There Is Much To Celebrate At 55th Independence Anniversary–Basorun
Olorunfunmi Basorun was the Secretary to Lagos State government during the era of Alhaji Lateef Jakande and leader of All Progressives Congress (APC) Ikorodu, in this interview with Augustine Adah; he speaks about Nigeria’s 55th Independence Anniversary, administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and other issues. Excerpts:
Today marks the 55th anniversary of Nigeria’s Independence, what is your view about the journey from 1960 till date?
There is much to celebrate at 55 because from 1960 to date a lot of development has taken place in the country. Let us take the education sector for example. At Independence we had only one or two universities but today the country has more than 100 universities. At independence, we had Lagos as the capital of Nigeria, today the capital has been relocated and Abuja is competing with Lagos in terms of development. Apart from that the internet penetration in the country has grown to the extent that many of our examinations are IT based which enable the result to be released in few days or hours. At Independence in 1960, we had three regions but today we have 36 states and many local governments. It is not correct for anyone to say that Nigeria has not much to celebrate. The country has moved from where it was at Independent. The only thing is that we need more development and this can be achieved when we have more money. Apart from the money that is being recovered from looters the new government is laying the necessary foundation for the country‘s increase revenue which would result in more development.
How do you describe this year’s Independent anniversary especially under a new administration?
This year’s Independent anniversary is special because it is a turnaround anniversary where everything is changing. The president went to UN and told the world leaders to ensure that poverty is reduced by 2030. The only thing we need to do is to support the present administration as the president is committed to turn things around in the country.
Why do you think the trial of Senate President by Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) is coming at this time about 12 years after the offence was committed?
The case of senate president is before the court and the court has adjourned till October 21. I think it is not wise for one to say anything on that. The court is already in charge and I don’t want to say anything beyond that.
But some people including Saraki himself have alleged that the present travail is politically motivated. Do you agree with that?
Whether it is politically motivated or not the case has been brought before the court and he has pleaded not guilty. There is hardly anything you do in this country that people do not read meaning into it. The only advice I have for him is that as a young man he should learn to make haste slowly.
Some people especially the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has accused the anti-corruption drive of the present Buhari administration as selective. Why do you think it is so?
I have not seen any evidence to that effect. Buhari is not EFCC, and does not give directive to EFFC to go and arrest anybody. It is the case that comes before them that they investigate and prosecute those involved. In the years of impunity those in Aso Rock used to intervene and if it was that time somebody like Ayo Fayose would not have opportunity to even contest as governor because he still has a criminal case against him with the EFCC. But the way Buhari is behaving, I don’t think he is interested in getting involved to protect anybody whether you are a member of the party or not. In the same way, he would not want to intervene in the activities of the anti-graft agency to implicate anybody. PDP is just crying wolf because nobody has been charge to court yet, we heard recently that one person has about $500,000 staked in his house. The story was posted on social media but as we are talking nobody has been convicted yet. If you know any other case apart from that of Saraki which is already in court then we can discuss.
The President promised to constitute the cabinet by September ending; do you still believe he can keep his promise?
He cannot afford to renege on the promise made even if it is the last day in the month.
There is rumour that the ministerial nomination is causing ripples in the party especially between Obasanjo and the national leader of the party over who should make the list in the south-west. As a leaders of the party what is your advice on the matter?
Those are internal issues in the party which would be sorted out. Obasanjo does not belong to any party now as he said, but if his name is mentioned probably because he has interest in some people. All those involved would sit down and resolve the matter and if at the end of the day they cannot resolve it the president would sit down and resolve it by picking the people he feels can work with him.
How to do you react to the list of commissioner nominees recently released by the governor of Lagos State?
We are still studying the list of 37 names.
What happened to the purported list that was circulated some weeks ago?
Some of them emerged but a lot of those names that was published in the media including Punch were not found in the list released by the governor.
It seems no Igbo man would be appointed commissioner this time around as nobody from there made the list that was submitted. Do you think it is a deliberate act?
