Alhaji Ganiyu Kola Egunjobi is the Executive Chairman of Agege Local Government area of Lagos State. In this interview with select journalists, he speaks on financial and administrative autonomy bills for councils, his administration’s achievements and other sundry issues.
The financial and administrative autonomy bills for local government are two of the 44 bills the National Assembly transmitted to State Assemblies for consideration, are you against or for it?
I have been an advocate of an independent local government not tied to the aprons of state governments. It is not for the sake of welding influence as council authority but you know any privilege in law would come with responsibility. Am sold on them as a result of the immense benefits. If you pay peanut, you get monkeys, best described the current situation in the local government. We could do better if there is a recalibration, which are the prayers of the two bills. We have the potentials for better service delivery if we have financial and administrative autonomies. It means we would be able to maximize our capacity to generate revenue and our share of the monthly allocation would come directly to us. “To whom much is given”, they say “much is expected.” We would be in better position to deliver top class social and economic infrastructure. It’s important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that authority at the council is the closest to the people and know where the shoe pinches the generality of the people. Am convinced the preponderance of the State House of Assemblies are in support of the two bills and getting the imprimatur of two-third or 24 of assemblies will be a cakewalk.
Local authority like its states and federal counterparts has not done well in Nigeria. Would it not amount to more resources and responsibility in the hands of persons perceived by the public to be incapable of rendering responsible governance if the bills sail through?
It would be an error in judgment to tar everybody with the same brush and conclude that all public office holders have failed to deliver on promise. Lagos State since the time of the national leader of our great party, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as governor, has been the ground zero of serious development in Nigeria. As we speak, it has the fourth-highest GDP in Africa and currently in the top ten of world’s fastest growing cities and urban areas. Ditto, some of the councils in the state. Here in Agege, particularly under my administration we are doing our bit. We are in the process of delivering seven health centres across all the constituencies. Right now, we have four on the ground and in few days’ time we will complete the construction of two new ones and equip it. We operate free school shuttle service for pupils of public schools, which has helped to scale back dropouts and truancy among pupils in the council area. We also distributed thousands of chairs, desks and uniforms to pupils in our public primary schools. Our intervention in infrastructure include: construction of classes in those schools, several roads with drainages, sank boreholes across all the constituencies and provided generator sets to power them. The human capital in our area has really shot up due to my administration’s deliberate efforts. We achieved this by upgrading the council’s vocational training centre and added seven different skill acquisition units. Thousands of youths who graduated from the centre are empowered with tools required in their respective fields to start out their businesses. Equally, we have been of great support to petty traders and artisans through our periodic N100,000 business grant per person. Over two-thousand persons have benefited from the scheme. We understand that the biggest room, is the room for improvement but you must also agree with me that Rome was not built in a day and a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step. We have made big strides in several areas including the health sector where we also made provision for emergency with the acquisition of ambulance buses.
Despite all you reeled out as the achievements of your administration, there’s no doubt that insecurity is high in Agege, what is your administration doing to arrest the situation?
It’s a sad reality that insecurity is a national problem in Nigeria today and no part of the country is spared of criminals and immune to crimes. We have our own share mostly perpetrated by the Awawa cult group. It is something this administration is sad about. Truth be told the defective security model of the country is a disservice to local government administration in the maintenance of law and order in council areas. All crimes are local, be it murder, homicide, rape or robbery but security agencies are not under council’s control. The only thing we can do is to collaborate with them and share intelligence, which under my government we are doing in abundance including motivating operatives attached to stations domiciled in our area. Recall that two police stations at Isokoko and Pencinema were torched in the aftermath of the EndSARs protest. We offered one of our properties to officers displaced at Pencinema for temporary use as station and supported in the repair of that of Isokoko. Equally, efforts are in the direction of deradicalizing members of the Awawa cult group and other hoodlums. We have 250 of them on the council’s payroll, who we are encouraging to enroll in our vocational centre and learn one vocation or the others.
You are around 8 months into your second term in office where do you see Agege by the time you complete your tenure?
I think our achievements are there for everybody to see. We built one of the best legislative buildings for councillors in Africa, alongside a gym that is yet to be commissioned. The gym will be open to the general public. We are also providing free internet service at the council’s secretariat to both staff and visitors. We are in the process of completing the construction of a local museum with the view to create another platform for education in Agege, preserve its history and develop the art industry. We are about to complete a 1500-capacity event centre. In recognition of the great works we are doing, I have bagged several awards including Leadership Excellence Award from National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NATIP). “The reward for work well done is more work,” apology to late American basketball player and coach, Will White. Am not ready to slow down. We still intend to do more by building a recreation centre with a green area at Akilo where illegal buildings and shanties were recently demolished by the state government. In addition, we are planning a shopping mall elsewhere in the council area among others.
Apart from being a council chairman, you hold various chieftaincy titles and was recently conferred with the title, Balogun Woro of Oke-Ona Egbaland. Is it an apt remark to say you an aficionado of culture and traditions?
I could not agree less, yes I’m a Yoruba culture buff, particularly that of Egbaland. But for your education, Balogun Woro is not a chieftaincy title. Egba’s history is replete with wars and warrior heroes. Woro is adulterated warrior. I was just selected as the representative of Oke-Ona at the 2022 Lisabi day festival. Other parts, Ake, Owu and Gbagura also had their own Balogun Woros. You see as Africans, we owe ourselves the duty of preserving our cultures, traditions and languages and ensure they don’t go into extinction. Not for ego sake but the fact that the near-total erosion of our values as Africans is our bane. The cultural values of a community affect its economic development but we are at a loss in Nigeria because we have abandoned ours for that of the West. I don’t think acquisition of western education or that of Abrahamic religions should stop us from promotion of our high ideals and beliefs just like the Asians. Culture affects economy in no small ways. Culture and economics play major roles in International Relation which am currently studying at the Masters level in Lagos State University. In fact there’s cultural economics, a branch of economics that studies the relation of culture to economic outcomes. The failure of Africa as evidenced by abject poverty ravaging the continent is a function of the continent’s deviation from the paths God designed for the blacks. We are like the biblical lost sheep.