One of the wives of the winner of most referred Nigeria’s historical June 12 1993 election, late Chief MKO Abiola, Mrs. Dupe Onitiri Abiola has said most of the issues confronting Lagos State and the country in entirety would require only few months to resolve under the watch of a dedicated leader.
In an interview with a citizen journalist, Segun O’Law in Lagos recently, Mrs. Onitiri who disclosed that she would contest for Lagos governorship declared that she has a formula that would solve electricity, unemployment and education problems for Lagos State within few months. She expressed confidence of positivism in her ambition, emphasizing that she is the next governor of Lagos State in 2015, after Governor Babatunde Fashola.
Excerpts from the interview:
* I am conducting a survey in your area regarding situation of electricity and I have happened at you. What has the experience been like?
Mrs. Onitiri-Abiola : Electricity has been terrible. For this year, 2014, we haven’t had power supply at all, and it is being controlled by Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company [IKEDC].
It’s simply worse. Since December 2013, there has not been a blink of light and the excuse they give is that there is vandalization and theft of cables as well as series of other excuses, which we did not even get when it was with the Government. Now we have the private owners and you get excuses that should not be there. Now the situation has grown so worse that, if there is any fault they don’t respond timely at all.
The way it all appears now, it is as if the new owners did not know what it is all about, they just bought it for the sake of it. Although something I understand about President Goodluck Jonathan is that there is something he doesn't want to touch at all, which you can see from his words and actions, that is corruption. He does not want to deal with corruption. But one thing that you can see that he has some intention to deal with is the problem of power [electricity] in this country. And that is probably why he decided to break the back of the cartel and bring in the private investors, but am not sure he sold it to the right people. If you are an investor, before you buy an investment, you would know what you are going into. You would know the challenges, the problems, the potentials and every bottom line of the business. We are not talking about $1 or $2 investment here, we are talking about huge amount of money. So, how can investors say they put in a lot of money into something and they don’t care? Now, if there’s anything, it takes long days before they respond to it. I do not know the kind of investors they are. I am an investment consultant, so I know all these.
* We have known electricity as an age long problem. Having come this while, where do you think we go from here; what is solution, electricity wise?
Mrs. Onitiri-Abiola : I am very particular about Lagos State. This is because if you have power in all states of the country and you don’t have it in Lagos State, then you don’t have it yet because Lagos State is the financial capital of this country and Lagos State has the highest population in this country. I don’t know what the census is saying but you know, it’s a matter for the eyes. You know, the Yoruba says it is what you see. Lagos has the highest potentials and when you look very well, you cannot overlook Lagos State. So, if the President is talking about electricity, he really must concentrate on Lagos State. I don’t want to say what the President or Governor needs to do, it is in their watch. When it’s in my watch, I know what to do and I believe by the special grace of God, we will have 24/7 electricity in this State.
* How is that going to happen?
Mrs. Onitiri-Abiola: That is why I said as an investor; you know what you are going into. For me, as a leader, I know what I am going into. I know the problem and this [electricity] is the major problem now. I know this because I do my field work. I go to places and check with people what the problem is. I was in a place and they had not seen light in three months. I have been to the fields and I know what is on the ground, it is not just what the leaders give on paper, no. I am not reading this from the files, I am actually on the ground. I go out, I talk to people, I see it myself and it’s happening to me too. I know what the problems are, I know what to do and it is not impossible to do. There are countries that have 24/7 electricity, so why should it be impossible in Nigeria?
* In clear terms, do you want to invest in the electricity sector now or do you simply want to join politics and use State resource because you sound so involved, as though you really want to do something about this?
Mrs. Onitiri-Abiola: Well, when we talk about buying anything, you know, the Government already sold the assets to the people they wanted to sell to, although you wonder why they sold to some of them who bought the assets. It is just like democracy in this country. When we were fighting for Democracy, the people that were totally against it are the people that are benefiting from it now. And if you look at the issue of electricity, some of the people they sold it to are questionable. But then, they’ve sold it already, they’ve taken the action already. Now we only have some months into another general election and as I always said, by the special grace of God, I am the next Governor of Lagos State. And as the Governor of Lagos State, I know what to do. I already have my blueprint, and by the grace of God, what I am going to do in the first four years, I already have it in my hands. We are going to fix electricity and we are not going to give excuses, you know, it’s not like it’s impossible, we can do it… this country can do it.
Let me cite an example of possibilities here. During the ASUU crisis, the Government said it was impossible to give the lecturers the required money, that the system would collapse and heavens would fall and all sorts. But good enough, the leadership of ASUU stood their ground for the sake of the present and future of the education system. And now, it has happened, they got it and the system has not collapsed, heaven has not fallen. How can anything be impossible with all the money and brains we have in this country? How can electricity be impossible in Nigeria?
* Did you say you will be contesting as Governor of Lagos State in 2015?
Mrs. Onitiri-Abiola: By the special grace of God, and I know I am the next governor.
* So, If you become Governor, how long will it take you to make electricity available 24/7 going by your blueprint?
