With various caucuses in the APC party at the grassroots, especially in Ejigbo LCDAs, people were afraid this could jeopardize the chance of the party during the 2019 general elections. However, the Chairman of Ejigbo LCDA, Hon. Monsurudeen Bello (Obe) believed that creation of caucuses is a blessing to the party. In this interview with Echonews Editor, Abolaji Adebayo, the local council boss said his predecessor; Hon. Kehide Bamgbetan stands every chance to win Federal House of Reps election in 2019. Excerpt:
Ejigbo is one of the fastest growing LCDAs in Lagos State, what is the strategy put in place to make it be ahead of some other LCDAs?
Well, the strategy has always been a commitment on our part, a desire to give our community the best, and our stronger commitment to make sure that Ejigbo is in line with other developing communities across the state. We’ve just determined to do it because we can feel the pains of our people. I was born here, I was brought up here. I understand the challenges our people face in terms of doing business, in terms of putting up investment. People lament over poor public infrastructure. That is why I’m determined to revitalize those facilities to re-engineer the hope of our people that Ejigbo is one of the best communities in Lagos. These are the desires that prompted our actions so far.
What are the major infrastructures you have put in place to aid business activities and well-being of Ejigbo people?
The first thing we’ve been doing is to improve on the road network. The road network is so important that every part of Ejigbo is viable for businesses. Every nooks and crannies of Ejigbo is good for business to thrive because it is a full residential environment that people have to engage in daily commercial activities. As long as we live in this community, as long as we transact businesses in this community, there must be commercial activities; therefore we need a good road network.
Besides, the business ideas in Ejigbo are big and superb. People tap the opportunity of big industries here in Ejigbo such as the NNPC depot as they key into oil and gas businesses. Not only that, we have brought renovation to educational system in Ejigbo. So many communities demand public primary schools in their domains. Before, there was concentration of so many schools in a particular area whereby there were about nine schools in one compound.
What we did was to make sure that we decongest those compounds where there was concentration of schools. We dispersed those schools to various wards so that everybody could have access to basic and quality education. By this, so many students would not need to move about 100 meters distance to get to school.
This has also saved many students from being involved in accidents, which was a common phenomenon before. A recent incident whereby a student got accident three times before he got to school has also prompted us to return these schools back to their environments.
Again, on the market activities, well, there was a need for us to restructure and improve on our own markets so that our people would no longer move out of the community on daily basis to engage in commercial activities in remote areas such as Isolo, Island, etc. We were determined that the existing ones in our own community must be expanded, and that we should provide state-of-the-art facilities that make a perfect market. Those were the projects we have started in the last eight months.
Apart from these infrastructures you have put in place and those you anticipate providing for the community, is there any other facility in terms of loan and training programmes to improve commercial activities and to empower people of Ejigbo?
Well, our desire on empowerment is to collaborate with Lagos State Employment Trust Fund. We have gathered so many data; we have equally urged our people on the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund interview. We assist them at least to access those funds that would aid their businesses.
Not only that, commercial activities have been the priority of our fora. For example, there have been various discussions on how to improve and expand the motor parks so that the local government would have returns as part of its internally generated revenue (IGR). This would also serve as a source of income to the operators of those parks while the scheme would also provide jobs for our youths. Once these youths are engaged, the rate of crime would reduce; they too would increase government’s revenue as they pay their tax.
Part of our agenda is to restrict the commercial vehicles (the yellow buses) to Iyana-Ejigbo such that the road we are constructing – either rehabilitation or total construction – would be well managed and have everlasting use. We also aim at restricting trading along the roadside. We don’t want our roads to get more pressure and to curb accidents on the roads. These are the ideas.
Majority of LCDAs complain about lack of funds to carry out necessary developmental projects. How do you generate funds to embark on…(cuts in)
There is no government that does not complain of shortage of funds. The federal, the state and the local governments complain not to talk of LCDA. What should we do? But immediately we took up the leadership of Ejigbo LCDA, we are able to revive the collapsed and the dead revenue system, improve on the database of the local government. That database had guaranteed us now that we would do much better than the previous years.
We have also tried to restructure artisanship in Ejigbo. All artisans, all traders are now engaged. We have just acquired a multipurpose hall in Ejigbo where all the artisans, traders and other associations can hold their meetings and that we can gather their data from there, review the data at the council level so that there would be a kind of synergy between the government and the taxpayers.
