…Says Monument’ll Forever Preserve Legacy, Greatness of Late Symbol of Democracy
…We’re Eternally Grateful To You, Family Tells Gov
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode on Tuesday unveiled a 46-feet statue of Nigeria’s symbol of democracy and adjudged winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, Bashorun Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola (MKO), expressing optimism that the monument will forever crystallize what he stood for in his lifetime.
Governor Ambode, who spoke at the unveiling of the statue at the MKO Abiola Garden in Alapere, Ketu said it was in the tradition of the State Government to recognise and remember heroes and heroines who contributed to the greatness of the nation and the State in particular, adding that MKO Abiola deserves the best from the State as Lagos was his success story.
Alluding to the fact that a statue was previously sited at the location, the Governor said that his administration decided to erect bigger statues for MKO Abiola and late Rights Activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi to properly situate their immense contribution to nation building.
“There was a statue done by my predecessor, Babatunde Raji Fashola but in the divine world, some things are more glorious than what you think and so we decided at the end of 2016 that we should do bigger statues for Chief Gani Fawehinmi and MKO Abiola since almost everybody passing and entering Lagos go through this particular Ojota axis and so we started late in 2016 that we should build something bigger and so it took us about a year to do this. By the time we did the one for Gani to celebrate his posthumous birthday on April 22, we also agreed that we should unveil that of MKO Abiola today, June 12.
“But just as if God has a way of crowning all efforts to mark the 25th Anniversary of June 12, our President, President Muhammadu Buhari has deemed it fit to give our own MKO Abiola the highest honour in the land, GCFR and that is why we believe strongly that your presence here is not just for this statue but it is also historic which we would always remember in the annals of the history and politics of this country that sooner than later, there would be one day we would mark as MKO Abiola Day.
“We are very happy to gather here today at the MKO Abiola garden to unveil this statue, a monument that will forever crystallize his legacy, serves as a reminder to the greatness that Chief Abiola represents in our socio-political landscape,” the Governor said.
He described MKO Abiola as a man who transcended race, tribe and religion, adding that the late philanthropist appealed to all Nigerians who voted massively for him during the 1993 Presidential election.
“Sadly, he lost his life trying to secure his mandate. Even though he was from another State, Lagos was his home. And we recognize his contribution to our State and our democracy,” Governor Ambode said.
Responding on behalf of the family, MKO Abiola’s son, Abdul Mumuni Abiola thanked Governor Ambode and the Lagos State Government for the honour done the Abiola family, saying the statue was indeed befitting to honour his late father.
“God is great. I heard about this statue six months ago and I was called to come and see it and when I got here, I saw a statue of three-storey building. This is indeed massive. The family of late MKO Abiola really appreciates this and we want to thank the Governor,” Abdul Mumuni said.
He also appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari for posthumous award conferred on his father and declaring June 12 as the Democracy Day, as well as the National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for standing solidly behind the struggle.
“We thank the President for doing what he did. This statue was planned before the President did what he did and so we want to thank Governor Ambode for this,” he said.
Governor Ambode, who earlier spoke at a symposium held at the Blue Roof, Lagos Television in Ikeja to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the June 12, 1993 election, paid glowing tributes to other comrades who led the struggle from the front including Gen. Alani Akinrinade, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Ambassador Walter Carrington, Justice Dolapo Akinsanya, Chief Frank Kokori, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Mr. Wale Oshun, Alhaji Balarabe Musa and other Nigerians and Civil Society Organisations, Trade and Labour unions.
“We also pay glowing tribute to the beautiful memories of patriots such as Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin, Pa Abraham Adesanya, Chief Michael Enahoro, Chief Alfred Rewane, Dr Beko Ransome Kuti, General Adeyinka Adebayo and several others including innocent ordinary Nigerians, young and old who were murdered in cold blood on the streets of Lagos and in other major cities of Nigeria. Today, we declare that their sacrifice has not been in vain,” he said.
The Governor commended Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for being the pioneer Governor to declare public holiday on June 12 throughout his tenure in office as well as Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) for his steadfastness in upholding the tradition, saying that the occasion attests to their visionary leadership.
