Buhari must have had deep re­flec­tion on who will be in what po­si­tion – Fashola

Daily Trust - - INSIDE POLITICS -

Former gover­nor of Lagos State Mr Ba­batunde Fashola and six other em­i­nent per­son­al­i­ties were con­ferred with awards by the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group (ICG), a global, Brus­sels-based NGO ded­i­cated to pre­vent­ing and re­solv­ing con­flict, to mark its 20th an­niver­sary. Fashola, a cur­rent min­is­ter-des­ig­nate by Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, is cited for “his com­mit­ment to build­ing a just and vi­brant so­ci­ety.” In­ter­viewed by tele­phone from Abuja be­fore his de­par­ture to New York for the Oc­to­ber 26 cer­e­mony, Fashola spoke to Al­lAfrica about his eight years in of­fice (2007 - 2015) and how his coun­try can move for­ward. Ex­cerpts: Dur­ing your Sen­ate screen­ing of them, and when­ever that (as a min­is­te­rial nom­i­nee), hap­pens, what needs to be you were asked about done is to en­force the law and ex­pul­sions of peo­ple from in­sist on com­pli­ance. That is Lagos while you were in of­fice. what I have sought to do. But How do you re­spond to that we must be care­ful. There are crit­i­cism? some in­stances where peo­ple

First, I think it isn't level al­le­ga­tions when they ap­pro­pri­ate to clas­sify it have no shred of ev­i­dence or as an ex­pul­sion. It wasn't. they mis­ap­pre­hend the way We had cit­i­zens who had the sys­tem works. no ad­dress and prob­a­bly mi­grated from God-knowswhere to our state. They were liv­ing as des­ti­tutes. Some had psy­chi­atric prob­lems. Some had other health is­sues. We re­ha­bil­i­tated them. When they got re­ha­bil­i­tated, they had to leave be­cause it cost a lot of tax-payer money to keep feed­ing them on a daily ba­sis, year-in, year-out. In some cases, they said they wanted to go home. And as I said dur­ing the screen­ing, we didn't know where home was ex­cept for where they told us. We wrote three let­ters to their home gov­ern­ments. None of them was ac­knowl­edged. We had to do some­thing. As I said dur­ing the screen­ing, we took them to the bound­ary of the state they called home, in the be­lief that they would be able to rein­te­grate them­selves back to their com­mu­ni­ties. Per­haps we could have done a lit­tle more. But we were not as­sisted by their state gov­ern­ments.

There is a mis­con­cep­tion that peo­ple can move freely and do what they like. The laws and the con­sti­tu­tion that guar­an­tee the free­dom of move­ment for cit­i­zens across the coun­try im­pose obli­ga­tions not to con­sti­tute them­selves into a nui­sance in what­ever other state they move to. Just like any law that guar­an­tees free­dom of speech does not guar­an­tee you the right to de­fame peo­ple. And so those rights can be cur­tailed in or­der to pro­tect the rights of other cit­i­zens. As I said dur­ing the screen­ing, they went to court, and the court took the view that [they had] an un­mer­i­to­ri­ous claim.

How did you tackle cor­rup­tion as gover­nor?

My ap­proach was to see that we got value for money and that there was good gov­er­nance and the supremacy of law and or­der. Hu­man be­ings will fall short of stan­dards their so­ci­ety expects

There are re­ports that you spent 78 mil­lion naira on a web­site (U.S. $400 thou­sand) and an­other large amount on bore­holes (wa­ter wells). How do you re­spond to those crit­i­cisms?

First of all, the re­ports are un­true to the ex­tent that they ac­cuse me of any wrong do­ing. Specif­i­cally to the bore­holes, it never hap­pened. But I have cho­sen not to con­tinue to de­fend my­self on the pages of news­pa­pers be­cause that is not the place to re­solve al­le­ga­tions of crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing. [You do it] in a court of law. Th­ese are in­sti­tu­tions of state who have the author­ity to ask me to an­swer. As far as the web­site is con­cerned, first of all it was I, as gover­nor, who in­sisted that ev­ery pro­cure­ment be pub­lished on our state web­site. So if we had any­thing to hide, it would stand logic up­side down to be pub­li­ciz­ing our wrong­do­ing our­selves. And as I said dur­ing the sen­ate screen­ing, as gover­nor I headed a net­work of in­sti­tu­tions. If we wanted any­thing that had to do with com­put­ing, sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, we had con­sult­ing min­istries. In this case, the min­istry of sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy was the con­sult­ing min­istry. They vet­ted the pro­pos­als and ap­proved the prices. There is also an in­de­pen­dent pro­cure­ment agency that val­i­dates pro­cure­ments. All I did as gover­nor was to sign off and ap­prove ex­pen­di­ture af­ter the pro­cure­ment agency ap­proved.

