The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Winners Golden Bet, Hon (Dr.) Osuolale Idowu Obasa was on Thursday presented with the Lagos Panorama SDG Grassroots Distinguished COVID-19 Award for 2020 for his humanitarian support to residents of Lagos state during lockdown that was precipitated by the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in 2020.
The award presentation also offered the opportunity to seek the opinion of the business tycoon cum politician on the deteriorating state of security in the country and his perception on the legacy of Lagos State First Executive Governor late Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakende who recently passed on.
Enjoy an excerpt from the Lagos Panorama’s Facing Facts interview segment:
Lagos Panorama: The state of insecurity in Nigeria is seem deteriorating by the day, what’s your take on possible way out?
Obasa: To start with, we have very serious socioeconomic problem, which provide a very fertile ground for all sorts of abnormalities. If you remember, armed robbery at a time was very prevalent, I think at a point it became more difficult and the kidnappings that you see now are actually replacing armed robberies, because people don’t keep much money in the house any longer, so if you go and raid somebody at home, you may not find anything there, but if you kidnap the person you might actually negotiate for ransom. That’s one aspect of it, I think what has happened now is that the kidnappings are becoming more like a business.
Armed robbery and kidnapping are not like they’re new, but what is new and frightening is that it appears the state has abdicated it responsibility in handling those things. That is really why people are concern. If the state cannot protect you, some will go into self-help, which may cause chaos, others will go into despair, those are all situations that cannot correct anything and not acceptable in a normal environment.
The reason that the state is there, is to see that lives and properties are protected. It’s either the state is not willing or unable, which are two different things, then we have a problem. People are beginning to see that there is an unwillingness on the part of the state. Apart from the problem of inability, you may say that because of the proliferation of arms in the wrong hands, you may say that the state facilities may be overwhelmed, then what we’ll be talking about is how communities and the state can come together to join hand together to fight this scourge, but what we really are beginning to see is, if the state itself is willing to defend our interest and nothing demonstrates this, more than what happened when some people claiming to be herdsmen, hiding under the toga of herdsmen, who are actually criminals, when they now strike, you find out they have some kind of protection. This is why it has become important to people to get government to state in no unclear terms, it position on this matter. Silence in this regard become very harmful because it leads to apprehension on the part of the populace and not everybody has the opportunity to go into self-help. To those who can’t go into self-help, at any rate, self-help turn everybody to criminal, because when you’re trying to defend yourself, you may have to carry arms illegally or kill people when is not your job to kill people. So you’re not different from that criminal, but you’ve been pushed to the wall.
Majority of the people don’t have such mind or intention, but then, they have no choice but to defend themselves. In recent time, it has been complicated by the fact that it’s now tied to the breadwinning activities of people. If you’re a farmer you have to go to your farm, in order to get daily bread, it’s not that they are kidnapping people when they’re coming from a party, they’re kidnapping people in broad daylight, they kidnapped people on their farms.
Last week I heard a story of two brothers who were attacked on their way from their farm off Imota, in Ikorodu, they had issues with their motorbike, so they were coming to Lagos to buy spare parts and they were picked up and the kidnappers demanded twenty-million-naira ransom from their family, we don’t know what eventually became of them before they were released, but it must have been that money was paid.
Unless government resolved and actually act to stamp this out, what is likely to happen is that, it is going to get bigger, the criminals are going to get more encouraged and it could lead to serious chaos because it will get to a point people will resolve to self-help. Now there is an aspect of it that is looking like there is an ethnic coloration to the latest development. That is a different thing again, because these marauders are not even trying to take over power but they’re simply trying to make money. There unintended consequences when government is silent, if government is inactive, one will start wondering if government isn’t complicit. That’s my greatest fear, because when government is complicit, that is serious. There are many questions begging for answers.
Government can’t afford to just keep quiet, government must take the information space and engage the people on minute by minute bases and not periodically coming to say something that probably not taking seriously. They must constantly engage the people and back their words with actions. There is a great danger here, that something that was not intended may eventually happen if government don’t act as expected, they say, a stitch in time saves nine.
If government appears either unwilling or unable or both to solve this problem, then there is going to be chaos. There will be a lot of self-help, everybody will become a criminal, at that point, government won’t be able to do anything. Already the generality of the people does not trust government. That’s a very serious state, they’ve to do a lot of work to bring back the trust of the people. Not by words alone but by action, government has to win back the trust of the people, so that people should stop thinking of the option of self-help and about the ethnic coloration of these actions.
