Mr Dele Farotimi is and political activists based in Lagos. He has been one of the Lagos civil society personalities that have been highly critical of the leadership style of the National Leader of the All Progressive Congress in Lagos State.
He sat down for an interview with THE WHISTLER in his Lekki residence on the presidential ambition of Tinubu. When asked if he would vote for Tinubu to be president, his answer was damning. He said, “God forbid bad thing, How, on what basis? What would I be expecting from him?”
Below is the excerpt of the interview:
I want you to talk about Bola Tinubu as a presidential aspirant, his legacy in Lagos. I’ve heard you speak about him.
I have actually expressed clearly an aversion to talking about persons. So, if we are talking about his achievements or his record, I’m happy to examine those and it’s an experiential thing. I live in Lagos so every aspect of my life is in one way or another affected by the failure or success of governance in Lagos state. And all these years whilst people were busy talking about Lagos as the centre of excellence, I’ve always wondered what exact kind of excellence it was they were pointing at.
The education sector is in shambles. I doubt if any other state in Nigeria today has the low classroom ratio to population that Lagos has. And yes we can speak to that as being a function of it being the net recipient of the refugee crisis that has overtaken Nigeria since the insecurity, and then the urban drift, yes that might very well be true. But the question to really ask is this, and these are issues that people need to get to the granular, how many classrooms have been built in Lagos State in the last 22, 23 years? How many teachers have been added to the numbers that were there by the time the Bola Tinuby hegemony began in 1999?
These are important questions to ask and as I have said already, these are experiential matters. Each person who lives in Lagos State is able to answer these questions in a relational manner because, we all do live here. I have three children, not by design but by default. I have had no choice but to put my children through private school systems because the public school system is simply non-existent. It’s not there; you can’t speak to the availability.
So, it’s not a function of the nouveau-riche or an elitist mindset when somebody who lives anywhere in the Lekki axis…I live in the Lekki axis so I’ll use it as an example. I’ll be shocked if you will find any one, I know for a fact that nobody where I live has their children in any government schools because there are simply none. In the whole of Ajiran, Osapa, Igboefan all the way to Ajah, all the way to Lekki Phase One, infact if you would start from Mobil, Maroko, all the way to Ajah or maybe even as far as Awoyaya, I’ll be shocked if the Lagos State Government has up to a thousand classroom spaces of any sort available. So what record are we speaking to when we talk about education?
They’ve not built primary schools, we’ve not heard of secondary schools, yes they are renaming higher institutions and turning them into universities, but have they funded them? How many spaces are available? How many of their own children would they send to these schools? When I attended LASU, I came to Lagos in 1985 to enter LASU, Lagos State University that i entered in 1985 had children of Supreme Court Justices in the faculty of Law, had children of Court of Appeal Justices. I went to school with children of judges, senior civil servants, military officers, but that is no longer the case. It is a function of the decay that has beset the entire system. Not one of them would even send their own children to these schools.
Now, let’s move away from education and begin to deal with the issue of healthcare delivery. Yes they point at the population again, but it wouldn’t raise anybody’s eyebrows if anyone says categorically that the public healthcare delivery system in Lagos State is practically nonexistent. Residents are dependent on a monthly crew of private clinics and hospitals, some of them not even worthy of the name, to service their healthcare needs. And yet, humongous sums are voted in the healthcare delivery sector.
Move away from healthcare, let’s talk about road infrastructure, everything is relational. I first started with coming to Lekki Epe expressway when I was in LASU. It used to be that when I was in LASU, going to Eleko beach from Okokomaiko was a journey of just about an hour or thereabout. These roads were built before people started living in Lekki. Jakande built this road before the existence of Lekki Phase One, when Lekki Phase One was still a swamp. When the only destination in the entire Lekki Peninsula was VGC, this road was there.
And there is one very funny anecdote I was told about the road when we started experiencing the pains of travelling along this road in the last 15 years when they have turned it into a construction site. I was told that when Jakande was building the road, and they told him that at these junctions, there should be overhead bridges, he said no, that the road will last 30 years and that his successors would build those overhead bridges to link so that there would be no traffic. Of course by the time brother Fashola came, in order to ensure that they could place signage in the middle of the road, they built roundabouts that had no rival anywhere in the world.
Giant roundabouts creating bottlenecks and then they came back a few years later, under Ambode, and started demolishing the roundabouts. So what you find is that, in the last 15 years or thereabout, the Lekki-Epe expressway, which is the only road in and out of the entire Lekki Peninsula, the fastest growing part of Lagos, has been a giant construction site. What has he been building? If you’re plying that road now you’d find all sorts of potholes. We used that road for almost 30 years without potholes on them and then they came and added a single lane, shoddily done, and destroyed that road. Yet, we’re paying tolls and the greed for the toll eventually led to what happened on October 20,2020 when soldiers attacked unarmed protesters at a toll gate. Why was the toll gate so important?
