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IKORODU LOSS, WAKE UP CALL FOR ACN, SAYSLAGOS CHIEF WHIP

By NBF News
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By Bashir Adefaka
MR Abdulrazaq Balogun, a medical doctor, has been in the Lagos State legislature representing  Surulere II Constituency since 2003.   He remains one of the articulate and fluent contributors on the floor of the House and does not compromise his independent mindedness in the course of duty.

In this interview with Vanguard, he spoke on the Action Congress of Nigeria's (ACN) loss of Ikorodu Constituency to PDP in the recent bye-election, why he would not go to Federal House of Representatives in 2011 and how best to resolve the issue of jumbo pay as it affects the National Assembly. Excerpts:

Are you not rattled by the present controversy trailing the jumbo pay in the  National Assembly?

I think I'm not going to really make a comment on that because I'm part of the legislature and the legislature is always as perceived, the sacred cow.  I mean people give a lot of insinuations about the legislators because they don't even understand our roles.  On  the pay issue, you have to ask questions: Is it legitimate? Is it legal?  I mean we have a framework from the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission that prescribes our wages and all that.  So first of all the question you ask is it legitimate remuneration they are taking?  If not, the court of law is there.

But again, people must understand one thing that when you talk about legislators at the National Assembly or even Lagos State House of Assembly or any other state, it is a whole arm of government where we have our aides, drivers, civil servants working with us.

So I just want to say that when the press is making such revelation about the legislature, they should do the same with the executive.   I am sure by the time they reveal how much the executive expends in our economy, you will be rattled too.

And don't forget that when you talk about the Presidency itself, that's one part of the executive, you now talk of ministries, departments and agencies.  Collate all their total remunerations and their allowances and their recurrent expenditures, you will be baffled as well.  But the legislature is new; it is still about 12 years old in our administration in this current dispensation; the executive and the judiciary have been in existence since independence, so you always have us as  sacrificial lamb.

And then, don't always forget that most of the things we do is in the open.  When we are debating, when we are having meeting, it's in the open.  When the executive does its own executive council meeting, no pressman is there.

What is the situation like in Lagos State?
For Lagos State House of Assembly, we have 40 members and by the special grace of God in the wisdom of our leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and our Speaker, they returned about 18 of us and that's why you see Lagos State House of Assembly moving very smoothly well there is no rancour.  Even where we have rancour, it's internal.  You don't hear about these things because we understand that we must put the people first.  We understand the duties of the legislature and that is why you don't hear us talking about constituency allowance to construct roads and things like that.  It's not our duty.

So, I think people must start to understand all these things.

There must be a form of enlightenment for people to know the functions of the legislature and know that it's not an arm of government that you can change from time to time.  And then don't even forget that  the way civil servants make a career in civil service, the  way bankers make a career in banking, that is the same way you can make a career of politics and the legislature.

PDP won the recent House of Assembly run-off election in Ikorodu.  What does it portend for ACN's chances in Lagos 2011?

For me, it came as a rude shock and surprise to us.  But, like any astute politician, we know that for us it's a wake up call.  We are not scared.  I know the member coming into the House of Assembly will probably be the shortest member in history because, I know, we are taking back that seat come 2011.  It's just one of those things that happen and so, sometimes, these things are just blessings in disguise.

I know we are fully on ground.  Our government has done tremendously well to earn the people's support and I know the people are in support.  But again, we too must try as much as possible not to take things for granted and to ensure that in any political contest, you must always believe that you can't take any opponent for granted.

Is it because of the calls by your constituents that you have chosen to return to Lagos House of Assembly and not go to the House of Representatives?

Well, first of all, I must thank God for his mercy and I consider myself very privileged for the people to have a lot of trust and confidence  in me.   I strongly believe that sovereignty belongs to the people and the people I have represented for the past eight years still strongly believe that I should seek re-election into the Lagos State House of Assembly with the support of my leaders and  the leadership of my party.

I consider it a huge privilege and I just want to thank God and my people in Surulere Constituency II for this support because without them I can't be here.  And for them to also believe in the fact that having gained so much experience and having impacted positively in their lives by way of infrastructural development that I should continue.

What have you achieved to warrant the kind of support that your people have for you?

Well, for me, when people say I come from Surulere, I always emphasise that I come from the rural part of Surulere.  In my constituency, a lot of areas there are undeveloped and these are Orile, Coker, Ijeshatedo, Itire and Aguda areas of Lagos.  These are areas that need a lot of urban renewal.

And I can tell you that in the last eight years we have made tremendous progress.  These are areas that haven't had any development; for over two decades they were slums! But since eight years ago when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu became governor, there have been tremendous development and progress in the areas.  I can tell you now as I sit that in Orile Iganmu and Coker area which is the  most populous part of my constituency, we have about 18 roads being done simultaneously and, you know, a lot of international standard canals and drainage are being constructed.  So we have now had a massive reduction in flooding in that area.

Also all the secondary schools and primary schools in my constituency have been rehabilitated; they all wear new looks now.  A lot of dualisation of roads are going on there also.  So I can say that there has been massive transformation and that is the whole essence of representation because I tell people that if you don't have an effective representative, the governor will not just wake up one day and say, 'oh, let's remember one Itire area when there are other areas looking for development.'  So I think in my own modest way, we've been able to achieve these things by way of effective representation and experience we have gathered over the years.

Naturally, after eight years, it is expected you should move to the next level of legislature in spite of everything.  But you stick to Lagos, why?

Lagos, let me tell you, is a country on its own.  I mean this is the area where you can impact positively on your people.  I am much closer to them.  Even though the local councils are there, it probably will cost them few naira to get to Alausa.

And, for me, I think the work in Lagos is still enormous; we can't complete it in decades. So, I still believe I'm much more relevant in Lagos than being in National Assembly for now because, there is still a lot of work that I need to ensure is completed in my constituency.  There are so many projects on going.  If I don't ensure that they enter the budget in this fiscal year, what will happen is that they may just be abandoned and truncated.

My party is still in government in Lagos and so there is still a lot I can bring to my people.