Don’t forget that, kidnapping was going on at the time Evans and co was arrested, it wasn’t said that the Igbo people are doing this, no, it was Evans who was arrested not as an igbo man that was arrested, it’s different from when Fulani people enter a farm, rape women, kill the farmer, it’s not just ordinary kidnapping at that point, it has another color entirely. Unless government understands it for what it is or understand what kind of reading people will put to it or what kind of implication it has for people. So you see we have problem and instead of addressing the problem they went to the expressway to arrest Sunday Igboho, but for what? We are not looking at the root cause of the problem, but treating symptoms that fallout of government’s inactions, because if government had done the needful there won’t be need for Igboho, so you go to the root of the problem to solve it and not treating the symptom.
Glowing tributes that have trailed the passing of the first civilian governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, were fitting and ultimately deserving. In his illustrious career as a statesman, what’s your view on his legacies as the first civilian governor of the state?
Alhaji Lateef Jakande tackled a lot of fundamental issues as the governor of the state. The generality of the people, when they wake up in the morning to pray to GOD, they don’t usually pray to GOD to give them money to buy airplane or cars, they wake up and pray to GOD to put food on their table for their children, to give them basic roof on their heads, to give them enough with some clothing on their body to go about. They pray to GOD to provide opportunity to educate their children. I am saying that they pray to GOD for basic existential things, those are the things ordinary people pray to GOD for when they wake up in the morning.
Jakande came and looked at those basic things and tackled them directly, he found out that the school system was not providing enough opportunity, he ensured that the people have access to basic education, ramshackle schools, but they were schools and lot of people got access to education. He created an environment where the issue of school became open to all, with double layers of morning and afternoon sections. They were not very beautiful schools, but emphasized the importance of education, access for education. It became a cardinal programme and he pursued it within the context of the environment at that time, within the resources limited as they were, he created an issue. Some were of the opinion that they were substandard but the point is that the schools were filled up and people got educated.
There was and there is still housing shortage, Jakande tackled it headlong, not by creating elitist houses, what he did in retrospect, was exceptionally brilliant. There is a place call Abesan, which now have become a city, at that time it was an unknown village. Most people who grew up in Lagos, up to that point have never heard of Abesan, let alone visit the place, but Jakande created estates of that type, I remember Abesan because he insisted on creating a bus route to the place, so as to make the place accessible He opened the place up, it’s now a city. He did same with a lot of other estates. He did same at Victoria Island/Lekki axis, mile-2, Iponri and a host of others.
He didn’t build estates that the people couldn’t afford, he therefore made sure he only put basic things in those houses to make it affordable. Some people who are landlord in Abesan till today, may not have been able to afford to be landlord. If Jakande had built the kind of elitist estates, we are seeing today, most people won’t be able to afford it.
Since after Jakande, all the estates that his successors built have been out of the reach of the poor. The facts are there and the facts as you know are stubborn things, they don’t go away, they have been out of the reach of the poor, even houses built by ministry of housing are not the houses the ordinary persons can afford to buy. What he did was that to put basic things, he put a main-door, he didn’t bother to put doors in the rooms, he knew that when you eventually take possession you can then have it to your own taste.
Except in the western world where you can claim to buy a house, when you actually paid a portion. We are in a country that the only way you can own a house, is to actually pay for it totally. That means you have to reduce the cost so that the amount they will pay eventually when paying totally will be reduce and affordable, so why not reduce the cost by giving them just the basics, so when they get possession they can do the rest themselves, that was what he did that time and that was a practical solution. It may not have been the most sophisticated approach but it was more pragmatic. Just go and see thousands and thousands of people who were made landlords just because Jakande build affordable housing estates.
His policies were not self-serving policies, the transportation system of Lagos State that we are using till today, I don’t know if they’ll change it tomorrow, but till today the formation was from Alhaji Jakande. When the late Alhaji Hamzat was the Transportation Commissioner, it was the mass transportation idea that led to the metro line, at that time, had it been it was actualized, mass transportation in Lagos State would have been solved since then. Look at how long it’s taking to build the blue rail line from Okoko to Lagos Island.
So his policies were ideological, very pragmatic and that is what they call governance, he didn’t have to be a professor. You may also say that he worked within a context of a party that knew where it was going, it had cardinal programme, they had a manifesto and it was a party that was build and driven on ideology. They didn’t call themselves the progressives but they were true progressives and we that are now calling ourselves progressives, I don’t know how progressive we are, with all that are happening. Since I became an adult, I have never seen any government that is has openly abused as this, not even Jonathan’s government.
Thank you so much for your time, you’re sure always an interviewer’s delight.
You’re most welcome Tayo!