Babatunde Olalere Gbadamosi, is the Secretary of National Intervention Movement (NIM) in Lagos and also a Chieftain of the Action Democratic Party (ADP). In this interview, he bares his mind on the Land Use Charge Law of Lagos State, the essence of the establishment of NIM and the state of the nation. PATRICK OKOHUE reports
You are in National Intervention Movement (NIM) along with Olisa Agbakoba, Wale Okunniyi and some other people in which you have had series of meetings, what is it really about?
Yes, I am the secretary of the movement in Lagos State. The whole idea behind the movement is to get people to become more engaged with policies and politics that govern their lives.
For Nigerians in general to get more interested in who the decision makers are, the merits and demerits of the policies that they are advocating or they want to implement and paying a little more attention to the kind of politics that is being played with the degree of acrimony that their politics is generating and so on like that.
Because obviously, we only have one country, we don’t have two, there is only one Nigeria and we have nowhere else to go, if the whole thing falls apart then we will only have ourselves as citizens to blame,
because perhaps we pick the wrong leaders, perhaps we allow the wrong policies to fly without actually challenging them and perhaps because we allow a certain type of politics to prevail, perhaps we have done too much acrimony and too much violence.
The only way we can actually engage our citizens firstly is by voting and you can’t vote unless you have a PVC, so NIM is also about encouraging people to activate their right to vote which basically offers them the right to participate fully in the political process.
Are you trying to tell us that the NIM does not have the agenda of transforming into a political party before or after 2019?
I think one needs to be careful not to look too far into the future. The public space is dynamic, things are constantly changing, the whole thing is by nature in the state of flux, who knew for instance that it was going to be a reality? Who knew?
Nobody thought it possible that Donald Trump could win the presidential election in the United States, no one thought it possible. So basically what I am saying is that politics is dynamic, so we can’t rule anything in and we can’t rule anything out yet.
Concerning the membership of the movement, most of you in the movement are politicians in one way or the other, what is your take?
That is not necessarily true, we have a larger number of professionals, business men, and people who are achievers in their various human endeavour in the movement.
That is the whole point of it, to move away from the idea of having professional politicians being the only voices in the public space, we want to move away from that, we want ordinary Nigerians, everyday Nigerians to have some kind of input into what is going on, even if some of us are not partisan politicians and we therefore not be putting ourselves up for elections, there are some of us who are partisan politicians who decide we are not really cut out for partisan politics anymore.
We are not really cut out for partisan politics anymore, some of us fall into this category, but the point at the end of the day is that there is a recognition that there isn’t a particular need to be a partisan politician to be able to influence what the government is doing and what politicians are doing or to contribute to the national debate so to speak.
Recently, there was a report that NIM had a meeting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, is that not showing that it is likely that your movement has a strong relationship with the former president?
Let me ask you this question, is the former President a Nigerian or not? I mean you know that he led Nigeria on two different occasions, he was a leader of Nigeria and thirdly, is he a member of any political party right now to the best of your knowledge, he has said he is not in various public fora, he said he is not a member of any political party.
Meeting Obasanjo is pretty much part of the whole process of discussing the state of the nation with various personalities and people of influence in Nigeria to try and get them to influence what is going on within the politics.
So we have seen some members of NIM in their private personal capacity have gone to see the former President and nothing is stopping them from doing that, nothing in the constitution, nothing under the law precludes anyone from seeing anyone and as some people have gone to see Obasanjo so some people have gone to see Babangida, so some people have gone to see the sitting President.
Likewise, so many people have gone to see General Gowon, some people have gone to see Chief Shonekan, all former leaders of the country including Shehu Shagari, people have gone to see all these people in a bid to put together a position of harmony, a position on which we can build the unity of this country.
So if that is the case, why do we have political parties leaders in that meeting?
It is an all-inclusive movement, nobody is banned from participating in it so if political parties want to come in as part of the NIM, they are very welcome, the whole idea is to open up the space and how do we understand what is going on,
if political parties find it attractive that they want to be a part of it, that shows to you that we are actually succeeding in our aims and objectives, which is to be able to influence the polity whilst not being partisan.
If that is the case, we should then not put our minds in it that NIM is the third force?
I think one of the reasons why you will see some leaders of NIM meeting with President Obasanjo and some other people of his caliber will be some other things that have been said by both parties at different fora.
One of the things Obasanjo has said is that this movement is not a partisan one and that the whole idea is to find individual politicians whose profiles fit into the ideals espoused by the movement at the same time, the NIM also wants to identify principled personalities, knowledgeable people, not necessarily experienced in terms of Nigerian politics,
but experienced in various fields of human endeavor enough to be able to make an impact worthy to get into the public space, public service in one way or the other either by getting elected or by getting appointed into positions of responsibility.
So, what NIM is about is not necessarily partisan politics, its more about influencing. Partisan politics does not exist in a vacuum because it is driven by some people so our agenda is to influence those people,
is to perhaps have a situation where some of our members get into those positions either through their involvement in political parties or through getting appointed into certain positions, such that we can begin to change this country for the better.
What is your stand now on the third force, do you think Obasanjo would achieve his goal?
At this point I must stress very clearly that I am not speaking for President Obasanjo, I do not seek to defend his position or to speak for him,
but my personal opinion is that there is nothing wrong if you widen the political space to allow for a third, fourth or even a fifth political party that can offer people more options, that is, the electorate.
