He is confident, angry and passionate about his mission and vision for a ‘new’ Lagos. A former chairman of Surulere Local Government, Honourable Hakeem Olaogun Dickson, a seasoned administrator, a politician with good managerial skills and candidate of the Accord Party for the 2023 gubernatorial election in Lagos Sate, in this exclusive interview, emphasized that the major problem of Lagos is caging, but he is set out to ‘uncage’ the residents out of the perceived doldrums. He mentioned other problems of the state and how he intends to correct them if given the mandate. Honourable Dickson highlighted some of his successes while serving across different strata in the past years. Excerpts:
A brief introduction of yourself sir.
My name is Honourable Hakeem Dickson, the crown prince of on Onikoyi. I am from the Awori area of Itire, from Onitire familly, and Lagos Island.
We learnt you too have joined the race for a political seat in the forthcoming general election. What is your mission sir?
Actually, my mission is just to become the next governor of Lagos State in 2023, under the party called Accord.
What you intend to bring when you become the next governor come 2023?
Most of the things that are happening in Lagos, just need to be improved and meet the 21st century status. If you say Lagos is a megacity, you have to treat Lagos as a megacity. That is what I will say about that. And again we tired of being caged. Caging is the major problem we have in Lagos, so I want Lagosians to be free from all forms of caging, nobody tells us what to do, we want people to be elected based on their credentials, abilities and things like that. Lagos belongs to Lagosians.
You are a grassroots person. How do you intend to mobilize people into buying into your ideas and voting for you?
By giving them the good programmes that I intend to do. I have a manifesto developed. We have so many things that we promise Lagosians that we will do for them. But the major part is caging. I want Lagos to be free from any kind of obstacle. No one has the power to control Lagos, it should be controlled by Lagosians. That is the major thing first. Once you get that one done, other things that people are talking about , poor transportation, road works and others we will improve and do better. In the environment , we will do better. And I believe one thing, once we can make sure we key into the climate change and safe health of everyone living in Lagos need to be taken care of. There must be ministry for health and safety, you don’t want it done, then we are not talking about bringing improvement. But if you don’t belong in Lagos, sorry to say, you just don’t belong in Lagos. Because Lagos is a megacity.
You were once a chairman in Surulere What were your achievements then?
The first thing I did when I was a local government chairman was, I asked how much debt we were owing contractors, and I was able to pay that debt within six months, so that I could start with a zero, zero balance. I met a budget of N158 million, how can I be a local government chairman, a budget of N158 million is nothing. I said I need a billion naira budget. I was able to make N1.2billion for the city of Surulere. Not only that, I was able to meet with the people. Contract that had been given to people that live in Surulere, everybody needed to get pieces of the contracts. We were able to do that, and Direct Labour Agency was launched by me. No potholes again in the entire part of Surulere. We were able to do more roads, we were able to do Western avenue, where we saw over three thousand potholes that have been there for so long, when former Governor Buba Marwa handed over to us in Lagos, I was able to repair that, whether it’s a federal road or state road, it belongs to the city of Surulere, so we were able to repair that so that people could have better roads. And one thing I want you to know is that salaries were being paid, I even increased the salaries. I remember one thing about Neighborhood Watchers, there was only thirty for the entire Surulere. Twelve wards. Number three, in terms of population, they are not enough, so I increased the Neighborhood Watchers from thirty to three hundred. I was able to do that within the wards, I was able to buy them walkie-talkie. We are actually the first local government where they operate with walkie-talkie, reporting crimes and other wrongs. So I was given the Best Local Government Chairman award three years in a roll during my administration, by both the Federal government and the State government. Our local government was the cleanest, a feat recognized by both the Federal government and the state. It was done by the ministry of environment-both the Federal and State. We set up a dental clinic, first of its kind that meet the European standard, we had that document, I think I left it for them in Surulere. You can go down there, remove your tooth, repair and do some other stuff with it. Not only that we were able to do so many roads, cleaning all the environments, I was the first person given students free food, it has not been by other up till today. Free meals for all primary schools. And we were able to repair and do some renovations in some other schools. So there is a lot. See our LASTMA, we created what we called, SLEC, Surulere Law Enforcement Corps, in that one, former President Obasanjo, the then president, wrote a letter to the governor of Lagos