The team at Nigerian newspaper house, NEXT recently had an exclusive interview with Governor Babatunde Fashola.
According to them:
“It took all of three years to arrange, but the 60-minute interview with the governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, was worth the wait.
Conducted last Thursday, after the entertaining debate by major Lagos State governorship candidates organized by Channels Television and ThisDay, it was already well into the day before he sat down across the team from NEXT.”
Watch NEXT’s 60 Minutes Interview with Governor Fashola below. For all those who don’t find the video loud enough, please read the transcript.
Also find a transcript of the video below. For all those who find the audio not loud enough, please read the transcript instead.
Q: How has it been combining your official role with that of your private life?
Well, it’s a tough call managing time that is not enough. You have so many things to do and even at home, I am working. And in the office too, many people come but that is the essential reason why government exists – to solve all the problems that need to be solved. The time to spend with family is not in plentiful supply at all. I try to balance both sometimes in the most unconventional way. Like yesterday, my youngest son asked me what time the debate will start. I told him 7pm. He asked what time it will end. By then I knew what he was thinking and I asked him if he wanted to go. So, we went together. These are some of the ways I tried to balance it by taking them along on site inspection. It is also part of educating them on what government is all about so that they can understand your absence away from home.
Q: Have the sacrifices been worth it?
I think the opportunity to serve, especially in the public sector, is the biggest honour that anybody can have from his country or his people. It is the biggest honour. I have not gone on vacation since four years now and the only form of rest that I can probably talk about is when I travel outside the country. I try to get there a day earlier so I can at least get some rest. Even when I travel, I travel with cases of files, memos, reply emails etc, it is more than a full time job given the level of catch up that we have to make in terms of deficit in governance that has piled up since more than 30 years ago. I do hope that one day, the Chief Officer of Lagos State will actually have more time by the time we have bridged the gap.
Q: What is your assessment of the debate?
Honestly, I haven’t had time to access beyond the point I made in my closing remark that it would seem that none of the candidates have spoken to the issues that concern Lagosians. What they were concerned about was to criticise what we have done. At that kind of forum where the debate was intended to inform and enlighten the public, they didn’t bring the discussions that I was expecting. I wanted to learn from them if there are better ways of doing what we are doing. For me, this is not a time to criticise.
Q: But it is the time to also hold you accountable
Yes. But complaining that we didn’t do it well is not the answer. The citizens want to know how you will do it better. There was a question, for example, that ‘what will you do to improve education system’ and the answer that came was ‘I know what to do.’
Q: How far do you think you have gone in achieving the goals you set for yourself when you were coming into office?
I think that we have delivered more than we promised. If you read my inaugural address and the terms of the document I issued then as my contract with Lagos, I think we have delivered more than we promised. But to me, that delivery was situated within the context of a time frame and an economic environment. So if we have had more money, there are things we would have loved to do and progressed more quickly. It has been said that the reason why you are very celebrated as an achiever in Nigeria is because the standard of governance is so low and whatever little effort someone makes becomes something big and that compared to other places, things happening in Lagos are not out of ordinary.
For me this is not a competition with other governors. It is a commitment to improve the place I call home. It is also, for me, a challenge to restore hope. We must not forget that it used to be said about Lagos that it was an unsafe, irredeemable place occupied by tax evaders, lawless and dirty people, but now, we have gone from that to become one of the cleanest states. We won the award for being the cleanest capital in this country. We have restored order to places like Oshodi and Obalende. People are voluntarily paying their taxes. So, we have steadfastly begun to explode the negative myths about Lagos to reveal its positive possibilities. From the very first day that we started this job, we have told ourselves that we are not going to benchmark ourselves against other states. We are benchmarking ourselves against African and European Countries that are the same size with us. If you look at our state’s global rating, a BB- rating, you will find us lying, almost shoulder to shoulder, with a few European countries. By our budget performance, we have become the only state that funds its own budget up to 70 percent by its own resources.
