Former Scribe of the All Progressives Congress in Lagos State, Mr. Femi Saheed, the party’s candidate in the December 5 by-election for Kosofe 2 constituency in the Lagos State House of Assembly justifies his nomination in this conversation with Nseobong Okon-Ekong
You were in the secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in a Lagos State in a leadership position. And leading to the 2019 election, there was so much acrimony in the Legos APC. There were parallel congresses. What actually happened?
Let me begin with 2015. We had a smooth transition. That when I came on board, as the acting State Secretary of the party. We had a smooth congresses that produced various officers. It was seamless exercise, because the party was the party people wanted to be part of. It was the party to beat. It is still the party to beat in Lagos. It was a party of like minds, yearning to effect positive change in the political arena of Lagos state. All the nominees were mostly voted in. Chief Henry Ajomale was the State Chairman. The current Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly Lagos state was part of the exco. I was voted in as acting State Secretary. That was the exco of the party that produced Ambode, as governor. Fashola was about going. That was when we had the primary and all over the world, people were happy because of its transparency. It was witnessed by the whole Nigeria that this is the way a democratic primary for an incoming gubernatorial candidate should be. It formed the basis of our political development.
So, what happened in 2019?
It is a normal occurrence. By the time you start a business and it is successful, you will start having different interests. With the way the party is structured, there is no way you will not get different individual interests. On our own side, we followed the party guidelines. Moreso, I don’t even need to go into that. The case is still in court. I don’t have the right to talk on that because I am now a candidate. I am no more in the party secretariat. I can talk freely about my own campaign concerning my aspiration to become a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly representing Kosofe 2. That is what really concerns me. I’m a man who is waiting to take another opportunity, another journey in life.
How prepared are you to function as a legislator? What do you know about the legislature?
As a man who has professional qualifications in different fields of life; as an economist, I have a BSc in Economics. I have a Master’s in Environmental Science. an MBA from another university. I worked in a bank, right from an executive officer to the position of the Chief Operating Officer of a bank. Apart from that, I have not been totally away from my people practising politics, right from its local level, up to the state level. That is to tell you that I have a kind of connection with my people, I have understanding of what the needs of the people are. You see me as an economist, you can see that the Nigerian, economy now is not in the best interest of the people. You can see that our fortune in the oil and agriculture sectors are dwindling, because there is competition all over the world. The population of Nigeria is growing in an astronomical proportion. These are some of the needs where you need experience and people who are trained professionally to match the population with the opportunity you have. If you do a SWOT analysis, you can see that the greater proportion of our population which are youths are not gainfullyengaged. What do we do as a responsible legislature? What do we do as a concerned government to give employment to reduce the kind of violence we witnessed in the EndSARS campaigns? All over the world, youth restiveness cannot solved. But what can we do to ameliorate it? What and what measures can we put in place through good policies that will afford these youths the needed opportunity to serve their motherland in different areas of life? We want them to be economically active, support and contribute to the GDP of Nigeria. Nigeria is changing. Nigeria’s population is changing, and it’s changing with the reality of ou modernization. The government and the people must move in tandem with these things. Look at the security lapses that we had in the EndSARS daya. What is the population of Nigerian police force? Just about 300,000, compared to almost 200 million population? Do you want to tell me that the personnel we have in Nigerian police force are enough to mind the security challenges that may occur? The answer is no. When digress, you may ask, when did we have the last police reform? The way they operate is simply outdated. Look at their welfare package, it is nothing to write home about. These are some of the policy that given the opportunity to become one of the people who make good laws for this country, I will put them on the front burner of our discourse to make life more meaningful for people.
But your party is in control, both at the centre and in Lagos State?
At the end of the day, it is not the issue of hittng my party, because government is a continuum. What did the previous government do for Nigeria, since the beginning of this democratic dispensation?I’m seeking to be elected into a long a guy that is that that is seeking to be elected in Lagos state legislature, not to become federal representative. That is why my party, particularly in the South-west has been talkimg about restructuring . We must consider autonomy for the states in certain areas. The states must have power over some of these things. That is when I can tell you that a state lawmaker can make full impact. I cannot act beyond the capacity of the office.
Your constituency is like a mini-Nigeria with lots of northerners, south-easterners and, of course, Yorubas, which makes it a flashpoint in times of unrest, what can be done to make the people live together in peace?
