20th July, 2011
Â Razak Balogun, a medical doctor by profession and the Chief Whip of the Lagos State House of Assembly, relives his experience with the Northerners while asking for the sack of IGP, Hafiz Ringim
How do you react to the state of insecurity currently being witnessed in the country?
Well, it is a known fact that the dimension that the insecurity in the country is taking is very worrisome to a lot of us because where there is bombing in every direction, you need to panic. This is a new dimension, not something we are used to. Then you have a police system that is very dysfunctional as evidenced by the recent bombing of the police headquarters. What this tells us is that if a police headquarters can be hit, then everyone of us is at the mercy of God. So, Iâ€™m really, really worried. You know Lagos is the main melting point and this is where the wealth is created in the country and so, if we have issues of national distortions like that, it becomes very disturbing for us. I know that the Lagos State government is security conscious and has continued to support and encouraged the police commands, but you can still see the spate of robbery attacks in the state. However, it may be due to the recent elections that were just held. We even have it recently that the opposition tried to bring in hoodlums with guns and cutlasses into the state, but the state government has been on top of the situation. I think in Lagos State, we are making progress, but generally at the federal level, it has not been impressive at all and in my view, an Inspector-General of Police that under his nose, a place like that could be burnt, has no business being the head of the police in this country. The situation also calls for the decentralisation of the police. We need state police now. It is not about whether the governors would use it for their personal benefits, it is a matter of necessity. This is a federation and every structure in a true federalism must have its own police, its own prisons and its own judiciary. In countries where we borrowed this federal structure, it is like that. In America, for instance, the states have their own police which have their jurisdiction and could as a result police effectively. To me, the security of this country is very worrisome and I hope the president realises that and does something urgent about it.
Government is trying to invite members of the Boko Haram sect for a dialogueâ€¦
You see, my personal view is that we always have this fire brigade approach to issues and in our abilities to get things done. We donâ€™t look at the roots of problems before we start tackling them. You cannot start to give amnesty to every sect that tries to show its discord or discontentment on issues. You must focus on where the problem started. If you give the Boko Haram amnesty, you are giving the Niger Delta militants amnesty, so a group emerges in Edo State and you would give amnesty, another one would emerge in Kogi and you would give amnesty. That is not what should happen in a decent society. It is very unfortunate. I attended the University of Maiduguri, a place I remember with good memories because at the time I was schooling there, it was called the â€˜home of peace.â€™ It was a lovely place where the people embraced all visitors. You can now see what is happening there. What this must tell you is that there are fundamental issues that government has not addressed. This is not a matter of amnesty. The president must understand that amnesty is not the solution, but a deep look into the root cause of the activities. Letâ€™s then sit down as a country, see why these things happened and channel a course. If you look back in our country, we never had this issue some 10 to 15 years ago. So if it is coming up now, it shows you that there is a disagreement in the system, there are some things the people are agitated about and they want urgent solutions to. The northerners, from experience and from my living with them for over 20 years, are very peace-loving, but have taken the law into their hands because of the long years of suppression. This feudal system they have in that part of the country where somebody would say he is introducing Sharia law, then he would not practise the law, but go to England and enjoy life while the people are wallowing in poverty also had a role to play in it. The people are now bold enough to even look into the face of the Sultan and say â€˜no, we donâ€™t want this any more.â€™ That is the fundamental root cause of what is happening in the North, because, normally, northerners do not have problems relating with people, they are warm and honest.
Lagos State recently witnessed a devastation caused by flood, what is the problem with the state in this regard?
To start with, the geographical location of Lagos State is below the sea level and so the general effect of global warming and other related phenomena are the cause of this flooding. Weâ€™ve never had floods and rains as high as this in the past and this is a global thing because it is happening in other parts of the world. But coming down to Lagos, it is a very unfortunate thing, but natural occurrence that we may have very little control over. I know the government over the years has spent enormous amount of money on the environment, especially on our drainage system. Before this torrential rain, we did not have much problems with flooding. I come from Surulere which is known to always be flooded whenever it rained, but it became a thing of the past before this recent incident. Apart from this natural thing that we may not be able to control and which government is trying to do something about, we must again look at the practice of our people. This has to do with the culture of indiscipline among them. I sympathise with them over the recent incident, but I have always told them, especially in my constituency, that whenever government implements a project in the area, such should be protected as if it is theirs because at the end of the day, it is we, the locals who would suffer it if anything goes wrong. The habit of throwing garbage into the canal, throwing pieces of water sachets, which ordinarily are not degradable into the canal, is very bad. If you throw water sachet somewhere, for 10 years, it would remain there. So the challenge now arises whether to ban the product or let it continue. The practice of our people is frustrating. You would see people refill canals and build on them. Sometimes you would see a huge channel coming only for the channel to be reduced because somebody has reduced it to build a house. These are things that are beyond government, but people donâ€™t realise that the constitution guarantees that we have responsibilities as citizens of Nigeria. So it is not everything that happens to us we need to call government attention to. The government must take the bull by its horn against these acts of indiscipline, where you deprive people because of your own personal interest. Government must enforce the law and break down areas that have been blocked to free flow of water. The governor addressed us recently about his plans concerning the drainage system and canals in the state. I am aware that System Two in Somolu is being constructed; System Five in my area that leads from Surulere to Orile-Ignamu is also under construction and moving so fast. I am sure that by Godâ€™s grace, they will be completed by the end of this year.
How do you assess the cabinet recently constituted by the Federal Government?
I always have this approach of sidon look and wonâ€™t judge a book by its cover. I do not know the stuff they are made of, but I think even if you bring the best brains, they must look forward to the leadership which is expected to show the direction. The president must show that there is a will. He must show the direction and when he does this, we can achieve a lot. Look at the power situation for instance. I am a student of Science and I know that having power generation is not rocket science. But is it not ironic that in our annual budget, we appropriate close to N1 trillion on defence and security adviser, the Navy and Airforce and you just give about N100 billion to the power sector. It means we are not prepared and we will keep going round in cycles. Some people even argue that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the best for the job, but I think otherwise. You can get the likes of Okonjo-Iweala from the World Bank, but the dynamics of running a government in Nigeria is different in as much as you must have to meet the president for everything you have to do. You will not have a free hand and be able to perform. Letâ€™s just keep our fingers crossed and watch the president because it is about him and not the ministers.