Q: Numbers sound great but the reality to the ordinary man on the street is that roads are flooded when it rains; there is high cost of housing and traffic jam. It seems to me that it is almost impossible to say that Lagos is at par with some European countries.
I have not said Lagos is at par with European countries, I have only said we are benchmarking ourselves against them. About flood, the reality is that Lagos is a coastal state surrounded by water and it lies just barely two meters above sea level and some places even lie lower. Major cities in Holland get flooded. So, nothing unusual is happening here. The question is whether the flood recedes. I wish we can begin to move away from generalisation to being specific. When you say most roads in Lagos are flooded, it is not quite correct. We must understand that drains do not keep water; they are only just the channels of controlling the flow of water. The water is expected to flow out into the sea and lagoon. So, when the tide of the sea and lagoon is high due to high rainfall, water in the drain cannot flow into them. And there is nothing you can do about that other than to wait for the sea tide to recede and flood can recede also.
Q: One of the issues is that we wait until the rains come before we start clearing the blocked drains.
If you go out now across Lagos, you will see men of the Drain Ducks, the Emergency Flood Abatement Gang, the ministry of works, the ministry of the environment, and local governments, clearing the drains. We have evolved a method here and we cannot pretend about the environment in which we live. This problem is not unique to us; we must accept that for a fact. There is no society without problems and government is assessed on its capacity to solve societal problems. And indisputably, our capacity to deal with Lagos problems is improving by the day. Let give a few examples, there is a place in Idi Araba, opposite LUTH. That place has flooded since I was a kid but for the first time last year, there was no flood there. We have solved the problem. It takes a lot of money to dredge and lay concrete. This is one of the problems we should have solved in the 70s when we were dumping cement into the sea.
These are issues with political stability, without which there cannot be economic development. What we have had are periods of political conflicts that have taken the focus of those in governance away from developmental projects to entrenching political stability. Somehow now, we have had democracy and this has provided an opportunity to do some developmental work in the last three years. Now, election has come and everybody is challenged to win the election. So, one is hoping that after the election, we can put in another three years of hard work and it begins to add up to a better life. To say that the Human Development Index here has not improved at all is to say that clearly nothing has been done.
About the traffic, for me, traffic is a sign of prosperity. You will not find vehicles in the desert.
Q: But it comes at an economic cost
By all means, it is like that in every city that has the same status like ours, where you have millions of people moving on daily basis. The progress made in the UK about their transport management came with many years of advanced technology made even before we became a nation. They have built their rails, started the city bus, developed a reliable ferry system and in spite of these advances, the London City is still congested. And as we speak today, you have to pay a congestion charge. New York is going to impose a congestion charge soon.
And we are responding as a government. We have introduced the BRT and we are building a mass transit. I know people expected us to do it in one day, but the reality is that we do not manufacture buses. They have to be imported through an inefficient port managed by the federal government. So, even if I order all the buses today, I am at the mercy of the port on the day it will come out. Meanwhile, we started with about 120 buses and today, we have close to 1000. That shows that we are overcoming the obstacles and we must get some credit for that.
There were no taxis in this town worthy of the name. We have more than 5,000 now because of the enabling environment we have provided. Today in Lagos, you can actually pick your phone and ask a taxi to come and pick you. It did not exist when we came.
So, the question is not whether there are problems, because there will always be problems. The question is whether the government is responding in a sustainable way. America, despite its technological advances, still has the problem of healthcare. For instance, crime is a global phenomenon. Are we responding? Yes. And are we wining? Oh yes. In South America, the biggest crime is narcotics. In some other region, it is ideological crime – Jihadists. It is street gang in other places. And there is no country that does not have a fair mix of them. These are the very strong sign of our increasing globalisation.
Q:When we look at cities against which you benchmark Lagos, there is one area that, really, Lagos has not done well. Our drains still get blocked with pure water sachets and we spend money to clear them. What is going to happen on the next four years?
One of the challenges we have to deal with is increasing advocacy about how to live together and pursue our daily aspirations with the consciousness that my right to do certain things impose a duty on me not to impede your right. We have built the drainages to relieve the people and have provided waste collection system but people still throw the sachets into the drains. It is first a lifestyle issue and the media has more than a passive role to play here. And I want organisations like yours to help strengthen this advocacy on the need for change.
