Alhaji Babatunde Alade Balogun is the Lagos APC Chairman. In this interview, he talked about the APC’s Next Level mantra and how it has improved the infrastructural development of the country.
What’s your assessment of Governor Sanwo-Olu’s administration especially against complaints by Lagosians?
Of course, he has been performing excellently well. APC, Lagos State as we all know has been in governance for over 20 years now. And over the years, you could see the level of infrastructural development in the state compared to other states, the socio-economic development, and developments in various institutions of the state.
Many states have come to enquire about the possibilities of these structural developments in the state.
Other stakeholders have come to understudy some of the projects that are carried out in Lagos State. As a matter of fact, we had a town hall meeting yesterday on the issue of security trust fund and I must tell you that many states have come to find out how we do it here. Lagos State security trust fund is a fund generated from private voluntary donors like the successful and prominent banks, some of the productive companies. They donate these funds voluntary. And this has been very reliable and effective, and it’s been a transparent fund management that has attracted a lot more donors.
There has never been a bank robbery in Lagos State like there is in other states. Security of lives and property is a top-most priority for this governor Sanwo-Olu’s administration. More importantly, this administration is technology- driven, providing good road network, provision of inland water ways, provision of adequate road transportation, prioritising education, and is actively bent on managing the traffic challenges by employing more traffic wardens. The achievements are inexhaustible. All these policies have worked for us as a state, that is why we have all we need in the state today, and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is not doing anything different from his predecesures; he is following the master plan for the betterment of Lagos people. So, I give kudos to Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration.
How long do you think APC will control Lagos?
Lagos State is blessed to have governors who have performed excellently well and still performing excellently well concurrently.
Other states envy Lagos because of its good governance. The governor is driven by clear vision, and it’s important I note that the governor who laid the foundation for this good governance and clear vision is Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu during his tenure as Lagos State governor in 1999. He formulated the ten point agenda, for the development of Lagos State. All that is being actualised today, were plans made during the Tinubu-led administration. Including the Lagos State Traffic Agency (LASTMA), you see today was in the ten point agenda of his administration. The agency has become a veritable source for job employment. Everyday we have people trooping in and out of Lagos, because the state is excelling. You find people from all walks of life taking advantage of the quality development of Lagos. What I’m doing is stating the obvious reasons why APC will remain in power for as long as the people want it. And this is what the people need and why they always vote for APC. It’s the people that have always voted the party into power. In my opinion, I think the governor believes APC will remain in governance for as long as the people want, even if it’s forever.
There are speculations that Lagos State is under a political god-father who controls the affairs of the state. What is your impression about that?
My take on that fallacious speculations is that first, people must realise that the present governor is competent to carry out any task as he is doing right now. He has clear vision of how to run the state.
He is brilliant and experienced in the governance of Lagos State. He has been a commissioner for about two times. He has been a part of the actualisation of Lagos plans. So, he knows what he is doing. Like I earlier said, Lagos State has a plan that is being followed by all sworn in governors, and that plan has worked well for the growth and development of the state. So, any governor who goes against the plan is doing so at his own peril. On this note, I want to clearly correct that unnecessary speculation of Lagos State being under a political god-father. It is baseless, and has no existence in the state.
When you talk about a governor going against the set-out plan for the state, do you refer to the past governor?
Well, all I can say is that there was an election, a free and fair one.
The people voted out whom they didn’t want and voted in whom they wanted. It’s a simple statistic. His administration has began on a good note, it was evident. But the people have the civic right and responsibility to exercise their votes.
What’s your take on the hate speech bill and the death penalty punishment?
If a bill is passed and the people find it not suitable or fair, to raise objections and express their views against it, it is not out of place for people to kick against it if it’s not acceptable. For now they can deliberate on it, that’s why it hasn’t been signed into law yet; it takes a process. This is democracy. We give room for people to be heard. For me, I’ll say the law and legislative arm of government should ensure it undergoes the necessary process and take its final course.
