Interviews, Politics

‘I will ensure continuity as Lagos State governor’ -Akinwunmi Ambode assures

GUV’NOR Ken Calebs Olumese-led Niteshift Coliseum, Salvation Avenue, Opebi, Lagos, played host to All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial flag-bearer in Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, on Sunday, February 8, 2015.

The brilliant accountant cum politician fielded questions from guests.  Ambode outlined his line of action when he takes over from Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN and more…

Why do you want to be the governor of Lagos State?

I see a Lagos that is clean, secured and more prosperous, which is driven by a robust economy that has fairness, equity and justice as its major drive.   My message remains the same and my message remains Lagos where L stands for leadership.  I intend to build a strong leadership.  I have been accountable all my life.  I want to be open and transparent to all of you and be accountable to everyone. I am going to give all the tenants good governance and good governance means total inclusion and total openness. I will be open.  We will allow Lagos to work for everyone and we will be transparent enough to make Lagos work ambode1for all of us.  We will create opportunities for everyone that lives in Lagos.  Opportunities for artisans, businessmen, entertainers.  We will give you selfless and quality service.

Tell us some of your manifestoes.

There is nothing I want to say that is new, but we are here to interact and also for me to take one or two lessons to work on.  The cornerstone of my manifesto is Lagos is traditionally a trader’s community.  There is so much commerce here, so in order for Lagos to thrive, one major issue is that of security.  If we are able to secure Lagos’ safety, light up Lagos and let our streets be safe, we will be able to do our businesses and make Lagos run an economy that is 24/7.  It will create business opportunities for all Lagosians and create more jobs.  My duty is to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive in Lagos.  We will allow investors go about their businesses very well, so that they can comprehend my efforts and allow us to create more jobs for all our breadwinners.

I have also put in one of my programmes, Project THESE.  It is a solution to the job we need to create at the lower level and for the younger ones.  THESE, T stands for tourism, H hospitality, E entertainment and arts, S sports, E excellence.  I want to combine these to put stakeholders in one place and drive Lagos to the next level.  If we are able to achieve these we will be creating job opportunities for all our artisans, and houses of entertainment will be a place of pride and a tourist centre, and that’s the future of Lagos.  The end of dependence on white collar job is here and the younger generation will be able to showcase their talents.  We are innovative, we are just looking for that person that has the political will to drive the business of Lagos to the next level.

In the last six years, we have witnessed an irreversible growth and development of Lagos.  Lagos is safer and more prosperous.  We need to take Lagos to that point where we give governance back to all our communities, and that’s what I intend to do.  If you are able to join us, I will make Lagos work for all of us.

What is your vision for consumer protection in Lagos State?

It has been established, but the implementation has not commenced.  We would spend more time and resources on enforcement and together with stake holders, we will make sure that the law is effective, I assure you.

What is your plan for technology in Lagos State?

We have a Ministry of Science and Technology in Lagos State service.  They are doing so much on technology but we are not satisfied.  I strongly believe greater opportunities will come.  The future of service in Lagos and the creation of more jobs is in our ability to trigger political will for investors that have World Bank technology.  I believe that we have been using the public private partnership.

In other areas, we have succeeded – like security.  We have tried to be advanced vigorously under the technology, so that we can allow entrepreneurs that are looking for opportunities, to be able to drive it.  Government cannot do it alone.  It’s important that investors that we are bringing in will create that enabling environment then we will join hands with them.  Although some things have been done, you can imagine the effectiveness of Lagos State signs on some of these companies and give them tax incentive or create the enabling environment that will make them carry on their businesses, in a manner that in no time they will get their returns on investments as quickly as possible.  It also opens opportunities in the area of internet technology and service delivery.

Our desire to see Lagos integrate every tribe into whatever it’s doing is high and we haven’t seen something official in this respect.  What will you do about this?

If you go through the manifesto of APC, you will find that after this election, APC will eliminate the bio-data that we fill in official circles.  Things that relate to tribe, state of origin and things that discriminate.  The party is trying to pursue that now.  We must once and for all try to eliminate tribalism or anything that can discriminate against other people.  Beyond giving appointments to people, we should be able to employ Nigerians from any part of this country irrespective of where you come from and we should be able to engage people based on their Nigerianness and nothing else.

In the area of sports, nothing much is happening.  What will you do better?