On water supply, I don’t believe in a fire fighter approach. I believe in planning and developing in an orderly manner, in a way that first understand the root problem and then come up with lasting solution. We are projecting that by 2020, this state will have at least 25 million people. And we project that each person will use about 25 gallons of water per day. On that basis, we have projected that Lagos will need about 760 million gallons of water per day to sustain that population. The demand will actually be about 810 million gallons per day if we take into consideration the possibility of wastage. So, we already have a plan that we believe, if implemented, there should be enough water for all Lagosians. First, we are already looking at training young Lagosians, who are in school now, about water management and this is already happening in other jurisdiction against which we benchmark ourselves.
Q: Globally, water is regarded as a diminishing return and it is postulated that a time will come when it will be difficult to access it.
Yes in the last four years, we have set short, medium and long term plans. We have delivered on our short term plan, which is to construct 15 mini waterworks across the state. We have constructed 13, I have handed over 10, and two are under construction. Each has a capacity of 2 million gallons per day and a reticulation of 5km radius connecting about 500 homes. That gives us 30million gallons of water per day. Iju and Adiyan waterworks have a combined capacity of 115 million gallons per day but were producing only 40million gallons because there is no power supply. We have built a 12MW IPP and both waterworks now have about 22 hours constant power supply and they are generating about 100million gallons of water daily. So, we now produce about 130million gallons of water per day.
The second phase is to build Adiyan phase II, about 70 milion gallons of water per day, Odomola, about 120 million gallons, Oto-Ikosi is 4 million gallons at inception scalable to 20 million gallons, Ishaki is about 70 million gallons. We have finished the design for all four and have received tenders for two and Oto-Ikosi is almost completed.
We have done a water audit of all the communities in Lagos and we now have a plan that shows you the potential and existing network of pipelines to produce a document that will form our investment document in a long term plan so that people can take up the opportunities that exist in the water sector, which is a utility like telephone and electricity. So, when we complain about unemployment, it is because the government has not directed the energy of the people to where the jobs are. Of course I will not be in government by then but we have to lay the plan for the future.
Q: How are you funding this?
By direct budgetary funding and by BOT under PPP arrangement.
Q: Do communities like Ilaje, which sits on top of water, fall into your plan?
Yes. And we have already started working in those communities. We have started addressing the issues of blighted areas called slums. There are 13 of them in Lagos. Ilaje, Makoko, Ijora-Badia, Itire, Ijesha, Orile-Iganmu, Ajegunle, Agege and others.
We have the Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Programme, which we co-fund with the World Bank to restore a level of livability in those areas by providing recreation ground, market, primary healthcare, schools, and especially entrepreneurial opportunities. In Ijesha, we have moved heaps of refuse to make way for a playground. In Bariga, we have provided fish drying oven and storage. And this is one of the foreign debts we are being criticised for taking.
Q: Your administration has been accused of concentrating in some areas of the state at the expense of others.
I will explain again for as long as this question remains. There is still a stereotype way our people see problems. It may be a deliberate misinformation or sheer ignorance by those who propound it. I do not think that many who have made that statement have bothered to go around the state. I go around as frequently as possible and I am in constant touch with where we are working.
They said all the road projects are on the Island. That is true but clearly, in an economy where you don’t have enough resources and there are competing challenges, you have to make a choice. Do you do the major roads before the inner roads? If we start with the inner roads and people cannot get to work, have we really served them? You talk about traffic but where are they all heading to? They are heading to the Island to work. So to allow them work in a dignified environment, I have to do the roads leading to the Islands first. The fact that we do the roads leading to places where people earn their living does not mean the people who live around such places own the roads but the poor who earn a living in those places are the real beneficiary.
