The governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Lagos State, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, tells OLUWAFEMI MORGAN his plan for the state if he wins the poll in 2023 among other issues
What are the issues or gaps in the governance system in Lagos State that you hope to address if you become the governor of the state?
I feel that it is not by accident that it is called the Centre of Excellence. Lagos State has been operating in an extremely inefficient way. We have a situation where there is no transparency and accountability. You have developments or projects that are being done at five or six times the amount they are done in other states. The healthcare system is in a mess; we have a quality of life that has been ranked globally as the second worst city in the world. Families can’t bond because people are sitting in traffic for four hours a day. We have an affordable housing crisis. People are unable or are struggling to pay their rents. Some people cannot afford to have a roof over their heads. Lagos is not working because Lagos is not just Ikeja to Lekki. There are inner parts of Lagos where governance is absent. So, there is so much more that needs to be done. It should not be a state that is run to enlarge the purse of one man who has captured the state and is running it for the interest of his cronies and his family.
As an architect and businessman, how do you intend to approach the issue of housing in the state given the class disparity across the various localities within Lagos?
I feel that there must be affordable housing for people that need it and not a situation whereby there are building projects that are being shared to cronies of the ruling class. It must be a free and fair process that can be monitored by everyone. We can create modular housing that can be reduced to sizes so that people can live closer to where they work. That will be the balance between affordability, urbanisation and the architectural balance. As part of our manifesto, we have what we call the Commonwealth of Lagos. It is a platform where Lagos residents can have access to credit and can pay their rents on a monthly basis because they are guaranteed by the state. There will be repercussions if you don’t meet your obligations. So, these are systems that we are trying to build.
There are also the issues of building collapse, flooding and poor road network. What is your plan to salvage the situation during the rains if you win the election?
Lagos State is like Amsterdam in the Netherlands and other countries that are very low to the sea level. We need a proper ministry for drainage. Property owners must be responsible for the drainage in front of their houses. They must make sure it is not clogged up and the local government must play a part in ensuring compliance. The state must ensure that the development is not blocking water flow from the city to the lagoon and to the canals. You cannot just turn a blind eye because developers are spending money or are bribing who and who. On a macro level, we must have pumps that are mechanised that push water out in the raining season. There must be a synergy and also a means to measure the expected rainfall so that you can plan for it.
Lagos is a city that has water bodies in abundance, but very little water to drink. What is your approach to potable water provision, especially in areas where residents rely on carriers and fetchers?
It is due to the mediocrity of the All Progressives Congress government and what it has been for so long. Many people are creating their own water treatment and pumping systems. It is something that we need to look into and actually solve. For me, I feel that we need to do a proper analysis of the entire situation. We need to look at the people who are worse hit and ensure that most people have access to potable water. We also need to do an analysis of what has happened in the last 20 years. I know that the World Bank gave Lagos State a huge amount of money to provide sustainable water for its residents. So, we need to ask questions. We also need to decentralise the source of the water flow. We can make it a micro-distribution programme as against the central spot that generates water for everybody, which tends to be problematic.
Do you think the current administration and the past governments have had some remarkable achievements in the past 23 years?
The major infrastructural developments that happened in Lagos came through the military – the Third Mainland Bridge, the ports, the opening up of parts of Lagos. Then, Alhaji Lateef Jakande did an amazing job as well, especially when you consider that he was in power for four and half years. He provided affordable housing, built a working healthcare system, had a tremendous impact on the education sector, and opened up parts of Lagos. These huge achievements were possible because he put the people first. Jakande did not try to capture the state like a mafia; he wanted the best for the people. When we look at Lagos State now, the little developments in the Lekki axis and parts of Alimosho happened over 20 years. If Lateef Jakande was in power for over 20 years, I don’t want to imagine what Lagos will be like today. So, to whom much is given, much is expected. The internally generated revenue that the APC is always boasting about did not fall from heaven. It is the people that are paying to the government. Right now, the IGR must match the experience of people in the state, but this is not the case.
You recently moved from the Peoples Democratic Party to the Labour Party. Why did you make such a move?
I was an aspirant in the PDP and certain agreements among leaders of the party made me withdraw my bid at the last minute of the primary election. I was supposed to emerge as the deputy governorship candidate, but the governorship candidate reneged on the agreement that the leaders had. These were months of intrigues, of lies, of so many negative things. However, sometimes, people feel they are burying you, they don’t know they are planting you in better soil. For me, the Labour Party offers a platform that allows us to put the people first. We are not trying to be the status quo, we want revolutionary ideas, innovative ideas that will take Lagos to the place where it needs to be.
Do the PDP and the LP have ideological differences?
The Labour Party has an ideology. The LP is steeped in the welfarist system that puts the people first, which is what I have always been talking about. Even on the party’s logo, you have a man, a woman and a child. That sums up what the party is really about. This is really good.
As a businessman, one would think that you are a capitalist within a socialist structure. Are you comfortable with this situation?
I have never been a raw capitalist; I believe that money should not decide everything. The quality of life matters, your health and the health of the people around you matter as well. We must ensure that there are more opportunities for the people so that money serves them and not them serving money.
