Interviews

‘We have achieved 80 per cent of our plans’ – Comrade Kehinde Bamigbetan

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 COMRADE Kehinde Bamigbetan is the chairman of Ejigbo Local Council Development Authority (LCDA), Lagos.  The journalist and former Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu when he was governor of Lagos State has been the chairman of Ejigbo LCDA since 2008.  He told ENCOMIUM Weekly in this interview that he has achieved 80 per cent of his target as the chairman of the LCDA.

He further told us that his achievements notwithstanding, he would not be going for third term as the chairman of the LCDA.  Rather, he would be vying for the House Representatives seat of Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency II and much more…

How has it been in the five years plus that you have been the chairman of Ejigbo LCDA?

We give thanks to God for giving us the opportunity to be of service to the people of Ejigbo LCDA and to be able to actualize our own idea of how government can be improved for the interest of the people.  So, all glory, attributes is to God.

When will you say was the most memorable moment of your five years in office?

The most memorable will be the completion and opening of the link bridge because it’s a project that when I came on board in 2008, I took it upon myself to make it the centre point of the state involvement in Ejigbo LCDA.  I had a meeting with the governor and convinced him that the project is very important and even got his approval to do it as a private-public project (PPP). We did the design, got the Lagos State Government to approve it, got concessionaire and it was at the point of the concession of the project that the Lekki (concessionaire) crisis began and that forced us to go back to government to say that the people may not want to pay (toll gate fee) and this may lead to problems in the private-public partnership (PPP) agreement.

The governor pitied us and said Lagos will take over the project. To the glory of God, the governor executed the project within the shortest possible time.  That link bridge has cut travel time by over 75 minutes. It has provided an alternative to get out of Ejigbo to Mainland and it has added value to the real estate in that axis.

We want to thank His Excellency, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), for giving us a gift the Ejigbo people will never forget.  We also want to thank Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who conceived the idea of the bridge in the first place.

That day I saw that within my own tenure we could shape an idea and make it into really physical asset.  For me, it is one of the high points of my career.

What will you say has been your most challenging period as the chairman of the Ejigbo LCDA?

It was my kidnap.  It was like a trip to heaven and back.  For you to be too close to disappearing permanently and to be brought back, is one grace of the Almighty that I will forever be grateful.  It also redoubled in me my commitment to demonstrate and glorify God for His intervention by constantly serving the people, because I could have just gone like many others.  That God made it possible for me to come back, made me realize that my life is meant to serve God through service to the people.

That basically gave me the notion that whatever happens, I am going to continue to do what God has asked me to come back to do.

Will you say those kidnappers knew you as a politician and the chairman of the LCDA?

They never knew me until the newspapers started publishing my name.  That was really what made me realize that anybody could have been kidnapped too.  They were just trying to take their own pound of flesh from Nigeria, and I became their sacrificial lamb.  Luckily, I was not sacrificed. I only had my own inconveniences.

It also enabled me to know how people valued my survival.  It helped me to appreciate how much people value me and what I stood for all my life.  It was a defining moment of my value system and I believe that it has encouraged me to continue to stand on those values.

What are those plans that you set out to achieve as chairman of Ejigbo LCDA that you have been able to achieve in the last five years?

I think 80 per cent of what we promised to do, we were able to achieve.  We came out from day one with a very clear plan and we called it Vision Three by Three in which we listed out what we intended to do within that period.  In our 3-by-3 vision, we have a section that talked about human development.  We promised free notebooks, we have done it.  We promised free meals, we have done free meals.  We promised free school uniforms, we have also done that.  We promised free GCE forms, we’ve done it.  We promised free JAMB forms, we’ve done it.  We promised vocational training free of charge, we’ve also done it.  We promised free cards and drugs at our health centres, we have done that too.

The only one we have not been able to do is widow’s assistance.  In areas of capital development, we promised to build four schools, we have two schools already.  We promised four health centres, we’ve done three health centres.  We said we will add more roads, we’ve added eight new roads.  We promised to provide the first customary court in Ejigbo LCDA, we have done it.  We promised first fire service centres, we have done it.  We promised first jetty, we are doing it.

In terms of physical reforms, we promised to computerize the county, we have done it.  We promised to set up a free interest loan for workers, we have done it and it is only in Ejigbo LCDA that such has been done in the whole of Lagos.  We promised to build a new community to provide grants to community CDAs, we have provided grants to community CDAs over the years.  We have also increased the number of CDAs from 15 to 78.

I believe that we can score ourselves high in terms of saying something and doing exactly what we promised to do.

Which of your plans do you wish you did but you were unable to do?

To have an international mall, a very massive market that can serve the people of Ejigbo LCDA.  Unfortunately, because of limited resources, it has been very difficult to have that kind of market. Our efforts to attract investors have not been as successful as we wanted.

Will you in the light of your achievements so far seek third term as chairman of Ejigbo LCDA?

I cannot seek third term. I do not believe in the concept of third term.  I believe that we have been able to groom people who can do much better than I have done.  Who can take on the challenge of building Ejigbo because Ejigbo is a work in progress.  There is so much left to be done.  We cannot deceive ourselves that we have done everything.

So, what is going to be your next political ambition?

I intend to run for the House of Representatives to represent Oshodi/Isolo Constituency II. That has been the clamour of the people.  I believe that the party will assess my performance here and will consider me a very good candidate for the seat.

Besides other issues that we have to fight there, there is the issue of the official recognition of LCDAs to be considered as bonafide local governments of Nigeria.  That struggle has not been concluded.  It is going to be part of my agenda to go make sure that within my own lifetime Ejigbo LCDA becomes a full-fledged local government area.

How much of journalism, your profession would you say contributed to your success as a politician and chairman of LCDA?

You will see it in the way I approached politics.  First, I came out with a plan.  Journalists are serious planners.  Every day you always have meeting about story ideas.  Just as you plan your stories, I also plan what I want.  Two, we (journalists) have always been criticizing and so we are conscious of the expectations of the people.  I came with that consciousness.

As a journalist, I recognized the fact that government is only relevant to the extent that it promotes the interest of the majority of the people.  That it provides them regular intelligence on how to run their lives and it meets them at the point of their needs.  These are the value system that journalism promotes.  What I have been able to do is to carry the agenda of journalism forward, to set an agenda and activate the agenda in public office.

I believe that journalists should get into public policy making and politics generally because they will move from the point of setting agenda to the point of activating and implementing it.  We (journalists) know what the people want, therefore, we cannot suffer illusion that we do not know what the people want.

By our nature, we are always interested in feedback.  We were able to generate feedback to know what is left to be done.  As journalists, we have assessed government over time, we know that government cannot do everything.  So, we have full understanding of governance.  That, therefore, enables us to take only what we can chew at a particular time.

I think basically, being a journalist has enabled and empowered me to function well and keep politics as a vocation.

 -TOLANI ABATTI

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