Governors Babatunde Fashola and Sule Lamido share their experiences and show the way forward at the inaugural debate of the Kukah Centre’s mission to fix Nigeria
The debate weighs on both sides of governance, using as case study the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC. Babatunde Fashola, governor of Lagos State, a member of APC, and Sule Lamido, governor of Jigawa State, who is a PDP member are seen to have carved a niche for themselves with their performance in their states. So both were brought together to share their success strategies on Wednesday, September 10 at the International Conference Centre, ICC, Abuja.
Matthew Kukah, Catholic bishop of Sokoto and moderator of the debate between the two governors on the theme, Fixing Nigeria: The Nuts and Bolts, said the premier debate was to assess the quality of governance in Nigeria. “For four to five years, we have watched the contribution of our democracy gradually diminished, we thought we would come together and share views. The lawyers and all of us believe that to get justice you need to hear both sides of the story,” said Kukah.
According to him, through the debate Nigerians could evaluate conflicting views and look at their convergence. It would also develop culture and respect for others’ views because in Nigeria the word “opposition” is usually mistaken for enemies, which hampers development and limits ideas that could improve the nation. “The idea of this centre is to develop new ideas to help deepen our democracy. We believe this is the right way to go but we need to generate new ideas rather than democracy, we are here to develop the ability to manage diversity,” Kukah explained.
The debate examined different points and the two governors reacted in different ways that later converged. For instance, on what is wrong in Nigeria, Fashola said though he is not an expert about the problems of Nigeria he believes Nigeria is at a critical juncture in the history of national development and that things can be better if Nigerians could contribute sincerely to national issues. To deal with some of the challenges in Nigeria, he suggested that people should contribute their quota to national discourse without hurting one another’s view.
According to him, “We can broadcast the contest of this discussion to those who are unable to be here without necessarily hurting or making ourselves uncomfortable, I think the organisation has the ability to put Nigeria back on track, make it efficient and perhaps it is the best way to sum up the challenges that we have to deal with…I will say the country is in urgent need of what I will call running repairs.”
To necessitate what Fashola refers to as “running repairs,” Lamido tried to address the issue of what is wrong with Nigeria through a series of rhetorical questions: “Who is asking the question? Is it a Nigerian asking a Nigerian or an outsider asking Nigeria? Even if it is a Nigerian, is it the elite or the ordinary people? If an ordinary man who came to leadership to give succour is asking the question, then I think it is very valid. But if it is coming from the elites in our own level here, I think we all know what is wrong with Nigeria, we know what is right and wrong, and it is up to us to do the right thing. What are we doing in our own way to elevate Nigeria as elites and leaders? If we can see this as challenges then I think we are getting somewhere.”
The leaders were elected to fix the problems of Nigeria, so Fashola and Lamido were put to task to tell Nigerians the efforts they have made in resolving the problems of Nigeria in their states. In response, Lamido said it wasn’t enough to elect a leader; the leader so elected should be trusted. For instance, in his state Jigawa, Lamido said when he got into office, he assembled all the people of Jigawa across all levels – the elites, the political parties, the bureaucrats and non-governmental organisations – and they looked into their differences. It was like all the Jigawa people’s assembly so that he could tell them how Jigawa is being perceived by outsiders. He then admonished them to come together and look at the problems. This resulted in a productive connectivity of Jigawa people and raised their ability to solve their problems across political differences as one people. To get the trust of his people, Lamido on his part devised a transparent governing tactic which allowed Jigawa people their rights and obligations.
On the other hand, the moderator said Lagos is more or less like everything that represents Nigeria. So how did Fashola affect his famous “running repairs” in Lagos? Fashola said Lagos remains Nigeria’s best state on many scores. He noted that if Nigeria’s diversity was represented anywhere, it was in Lagos that it was represented best. He feels most Nigerians have their first homes or second homes and investments in Lagos. Many had received their tertiary education in Lagos.
