Campaigns for successor; says an alternative to APC Government in Lagos State is to experiment with life and future of Lagosians
· "Lagos is too important to Nigeria, to Africa, across the world, to be entrusted to those who want to experiment with it", he says
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, Wednesday advanced reasons why change of leadership is expedient at the national level saying Nigeria is too important both globally and continentally to be left in the hands of those who play politics with the lives of her citizens.
Addressing the quality gatherings of members of the Yoruba Tennis Club and their Island Club counterparts at their respective Club Houses in Onikan, Governor Fashola said the national government, formed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has failed to provide its most important responsibility, which according to him, is the security of life and property of citizens and protection of the territorial integrity of the nation.
The Governor, who noted that Nigerians handed over a whole country to the ruling party in 2011, expressed regrets that the same party is now returning to Nigerians to ask for another leadership mandate with only part of the country, having lost some parts to insurgents.
Noting that the Party has reneged in its primary duty to secure the territorial integrity of Nigeria, the Governor warned, "They are returning now to ask for our votes with only a part of the country that we gave them because some parts of the country have been lost to people we didn't elect. So, in that most important responsibility, they have dropped the ball". He added, "That is the alternative that is being offered you in Lagos. The choice is yours".
Governor Fashola, who expressed dismay that the party has politicized everything, noted that nothing is too much for the party to sloganize about, recalling the way the national government played politics with the very sensitive issue of the more than 200 abducted secondary school girls in Chibok in Borno State.
The Governor also recalled that the PDP-controlled Federal Government has also orchestrated about how it made the country "the biggest economy in Africa", wondering why smaller economies could provide electricity for their people while the self acclaimed "biggest economy" could keep her people in darkness.
"Please ask them why smaller economies could get petrol easily for their people and why we have to queue for hours and days to get petrol in a biggest economy in Africa", the Governor said, also wondering why the so-called biggest economy in Africa is trying to buy arms from a smaller economy to secure the country.
He pointed out that the nation's currency, the Naira, is now trading for N180 per Dollar. While the South African Rand is trading at R11 to one United States Dollar adding that what matters is the quality of the life and prosperity of the citizens and not the size or number being bandied by the PDP-led government.
To buttress his point on the little importance the Federal Government places on the economy of the country, Governor Fashola tasked the people to figure out the last time the President went to present the Annual Budget in the National Assembly, an obligation which, according to him, is a constitutional one.
The Governor also noted that the Federal Government also played politics with the Ebola Virus Disease containment as it almost turned the very grave situation into a political trophy, "even though they knew little about how the battle was fought and won in Lagos which was the epicentre".
Conversely, Governor Fashola said, the All Progressives Congress controlled Lagos State Government has done well at many fronts including the Education, Security, Power and the financial sector in spite of the very precarious economic and security situation in the country.
On Education, the Governor expressed pride that the public confidence in public schools have risen tremendously pointing out that a recent poll result on the issue returned 53 percent of Lagosians preferring to have their children in State owned primary schools as against 47 percent that opt for private schools while 69 percent as against 31 percent now prefer to have their children in State owned secondary schools.
He said in spite of the average West African Examination Council (WAEC) results, if the Lagos State result is isolated to stand on its own, the State has moved from seven percent pass for students who obtained five credits at a sitting in 2007 to 45 percent in 2014, Lagos Standing alone.
Attributing the success recorded in this area to the support and taxes of the residents, Governor Fashola told the audience, "When you understand the ratio of private schools to State schools, which is about four private schools to one State owned school, you will appreciate the enormity of the task we undertake. But we are happy to undertake this challenge because Lagos is working with your support and with your taxes".
In the area of Security, the Governor said the poll results also showed that 77 percent of Lagosians now say they feel secure while 89 percent say crime has been greatly reduced, added that this is in spite of the increasing global crime index and Nigeria's security challenges.
He expressed gratitude to the Board members of the State Security Trust Fund particularly its Executive Secretary, Mr. Fola Arthur-Worrey, who, he said, have continued to provide the institutional capacity to keep the Rapid Response Squad going, adding, "We have been inventive, we have been determined and we have been unyielding as far as crime fighting in Lagos State in concerned".
Governor Fashola said although the national government has continually given excuses and indulged in blame trading about failure to deliver Power, his administration has lit up public spaces in the State "in spite of this national abdication of responsibility", citing the Yoruba and Island Clubs as examples of such public spaces where operational costs have been taken off by the provision of Power through the several Independent Power Plants built by his administration across the State.
