There Is Anger In The Land

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Bisi Yusuf, a lawmaker in the Lagos State House of Assembly, known for his radical stance on matters concerning the state, in this interview, speaks on the challenges facing the country and environmental issues

Despite the massive enlightenment campaign by the Lagos State government against dirty environment, some residents have continued to dispose of their wastes indiscriminately. What is your reaction to this?

It is one thing for the state government to mean well for the people and quite another thing for the people to appreciate government effort and then carry out their responsibilities diligently. The Lagos State government is spending a lot of money on environmental issues especially with the flood that ravaged parts of the state sometime last year. The government is also focused on doing a lot to cushion the effect of climate change on the people. I cannot say this government’s effort is a failure because majority of the residents have complied with the directives, instructions and education from government. However, there are some stubborn ones and these are the ones spoiling everything.

I have a case like that. I was on my way somewhere recently and was driving in my car with my daughter when she drew my attention to a well-to-do man who parked his Mercedes Benz car and was evacuating refuse from the boot of his car on the side of the road in Ayobo-Ipaja area. Would you say this man has no money to pay for the services of PSP operators? Would you also say he is not enlightened enough? Here is a supposed reputable person like many others using that road, but he decided to deface the road and pass the effect on to innocent residents of the area.

For me to make sure that the community service that the state government has embarked on begins from that place, I reversed my car and made the man to clear all the refuse with the Mercedes Benz car. This included the ones he had dropped and the ones that were dropped by other people. The man, possibly a pastor, got his boot filled, I opened the back seat and he filled it up with refuse. The remaining refuse was loaded in the front seat. Only the driver’s space was left for him.

Again, people around should also learn to complement the effort of the government, because people would see that their neighbours are committing crimes and they would keep silent, forgetting that their silence is a kind of encouragement. If you are dumping refuse into the drains, you should know that the drain would be blocked and those around the vicinity would become the victims should anything happen. You can imagine that when I asked the man to start loading the refuse into his car, some people around started saying, ‘We saw him but felt there is nothing we could do about it.’ You could do a lot of things. A citizen could arrest another citizen where the latter is seen going against the laws of the land. The only thing is since they are not policemen; they should hand over anyone they arrest to law enforcement agents. When I apprehended the man, people gathered and they appreciated it.

In the world of crime, this is what is happening. Those people committing crimes and involving in groups like the Boko Haram are not ghosts. They are either tenants in houses or even landlords. That incident has now given those present at the scene the courage to monitor themselves and this is also what I advise every Nigerian who wants a better country for us all to do.

Don’t you think that the incident is enough for legislation against dumping of refuse indiscriminately?

I think there is legislation against environmental pollution. I even think there are a lot of laws relating to pollution of the environment. They only need better and proper enforcement. I keep saying that if you want to make a difference in the society, you must be prepared to step on many toes. When I confronted the man who dumped refuse, I remember one man who had a holy book in his hands begging me and I told him that if he really follows the injunctions of God in that book he was holding, he would not be begging me for the man, because there is nowhere it is written that people should constitute nuisance to others. There are laws and I know that the Ministry of the Environment would begin to apprehend such people.

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You have always warned Nigerian leaders of a revolution and recently we almost witnessed one…?

I started observing economic situations in the country since the past one and a half years. I saw that around the bus stops, people were no longer laughing and, instead it was anger that was beginning to register in their faces. People, out of the pent-up anger, began taking little things as big offence and fought easily. It got to a stage that when you see a man and a woman inside a vehicle laughing, you would immediately know that they are not man and wife, because if they a couple, they would definitely frown because they would be discussing the management of their home and other domestic issues.

After a brief study, I began to tell people that the country is not well and also started warning that people may react. Now, they have reacted and I have been vindicated. I told some of my friends that the oracle has spoken and the rest is now history. Now, I can say it is not over. What we have seen is just preliminary and a warning to the leadership of the country to tighten their belts. Wherever there is injustice, violence is always the end-product. You can imagine that in the country, people are eating what they see and not want they want and at that point, they are ready to fight you since they have been pushed to the wall and that is what we are beginning to witness today. I just pray that we do not witness the real fight of the commoner. We read Animal Farm, we also read Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickson and it is surprising that our leaders also read this and do not relate the incidents in the novels with real life. Our society sincerely needs a surgical operation, serious surgical operation and this must not catch us unaware, so we must be very careful.

It was only through God’s intervention we were able to sail through the recent incident. It is only God who can lead us aright.

The situation now seems to be too much for President Jonathan to handle…?

He can still learn if is prepared to learn. Let’s give him the benefit of doubt. And if he doesn’t, then what is the job of the opposition? We would just put him on his weakness and appeal to the people to vote him out when the time comes. Thank God Nigerians are getting sophisticated when it comes to electoral system. We can now see that it is accountability that the people are now voting for in the country. For those who voted for Jonathan, they can now see that no matter your good intension, if your party system and structure is not balanced, then you are nowhere. Jonathan belongs to a party that has no agenda, vision and mission. So, how do you operate? In my party (ACN) the structure is clear from the grassroots to the national level. Our national leader, Bola Tinubu, often speaks out what it takes to create an egalitarian society, but they won’t listen. I pray Jonathan is able to retrace his steps and not compound the woes of the people.

You talked about systemic problem. Can this be blamed on the military?

We keep blaming the military, yet the political system has been in existence for over 12 years. How long does it take you to graduate? Even if you are studying Medicine, it does not take you more than seven years. By now, we should have been able to clean up all the mess the military left behind. Why is Lagos working? If we have 20 states in the country performing like Lagos, then we would have no problems. Osun, Oyo, Edo, Ogun states are also working now and I am sure that even the enemies of those states will be talking against them because of political lineage, but deep down in their hearts, they know that things are no longer as they used to be in those states. When you have a programme, no governor would go outside it. They are still battling with the nation’s budget while Governor Fashola has started implementation of Lagos State’s own.

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