You might not have heard about it, but the involvement of government in sports in the last seven years has been on upward swing.  We have been doing a lot for sports.  Don’t forget the fact it was just some years back that Lagos State hosted the African Nations Cup.  I will only add to whatever Governor Raji Fashola has done in sports.  I am integrating sports with other sectors to push it up and I intend to create community sports centre in almost every part of Lagos State.  You will find also that we need more sports facilities for school children.  We will do that so that it will allow our children to be able to get balanced in health and a good mental balance.  We believe when we start this community sports, we are creating jobs in our community, we are allowing sports to be a routine in our normal day life.  It’s sad enough that we don’t have much interest in the Lagos Premier League.  I believe we should also have sports academy in Lagos State, so that we have boys academy and girls academy that will allow our younger ones know their talents from a young age.  So, we will have champions in Lagos.  It will amaze you that one fifth of Lagos is water.  The total area of Lagos is 3877 square kilometers of which 734 is water but we have not been able to provide champions as swimmers from Lagos State.  How many swimming pools do we really have?  It’s not as if we don’t have people who cannot be champions. We have been able to bring out champions from Ajegunle.  There is no sports complex in that particular area of the city.  So, the future of sports is for us to be able to tap from our indigenes and provide facilities for all of them to be able to bring out the ability in them, and that’s what government is supposed to do.  We will do it all for them.

Why can’t local governments have access to market?

If we all decide to say what is our dream Lagos, if I throw out the question here, a whole lot of people would give diverse answers of what a dream Lagos would be.  But a dream Lagos that is funded by tax payers money is sometimes not achievable because the kind of things you want to put in local governments or in the state government, the funds are not enough.  You have to go to the capital market to look for additional capital and that’s the ability to go to the bond market.  It’s been done before, Lagos Island has gone to the bond market and that was the Sura Market at Sandgross.  There is nothing stopping local governments coming together to have access to the capital market.  Once the requirement of you having access to bonds is fulfilled, investors would be interested in putting their money into whatever projects that local government decides to do.  But as we move forward, I believe state government can partner the local government to have access to the capital market and also have access to bonds in which joint projects can be executed.  So, we can have value for the money we get from the capital market because whatever money you get from the bond market, you must pay back.

Lagos State is a cosmopolitan state and we are not denying that fact.  What is of major interest to me is to protect every Lagosian and resident.  My vision is to secure Lagos, to create a more prosperous Lagos to be very unique and comfortable to indigenes and non-indigenes.  That is the main focus.  I will not discriminate against non-indigenes and indigenes of Lagos State.  I will ensure everyone’s interest is protected.

What are you going to do differently?

We have had a history of excellent governance in the past years. I don’t want to be different because they have been winning.  I also want to perform.

The Hausa community in Lagos are complaining that they requested for land to bury their dead relatives and this issue has not been addressed.  What will you do about this?

This is going to be a government of inclusion.  We are going to engage everybody for the betterment of everyone.  Whatever it is that we need to do together to show trust, I will do it.

What will you do about multiple taxation on small scale businesses?

I intend, together with everyone, to harmonise tax in Lagos, so we don’t have tax collectors coming to meet you in your place of business. I think there are better ways of collecting taxes.  We should be able to apply solution, and pay your taxes before officials close your shop.  We need to get away from that mentality that until we force people, they won’t do what is their civil obligation.  I promise we will do reforms that would make life comfortable for our tax payers.

What would you do to provide shelter for the common people?

I thank God you know that government can’t do it alone.  It has to be done with public private partnership.  In doing that we will encourage the private sector, we will upgrade the platform that would allow land administration to be more comfortable for our people, allow them access to Certificate of Occupancy.  We will make it easier.  There is a programme called Lagos Homes, I will take it to the next level that will allow people rent and own an apartment, because it’s not everybody that can afford mortgage.  We will be able to provide studio apartments for the youths, so they can rent it.  We will also expand the years of the mortgage.  Nothing will stop us from reviving it.

What will you do to tackle the omo onile syndrome in Lagos?

Nobody likes the menace and the nuisance, we will look into that.  I believe it’s more about engagement and enforcement.  Even when you report them to the police, they sometimes connive with them.  But again, we will enforce our law on land administration and make sure we enhance the ability of the government to take control.

-DOLAPO AMODENI and NKECHI IBEMERE

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