State, that we have created a paramilitary, and I said no it is not a paramilitary, and they told us to ban it and I said no, it has become a law. And we were able to use that to create what you now call LASTMA today. There was not LASTMA, we gave the interest to Tinubu, who now made it LASTMA. When we created the revenue for N1.2 million, they asked us how did we do it, myself and Oki, we did it then, and we gave the interest to Tinubu, who now made it Alpha-Beta. Then I refused to do the joint account, because I don’t believe in joint account. But the question of more local government started from me, when I came back from Canada, I said your Excellency, I was in Canada, some small villages have their own mayors, that we call chairman in Nigeria. Less than one thousand people, less than two-hundred fifty thousand people and they have their own local governments, we can create more local governments, and the law gave us opportunity to create more local governments, but I never said create 57, but let’s create with the idea of New York City. What’s happening in America. Where we have five ?????, if we divide ????? into three, that means there will be three barons there, so like the mayor of Surulere. But they followed the way it was made by Jakande. That was what caused the major problem. Despite the fact the Constitution only recognizes only 20 local governments in Lagos State. So there was a lot of achievements. You can see people who are physically-challenged, they were employed during my administration. Contracting, working in the offices, even going for training, they were all there. So, people are sent to go and learn how to use computer. Today, we have a mass of them that now know how to use the computer and they are doing that in school. So there is a lot of things we put in place for Surulere. That is why we are so popular, we are well-known and we are different from any other local government areas. Out of 774 local governments, for the Federal government to give me that achievement as number one out those 774, it means I must have done a very good job.
Tell us what you intend to achieve when you get to office.
First of all, you know we have challenges of insecurity, we have traffic, and we have refuse problems, that is from the dumps, those three things need to be done right away without wasting much of my time. On the hundredth day in office , we would have been able to make sure it is done. We are going to have a master plan to make sure we have our own railway line, across the entire Lagos State, We are going to finish whatever they call it, Blue line, Red line, from Badagry to Lagos. It must be done within that period of time, no matter where it is. They have been lying to us in the past 20 years, and we have not gotten that much. I don’t know much has gone to that level, up till today, What another country in African got done in two years it is taking us about fifteen, twenty years. Nothing has been done. I am going to make sure during my administration that we create the first Lagos State airport. If Akwa Ibom can have their own airport, we need out own airport, that belong to the Lagosians, not to the Federal government. That too will be done. As I have said, I am going to have a railroad in the entire Lagos State. Apart from the railway line, there will be railroad, so you won’t be spending hours to get to Epe, Badagry, Ojo, Ibeju-Lekki, and the likes and I will make sure that the coastal road is done. Telling people if a road passes through your area, we will compensate you as early as possible, so that you can get this thing done. And that is how it is going to be.
QUESTION NOT AUDIBLE ??????
I was able to go around places, I now realize that in government, you must be ready to face challenges. When I was with Senator Ogunlewe, the former minister of works, I was one of his special advisers, we were able to go around entire Nigeria to know about roads, so I was able to learn a lot , how roads are being done, how the inspection is done, later I was appointed director -general Lagos State Safety Commission, when I was there, I was able to run every day, being concerned about the safety of everybody, including yourself is a key and very important, so put that one into workplace was very, very good for me. And that is one of the thing that , wow! so if I want to become the governor of Lagos State, safety should be one of the big things, look at people in America, Singapore, they spend so much on safety. Nobody should die. Nobody should be wounded. You should be able to go back to your loved ones, your parents after the long day work. Doing that work and I now say I want to be the governor, I will be able to save a lot of lives. No more building collapse in Lagos State. The building without proper mixture, the building without normal approval, the building built within short period of time when it was supposed to take more than six months, all those things will change. There will be a new thing. I have been seeing a lot on different programmes and I have learnt a lot from there. I will call them and we will write all that is wrong that need to be amended in our laws or in our guidelines. So I think I will want an efficient safety commission in Lagos State.
So what do you think could be a major obstacle in carrying out your plans and programmes for Lagosians when you eventually occupy the topmost political seat in Lagos State.
