Otunba Bestman Jumbo-Nze, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with EMEKA NZE in Abuja, he says though not an appointee of Lagos state government, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu heeds and adopts his alternative security measures to reduce unemployment rid the state of crime.
As an Igbo,what do you do for Lagos state and how did you get entrenched in its political affairs?
I have lived all my life in Lagos, I was born in Lagos, did my primary school in Lagos, secondary school in Lagos, university in Lagos, all my work life has been in Lagos. So I’m a ‘Lagosian.’ I’m an Otunba in Lagos, a traditional title conferred on me in Lagos. I’m an APC man, I worked closely with Fashola when he was governor. Don’t forget my background is marketing communications. I also have skills in Alternative Security, same way i have skills in guerilla media. All the things I do are of interest to the state and beyond Lagos to other states where I have also delivered services. I do not work for the state government, I’m contributing my own little quota from outside to a state (Lagos) I love so much and to a man who became governor (Sanwo-Olu) and I watched from far and have seen that this man is open to ideas and he has encouraged suggestions I have made. He encouraged all the places I have raised people for rehabilitation and reorientation, to contribute their quota to the development of the state in the area of security and other ways. Once he looks at you and sees that what you are doing is good, he will support you.
When you talk about alternative security what do you mean precisely?
Alternative Security is the simple basic security, using the very rudiments of the society, the people you call idiots, the people you call wasted, the people you call ‘area boys’, they can be useful. When I did my course on Alternative Security in South Africa, I found out that in the KJB, MOSSAD, CIA, every person is a security personnel watching the next man. So most of these people in their neighbourhood, I get them together and put them under our social political group called ‘Team Nigeria’. We give them daily orientation, many of them have come out of crime and they are now the ones chasing the criminal. We use them as alternative security to support the regular security that you have. When we identify the criminals, we give information to the police who take over from there. Doing that has saved a lot of these boys and girls and they are back to the society contributing their own quota.
At what point did Lagosians decide to saddle the Sanwo-Olu with the responsibility of being the governor despite his young age?
Babajide Sanwo-Olu is someone that has been in the system all the while. He was the Commissioner of Establishment at a time, he was Special Adviser to former governor Babatunde Fashola, then up until he became governor, his last major assignment was the MD LSDPC. You know once you can handle a firm like the LSDPC, that means you are proven and tested. So he has been in the system and he understands Lagos very well.
As the governor of Lagos, what and what do you think he has achieved since he became governor?
The question is not whether he has performed, the question is where has he not performed? Because there is no aspect or any part of Lagos he has not touched. His deliveries, even in education, is so obvious that for once, I have seen people who said there is no need wasting money with their kids in private schools anymore because he has a sound Commissioner for Education, then he has another sound guy who is Special Adviser on Education, Tokunbo Wahaab, a very lovely, sound and exposed young man. In the area of transportation, you will see that the normal madness in Lagos occasioned by the gridlocks are being looked into seriously, where you have unnecessary roundabout, they are gone. When he came in, he succeeded in completing the overhead bridges that previous governments started, he made it a priority, just as he followed the steps of Buhari who when he came in decided to finish all the earlier administrations started, which was alien to our system. That was what Sanwo-Olu also did. You look at the area if waste management, he is really doing so much now. The dirt/wastes that we started seeing sometimes ago is fast gone because he also has a very sound guy who is heading the Lagos Waste Management Board, his name is Ibrahim Odumboni. If you talk about sports infrastructure, now the Super Eagles are back to Lagos, their traditional home, all because of his effort in that regard. He has also built a couple of independent power plants to boost trade and commerce. The hospitals are being refurbished on a regular basis. Like I said, the question is where hasn’t he performed? But you see, my admiration for the man Sanwo-Olu, is that he does all these things without fanfare, he’s not the garrulous type that wants to showcase everything, he’s so quiet, so reserved but seriously working.
Given his excellent performances so far, would you say he has escaped the pitfall of his immediate successor Ambode?
At the risk of sounding not objective, I will say far yes. You see after Tinubu as a governor in Lagos, Barrister Raji Fashola took over and continued from where Tinubu stopped and Tinubu was so proud of him, Lagos was proud of him and Nigeria was proud of him. But when Ambode came he had his own novel ideas, he had the things he wanted to do which he started but where he missed it I can’t really say. The issue was that he wasn’t following the blueprint of development which I’m not privy to. My only issue with Ambode is when God blesses you, you forgive anybody you think you have issues with, God has raised you. He was vindictive because I also suffered it when a couple of things I was doing for Lagos under Fashola he took them away from me because I was a Fashola loyalist. So I may not compare because Sanwo-Olu has set a new standard which is going to be too high for anybody to match
Everybody seems to be worried by the problem of flooding in Lagos, how would you advise the present government to tackle the issue?
Lagos is an Island, let’s take it, it’s surrounded by water, so it must always have issues of water and flooding, which some of the highly developed countries have not been able to find solutions to . But Lagosians are the ones to solve if not 50 per cent of the problem with flooding.Why did I say that? We need to develop a culture of not blocking the drainages, nylon, pure water bags, plastic kegs and soft drink bottles are often thrown into the drainages and those things hardly dissolve, they will just remain there. So we should develop that culture so that the gutters close to me I will ensure it’s not blocked. That would solve half of the problem. The Fashola government introduced a system that there is no road you will build without drainage. Drainages were part of the roads under Fashola but most of these drainages have been filled with substances in a show of indiscipline. Now that’s for the people. On the part of government, there was something under Fashola which my company was also part of. We call it distilling. While some of us were sweeping, some were packing the drainages, the gutters. That was the job given to some of us and we were doing it on a regular basis. Everyday we were distilling the drainages and gutters and that really helped a lot. It also created employment for a lot of people. I think the government is on it, they are in it. But I think that we should introduce that constant distilling of the environment and Lagosians should develop the habit of not blocking the drainages
At present, Nigeria is now battling insecurity, is Lagos safe?
