In this interview, Engineer Dr Mojeed Alabi Balogun, Chairman, Ikeja Local Government, speaks on his first and the ongoing second terms, his challenges, achievements, and synergy with Lagos State Government. Above all, he argues that if the people vote for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Candidate, in February 2023, there will be a rebirth of Nigeria.
You rose through the ranks having been supervisor, and chairman and this is your second term, how has the journey been?
So far so good because Ikeja Local Government has been manned by competent hands and ever since I started working, we have been very articulate and focused, it has been very good till when I became the executive chairman probably everybody has one or two things as a contribution to the welfare of the people, it is been a very good one.
What have been the challenges and how have you been able to surmount them?
The challenges these days depend on how you are tackling them. There is the environmental challenge, it is a common denominator especially when you see people throwing things away, no matter how you mop it up you cannot even finish it. And as you can see, Ikeja has so many things, leading to the bus station, the railway station, and even the development of projects. Some come from Ogun State, generate dirt and leave it behind. You don’t know who to hold responsible and they still do it. The facility of their business is close to the bus station, so getting a train from Ijoko or Agbado to Ikeja or wherever is easy for them and these are the challenges we have in the environment.
We have cases of arrest and we always find out that they are not even from Ikeja because Ikeja is a neighbour to Oshodi ditto Ketu. Sometimes criminals come from that axis to Ikeja, commit atrocities and go back to their respective places so when it happens, people always ascribe it to Ikeja. But the report we have after that time shows that they are not from Ikeja, let’s say there is an accomplice in Ikeja but they are not from Ikeja.
You are an engineer with a PhD and now you are in politics, how does that background help you in politics
You see, I have a background as an engineer and a political background. My father was a staunch politician and he was an engineer, he was an industrial engineer in the then Dunlop Nigeria. So we all were brought up in that fold and one thing you must realize is that we should not sit on the fence. When you criticize and what is your contribution to correcting the abnormalities? And when you have the opportunity to do correction, don’t shy away from doing that.
Yes, I was called to be part of the government by the community from the councillorship position. Unfortunately, the person died and the community deemed it fit that yes come and step in, we don’t want to be marginalized any longer. There was that misconception that the Aworis were not learned; they were only interested in selling land and their masquerade festival! But we proved them wrong because I came into the system in 2002. I told them that I challenge anybody among the 23 or 25 aspirants that had a master’s degree, so I was having a master’s degree aspiring for a councillorship position. I am happy the Awori community can see somebody to encourage them
So comparing it with engineering, you have a lot to do with engineering, politics has everything to do with engineering. We do projects and all that.
You must be the only chairman with a PHD and I can also say that you deliberately want to prove to people that the Aworis are not pushovers, not synonymous with land selling…
There must silent ones too that are not in the public domain and they are doing very well.
December 2021 marks the 1st 100 days in office, at the second term, you launched the vocational skills acquisition named after Kemi Nelson, then there was this Adeokun Health centre, and then the rehabilitation of state primary school facilities, let’s take the vocational acquisition centre, how far is this one impacting on the community?
It has impacted me a lot because they had their graduation ceremony and we were all present, so many learnt so many vocational skills and they were equally presented with gifts so it shows that such a centre is necessary for the less privileged. I was from there yesterday, and somebody with adult literacy came up and said sometimes not everybody had the opportunity of going to formal schools. He benefitted from our programs.
Some were expected to go and display their skills, there were 26 of them, that centre has produced so many goods more than what we projected when we were putting it up, we named it after Kemi Nelson because she happened to be a former commissioner for women affairs and her yearning when she was alive was to see everybody having skills and she was the first woman in Ikeja that occupied that position. So we deemed it fit to name it after her and then the other one you mentioned, the health centre after Alhaji Adeokun happened to be the community leader, he was the former executive secretary of this council till 2016 so we honoured him too because if you are respected and people see you as an elder statesman then you are deemed to be honoured.