I don’t think I will have any obstacle at all. To be honest with you. Because number one, I am going to be able to challenge the constitution. I am going to set up State Police, Senatorial Police, LGAs Police, School Campus Police, the parks where people are entering and moving away from Lagos, there will be Police there. I don’t think I will have any challenge because I understand Lagos. I am a Lagosian, I know what I want, I have been to every parts, and I have been able to put these things down. The only thing is every constitutional challenges, the lawyers will be doing that one, but in a matter of one month all those things will be done. I need to make sure people are not being killed, I am going to make sure that people are not being injured, I am going to make sure that all these cultism will stop, they will definitely stop, and if you don’t have any business to do in Lagos, please, you have to get out. Lagos is for people that want to be doing something to earn their living, and do something better for Lagos, don’t come down here and start messing up in Lagos, we don’t want you.
There is only one party that has been ruling Lagos for years now and you are coming under Accord, How will you cope, what do you think the challenges could be?
Have you ever been to an examination hall where you see somebody coming out from S.S. 2 writing WASCE with the students of S.S. 3 and still coming out better. So whether it is APC or PDP, my name and what I have done in the past will speak for me. And what I intend to do for Lagosians will speak for me. They know me, they know I have that proof of what I have done. When I was the local government chairman I was bigger than Tinubu. When I was local government chairman, people knew me in Lagos, because I was an action local government chairman. My name was ringing almost everywhere. There was no day my name was not printed in the newspaper for doing something good for people or wanting something. For example, people who don’t job, and I will say, you don’t have job, but you have the certificate, I gave out tax credits, even for new companies, even old companies, I give example like Nigerian Breweries, I would say, you know what, do you want to pay tax this year, I will say look at this people’s C.V., interview them, If you can be able to employ, they were able to do that employment, they gained the employment, today some of them have become managers. What about BAGCO, Indomie, and some other companies, including Guinness Nigeria Plc, Coca Cola, the Coca Cola was ready to give us free drinks and kiosks,….then we introduced towing. Towing of vehicles, that has now become what Lagos State is doing anyhow, these people need to be put in place they are not doing the right thing, including the LASTMA. Now they set up LASTMA, but they are doing it the way they like, the thing is enough is enough.
How do you plan to deal with the state economy including the ???????
You have to understand one thing, Lagos generates more internally generated revenue (IGR), than any other state. There are some other IGR that I will introduce, but I am not going to mention them now, because it is important that it has to be done. I had that idea when I travelled out of this country. Let me tell you, things I have seen when I am not in this country, I am writing them down, I have been writing them down since over 30 years, 40 years, and some of them have not been implemented, but this time I will be able to use some of them to get our IGR to be in place. No matter what it is, probably will be more bigger than that of South Africa. Once the IGR is increased, funding will be much more easier for all kinds of funding I need to do, for road, for schooling, for creating more university, which I plan to do, you know for us to have just one LASU. At the same time, even to some states, some private people can register universities under the approval of Lagos State. We don’t Federal government to continue doing the approval for us. The whole will work, like I said, we will be doing a lot of things that will end up going to Supreme court. It is not written anywhere that I cannot approve a private university and I will make sure those universities too are accredited by other countries. Let’s leave that one. Pension, we won’t have issue with that. As long as we are generating revenue, we are paying salary, people are paying salaries from their different offices, I make sure I pay up. I promise you, before I enter on May 29th, I can tell you before the end of the year, whatever debt we are owing, most likely would have been paid in order to make sure that we come back with zero balance for the following year, 2024. So there won’t be any problem, as long as you are able to increase taxes, you are able to generate more revenue, then you will be able to have enough money to execute all your programmes, so there won’t be anywhere lacking. A lot of people are not paying taxes, so if they are not paying taxes, they should beef up now, because they will be paying taxes, and that is how it is going to be.
For funding the infrastructure.
Yes just like I have said, your IGR has increased, whatever goes to Federal, goes to Federal, you get something from the Federal government, that will be done, like I said again, I am going to make sure the local governments are free. I am going to hand over to the local government, 100 per cent ! Total freedom, they should not even come to the state. Whatever revenue they need to collect from the Federal government, let them collect it, the 100 per cent of the state IGR, that they are supposed to be given every month, will be given to them. I will not interfere into the administration of the local governments, because they are going to have their own police, they are going to have everything done under their own authority, so that they can have the power, the way they do in America, in England, will be done in my administration. So total autonomy. Even for employment, I will make sure that no staff is taking from the state to local government, they will have their own local government administrations, away from the state, so when you give them total freedom, give them their total freedom, don’t cut any corners at all for them to do their jobs right.
