By Oki Samson, Trek Africa Newspaper.
Provides palliatives to people of Somolu over three series
Says: ‘Lagos is the economic barometer of the nation’, deserves special status
Declares Gov. Sanwo-olu is not ‘Mr. Governor’ but ‘Dr. Governor’
Of the 36 state parliaments in Nigeria, the Lagos House of Assembly is probably the most vibrant, active and progressive. One of the movers and shakers in the state legislature is Hon. Rotimi E. Olowo, the member of the Lagos House of Assembly representing Somolu constituency 1. Currently the Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, the highly cerebral lawmaker is making huge marks in helping to fashion forward-looking legislations that will advance the economic outlook of Lagos.
Noted for his acumen and excellence in many positions in the private sector, the Honorable set sail into public office in 2007 and the rest as they say is history. He has equally demonstrated shrewdness in managing affairs in the public sphere.
Hon. Olowo has also been actively involved in bringing succor to the people of Somolu Constituency 1 during this COVID-19 lockdown. This kind gesture has been widely praised in many quarters among the citizenry and the media. The parliamentarian keenly advocates for special status to Lagos as he considers the state ‘the economic barometer of the nation’.
These and more he shared in this special interview with Trek Africa Newspaper.
Trek Africa: How have you been reaching out to your constituency in this trying time?
Hon. Olowo: In as much as we believe that the ability to contain the pandemic is predicated on our people staying home because it is highly contagious. It is not easy for people who earn their living daily to stay at home when there are no palliatives or stimulus package to make them stay at home. It’s being very difficult but the Lagos State Government has done its bit by providing palliatives.
I, as a representative, have also thought it wise to complement the efforts of the state government. I started first by fumigating the environment. I did this for about two days and I also went out to give solace to the vulnerable, the elderly, the widowed and those that have no means of livelihood. I relate with them, I empathize with them. The third form of support I am giving is the one I call ‘mega support’ giving them food and money. We have gone to Fadeyi to do that with two buses – one for the elderly and the other to be shared by zones. Another project is to feed 1000 a day for seven days. But if the lockdown continues, we will have to extend that gesture. The stimulus package will still continue in other wards simultaneously with the feeding project. With this, a large chunk of Somolu people will have benefitted.
I want to crave the indulgence of notable men in Somolu to complement this effort because we cannot allow our people to die. The right to life is inalienable and it must be protected. This is the time that the poor need us the most. Give out sacrificially. If you don’t give, you will secure the wrath of God. Let’s do this so that this calamity can pass over.
Trek Africa: Are you doing this along party line?
Hon. Olowo: The first set of palliatives I did was for the elderly and the vulnerable. The second series I gave a part to the party across the eight wards and the other part to residents of Somolu. I trek Somolu because I know that how I can eavesdrop on conversations to really know what is happening in the communities. The third series goes to the widows, pregnant women and the mothers. It is not to the party at all.
Trek Africa: How has the Federal Government fared in your estimation?
Hon. Olowo: If the Federal Government is thinking of giving stimulus, they must do it in such a way that it is effective. Many people don’t have bank accounts. So it is either they go through the Local Government structure or use the respective constituencies. If you could use your money to help people, surely if you get support from the other quarter, you will use it for your people’s benefits. Federal Government should be more responsive and responsible at this time. It is the poor that vote, it is time to reciprocate. The rich don’t come out to vote. The Federal Government should not do selective response for an area to the detriment of others. It should not be by land size but by population.
For me, Lagos is the most populous in Nigeria. So we should use the population to determine the scale of response to each state. What you will give to Lagos cannot be the same for Ogun or Niger state. We learnt that some people are already getting the stimulus package of the Federal Government but Lagos has not felt anything. More so, if the Federal Government has given a directive to Lagos for lockdown then it should also make provision for the people. The state cannot do it alone. The 10billion given is only for medical support to fight the pandemic, not a stimulus package.
Lagos State is the economic barometer of the nation; you cannot afford to play with the state. How do you want to send money to someone you don’t know through BVN. There is also a lot of fraud associated with BVN as some people have BVN in different names. The way forward is for it to get to the downtrodden using the structure on the ground. Send the money through the states and the state to the local government, the LG is the closest to the people. the local government knows the number of streets there. For example, Somolu has 232 streets, we know the longest, we know the shortest, we know where we have many old people, we know where we have many rich people e.g. Fola Agoro. Places like Efon-Alaaye have many old people. We that we are on the ground here know where it pinches and we know where to direct such stimulus as against this cosmetic support that will not go down well with our people. This is superficial. It is unthinkable that they spent over N2tr.
Trek Africa: Are you advocating for special status for Lagos?
Hon. Olowo: Obviously yes! It is overdue. New York is enjoying that status. I see no reason why Lagos will generate about 65% of economic activities in Nigeria and will not enjoy that status. Lagos is a replica of Nigeria because we have all nationalities in Nigeria here. If Lagos has about 24 million people which accounts for about 10% of Nigeria’s population, I see no reason why Lagos can’t have 10% special status from the Federation Account. I think it is time. Not only that, they left liability in Lagos and took away assets. National Theatre, Federal secretariat Ikoyi, and 1004 estate, they refuse to give to us. These are facilities that suppose to add value, but now they are liabilities, that is where we have miscreants and hoodlums reside. They collect royalties from the port. The must give Lagos 10% special status, Lagos belongs to Nigeria, Nigeria belongs to Lagos. If they want the economy of Nigeria to go greater, it becomes mandatory to give Lagos special status.
Trek Africa: How have you been adding value to the youth in your constituency?
Hon. Olowo: I believe in the youths for I am a youth at heart. We have taken many through vocations like sewing, barbing for about three times. I have gotten cars for more than 30 so that they can use it as Uber. I have assisted some others to get jobs as teachers and in LIRS. I believe in Somolu. I empathise with Somolu, I do not sympathise with Somolu
Trek Africa: Your people have returned you to the House many times, what is governance to you?
Hon. Olowo: Governance is to use one’s office to influence development to one’s community. It could be physical, social or even stomach infrastructure as popularized by Gov. Ayodele Fayose. When Fayose was saying it, I never knew a time like this will come when a pandemic will not allow an average Lagosia to eke a living and they will have to depend on stomach infrastructure.
So governance covers all areas. Sometimes I have to buy books for students, help the physically challenged, influence public works to repair roads. If you walk through streets like Fadipe, Eyiowuawi, Salami, Olabiran and Odubanjo, you can see ‘small London’ there, well illuminated at night which aids what I call night economy. People can buy food in the night and security is assured because the place is well-illuminated. These are the things that I do which please my people and they say you can go as many times as possible and I have never taken it for granted. And that is why you see me go round sweating in the wards to ensure that people needs are ameliorated.
Trek Africa: What do you have to say about late Abba Kyari?
Hon. Olowo: It is quite unfortunate that we lost that gentleman. He is an intellectual and a no-nonsense man. To my own knowledge, he has been supportive of this government and is a man you cannot just push aside. We will miss him. May God grant him Aljannah Firdaus and give his family the fortitude to bear the loss.
Trek Africa: What do you have to say to the Governor?
Hon. Olowo: I will admonish the Governor to continue the good works. He has done tremendously; I don’t call him ‘Mr. Governor’, I call him Dr Governor. I will just admonish him to use the structure to provide more to Lagosians. Maybe look at four food vendors in the award to feed nothing less than 100,000 in a local government in a day. That will make people sit down at home so we can contain the pandemic in the state.