Former Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe speaks to CHINELO OBOGO on the forthcoming local government elections in Lagos State, insecurity in the nation and the fight against corruption
Comment on the Local Government elections and the preparedness of the PDP
I was listening to a programme and my heart bled because people in government are stealing a substantial part of our wealth, I mean the political class; and they have the enormous wealth to perpetuate themselves in power, so unless we curb corruption, election will be based only on money. Coming back to the issue of the local government elections, it is money that will play a significant role and the government in power has more than enough to rig and to buy themselves enough votes.
I have discovered that politicians have found out that instead of satisfying the people with developmental projects and providing social amenities, politicians prefer to steal all the money, make the people poor and during elections, give them a little money and because they are poor, they will have no other option than to depend on the money you will give them. The wealth that the government in Lagos State has seen and generated for the past twelve years is enough to win any elections in Lagos and even throughout the federation if we are not careful.
Are you conceding defeat already?
There has never been an election in Lagos State. They win elections by spending the money they have gathered. If you are talking about social amenities, talk about where you live and now determine if that government can win elections. All of us are suffering and it is every one of us that can see whether there is progress in Lagos State or not. If you go to Ebutte-meta, Lagos mainland and Lagos Island, Epe, Kosofe etc, you still see poverty and lack of infrastructure. So what are people going to vote for rather than money? All of you journalists see these things because you live in places where you cannot even drive your vehicles to your houses, but when you write about performance, you still give pass mark to a government that is inflicting poverty on the people.
Some weeks ago, the Minister of Finance published the allocations that each Local Government in Nigeria receives from the Federal Government on a monthly basis; it is on the internet for everyone to access. I found out that the local governments in Lagos receive N40billion, that is N2billion per Local Government (for the 20 Local Government recognized by the Federal). Go to any local government and see if you find N10 million worth of developmental projects. This month alone Kosofe received N400million to repair the major linking road which is bad and Ikorodu received N388million from the Federal apart from the N10 million that the State should contribute.
So we see that the State is being destroyed. As far as I am concerned, it is until you see these politicians send their children to public schools, that is when you will know that they are working. That is the way you will measure the performance of a government, it is not through propaganda or noisemaking. It is when the elite of the community can enjoy the benefits of public institutions that is when you can say the government is working. 85 per cent of children in Lagos attend private schools because they have the best schools, so what are we talking about? It is not hidden. So we should not be talking about elections at all because winning election is a function of money and not by performance. If it is based on performance, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) cannot win anything.
But are you prepared as a party to throw your hat into the ring?
I am telling you the scenario. If you have the money to throw about and give people, then go for the election.
At the state level, has the PDP put its house in order to give the ACN a fight?
It is easy to say that but in our own party, there are people that are paid by the opposition because of poverty. We have an executive, and 80 per cent of them are in the pay roll of the opposition because of poverty. You can see the trend for yourselves? How many of them left the party two weeks to the election, even the former minister? So what else do you expect from the party members or the perception of the public. It is the interest of money that is predominant and it is very significant.
Does it mean that the PDP cannot match the ACN, might for might?
For now it is difficult unless there is reorganization. People that will not depend on money from the opposition should handle the party, but where you have people that depend on money from the opposition for their survival handling the party, there will still be problems.
What do you make of the allegations of fraud against the Speaker of the House of Assembly?
What you are observing is a tip of the iceberg as regards what is going on in Lagos State. You usually see these type of things when they are fighting among themselves. You are yet to see more because they are all in the game. Who is the owner of Alpha-beta Consulting that takes more than 5 per cent of the total revenue of Lagos every month? The company has no director, it does not have Annual General meeting, nobody knows the chairman of the company, it does not pay tax to the Federal Government, yet it collects billions from the State Government every month. Despite the amount of money given to the Local Government from the state, only less than 30 per cent are actually given to them, yet they cannot talk. After paying salaries, they share what is left and they cannot do much, which is why the level of poverty at that level is unimaginable. There is a high level of decadence but people hide under the auspices of civil rights organizations to protest as if there is no corruption going on.
The allegations against the Speaker are believed to be masterminded by the opposition. How true is it?
