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Babatunde Raji Fashola: What you see is what you get

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Governor Babatunde Fashola is on his last lap as Governor of Lagos State and the remarkable  work he has done in Lagos has brought ‘Action Governor’ back to Lagos lexicon. Once upon a time, it was the loving title reserved for ‘Baba Kekere’, the eminent Alhaji Lateef Jakande.

Since the lofty days of Jakande, no other leader has filled us with such adulation as Gov. Fash.

The Mega-city project is gradually unfolding before us. Street by street, home by home, one project rolls into yet another. Lagos is gradually laying claim to mega status.

In this interview with Allure, the governor talks about his vision, the Lagos Economic Summit, the LASU imbroglio and what tomorrow brings. Enjoy…

Babatunde Raji Fashola
Babatunde Raji Fashola

Your Opponents say your Government is targeted against the Poor , and very Elitist. How do you react to this?

I am glad that it is our opponents that you credit with that view. The reason they say that is that they have run out of ideas about what to complain of. When we started in 2007 they said we were too fast and we will burn out.

We are still working hard 7 years after. Later they said our programmes were cosmetic. We have built 3 Power Plants, 7 Maternal and Child Care hospitals, thousands of housing units, roads and many things that will endure.

Later they said we have stopped working after re-election. When our work started unfolding they now say it is
elitist.

Every local government in the State is getting some service or the other. If these are the elite, that is their business. My advise to them is to tell their Government in the centre to serve somebody. The rich and poor in Nigeria are in darkness and insecure.

Let them start somewhere and provide security and electricity for some people before they can criticise us.
They have failed the rich and the poor and themselves.

You are an advocate of Federalism . Yet some say you ignore areas like the highly populated Alimosho LGA, from where Lagos State draws most Revenue, in favour of other areas …

The residents of Alimosho cannot fairly say that. For example, Igando Housing Estate is being built there, Egan Housing Estate is there.

Mosan Okunola got one of our flagship Primary Healthcare Centres. We are working on Meran road and have completed other roads like LASU- IBA and many others.

The 7th Maternal and Child Care Centre and School of Nursing were recently opened in Alimosho. We just concluded the Alimosho master plan where the Lagos Internet City City will be located.

What is the one thing you will remember from your time as Governor of Lagos State?

It is difficult to isolate one thing, there have been many and l still have a little over a year to
finish.

What is Style for you? Comfort. I have too many decisions to make everyday , and I need to keep my mind focussed on those decisions rather than what I wear!

Can you describe your Style?

Comfort to do my job for the day.

Your favourite Nigerian Designer?

I promote them in my advocacy for patronage of Made in Nigeria goods to grow our economy and I use what they make if it is comfortable.

Your favourite Foreign Designer?

None.
What won’t you wear?

Anything I don’t feel comfortable with. I remain a lawyer at heart and there are things real lawyers will never wear.

With the State University, LASU Students, still up-in-arms about the fees they will be paying, is there a possibility that the fees will be reviewed downwards?

I disagree that they are up in arms. We have different views on the same subject. I respect their decision to speak up and offer me the opportunity to also explain our decision making process to them. It allows them to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.

That is an open society and a democratic one.

Congratulations on the 2nd Draw of the Lagos Home Ownership Scheme ( Lagos HOMS). Have any challenges been revealed since the Draws started?

Yes, but nothing that is unusual or unexpected, except some anti-people behaviour.

How are you ensuring that people do not spoil the Lagos HOMS Scheme by seeking undue advantage?

We have made the system open. It is internet based and we will not break our own rules.

Your critics say that in spite of the high rating of the State’s Economy by International Agencies, Lagos State under you is borrowing too much to finance projects, especially as your administration is winding down. What do you say to that?

They said so during my predecessor’s tenure. We repaid all the loans, while the infrastructure that he built is still there. I believe I have said all that needs to be said. Our books are open. Our debts are disclosed. They are the
ones who are yet to tell us where $20 Billion disappeared to. We have the capacity to repay.

We are using the money for long term assets – roads, Rail, bridges, schools, Ferry terminals and other infrastructure that will outlive us. The United States that we cite as the greatest nation is the world’s largest debtor. They spent the world’s money to develop their own country for the world to behold and respect. Many parts of the world are beholding Lagos as the model for African development.

And the stoppage of work at the site of the proposed ILUBIRIN Housing Estate due to the FG’s attempt to take over land reclaimed by the LASG, has that been resolved?

I have said all that l need to say .For now, I will watch and wait.

Your desire for Lagos State to be accorded a Special status has not happened yet. But you also say Lagos deserves more than a Minister of State in the President’s Cabinet?

I did not say that, but if Lagos gets more than one Minister it is not undeserving .However, we
should not get it at the expense of other States.

But it is not the number of ministers but their quality that matters. Ministerial representation has not always translated to prosperity. If all a minister can do is to simply make up the numbers without bringing development, he or she might as well not be there.

What’s the one thing that People don’t know about you?

I am an open book. What you see is what you get.

This year 2014, the 7th Lagos Economic Summit (EHINGBETI 2014) has as its theme ‘ Powering the Lagos Economy : Real Opportunities, Endless Possibilities .’ Has the original aim of the Summit been met ?

If you mean all previous Summits, my answer is yes. Most of the resolutions have been implemented and they have brought development. If you mean only this year’s Summit, I will also say yes; because, we have
galvanised attention and energy to a topical issue and we plan to find solutions.

Many people see you as an ‘’ Action Governor ‘’. Is that how you see yourself?

I see myself as the privileged leader of a team of committed men and women ; we have developed an action Government; an institution, instead of a personality.

 

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