With the data gathered, we can be guaranteed that in particular number of months, the data could give us a figure as our target revenue. So, what we have been doing in the last eight months is to prepare ground for the next 12 months. We have concluded the arrangement that by the time we kick-start, we will do at least N100 million per annum. How do we determine this, because the funds that are coming from the state and federal levels ordinarily would be centered on capital projects but the overruns and the resources in the council should be monitored by the IGR. That is a good start in term of giving per capital project to people of Ejigbo LCDA. So, our stronger determination is, that is 75 to 25 per cent operation now.
By the time we finish and move to 100 per cent now, there would not be complain of inadequacy of funds to run governance as far as Ejigbo is concerned. My appeal to people is that they should be ready to pay their taxes and rates regularly. The idea of paying to unidentified person should be discouraged by everybody. Right now, our council has branded our tax officer. If you cannot go to bank to pay, you can call us and we will come with our POS. The idea of paying taxes to unidentified personnel should be totally discouraged if we really want progress of the council.
The LCDAs are agitating to get their allocations from the federal government, what are the LCDAs doing to make this a reality?
We have packaged our efforts together through the state government particularly Lagos State House of Assembly. We’ve done every necessary arrangement to at least make the federal government reason that Lagos state deserves special status.
We have tried to make the federal government realize that the population of Lagos state increases on daily basis by over 150 per cent. That means that the population of Lagos state should be considered and should be the basis for improving on the number of local governments in the state.
The federal government should reason along with Lagos state by giving us a better status, the desire that is required to take Lagos state to another level and that is why the Lagos state Governor is also in support. So, the local governments the LCDAs are created directly from are making approaches through the State House of Assembly to grant local government autonomy, and that the 37 LCDAs should be listed in the constitution of this country. That would allow us to stand a better chance to get our allocations directly from the federal government.
Is there cordial relationship between this local council and Oshodi-Isolo local government, being the mother local government from which Ejigbo LCDA was created?
Of course we have a very cordial relationship. In terms of governance, we cross check ideas and make sure that the activities of our legislatures even those of the executives are also in line with the ‘parent’ Oshodi-Isolo LG. we have a very strong relationship that even if we are listed tomorrow, the relationship we have built over the years will still continue and it will be for the betterment of the people of the local governments.
Do you get your allocation directly from the state government or through the ‘parent’ local government?
There is a provision in the constitution for a joint account allocation, which is between the local governments in Lagos state and the state government. So, that means it must come to every local government and we are aware of this.
Okay sir, let’s move to politics. It is realized that there are various caucuses within the APC party in Ejigbo. Don’t you think that that could affect the party during the next elections?
I do not believe that would affect the party, it would rather promote the party. The party believes in the plus not in the minus. Every caucus would at least mobilize and canvass for more members in their various caucuses. What really matters is the mindset of the leadership of those caucuses. The mindset of our thoughts in Ejigbo, and the mindset of the political leaders across Ejigbo such that whether you belong to caucus A or caucus B or caucus C, what should be our priority is the development of our community, of our LCDA. And of course, there is no way we can get the development without having progressive minded ideas across the board.
So, being in caucuses, coming up with caucuses, I don’t see it as crisis but the management of it should be a thing of joy and from the managers of those caucuses because the party has one manifesto, the party operates one agenda, the party upholds one programme. Even if you want to have a caucus that is more diverse, you are still operating under the common agenda of the party. You can never operate outside the party’s manifesto. It means that whichever way you still look at it, the center can just hold if we have good managers that are heading these caucuses. If we can key into the vision of the party, I don’t think there is problem as far as we are concerned in Ejigbo.
Besides, it would improve our chances because election cannot be managed and monitored by a single person. You would need the efforts of other stakeholders to put in their own interests. If I have 70 per cent of the effort, someone else in other caucus has 30 per cent, if we pull all these percent together, that makes 100 per cent. It is better managed if everyone puts efforts together. So, I don’t see forming caucuses as a problem, rather, I see it as development. We should now come together against our opponents during the election. That is my thought.
But there is nothing without its peculiar disadvantage. Don’t you sense any challenge these caucuses can bring especially when it is time to present candidate for a post?
