Are you making any personal efforts to close that gap or are there mutual friends, who are making efforts to do so?
I am not making any personal efforts, because I do not see it as anything inimical. It is a very healthy one. I believe on certain issues that this is the route to go about it and if he does not believe, so it is quite unfortunate. Look at the issue of internal democracy; he is now a higher apostle of it. So, where is the disagreement? Again, that was the fundamental area, where we had disagreed. Outside that area, there is none.
A few leaders of the party at the national level had attempted to see whatever they can do and they have seen that really on both sides there was no quarrel. They realised that the disagreement are healthy, fundamental and progressive. If I see Asiwaju, I greet him. At times, I joke with him. I don’t disrespect him, I am well brought up. I can make my point without abusing anybody and like I told you, I think we are over-ripe to have same positions on issues.
Is it as easy as you waking up in the morning, put a call to him and say, ‘Asiwaju I am coming over to see you’?
Oh yes. I had done it before. I was returning from court and I branched over at his place and we spent quality time to gist. For everything that is going on, I do not hold any personal grudges against him or anybody at all.
What is your projection of the next election given what is currently happening within your party?
Well, with what is happening in the party right now, if the primary were to hold today, the aspirant with the upper hand is Sanwoolu.
In the event that your party is not fielding the incumbent, what are your party’s chances especially, against a candidate like Jimi Agbaje of the PDP?
Honestly, I am not worried at all. If it were to be otherwise in our party then I would be worried. With any of those two other guys, I am not worried. Take Jide for example, within the last one week, he has been able to integrate the opposing forces. He is beginning to neutralise the dichotomy, which I think is a welcome development.
That is why it is better to have people with capacity and experience in human management. Not somebody that will say you are quarrelling with my friend I will kill you. Why would anybody cry more than the bereaved?
There is the perception that your party has lost the goodwill that brought it into office, are you concerned about that given that the election is around the corner?
In my view, we have not lost the goodwill. What is happening is that our communication strategy is not good enough. The good news for us again is that the larger part of the people that we are dealing with is not at the level, where we can say the communication strategy is inimical.
Take for instance the northern parts of the country, where we have the largest number of people – most of the electorate over there don’t even know what you people are talking about. They don’t know about the dollar much less pound sterling, so it is only among the elite that we have the challenge.
But recent polls have shown that they feel the economic pangs more in the North?
One thing about we Muslims is that rightly or wrongly, we tend to have absolute faith in God so much so that even when we are hungry, we tend to believe that is a form of atonement from God for a sin that we must have committed. So, we don’t react to everything. We have a way of rationalising things that happen to us. Majority of those people take the same position and that is why we are different.
Now, let me tell you, I have been doing this lecture series and a whole lot of leadership workshops here and there through United Action for Change, for which I am the convener. Conservatively, between 60 and 70 per cent of people voting in Nigeria don’t even know why they are voting, much more being able to tell why they are voting for a particular candidate.
It is a major challenge. In my lectures and workshops, I have been struggling to let the electorate see a link between their votes and their lives. I have been struggling to link their votes to their lives. But they have refused to realise that their single votes is what will fetch them good infrastructure, good schools for their children, quality healthcare system and more but for now there is still a major disconnect.
The media and particularly the elite owe the masses and the downtrodden of our society the duty of educating them on the value of their votes. As far as many of them are concerned, it is as good as a product, that’s why when you want to buy it, they quickly dispose of it and collect the money on offer and life goes on.
Lawyer raises alarm over N15 billion NDDC payments
A legal practitioner, Mr. Godwin Ojeh, has lamented what he called corruption of self-enrichment in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), calling on President Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Nigerian Senate , Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila to stop the payment of N15 billion to contractors.
‘’The Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission has thrown caution to the winds. It is about to pay for jobs not done. The committee is processing the payment of a whooping amount of N15billion on spurious contracts in the name of ‘’Desilting of Waterways’’.
He particularly decried the misappropriation in the management of the funds of the commission.
‘Is the 2020 budget of the commission ready? Where are they spending from? ’Recently, the Senate set up an ad hoc committee to probe the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) over alleged mismanagement of N40billion. The Senate also requested for 2019 budgetary performance. The commission doesn’t have power to expend public money. There is no budgetary provision’’.