On the other side, LASU-Iba, Ekoro, Association Avenue, Isheri-Ijegun, which has about 1km bridge, are all roads in Alimosho. We are constructing 11 roads in Alimosho, none of which is less than 5km. The cost of one road in Alimosho is the equivalent of about six roads in Ikoyi and Victoria Island, which have shorter road lengths.
Q: Another recurring issue is cost. It is being said that Lagos is spending N1bn to build a kilometre of road, is this correct?
It cannot be correct. It is beggars believe. Some of our opponents who make these allegations use the same contractors that we use. They work in a better terrain and our prices are by far lower than theirs.
Ask any construction engineer. It is cheaper to build away from the coast than to build close to the coast. When you build close to the coast, almost seventy percent of the cost goes into drainage that is concrete and iron rod. Let us take two examples. There is a highway being built in Abuja towards the Airport. I am building the Lagos-Badagary expressway right in the midst of marshland. The drainage we are sinking there is almost three feet deep and three feet wide. There is no such drainage on the Abuja highway. The materials they are using, the rocks and filling materials, are right on site, we have to go to the sea to take filling materials. My costs are better.
Q: What is the cost?
I don’t have that off hand but it is something I can provide.
Q: Lagos has been quite self sufficient and that comes at a cost to businesses in the form of multiple taxation. People bringing food from the north recently went on strike complaining about these levies.
The first thing I ask from people who say there is multiple taxation is evidence. What you have alluded to is not multiple taxation. This is a federation comprising three tiers of government. I did not make it so. Each level of government, according to the Constitution has certain responsibilities. The federal government manages tertiary education, tertiary health, defence, internal security, including some others that belong to the states which it appropriates to itself. In a federation, it is really the states that are federating. It is the states that decide to work together and cede certain common responsibilities to the federal government to manage. So, it is the states that have unlimited power to do whatever they want apart from those ceded to the federal government.
Within this arrangement, we have also created the local government and gave them some responsibilities also in the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution. Where is the money to do these responsibilities to come from? Every level of government therefore has the responsibility and the authority to tax the citizens in order to deliver the services it is meant to do. Show me one federation that is different.
The taxes of companies go to the Federal Government through the Companies Income Tax Act. The taxes of employees of companies and parastatals and other workers go to the state. And those taxes are also imposed not by a state law but by a Personal Income Tax Act made long before I was born. So those are the two levels of government. I collect the taxes of employees. I don’t collect the taxes of companies. We have proposed that the maximum tax that any citizen can pay is an upper limit of 25%.
Q: Lagos State will go to a company and charge it for putting some sort of advertisement
If you want me to explain I will get there. The Local governments and the state have taxing powers but without a law, you can’t tax. There are laws made by the state on taxing powers by the state government and there are also by-laws made by the local government to generate revenues. Where will the money for immunization for children come from? They have to pay primary school teachers and in Lagos, primary school teachers are close to 20,000. They are the responsibility of the local government. They have primary health care workers, nurses and doctors employed at that level. They have to pay their salary. So when a pregnant woman walks into a health care centre and get health care free, get immunization for polio free, you get treatment for malaria free. Who is going to pay for it? Is it local government chairman from his salary? If you give a government a responsibility, he must tax. Even in medieval times, they offered tax. They collected yams and stuffs like that. The case of multiple taxation is a strong case. And if it exists, it is the responsibility of government to remove it immediately. And that is what I’m saying; it doesn’t exist.
Now to the point that you have made. We have to distinguish between tax and administrative levies. Does every citizen of this state pay to LASAA? If you do a certain type of business, you pay a certain type of cost because a service has to be rendered to maintain those gantries. Now why should I collect your tax with which to provide you water and use it to be erecting and maintaining gantries for her when she is running a business? It is not equitable. It is the same with those who own vehicles. You pay a vehicle registration fee, don’t you? It is an administrative cost. If you don’t own a vehicle you don’t pay it. Let us really understand this thing and show me a society where this doesn’t happen.
Q: Lagos does talk a lot about trying to be an investment centre. In other climes, there are tax breaks that help to attract investors and help grow the economy first. I’m just surprised that it doesn’t seem like Lagos is conscious of this. If you really want to encourage businesses, I would have thought you will find a way of harmonizing some of these tax loads on businesses.