What is your view on some Northerners insisting that power should remain in the North?
When you say Northerners, then you are talking about few of them.
I don’t want to disperse anyone of their view, but that’s in the minority. Every Nigerian has the right to say or express their views.
If the Northerners are insisting that power belongs to them, then that can only be proven by their ability to utilise their voter’s cards to exercise their rights in a civil way. I’m very sure that these few are those who are not well informed and educated on their rights. We are all Nigerians and as far as the law is concerned, every Nigerian is entitled to rule and be ruled.
Shouldn’t the presidency go to the South-East for equity and justice?
It fully depends on Nigerians. If a party chooses its presidential candidate, and the people vote for the candidate, it is their votes that will count who wins and who is sworn in as the president. Every Nigerian, irrespective of tribe, religion, has the right to vote and be voted for. So, if they think it’s time for presidency to go to the South-East, the people should wait till its time and vote for their preferred candidate, and allow the electoral authority have its final say. Voting for a preferred candidate, is the constitutional right of every Nigerian. Presidency is not allocated, it is voted for by the people.
Is the APC’s Next Level mantra synonymous with suffering and hardship as it is currently?
No, it is not and I say that categorically. The APC Next Level mantra is practically synonymous with development. That is an obvious fact.
Look back to the 16 years of misrule of the PDP; President Buhari took over office in 2015; Nigeria is interconnected now with a lot of good road networks, after the deplorable state of Lagos-Ibadan expressway, now that road is under construction as we speak, and before the middle of the new year, Lagos-Ibadan expressway will be completed. The same thing with the Niger Bridge; it was in a deplorable state when the PDP were there. The APC came in 2015 and the fact is obvious. That’s what we mean by next level. We are taking Nigeria to the next level of good governance and excellent leadership, economic development, infrastructural development in the improvement of people’s lives. I need not say more.
How about security improvement?
Yes! We acknowledge there are still security challenges, no doubt. But when you take a close look at other developed countries, you will observe that they also experience security challenges. The most important thing is that the Federal Government is making efforts to combat the lingering insurgency which everyone knows that it’s not an easy task. Insurgency and arm-struggle is the most tactful menace to cub, especially in a densely populated country as Nigeria, where some miscreants have chosen to take violence as a lifestyle. Definitely, the Federal Government has gained an upper hand in tackling it to a minimal level. It’s no more tedious as it was in 2014. So far, there has been a decline in insurgency in Nigeria.
What is the position of APC on Tinubu’s presidential ambition in 2023?
I reserve my comment on that, but you must understand that Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu is a Nigerian citizen, and therefore deserves the right to run for presidency like every other citizen and it is the people’s right to choose and vote for him. The most important thing is that he has the political wisdom, he has the acumen, he has political experience for many decades, and he has what it takes to rule a country. That’s all I can say for now until the appropriate time.
What are your thoughts about the border closure by the Federal Government, don’t you think it has contributed to the ongoing hardship in the country?
That was a fantastic decision made by the Federal Government. So far, it has helped improve made in Nigeria products enormously, especially local rice. Nigeria has recorded a high level of revenue now since after the border closure. All these revenue could have gone to the neighboring countries. Local rice farmers are smiling to the banks now. The demand for locally produced rice is on the increase. There has been a massive cultivation of rice since the border closure. The president has led that rice revolution. The same thing applies to the poultry farmers; they are all smiling to the banks, because of the tremendous demand for produce. The border closure has also saved Nigerians health-wise. These neighboring countries used to smuggle tons of expired rice into Nigeria, and denying us of a healthy and nutritious rice. The same thing with vehicles, petrol, arms and other commodities. They used to be smuggled into Nigeria through the borders by these countries. Nigeria was a dumping ground for them. It’s a pathetic situation. So, I strongly support the continuous closure of the border for the economic growth and health improvement of Nigerians.