In a tone suggestive of his hatred for corruption, the Benin based lawyer asked the National Assembly and the executive arm of the government to stop the commission from wasting the country’s resources.
In a statement in Benin, Ojeh described the intention of the NDDC Interim Management Committee as ‘’a move that will endanger development of the region
‘’There is no greater danger to the development of the Niger Delta region than the payments for fictitious contracts’’ the statement said.
He also harped on the need for transparency in government organizations, saying ‘’it is necessary for the National Assembly and the executive arm of government to adopt a collective position on the allegation of corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)’’.
Credit: Ebireri Henry Ovie
ABEOKUTA AND ITS PERENNIAL FLOODING: GOV. ABIODUN TO THE RESCUE
By Elijah Udofia
Saturday, July 4, 2020, is a day the people of Abeokuta, particularly those living very close to the city’s waterways, would not forget in a hurry. Like in the days of Noah, the floodgates were opened and the showers came down heavily, causing floods of havoc that ravaged portions of the city. For somebody who was in the capital city of the Gateway State for the first time, the sight of flooded roads, with water subterranean enough to swim, floating household possessions, evacuated trees, washed way bridges and people congregating on high rise buildings, waiting for the water to recede, is something he or she will live to remember for a long time.
On that day, the heavens opened and brought with it sorrows, but thankfully, without blood. The torrential rain which started at about three in the morning did not stop until six in the evening, thereby thrashing hard on the ancient city for 16 good hours, non-stop. It is instructive to note that July of every year, has always been a period when the city experiences great flooding, occasion by torrential rain. Apart from the destruction of critical public infrastructures, mostly roads and bridges, it is always a time when those living close to the canals, have their hearts in their mouths. Hardly a year passes without these areas experiencing flooding which lead to loss of properties and in some cases, life or lives as the case may be.
The recent one affected mostly areas are; Isale-Oja, Kuto, Ago-Ijesha, Ijeun-Titun, Ijeja-Igbore road, Gbangba, Elite-Lantoro road and Oba Adeleye’s recreational park. One is however happy that areas like Ijaye and Isale-Igbein, which used to experience serious flooding had been taken care of, by the construction of Lafenwa, Sapon, Idi-Aba, Ajebo road and Onikolobo, Omida and Sapon road. It should be noted here that the issue of flooding in Abeokuta is not new, as previous governments, including military administrations, had course to contend with this menace. The presence of the Vice President, who came to inspect the extent of damage caused by flooding two years ago, is an indication that the issue is not a child’s play. What is disturbing however is that the damages caused are becoming more devastating, which calls for concern by all and sundry?
Being the head of a government that came to power on the popular mandate, the State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, immediately the rain ceased on Sunday morning, ordered a team of government officials, led by the Environment Commissioner, Hon. Abiodun Abudu-Balogun took a tour of the areas affected by the flood and came up with a report to enable the government to respond accordingly.
As if that was not enough, the Governor, the following day, personally went round the affected areas to see things for himself. Prince Abiodun who was shocked due to the extent of damage caused not only to public assets, but to the property of the people, there and then, promised that his administration would assist them in mitigating the effect of their loss.
“I am here to look at the damage caused by the rain that fell on Saturday. Though I have sent my Commissioners and other government officials to inspect the damages, I decided to also come and see things for myself. I am happy that no life was lost, though you lost properties.
“I want to assure all of you who lost property to the flood that we will support you. In a few days’ time, government officials will come to see you to take down your names and properties affected, so that we can look at how to compensate you”.
On what the government intends to do to settle the matter once and for all, Prince Dapo Abiodun said the dredging of the canal that crisscrosses the State capital was on-going, while clearing of refuse in the gutters, was also carried out. He then informed the people that the government has assessed the damage caused to the roads and bridges with a view to carry out a comprehensive and proper channelization of the waterways.