We have done that and it’s a continuing process. We’ve done two and let me just explain them. You have taxes you have to pay, rates on properties. One is payable to the state government and one is payable to the local government. The land use charge is payable to the state government and the tenement, to the local government. And we saw that on the same property, you pay two different costs to comply and we have to harmonize it so that you pay one charge. This state has and collects the lowest property tax in the whole of the continent, less than one percent. This was after a court case that was resolved in 2002. We reached an agreement that we will review the tax rate every seven years. It came up for review in 2009. Because of the global economic crisis, I said this is not the time to review taxes. Leave it at 0.34%. That is a tax break. We’ve reduced for example, mortgage rate now 1% from I think 2.5 or 3%. We also realized that we may be collecting costs that are no longer necessary because the way we run government, by automation and computerization, is different from the paper works used then. And we’ve been going from ministry to ministry to look into this and take those costs out. We have done that of the ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development.
Q: So are you conceding to the issue of multiple taxation or multiple charges?
No, it is not multiple charges. You have to understand that for example if you build a house with kerosene, and then, you now have to change to electricity. And you are still carrying the bill of kerosene. Let us talk about the foodstuffs. There is a law that any food drop into the territory must be inspected at the border post for health and safety reasons. Now every law that a society makes has a cost to implement it. And we ask the food vendors to pay a certain sum to the Ministry of Agriculture at the border post. Now, in the reckless pursuit for revenues, the goods that ideally should only pay taxes at point of origin and point of delivery gets charged in every other states it passes through. They charge illegally. Not me. When they came and they make the complaints, I took the matter to Federal Regulatory Council and National Economic Council imploring my colleagues that this is wrong. Unless the goods end in your state, you have no right to charge. We have set up a cauldron measure and provided vehicles for patrol and met with the traders. We had cases of over-layering regulations by people posing to be local government officials. And again what did we do? We invited the local government because they are autonomous and elected and we said this can’t continue. We have to provide them with the information so that they will know what tax they are liable to pay. We published an approved list of taxes that any local government in the state can charge you depending what you do in that local government.
After we have done all that, there is still human factor, citizens disguise as local government staff. These are also hybrid of violators of law that I talked about earlier. It’s an ongoing engagement and process we are trying to rectify where there is a fault. And as I said earlier, is there a problem? Oh yes there will always be a problem. And are we responding? Oh yes we are.
We can’t talk about taxes and not talk about ABC. Who are the ABC and what are they doing for Lagos State. We heard it is a company owned by Bola Tinubu . . .
Let me take the last question first. It is not true. And I think it is clear to any discerning mind that ownership of a limited liability company is determined by share holding. And the matter of the share holdings of any company is a matter of public record. It is not a secret. To the best of my knowledge he is not even among. You can satisfy yourself my making an application to the Corporate Affairs Commission in Abuja. Allegations will always be there especially in a society like this. The question is whether the allegations are substantial. If you make an allegation and you can’t substantiate it, my common logic says that it is not true. It is baseless. You can’t live a life without allegations but what is the fact? Opinion is always free. It is facts that are sacred. So what are the facts? The fact is what you will get at the Corporate Affairs Commission and to the best of my knowledge, this is an allegation I have been dealing with since I was the Chief of Staff and it is surprising that it still persists.
Alpha Beta is a company that provides technical support for Lagos State revenue collection system. When I was in private practice, if you wanted to pay into any government account, you are not sure whether you are paying to Lagos state government. There was always a seemingly matching receipt and people will ask you if you want to pay into the original of other accounts. Accounts were being opened in the name of the state government that the government did not know about. Therefore, money was coming in but it was not reaching the state. The revenue started moving up from N600 million monthly immediately ABC came in.
Q: What exactly do they do?
