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Guber Poll: No need to panic, Sanwo-Olu has nothing to fear -Omotoso, Information Commissioner

The 2023 governorship election comes up on Saturday, March 11. The outcome of the presidential election which was held on February 25 where the opposition party, the Labour Party, won the state ahead of the ruling party All Progressives Congress, APC, seems to have sent jitters to the leadership of the ruling party in the state including the state Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

The loss of the state to the opposition in the presidential election was the first time such would happen in Lagos State which is the commercial centre of the country and seen as critical to the ruling party.

It is also noteworthy that the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is the strong man in Lagos politics who has had a big influence on the state politically since he left as governor in 2007.

Therefore, the loss at the presidential election is seen as a slap and setback for the ruling party and there are fears the opposition may pull another surprise by winning the governorship election.

In this interview with Ayodele Olalere, the state Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotoso explained the chances of the governor winning his reelection bid and dismissed fears that the state may fall again into the hands of the opposition.

The governorship election comes up on Saturday, March 11. What has the governor done that makes you think he deserves to be reelected?

Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu has done a lot in the last four years. For the opposition, we need to ask them, what is it that they have done before. So based on that, we’ll begin to weigh them and see the person who is the best. And I believe that in the past four years that Mr Sanwo-Olu has run the administration of Lagos State, he has done a lot in terms of infrastructure.

If we talk about roads, for example, building 70 roads, if we talk of education, completing about 147 educational projects, if we talk about health, everybody has seen what he did during the COVID-19 pandemic, how he did a lot to ensure that we didn’t go down with that disease so much so that what Lagos State Government did under the leadership of Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu now became a global example of how to fight the social pandemic. He got recognition locally and universally. So, I believe that if you look at all of these things, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu is the most competent person to lead Lagos at his time.

Lagos is the pride of Nigeria and the black man’s pride. Lagos is said to be between 21 and 25. million people and is the smallest state in Nigeria but despite that, it is a state that has the highest number of people living in it. Lagos is just about 3,324 square kilometres. It is also 2.5 per cent of Nigeria and then if you look at that, it’s just like tiny dots on the map. If you take away 25% that is covered by water, the rest is where all of us are living. So, for anybody to come and put infrastructure in place for about 25 million people to come as well as see how the 25 million people can continue to cohabit as brothers and sisters and to make them proud to be called Lagosians, it is a lot of work for people.

So in terms of infrastructure development, in terms of knowledge, in terms of diligence at work and in terms of experience, Mr Governor is the most experienced and most qualified to run Lagos at this time.

No doubt the governor has done a lot in terms of infrastructure, but in terms of politics, how has he related to the politicians? For example, there was a time it was alleged that the deputy governor was attacked at the party’s secretariat From what we saw in the last presidential election, there is a belief there are saboteurs within the system who are aggrieved, what is your take on that?Well, first to let you know that the report that the deputy governor was attacked is a mere fallacy, it never happened. The deputy governor was not attacked anywhere. He goes to the party secretariat all the time, and there is nobody who can attack him. It’s not possible.

And then about saboteurs that you are talking about, everywhere that you have a human community, you have four or five people who are coming together to do one thing or the other, and there is no way all of them can agree to be doing things the same way. You will see people who will be aggrieved, people who will say they are not treating them well. So, when you have that kind of situation there is bound to be friction. It is just human nature for that kind of thing to happen. For people to now feel that is what may have caused some rumble in APC or that it is unusual and exclusive to APC, I do not think that is right.

APC is the biggest party in the state and Nigeria and people will feel that once you get an APC ticket you are as good as having whatever position you are gunning for. So if you have that kind of situation in a party that is as strong as APC, there is bound to be friction among their members so it is not new. It’s not exclusive to APC and in my view, not something to make people panic. It can always be settled.

Many Lagosians are aggrieved as a result of the activities of touts. Why is the state government finding it difficult to rein in these guys and put them in check?

First I would like to remind you that NURTW is like any other union. People are talking about this because of the way some drivers behave. People and unions have their rules and regulations which say that as a commercial bus driver or taxi, you take your passengers from the park, they give you a ticket and you go.
But when you get on the road, many of the yellow buses stay by the roadside and start picking passengers and you get some guys who will bring out whips and begin to lash them and clear them off the road. These drivers don’t obey the rules of the union and government rules. The enforcers of the union are those they call Agberos. I agree there are better ways to do things but most of these drivers want a free attitude, they don’t want to be controlled. I feel the union has a lot of work to do to reform its members.

There was voter apathy during the presidential election. Many party members complained they were not being taken care of by the party leaders. Is there a way the government can interface with these aggrieved members?

So many people have spoken in that manner, that party members have been neglected and the governor should have gone to town hall meetings. In any human community, you must have friction. People have the right to be aggrieved but I can assure you that the party has machinery for resolving its problems.

On the part of the government, we have the Office of Civic Engagement that organises programmes for people to get help. They also go out to talk about the government and bring feedback to the government. We are going to be paying more attention to that.

The ruling party lost to the opposition in Lagos during the presidential election. The governor is contesting for reelection on Saturday. Is the governor not scared of losing to the opposition again? How confident are you that the party and the governor would win?

If you are a doctor and you are doing the diagnosis of a disease, the patient comes to you and you send him to the laboratory to have a test done and you look at the result of the test with your professional eyes and know it’s a kind of disease you can easily treat, there is no need to panic. When you go to the hospital to have surgery, you look for a doctor who is experienced. You don’t go there for a student doctor to come and operate on you.

The governor is not someone you can just push aside, who is not experienced. He has a track record. Mr Sanwo-Olu has nothing to fear in winning the election. He has no reason to panic. I do not see any of the candidates as better than him. Lagos is too complex and delicate to be left in the hands of people who have no experience. There is no need to panic about Mr Sanwo-Olu.

This year’s election seems to have divided people along religious and tribal lines. What’s your take on that?

I feel that in this age and time, such is not fair to Lagos and Lagosians that we are going to be electing people based on their religion and tribe and not the content of their character. You see people preaching violence, carrying the IPOB flag all over the place and yet they want to be governor.
You see people who, all of a sudden, have changed their names from Yoruba to Igbo names because they want to be governor. I think such things are not right. That’s not who we are in Lagos. We are sophisticated people, refined and civilized. People taking us back to those days we have forgotten are not doing Lagos any good. Lagosians should learn to ignore such people.