So when you move away from that, everywhere you look, I do not see the basis for his presidential aspiration from any record. Lagos is a painted sepulchre, a well painted grave. They make it look like it’s developing, but how many years does it require? A man has had undisputed hegemony for 23 years and yet we can’t speak to good road networks. Yes they build the signature ones that they’ll paint occasionally so that they can take good pictures and make it seem like everything is hunky-dory. But get off these main roads that they are building and enter the arterial roads; you’d find that they are non-existent; they’re building roads and drainages that lead nowhere. Lagos has been perennially flooded for years and if you talk, they’ll tell you that “we should even be happy that the floods are not entering our home, that’s the way it is, Lagos is low-lying.” Is Lagos the only low-lying part of the world?
You call it a Tinubu hegemony for 23 years, why do you say so? He left power in 2007.
Nigeria might pretend to be a democracy but those who are still gifted with the use of their brains would know without much study, that what we’re practicing is just a pseudo democracy that is in reality, a feudal hegemony pretending constantly to be what it is not. Tinubu spent 8 years in power in the office of the governor, but since he left that office, he has functionally been the ventriloquist installing his dolls in that office. They do as he bids and it’s not just that, he ensures that all levers of power flow through his person, peddles influence, it is without argument and is in public space admitted freely by everyone involved that he installed Fashola, ensured that the House of Assembly answered only to himself. After the first term of Fashola, it was pretty public that he didn’t want Fashola for a second term, at the end of Fashola’s term, we all heard about the “may your loyalty not be tested” and we were regaled with several tales of the goings on in their coven.
After Fashola came Ambode. The coming of Ambode is not a secret to the whole of Nigeria. It was out there, it played out right in the open. When it was time for Ambode to be abandoned for this one that is currently in office, it was also out there in the open. The fact of Tinubu’s hegemony in Lagos State is known.
How do you think he’s able to have such control?
It’s because we are not a democracy. In the first place, you’re dealing with a situation where the Road Transport Union, which is more or less the strong arm part of his hegemony, does his bidding. When it’s time for elections the people are already disconnected from the process because of their disenchantment with the process. So, the people who have come to believe that nothing will change have already abandoned the electoral process to those who will prefer that they believe that nothing will change.
And as long as the people continue to believe that nothing will change, it leaves the room open for these manipulations to take place and when it moves beyond these manipulations, what you then find again is that in those areas where they believe that the voters are able to express themselves without bowing to his will, they send their thugs in there. That was what happened in the Igbo dominated neighbourhoods like Okota, Festac, parts of Okokomaiko in the last elections. If you would also consider the fact that in this same state, the people themselves have come to accept that they have not been offered any other choice. It’s either you have the PDP, that is perpetually factionalized in Lagos State or you have one of the smaller parties who have candidates whose party agents are bought right at the polling station by the APC or wherever Tinubu’s vehicle might be at the point in time. They simply write what they want to write in cahoots with INEC officials.
The only way for that hegemony to ever be challenged will be for people themselves to be connected to the process. Without the people being connected to the process, what you find is an abandonment of the space to a man who has proven himself to be quite adept at the use of all kinds of inducement and force.
I listened to the interview you gave on Arise Tv. You talked about Tinubu’s health. What do you know about his health?
Absolutely nothing and I didn’t talk about his health. I just said he does not appear, to me, to be enjoying good health. I’m not his doctor. I grew up with my grandparents so I can tell when someone is suffering the worst effects of aging. I just know that the man is suffering the worst effects of aging, whether he’s in good or bad health, I wouldn’t know. He doesn’t appear to be any worse than anyone. Anyway the man keeps editing his age but I know from all available deductions that one can make, the man is conveniently in his 80s.
So when you’re looking at a man in his 80s, you can’t be talking about good or bad health. Aging is a fact of life. The hope is that one does not get saddled with geriatric health issues. In his own case, it would appear that the man is not enjoying good health, and that is obvious. But good health or bad health might be a passing thing. I cannot speak with certainty to his health, I’m not his doctor.
What about his capacity for leadership?
I don’t believe he has any capacity for leadership. He’s had 23 years to show me that he can lead and there’s nothing being built in the state that he has led with vision. The one thing I think they are preparing to be pointing at is their rail line. The question that should be asked is at what cost has that rail line been built? What’s the level of transparency? What has been done in this state with any form of transparency in the last 22 to 23 years?
So yes, people will point at things but when the time comes we would all sit down and look at these things. ‘So you’ve built rail, congratulations at least one state in Nigeria finally manages to do something like that.’ That’s to be envied but it is also critical. The question then to be asked is, at what cost has it been built?
I’ve heard a lot of people accuse him of corruption but no court has convicted him.
Corruption is a red herring. When people talk about corruption in Nigeria, I try to avoid getting into that space. It’s not corruption, it’s about impunity. When people talk about corruption, what is corruption? It is a special class of offenses reserved for rich men and men of power. When they’ve done something that they want to punish themselves among themselves, they talk about corruption. Corruption is a red herring. Focus on the impunity that allows people to act without fearing recompense of law. That is what you need to be focused on.
