Fashola: Ask Those Seeking Political Office How They'll Better Your Life – THISDAY Newspapers
Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN has advised Nigerians to engage their political leaders on what they intend to do to make their lives better instead of keeping quiet and getting shortchanged at the end of the day.
The minister stated this in a keynote he delivered recently at the Yoruba Tennis Club annual lecture, titled: ‘What can the President do for me?’
Fashola, who lectured the distinguished audience on the powers vested by the Nigerian Constitution on the nation’s political leaders – the president, governors, local government chairmen, as well as the legislators, stated that these leaders were the ones that ought to work the system to make life better for every Nigerian but that Nigerians must engage them to make their lives better, saying they should not be complacent.
Addressing the question why a significant number of Nigerians place their hopes and expectation for a better life on their President rather than their Governors and Local Government Chairmen, Fashola said, after a very deep interrogation, my answer to this question is traceable to the constitution. And this is not a concession to the advocates of restructuring, but rather a clear lack of relationship by many of us with the constitution.
“In other words, we are not fully or sufficiently familiar with our constitution and the roles it ascribes to the different levels of government, at local, state and federal, and the officers attaching to them such as Local Government Chairman, State Governor and the President.
“And the related question, to the question what can the president do for me, is to ask ourselves: how the office of the President make my life better? Before I offer an answer, let me share with you the feedback of a survey that I commissioned to gauge the sense of what the Nigerians who were polled desired most.
“The common thread in the responses were: security, education, healthcare, transportation, water supply, employment, housing and electricity. Of course, there are others, which time and space will not permit me to interrogate.
“In understanding what the President can do, we must bear in mind the nature of our political arrangement where the President as head of the country, also leads the executive arm of the Federal Government and projects our sovereign status, but shares power and responsibility with 36 states headed by Governors, and 774 Local Government headed by Local Government chairmen.
If we go through our constitution, (and I urge everybody to get a copy and read it if only casually) we will find two (2) lists of responsibilities in the schedule to the constitution.”
The minister said, “There is a lot to expect of a President, there is perhaps much more to ask of State and Local Government actors. After all, the projection of national might and success on the international stage by heads of Governments such as Presidents, whether in terms of cuisine, technology, sports or the economy, is the projection of the aggregate of what happens at their sub-national entities.
“Now that you know who to ask about primary education, primary health, water supply, refuse management, electricity, security, interest rate, roads and a lot more, please know that candidates will soon begin to emerge as 2023 beckons. Do not keep quiet. Ask them what they will do to make your life better.”
Giving a breakdown of the responsibilities of the different tiers of government on road infrastructure, the minister said “Nigeria as a country has 200,000 plus kilometres of roads. But they belong to different levels of government. Federal trunk roads, mentioned in item 11 of the executive legislative list is the one the Federal Government is responsible for.
“These are the roads that connect one state to the other, interstate roads. These account for 35,000km out of the 200,000km representing 17.5 %.
“The state government roads are 17.5% of the 200,000 km and these are the roads that connect one Local Government to another; while the Local Governments have responsibility for the balance, representing 65% of roads that connect one ward to another.
“I cannot of course ignore the fact that the federal government has a big and important role to play in respect of fiscal and monetary policy that impacts exchange rate, interest rate and inflation.
“But there are legitimate questions to ask about how many local businesses need foreign exchange to operate as much as they need water, electricity and skilled personnel and lower levies and non-state actors from extorting them.
“There is a legitimate question to ask about whether those of us who keep bank accounts are ready to accept lower deposit rates as a measure to induce lower lending rates, because high interest rates affect our people.
“And of course, with housing on the rental side, how many of us who own houses are ready to accept monthly payments as rent paid in arrears as against two (2) years rent paid in advance, which is a point of pain and stress for many people.
“While the properties for which these rents are charged largely belong to individuals and companies, not to government, there is also the question to ask whether or not our legislators at state levels can make laws to control rent. This is not a matter for the president because the federal legislator has no powers over rent.
“On the construction side of housing, we must remember that it is the state Governors who control land, not the Federal Government. While the Federal Government is currently constructing houses in 34 states, and developing site and service schemes on land provided by state governments and using employee’s contribution to fund mortgages to help some people buy houses, there is a legitimate question to ask whether your state government is building houses and ready to create a mortgage funding institution.”