It is im­por­tant to also make this point: I wasn't elected with any lim­i­ta­tions of pow­ers of ex­pen­di­ture. It was I as gover­nor who set lim­its on what I could do and what pro­cure­ment agen­cies do. I want to add that some of th­ese al­le­ga­tions come out of a mis­un­der­stand­ing of how our pro­cesses work. As I said dur­ing the screen­ing, I didn't sign checks and I didn't fix prices. And so if you wanted to ac­cuse me, the only thing you could per­haps say, which is still very de­bat­able, is that our pric­ing mech­a­nisms were wrong.

This web­site was not only

up­grade.

a We in­stalled ap­pli­ca­tions to al­low smart­phone users to down­load ap­pli­ca­tions. We had an ap­pli­ca­tion for an­droid phone users, one for Mi­crosoft and [sev­eral] oth­ers. The ad­vice we re­ceived was that, if we asked users to pay for those ap­pli­ca­tions, we would not have the kind of traf­fic and foot­print that we ex­pected from peo­ple who wanted to know what gov­ern­ment was do­ing. So we paid for the dif­fer­ent ap­pli­ca­tions. We also paid for host­ing over­seas, and we had a con­tract for a web master to man­age all the in­for­ma­tion - speeches, ex­ec­u­tive and more.

It wasn't just a web­site up­grade that cost 78 mil­lion naira. In any case, all the doc­u­ments are with the gov­ern­ment so they can be ex­am­ined. videos, or­ders

There was great ex­cite­ment af­ter the March elec­tion and Pres­i­dent Buhari's In­au­gu­ra­tion in late May. Are those high hopes con­tin­u­ing?

I would think so, but hu­man be­ings be­ing what they are, peo­ple ex­pect rapid re­sults. The eas­i­est way to sus­tain op­ti­mism is to con­tinue to show re­sults. It has been a very chal­leng­ing one-and-a-half years for the coun­try. We spent a lot of time pre­par­ing for elec­tions and, glob­ally, when elec­tions are com­ing, things gen­er­ally slow down. Ours took 15 months. The econ­omy has been chal­lenged as a re­sult of that. We need to get back to pro­duc­tion and pro­duc­tiv­ity, and peo­ple need to see their in­sti­tu­tions at work.

It has taken Pres­i­dent Buhari longer than many ex­pected to nom­i­nate peo­ple to serve as min­is­ters. Do you ex­pect things to start hap­pen­ing now?

My sense is that peo­ple are wait­ing to get a clear di­rec­tion. I am op­ti­mistic that the pres­i­dent will be­gin to show re­sults. The time frame is the chal­lenge: how much more time will Nige­ri­ans af­ford him? Hav­ing been a gover­nor be­fore, I know that the first 6-to-9 months are defin­ing. At the level of na­tional gov­ern­ment, which is a be­he­moth, it takes time to get a grip on it. The pres­i­dent has picked peo­ple to as­sist him, some of whose ex­pe­ri­ence and rep­u­ta­tions are quite in­spir­ing. I think when the bud­get comes out it will sig­nify a clear di­rec­tion about what the gov­ern­ment will do, where it will be in­vest­ing en­ergy and resources. I think peo­ple will re­spond ac­cord­ingly.

What do you re­gard as top pri­or­i­ties for the new gov­ern­ment?

Se­cu­rity is one. The econ­omy is the other. Within the econ­omy, you have com­po­nents such as in­fras­truc­ture - trans­port in­fras­truc­ture [and] en­ergy in­fras­truc­ture par­tic­u­larly. If trans­porta­tion gets bet­ter, goods and ser­vices and peo­ple will move much more ef­fi­ciently and that can only lead to pro­duc­tiv­ity and the pros­per­ity and qual­ity of life that peo­ple want to see. The Pres­i­dent is clearly fo­cused on se­cu­rity. We have seen some re­sults, and it will get bet­ter. Deal­ing with the crim­i­nals who now ter­ror­ize parts of our coun­try in a face­less man­ner poses chal­lenges for our se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus, who were trained to deal with con­ven­tional op­po­nents rather than th­ese un­con­ven­tional meth­ods where soft tar­gets are their vic­tims. And gov­ern­ment re­ally, with all its best in­ten­tions, can't be in ev­ery home and ev­ery cor­ner of our so­ci­ety

Can you min­is­te­rial hold?

Only the pres­i­dent can tell. He nom­i­nated us, so he would have a very clear idea what role he wants each of us to play. I be­lieve he must have had deep re­flec­tion on who will be in what po­si­tion. tell us which post you will

Mr Ba­batunde Fashola

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