He explained that the diversity in Lagos is difficult for any leadership. “This is not the time to be a leader because the leadership problem across the world is extremely challenging but again when leadership obligation comes, you cannotabdicate. When I look back at the history of our civilisation, I can only imagine how difficult it was in the 1940s when the whole world was faced by a common threat that led to the Second World War and if great men and women did not stand up then, we wouldn’t have the kind of world that we have today. At that time too it was not a good time to be a leader,” he noted.
Fashola said that his success in Lagos is a consequence of understanding the terrain. He was born and brought up in Lagos and witnessed the development processes of the past and present. This informed his understanding of what went wrong and how it could be fixed. He feels impressed that with his achievements so far the people of Lagos have taken ownership of their state. They had collectively worked on the myths people like Kukah had about Lagos, for example inability to manage refuse, refusal to pay tax, dysfunctional systems and other myths Lagos was known for. They keep surmounting their challenges and expanding the frontiers of Lagos State. In the end, Fashola’s disagreement with Kukah’s assertion on Lagos and his acceptance that the myths about Lagos were being fixed still converged with Kukah’s earlier declaration of Lagos.
More examples of good governance by the two governors were given such as the new airport constructed in Jigawa by Lamido and Fashola’s arrest of soldiers who defaulted in Lagos. Fashola said he restored law and order because if a society can’t protect human lives, the society cannot be demanded to pay taxes. His administration equipped the police by providing vehicles and fuel. And to fight daily crimes, more guns were provided, the government also stopped the police from buying their uniforms and provided uniforms for them. Also, they got boots, they were put on a life insurance in case of disability and death, and their allowances were increased.
“Within months we started receiving results, we can now respond to bank robbery and since about 2008, I think I can accurately say there have not been successful bank robberies in Lagos. For two years there was no attempt but over the last two years there was attempt but I don’t record from our monthly security meeting that anyone has succeeded. Of course we have occasional people going to break ATMs and taking cash but unlike before (when) robbers came in and worked all day and got their way through, that has not happened within the last six and half years,” reported Fashola.
Lamido’s view on generation of revenue contradicts Fashola’s view on taxation. The Governor of Jigawa said that in Lagos people are rich and could pay tax but in Jigawa, poverty is the case and so they cannot pay tax. To tackle poverty, they gathered bricklayers, carpenters, shoemakers and all others artisans, and requested for their experiences. They felt for them and decided to offer assistance.
He advised Nigerians to believe in their compatriots. “In 1974, I met a shoemaker who said his father was a shoemaker, so I picked the pair of shoes that he made and reproduced it to several pairs. After two weeks, I took it back to him and asked him, ‘Which is yours?’ And he picked his own!” He regretted that Nigerian leaders wear leather shoes made in Spain yet the leather was bought from Nigeria.
Fashola, however, explained that taxation is necessary because of the need to develop infrastructure. He said the problem is not Nigeria. “There is nothing wrong with Nigeria but us. Nigeria has not changed but us. We have valued money more than reputation, and we need hard work. Some people still believe they can make money from human parts but scientifically it cannot work. It should be name and reputation that validate any title.”
Lamido called on Nigerian leaders not to turn public office to a private one. There should be no pride but rather dignity and decency. Leaders should however have pleasure in enhancing the quality of living of their people. They should equally accept that they are not authorities over the system, they should be accountable to people and Nigerians should know their rights. Lamido says he does not care who succeeds him. Fashola says his wish for who succeeds him is that Lagos would get somebody who can do in four years what he did in eight years.
In accountability, transparent and quick response to demands, the Lagos State governor said he has gone one step further ahead of his colleagues by sharing his phone numbers and emails to citizens in order to assist their needs and follow-up to see they are satisfied when their demands have been met.
Responding to an issue raised by Iruegbu Wilson, filmmaker, who asked why Nigeria is stagnant in terms of security, Lamido said most people only see Boko Haram as insecurity, forgetting other issues like kidnapping. He admitted that there is need to give justice to all Nigerians and prompt solution to Nigerian problems.
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