Who is not corrupt in Nigeria? Which Nigerian has not been corrupted by the Nigerian system? If you’re carrying a Nigerian passport, you got it corruptly; you had to give somebody something before you got that passport. Somewhere along the line, even if you fooled yourself and called it a tip, you paid. If you’re carrying a driver’s license and national ID, every time you come into contact with the Nigerian state, you are corrupted. If you are not already corrupt, that contact renders you corrupt. I was driving the other day and I was stopped by police men. I asked them what paper they wanted from me and they said, ‘No Oga, we are not checking papers, God bless you, you will not jam problem.’
The man turned into a prayer warrior! He was begging me for money, I’ve not committed any offence but a Nigerian policeman was busy begging me for money. So was I corrupt in giving them the 1,000 naira I gave them? That definitely wasn’t my wish but how long will it take me, I had all my papers, but that’s the reality of Nigerian life. It’s not about corruption, it’s about impunity. If it was about corruption, does it mean that now that they have taken Abba Kyari out of the Police, the Nigerian police have become a conglomeration of saints?
It’s a system, take away the capacity of people to behave without fear of recompense, and corruption will disappear. So I don’t want to dig into corruption because if we’re dealing with corruption, you must be speaking to the specific thing that that person has done and if you’re looking for that, you’ll find a thousand and one of that everywhere you turn in Nigeria including things done by Tinubu and his cohorts but it is not about that. The Nigerian corruption cries are just circuses, it’s not about substantive interest in righting any wrongs. So, I will really just prefer to focus on the impunity. If it’s about corruption, he is more than corrupt and we all are. That’s our reality
Can you vote for Tinubu?
God forbid bad thing! How? On what basis? What would I be expecting? There must be a basis. I must have something that I’m expecting him to do. I have no expectations of the man, absolutely none. I don’t expect anything good to come out of him. A Tinubu name in the presidency is the installation of the height of impunity in Nigeria and it is evidence of the fact that feudalism has come to stay in Nigeria. What is Feudalism? The pauperization of the mass, the weaponization of ignorance against them and the assurance of the fact that they never come out of the cycle that you have locked them.
Look around Lagos, you will find area boys everywhere. It is evidence of pauperization. If people had jobs to do, they would not be on the streets. They are not begging, they are demanding. That is the elevation of weaponized poverty into state craft. Everywhere in Lagos is a war front. My first workplace was in Igbosere. There were several law offices on Igbosere road when my office was there as well. Now they kill on that road almost on a daily basis, it’s nothing now. The high court is on Igbosere road, that entire place has become a killing field. Louis, Bamgbose, Keti, Tokunbo, Inabiri, Oshodi, the whole of that place now, they’ve become killing fields because impunity was allowed to work freely. So exactly why would I be voting for him? There must be some expectation and what would be my expectation? More agberos or what?
There are people, probably his supporters, who will say that it is his vision that has taken Lagos to this level that it is now.
Which level? Where is Lagos now? It’s a painted sepulchre, you find painted roads with potholes doting it all over. Nothing is ever motivated by any vision, it’s only greed. What will we steal, what do we get out of this? That has been the motivating factor. If development was a quest in Lagos State, by now we should have definitely a highly functional ferry system. Lagos is connected by a lot of water and yet you don’t have a viable water transport system in that state. Jakande was governor in this state over 30 years ago, and we had a ferry system, there were jetties. When I was in Okokomaiko we used to be able to take baba kekere from Mile 2 to CMS. What happened?
You will find those who have benefitted wholesomely from his rule, there are several of them, they’ve gained, they’ve become rich, fantastically so, simply by feeding from people’s misery. So yes, they would want a continuation of his hegemony, he’s made them rich beyond their dreams and they’ve forgotten that they will die one day so they are still busy eating even when their bellies are full. So, yes, they would want it and they will pray that he gets there but I wouldn’t be praying that he gets there.
Since he left power, we have had about three governors and again some people would say that these are governors who are independent..
DF: Which governors are independent? Is it Fashola that we will say was independednt or is it Ambode or is it this current one?
TW: They can say no to Tinubu
DF: Really? The day they try that, you’ll find that the house of Assembly will suddenly remember that there are a thousand and one infractions, just like it remembered towards the end of Ambode’s tenure. In fact whatever happened to all those probes that there were threatening on Ambode? They had a thousand and one allegations on Ambode towards the end of his tenure, he was supposed to have been so fantastically corrupt that an assembly of crooks found him corrupt and yet they were talking about him building a single bus stop, I think some fantastic sums were bandied around at he time, what happened to that?
People will always find rationalization for anything that favours them, and that’s to be expected, but I don’t speak so my decision will be validated by other people’s concurrence, I speak what i consider to be the truth and if I’m wrong, let other people say so. I’m happy to be corrected.