Sunday Johnson Babatunde is the new Executive Chairman of Orile-Agege Local Council Development Area (LCDA) in Lagos. After a week in office, he spoke with ESTHER TAIWO on how he emerged as the winner of the local government election, his antecedents and plans for the people of Orile-Agege in the next four years of his tenure in office.
Tell us how you emerged as the winner of the coveted seat of Chairman, Orile-Agege?
We give glory to God, we cannot remove God from all achievements of man, anybody that does that is doing that at his own peril. Having said that, for the fact that I have been a grassroots man having been here for over a decade as Vice Chairman, about four time Vice Chairman, and being a cool headed man all through the time, there was never a time people outside would come and settle rift between me and my Chairman, I was loyal to his course, loyal to the government and loyal to the people, by so doing , coupled with the little things I have done within Araromi, Awofe, my own community, the little we could do to bring development to my people. I also went as far as to Abuja to bring developmental projects to my people, Computer Centre at Iyana-Ipaja, two drainages at Awotoye Estate and Alagbaa. With all these coupled with the struggle we encountered during the electioneering period, it gave us an edge and APC with its acceptability as a result of its vision, it got to a stage that people started fighting for me that they would go all out and do anything for me to win. Even when I was losing hope, people came to me that if it is just one vote that will make me win, their prayers for me would work it out, while we were not even sure we were the candidates, you see children coming out to wave at us at every campaign, that was when I knew God has interest in us as the candidates, that’s when I knew it is the Lord’s doing and it could be only God. Any electioneering campaign and you see children coming out just know that that is where the pendulum would swing to.
While you were in office as the Vice Chairman, what are some of the lapses you noticed then and vowed that when you get the opportunity of becoming the chairman, you will like to correct?
There was a disadvantage then, the funds for local governments were seized and we could not do much, but at the second tenure the money was released in bulk and that actually gave us the opportunity to put up this edifice that people are seeing today, the Orile-Agege Secretariat, if not for that we couldn’t have been able to do anything, based on what I have gathered from that ,this is a government that will save for raining day, it is not a government that will go on spending spray , what I intend to do is to let people see us on the street and say this is a government that is actually working , so that we will not betray the trusts reposed in us by the electorates, based on this fact, what we are going to do to surpass the previous achievements is by making ourselves available to the people, being accountable and making sure that the money released to us, we make judicious use of it. This is not government that will go on spending spray; we are going to improve on infrastructure. On the issue of revenue, I want to reiterate that Lagos State is where it is today because of its IGR, it pays particular attention to IGR and if leadership is making judicious use of the money contributed, people will be encouraged to contribute more, I want to leave that legacy that when I was there I made judicious use of people’s revenue, I want to be remembered for what I achieved.
At the national level, Nigerians are beginning to lose hope in the All Progressives Congress (APC), how do you hope to repose this trust back at the local level?
At the national level what happens is that Rome was not built in a day, that is one key that is missing in our lives, people are impatient, this is a government that is just about two years in office and this is not a booming era, economic recession is not peculiar to Nigeria alone, it’s an issue that cut across the whole world, the first economic recession happened in the 1980 and by 1990 to 1995 we were expecting another one, but that did not come and the government was just patching it, Dollars were pumped into the market while economic indices were not kept and that really affected us. This government is trying to lay a solid foundation, for instance in Lagos State under Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, if you say Ambode is performing or that Fashola performed the kudos should be given to Asiwaju for laying a good foundation for the duo, if he did not lay the foundation Lagos won’t be where it is today, if someone is building on a good foundation, it’s easier to see his work, but nobody knows what Asiwaju did to lay the foundation. For instance this present Orile Agege secretariat was a dumping site, but he came and turned it to this edifice. At the local level, we are going to visit the CDAs, visit landlord associations to know their challenges, I’m going to works and infrastructures to see the DG and prostrate if need be for them to come to our aid, we are going to let people feel our impact, we are going to give them bore holes, by the grace of God by the time we are 100days in office we shall commission as many boreholes as possible and other projects.
******How do you hope to address the issue of stomach infrastructure especially at this period of recession when you mentioned that your government will not be a money spraying one?
Stomach infrastructure, when we talk of money spraying it is spending money without anything to show for it, when the money just disappear into thin air, but stomach infrastructure is peculiar to rural people, that is what is obtainable in the rural area, not here in Lagos, Lagos is a civilised environment that people will ask you what you have done, they will question your achievements by the time you want to take stock of your administration, to give score card, but the issue of stomach infrastructure we are going to address that as well, we are going to take care for everybody’s need.
How do you hope to maintain and sustain the projects that you will embark on, to ensure continuity of projects, for instance there are lots of laudable projects the state has done for this local government, for example the Abattoir, how do you hope to address erosion and child kidnapping as well?
The first thing is to let the community people know that the project is for them, it’s their own, give them a sense of belonging, not that one will just come and put up a project that the people do not need at that particular period, have a chat with them to know what they actually need, for instance when we were doing the carnal we involved the community leaders and told them that look, this is your project, also we are going to station our Neighborhood Watchers for like three months so that people don’t throw dirt into the carnal to block it and cause crisis in future.
On the issue of street trading we need to encourage people to go to the markets and tell them there is no need for street trading, we need to be sincere to ourselves that most of the people earn their daily bread from that, but we will sensitise them to move back so as to allow free flow of traffic like what happened in Oshodi, today you can see that traffic jam has been reduced to a large extent. On the area of security we need to also strengthen our Police Force, they are trying a lot , take police from the roads for few hours and there will be chaos everywhere, we need to compliment the Security Trust Funds at the state level, equip our security agents with communication gadgets and we need to be our own security by reporting any suspicious and strange movement to the police, community policing is very important, thank God for Governor Ambode for strengthening the Neighbourhood Watchers, changing their outlook, their orientation and injecting more people into the workforce.
How will you address the issue of unemployment among youths in your locality to address crime rate because an idle man is devil’s workshop?
One of the bane of civilisation is unemployment or population explosion, food production is going at arithmetic progression while population is going at geometric progression, the two are not going at the same rate, government cannot provide all the jobs, we need to encourage training of people in different trades to be self employed and be employers of labour, by so doing they can feed themselves and their family, agriculture is very important, youths can engage in agriculture, there are so many funds that the youths could access but it’s because they don’t know, I used to tell people that anybody that will work with me must be ready to work, I have the eagerness to take off.