Speaking on the theme: “Restructuring: Antidote For Efficient And Effective Polity,” guest lecturer, Dr. Dele Ashiru of the Department of Political Science, University of Lagos (UNILAG), called for the amendment of the Constitution to ensure removal of provisions which inhibit successful running of functional system, especially revenue sharing formula which he said must be by derivation, among others.
He also said considering the strategic importance of Lagos to the country, special attention must be given to the State, adding: “The Federal Government must wake up and pay Lagos adequately from the national resource so that the State can continue to play the role it had been playing in the country.”
He described Lagos as a model and mega city not only in Africa but the world, and as such all hands must be on deck to work for its sustenance.
Also, Chairman of June 12 Coalition, Comrade Linus Okoroji commended the Lagos State Government for sustained commitment to the June 12 struggle which had yielded fruits with the recent declaration of the day as Democracy Day in Nigeria and recognition of MKO Abiola as GCFR.
Ambode’s performance will be a landmark in Lagos’ history –Steve Ayorinde
How would you describe your experience in the public sector?
I would say that it has been smooth because my first posting was at the Ministry of Information and Strategy which is my turf due to my background as a journalist. Also, before the cabinet was formed, I had spent about six months with Governor Akinwunmi Ambode as the governor-elect. I handled communication and publicity for him. That was an advantage because I ran his publicity and media relations while he was an aspirant, a candidate and also as the governor-elect before he was later made the governor. Not only did I have the opportunity to speak for him and ‘curate’ his public profile, I was also part of the think-tank that worked on a few areas that we thought would be impactful to the state, especially as it concerned tourism, arts, entertainment, and sport. If you recall, part of what he campaigned with was project THEAS, which stands for tourism, hospitality, arts and sport. So my transition was smooth.
How did you meet Ambode?
He was like a big brother that I knew from afar simply because he was a big brother to a few close friends that I had. When I was the Editor of The Punch, he was the accountant general and the few friends that I knew, who were close to him always spoke about him glowingly. They always said that he was a brilliant accountant that had an abiding interest in the arts and it was a thing of interest to me. I knew of him as the accountant general and someone who was central to assisting Asiwaju Bola Tinubu when the funds of Lagos State were seized by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The state had to be creative in generating revenue in order for it to survive. He did so well that when he was accountant general, the money generated within the state rose from N600m monthly to about N6bn and ever since then, it has been on the rise.
He was a father figure to some artistes and from his own money, he would help them. There was a popular female musician at the time that was notorious for her kind of lyrics in a creative way. She did an album titled, ‘Olori Ebi’, which means the head of the family in Yoruba. Later, I got to know that the Olori Ebi that she was referring to was Governor Ambode. He was the one that helped St Janet. He bought her the instruments she required and set her up. There are other artistes who owe their rise and success stories to him, for instance, MI and Ice Prince. I had the privilege of attending some of their album launches and it was made possible courtesy of the governor’s intervention. I like the fact that he was always in the background but he genuinely loves entertainment, arts, creativity, and sports. We share the same interest in a particular team. It was easy to discuss arts and sports with him.
Many artsy monuments were created for Lagos@50 but people feel that such may not be sustained since a new government is about to take over. How would you react to that?
First, government is a continuum and we are thankful that it is not a different party coming to power in Lagos State. The governor-elect has been a part of the government in different capacities so he understands the developmental goal of the state and it is not likely that he would deviate from those things that make Lagos the number one state. It would be a continuation of what Governor Ambode did, just like he (Ambode) continued from where Babatunde Fashola (former governor of the state) stopped. It was Fashola that began the Lagos Countdown and Ambode expanded it. Fashola built Freedom Park but we use it and still maintain the place. I think that the next administration would not just continue what we have done but expand the vision. Even the governor-elect said that they would not only key into all what we have done but expand it. He made this statement when the President came (to Lagos).
Why were you moved from the Ministry of Information and Strategy to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture?
