High Chief Owolabi Salis is the Governorship candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Lagos. Aside being a politician for more than a decade, he is a philanthropist, businessman and International Lawyer. In this Interview with OKUNADE ADEKUNLE, the AD Governorship Candidate, speaks on his plans for the state if elected in 2019. He stated that he would reform the public service to meet up with global standard by ‘ enterprising’ it. Excerpts
You were formerly with the PDP and suddenly you defected to AD and you were made the Governorship candidate, what are the new things you are bringing to the table?
Let me tell you the background. About fourteen political parties with concerned people in All Progressives Congress(APC) and concerned people in People’s Democratic Party(PDP) , traditional institutions and some Civil Society organizations came together 2years ago to assess Lagos. They discovered that the common wealth of the state is in the hands of one man and not used for the well-being of the people . They were concerned that he is using it to upgrade his family members and cronies at the expense of the people . The came up with the objective principle of taking away Lagos common wealth from him and give it back to the people . For this objective to be achieved, they need a party but they formed themselves into what they called “Star Alliance” , Lagos Coalition Movement (LCM) to rescue the state . So, this ‘Star Alliance’ needed a party to contest so that they could give back to the society. So this cannot be possible under APC because of the structure, and also cannot be achieved under PDP. Then , they have to analyse other parties and it favoured AD because AD has a root than all other parties . AD has a name , all it needs is just to revive its structure as it is Afenifere party .
Most politicians don’t take into cognisance the role bureaucracy plays in governance and how it affects their performance in office either as Governor or President, how would you handle this if you win?
If you are politician and contesting for positions like Governor or President , you have access to two things. One, you have access to capital because you collect taxes on behalf of the state. If you are smart you use it to generate fund for the state . Two, the power to override the bureaucracy. If you are a Governor , you should know that you have power to override bureaucracy because it would be under you . You evaluate it, you enterprise it . There is what is called “Enterprising” in bureaucracy, it is a special study . You can bring competition into bureaucracy . It will work and I am going to do it. I will not tell you the procedure i will follow . When you have those two things, then you need an idea to be able to become a revolutionary leader . Some people have ideas already on what they would do but when electorates vote people who do not have idea, the problems will continue. And, that is what we are facing now.
How would you manage the power play between the bureaucrats and the appointees so that it won’t affect your performance because it has always been an issue in governance?
It depends on who the Governor is . As a Governor, you have the power to override the bureaucracy and bureaucratic practice in your favour . They are under you and I don’t know of any law that says that if a Governor wants to do something the civil servants should frustrate it. I know that there are certain laws which were written, some of the laws in the civil service are not there by constitution they are by practice which a governor can change for the betterment of the people . There are some that might be by constitution . For example, the constitution says a Governor is to appoint Secretary to the State Government(SSG) ,every other Commissioners are to be there by practice you don’t have to appoint them. So, there are so many other things in the bureaucracy that are there by practice . We have a procedure we will put in place to enterprise the bureaucracy .
Are you saying you would reform the public service?
Something like that. Something like making it an enterprise. It will put everybody on the run.
As International lawyer and businessman, how would your foreign experience make bear on governance if voted into power?
It is possible because most of the problems we have in Lagos are people-created. They are created by people and some of them are by laws too but we will find a way of solving it. The ideas are in my brain . They are already imported into Nigeria right now because I am in Nigeria . As long as those ideas will advance the socio-economic interest of the people, I will do it.
What are the cardinal programmes of your party which you are intending to implement if voted into power?