The rehabilitation of the primary schools…
You need to prove that because of the cosmopolitan nature of this local government, after the boundary adjustment to accommodate LCDAs, Ikeja is not blessed with any secondary school, we are only looking at a way to merge some of the primary schools, we are waiting for SUPEB and as well you know we have children coming out of primary school, we should have a secondary school where they will be fixed into, as for now the only one we have is that technical college at Agidingbi but you can’t call it pure secondary school. So we are not blessed but we have children in primary and secondary so we are looking at the way for them so that they can be fixed in a secondary school. As it is, Ikeja High School in Police Command was supposed to be for Ikeja but it falls under the boundary of Onigbongbo. Ikeja Grammer school is in Oshodi. We have a secondary school close by, Oshodi, Okpebi and so on they are not in our immediate domain.
This is the headquarters of the seat of the government, can you tell us the kind of synergy between the local government and the state government to bring development to the people
We are to complement the state, we have 18 agendas and the first one is about traffic management and transportation. There were so many designs by the state before now it is not designed to accommodate high vehicular volumes and the pressure is on most roads now, all we do is to do some interlink roads to reduce pressure on the major state roads like you are coming from Allen Obafemi Awolowo way is a state road, Adeniyi Jones is a state road ditto Olowu is a state road, these are the roads we are supposed to look for other ways to reduce traffic congestions. We have been able to do internal roads that will reduce so much pressure on this major highway and they are there to testify, when you come into Allen, the Lagoon Hospital, get to Adeniyi Jones and under the bridge, people have to move from here to the express. This is so we complement the state in reducing pressure by doing internal roads that lead to other roads so that that there will be no congestion and bottlenecks. Thank God there is a new design on Awolowo road now and by the time they finish up there would be less pressure. We want them to finish and we now look to where we could equally complement. We have been able to complement the state with both in health education; we have to do that so that it will get to the grassroots.
You can call yourself the real Ikeja boy
I am from Ikeja, my family house is just after the bridge
I was born there, my parents are alive. My family house is by the side of the mosque when you move after that Olowu junction. There are no Ikeja people that will tell you that you are in Ikeja, but people will tell you that there is no village but when you go inwards you see that there is a symbolic clan. It is the same Isale Awori.
What prepared you for the current position and who is your role model in politics?
The late Kemi Nelson happened to be my immediate leader who brought me to this position. If you say the main indigenes are not getting any position, let the indigene go and take it and let us see the difference, she stood on her point until it materialized and before her demise, she was able to say yes, we can see the difference because they know themselves. My father is from here, my mother is from Kosofe, so I understand it. Something you have been living for over fifty-something years, definitely you must know your areas, you know their problems. I work with no police, I don’t go with escorts. I boldly say that.
Why will be afraid of the people? If there I any problem, we will table it and we will discuss it as much as you are not the wayward one, even if it is the problem of politics I involve myself. What I am trying to say is that the late Kemi Nelson is my role model but the main role model is our incoming President.
Talking about his Excellency Asiwaju Bola Tinubu?
There is one thing Asiwaju will continue to tell me is don’t throw away experience, experience is expensive, all these that we acquire by going to seminars etc, so if you have those experiences, I will put you there because I know the experience will not be wasted and he has so demonstrated it when he was a governor of Lagos state. That’s why he believes in continuity, he always wants to make sure that knowledge is not wasted, you can’t buy it again, I give it to him. He watches everybody, and he has an independent way of getting results in whatever he believes in, even when I was not given the chairman, my name came out in 2008 three times in publications, and he told me that it is not yet time or do you want to take me to court because you need experience from the person that is still there.
Sometimes when I look at him, I laugh because when I see people aspiring for positions that they are not getting immediately, they feel it is going to be a tug of war, I told them to go and relax, the man knows what he is doing. He is the number one citizen of Ikeja, he is from Ikeja, in as much as politics is concerned, he is going to vote in Ikeja and he remains the only man that has voted for me for the chairman of this council.