“I want to assure you that we will repair the damaged roads, expand the gutters and bridges so that when rain falls, the gutters and the bridges would be able to accommodate the large volume of water. With this, the problem of erosion would be a thing of the past”, he promised
Governor Abiodun attributed flooding in the State capital to rapid development, besought the people to desist from dumping refuse or building structures on the waterways as these also contributed to the flooding. Collaborating the position of the Governor on the ways to find permanent solution to the menace of flooding in the State, the Commissioner for Environment, Hon. Abiodun Abudu-Balogun, noted that regular dredging of the waterways, converting some old culverts to bridges as well as delisting drainages to allow free flow of water will be done by the government.
The Commissioner disclosed that dredging is currently going on at Isale-Oja to Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library up to Orange Valley View Estate, adding that the government is not only looking at Abeokuta alone, as dredging is also ongoing in 16 places across the State. Though the government ultimate goal is to find a permanent solution to the problem, in the meantime, a temporary arrangement according to the Commissioner, was going on at the sites, as allowing the affected areas to remain unattended to, will adversely affect the socio-economic well-being of people and adds to their suffering. The Commissioner appealed to residents of the State to properly dispose of their refuse and desist from dumping them on waterways, to minimize the effects of flooding.
For Alhaji Bello Mohammed, Secretary, Isale-Oja, Kuto, Community Development Association, his community has been experiencing flooding on a yearly basis in the last 10 years. He opined that proper channelization of the canal with an adequate drainage system, would bring an end to the flooding. Also, Mrs. Abike Awosanya and Abideen Musibau, residents of Ago-Ijesha, in Abeokuta South Local Government, said that they want the government to urgently find lasting solution to the flood problem, as it has affected their means of livelihood and make life unbearable for them.
Also bearing his mind, Mr. Raphael Anthony, a motorcyclist, who plied Ijaye-Kuto route, appealed to the State government to regularly dredge the waterways and expand the drainages system as the existing ones can no longer accommodate large volumes of water, during heavy rain. More so, Mrs. Florence Adegbite, an apprentice hairstylist at Ijeun Titun, opined that, “from what I am seeing, I think the State government would need help, particularly from the Federal government to permanently address this problem, a huge amount of money will be involved.
Though Government has a big role to play in bringing an end to the flooding issue, l observed with pain that the actions and inactions of the people are not helping in this regard. A walk through the State capital, one will see the non-challant attitude of the people as they dump refuse even at places where they are not supposed to.
Some simple questions I would like to ask are, what is refuse doing on road medians? Why do people turn gutters, drainages which are supposed to carry water to the canal, to refuse dumpsites? Why do people find it difficult to clear gutters, even those in front of their houses? And most importantly, why do people build structures on waterways that were invented/constructed to serve as drains to the river. All these questions need urgent answers, if the problem of flooding in Abeokuta, is to be addressed.
Now that Governor Dapo Abiodun’s government is showing commitment by putting in place measures that will permanently solve the problem of perennial flooding in the capital city, it is imperative for citizens to also play their parts, because as the African saying goes, “one cannot clap with one hand”.
Udofia, Head of the Governor’s Press Crew, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
AREGBESOLA COMES TO JUDGMENT
BUSINESS4 weeks ago
FIRSTBANK PRESENTS DEVICES TO LAGOS STATE TOWARDS DRIVING 1MILLION STUDENTS TO E-LEARNING
NEWS3 weeks ago
$2.8 BILLION AKK PIPELINE PROJECT: BUHARI STRIKES AGAIN!
POLITICS4 weeks ago
ASIWAJU BAT MOURNS THE EXIT OF DISTINGUISHED SENATOR BAYO OSHINOWO
POLITICS4 weeks ago
SANWO-OLU EXPRESSES SHOCK, SADNESS OVER SEN. OSINOWO’S DEATH
NEWS2 weeks ago
APC: Oshiomhole bows, says he accepts dissolution of NWC in good faith
NEWS3 weeks ago
BreakingNews: Ex-Oyo Gov, Ajimobi Dies At 70
BUSINESS2 weeks ago
FIRSTBANK EMPOWERS WOMEN THROUGH FIRSTGEM ONLINE COMMUNITY
NEWS3 weeks ago
Ajimobi was a statesman, Makinde mourns