I have a different approach to all these party programmes or what I will do . In the chapter two of the Nigeria 1999 constitution as amended under the fundamental objectives and directive policy of the state , which talks about what must be done and the objectives of government . Sometimes, people just talk about these objectives . They say they will provide education and do this and that, but it is not about substantive statement , it is about the procedure. Everybody will tell you, he/she will provide jobs, how would you provide jobs? Many politicians say this but don’t say how they will provide the jobs. So, there are two statements here, substantive statement and procedural statement . I can’t tell you my procedural statement but I know I am going to create jobs , so my attention will be on the youths . Firstly, is to take Lagos common wealth away from an individual and give it back to the people , to advance the well-being of our youths and in achieving i, I will create jobs . I will enterprise the public service so as to be efficient and when I say enterprising, i will push some rules and you would be seeing things flowing. I will not tell you how I will do it. I will look at the judiciary , even as it is a third arm of government, I can do some reforms as the Chief Executive of the state. As the Chief Executive of the State, you make laws to reflect the changes interms of attitude. Law in Nigeria is dormant, most of the lawyers sell properties and make noise in the political landscape . What of laws that are applied to the grassroot so that we can have better grassroot socio-economic development ? So many things are in trouble here. In the United States, the grassroot laws are very popular but here they look too distance from the people . So, I will bring laws closer to the grassroot people so that they will be aware of what their rights are . I will make available basic funds to the youths
A major problem facing Lagos is waste management and in some developed countries, waste is recycled to bring in more revenue, how do you intend to tackle this menace and turn it to money?
It is possible in Nigeria. We have experts in Nigeria, it is because certain people are trying to push their personal interest to override public interest and that is why there is waste challenges. I walk round the grassroot, it was so dirty and nasty because what suppose to be done is not being done because somebody is interested in making money and using their personal interest to override public interest . In this country, there are experts that can transform waste into energy. If you open Lagos State to the world, experts would come in to handle it. We have to harvest the knowledge across the world. I am a top attorney in America, if God says I am going to win and I win as Governor of Lagos State, there will be alot of investors that would come in and I have alot of information and sources, so it will be easier for me to apply it because I have access to capital and I can override bureaucracy. If anybody is trying to create a roadblock, I will sack him to move the state forward. When you have access to capital, to govern a state you need three major professionals, bureaucrats, secondly, a finance expert because you will be talking about budget, corruption then thirdly you talk about administrators. I have all of them imbedded in me.
How do you intend to sell AD to Lagosians. Yes, one agrees it has attachment with Afenifere of those days but currently, how do you intend to propagate it to voters?
I am doing my best. I have time. We did the primaries quickly. It is about six months to the general elections.. By October, AD will be number one you will be surprised. Immediately, I became the governorship candidate, I don’t know how the whole of Lagos get to know , all I see is that they were talking about me everywhere. Just few days ago, thousands of youths were with me here. Many of them are PDP while some are APC members, their allegiance is to their team because all of them have their respective team. They work for you today, they can work for another person tomorrow because they have their allegiance. You can see them with APC, that does not mean they work for APC , meanwhile, Salis is the candidate of everybody . I am not only the candidate of AD but also the candidate of “Star Alliance”. ‘Star Alliance’ has credible people from APC , PDP and 24 other political parties , civil societies and traditional institutions . Their objective is to take Lagos common wealth from one man and give it back to the people . Enough is enough. My candidacy is a candidacy of credible people of APC, PDP, CSOs, 24 political parties and some traditional institutions. We are working, just give yourself one month you will start seeing our publicity materials everywhere. It is time to work for the people. This is a contest of the people against the individual.
Some believe you might run an elitist government since you are coming from abroad, how would you correct this impression?
In abroad, I was giving Oba Mekunnu , also here in Nigeria they gave me the tittle of “King of the less-privilleged .Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria(FRCN) gave me the tittle apart from the jobs I have been doing. The Lions club gave me a tittle. In New York, if you see how poor people run after me because I help poor people. I help poor people to the extend that the government indicted me. I fought for poor people so that they can have better life. The government one day detained me for 14days in America, it was the judge that set me free. He said that they cannot purnish me that I did not do anything. Here in Nigeria at Alagbon, I spent 14days for doing nothing, they said I was the one that killed Funsho Williams. What concerns me of killing somebody? I came a week they killed the man, I was crazy. So, I have experience of both sides of life. I know the difference between Alagbon and Rackers Island. In Rackers Island, you will eat cake and good foods. God wants me to have the experience and see how people are suffering. I have being to half of the countries in this world.