They deployed technology to monitor all the bank balances of the state government accounts through the swift electronic transfer system. They installed microwave wireless communication with the banks and gradually, this connection is being extended to the tax stations. They redesigned our receipts with a lot of security features. Now, they have started issuing electronic tax cards. So, they have provided the IT infrastructure for tax verification and management. They do not collect the revenues, the assessment are still done by the internal revenue service. There were a few land transactions which was a payment of N90m and there was receipt indicating that payment has been made. Truth was no payment was made. It was a false teller. But because of the size of the payment, I do random check. Can somebody verify for me? And it was ABC that came and said they don’t have that record in their payment. We now insisted that the citizen should go and pay. So they saved us N90 million. That is how the revenues have grown from N600 million to N14 billion and the potential for growth is still there because we haven’t covered the entire state. Somebody is providing a value that is helping us do that. And the only thing I think we have done is to vilify
Q: Let me quickly chip in here. The federal Inland Revenue service for instance, pick up on Lagos State, saying the role of a consultant is actually to come, render help to the internal revenue service and then go away
Who made the Federal Internal Revenue Service the Authority on that? No no no no. I think you missed it. That is why I started from the idea of the Federation.
Q: Let me put it another way sir. Traditionally, consultants come and after a period, pull out but the thing with ABC is that it seems they are here to stay.
At this moment, the investment that we are making in the technological bid for financial growth isn’t finished. Now it is an investment that I think we will benefit more at this time by having a private sector involvement. So that I can spend the money I have for technology and computers in the schools, in the hospitals. We are trying to computerize all of the health records in the state. So far out of the 25 general hospitals, we’ve covered thirteen. We’ve installed about 1,722 computers, servers, laptops in 22 out of the 25 general hospitals. We’ve backed up over sixty thousand records. Now we started this process three years ago, that process will not of its own derive any revenues. So, those are the social investment that I think I will put my money in first. The revenue service is an investment that is giving me the chance to earn more. And I think that is good business.
Q: It has been said that N13bn generated by Lagos is actually spent financing elections in other states
Nothing can be farther from the truth. You see, I continue to be amazed at the imagination of people to create false impression. And you know, these are very serious issues of values that I doubt that there is any public officer left in Nigeria that hasn’t been accused of corruption. Everybody is a thief but how many people have been convicted?
Q: Because the system is weak . . . ?
No no no no. That system worked in Lagos. If we continue like this, we are going to reach a stage where people will say I like to serve my country but I don’t want to be called a thief.
Q: Are you saying you don’t understand why Nigerians can accuse politicians of corruption?
Being cynical is different from making allegations that are unsubstantiated. There is no doubt about it, government has not come through for Nigerians for a long time, I don’t dispute that. But that doesn’t mean everybody in government is a thief. They are two different things. Allegations have been made about journalists. Does that mean every journalist is culpable?
Q: I think I would understand why the people . . .
Understanding it is not the problem. I understand it. Understanding is different. Is the act of one the act of all? We have one hundred and forty million people here if not more. How many people have served in government? How many of us today are serving in government? Are we up to a million? But the truth is that some people will want to believe that all Nigerians are corrupt. The act of a few people cannot be the act of our country. That is the point I mean; you make allegations with proof.
Q: There are lots of ways of measuring the levels of corruption in the country. The lifestyle of people in government is one of them. Where you know somebody was in power for two years, you know that their earnings are matters of public records and you look at the sort of house they live in. In the UK, there is a law that allows the government to seize peoples’ properties until they can prove how they made the money.
I agree with the idea of weak institutions but we always put away the problem instead of confronting them. It is not institutions that are weak; it is the people that are weak. When some people like us make regulations, people will still establish filial connection to complain about those regulations. So, I always wonder what exactly we want. Change will not come if we do not change our methods and lifestyle. We demolish illegal structures, people complain, if we leave those structures, people still complain.
Q: In the build up to the ACN primaries, were you truly at loggerhead with Bola Tinubu?
Did you enjoy the drama?
Q: Oh yes
You sold your newspaper, abi?
Q: We were reporting what was happening
So, I think you should thank us
Q: Well, we could have sold more if we actually knew what was happening. It was all speculative
Well. That is the excitement in our politics.
