MR. Lateef Aderemi Ibirogba is the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy. In this exclusive interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly, he told us about his challenge of convincing Lagosians to key into Lagos State Residents Registration programme. A programme he considers as the best thing to happen to Lagos State.
He also told us about other issues.
How has it been in almost three years that you’ve been Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Lagos State?
I just thank God that it’s been very interesting, very eventful and very encouraging. It’s been a very good experience really, given the fact that Lagos State is a selling brand. We have a brand that is acceptable on your hand. So, you really have no problem selling that brand.
You have an audience that is very discernable. They know what is right, they know what they want, they know how to get to their government. It’s been very interesting working with Lagosians.
What would you say prepared you for this job?
Two things. One, my journalism background and training. Two, my orientation as a person that would want to use whatever I have as a gift to help others to develop. Whatever you have as a gift is really not valuable if you don’t put it to use to help others. Whatever you have is given to you in trust by God to be used to develop others.
What would you say has been your most challenging period so far?
The most challenging period is perhaps how to get Lagosians to key into LASRRA (Lagos State Residents’ Registration Agency). One thing Lagosians still don’t know is that the best thing that happened to this government is LASRRA. That is the exercise that will really put our government in perspective as being in tune with the realities of the time. As working with data has really taken Lagos to heights based on the available data rather than guesswork.
Providing for Lagosians is no longer how do I see it but what is the reality or what is the need of a people. That is a programme I treasure. I put it side by side with Free Education that (late Chief Obafemi) Awolowo came up with. It’s not that Awolowo didn’t do very many other things. Don’t forget that the man gave us the first television. He gave us the first stadium. He gave us Cocoa House (the first tallest building in Nigeria), Odua Group, etc. But among all those things, it appears we remember him more on Free Education. The same way Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu did a lot of things. But perhaps the best we remember him for is the creation of 37 additional local governments in the state. Today, of all the things Babatunde Raji Fashola has done, what will continue to reverberate and make Lagosians love him the more, remember him and feel that he has really put Lagos in the front burner is the LASRRA registration. Because it will make us understand what is the need of a particular area. It will make us understand who and who are living where. What are their needs there? So that the resources of the people tax payers money, will not just be invested in programmes that perhaps may not be useful to the people of a particular area.
So, projects will be sited according to the needs of everybody. That is a programme I love very much and getting Lagosians to see it the way it is has been very challenging. But, I like the fact that Lagosians are getting it now.
What lesson of life will you say your being a member of executive has taught you?
It has really taught me that there is really no time for you to make your choice that you are there. Just as Late Tai Solarin said, “To stand still is to draw backward.” If you feel that you are there and you stand still, you will discover that in no time, you will be left behind. So, this has taught me that once you have achieved and you feel that I am there, the best thing for you is to understand that, no, there will still be some other ways of doing what you are doing.
Therefore, you are not there yet. There will still be some other things to do. There will still be some other challenges. There will still be some other needs and aspirations of the people. It has really taught me that you can only do better if you challenge your own record.
In Lagos State, that is what we do. We challenge even those things we feel we’ve done right. Those things that people feel that this is really magic, we challenge ourselves and see that there are better ways of doing it. It is a good thing for us and I think I like it that way. I will always use that as a way to develop myself.
Despite being a popular government doing a lot of people oriented programmes, a lot of people still believe that the government is not forthcoming in some areas. For example, the issue of tollgate at Lekki and the Sunburn Yacht.
I don’t know what you mean by government not forthcoming. We have said that we don’t have a hand in the Sunburn Yacht. What else do you want us to say or how else do you want us to say it?
But the Commissioner for Tourism and Inter-governmental Relations then was involved in the deal?
Our government did not have a hand in the deal. I don’t understand what you mean. That is the truth.
What about the tollgate at Lekki. Is it true that government makes N12 million every day from the tollgate tickets?
I don’t know about N12 million but anybody can conjure any figure. It’s normal. Always challenge whatever figure you are getting from anybody. I don’t know how they came about that figure. Whoever wants to bring down anybody will just come up with any fairy tale. It’s normal if you want to sleep with your brother’s wife, you must have something to say about the man. So, whoever is interested in our job will always cook up anything. But, I think we all must get to understand that government is not run by having everything free. People will not want to pay tax. People will not want to pay for this or that. Whereas if they leave Nigeria now and get to Benin Republic, they will begin to pay bills without any problem. Nobody gets to leave Nigeria for London and insists that he wouldn’t pay bills.
Are you saying that government should not build modern facilities for us?
Let us come back to what is it elsewhere. If you want those facilities that they enjoy there (other countries) then, we all must be ready to fund them.
Are you a technocrat or politician or both?
I don’t know what a technocrat is but I went to school, I graduated. I have a profession which I practice. It is that my profession that gives me the understanding that you must find a way to affect the lives of other people. I don’t know your definition of it (technocrat) but my understanding of life is that you must use whatever you have acquired to affect the lives of the people. If your profession does not have any correlation to the development of your community or if it does not make you feel that you have a responsibility to develop people around you, then your certificate has no meaning.
I have been practicing my profession long before coming into government. I am in government or politics because I feel that I have something to deliver. So, if you put all that together the definition is yours. But that is me.
Are you a practicing politician too?
I am a politician. If I am not a politician I wouldn’t in the first place feel there is need to affect the lives of people. I am not in government because I feel that I just need a job. But because I feel that I must deliver. I must use what God has given me. What I have acquired through training, practice and through professionalism to affect the lives of some other people. Have a hand in how our society should grow. That is the essence of being a politician. I am a politician in the first place because I have a people, 21 million Lagosians, looking up to me to deliver. So, because I am answerable to them whatever I do must be done in their interest. To that extent, I am a politician and a proud one for that.
Does that mean you will be seeking an elective position in the coming general elections?
If that would not be distracting, I didn’t seek this one (commissionership). I only did what I felt was right. Tell people that this is the right person to vote for and use my influence to let them understand the need to vote this party and for this man. To that extent, God feels that I should come in here. So, if it is God that gave me this one, why am I thinking of something else when I have not even completed the one I have from God? I think that will be premature to think about now.
We will appreciate it if you will tell us a little bit of yourself.
Lateef Ibirogba is my name. I am a Muslim, a proud one for that. I am from Ijebu Ode (Ogun State).
How many wives and children?
Its census that has made us realize that loto ni won ka omo fun olomo (it is true that you can count the number of your children) (general laughter). I have a wife, I have two children and we are all happy together as a family. We love ourselves because we love Islam.
What does your wife do?
She trades. She is a mother. She is my wife, she is a member of our family. She has all that to herself (laughter).
– TOLANI ABATTI