By Ngozi Nwoke
One of the leading chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, Chief Lanre Razak, has said that former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu deserves respect for his contribution to the growth of democracy in the country. He also observed that the Federal Government needs the support and prayers of Nigerians to meet the expectations of the people.
In this interview, the APC chieftain appealed that Nigerians should be patient with the Federal Government to deliver democracy dividends to the people.
As the former Lagos Sate Commissioner for public transportation, it’s obvious that you left an indelible mark, and made huge impacts on the transport union, during your administration. Are you not bothered at the manner in which road transport workers harass motorists in Lagos today?
I have always said it, and will say it again. That is Nigeria’s biggest problem. That is a part of the decay of the 16 years of democracy by the PDP that did not provide jobs for the youths. I am not defending these miscreants, but I’m saying that they ought to have been engaged with jobs. Whether we like it or not, they have to feed and pay bills. Some of them have families to fend for. They have devised a means to survive, and it’s unfortunate that they have to harass innocent citizens and extort money from them. It was not this bad during my time as the commissioner for public transportation.
But with the situation today, I recommend that we must have state police to be under the effective control of every governor in every state of the country. That will drastically reduce many of these crimes purported by these people. In my time, they had traffic units of the police and their job was nothing but to control traffic, and control the activities of the transport union. But today, we don’t have such units anymore. It is the duty of the transport union to protect drivers and passengers. So, I also recommend that these road transport workers be sponsored to undergo trainings.
There are speculations by Lagosians that the state is under a political god-father. What are your thoughts about it? Do you support the idea of political god-father or dictatorship of some sort?
There is no country that does not have great people who have contributed to her growth in one way or the other. The speculation is not true at all. The only thing people have to understand is that when a person has immensely contributed to improve basic amenities in a state, he deserves to be given the privilege to recommend better ways for the development of the country. He should be recognised as an elder statesman. Such a person is rare. I know the direction of the speculations and that it is referring to Ahmed Bola Tinubu. This man stooped to conquer. He succeeded to drive out a party that was at the verge to sink Nigeria for 16 years. People are only envious of his political achievements. I advise them to learn from his good governance in Lagos state and stop the criticisms. This man was able to transform Lagos to internally generate a revenue of over 30 billion monthly, without imposing additional hardship on Lagosians. I don’t think Lagos is under any sort of political dictatorship.
What major reform do you expect to see in the new administration, especially areas that need urgent improvement?
There are two major areas that require urgent reform. The aspect of education is a necessity. The infrastructural standard of education needs an urgent reform. Secondly, the rising rate of area boys harassing people is becoming alarming. It is true that we cannot drive them away. So, the government should provide a way to practically engage them in something meaningful so they will stop being a nuisance in the state. There should be an empowerment scheme for them, so that they will be turned around for good. And I’m sure that will reduce the hardship, and poverty will be alleviated to a minimal level. Also, they will stop harassing people because at that point, they have become useful to themselves. And Lagos will be at peace. These are the major reforms I expect to see in the new administration.
Lagosians expect a lot from the Sanwo-Olu-led administration; what would be your encouraging words to enable them keep up the legacies of previous administrations?
Yes, I agree that they have started on a good note. I encourage him not to give a listening ear to baseless critics. Yes, they will come to condemn or criticize him, but he should be focused. He should rather listen to people who have useful suggestions and constructive criticisms to offer. I encourage him to concentrate. And I believe he will do effectively well like his predecessors.
President Buhari recently signed into law, the ‘not too young to run’ bill, and with regards to that, Most Nigerians expected younger persons to be part of the ministerial appointment. Based on your position as a Lagos APC Chieftain, how do you see the new cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari?
Anyway, let me refer to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Under the presidential system, the president has absolute right and power of attorney to select those who are competent to assist him rule the country. The president is the man whom we gave the mandate to. Nigerians voted him in, and he needs people to build up his team; he cannot rule this country alone, he has to carefully select people who share in the same vision with him. In his wisdom, he has chosen the best that can assist him. Nigerians should stop the bickering and complaining, and rather give him their prayers, full support and cooperate with him to succeed. The youth they are talking about is among the ministers. The honorable commissioner for youth and sports, is a vibrant young man. He is the right peg, in the right hole. Look at the capacity of ladies he chose to represent the female gender; he has done perfectly well to balance the equation. I can tell you that they are a tested and competent team. Let’s allow them to work, and I’m very sure that they won’t fail the president and Nigerians.
Do you think your party, the APC was able to accomplish the expectations of the people as captured by the Change Agenda mantra in the first tenure?
When you give an assignment to a person, you must be able to evaluate the resources made available to carry out that assignment. Nigeria has been in a terrible state for 16 years under the PDP administration.
The president is doing a good job to ensure that the country doesn’t collapse. He is ensuring that all government facilities and structures that were left unattended to and abandoned for 16 years are being renovated so that we can move forward as a country. Let’s give him time please. It’s very easy for people to criticize and find faults, but when you are on the seat, you will discover that it’s a tedious task. Nigeria is one of the most difficult country anyone can imagine.
Instead of criticizing the government, we should rather support them with encouraging words to do more. President Buhari as a human being is making efforts, taking into consideration the level of decay he met Nigeria at the time he came in. I can assure Nigerians that in the next four years, this country will be taken to the next level of goodness, progress and development.
It seems the Federal Government is not doing enough to maximally combat insurgency in the country, especially with the increasing rate of terrorism attacks in the Northern part of Nigeria. We have also been told that terrorism has been completely defeated. What is your impression of the Federal Government’s efforts over the current insecurity situation?
We must take into cognizance that Nigeria is densely populated. The question everyone should ask is, what is the number of security operatives in Nigeria, compared to the population? How many security operatives can effectively secure the border? The issue of security should not only be left for the government, everyone must be effectively involved in security, because it affects us. The bandits and terrorists live amongst us. This is where citizen police comes to play. People should also assist the government with the concrete information with evidence on how to capture these bandits. We can’t be blaming the government, when we aren’t doing our part as citizens. The President is doing his best to tackle insurgency, which I can assure you.
What are your thoughts on the Ruga project which was suspended by the Federal Government?
The Ruga issue should be domesticated. Some states need it, some do not need it. It should be given to those who need it. It wasn’t going to be imposed on every state as it was alleged. Those who opposed it should have considered the benefit it would have done in the state’s economy and the job opportunities it could have provided for indigenes of the states.
What is your assessment of the practice of democracy under the President Buhari-led administration?
Nigeria is a growing democracy. Democracy did not start with President Buhari’s administration, and it will not end in his regime either. America did not suddenly become what it is today, they started gradually until they got to where they are. Rome was not built in a day. We will get there.