So, how do you tackle insecurity in the state?
That is the simplest thing to do. As I explained to you, once I set up State Police, County Police, which mean by Senatorial Police, Local Government Police and we have Campus Police, Park Police, and they are all independent on their own. I am not putting somebody that is not a resident of Lagos. What the Federal Government is doing right now, bringing people from Benue State, from Kaduna State to come and police Lagos, we don’t need all that. Let Lagosians be governed by Lagosians, because they understand the territory, they understand where they come from, they know who lives next door to them, they know their neighborhoods, and I don’t believe in Police barracks where we have all these fake barracks and the barracks too, need to be totally taken care of. Police must be living with the community. So there won’t be any fear for them. They should be able to go home as usual, go back to work as usual. So, that would be the first thing. So, number two, the cultists we are talking about at every corner, even in any of our university, they will be driven out of school, they would be handed over to the Police there won’t any reason. You and I have seen Yoruba films where you see normal Nigeria Policeman giving ammunition to people to go and operate. All these things should be cancelled. I am not going to lie to you, if we have to build more prisons, we have to build more prisons. Prisons need to be built. Prisons are for people who are hardened criminals. I won’t be shy of that, I will build. I have never seen a state where they say they own 99 percents of the prisons, I have never seen one, so this time, there would be a prison. As I said, you don’t belong in Lagos, get out, because when we get you, you go through the length of the law.
If you become the governor of Lagos State, would raise the minimum wage?
Definitely, I don’t believe in that minimum wage. ???? look at the rate of Dollars so I will increase salary and I will make sure you are a company and you are in Lagos State, you must respect that and pay up, if you don’t pay up, please just carry your business out of Lagos to another state. That is how it is going to be because Lagos is expensive, to buy food, when you say Lagos, see how you pay for rice in Alimosho, and how much you pay for it in Victoria island. The people in Victoria Island are still earning the same amount of money, but it is expensive to eat in this area. So the salary need to go up. As i said, it is mandatory that Alausa salary will increase. Everybody working with Lagos will have their salaries increased through their companies. They don’t dare to reduce, but salary will definitely increase, but not all levels.
What is your plan for the youths?
If I become the Lagos the state, which I am going to be the next governor of Lagos State, I am going to hand over to the youths. But they need to know and learn the system, they need to come and see how it is being done. How do we submit document to the House of Assembly, how do we pass budget , they have to understand government. Like I said I started lower, I didn’t say I want to be senator right away. I wanted to be counselor, I wanted to be chairman, so the youths need start from there. Then you can bring your own fresh ideas into the system, so that there can be change. I am going to hand over to them, but most of my lieutenants as I used to call them, either, S.A, S.S.A., commissioner, director -general, . M.Ds, whatever it is they are going to be youths- both men and women, who will be right behind me and I will be teaching them. They will now be able to go workshops, for seminars, training, extra-training to understand how governance is being done. We will get people who are professors in Nigeria or Lagos State here to train, constant training and we will be able to do examinations so that they will actually understand what is governance, and that’s how it is going to be. I am going to handover to them without any training at all, they won’t be able to go far.
Your final words to Lagosians.
Very simple. Lagosians, I am going free you from caging, number one, nobody is going to tell you what to do. Nobody is going to tell you he is going to be elected, nobody is going to take your mandate from you and nobody will tell you who you are supposed to vote for. I am going to hand over the local government totally, when I say totally, I mean 100 per cent, to the local government, the state will not interfere, we are going to deal with the traffic management, forget what is happening right now, we have enough roads to tackle the number of motorcycles, okada we have in Lagos State, but because of poor traffic management that has been on for so long. I think people enjoy it, I don’t, and most of the Lagosians don’t so we are going to be able to find that one out, and we can be able to have free movement back and front. Vehicles being parked , a car without the rear light or rear light, full break, is not supposed to be on the road, definitely that one will go back. but the major part is security. I want to introduce 24 hours security, it is done in New York City, it is done in Singapore, it has been done in London, we will be able to do the same thing, if this is the New York City of Nigeria, or the New York City of Africa, We should take our leave now, I want people to come back to Lagos, live in Lagos, enjoy in Lagos and say wow! This is Lagos and it is going to stand like that. Welcome and this is Lagos!