I think it is not only about my constituency. It is about having a concerted plan that will take care of our social and economic development as human beings. The problem of this country presently, were produced by the present government. A country where you have almost 200 million people, and you don’t have good roads. For almost 16 years that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in government, the Lagos-Ibadan road was not fixed. The railway was dead. There was no attention on it. Without overstating anything, go there now, you will see what is called dividends of democracy. A government that is desirous to develop in tandem with many industries must have a rail system that is functional, there is no amount of billions of dollars that you spend on roads, the road will always call for maintenance and attention, because most of these heavy trucks, by the time they move on the road, a road that was supposed to last for 25 years will not last for more than five years. This government is moving seriously by providing a real railway to complement the road they are doing all over Nigeria. By the time most of these infrastructure are in place, our grand development will be spread equally. And when development is played equally, people will now see the sense. Do you know how many shops? How many restaurants? Do you know how many people will make a livelihood along these railway corridors when the system is functional? Do you know how many people will be engaged along the line? Do you know the volume of employment generation the rail sector will aid when most of these things are done? That is the work of any responsible government. Is it this government that privatised your NEPA? Was the privatisation of the electricity network holistic? If I’m elected as a federal lawmaker, I will to see to the process of the privatisation of the discos and the gencos because that is the bane of Nigerian problem. Do we really ask these questions? Why was it that most of these blue chip companies left Nigeria? Immediately most of these companies moved out of Nigeria, they created permanent gap that will not be fixed in the next 25 or more years. They left most of the people jobless. Most of our parents are not receiving the kind of income they are supposed to receive. Where are our textile companies? There is no textile company that will operate in Nigeria and operate profitably. You have to be on generator. When your cost of production is too high, your goods will not be competitive. When your goods are not competitive life will not be meaningful. When life is not meaningful, unemployment and social disorder like what we witnessed some months ago would be the order of the day. These are some of the problems that I feel the APC government should adjust holistically so that Nigerians can empathise with them. As a youth who loves Nigeria more than any country in the world, anywhere I find myself I begin to say the truth. These are some of our problems. The APC government is doing solid things. The Second Niger Bridge has always been a politica project in this country, but President Buhari is working on it. He is not embarking on white elephant projects. Had it been this government was in power, when the price of oil was very good, this government would have solved some of the infrastructure deficits that retards Nigeria’s growth. When you have a very good road, your goods will move from one place to another, you will be able to fish. Nigeria, Venezuela, South Africa, went into recession at the same time. But it was only Nigeria that came out of this recession, within a very short space of time. Up till now, Venezuela is still struggling.
You an aspiring lawmaker. A lot of people believe that Nigeria is not lacking laws. In every walk of life, there are laws. But implementation of those laws, monitoring of those laws is the issue. Do you share that opinion?
The 1999 constitution is a dysfunctional law that give rights to a stranger to have access to resources that are meant to develop you economically in your area. A law that does not give rights to local government. A law that says the local government must also go to the federal cap in hand. A law that says you cannot even protect yourself. Who says Lagos state cannot provide its own security outfit? A law that says the Lagos state Neighbourhood Service Corps has limitation and the law that gives the police man the whole opportunity to be the Alpha Omega of security. And they are grossly and poorly paid or their welfare is not even taken into cognizance. The Nigerian constitution ties the hands of state governments in many respects and hinders them from optimum performance. I’m just trying to tell you the the bad aspects of the law. A law that makes a state govermor a ceremonial cheif security officer of his state is not instead government is just an artificial state security officer. Most of these things are the lapses that we are seeing in our security architecture today. The laws that we have are not sophisticated enough to move Nigeria to the next level.
It was the demise of the former legislator that opened this opportunity for you to vie for the Lagos State House of Assembly. Why do you want to quit a strategic office like the secretary of the APC in Lagos State?
I have served as Assistant Secretary of the party twice. I conducted the 2015. election in the capacity of assistant secretary of the party; the whole election, from the primary to the general election. The party has invested so much in me in terms of allowing me to see how party administration should be. The party has invested so much in some of us to an extent that when we have an opening like this, the party trusts and believes in our capacity. It is an opportunity for the party to continue its manifesto. That is why the the party, may look inward, to choose some of its own, that they feel are academically and politically rich? I’m blessed to fill in the bracket. I think the party gave me the opportunity. It wasn’t an imposition. It was a unanimous agreement. By our party constitution, the selection process can be direct or indirect.