That is why I said it is function of the management of our mindset. It is a function of the management of the leadership of these caucuses. If you are a caucus leader or political leader that believes only in your own personal interest, there would be problem. But if you are a leader who believes in the progress of the community, whatever the party decides, whatever the party says should be supreme.
Our party is structured in a way that once the leadership of the party takes a decision, everybody should key into it. And the fact is that the party would not just take a decision, it would look at the internal democracy of the party, ensure that that decision is in line with the entire democracy of that party. Once that is applied at every decision level, I don’t think there would be problem.
Although, I would not say that there won’t be disadvantages, of course there would be disagreement among these caucuses but whenever that arises, the leaders should call for reconciliation and we move ahead. I don’t think there should be breakup.
Sir, how would you assess those caucus leaders so far?
Well, to the best of my knowledge, the leaderships of the caucuses are alright. They are still relating with the government of the day, particularly the local council chairman. We share ideas together; we have to look at the issues that could affect the government. As I speak today, I don’t think there is anyone of these leaders who wants reoccurrence of what we had in 2015 general elections. Everybody has woken up from their slumber. Everybody has now realized that there is no better way to be in the party and be happy than to win every election that is open to our party. For example, in 2015 election, we lost the state House of Assembly; we lost the Federal House of Representatives. The party is in pain now because the man who is in charge of the House of Rep has abandoned the community for almost four years.
So, that means that in term of benefitting from the dividends of democracy from the federal government, Ejigbo is zero now. So, people have realized that they had better come together, put their differences away in order to give Ejigbo better development politically. The people of Ejigbo have woken up and you can see that. Winning the state House of Assembly and Federal House of Rep will give us stand in what we witness today. So, the sky is our limit.
The former chairman of Ejigbo LCDA, who is the current Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Hon. Kehinde Bamgbetan has just declared his intention to run for the Federal House of Rep in 2015. What is your leadership doing to make sure your constituency doesn’t lose the seat this time around?
We’ve put in every mechanism at the local government level to make sure that we have a better candidate. Hon. Kehinde Bamgbetan is a tested candidate. There is no doubt that he is a tested candidate and I emphasize that. From the level he took over the government of Ejigbo LCDA in 2008 when I was the vice chairman under his administration, the people of Ejigbo realized the level of transformation that we recorded between that 2008 and 2014.
I will give you example. Between 2008 and 2014 when he was in the office, that was the beginning of a rapid transformation in terms of road infrastructure, the canoe bridge was never there, Jakande Heritage was never there, Idimu road was never there, the entry port of coming here was just Pako Bridge and Ori-Oke Bridge. That was when we witnessed a stronger and worst water system in Ejigbo. That was when people had to wake up as early as 4am to get to Alausa. Some people had to wake up 3am especially the traders if they must get to their destination on time. But today, we have diverted the road traffic, we have simplified the whole process. That was the effort of his government when he was the chairman.
Someone who could understand and transform a community within that shortest period, that means that he is a tested candidate. Of course I‘m not saying other candidates are not good, but somebody who has been living comfortably within the community for over 10 to 15 years now without relocating, who has been feeling the impulse of the people trying to realize politics at the grassroots level should be the best person for that position.
The leadership would, at a critical time, sit down and take a decision in line with the internal democracy so that they can have a better candidate. But I know it won’t split our party. We would put in every resource at our disposal, our managerial capacity, and our level of sacrifices individually and collectively to make sure that there is no looser and complaints, everybody must have one or two things to hold on to so that our party can still be the way it is now. So, I want to wish all of them better congratulations in advance.
Alright, since he declared intention to contest for House of Rep, has there been any rancor from any angle against his decision that you are aware of?
Of course there must be reactions; you cannot be a friend of everybody. It is normal that if you aspire to a leader today, people will react, not all people would say they love it and not everyone would go against it. The better way is that the management of those who love you and the management of those who do not love you is a key agenda now.
Those who love you, what do they observe in you that make them fall in love with your decision, you keep it up? Those who do not love you, what do they identify that prompts their negative decision? You look at it and rectify it to make more friends. Politics is not about making enemies; it is about making more friends. So, of course, there must be reactions but from the assessment so far, I think the positive responses are higher than the negative ones. And that is a better deal for any contender.