And also, people who might want to get into public service can have more options other than just the two main political parties that we have now.
Do you see the third force realising its aim?
I don’t know what the fixation is with that number three why people keep going on about the third force, why not have a fourth force? Why not have a fifth force?
what is wrong with widening the political space, my position is that the political space needs to be made wider, it’s too narrow right now in my opinion, its way too narrow for a country of the size of Nigeria and the population density that we have, two political parties will not represent enough of the broad cross section of Nigerians across the board.
So, you don’t believe in the idea of the third force?
Let me state it again for clear understanding, if the third force is all we can get for now in terms of the move to expand the political space then ‘yes’ am all for it,
but I also believe that the third force may not be enough that we may need to push things a bit further to go through the fourth or may be the fifth political party that is strong on the national level across the country.
There are series of controversies regarding Lagos State government policies, how can you assess the administration of Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode so far?
As things stand, I can see that the current governor is trying his best to make a difference, I can see that it is obvious.
However, in my opinion, I must say that the issue of the land use charge, the drafters of the law clearly did not look hard enough at the provisions of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which they swore to protect and uphold.
Section 1, sub section 8 of the fourth schedule of the constitution states very clearly that local government authority shall be responsible for valuing residential properties and enter tenements for the purpose of charging a rate.
section 7 sub- section 5 of the same constitution also states clearly that although the state Houses of Assembly have the right to legislate for local government and to give them more responsibilities, those responsibilities must include the responsibilities that are listed in the fourth schedule of the constitution.
This basically has the effect of saying that any law that the state House of Assembly shall make that contradicts any section of the constitution relating to local government shall be null and void and of no effect.
so the land use charge law as it applies to residential properties and empty tenements to all in terms and purposes as far as the constitution is concerned contradicts the constitution and therefore has no force in law as applied to those specific types of properties. Land use charge law should apply not only to business premises.
Also, there is an argument proffered by the Lagos State Commissioner of Finance, the other day when we were at Channels TV together where he said that the land use charge agency would act as an agent to the local governments and collect tenement rates on their behalf.
I want to believe that the constitution does not give local government the right to delegate their responsibilities as stipulated under the fourth schedule.
There are instances where the constitution allows certain personalities, certain office holders to delegate some of their responsibilities and where that is intended, the constitution states very clearly that the president may/shall appoint /delegate/allow certain persons or may appoint somebody to carry out this specific responsibility of his office.
There is no compulsion on him to delegate, but he may if he chooses to, so if there was an intention to allow the local governments to delegate those powers then that should have been expressly stated in the constitution and it is not and because it is not, it means they do not have those powers, they cannot delegate.
What are they collecting taxes for then? What is their purpose if they are going to delegate the very few responsibilities they have been given to do?
Every single revenue that is listed under the constitution expressly as the responsibility of the local government has been taken over by the state government in Lagos State and I don’t think that is advisable in a state that needs so much infrastructure, that needs so much growth, that needs so many services from the people at the local government. I don’t think that is the best thing to do.
You were a PDP member before now, what really led to you leaving the party?
I really don’t want to dwell much on that, what is gone is gone and what is in the past is past. I took a considered decision after a long period of consultation to leave the party and focus on my business.
What should be the expectation of Lagosians from you concerning the politics of the state?
I will continue to contribute positively as I have always done to the debate about how our state is run, because after all I do not have another state, I only have Lagos, I am a bona fide indigene of Lagos State, I am an indigene of Ikorodu whose grandmother was a princess of a Court of Esinlokun, the Oba of Lagos in Eko.
My grandmother also happened to have hailed from two pretty important groups, her father was an Ogungbile who was a descendant of Esinlokun, her mother was a daughter of Eletu Edibo, the king makers, so I come from the noble line of the Gbadamosis in Ikorodu as well, that is my father and my grandfather came from that land, so you don’t get more Lagosian than that.
I’m a thorough breed Lagosian, I grew up in Lagos, all my education was done in Lagos and I have had good times and bad times in Lagos and I believe that Lagos can do better, so I will continue to contribute my quota to the continuing discussion about how Lagos State should be run.
So they should not look up to you to contest for the governorship election in 2019?
Well, I think it is too early to start talking about 2019 and to be honest with you, the rough and tumble of partisan politics is something that I have come to learn is really tough.
In the world of business which is my primary constituency, it requires a great deal of application, imagination, persistence and dedication, but the good thing about business is that there are no contending opinions that you have to manage.
You set a goal, you get the resources to achieve that goal or you set out to get the resources, then you keep working until you get to that goal, that is how business is done and ones you’ve achieved that goal you, set yet another and you keep going higher and higher.
In terms of partisan politics, the honest truth is I am a bit terrified about it now seeing the sort of people and the sort of things that I went through in the PDP, I am terrified of partisan politics now. So, 2019, I don’t know.
As things stand, I can see that the current governor is trying his best to make a difference, I can see that it is obvious. However, in my opinion, I must say that the issue of the land use charge, the drafters of the law clearly did not look hard enough at the provisions of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which they swore to protect and uphold. Section 1, sub section 8 of the fourth schedule of the constitution states very clearly that local government authority shall be responsible for valuing residential properties and enter tenements for the purpose of charging a rate.