"So when people come and say that there is no Power, they only speak of their inefficiency and incapacity to deliver Power. Electricity, as an invention, is over 100 years old so there is no excuse for Nigerians to continue to live in darkness", the Governor said adding that businesses in Lagos now run late into the nights.
On the Financial Sector, Governor Fashola said the State's the financial indices remain stable adding, "It is the only State in the Federal Republic of Nigeria that still enjoys an A in positive outlook in Fitch rating.
"I am proud because many sectors of our national life show progress and results of the hard and dedicated work of the Public Servants of Lagos State. The unemployment index in Lagos State is eight percent compared to the national index of 24 percent; and this is in spite of our size because this is the home of every Nigerian", the Governor said.
Urging Lagosians to ensure retention of the APC Government in the State in 2015, Governor Fashola thanked members of the two clubs for their cooperation and support adding, "You have worked with us, you have sacrificed, you have counseled, you have suggested and we have taken our destiny in our hands to show that in spite of the odds, nothing is impossible when the people of Lagos are determined to do it".
"I could go on and on and on; but we are all living witnesses of what we have built here. You are the ones who chose the change that you now experience. Some people told you then that we were overtaxing you. But those who said so have now turned around to say that they are going to increase VAT. They have come back to where we started from", the Governor said.
He noted that Lagosians have the responsibility to keep the change that has been achieved so far adding, "You will do so with your votes; that is your Power. Please ensure that you go and collect your Voters' Card in order to protect what you have built in Lagos. Lagos is too important to Nigeria, it is too important to Africa, it is too important across the world, to be entrusted to those who want to experiment with it".
Urging Lagosians to vote for the APC gubernatorial candidate for Lagos, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, Governor Fashola declared, "Our Party has held successful and well-organized gubernatorial primaries and the most successful candidate, has emerged as our flag bearer. Almost all of the aspirants in that contest have worked in our Government and they have contributed to the progress we now have".
The Governor, who said Ambode served with him for six years as an Accountant General, asserted, "He comes to the table with a lot of experience because he was part of the process that built what we have achieved. He understands how government works, he will not be learning from Day One."
He continued, "You should elect him as my successor because he is very experienced. The alternatives to him would be an experiment, an experiment with your lives, an experiment with your businesses and an experience with the future of your children".
Thanking members of the Clubs, Governor Fashola expressed pride his administration had worked with them to explode many myths adding, "I am proud because Lagos is working. In spite of tumbling oil prices, Lagos is not in arrears of workers' salaries. We are still paying our workers' salaries and also add a bonus".
"This is not because we are not affected by the revenue losses. But we are able to keep going because a Party and a Government that know what they are doing manage the affairs of the State. You and I and these men and women behind me achieved it together so it is a collective effort", he told the audiences.
In his welcome remarks earlier, Chairman of the Yoruba Tennis Club, Mr.Babaseyi Joseph, regretted the downturn in the nation's economy and the quality of life of Nigerians saying in spite of the problem of Boko Haram "with no solution in sight", the nation's economy has remained fragile as the Naira continues its nosedive.
Describing the fall in the price of crude oil as a strong indication that serious effort should be made for the diversification of the Nigerian Economy for sustainable development, the Chairman, who expressed confidence that this is achievable, cited the Horn-free Day declared by the State Government saying several individuals have significantly reduced the noise level in Lagos State by sounding their horns only when it is absolutely necessary.
"If this can be achieved, then why can't we all work together to ensure that we move away from the dependence on one major commodity, that is crude oil. In achieving this let us all work together to move the country forward. The country belongs to all of us," he said.
Chairman of Island Club, Prince Ademola Dada, in his welcome remarks, described Governor Fashola's eight years in the saddle as Governor of Lagos State as a glorious tenure in the Lagos House and prayed that whoever would succeed him would share his philosophy for the people of Lagos State.
Recalling that when the Governor assumed duties in 2007, not many people, especially those in the establishments, gave him a chance to succeed, the Chairman, however, added, "But you have performed creditably well matching up chains of achievements in all spheres. Your enormous capacity for work astounded many watchers of public affairs. You followed the footsteps of your predecessor keenly and brought governance to the grassroots".
Also present at the Yoruba Tennis Club were the APC Vice-Presidential candidate, Professor Yemi Osibajo, the Lagos State APC Gubernatorial Candidate, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, Vice Chairman of the Club, Mr. Ayodele Martins, members of the State Executive Council including Secretary to the State Government and APC Deputy Governorship Candidate, Dr. (Mrs.) Oluranti Adebule, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba, among others while at the Island Club were former Governors of Lagos State, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Brigadier Raji Rasaki and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, as well as other top government functionaries and members of the Organized Private Sector.