Without sounding immodest, Lagos is the safest place in Nigeria now. Lagos is a liberated zone. When there is problem anywhere, people can easily run to Lagos and you will be safe. But when you say Lagos is safe, New York is safe but they still have crime, Johannesburg is safe, there are pockets of crimes everywhere in the world. Lagos is not immune to these pocket of crimes. Insecurity is non-existent in Lagos. When we look at insecurity relative to what we have in Nigeria now- the issue of banditry, herdsmen-farmers clash- it’s almost unheard of, It is inconsequential in Lagos and this is because the governor is also very proactive. He has been regularly funding the security apparatus of Lagos, regularly giving them materials to work and encouraging people like us who have street sense, who work with the grassroots to come and contribute in the area of alternative security, whereby we go to the neighbourhood and talk to people and everybody right now is getting involved in the security of their neighbourhood. The people you think are criminals, the people you think are idiots, we have rehabilitated so many of them and they are the ones now looking out for thieves to catch. Some of these are the innovations of the governor which some of us also have keyed into and it’s helping in the security of Lagos.
The #EndSARS protest unleashed mayhem in Lagos. How did the state recover from the destruction or do you still have some relics of that problem?
Lagos has not recovered but you see, we have a dynamic person in charge of affairs. The process of recovery has been very very fast. It would take us sometime to recover from the problem but the governor is doing so much and it pains are not being felt as people expected it to be. So they are working; everything is coming back to normal- the facilities, the infrastructure that was destroyed, the governor has been on top speed fixing them back.
What areas would you want the governor to concentrate attention in this last lap of his first tenure?
In governance, you must be seen to have made impact in all areas; you cannot just restrict yourself in one area. I love what he doing in education, I love what he’s doing in security. No matter what the governor does, if Lagos begins to have problem on insecurity people won’t see his efforts but I love the fact that he is not joking with security. With that alone, every other thing will fall into place, once you are safe, your property is safe and he is doing the most he can do in every other aspect of development. Now he also has a couple of things that would take the minds of the youth off vices and that’s what young people like us who have keyed into his plans are working on some things for him in the area of youth mobilisation.
How would you advise the governor to enforce environment neatness in Lagos?
If you do a relative comparison, where was Lagos years back and what is it today? From when Bola Ahmed Tinubu came and introduced this LAWMA things started changing. Fashola took it to another level entirely; Ambode also did his own with his ‘Vision Scheme’. Now we have Sanwo-Olu , LAWMA has been much more empowered, enforcement is on the increase now concerning environmental issues in Lagos. The young man in LAWMA is reaching out a lot. He might need to do a bit more public awareness to talk to Lagosians to take charge of their environment, take charge, get involved, correct the next person. It’s an orientation thing but on the part of government they are doing a lot and it’s so obvious that Lagos is better than it used to be.
To what extent has inter ethnic rivalry eaten deeply in Lagos state?
Even brothers of the same parents has rivalries. In Yoruba land you hear of Ife and Modakeke, In Anambra, you hear of Aguleri and Umuleri, you hear the proverbial joke of the Owerri and Mbaise man. So that is it. In the human affairs, there is bound to be conflict. But as pronounced as we see in Nigeria today, Lagos is blessed not to have the kind of ethnic rivalry that we see in other parts of Nigeria. Lagos is cosmopolitan, it’s a place where everybody feels proud that, at least, we have a place that everybody can easily run to when there is crisis. Lagos is such that, in most cases, you don’t even know who is an Igbo man, who is a Yoruba who is an Hausa man. Until this problem of ethnic polemics started we never knew our differences. During celebrations like Christmas, Sallah etc, we go to any house to eat. The Moslems would come to our house to eat during Christmas. That’s the Lagos that we knew, that’s the Lagos that we still know today and that’s the Lagos that we all must retain.
Should the case of Sanwo-Olu be like that of Ambode, would you want him to cross-carpet with a view of getting a second term?
His case cannot be like that of Ambode, Ambode is a different person, Sanwo-Olu is a different person in their psychological makeup, their humanity, both are different. Sanwo-Olu will be judged by key performance index. When you do an opinion poll on the performance of Sanwo-Olu, you would have an overwhelming positivity. I don’t think I have heard of any disloyalty of Sanwo-Olu with the powers that be in our politics in Lagos. I don’t think that Sanwo-Olu has this enemy like I talked about the vindictiveness of the other man. So I can say that Sanwo-Olu has earned a second term by virtue of his performance, by virtue of his loyalty, by virtue of his humanity. This is the most simple character that I have seen in the Nigerian politics.
There was this report of an opinion poll that placed Babajide Sanwo-Olu ahead of other five governors in their performances, do you think that report is a reflection of their performance index?
There were even part of the report that I queried where they said he came second or he came third because this is his first term and the other governors they rated him with are already doing their second term. Everywhere that Sanwo-Olu got credit, I would say you need to do a personal verification and that would blow your mind and one thing I can tell you on this is so that it doesn’t sound as if I’m a supporter of Sanwo-Olu, I will invite you to Lagos on a personal assessment drive then you form your opinion. The man has done extremely well.
First published in Blueprint Newspaper