Nigeria Will Be In Ruin If Our Focus Does Not Change From Politics To Economic Development – Sen. Ogunlewe

Sen. Adeseye Ogunlewe, former Minister of Works, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Senator (Otunba) Adeseye Kingsley Ogunlewe, is a Prince of Igbogbo kingdom in Igbogbo/Bayeku Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of Ikorodu Division, Lagos State, Southwest, Nigeria, and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He’s also a former Minister of Works and Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He was elected Senator on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) between 1999 and 2003 to represent the Lagos East Senatorial District, before he defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He later became the Minister of Works between July 2003 and March 2006.

He was a Governorship aspirant in Lagos State on the platform of the PDP.

Senator Ogunlewe at various time was a Permanent Secretary in various Ministries while in the service of the Lagos State Government.

He spoke with the Publisher/Reporter – in – Chief of THE IMPACT Newspaper, Kunle Adelabu, at his Ogudu home in Lagos, on various issues – death of Senator Adebayo Osinowo, demand by various parts of Lagos East Senatorial District to produce replacement for dead Senator, suspension of caucuses in the ruling APC, state of educational system in Lagos, encroachment into Oriwu College land and state of the economy among other issues. Excerpts:

THE IMPACT: There is currently scrambling by various parts of the Lagos East Senatorial District to produce the replacement for the Senator representing the Lagos East Senatorial District, Senator Adebayo Osinowo who died recently, as a leader of the party and an experienced politician, what do you think the leadership of the party should be doing in this regard?

Sen. Ogunlewe: Well, my first concern is that it is a tragedy that we could lose such a vibrant, very efficient and articulate person and a grassroots mobiliser, but that is God for you and there is nothing we can do about it. We have to go for an election. The party has to look for another viable candidate for the election.

THE IMPACT:  Already, Ikorodu, Epe, Kosofe and other parts of the Senatorial District are clamouring that the party should consider them for the position. Where do you think that the leadership of the party should be looking at for this replacement?

Sen. Ogunlewe: I cannot speak for the leadership of the party. They have their own permutations and whoever they pick is the person we are going to work for. It is not in my own capacity to determine what the party should do. We have people who are leaders of the party and have been in the party far before me and they know who to pick that will serve the interest of the party. What is important now is the person who will serve the interest of the party, that’s the person that they are going to pick.

THE IMPACT: Recently, the leadership of the APC issued a directive that there should be no more caucuses within the party again. Do you think that this is feasible?

Sen. Ogunlewe: If you know the genesis of those caucuses, you will agree with me that they have outlived their usefulness. They were sort of anti – establishment causes. They were established to fight certain causes from Justice Forum against the Committee of Friends and from Bola Ahmed Tinubu Campaign Organisation (BATCO) to Mandate against the establishment. But that is not in vogue anymore. Those phases are gone. They don’t need them again. The party is one and can be a united party to increase the voting pattern. What I have observed is that those caucuses were affecting votes recorded by the party during elections. How can you register 5.6million voters and you are getting 600, 000 votes? To me, this doesn’t make any sense. Something must be wrong. Probably when you (the party) pick from Mandate, the Justice Forum people don’t participate as they should and when you pick from Justice Forum too, the Mandate too don’t participate in an election as they should. Probably, that might be a reason the leadership of the party decided that everyone must come together and be united. The need for those caucuses for me is over. They are no longer necessary or desirable. They have served the purposes for which they were established for at that time and that situation does not exist again.

THE IMPACT: Another latest development are the membership of the boards of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) and Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF) which were recently reconstituted by Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu without any representative from Ikorodu on both boards. Though, stakeholders from the division have already alleged marginalization, but in your opinion as a leader in the division, do you think the exclusion should be termed as marginalisation and if yes, what do you think the Divisional leadership should be doing to correct this?