When they are in trouble for the wrong reasons the AC N will say it is the PDP that is the mastermind, but when PDP political office holders are in the same trouble for the wrong reasons, which party is the mastermind? When they were prosecuting Bode George, which party was responsible? Stealing is stealing. If you are not guilty, you will come out clean. The amount of corruption in Lagos is more than any other in the federation. It is massive. If you go to the Local Governments, you will be amazed. The Chairmen are even helpless because they take their money. These things are open for investigations courtesy of the Freedom of Information Act. Anyone can go to a Local Government chairman and say; you were given N400 million this month, so where is the money? He will probably tell you that he was given only N15million. What do they do? For instance, in Kosofe, 80 per cent of it is rural. The major road which is in Ogudu, through which you can link other roads, is bad.
People believe that the seeming peace which eluded the South-West when it was in the hands of the PDP has gradually returned. Do you not see that as some level of achievement?
What achievement? Let them perform. There is no basis for performance in Nigerian democracy anymore. They have to recoup their investments from the last elections and that is what they are doing now. All the programmes that they are making noise about will never materialize because they need money and they are preparing for the next elections already.
What is your view over Salami's issue?
The people that are fighting over the case are fighting for money. It is not a hidden thing that money changed hands. Something is happening in the judiciary and political parties are protesting. What are they protesting for? Some of these parties have been accused of having linkages with the judiciary and the truth is that those linkages exist. There is a lot more to it than meets the eye. If the PDP decides to talk about these people, you will weep for this country. Who was the lawyer for the AC N and the PDP?
Salami was not the lawyer
But he was the Judge and consultant, even to the PDP. We have more information than the people can see.
Why doesn't PDP present evidence?
It is still coming, why the hurry? We presented evidence through call logs, where the opponents were communicating with the judge.
But it was faulted by the court
It was not faulted. The court only said the evidence was not enough but they did not say that it didn't happen. But where you are a judge and you are in a telephone conversation for 156 minutes with the person that has a case before you, what do you make of that? Why were they all calling you? In some other countries, you do not even talk to someone who has a case before you.
What other proof does the PDP have?
We have over 50 Appeal Court judges, but why is it that out of all of them, only nine kept handling all the sumptuous tribunal cases including himself? When he was asked in an interview why only nine of them were always involved in such cases, he said that those were the people he trusted.
Why do you think he refused the Supreme Court promotion?
I should ask you. When I heard of the development, I phoned somebody and told the person that I have been a public officer and I have never heard of anyone who rejects a promotion. Even in a private company, workers pray to be promoted. In this case, he went to court and said he should not be promoted and the activists, because they wanted to benefit, started protesting and saying that the process of promoting him was faulty.
People believe that because he was a man of integrity.
Do you not work for a company? So if your management suddenly promotes you, will you tell them that you do not want to be promoted because due process was not followed? Even when you are posted, do you reject it and say you do not want. Is it not strange?
Is it regrettable that the PDP cannot boast of a state within the southwest?
Why should there be regret? It is because of the infighting and arrogance within the PDP that made us lose. To my mind, it doesn't matter, but if we put our house in order, maybe next time we will be fortunate. For you to be relevant in politics you need excessive money and that is the truth
As a PDP state chairmanship aspirant, what are you going to do that others have not done?
They have not been able to win elections. Our congress is coming up in January and I hope our members see the bigger picture. I cannot tell anyone how I will go about it because it is my secret master plan.
It's barely one year, and the country seems not to be investment friendly because of the spate of insecurity. What is your take on it?
The government should remove the Local Government joint account as soon as possible and it will go a long way in helping development. These Boko Haram people live in a community and the truth is that what they are doing is not comparable to what is obtainable in Lagos where the youths have turned into touts and land grabbers. It is the decadence in the communities that has brought about this problem. If we have a very strong local government with a lot of money nobody is going to be disgruntled. It is the neglect of the rural areas that has brought about this. If you say they prefer Koranic schools, have you provided it for them, they do not have water, roads, hospitals and you say they should accept your own form of democracy and westernization? It is the mismanagement of our funds from 1999 to date that is responsible for this because if you look at the members, they are all young people. it is the system that they are fighting
But people believe it is political
If there are good roads, hospitals and other infrastructure will there be fighting? It is a social problem and we must nip it in the bud.
From 1999 till date no governor has been tried and convicted for corruption. How would you assess the war against corruption?
Who will try them? Corruption is another name for Nigeria. If you are not corrupt in this system, you cannot survive. Let me repeat myself. In the present day Nigeria, if you want to live by your means alone, you will die poor. It is not possible to live by your means alone without cutting corners. Who will do the fight against corruption? they are still fighting about N18,000 minimum wage and some people say they are not going to pay. How can an average Nigerian survive on that if he not corrupt?