Hammed Shittu dialogues with the All Progressives Congress Senator -elect for Kwara South Senatorial district, Mr. Lola Ashiru on the agenda for his constituents and what Kwarans expect from the incoming administration in the state
You have been elected to represent the people of Kwara South Senatorial district in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly, what does this mandate meant to you?
Everybody in Kwara South is very excited for one simple reason, we’re free and we can prove ourselves now. We can develop and even move forward. Everywhere I go, I see that excitement of freedom on the faces of the people. We are now like someone coming out of prison, imagine how free we are now. However, we want to maximise this freedom. We want to ensure that we don’t ever go back to Egypt where we suffered. We want to guard the mandate so that we don’t lose it.
How do you intend to sustain your perceived freedom?
I want to say that, sustaining this freedom is very paramount to us and the only way we can achieve this is by performing. I believe performance will start by a deep understanding of self. For now, we’re trying to understand our problems, our people. There is no middle class again in Kwara South, we’ve all been degraded to the lowest class, so we want to understand our people. We’re now trying to put things together because, what we went through, for so many years, was war. For so many years, we’ve been at the battle field, trying to win this war, and we’re grateful to God, we won.
As one of the political leaders in Kwara South senatorial district now, how will you go forward with the new order?
I have the biggest mandate in Kwara South and I won’t waste it. Discussion is going on among us, principally, we want each stakeholder to have knowledge about his environment, people who will work with us are those who are passionate about the grassroots, the man and woman on the street. People who are concerned about children who cannot go to school or who go to poor schools. We have to create a better local government system. Immediately our government comes in, there must be a change.
What can you say about the level of development in the senatorial district in the past 16 years?
The situation here is very sad. There is no development at all. From education, health, infrastructures among others. They are in shambles. Those who are there today, who claimed they’re elected, must give room to real election and they must account for what they’ve done with public fund. We will start from the local council up to the state. We have the responsibility to do this and we must not relax, we must ensure we have the best breed of people who can serve the interest of the state. We will engage the federal government to make sure development comes to our side. All the three tiers of government must be brought into focus. Having gone through a bad past, we’ll be in control of today so that we can plan for tomorrow which is for our children. The work we have to do is so intimidating, but with a lot of cooperation and unity in the party, we will make sure we don’t lose hope. We will be reporting constantly to our people, every politician must contribute his own quota.
How do you intend to tackle unemployment, infrastructural deficit among other challenges facing the people of your senatorial district?
The first assignment I have is to build Kwara South as a political entity. I must ensure a rebirth of confidence in the people of Kwara South. We want to revive the local government system that has already collapsed, they are not viable and they’re dysfunctional, those people who are supposed to move it forward don’t have the knowledge of their council or their people. For our first three months, it is going to be total rebirth, afterwards, we can start addressing the problems. Industries have collapsed, the businesses that are being run today, are not viable. Hardly will you see a graduate who stays here and is gainfully employed unless he is riding ‘Okada’. The outgoing administrations in Kwara state was never good to us. I want us to be methodical about this, some people will say, the outgoing Senator provided 30 boreholes. The question is, is borehole the solution to our water problem? Even if they’ve provided roads, what is the economic value of the road? We must do correct assessment.
You said your party will put in place true democratically elected representatives of the people and that the outgoing administration will give account of their stewardship, does that mean you’re going to probe?
I don’t want to talk about probe, but there is no administrator that will come in and will not investigate. It is in the process of investigation and putting things in place that government can move forward. It is not about probe but about doing things right.
What advice do you have for the APC at the National Assembly to avert leadership crisis associated with electing principal officers?
With my interactions with some Senator-elect, I’m proud to say that they are set of intellectuals. They are passionate about our country. They are people who are prepared to move this country forward. Politics is about options and competition, we will never get to a situation where a minority leads the majority in the Senate, it will never happen again. I’ve never seen a country where minority is leading. There is not going to be division among the APC Senators. What happened in the 8th Senate will never happen again.
As a way of encouraging participation of everyone, would you involve members of the opposition parties in your government?
We’re not an enemy to other political parties, even the. The fact on the ground today is that APC will form the government of Kwara State come May. In APC, we have lots of dynamic and honest politicians who are very eager and sincere to serve this state. The government we are going to form will have much of technocrats. I won’t say we will go outside our party to share responsibility because in APC, we have the best programmes and the best hands who can drive our agenda.
The role of the traditional rulers cannot be overruled in any democratic government, how do you intend to carry our monarchs along in your government in order to improve on our local security system?
Traditional rulers need to be included especially in the area of development, mobilization of people, cultural promotion and creating stability in the society, we’re not an enemy to traditional rulers. The APC government will take care of them, they will be happier, and they will be able to contribute more. They are our royal fathers. We will treat them well them but they must play their role.
During campaign, the PDP governorship candidate promised to pay N30,000 minimum wage, your party has been silent on this, can you put things in the right perspectives?
The bill has been passed, so it has become a law that is binding even on the private sector. The minimum wage today is N18,000. Have we checked what graduates in the private institutions earn? One will be surprised that in some private institutions, they pay as low as N8,000 to teachers. Some hotels pay an average of N12,000. It is a beautiful thing to pay N30,000, but will it not be consumed by inflation? I’m more concerned about the private establishments that are bigger than government.
There is a rumour going round the state that the governor-elect, Alhaji Abdulraham Abdulrasaq has vowed to downsize after resuming office, is this true?
There is no business that will not right-size because we must put everything in appropriate position. We cannot force the private sector, especially the small businesses to pay N30,000 which they do not have, otherwise, we will be asking them to collapse their businesses. However, we must look into the issue critically so that we don’t incur what we will later regret.