In my estimation, I think the Ministry of Information and Strategy had been stabilised to an extent that if you like, you can say that we were on autopilot. You will recall that at the time, tourism had become so big that everybody was talking about Lagos as far as tourism was concerned. At the time, there was no replacement for the commissioner that had left, in my opinion; maybe the governor felt that he wanted the same level of seriousness and competitiveness that we had brought to the information and strategy ministry to be given to tourism, arts and culture and I would say that we achieved that because that was when we said we should have a calendar of events of what the state would do every month for different things for the first time anywhere in Africa. Now everyone is copying us. I think the governor wanted a trusted and capable hand that was part of the ideas that are now germinating as far as project THEAS is concerned.
But some people feel that your predecessor, Folarin Coker, had ego clashes with the governor and that was why he was removed. Is that true?
No; not really. He was not the only one that left; about four people also left. I did not come to the tourism ministry till after a year. If the idea was to replace him I would have been brought here immediately, but there was no need for that. I do not think that the governor was looking for a replacement until he felt that the level tourism ministry was reaching at the time needed a firm hand to handle his vision. OLF (One Lagos Fiesta) was Folarin Coker’s idea and the governor bought into it. They are very close. It could happen that there were issues but I do not think that those issues had anything to do with who replaces who. In any case, those issues are now behind them and they are good buddies.
The governor’s tenure is almost over and you would have to vacate your office. How do you feel about that?
Nobody signs to do two terms with any governor. Even if the governor had got the ticket for a second term in office, I don’t think anyone would have been guaranteed to serve with him for the second term. A few people might but you do not sign up to do two terms. Some people prefer to work from outside, some prefer to do one term and choose to step down. I do not access the fact that the governor did not get a second term in a literal manner; however, as human beings, it is disappointing considering the enormity of the job that the governor had done. From the assessment of everyone, you would see that his competence was never in doubt. If there were areas that were pointed out that he needed to work on, I think lessons have been learnt and even the governor recently said that he is a lot wiser. There is always a lot involved in matters like this and what should be of consolation is the fact that his competence is not in doubt and he is being celebrated for having immensely contributed to Lagos in the past four years. What this means is that four years is enough to contribute to the state. With what Ambode has done, I think that his four years would be a landmark for generations to come as far as Lagos State administration is concerned. Maybe ‘bad’ things happen to good people for a reason so that you can be channelled to a route that you did not think might come early.
How did you feel when the French President, Emmanuel Macron, visited Lagos?
It was a birthday gift for me personally. I think President Macron came to Lagos on July 5, and my birthday is on the 9th. I could not have got a better birthday gift. Also, I knew him when he was in Nigeria, he was in Abuja but he often visited Lagos. I was closer to his friend, David Evette, and some other people. I was a young line editor at the time with Comet Newspaper when he was around. When he became the finance minister of France, I used to tell people I know him. Then he became president and all of a sudden he said he wanted to come to Nigeria but he would prefer to stay in Lagos.
We began to plan with the French Embassy to lodge the president at Eko Hotels and Suites but they told us that the president would not want that, instead he would prefer to be at the Shrine. I was the happiest person on earth. The biggest validation of ‘destination Lagos’ that we had done in Lagos for the past years, of Lagos being sold to the world, was Macron’s visit. He crystalised it. I know of the gains that we have had since his visit to the state. I know that Christiane Amanpour’s son came to Lagos for a private visit after Macron had come. What the young chap said was that his mother told him that he must visit the Shrine because that was the place that the French president visited. The Namibian president came to Lagos and the governor hosted him but the Namibian president asked Ambode why he was hosting him on the Lagos Island instead of the Shrine. He said was it because he was not Macron and that if the French president could visit the Shrine, why wouldn’t he. It was a defining moment for Lagos and Nigeria. Yes, France won the FIFA World Cup but we won the ‘pre-world cup’ with Macron’s visit. The Shrine has become to the world one of the most iconic event centres on account of what happened with Macron.
One striking thing happened: Governor Ambode’s personal car has become iconic. Normally they fly the cars of visiting presidents to the country they want to visit. Even though Macron had his fleet of cars waiting, he chose to ride in Ambode’s car, the Audi. The car took him around. Less than one year after, President Muhammadu Buhari visited Lagos. Of course, he had his presidential fleet which took him to different places. He later came to the Lagos House where he had lunch; it should be noted that no President has been to the Lagos House in the past 20 years so his visit was historic. Somehow, curiously, he could not ride back in his car so he had to change to the same car that Macron used. It is a case of two presidents and one car in one year. That is something awesome. For us, Macron’s visit would always remain a watershed visit. It is not likely that we would have something bigger than that. It is a form of endorsement and therefore we should be grateful. For me to have had the privilege to co-organise the visit was very fulfilling. I think that if you begin to count the successes and accomplishments of the contribution of what I have been able to make to this administration, the Macron visit is one of them.
