· You don’t need to discuss how to plant maize and yam. Just develop an agricultural plan and go and implement it, he says
As the Presidential Committee on the proposed national Conference continues its tour of the country, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola has advised the Federal Government to make life better for Nigerians saying what they need at the moment was availability of the basic necessities of life.
Governor Fashola, who spoke in Sokoto while featuring in a special edition of Channels Television programme, “SUNRISE”, as part of the second Retreat of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, said the life of the ordinary Nigerian would be improved through making electricity available, providing good roads, food and healthcare adding that these things do not need a National Dialogue but meticulous planning, funding and execution.
Wondering whether the Conference was meant to produce a new constitution for the country, the Governor asked, “What do the people want, a better document or better life? To me, it is better life and that appropriates to Power, good roads, water, food, healthcare and others”.
“You don’t need to discuss good roads, the contractors are there, just find the money and give them. You don’t need to discuss how to generate Power, GE, Mistibushi and all others are there. You don’t heed to discuss how to plant maize and yam. Just develop an agricultural plan and go and implement it”, the Governor said.
He advised that instead of organizing a fresh conference, the Federal Government should retrieve the resolutions reached in the similar conference in 2006 and implement them adding, “The truth is that when people begin to get prosperous, the body of science out there says that they will be less violent. The reason is that they begin to seek how to protect their prosperity. And, therefore, crime tends to be coming down”.
Governor Fashola, who was on the programme with his Ekiti State counterpart, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, also spoke of the split in the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and his reason for going to court, saying he sought redress in court because he saw the split as something rooted in impunity which, according to him, should not be allowed to thrive.
“I feel a little scandalized that something as basic as an election by us, amongst us, leaders of a Club, to put it mildly, could result to such an unsavory outcome and that is why I took the step to go to court; because what is being touted there as a splinter group has its foundation based on impunity and an unwillingness to accept the result of a contest that they subscribed to”.
He described the action as both unsportsmanlike and bad for the country adding, “The proceedings are still afoot, some objections to some issues and all that. But irrespective of the outcome of the matter, I think the point that it makes to me is that we will not stand by and allow impunity thrive”.
He hoped that arbiters of the matter would take judicial decisions and in the event make some announcement one way or the other noting, “But out there in the open, I believe clearly, and there is some documentary evidence, in spite of people trying to hide behind a finger, as it were, suggesting that they didn’t vote, they didn’t participate”, he said.
Recalling the incident that brought about the split, Governor Fashola said, “Out of the 36 governors, 35 Governors attended either by themselves or by their deputies, 35 votes were counted, results were announced, if you add 16 and 19, you get 35. So it was really a case of standing logic upside down in a spirit that is unsportsmanlike”.
“I think it is a joke that has gone too far and I want to use this opportunity again to appeal, the Governors’ Forum is not a place where there are victors and there are vanquished. Our doors remain open let us show leadership, let us reach out, discuss this issue in a very fair and firm manner, go out there as brothers and put this issue behind us”, he said.
Responding to a question on the 2015 General Elections and insinuations that the country may split in that year, Governor Fashola, who rather predicted further improvement in the nation’s electoral process in 2015, said the nation would emerge from the elections both stronger and more united.
Noting that just as in the last general elections in 2011 when some improvement was recorded, 2015 would not be different, the Governor declared, “In the last elections, in spite of all the insinuations and hiccups, there was some improvement. I think we will get there where after votes have been cast we take the outcome like sportsmen”.
On the insinuation that the country may breakup in the next election year, the Governor dismissed it as mere imagination noting that it is Nigerians who tend always to whip up such sentiments every election year even when experiences of the past election years have shown the contrary.
“For the insinuation that the country would break in 2015, I have heard that before and nothing has changed. Perhaps what has changed is in the positive. In the last elections, in spite of all the insinuations and hiccups, there was some improvement”, the Governor said adding that nothing would change negatively in 2015.
Asserting that 2015 would prove to be just another year, the Governor declared, “It will come and go and we will continue to live. Some people have described it as a watershed. Yes 1999 was a watershed, 2003 was a watershed and 2007 was a watershed. We went through 2011 when they said heavens would fall”.
“Really, we have been pushing ourselves to the brink of the wall but when all is said and done we pull ourselves back from the brink. So there will be nothing different in 2015. I think we will get there where after votes have been cast we take the outcome like sportsmen”, he said.
He expressed the confidence that the nation would advance to the position where, after elections were concluded and results announced, the defeated contestants would take the results with equanimity and congratulate the winners adding, “I think it boils down to that spirit of sportsmanship and I know we will get there. I am optimistic that we will change. We are not where we were in 1999. We have moved”.
Frowning at the manner of preparation for elections in the country, Governor Fashola noted with dismay, “When we are preparing for an election, we prepare as if we are going to war but we are only going to a contest. Newspaper headlines begin to carry how many policemen and soldiers have been moved to election sites. It makes my skin crawl”.
The Governor, who blamed this on the ethnic sentiments still very prevalent in the country’s politics, said because Nigerians do not move around enough in the country, they tend to focus more on their immediate environments while they look upon others with suspicion.
“Perhaps we don’t focus enough on the things that unite us. I am coming here for the first time and I am glad that I came because, aside cultural connections, there are quite a lot to see in our country. We don’t travel enough. I went round the town. I saw an economy that is vibrant, that is moving. People were still moving by 11.30 in the night and for me these are the kinds of stories that should really go out”, the Governor said.
HAKEEM BELLO, SPECIAL ADVISER TO H.E ON MEDIA