The Governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Lagos State, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, has said that he would return the state as the centre of excellence if he wins the 2023 election.
In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the architect turned politician noted that the spirit that is going to drive his administration will be transparency and accountability.
Less than four months to the governorship election, not much is heard about you. Why?
We are putting our structure in place, there is a lot of work we have to do underground because many of our people are being harassed by the ruling party; there are things we have to do quietly, but we are ramping up our publicity this week. By next week you are going to see something different in our campaign.
One had expected that as a vibrant young man, many would be singing with your name, even here in Lekki, posters of other candidates flood the area, but yours are missing.
We still have about four months to the election and we have to appraise ourselves. This thing is resource driven, and in Labour Party, we don’t have so much money, so, we have to make sure that we are doing the right thing at the right time; making sure that our resources are efficiently spent. We don’t have any governors, senator or president that is giving us money. It is self funded; it is friends, families that are coming together to push this thing. We need to manage our resources and we are at the point where we are going to put in our strategy and come out significantly in the public to really start making a lot of noise .
What are you coming to do differently in Lagos?
The spirit of our government is going to be that of transparency and accountability. Presently, the cost of project implementation in Lagos State is four times the World Bank benchmark for what it will cost, so by instilling transparency and accountability into governance, we are going to have four times the infrastructure that comes to exist. We are also going to focus on certain benchmark for quality delivery on our roads, making sure that contractors are held accountable if the life span of roads doesn’t last as long as they ought to. We are going to give the local government proper autonomy and have visionary leaders at the local government level so that the inner roads of our cities are done properly, and also have a proper mapping of our drainage system so that this flooding we are constantly having in the state will be a thing of the past. We are going to create an enabling environment for infrastructure developers, especially in the private sector to come in and invest in our road network and mass transit. Our number one priority is the mass transit both on the water and on the road; rehabilitating our road networks, opening up the BRT lanes, using technology driven apps. At the moment, it is just one company that is allowed to ply the lane. We are going to open it up and have a system whereby if you have a bus that can carry over 40 people you can also ply the BRT lane. So, we make up for that deficiency in the transportation access that exists in the state.
Do you think Lagos voters would leave the APC and its presidential candidate, a man they claim has done so much for Lagos to follow you that is not known?
I completely disagree and I think that statement that Tinubu is the founder of modern Lagos is such nonsense because by 1966, Lagos State was classified among the best cities in the world, but today, the Economist has constantly listed Lagos in the last decade as one of the world’s most dangerous cities to live; it is only above war-torn counties like Iran and few others.
My grandfather, my father grew up in Lagos at a time when you opened up the tap, public water started gushing out, but that is not the case anymore. We are Lagosians. At that time, you would go and board public transport and Agberos would not be harassing you, harassing the bus drivers or the citizens .There was a time that when you paid your taxes the incentives that you got was that the health care system worked and other facilities; I was born in a public hospital. There was a time you got proper treatment in public hospitals.
Modern day Lagos is what – state capture, a situation where taxes and incentives are being paid to one man and most of the revenue generated is paid to one man, while school children are sitting on the floor to learn? Is that modern Lagos? A state that is surrounded by water and there is no water coming out from the taps; a city that ranks lower that Kaduna in terms of ease of doing business, Kaduna in the face of banditry that they have? A city where if you can’t give certain equity in your business or give huge bribe, your businesses cannot thrive? A state where you have multiple taxation and the monies are not being accounted for? In the market, the Iyalojas, Babalojas, leaders of NURTW are getting more than N20 billion a year and yet none of the monies is used to better the lives of Lagos citizens. Is that a city we are talking of modern Lagos, no? That is not modern Lagos; that is a mediocre Lagos. Lagos is no longer the centre of excellence.
So, I completely disagree that he is the founder of modern Lagos. The state was called the centre of excellence way back before Tinubu came. Water was being pumped from Iju to Island; the state was not called the centre of excellence for nothing. The state now is the centre of mediocrity. You are sitting in traffic four hours every day, waking up at 4am and getting home at 12 midnight. Many don’t see their children until weekend. Is that modern Lagos? To do a 16-kilometre railway has taken almost 20 years; something that Lateef Jakande would have completed in four years if not for Buhari overthrowing the government is 1983. If you are talking about that father of Lagos that was destroyed, give it to Alhaji Jakande. He opened up Lagos; opened up the Lekki, Ojo corridors. He built massive estates across the state and people got affordable houses. He revolutionized the education system, the healthcare delivery in the state. He had a civil service that was delivering, and focused on accountability and transparency and ensured that the resources of Lagos were used maximally for the benefit of the citizens. That is the father of modern day Lagos.