Your former political party, the PDP, has failed several times in its attempt to beat the APC in Lagos State. What is the Labour Party doing differently to triumph in the forthcoming elections?
My own humble perspective is that the PDP was not successful because it consistently tried to be like the APC. They tried to fight the APC like the APC, instead of bringing forward something completely different. That is what the Obedient Movement is bringing to the table. We have a huge amount of people who are crying out for integrity and a cerebral capacity for governance, a government that has empathy and a track record of doing well for the people. The Lagos State voter turnout had been barely 16 to 17 per cent of the over seven million registered voters, because a lot of people were not inspired by the crop of leaders in the state. People are looking at a new kind of representation. They are not looking for you to buy their votes. In fact, they are bringing out their own money to donate to your campaign.
What is your relationship with Chief Bode George and some members of the PDP even though you have left the party?
I did not leave because of the PDP. I left because a new entrant into the party was not humble enough to come to terms with the ways of the party.
Are you talking about Olajide Adediran, also known as Jandor?
Yes, I am talking about the governorship candidate of the PDP. I have a wonderful relationship with all my former leaders. They are strong politicians, Board of Trustees members like Mrs Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Mr Akintoye and Chief Bode George. All the 20 local government chairmen endorsed me to be the deputy governorship candidate. They put all their interests aside and endorsed me to be the deputy governor. Other leaders in the party did the same. But someone who just came into the party felt that he was more knowledgeable than everyone else; he came into the party to deceive many people. I have no issues with the PDP; I left because we need to ensure that Lagos State is put in the hands of a government that wants to truly change it.
Are you able to separate your relationship with them from your position as the governorship candidate of the Labour Party?
I am friends with anybody that wants a Lagos State that works for Lagos residents, a Lagos State that is not run by one person and it cuts across political parties. People like Akeem Dickson, Wale Oluwo; the list goes on. I am an indigene of Lagos State. I don’t have any other place to call home. Anybody that wants the best for my home, I am friends with that person.
There are insinuations that your relationship within the PDP may serve as a spoiler for its governorship candidate, Jandor. Is that true?
My aim is to form the next government of Lagos State, which we are going to do by God’s grace. Whatever the candidate of the PDP is insinuating, that is his business. He had a choice, he made it and there are consequences.
You were a former senatorial candidate of the PDP for Lagos West District in 2019, and you did not win…
A lot of people will tell you that I won but it was due to the kind of rigging that was possible then. Thankfully, that will not be the case anymore.
Are you saying you are confident of the new electoral process?
The electoral process has certainly improved significantly. We have seen it happen in the recent elections. The electronic transmission of votes has changed things completely. In the past, INEC officials would hold back votes from four, five local governments for days. That is no longer the case. Election results are now announced the same day they are held. That is the faith we have in the system.
Do you still have the kind of political prowess that you had in your immediate constituency in 2019?
The person I was in 2019 did not have the kind of experience, network or influence that I do now. As a politician who is consistent, my influence has grown. Also, with the Labour Party, coupled with the Obedient movement, and the desire of the people to have quality leadership, people are not coming out to do a popularity contest. Some people feel that this is entertainment, ‘let’s just get a celebrity’. Some people are thinking about one year of politics without thinking about the four years of governance that literally affects the people. There was a time in 2015 when people were saying that even if President Muhammadu Buhari brought out a NEPA bill, they would vote for him. Now, they are paying the price for somebody who they thought had a NEPA bill. The country has been ruined.
You are leveraging the popularity of the LP presidential candidate, Peter Obi, at this time. Do you think this will favour your ambition in a multi-ethnic space like Lagos?
Of course, Lagos State is made up of not just tribes, but of people who have access to the Internet and thrive on ideas. So, if there is any state that will go with a Peter Obi presidency, it will be Lagos.
There is a claim that young people are mere Internet commentators who may not vote and this will be a challenge for the LP. Do you share this sentiment?
I am sure you have seen people rushing to get registered and to get their permanent voter cards. People want to participate, they want their voices to be heard and I believe that is what we are going to see.
Many natives of Lagos feel politically sidelined. Given the multi-ethnic space of the state, will you certain considerations to the native Lagosians as governor?
I am a Lagosian; the battle that Lagos State should be run by Lagos indigenes is one that I share. Democratic representation is extremely important. The people of Lagos State must be given some preferential treatment, but that should not be at the expense of quality governance. We must find the best people to man positions and they must be representative. Indigeneship right is very important. It is only in Lagos State that indigenes can be sidelined. You can’t try it in Ogun, Osun and Ekiti states or anywhere else.
Don’t you feel that that contradicts the confidence that non-natives and non-indigenes have in the state?
There is nothing to be afraid of. People who are from a state and have nowhere else to call home should be given the opportunity to express themselves politically. At the same time, Lagos State has always thrived because it has created an environment for different people to come and excel. The indigenes are very welcoming. You can come here, do your business and thrive, no problems. In fact, the rights of non-indigenes will even be further enhanced during my government.
Recently, there were rumbles between the LP Chairman in the state, Mr Ifagbemi Awamaridi, and yourself concerning the governorship slot of the party. What were the issues and have they been resolved?
There is no point wasting time speculating on it. Very soon, INEC will release the final list of candidates. When we see it, the matter will be settled.