When you didn’t get the ticket, did you consider leaving his party?
I never did. We are progressives. I told you I was born into a progressive family, even when my father was young, he was the secretary to their dad, and my father contested the election in this council.
As for Asiwaju, in terms of capacity, and competence, do you think he is qualified?
Sentiments aside, Asiwaju will go all way, he has been able to demonstrate that, it goes beyond ethnicity issues, you can see it in the likes of so many experts, the Hausa, and the Kanuris. I look at people talking about his age. Before now we have been used to Asiwaju, he rarely sleeps till 4 or 5 am, if you don’t sleep from now to 5 am and now want to have a programme, won’t you get weak? Nature will set in.
Atiku has been the vice president of this nation and we saw when he was privatizing things, he messed up, you read what his boss told us about him that’s the former president – don’t ever trust him, so if somebody’s boss said so, who am I to say it is wrong.
Yes, Obi, former Anambra state governor, I don’t know much about him but he did not surprise us when he was the governor, the only governor that surprised me in Anambra was Obiano. I used to monitor his programme, you know I am not from there but Obiano was the one that awakened us to the localization of food. He went into rice production and so on then the Lagos state had to partner with Kebbi. So if the successor of Obiano could not say good about his brother in terms of getting results when he was there then who am I to say he is going to get me results?
What are the chances of Asiwaju winning the presidential election looking at zones now, the demographics..?
We pray to God to spare our lives. Come February 25, it is for Asiwaju because we are looking for better changes. We cannot call ourselves Ghanaians, because when you go to Ghana, we all conform to their rules, I am sure discipline will come back in Nigeria what we are lacking is discipline and leadership. With him being there and other captains that will be working with him I am very much sure we will have a rebirth in Nigeria. He knows who to put in in various or particular places at a particular period. He doesn’t compromise results. If he didn’t compromise results in Lagos state, he will not compromise on that level, you can see the products he keeps bringing in after he left office that is the thing we want so that whoever is coming after him will build on.
Do you think Gov. Babajide Sanwoolu can win?
Mr Governor is saleable. When I say somebody is saleable, you should go and relax but he is not relaxing, if not for the situation this bridge would have been commissioned last year but before the first week of February, this edifice will be commissioned, he is not just doing it in one particular local government it is across the state, he will win, he has something that can speak for him, people like him. I don’t like people with no ideas, government is not about money sharing, it is about developments, what have you done so that can be justified that you are there? If you are in campaign ground and they give you money, don’t come back and say there is no light, there is no water, there is no road.
He all sectors that he needs to touch, he is doing it fantastically.
There is this argument from people from other parts of the country that Lagos is a no man’s land, what is your reaction?
Why will they say Lagos is a no man’s land? If it is a no man’s land why did you leave your state for Lagos? Everybody enjoins Lagos because the security in Lagos is second to none. If it is no man’s land where is your origin? You must have a base, I told you my base now (Isale Awori in Ikeja here). When we had the western region everybody had a base, no more region now we still have a base, you must have come from somewhere. It is a man’s land. Lagos happens to be a commercial centre for Nigeria, and everybody feels and enjoins trading; if it is not peaceful like other states can they stay? They can’t. All these people that say Lagos is no man’s land, let them go to their states, they can’t even vote in their state, how do you come and destroy a peaceful place? Lagos is man’s land, Ibadan is man’s land, I am not from Ibadan but my grandmother was from Ibadan, he married a person here, if I go to Ibadan now they don’t know me. I give you a scenario, in the western region era my dad won a scholarship and the panel now told my dad, we know you won but we can’t give it to you, daddy said why they said you will take the pride in your mother to your father’s house. Is it not a man’s land, look at it, what we are doing ourselves, so now tell me is Ibadana no man’s land? Everybody has a home, migration has shown us that you came from somewhere before you settled somewhere, so Lagos is somebody’s own. You must respect their culture and institutions.