What advantage do you have over the APC governorship candidate, Sanwo-Olu?
Ours is that we will have a government that is not leashed by a godfather. We will have a government that will function for the people and serve the people. We will have a government that can be transparent and accountable, and we don’t have to be running the government for the interest of the status quo of the few. We will have government that for once will focus on urban regeneration because my background is architecture and urban planning, and I graduated at the MIT and I have done work with the Chinese government, with the American government, even in Nigeria as well, and other countries. We’ll have a government that centres on the people. We’ll have a government that is equitable and just. When you look at the indigenes of Lagos State, they are welcoming people, and they believe in coexistence; and live and let live and that is why Nnamdi Azikiwe’s largest political base was Lagos. You look at Funsho Williams, his wife is from Aro Ndizugo; my father’s wife is from Abia State and my wife is from Anambra. Lagos is a state that when you come here we appreciate you, we are not tribalistic people, but an imported culture has come into Lagos about 25 years ago. That culture is that one that is threatening to close people’s markets; that culture is that one that is threatening to drown people if they don’t vote for them; that culture is the one that has been collecting taxes from the people three to four years in a row. And once there is an election, they remember that they were not from Lagos, even though they are major stakeholders in lands and businesses. We want to restore the status of Lagos State that believes in coexistence and harmony of people. Lagos didn’t become the commercial capital of Nigeria by accident, it was because of the people that were here that welcomed everybody and that is why it’s the microcosm of Nigeria and business could come in and thrive.
What are the challenges you are facing?
Our major challenge we are working to overcome is security. You know that the ruling party uses voter intimidation, voter suppression to suppress votes, but we are focusing to ensure that we have a resistance network across the state to repel any of such attacks. We remember vividly what happened in 2019 in the Okota axis, in Ojo and Ifelodun councils, and we don’t want to sit and watch it repeat itself.
Our other challenge is finance, but the people are with us and it is something that we believe that as campaigns pick momentum in the next few weeks, people will start investing in campaigns because what we need to understand is that this struggle is for a new Nigeria. This is not the typical politics.
You cannot eat your cake and have it. When you vote in a ruler over you, don’t complain when the ruler is ruling over you. Politics should not just be left with politicians and that is why we never had servant leaders; we expect somebody to have accumulated a lot of money to come and contest, campaign and buy votes and win and we don’t care where he accumulated that money from. And that person would get into position and you will be surprised that his focus is to travel abroad to get his health care done even though the health care system is in shambles; and all his children are schooling abroad even though your own children have been out of school for months because ASUU has been on strike. The people get the leaders that they deserve. The politician that emerges is the reflection of the people that take election seriously.
I have put myself forward to fight the fight for the good people of Lagos State, to ensure that we have a government that is transparent and accountable to them and not a godfather and to bring innovation to move Lagos truly forward because we have just been doing the same. There is a lot of tokenism, there has not been any dramatic development in the state. Even the development that we look around and see is mainly for the rich. The government is so focused in the development of the rich and so leaves many people to live in squalor; there is no accommodation for them; you have so many youths that are wasting their lives, and standing on corners and asking people for help. We need to take them back to to equip them, make them more employable and good members of the society.
The PDP governorship candidate said it’s the Aworis’s turn to be governor. Is it also the turn of your own part of Lagos?
First and foremost, the indigenes of Lagos in general have been sidelined for over 20 years. So, whether you are from Lagos Island, Awori or you are from Ikorodu or the Badagry division, the indigenes of Lagos have been sidelined. That is the general thing. For the indigenes interest, this is their village, they don’t have any other place to call home.
I will not go to Ogun State to go and contest for governorship; Animashaun Rhodes Vivour cannot go to Ondo to contest for governorship even though they have been living there for decades. They cannot go to Oyo, Osun to contest, this is the only place that we have that we can call home and we seek to make a difference through governance. So, indigeneship right is very important and it is important that the indigenes are represented in government.
But there was a peace agreement among parties?
The peace agreement is not worth the paper it was signed on. This is the third election I have been contesting, there was a peace agreement signed in 2019, it didn’t stop the hooligans from snatching ballot boxes and setting them on fire. It is good for the optics of it and I’m hopeful for the days that it will work. The most important thing is that we’ll put a resistance network in place so that we’d stand firm against any attack on the people who want to scuttle the election process.