Sen. Ogunlewe: I don’t think that we are marginalized, what I think that is happening is that we are not speaking with a voice. We are not united at all. It is evident that some level of selfishness comes into such appointment, that is, different interest groups, Justice forum and Mandate, want to get the appointment at the expense of the other which has been causing conflicts and made their conflicting decisions to be disrespected by those that are allocating values. There is need for unity. Some people should not believe that if they are not there, nothing will happen. It doesn’t work that way. All hands must be on deck for there to be united force so that we can make demands with one voice. The more we are divided, the more Ikorodu will be injured.

THE IMPACT: As someone who takes so much pride in education, looking at the state of schools in the state, especially in Ikorodu where many of them are eyesore, what do you think that government should be doing during this lockdown when school children are at home in terms of upgrading educational facilities and infrastructure because there are schools with collapsed structures and others with  inadequate chairs and tables?

Sen. Ogunlewe: My own opinion is that we should go back to the good old ways of managing secondary schools which is putting board of governors in place. Let us institute board of governors with credible people in the society and important old students. That was how Oriwu College started. We had very prominent indigenes as members of the board. They will not close their eyes and watch the school collapse. We can re-introduce that in Lagos State as a government policy to allow community people to contribute to development of schools.

Look at all our GRAs, despite the fact that there is no GRA in Lagos State without a secondary school, it is shameful that there is no single child of any of the GRA residents that is attending those schools. That is not good enough, but if we reverse it and we allow people in the Estate to participate in the running of the schools, where do you think their own children will go to? They will definitely attend those schools because they are going to develop the facilities there.

Lagos State seems to be losing it. There are 18, 000 ivory schools whereas the total number of (public) secondary schools that we have in Lagos is not up to 600. Look at the gap. It means that majority of the funding for education in the state from the citizens goes to the private schools which are not better than the public schools. This is a tragedy. When we are younger, people that went to Government Colleges were the stars in our communities and not those that went to the private schools who were considered not smart (laughter). But the reverse is the case now. We should go back to that era by involving the communities in the running of the schools. There is no way government alone can run all the schools in the state. They have dissolved the Parents’ Forum which is not good enough.  We should just go back to that era because that’s the only way we can see change.

Anytime I jog in the morning, I cry for this country seeing children of the rich in this estate in jeeps going out of the estate to private schools, on the other hand, I always see children of other people residents outside coming into Ogudu to attend school. A day is coming when these children of Have nots will fight those that have it all because of the neglect in the schools that they are forced to attend with little or no facility inside our estate which our own children are not attending. How do you explain that? It means that there is a wide gap between the children of the rich and those of the poor people and it our educational system that is creating it.

Sen. Ogunlewe

Conversely, Lagos State has done very well with about 23 Model Colleges with boarding houses. That is a very good step. All that we need to do is to establish a structure in those institutions that will attract private sector participation in those schools by involving children of those running the private sector. For instance, I was a member of the board of governors of the Lagos State Civil Service Model College in Igbogbo. They picked the Managing Director of Egbin Thermal Station and many others from private firms in Ikorodu to be on the board. Can you believe that Egbin Thermal station was practically running the Civil Service Model College at that time because their Managing Director was the chairman of the board of governors and all his children were attending that school. This is an example of what we should be doing to change our pattern of running schools all over Nigeria. We should not let this segregation continue. The Have-nots don’t have any chance when you talk about qualitative educative unless we mix it up by allowing children of the poor and rich to attend public schools together. That’s when we will get it right.

THE IMPACT: There has been allegations that Ikorodu as a Division is no way connecting with the Lagos State Polytechnic which has been in crisis for about five years and recently, an acting Rector, Mr Olumide Metilelu, was appointed after the completion of the former Rector’s term, yet, there are still some agitations. In addition, there’s no Governing Council in place in the institution since last year and Ikorodu people are agitating for inclusion in the council. What do you think that Ikorodu should be doing in this regard?

Sen. Ogunlewe: The government should look for prominent citizens of Ikorodu and get them involved in the affairs of the institution. There is no substitute for community involvement in whatever government is doing. If the community don’t take government projects as their own, there will always be crisis. If you are constructing roads, drainages and there is no carpenter, bricklayer from the host community participating in the project, then, you are in trouble. Community must be involved in all government projects. So, let us see if there will be difference or not. Prominent people in Ikorodu must be involved in the running of LASPOTECH, when this is done, then there will be a change of attitude and people will see it as their own.