Senate okays bill seeking to upgrade Yabatech to varsity status
The Senate, on Thursday, passed the City University of Technology (Est, etc) Yaba Bill, 2018 for second reading.
The decision followed a motion by Sen. Gbenga Ashafa (APC-Lagos) at the plenary presided over by Senate President, Bukola Saraki in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the bill essentially sought to transform the Yaba College Technology (YabaTech) in Lagos State, to the City University of Technology Yaba.
Leading the debate, Ashafa, who represents Lagos East Senatorial District, argued that if the bill is considered, it would enhance the capability of the institution to achieve its objectives.
”Nigeria’s steady march towards education for all in the shortest possible time has taken a giant leap with the introduction of this bill.
”I am personally excited by the prospect of transforming this polytechnic to a university of technology because it will motivate both students and academic staff.
”It will also upgrade the facilities and enhance it capability to achieve its objectives.
”Similarly, the new university of technology will encourage the advancement of learning and hold out to all persons without distinction of race, creed, sex or political conviction the opportunity of acquiring a higher and liberal education,” he said.
Citing instances, the lawmaker noted that in similar circumstances in the United Kingdom, most of the polytechnics were upgraded to universities.
”If Nigeria has plan to become one of the world’s leading economies as currently being pursued by government, we must be ready to adjust and position our educational institutions so that its products are geared for the technological challenges inherent in such projections,” he said.
According to him, the attainment of university status would definitely enhance the operations of the Yaba Polytechnic and clarify its mission and vision.
Lawmakers, who contributed to the motion, also supported it.
When the motion was put on a voice vote, it was unanimously adopted by the legislators.
Saraki, therefore, referred the bill to Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND for further legislative action and report back within a week.
Similarly, the Senate also passed a Bill for the Establishment of Federal Polytechnic Iwerekun, Ibeju-Lekki Lagos, sponsored by Ashafa for second reading.
Promises on social media purportedly from me is fake — Sanwo-Olu
The Governor-elect of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, yesterday met with a group of journalists in Lagos to debunk, as fake news, a long list of promises which has been circulating on the social media.
There has been a long list of promises on the social media believed to have been made by you on solving, within six months, the many problems confronting Lagos. How do you respond to that list?
I saw the list, too. In Lagos, everybody is now a Sanwo-Olu. But the reality is that it’s just a wish list. it’s fake news. It’s not a bad thing in itself when people push you to achieve, but the truth is that you need to crawl before you walk. In our first quarter in office, we are hoping to have a working government running very quickly. We should be beginning to see huge solutions to traffic management, for instance.
Also, in terms of areas where we need to improve on waste management solutions, we would be working on that. The Apapa traffic gridlock, I believe we have solved it but the sustainability is some of the things we need to do. We’ll also have to work around the civil service because all these things we are talking about, we need professionals who are in the civil service to work with. So in terms of capacity building and skills gap, we need to identify where the right professionals are in our civil service so we can utilise the right competences, the square pegs in square holes to work on all these solutions we are talking about.
On power, within 90 days, I imagine we should have had a clear-cut policy working with the power distribution companies, the generating companies and all other key stakeholders on how we must ensure that Lagos is powered up very, very quickly.
How would you rate the progress of Lagos State in the 20 years of return to democracy?
I will say it’s been worth it, for us as progressives in Lagos and for residents of the state. If we want to be fair, today’s Lagos is not the Lagos we had 20 years ago. Lagos was not the fifth or sixth largest economy in Africa 20 years ago; neither did it have 23 million people. Lagos didn’t have a lot of what it has now, in health, in education, in infrastructure. Of course, we can say Lagos didn’t have a lot of traffic it has today and didn’t have lots of refuse. So, Lagos has grown to be one of the megacities in the world within that 20-year space.
