I’m better equipped than others to rule Lagos — Babatunde Gbadamosi
Mr Babatunde Gbadamosi is the governorship candidate of the Lagos State chapter of the Action Democratic Party (ADP). The ADP governorship standard-bearer speaks with BOLA BADMUS and SEGUN KASALI on the Lagos of his dream, if elected the next governor of the state.
What is your dream for Lagos State?
That would take ages for me to explain. You want me to make the story short, I want a Lagos we can all be proud. My dream is to build a Lagos, and this can be done in a very short time, in which residents would no longer have any business with poverty. This is not talking about creating jobs out of the blue, but I am talking about creating an environment that would empower people to drive themselves out of poverty by their own efforts. I am talking about a situation where we would create opportunities for employers of labour to see Lagos not just as a massive carbonation, full of unproductive people, but as the market that it ought to be and hopefully that should bring in investments. Investments would not just come simply because you have a large population, but your large population must also be an economically effective and significant population. Right now, Lagos is not particularly as economically significant as it could be, given in the population.
Don’t you think what you are trying to make Lagos is already in place?
No, it is not. We are on the Lekki Expressway as we are having this conversation and much as what you might want to think that the Lekki-Epe Expressway is an exemplary road, it is not. There are roads in Nigeria here and even in Lagos that are far better than the Lekki-Epe Expressway, despite the fact that expressway is actually tolled. We actually pay for the privilege of driving on it, but it is quite rough; it is quite bad; it is exact the epitome of what a major road should not be and yet this is a sort of the things that the current administration has been trying to boast about. We are at the roundabout now and there should be a flyover right here, but instead what we see is a massive, elaborate electronic billboard of people whose job is to make money for some people, who are allegedly attached to the Emperor of Lagos who has being in charge of Lagos for the past 19 years. So, this Lagos is a reflection of what it should not be? It is a reflection of the imagination of the ruler of Lagos and that is something we need to end and end as quickly as we can.
How do you hope to achieve this?
Well, for those of us in the construction industry, we know how much a bag of cement costs. We know how much a tonne of granite costs and we know how much it costs to hire the best engineers, whether expatriates or Nigerians. If that is the case, we also have some measures of understanding that it would not cost, anywhere in the universe, Six Billion Naira per kilometer to expand the Lekki- Epe Expressway which is what the current administration is spending in the name of a concession. I will never allow that. The United Nations (UN) has a guideline for the cost of road constructions all over the world. And I think there are guidelines for dual carriage ways in riverine areas; it is about N192 Million per kilometer. If the LCC are claiming N5.8 billion per kilometer for the Lekki- Epe Expressway, I think obviously you know that there is something very wrong, deeply wrong and that is what we want to come and correct. We cannot have this kind of rot; we cannot have this kind of wastages; we cannot have this kind of profligate spending and believe somehow we are going to get things right in Lagos State. That is not going to happen.
Given the fact that your party has never ruled Lagos State, do you think you would be able to defeat the ruling party in the state?
Well, I am counting on the fact that the people of Lagos are fed up with the ‘thieves’ of these 19 years of the tyranny in Lagos. I am counting on the fact that the people of Lagos are fed up of being milked like cows and being given very little in return. And even cows get grass in reward for the milk that they give, but Lagosians are not getting much. Instead, we are being put in cages. Toll gates are being erected all over the places and we are being forced to pay for roads that were being built with our own taxes and our own resources. It is not right and many people would agree with me that it is not right. Many would agree with me that lack of power is a problem; lack of water is a problem and lack of good roads is a problem. We are spending almost half of our lives in traffic, almost half of our waking hours. That makes no sense whatsoever in a so-called mega city of the nature and size of Lagos.
So, I am counting on the fact that people understand that I have more than enough requisite and relevant experience to fix the problems that are in Lagos, in terms of providing housing, providing electricity, providing water-all of which I have done constantly for the last eight years at the Amen Estate, yes, on a more smaller scale than Lagos but, of course, at the same time with much more less significant resources than is proportionally available to the government of Lagos State. We have been able to do what would pass as wonders. Can’t we do better? Yes, we can do and the people are banking on us and that is the next thing we are going to be working on to make people realise that I am here and I have far more cognitive experience of providing the needs of the people than Bola Tinubu, Raji Fashola, Akinwumi Ambode and Babajide Sanwo-Olu combined, prior to their becoming governors.
Did you have any worry about INEC ahead of 2019 elections and how did you think it can make the elections credible, fair and free?
Well, I do have concerns obviously and I would say that INEC, as is currently constituted, is not likely to deliver free and fair elections and they have demonstrated this over and over again in Rivers State, in Bayelsa State and at the elections in Edo State. They have demonstrated it in Ekiti State, and most infamously, in Osun State where vote buying was done quite openly in full view of cameras of both local and intentional media as well as concerned citizens. We saw the beatings that took place there. INEC claimed to have observed the Lagos State primaries of APC and they certified those primaries which we saw to be riddled with violence and open rigging. It tells us that INEC is not interested in free and fair elections. The electoral body is only interested in delivering results for its patron, so to speak.
You made mention of vote buying, how do we arrest this emerging phenomenon that is becoming an embarrassment?
The only reason that it has become so embarrassing is because of the braveness, the sheer effrontery with which the APC is doing it openly and unashamedly and has turned voting to a commercial exercise where the party leadership actually deceive people and ask them to vote. In fact, they ask the people to vote first, show that they voted for APC before they actually give them money.
Now voting is supposed to be a secret ballot system, but a situation in where people are being allowed and empowered by the law enforcement agencies and INEC to show to some people, some clandestine people, some hoodlums where they have voted in order to facilitate receipt of money, you have to accept that the law enforcement agents have also been induced. And that is the reason they are looking the other away to allow something like that to happen. Even they could not intervene on the spot because of the fear of violence. They could choose to have those elections cancelled by submitting the actual report of what took place on the field, but they don’t do that because obviously more than likely they had been induced.
If elected, what do you expect to be credited with as your achievements in your first 100 days in office?
We have two things to do quickly. Actually there are a number of things, but there are some steps, just that we need to take to earn those milestones. We need to reduce the amount of pollution in Lagos and the two areas that are contributing most to pollution are gridlock caused by traffic jam and generators. It is so bad now as it is becoming a major health issue that, of course, the government of the day has continued to ignore. But it is a fact of life that many people in the state are suffering from respiratory diseases.
So in the first 100 days, we hope to order large, high volume roll on, roll off ferries to take passengers off the roads and on to the waterways. We hope to order many of those platforms, maybe 10 and focus on high commuter areas like Ikorodu, Badagry and Epe and every other place that are connected to water in order to reduce the amount of traffic on the road. Number two, by doing that, we also hope to cut down traffic time for everyone so that the less vehicles you have on the road and the more commuters we are redirecting to waterways, the shorter every travel time would be.
We are also going to be expanding within that period the BRT service. The one we have now is focused almost entirely on the Ikorodu axis. We are going to throughout the state so that movement of people can become easier. And to make the bus service work we have to fix all the failed roads in Lagos State. All the Trunk A and Trunk B roads would have to be fixed quickly. Thank God, we started road construction in Lagos in 1947 so we are not new when it comes to road construction and repairs. So we can actually achieve quite a lot within a short time.