Rasaq Olokoba, a right activist and political analyst, is the Convener, Campaign for Dignity in Governance (CDG), as well as the Leader, Coalition of Civil Society Group in Nigeria. Olokoba, in an interview in Lagos after a press conference of the Coalition of Civil Society Groups he addressed to commemorate Governor Sanwo-Olu’s one year in office, said, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), has not disappointed Nigeria in his performance. Excerpts:
As part of your organization, Campaign for Dignity in Governance (CDG), the mandate is to test political officers’ dignity in office, what is the latest result on the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN)?
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has been passing our Dignity Test since when he was Lagos as Governor. And from the time he was Minister with three portfolios till now that he supervises two ministries, he has not failed the test for once. Rather, his scoreboard has been witnessing improvement in his scores. The test is conducted periodically.
Recall that members of the group, in its assessment early last year has given the super Minister a pass mark based on his superlative exploits as Minister of Works, Power and Housing and therefore thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for returning Fashola to office as part of his winning team for his second term in office in August 2019. We assured the President that Fashola would not disappoint him. And thankfully enough, Fashola has not disappointed so far. And we thanked the President for ignoring the critics who never wanted Fashola back into the cabinet.
Your organization appears to be loyal to Fashola. What really attracts him to your group?
Nothing more than his performance that has been giving President Buhari’s administration credibility. Mark you, with due respect, we love and respect him as patriotic Nigerians who want the best for him. We are not out for any monetary gains or financial benefit. Remember ours is a Non-Governmental and non-Profitable organization. We are out to monitor governance with a view to praising good works and giving constructive criticism where things are not going well.
What parameter do you use to arrive at the pass mark you are awarding him?
Apart from what we read on newspapers’ pages and monitoring on-air, we have also taken pains on our own to send delegation out across the country and the reports we got and collated served as the basis for our commendation. The monitors sent out were very impressed about what they saw on the ground as per his performance and stages of the structures being handle by the Ministries under Fashola’s supervision.
Can you give out an insight into a part of the reports that occasioned the pass mark awarded him?
That is an herculean task you are asking for as time and space may not permit us to exhaust it. however, a few would suffice to give an insight into what we have seen which some armchair critics have not got the opportunity to see.
Taking cognisance of the fact that Buhari’s administration has an insatiable appetite for infrastructure development like good road networks, durable bridges, functional rail system, stable power supply, airports, affordable but solid houses, and working refineries, someone of good track records like Fashola fits the bill to handle greater parts of the job.
And with him handling Works and Housing, a substantial part of the deficit problem would be over. And I can assure you that Fashola has confronted the job with all vigour and he is succeeding. I believe a few examples would suffice here. We must, however, bear in mind that, it would take an Administration like Buhari’s high commitment to reverse the crushing deficit Nigeria has been experiencing, in spite of huge revenue accrued from oil for several decades.
Here are some of the assignments, according to our checks that fall under Fashola’s Ministries which he has been handling with great success going by our monitors’ assessment:
*Building of quality houses for Nigerians at lowest possible cost. Construction of at least 200,000 housing units a year by establishing modular construction facilities across the country. Ensuring completion of the 2nd Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Expressway, Obajana-Kabba Road. And completion of 64km of Sukuk Bond financed road projects.
*Others are, implementation of scheduled maintenance of 5,000 kilometres of roads annually.
Active collaboration with the private sector to create a large number of well-paying jobs for Nigerian youths and implementation of a strategy towards the realization of Mr President’s June 12 promise to take 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years.
Our reports have it that, work is progressively on-going on Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road.
Second Niger Bridge progressively coming up to life after several years’ of promise and fail by the previous administrations.
It is gratifying to note that the bridge, which total length, is 11.9Km, with the bridge itself being an approximate length of 1.6Km, is set for completion under Buhari’s administration with Fashola as a midwife.
Others satisfactorily in progress are the Lokoja-Obajana-Kabba-Ilorin road. Oju/Loko-Oweto Bridge. Bida-Lambata road. Dualisation of Suleja-Minna road. Kano-Maiduguri road. Enugu-Port Harcourt dual carriageway. Onitsha-Enugu Expressway. Bodo-Bonny project and Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, all which has made the country’s landscape a huge construction site.
Are students’ campuses also taken care of?
Yes of course. Buhari’s administration’s love for education and students’ welfare manifest in the way it extended good road networks to various campuses.
The campuses that are beneficiaries of Fashola’s road largesse are Universities of Benin, Bayero in Kano, Oye, Ekiti State, Maiduguri, Borno State, Lokoja, Kogi State, Ibadan, Oyo State, Owerri, Imo State and Otuoke, in Bayelsa State among others.
To buttress this, Students of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), who spoke to our monitors were all praises for the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari over its commitment to the welfare of the Nigerian students through smooth motorable roads across the campuses in the country’s tertiary institutions.
The commendation was from the President, Northern Students Alliance, Farida Ishaq, who, on behalf of her other colleagues, said, “we are excited by the way the Federal Government has programmed the students in its efforts on infrastructure development.”
According to her, with what the students are witnessing across the campuses, “we are of the strong conviction that, the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Works headed by Babatunde Fashola (SAN) would spread good roads across the country.”
While expressing appreciation to the government, Ishaq urged the student body as well as the Nigerian people to support Buhari’s administration by encouraging the Minister, Fashola to intensify his efforts towards connecting all the nook and cranny of the country with excellent road networks.
So, Fashola should continue the good work and should be encouraged to remain focused by having his eyes on the ball. He should put it at the back of his mind that all eyes are on him towards infrastructure development. And this is so because of the importance of standard infrastructure to the economic development of any nation.
“And because of the status of Nigeria in Africa and in the world, the country cannot afford to fail in infrastructure development if it intends to maintain its leadership position the comity of nations. And one has to thank God for giving us Buhari at this point in time. And we have to thank God also for giving Buhari someone like Fashola to handle vital Ministries that have to handle the development of infrastructure,” Ishaq submitted.
Concluding, the students’ leader, therefore, enjoined all Nigerians to double their support for the current administration in the country, saying, “its commitment to the growth of the country is not in doubt just as its commitment to the country’s student population is not shaking.”
On housing, do you have…?
(Cuts in), On housing, our checks discovered that over 1,094 housing units have been completed across the country under the first phase, and construction works are on-going in 34 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
We further stumbled on plans by the authorities to roll out an advertisement for the sale of the houses very soon. In all the housing projects, a source confided in us that, 455,048 direct jobs were created through it, with 61,950 indirect ones. In the highway construction, the source added that the sector provided jobs for 49,080 direct jobs were created, with 95,315 indirect ones.
It is also on record that Fashola has revived National Housing Programme that was abandoned 34 years ago with mortgage scheme that would guarantee affordable shelter for Nigerians. So, at this juncture, we enjoin the good people of Nigeria to double their support for President Buhari to enjoy more dividends of democracy from his government.
And in the same vein, we urge them to extend the support and cooperation to Fashola to Fashola to encourage him more in the onerous task of providing durable infrastructure for the country.