THE IMPACT: Raining season is here again and Lagos is being submerged yet again. Ikorodu Division is virtually under water. How do you think that government should address the issue of flooding whenever there it rains?

Sen. Ogunlewe: It is sporadic and not permanent. Flood happens everywhere in the world. Once it is not permanent, it is flash flood. There is nothing to fear. Once the rain stopped, the flood will go away and give government the opportunity to address the issue. There are systems in Lagos State that need to be cleaned and once they are cleaned, the flash flood will go. Like Ikorodu road, there is a drainage in the middle. Government should look for its design and others too, because there is no road that will be constructed without an underground drainage. They just need to clean them to solve the problem. There is hardly anything to fear.

THE IMPACT: Let’s look at the encroachment into the Oriwu College land, a case that you have been pursuing since the incident occurred.  About a month ago, government pasted notices of contravention and removal of the gate erected by the suspected invaders, but it is yet to do anything. What is the current situation now?

Sen. Ogunlewe: We are in contact with the government and we are planning to hold a meeting with them. The Ifemisi branch of the Ladugba family under the leadership of our father, late Oba F.M Ogunlewe, MBE, with all the leaders in Ikorodu then – Chief T.O.S Benson, Chief Allison, Chief Gbadamosi, Chief Alokolaro, Chief Kamson and Chef Ogunsanya and others that matter in Nigeria at that time, took a decision that they wanted a community college in Ikorodu and the land was donated 75 years ago for the purpose. It is unreasonable for anybody today to say that his forefathers donated the land and that they want to take part of it back. Who were their forefathers as against those that were ours in the original Ladugba family? The land was conceded to the community for developmental purpose and you can never tell what the future will hold. They can convert it to University in the future. It can be turned into a world-class secondary school. Old students of the school can decide to build a big stadium on the land of the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics facility (STEM) and we will be allowed to do that for development if the land is still there. Our fathers and grandparents that conceded the land had a vision which is development. Which other secondary school in Ikorodu Division has such land that can be further developed in future? We must not continue to think about ourselves alone. How do we want our children to feel in future if there is no more space to build anything? We must not be to selfish.

THE IMPACT: As someone that has being part of managing the country at national and state levels, how do you think we can address the economic challenges with so much focus on politics, because if care is not taken, the economy might collapsed because of the way politicians are managing the affairs of the country?

Sen. Ogunlewe: Between political democracy and economic development, which one is suppose to be priority of a nation? It is economic development, but unfortunately, the reverse is the case in Nigeria. Our democracy takes over 70% of our income to the detriment of economic development. That is what China is not doing and that’s why they have been able to address the issue of economic development. We spent too much money on politics. Nobody can contest Governorship election now in Nigeria without nothing less than N20billon. Can he invest N20billon in the economy of that state? The answer is no and when he gets there, he wants to recoup the money. Our present political nature is not beneficial to us as a nation. Unless we change, this country will be ruined. We are focusing and spending more on elections and structure of government than economic developments of the nation. It is a tragedy.

THE IMPACT: Local government is supposed to be the closest to the people in terms of propelling developments, but what we have today is the reverse. We have a situation where it is difficult for a council to even clean a street. How do we put local governments back to shape and make them functional?

Sen. Ogunlewe: If you talk about that, those benefitting will attack you because they want political independence than economic development that will be beneficial to all. We have to determine what we want as a people. Do we want to develop our economy, country and communities or politics? But unfortunately, it is the people in politics that will determine that. We spend all our monies on politics at the expense of economic development and that’s why we have 100million Nigerians in poverty and that will continue unless we change the structure. At the local government level alone, we have Chairman, Vice Chairman, Councilors, Supervisors, Secretaries, Personal Assistants, Advisers and what have you. So, where is the money for economic development? Everything goes into politics and structure, that’s why the system is suffering. We must address this issue as a matter of urgency. We cannot grow as a country with this system of government and political structure that we have presently. It will never lead us anywhere.

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