Well, this is a new government; you know Akabueze has been a member of the cabinet before now. He came during the time of Bola Tinubu for a certain reason which I did not know. He served as a commissioner for eight years during the tenure of Raji Fashola, but we have not been paid back properly for those of us who are very accommodating in the state. They have been celebrating the victory of PDP in Amuwo Odofin, Ajeromi Ifelodun and Oshodi-Isolo and indication that they voted for PDP in those areas and were jubilating when the party won in the last elections. In spite of what happened, Ambode is not paying them back because some of them have been appointed as board members in the state. We have an Ndigbo as member of governing board of our institution; Joe Igbokwe has been appointed a general manager of one of the agencies. He was somewhere before and he is still part of the system. The word non-indigene is not restricted to Igbos. Somebody from Ogun State or other states apart from Lagos is non-indigenes and we have some of them either in the cabinet or board of parastatals. Lagos is regarded as cosmopolitan city and all appointments made either in the previous administrations or now have been reflecting that status. In Ikorodu we have two names in the commissioner lists that were forwarded to members of State Assembly. They are; Hon. Adebimpe Akinsola who was a member of Lagos State House of Assembly representing Ikorodu 11 constituency between 2011 and 2015 and Rotimi Ogunleye who was a House of Assembly aspirant in the last assembly election. We tried to project those who are really committed and worked for the victory of party. Ikorodu division has a lot of people who are qualified to occupy every position right from the governor to other positions, but we have been given the two slots here and we are not complaining.
Some people are claiming that things are not moving speedily in the new administration under Akinwunmi Ambode as governor of Lagos State. What exactly do you think is the problem?
There are no two governments that are the same. While Tinubu was the governor; Fashola was there in the government for the eight years period it lasted as chief of staff. He got himself acquainted with so many things in the government so when he took over as governor in 2007, many things was not entirely new to him. Even though he took some time to position himself so that he can serve the people properly, probably it was not long. In the case of Ambode , the young man was not deeply involved in the government before he was elected as was the case with his predecessor . For him to be able to serve the people very well he needs time and probably he has his own style as an Accountant. Some of us were getting excited and worried that some of the projects that were ongoing before this time were stopped but I put myself in his position because he has to take and study what was on ground before committing money into any project. I believe after what economists call ‘gestation period’ he can now move forward. As the Chief of Staff at that time Fashola was a member of the state executive council and knew the working of government which is not so with Ambode. This was a man that was a permanent secretary, retired and came back to contest the election and won. I believe he is taking his time which we must all be patient with him.
Some states including Osun State could not pay salaries for many months until the recent bail out from the federal government. Do you think state governors are really managing their resources judiciously?
It is true that many state governors owed arrears of staff salaries for some months. The focus on Osun was probably because the man who is there is dynamic. We thank God that we have the president who is ready to take care of his children and others, if it were the time of impunity I don’t know what would have happened. Look at Ayo Fayose who said that Buhari would die; he announced this morning that he has received his own bail out and he is going to use it judiciously. The case with Osun has to do with volatile nature of politics in the area otherwise it is not the only state that workers are being owed salaries. I am advising our governors to sit down and become serious. The 36 governors in the country should cut their coat according to their cloths and stop living flamboyantly. There is no sense in the governor of Yobe Sate to say he would buy helicopter because his counterpart in Rivers State has helicopter. I have nothing against Yobe in particular I am only trying to compare the revenue resources of the two states. I see no reason why our governors should move with large entourage. In America for example, the salary of the governor in California is different from that of New York but here everything is the same. The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) must review the salaries and the governors must cut their coat according to their cloths. Those who are saddled with the responsibility of fixing remunerations of those elected to serve the people must look into that. The pressure on legislators in Lagos is not the same with legislators from Zamfara State. Until we realize this difference the problem we are talking about would not be solved. We imported our style of democracy from the US and we must import that aspect too. At the appropriate time when one has the opportunity, we would suggest to Mr. President because the restructuring people are talking about would amount to nothing until those elected to represent the people are made to live within the ambit of their resources. The problem of Osun Sate was blown out of proportion because of the volatility of the area; otherwise the problem is the same everywhere.