Mrs. Onitiri-Abiola: Am not going to tell you. I will tell you what happened to my husband [MKO Abiola]. My husband acquired a lot of enemies along the way when he said what he was going to do. He said frankly that he would do this and he would do that, so they [people] got scared and said he would not get there. So, I have learned from my husband’s experience because I was there with him in the journey. I know if I say it now, a lot of people will put hindrances on the way. There are people who benefit only from bad things. But I am saying to people of this State that by the special grace of God, we are going to have 24/7 electricity in this State. I am aware that the Federal Government is giving the new owners a target of 16 hours or 18 hours, what type of talk is that? If you want to do something, you do it well and if you are not going to do it then don’t do it at all. We need 24 hours. It is happening in other countries and it can happen in Nigeria. In this State, it will happen and people are not going to wait long time like one year or two years before it happens, it will happen very early under my watch, by the special grace of God.
* Like other States, Lagos is confronted with other socio-economic problems such as unemployment, insecurity, education crisis where LASU tuition jacked up to over 200%, etcetera. Why would electricity be priority?
Mrs. Onitiri-Abiola: There is poverty in Nigeria and Lagos State is not left out. My mission is to eradicate poverty. When you have such situation, you must take care of so many things at the same time. The reason that electricity is very important is that a lot of things surround it. Things cannot move forward if there is no regular electricity. Am not the type that will do some and leave the rest, I will do many things at same time. I know already, what I want to do. My husband knew what he wanted to do and I am still on that vision to eradicate poverty.
As for unemployment, I tell you within the first three months, although I am not about those that don’t want to work, they are the ones that may remain unemployed, but I tell you unemployment is one of the first things we are going to tackle. We are going to have free education in this State under my watch. It is in the constitution of this country to have free education to the secondary level, and it says if possible, to the higher institution. If some people already had education for free in this country, why should later generations not have it free? We have everything to make it possible and it is going to be free under my watch.
* You sound like you want to re-adopt Late MKO Abiola’s programs. Are you working his programs?
Mrs. Onitiri-Abiola: Yes, and even more. At that time, his own blueprint was for the whole country. And you remember he also said then that within three months under his own watch, there is no child that would go to bed without food, and that is taking care of poverty. I know about it then, and in this case, we are being very specific. I am a Lagosian and we are removing poverty. You know once we deal with it in Lagos it will affect other parts of the country. I know what am going to do.
* You said in less than one year you would make electricity available for 24 hours. One then wonders whether you want to achieve this by maintaining the old structure on ground, or whether you want to build a completely new and different power grid or to perform other magic to achieve this in a short term.
Mrs. Onitiri-Abiola : By the grace of God I am going to achieve this. To be a good leader, one has to be a student of history. I have studied the history of everything I need to work on and I have designed a plan in readiness for the future so that when I get in, I’ll just be working. I don’t believe in wasting time on studying when in office, I have done that. All I need to do next is to execute. I do not want to say it specifically because you know, like I said, if you disclose your plan you will play into some hands. I don’t want to create enemies at this time and I do not want anybody to misinterpret the mission. I have been on it for many years and I am still on it. we do not deserve what we have on ground in this country, we deserve much better. What we are going to do is not just for now, but also for the future. We guarantee that once we do it, it will still be there after my service.
* It has become obvious that you are pained more by the problem of electricity, but what other issues do you consider deserving change in Lagos State?
Mrs. Onitiri-Abiola : There are many issues in Lagos State and as I have always said, I am starting everything from ground zero, that is, everything brand new. Take for instance in the transportation system, I cannot ride in those buses and if I cannot ride in them, I cannot allow people ride in them. Whatever it is that I cannot use, I cannot allow people to use them. By the grace of God, we are going to bring in what the people deserve. Another problem in the transport system is the noise from sirens. I am a citizen, why should I need siren to go anywhere? As governor, I am not going to allow any security detail or entourage drive or behave recklessly at people. These are the same people that voted so there is no basis to treat them anyhow. If they are in traffic, you stay in traffic with them. And like you mentioned about education, university fees have to go, that will go under my watch. Everything has to be free because we need to invest in people. Making education free is an investment. I am going to invest in people and make life easy for the less privileged and the physically challenged people, because they cannot go into most of those structures. They will be taken up by the State and by the time we begin that, private establishments will follow it too. They will be able to take care of themselves when they are employed. The current governor may say he is the best and is doing the best, but I tell you that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I am not going to grade him yet. When I take over from him, I will tell him his grade right there. Like I said, I have been to the field and practically all the roads are bad. We now have to work on everything and that is what I mean by ground zero.
* On which of the political party platform are you contesting ?
Mrs. Onitiri-Abiola: All I am still saying now is exercising my right of freedom of expression. I have been saying this for a few months now and by the special grace of God, I am the next Governor of Lagos State after Raji Fashola. That is certain and it means I am going to contest under a platform. I have reviewed most of the parties and I will officially make my choice of party known by end of this month. As I have said, I take my time because I am not only looking at now; I am also concerned about the future. If you look around, you’ll discover that most of these political parties, all they care about is power and money, and that is why corruption is common to all of them. The problem of godfather-ism is also common with all of them. I have looked at all the parties and I have made my choice of the one devoid of these issues and by the grace of God, I will make official pronouncement by end of this month.