Ambode Has Silenced His Critics Through Performance– Basorun | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Ambode Has Silenced His Critics Through Performance– Basorun

Posted: May 9, 2016 at 3:30 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Chief Olorunfunmi Basorun, former Secretary to Lagos State government, is a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State. In this interview with AUGUSTINE ADAH, he speaks on the demand for new minimum wage by workers, governance in Lagos State  and other sundry issues. Excerpts:  

Looking at the present economic situation where some states are unable to pay workers salaries for some months, do you think it is feasible for labour unions to demand a review of minimum wage from N18,000  to N56,000?

Asking for N56, 000 as minimum salary for workers may not be feasible now but it is reasonable. It may not be feasible because of the   resources available to various governments at this time.  It is reasonable because if workers can receive the N18, 000 as minimum wage in the midst of the present economic reality,  then it is not wrong for them to demand for a review of the salary, though the so called N18, 000 does not come to some workers as at when due. For workers to depend on just N18, 000 minimum salary  for a month in this country  means  such workers are not finding things very easy.  I will advise that any state that can afford to pay the minimum wage as demanded by Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) should go ahead and pay. We had the old example of late Obafemi Awolowo who raised the minimum wage of workers to five shillings.  The minimum wage before this time was below five shillings and the action won the heart of many people in his region at that time, though he was criticised and condemned by some people. In the present dispensation, Adams Oshiomhole, governor of Edo State has proved to us that he is a fighter of the masses and remains a fighter of the masses by raising the minimum wage of workers in Edo to N25, 000 last week. If he fulfills his promise and not a gimmick to get votes, then he has my thumbs up and it has proven me right that states can pay whatever its workers are demanding base on its revenue.  So N56, 000 is reasonable and whichever government that has the resources to pay should go ahead and pay. Things are really very expensive this time.  Look,  we asked somebody to go and buy something for us recently, a little money anyway, but the price quoted has gone up almost by double.  I think it is engine oil, the price used to be N2, 000 but the person said the price is now N3, 500. Where do you think an average worker has the money to cope with the ever rising cost of goods and services in this country? To me, this N56, 000 is not enough because they are going to pay more on transport, housing and other things.  Now we have BRT services that come to Ikorodu here, but does it go to all the villages like Ijede, Bayeku and other rural communities? Almost everything has gone up in this country  and if we don’t want workers to go to work and spend only 25 percent of their time doing what they supposed to do and use the remaining period looking for means of earning extra income we have to look for how to increase their pay. My only worry is the timing of the demand.

But some people are advising the government to concentrate on providing the needed infrastructure instead of increase in salary. What is your view on that?

Provision of infrastructure is good but people have to eat, the cost of paying for transporting food items from one area to the other is very high and that of labourers has also gone up. Even if the roads are good, it does not compel the man who spent the whole day at petrol filling station waiting to buy petrol to reduce the cost of transportation or a trader that has to struggle extensively to source for foreign currency at a very exorbitant rate to reduce  its price.  The road being good has nothing to do with cost of foodstuffs or reduce the cost of accommodation for those who do not have their own houses and has to live in rented apartments. Those states that are not paying salaries as at when due, must have experienced fall in their monthly collection of internally Generated Revenue (IGR) because the incentive and tools for those who are responsible for the collection of the revenue are not there.  I would not be surprise if where the revenue used to be N100, it has now fallen to less than N50. That may have affected the salary to be paid to workers.  When the workers’ morale to work is down, definitely, it would affect the revenue target of the government and unfortunately, allocation from federation account is not increasing anymore.  Last time, both the federal, states and local governments shared N299bn.  We in this council we know what we got.  A month before last, the council here got negative allocation. That means they have to refund whatever they owe.  But by last month, they got about N377, 000 naira.  So, N56, 000 is not enough judging by the economic realities in the country today, but may be the NLC and TUC sat down and did their calculations and discovered that for it to go round the country, N56, 000 should be the minimum. But even before they could come out to shout, the man in Edo has raised his own to N25, 000. The N25, 000 is not enough with what we are experiencing now in the country, but it is an indication that the state government can take initiative and do something.

Some people said some ministers in the president Buhari cabinet are not fit to be there, judging by their antecedents and performance so far. What is your assessment of some of them?

