May 30, 2012 – The Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, in this interview stresses the failure of the Federal Government to meet the yearnings of Nigerians as the country celebrates her 13th Democracy Day
Residents of Lagos State can feel the impact of democracy with what is on ground now. How would you compare this at the federal level?
Honestly, that is one topic I don’t like to dwell on because we are living in two different worlds. But I can understand that the Federal Government has a larger room to mess up and get away with it.
Lagos is rather compact, we know ourselves. What you can do and get away with at the federal level, whether at the executive or legislative arm, you can’t get away with such here. How many times have you seen the President this year, apart from seeing him on the television and how many times have you been in close proximity with the Governor of Lagos State, not on the television but physically? How many times have you met with the Senate President or Speaker of the House of Representatives this year and how many times have you had the opportunity of being really close and touching the Speaker of Lagos State? So, these are things that really count when you are talking about performance or non-performance.
Don’t forget that this is Lagos and home of about 50 to 70 per cent of all professionals in Nigeria; this is the home of the Nigerian media and crème of Nigerian society and everybody centres his attention on Lagos. So, I don’t think a reasonable person who is saddled with responsibilities in Lagos has any escape route. Where do you go? The media are there watching you, your people are also around you. From here to Epe takes an hour and that is the extreme side of the state. From here to Badagry is also the same and is the other extreme side of the state. So you don’t have more than five or 10 minutes of dodging before they catch up with you.
It will not be fair to start comparing the two because we all know that the Federal Government is still snoring like I do when I am so tired. Somebody would need to wake them up.
Our democracy is already 13 years old. Would you say your expectations of this democracy have been met so far?
Sincerely, I am a very ambitious person when it comes to expectations. I also tend to be optimistic all the time, but I must confess that the Federal Government in particular could have done a lot more to win the confidence of Nigerians and to make the citizens really feel happy for the democratic dispensation.
I don’t know what the problem is over there, but even simple things that a mere fool can get done is not being done. To construct roads, to maintain existing roads are some of the simplest things to do when the money is there and the money has always been there for the Federal Government. I wouldn’t understand why the Sagamu-Benin Road remains a death-trap till today; Lagos-Ibadan Road is nothing to write home about, from here to Abuja is like going from one end of the world to the other. It shouldn’t be so.
To construct roads, what does it take? It doesn’t take nuclear engineering or super intelligence. Anybody, any fool can have money and call on construction people to construct roads and I think with the size of the Federal Government’s budget, Nigeria should be awash with roads by now at least, not even with some more advanced means of transportation, but roads! Anybody can construct it! It is only here that I see that we are not able to do anything. If we cannot talk about good roads, why are we talking about energy? Look at the number of trillions of naira that have been expended and there is still no light. It is painful.
Former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, was recently quoted as saying that if the call for state police is granted, it would hasten the disintegration of the country. How would react to this?
I think he is thinking mechanically. He is just being technical about it. Many people forget about the fact that the string that binds Nigerian nationalities together to make the country a nation is beyond the comprehension of most of us mere mortals. I think it is just the work of God and has nothing to do with our ability to come together or live together or love one another or anything. Love does not even exist among us, even in our homes. If you go to your own father’s home and you look deep, you would know that love is not there. Some of your own uncles, aunts and so on are not even happy about your progress. People are no more their brothers’ keepers in the country and this does not have to do with any particular ethnic group.
When you look at it, and like I often say, the scripture told us that God loves the Israelites, but from what I have observed, I know that the Israelites may be children of God, but Nigerians are the first-born children of God. If you look at what we go through and what we do and get away with in this country, a smaller, tiny nation does not get through a quarter of it before the people revolt. But over here, we just overlook it.
Ok, if God does not love us, how come that with the illness of (Umaru) Yar’Adua and his eventual death and the powers not wanting the then Vice President to take over as the Constitution stipulates, who were the ones who shouted? Are you telling me that the Bayelsans were the ones who got Jonathan to power? What’s their voting power? Don’t forget that at the last minute, we know those who spoke and the nation shook and came to its senses. Just with one headline in the newspapers, we saw the great change. And even if we all know that the last election wasn’t fair as expected because rigging may have taken place massively, one thing we all know is that, somehow, Dr. Jonathan got more votes across the nation than any other candidate. Even here in Lagos, he won the election. He definitely won, Lagosians voted for him and so it was across the nation. Now, what does that tell you? That same elections may have led to a civil war. From across the divide, people just said: ‘no, let him do it.’ And they gave it to him. Whether he is now doing what they expected of him or not is something else.
We do know, however, that in some other places, with the strong feeling against his candidature, we could have run into trouble, but God loves Nigeria more than He loves any other nation of the universe.
How would you advise Nigerians at this critical period in the country?
We need to be more Godly. Here, I’m not talking about going to church or mosque, I am talking of being Godly from within, being honest with ourselves, being loving, brotherly and above all, each and every one of us owes it a duty to be good citizens. You don’t hide behind any form of shield to do evil and then tell the world that you are a born-again.
To build Nigeria and make it a nation of the dreams of the founding fathers, each one of us owes it a duty to be a good citizen and when I say a good citizen, I mean a real good citizen. Don’t cover me when you know I’m doing evil that can harm the nation, the state or any other person. Don’t say because a person is your brother, you don’t want to get him exposed. People who are committing the atrocities here and there are known to all of us, they are not masquerades. They are humans, men and women like you and me, but how do they get away with it so easily? Why are we not asking right questions from our so-called leaders? Why are we not demanding what we are supposed to demand from our elected representatives and officials? Why are we selfish about these things to the extent that everyone wants to get something just for himself and his family while forgetting the larger society? So if you can get yours from Mr. Speaker, for yourself, then you don’t care if he doesn’t do what he was supposed to do for the rest of his life. You just get away with yours and that’s all. But I can assure you that with such attitude, we are going nowhere, but if we all resolve to be good citizens, that will be very good for us. We are humans and we make mistakes and God even forgives us for as many times as we ask for forgiveness, but the building of a nation is not the job of one man. When you shout concerning what the President, Governor, Speaker are doing wrong, you should also ask yourself how much you have put into things like even your own job to ensure that you are doing the very best for the nation. It is for each of us to resolve to be a better person. We must all decide to be global change agents because when you change the way things are done in your own environment, it changes the entire world around you.