The representative of Alimosho Constituency 1 at the Lagos State House of Assembly and member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Bisi Yusuf, suggests ways the debt burden hanging on state governments in Nigeria can be resolved. He also takes a look at the state of the nation. Eromosele Ebhomele was there talks about the challenges facing the country, his party and the National Assembly in this interview
What do you think about the current clamour for pay cut at the National Assembly?
Anything that could make Nigeria okay, I would support it. There is no change without sacrifice. This is my personal opinion. While the government is trying its own, individuals too must also think of making the economy better. One should not generalise; there are some people that if you look at their take home pay, it is still in line with the economic reality. People should be their brothers’ keeper. I am not against anything that would be of importance to the generality of Nigerians.
Again, how would you react to call for the country’s legislature to be on part time bases?
That is what I am saying, people should not generalise. As a proactive journalist, I am sure you know the condition of the legislators in Lagos State; you know what we earn as take-home pay and that we do a lot. I don’t think we are ripe for part-time legislature because there are a lot of things we are doing. I am using Lagos as an example, there is no single day that we don’t have something to do. Even our time is not enough for what we do, and this is why the economy of Lagos State is improving. We embark on legislative research to promote socio, economic and political well being of the state. For instance, we just resumed. In other places, they are on recess, but we are busy working. There is no sitting that people would not talk about an item that would touch all the people of the state. We have our own target; we have our legislative agenda like the Speaker mentioned the other time. If you look at this, how can we achieve such with a part-time legislature? It just depends on the way people perceive or take it, but in Lagos State, we are not docile, we are proactive, we have the knowledge of what we do and take our constituents seriously. Lagos is not ripe for a part-time legislature.
Since Buhari’s government started on May 29, terrorist attacks have increased. How would advise the Federal Government?
It seems we are too much in a hurry; the system has been bad for so many years and you want somebody to provide solutions immediately? You have to give it to the President, he has solicited for support from the government of other countries, which past governments could not do. He has been able to attract the attention of the international community and they have been meeting regularly. You cannot start something without proper planning. If you consider what is happening now with the past government, you would see that there is a difference. We are talking about insurgency and guerrilla fighters; look at the United States of America, somebody just went to a church and killed some people. Are you saying the security of that country is not tight? One thing we must note is that there is reduction in the number of the attacks, one of the efforts of the President is to relocate the base of the military to Borno State. If you plant a palm tree, it is not that very day that you would reap the harvest, very soon, you would see the outcome of what the president is doing.
There is fear that the crisis in the National Assembly could affect Buhari. What do you think?
No, leave that one for the party; we know how to manage it without going to the newspapers.
How best can the legislature and the executive work in peace?
Look at how we work in Lagos State; it is the best way. Lagos State government has been working with the legislature without any problem. Now that we have progressives at the centre, it would be better.
The Federal Government is being advised to remove oil subsidy. Is this not what should be kicked against?
Is there any oil subsidy before? What is the impact of oil subsidy to the people of Nigeria? The subsidy eventually lands in the pockets of individuals in the country. If the Federal Government can use the money for security, road construction, electricity and the refineries are working well, what concerns the people? The price of oil will also come down. Remember what happened when GSM initially came out, the SIM card was expensive; now it is cheap. Once we embark on local production of petroleum products, everything would come down. Let them use the money for oil subsidy to rejuvenate our refineries, it would create employment and money would change hands and the welfare of the people would be affected. Then, you would see that if the supply is more than demand, the price would come down. We should make up our minds if we really want change, but we need to sacrifice. The other time there was fuel scarcity, people were buying four litres of fuel for N2, 500 and they were still buying it.
There have been serious criticisms against many state governors over their inability to pay salaries. Many of them have not shown that they have ideas to sustain their states. How do you think they can resolve this challenge?
People are not being fair to the governors; you cannot take such things in isolation. You should trace the genesis; we found ourselves in this mess because we do not practise the principle of fiscal federalism. Once there is fiscal federalism, there would be a healthy competition amongst the states. If we practise true federalism, Lagos State can be of help to all other states in the region because whatever you take from the seaport and the airport would be enough for the state to help others and bail them out. Those, who have arable land would concentrate on agriculture because they would know that there is no where they could run to without doing that, then you would see industries springing up everywhere. Those who have arable lands like Ondo State, Osun State, Oyo State and Ogun State would give us raw materials for products and we would see serious development. But the Federal Government has totally taken over the resources of the country. All the resources we have should be given to us, what the Federal Government is taking is too much whereas the responsibilities of the state government are more than that of the Federal Government. There is no road that does not pass through one state or the other. Let the Federal Government concentrate on security, defence, international relations and diversify our economy to inculcate agriculture.
I’m sure you remember your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is now at the centre?
That was why I said that you don’t blame the present government, but the past governments. You would see what would happen now. Some people are saying that President Muhammadu Buhari is slow, we should be very careful. Do you want this man to rush and commit an error? The foundation has been bad, let us lay a good foundation for Nigeria. I will suggest that the Federal Government should bail the states out, it is not the fault of the state governments; not all states can be like Lagos State. In Lagos State, we have continuity, and you can see what is happening there. If Osun, Ogun and Oyo had been continually ruled by progressives, you would have seen what would have happened. We would not find ourselves in this mess. We have to give kudos to the Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. People may not understand him, although he is bouncing back in a nice way. He did not create what is happening now, and it is not only Osun State that is affected, other states are affected. Why lay much emphasis on Osun State?
What is happening to the list of commissioner-nominees of Lagos State?
Have you not seen work going on? I just pray all other states are like Lagos State, our civil servants are highly educated, they are productive and they have been exposed to lots of training. As I talk to you, there is continuity in the state; Ayobo/Ipaja Road is being constructed. Before the departure of the last government, the project was stopped, but that work is going on now. A new government has to be careful; you just don’t employ people whose capacity you don’t know. You have to get security reports on them. The State House of Assembly was inaugurated on June 8, so we need to be patient with the government.
We thought Governor Ambode would hit the ground running by appointing Commissioners and cabinet members…
You are right, but you journalists would complain if he employs wrong people to work with him. It is just like road construction, it is not when you see workers on site that work starts; a lot of things happen behind the scene. So, a lot of work is being done; when it is time you would say that Lagos State is known for integrity and hardwork and you would see what the people would do.