You assess people when you are in the field to see what they are asked to do whether they are doing it well or not. I cannot judge by just perception from a distance. Looking at Ibe Kachikwu minister of state for Petroleum for example, many people may be quick to conclude that he is not doing well because of present scarcity of petrol we have in the country but it is wrong.  These people were sworn in November last year, it is not enough that we judge them in less than six months. When we work in those days in office, our assessment was done on yearly basis; therefore we should give them time.   Time should also be used in assessing Buhari himself; remembering that he was for some months without advisers.   The Buhari government did not have ministers for a long time and now that he has constituted the cabinet in just five months, let us give them time before we can assess them  individually and Buhari himself, whether he is a performer or non performer.

What is your impression about Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration in Lagos especially as his one year in office draws close?

He too constituted his cabinet in October last year. That I know very well. He had the luck of being around in the system before he became the governor and most of the things he was doing was based on information he was getting.  But when he was around he was a minority player, he might claim he knew everything but he did not know everything. Now that he has got his cabinet, I believe he is stablising now. To the best of my knowledge, he is trying, taking road construction for instance, he wanted to construct five roads in each local government and local council development areas but after doing a bit of costing, the number was reduced to two per council area and each road must not be more than 500 metres.  One of the roads in the council here is in front of me while the second one is behind me, the two was chosen by the council without consulting us. So he is doing 114 roads of 57 kilometres simultaneously and by the time he is done with the project, it would be to his credit. In addition, he has been monitoring the affairs in local government areas to ensure that the right things are done in those areas because that level of government (I don’t want to call it third tier of government) has been suffering from poor executive capacity and non- monitoring).

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Lagos State claimed that the government is afraid of conducting local government election because APC would suffer a great defeat if the election is conducted. Why do you think the local government is still not held since 2014?

I don’t think the government is afraid of holding the election. You don’t just rush into conducting the election, you know we had a general election last year and it was an expensive matter for the party and the government. In conducting the election, government has to provide fund for Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) that is why the exercise has to take time. But if anybody is reading newspapers of recent you would discover that LASIEC has started sensitising people on the conduct of the election so the machinery has been put in place.  The question of boasting that they would defeat the ruling party in the election would be answered at the poll. They have mismanaged Nigeria and if we use that alone to tell the electorates that your suffering and poverty is as a result of the mismanagement of the country by last administration then, we have a good selling point. For PDP, they must talk and let them continue to talk, we are doing our own planning quietly and when it is time for election, we will all meet at the poll. We have a situation in Lagos which nobody can use against us.  Ambode is paying salaries as at when due, they can go to some states where salaries are owed and use that as their campaign strategy. Last December, the governor did not give workers rice as was the usual practice; instead he gave them 25 percent salary bonus which was meaningful to them.  I interviewed some of them and they told me that they used their own bonus salary to buy rice chicken and other things. It made more meaning than when one officer is getting the vote for government rice for workers and use it to open a shop within the period.  A state that can do that to its workers is fantastic. I don’t think PDP can make any headway in Lagos, but let us wait because we are not sleeping. The governor holds town hall meeting every quarter, he has held one in Alimosho, Lagos city hall and the last one was held here in Ikorodu on April 14. They should have come to ask the governor question why he has not held the local government election before this time because the town hall meeting was not a party affairs, it was a public event.  I agree that local government election should be conducted because a democratically elected local government is provided for in section 7 of the constitution. Some states have not held local government election for six to seven years; I don’t think that practice is obtainable in Lagos here.  So we would hold local government election and we will defeat them in all the 57 local government and council development areas.

We heard that some displeased members of APC and PDP may meet to form a new party very soon. Are you aware of the development?

It remains a rumour and I don’t see anything of such happening, may be because there is lull in party activities and disagreements that gives opportunity for people to speculate.  I feel the disagreements are necessary if we must make progress either in APC, PDP or any other political parties. But if people take disagreement to mean they have reach the end and therefore they try another set of people by going to form another party, then they are wasting their time. The merger we have done is still developing; it has not come to a point which you can call a stone a rock. So, how can somebody pull out of that one and go to form another one? The experience we are getting is that the minds have not been able to unite properly but they would unite eventually.