A public analyst, social commentator and human rights activist, Comrade Razaq Olokoba, is the National President, Campaign for Dignity in Governance (CDG), a coalition of over 70 civil society organizations.
In this interview, the pro-democracy fighter took a critical look at the Lagos Traffic law and described it non draconian.
According to him, it is an existing law being enforced by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for the general good of the people.
What is your take on the Lagos State Traffic Law that a few people are saying is draconian?
There is nothing draconian in the law. It is just a reminder of the existing law. These laws are not new laws. But the reason for the process of enforcement, if I can read the mind of the governor correctly, is that, transport and haulage play a very prominent role in the economy of the nation. If Lagos State houses over 50% of the Nigeria’s economy, there is no government that should not pay serious attention to movement of goods and services which is done by transportation.
The world economy today, haulage top the list of contribution to the world economy. Talk of airlines, ship lines, rail lines, road vehicles and others. So, if you look at the tonnages of world economy, it is second or third now as telecom has taken number one position from oil while mining has taken the fourth position or so.
Apart from the economy of the nation that it would boost with free transportation system, it would also be a good thing for a governor of a state to guarantee easy coming and going of people in the conduct of their businesses.
How would the law impact on the prosperity of the state?
How do you expect the nation to prosper if Lagos as custodian of more than half of the Nations economy road users and passengers spend three or more hours in the office and three or more hours back home? That is a quarter of a day and waste of production time! So, Lagosians must support Lagos government in whatever it is doing to ensure that there is free flow of traffic because it will remove the hindrance that has been a clog to free flow of movement, This in itself is going be a major leap to economic growth in Lagos. Law is ordinary paper if there is no enforcement. Law is ordinary law if there is no penalty for offences.
The solution to avoid penalty is simply not to break the law. It is as simple as that. If you don’t want to be penalised for making and receiving calls while driving, then don’t make or receive calls while behind the steering wheel. Don’t ever fall into that temptation. But sadly, we commit that offence every day of our life even with the risk and danger involved in the habit! It is dangerous driving against the traffic all of us know the death that occurred has result of this. Apart from the risk of running over innocent residents, driving against traffic causes chaos.
What I am trying to say in essence it that, Cairo in Egypt, Johannesburg in South Africa and Lagos in Nigeria are the most cosmopolitan cities in Africa. So, the transport system in those cities, there is heavy enforcement of the law that makes their ratings as Mega Cities non-negotiable. The easiest way to destroy status of a mega city, cosmopolitan city or metropolitan city is when the transport system is in chaos.
And this is being touted by the United Nation and it is also being repeatedly emphasised by the World Bank that the future business hub of Africa is Lagos.
So, Sanwo-Olu is not only thinking only for Nigeria but for the whole of Africa in whatever he does here. He has exhibited the sophistications of having it at the back of his mind that he wants to create a base for Africa an avenue for one of the biggest markets in the world. So, if that is what our aspiration is, we should support Lagos Government.
So, we have to start thinking outside the box. We have to support the traffic law. What makes the rest of the world what they are today is part of what Sanwo-Olu is trying to do in Lagos. In the streets of London, there are some, where you cannot ply with your private vehicles, you have to go by public bus.
But why emphasis on road transportation alone?
There is an attempt by the governor to bring on board the railway system. There is the government’s attempt to also put in place proper bus transportation system. The waterway system I am sure is also coming up. If we marry the three together and it succeeds, Lagos State would be an inspiration to other states in the country and by extension inspire other neighbouring countries.
We are lucky to have Agencies in Lagos State that have become good examples not only to other states but to other countries on the African continent. For example, a LASMA officer here in Lagos is now the Head of similar agency in Kwara State! There are 13 other states in Nigeria that have come to Lagos to learn and under study the LASMA model.
Kenya also came to have an exchange programme here. I don’t know how far the interaction lasted. You can see that kind of intention demonstrated by the Kenyan government to come to Lagos to under study the organogram of LASMA how it operates is a testimony of what I am trying to drive at. So, what I am to saying is that, Lagos is a state that has attained certain sophistication and for that sophistication, there must be an equilibrium by the people that are also sophisticated.
So, let us obey the traffic law. I don’t see anything in the law that is draconian. It is in the good interest of the people. If you don’t break the law, there is no kangaroo court that would impose any sanction on you. We of the civil society would not back any government that wrongly punishes innocent citizens. And it would amount to being radically irresponsible for us not to support the government that is doing the right thing.
How comfortable are you on the first month of Sanwo-Olu administration?
I am very comfortable. There are some certain steps he has been taking that require some levels of understanding by the people. The steps have shown that he has the understanding of good governance. When he came on board immediately, he did what inspired every public office holder. He addressed the work force in Alausa the seat of power. And 72 hours later, he made provision for their transportation which is one of the biggest problems of the Lagos residents as well as all the public officials and public office holders.
He gave out 35 busses. That is inspiring and encouraging. He showed them that there is reward for hard work in Lagos State. So, every public official that appreciates that there is a new Sherriff in town would be encouraged to put more efforts and work harder for the progress of the state.
So, with that singular demonstration of understanding of governance, I give it to Sanwo-Olu that in the next four years, he is going to turn around the fortune of Lagos for better.
Recall that Tinubu put LASMA in place during his time. And they did wonderfully, like smoke, traffic congestion disappear in Lagos. Fashola came and tantalised them by giving them what they needed to carry out their job. And give it to Tinubu and Fashola, they did well. But Ambode did not do well in that regard.
There were LASMA officials that suffered some kinds of job hazards but they had nothing to show for that in terms of compensation. Sanwo-Olu immediately recognised that limitation of the immediate past administration. What he did after going to Apapa with the Vice President, I think he has gone there three times now, twice with the VP and once alone, the LASMA official that died arising from the zero tolerance for packing trucks on the highway, Sanwo-Olu went there and commiserated with the family. And that is why, today, the spirit of LASMA officials is not as battered as it used to be during the last two, three and four years ago.
It has been raining for five days now, yet you see them working in the rain at times till 12 am. They are always in high spirit. That is inspiring.
You can see the way he is mobilising the work force. He has also been addressing environmental issues too.
We take our time to volunteer for traffic management and advocacy. And the feedback we are getting is very encouraging. And the support the government is getting shows that the government is addressing the aspirations of the people.
What I am saying in essence is that, it has been a month of impressive and inspiring performance. So, if we are going to be talking about this government in one year or two years’ time, we would have good thing to talk about this administration.