Q: Why did you drop your deputy?
No, I did not drop my deputy. The party did.
It was a party decision. They felt that somebody from the same constituency has served one term, so they decided to give another person from the same constituency the opportunity to serve in the second term.
Q: Is it a vote of no confidence in her because it is a joint ticket with you?
Well that is opinion and you will see it replicated in some other constituencies also. There is competition for representative opportunity and it is up to those constituencies to decide. In fact in some cases, we have made the case to the constituencies that we need to keep this experience but they say no. Every politics is local and whatever the people decide is their choice.
Q: Former President Obasanjo during the week said performing governors should be taken to other states to work, if it were possible, which state will you want to be?
I think given the challenges of Lagos, to think of any other state as challenging is… and I mean no disrespect to governors of other states. But the challenge here is quite fulfilling and I am content with being the governor of Lagos State.
Q: What do you miss about your private life, now that you are a public figure?
My private life then allowed me to do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it, how I wanted to do it and where I wanted to do it. And therefore you don’t have that kind of privilege. You can’t do what you like and many times you can’t do it the way you like. Like for example, I’ve been feeling the need to take a break, I can’t. I just keep pushing, hoping and waiting for an opportunity. You can’t just go up and say: ‘Hey, I’m tired.’ And this one last problem is balance whereby you try and keep fit, eat well. The exposure for me has been really defining. It keeps me out of my private cocoon; having to deal with people, understanding people better. Not everything that you see is what it represents itself as. So you have to look more carefully and you have to learn. And after all, people will just be people. And that means in every second people will just be people.
Q: Can you sneak out?
No no no. You see there is this person angry that I didn’t come to his birthday. I use to come before I was Governor. So If I can’t make it, I either call or send a representative. I’ve learnt a lot and I think I’m getting better when it comes to managing people’s emotions and sentiments.
Q: When are we going to have Lagos based clubs playing in the Nigerian premier league?
You see there is a plan. I believe absolutely in the power of planning. It makes things endure. Because first, you go to the root of the problem. Look at all the clubs that you have mentioned. All the successful clubs. Especially the ones that were owned by individuals or owned by government. Immediately the individual goes out. End of story. Immediately the sport lobby governor goes, end of story. I don’t want that to happen here. So there are two clubs in the second division but there is not a kobo of government money there. I’ve just called a few of my friends. Let us incorporate a company. Find young people who really want to play football. Encourage them. Develop their ability. Get managers for them in groups. Establish dress code for them. Fully professionalize it. And we are working. The money is not there and people are already putting in their two million, one million but we sold shares to everybody. A large network of my friends who play football can afford it. We are building very slowly. The clubs are doing well. My view is that I want to demonstrate that it is possible to own a professional club, one professionally owned by people. Apart from the majority shareholders, the remaining shares are scattered around people who own small shares. That is the way to build a club and that is the way we are building this too.
You see the premiership has its own timeline and timeline for the local league can be established. We’ve worked out this thing. And when it begins to unfold, you will marvel. It will be a family thing. Father, mother and children going to watch football and going back home. It will happen. But you see you have to bring the crowd to the stadium. They want to come and see an exhibition of talents, entertainment in a safe environment. They want to also get there quickly and be able to go home quickly. If you put the cart before the horse, you are going to have a problem. This is a work in progress and I am very confident that we are on the way. That is why we have invested in the junior league for students. We insist that they must be in school otherwise they won’t qualify. You must have an education. And we encourage them to pay them allowances so that they have that extra for notebook, for their recharge cards, to go to bar beach. You must go to school to come and play football and earn some stipends so that it can take some pressure away from your parents if you have the talents to play football. And these are the people that will gradually emerge to become the senior team into these clubs. I refuse to accept that this country can’t win the world cup. We have the talents but somebody must just go and do the work and begin to find them from the grassroots. They are there. There are more Okocha and Kanu Nwankwo than we care to look. That is why we built those stadia. They would come out. If you don’t provide it they won’t come out. You have to provide a theatre of expression.
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