Of course, that huge development has come with a lot of opportunities, as well as lots of challenges. But the progressive leaders have held their turf; they have done very well within the period. They’ve created wealth for a lot of Lagosians.
They have built structures- bridges and extensive infrastructure, and have done a lot of work on education and health building schools and hospitals. There has been quality representation.
When they started in 1999, the state was generating just a little over N600 million but now the state is generating billions of naira every month.
What are your plans for the SMEs in the state?
On my campaign trail, I met quite a number of very intelligent, young Nigerians, about six, seven thousands of them at various fora. One of the things we discussed we’d be looking at is the incubator centres we need to create for them; there will be clusters of incubator centres we can develop. The tech-up side, we’d begin to work on that. On the ones that require financing and support, we’ll get the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund to quickly identify more beneficiaries to support them with grants or little loans so we can increase the numbers very quickly.
There will be light industrial estates we need to revive. We will also need to work with the Central Bank because some of these things we discuss are beyond our control. The grants, the loans the Central Bank has been talking about, how well can they be accessible? The commercial banks will mention they want to be supporting SMEs, but how truly well are they going to be supporting them? These conversations must come from that angle.
If you have just a small corner tailoring outfit, it’d be difficult for me to say I’d be solving your immediate problem because your situation could just be power supply in your small shop. But we can pool that together to have a tailoring section in Obalende, for example. That’s the kind of innovation we’d do. We’d look for a place where they can share resources, maybe have about 300 tailors clustered there and we can develop a power solution for them as against developing for each person.
On their own part, they must identify players in the same industry. Once they come together, it becomes easier for government to intervene for them collectively.
How do you intend to address infrastructure deficit?
Infrastructure is big- it’s roads, it’s power, it’s housing. On roads, there is so much of so little you can do during the rainy season. But you can do a lot of planning. You can also, when it rains, clear the drainages, remove what could block the manholes and fix potholes.
During the rainy season, you need to be smart so you don’t waste materials. On infrastructure, before the end of the year, the people will see our growth plan, in terms of which roads, which bridges we’d be completing within the next two, three years.
We’ll be working a lot with the private sector on public-private participation so we can be using private equity, private funds to develop some of those competences in infrastructure.
How would you be transparent on budgeting and procurement?
The state government still publicises its budget year-on-year; we intend to continue with that. Beyond that, we intend to be doing what we call quarterly review of our budget performance so the people can ask us questions on the budget in the last three months: ‘You said you would this and that, why have you not done them? Is it because there is not enough money?’
In terms of transparency on procurement, we have a Procurement Law, we have a procurement agency. It’s for them to assess a bit more. Whatever needs to be published in terms of who gets what procurement, we’ll do it, if it’s not currently being done.
Business owners in Lagos complain a lot about multiple taxes. How would you give them succour?
There are no multiple taxes. It’s your perception. It’s a paradigm we need to change. It’s not true. There’s no tax that doesn’t have a law component to it.
Taxation is a function of the law, so if the law is faulty let’s go back to it. Maybe you can talk about the people and how they collect taxes, which we need to work on. But then, that’s people, that’s culture. We need to correct the narrative.
Would you be giving priority to uncompleted projects the outgoing government began?
We’ve had several interactions with the government; we have a transition committee. We’ve seen documents. In terms of completion, yes, we will ensure we complete them and we will do that very well. There shouldn’t be any problem.
Every administrator has his style. What would be yours?
My style would be to be humble, transparent and accessible as much as possible. My administration would be engaging. I’d allow people to have their say. They may not necessarily have their way, but it’s an opinion, an idea, a suggestion you are putting on the table. If it’s not something in my view that Lagosians will benefit from, I’d give you reasons why it can’t be done.
I am a Yoruba man, we respect our elders. We’ll keep the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos going. It’s only if you don’t have any business in Lagos and you are constituting a security challenge here that you will not be my friend. My style will be to remain a governor for everybody.
Could you give us a peep into figures on the kind of treasury you would be inheriting?
I don’t have the numbers yet. As a finance person myself, we just have to be creative. Money will never be enough, but we can’t be giving money as an excuse not to perform.
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