Special Adviser to Governor Babatunde Fashola on Information & Strategy, Mr. Lateef Raji has said that his principal is too young, and too good not to dream about occupying higher office. In a chat with journalists, he shed light on the state’s debts, derided Ikimi/Ribau defection from All Progressive Congress and chastised ex-aviation minister, Femi Fani-Kayode. Excerpt:
Lagos Debt Profile`.
In Lagos, we have high level of debt sustainability. This is because we are not borrowing beyond our capability to pay. The debt management office of the Federal Government that published the report that we have a debt of about N160billion may have said that what we are owing is huge. However, they are aware about our capacity to pay those debts. When you look at our total debt, and compare it to our GDP, our debt ratio to our GDP is two percent whereas the World Bank recommend twenty percent. This is an indication that our debt is sustainable. Our rating as a state is the same as that of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, BB Minus-Stable with a positive outlook. We are the only state in Nigeria that has that rating. Besides, what we spent the money on is there for everyone to verify. It is completely difficult to live without debt, and there are good debt, and there are bad debt.
The one of Lagos State is good debt because it is an investment in infrastructural developments. Is it the ongoing reconstruction of Lagos-Badagry, which we are just increasing to ten, the Ijegun-Ishashi Road, the Blue Line Rail Phase Two project from Okokomaiko to Marina, Adiyan Water Works Phase Two, the completion of Ayinke Hospital just to mention but a few?
To some people, they would say Lagos generates billions of naira in a month but what they forget to consider is that we have twenty-one million people in the state. It is rumoured that we make N30billion monthly as IGR, and if we had to divide the money with our huge population, you can imagine the paltry sum accrued to individuals.
The other issue is that this IGR is not generated in lump sum, they come in bit and pieces. In such a situation, a serious government would have to obtain loans to be able to carry out its functions.
In Lagos State, we have infrastructural deficit, and for some of our loans, it will take 25-year to pay it. The way we even restructured our loans. by the time some of our investments start to generate income, paying the debts will be a walk in the park. The benefits of all the investments are there for everybody to see. The investment in security has brought back night life. Property rents are increasing in most areas owing to massive road constructions. These are kind of things that stimulate economic activities.
WHY ROAD CONSTRUCTION COST SO HIGH
Many things are considered in road construction, and it involves a lot of variations depending on location. For a state like Lagos State, we cannot be constructing roads in willful ignorance of our peculiar geological and environmental conditions. The topology of Lagos is that of water, and definitely the cost of constructing a kilometer road in Lagos would be higher than that of Jigawa State. However, most times, the costs of constructing these roads bandied about are exaggerated by our detractors. There are roads that were built for less than a billion naira.
EBOLA & SCHOOL RESUMPTION
It must be said that we deserve plaudits for how we are going about this Ebola issue in Lagos. We are the one in the eye of the storm. We have a scientific approach of responding to issues and not given to spontaneous reactions. The commissioner for health has daily kept Lagosians updated on the situation, and now the number of people under surveillance has reduced to nineteen. For us, there are so many things to consider and we are addressing them already. We are sensitizing teachers on sanitization, increasing infrastructures in our schools. The logistics is huge, and demands certain necessities.
The election has come and gone and we are now in court. We took things for granted in Ekiti but made amends in Osun and won convincingly. Prior to the election when the Vice-president Namadi Sambo said PDP was going to war in Ekiti, we thought it was a rhetoric. We didn’t know that their plans was to perpetrate violence, induce voters and subvert the electoral laws. You can see what is happening in Niger State where APC won the Niger-East re-run election, and PDP disrupted the process.
Nuhu Ribadu is a Nigerian and has the right and freedom of association. That is why we have multi-parties system. There are some politicians who see themselves as progressive and equally conservative but honestly you are either a conservative or a progressive. Politics in Nigeria is often dictated by poverty and only few people are in it owing to ideology. Their defection in a way suggests that they may have joined politics for personal gains.
APC POLITICAL DOUBLESPEAK
Nobody went to woo Chief Tom Ikimi, he left PDP when he was muscled out by Chief Tony Anenih. The senator representing Oyo Central Senatorial District, Ayo Adeseun and his Oyo South counterpart, Senator Femi Lanlehin have both decamped to PDP before him, and nobody abused them. Ikimi started the ferocious verbal exchanges with an epistle, and we won’t take no prisoners, we have the right of reply. Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a democrat, and nobody can take that away from him. Who among the PDP has Asiwaju’s credential. How many of them were in the trenches during IBB and Abacha military junta. He has the right to have candidates like everyone, and he is not forcing them on anybody. When Gov. Fashola emerged, we held primary.
He is an attention seeker. he started with us in Alliance for Democracy and was writing articles attacking the then President, Obasanjo. He succeeded in grabbing Obasanjo’s attention and was appointed Special Assistant (Public Affairs) and later became a minister. He probably decamped because he didn’t want to be jailed because of his financial atrocities in the aviations ministry. He must not be taking serious. He is scared stiff of going to jail, and looking for a straw to hang on. You want me to take a man that kisses and tells serious. You remember his case with Bianca. He can choose to call Asiwaju name.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR GOV. FASHOLA
I cannot say exactly but he is too young and of immense leadership quality not to have aspiration. His exemplary performance as the governor of Lagos is there for everybody to see. He is a party man, and it would do him a lot of good if he has ambition.
HIS OWN AMBITION
My next move is to contest for a seat in House Representatives, representing Oshodi-Isolo Federal Constituency.