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Dead Names are Part of FG Palliative Receivers – Niyi Akintola

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TRANSCRIPT: CHIEF NIYI AKINTOLA, SAN’S LIVE INTERVIEW WITH MAYOR ISAAC BROWN ON FRESH FM 105.9 IBADAN (10 AM, MAY 2, 2020)

MAYOR: Sir, let’s flag it off from the national perspective. The Corona virus, the COVID-19 that we are grappling with in our country and of course, in our state several weeks back when the first index case was reported, the federal government took some decisions at combating this pandemic. Three states of the federation were fully locked down. And not only that, the federal government also reeled out palliatives, especially the existing one talking about cash transfers. And we were also told that food and other essentials will be sent to Nigerians. Several weeks almost a month now we’ve seen that the lockdown was renewed in those states and a few days ago we seem to be moving into another phase the federal government is now talking about easing restrictions in some of those critical states. So nationally, the governors came together. And also, it appears they tried to preempt the federal government, announcing that they, too, would be restricting movement across their borders. So technically speaking, Nigeria in terms of vehicular movement, is on a lockdown and if we marry what’s playing out in states with the federal government measures, SAN, will you help us make sense of this effort thus far? And your brutal honest view of its workability, especially at where things stand this morning. Well, we are almost a little in term of cases now over 2000 and the death is almost 64, as we speak this morning. So, you are one of our leaders, we all look up to people like you for direction, your take on FG’s direction thus far.

SAN: Well, I think bearing in mind the state of our health facilities in the country. You have to give the federal government and states government kudos. As a matter of fact I was amazed at the spontaneous reaction of Lagos state government. You know, Lagos state governor seem to have become our poster boy in terms of measuring national development and even the federal government take a cue from Lagos state government. You have to give that state her due. If you look at the surrounding nations, sub-Saharan West Africa, you give Nigeria a Pass mark, even Burkina Faso that is just about a quarter of Nigeria’s population has recorded so much and South Africa, with all the health facilities available has recorded so much fatalities, you would give the Nigerian government pass mark, rather unfortunate 64 deaths is quite enormous. But if you place it on a comparative basis, if you compare and contrast it to what is happening around us, you will give Nigerian government both at the state level and federal level, some pass mark

[Mayor cuts in but do you also agree sir that those figures that we have may not truly represent Situation on ground because we are not testing enough]

SAN.. Yes, I admit that much, but if you follow the premise of my argument, I said against the backdrop of our health facilities, limitations and challenges. I mean, we are not just there. In terms of health facilities, we are not there and now that we are locked in. Everybody, no one can go out and run to anywhere, you can’t even go to Osun state here unless we just want to breach your way through. You can’t move to Lagos unless you want to bribe your way through on the road. And if we have been able to knock it down, thus far I think our government deserve commendation and again we have to commend the resilience of Nigerians, most Nigerians resort to local treatment without even going for the test or to the hospitals

[Mayor cuts in so the 68 deaths that we’re talking about or folks that maybe have lost their lives at clinics may not truly be the truth because people are dying at home]

SAN..certainly not… people are dying at home, there are not enough testing centers we just have to be honest. I mean, some people are not even observing the social distancing measure. In spite of that all the wrong things in the country, let us give ourselves the credit. Nigeria’s resilience I mean, this never dies spirit of an average Nigerian and you have to give it to us because our counterparts, our compatriots in Europe and America are not that lucky. They have everything they are so complacent about depending on government. But you and I know that you are on your own, if you are a Nigerian. There’s no government rely on. That’s just the truth. So we have to commend Nigerians for their resilience

[Mayor cuts in.. back to the 68 deaths and you alluded to the fact that we are not testing enough]

SAN.. we are not testing enough, if we have enough testing centres in Ibadan alone, I am afraid of the reality, if you go to Mokola now you will see how people move together neck-to-neck, Okada riders and cab drivers they are there, if you go to Aleshinloye market, they are there, I just pass through Mapo, it is business as usual, nobody is maintaining anything.

Mayor: The fact that you have acknowledged this morning that we are not testing enough, if we do test enough, we will probably have a spike in the numbers. Yes. So are you not now worried that if federal government is now easing restrictions, asking folks to go back to work with what you have said, and you give me some couple of statistics in our conversation. The norm up there in Europe, if you’re thinking of easing restrictions one of the things is you must be able to establish that look, you’ve gotten to the peak of your infection. And that you are already coming down the curve. If you are not testing enough, how do we know where we are? How do we know whether we are at the peak? How do we know whether we have even fallen? And you are asking folks to go back to work at the national level.

SAN: The truth of the matter is that you have to balance it. I mean question of balancing it between the deep blue sea and the devil. Yeah, whether the virus is killing people, hunger kills more than COVID-19 that’s the truth.  I watched on the social media what happened in front of this station, the number of people, they even broke your gate for food

[Mayor cuts in and I must thank you for what you are doing quietly, I have not said anything]

SAN..that was just a tip of the iceberg. This part of the city is just one section and look at the number of people, I wouldn’t know about you, but I know the number of text messages of course, I get every day even this morning and we have little or no resources

[Mayor cuts in ..Will you agree with me, sir, that it takes action of people like you and several other good spirited Nigerians to have kept the angry, hungry Nigerians at bay, because when you look at what federal government, of course, as I speak to you, we are still expecting Oyo state palliative up till now, the federal government claimed, that they are sending rice, will you confirm whether people in your own local government who have been picking stuff from you have also confirmed that they’ve been receiving from federal government  as we speak because it appears if people like you don’t act, we would have been in a mess. So the palliatives, cash transfer that we are hearing and not seeing. We’ve be asking questions in Oyo state, nobody is saying they are receiving anything.

SAN: I do not know of anyone that has received under me, from my locality even from my village. I don’t know of any. And I do know of a permanent secretary who happens to be the daughter of a prominent Nigerian at the federal level whose mother-in-law that died over 15 years ago, had her name reflected on the cash transfer list. In fact, I had to caution her when she wanted to blow the whistle. I said you know your father is a social critic and if it this, I mean the name of her mother-in-law reflected on it and the woman died over 15 years ago, it was when she was moved from her ministry to the new ministry that she discovered that even the list of the poorest of the poor that were said to have been paid was her mother-in-law who was long dead. So it’s a question of the more you look, the less you see and this idea of top-bottom cannot work for this country, it has to be bottom-up. So and then is even if there is the so called palliative, it is like dropping a needle in the Atlantic Ocean. For those of us who have taken it upon ourselves to let us help the people, it is in our own interest. We are not doing them a favour but it is a duty. We are not doing anything for the individual, it is in our interest to do something because we would not be able to sleep. When the Man on the street is hungry, you would not sleep. I mean, you will not sleep in the comfort of your home, so, is in the interest of everybody who has some form of benefits to share with the people. Is it not a favour.

MAYOR: Still talking about the national level, If you look at the numbers coming out from Kano, as of this morning, 92, yesterday, on Friday it was 80.

SAN: That was what I said. I mean, the truth of the matter is, one, we are not ready for anything. We’re just not prepared. I mean, our health status is in shambles. Most of us, if not for the lockdown, most of us wouldn’t be here. We will not be in this country. If the COVID-19 has been limited to Nigeria, I would have places to go, that’s the truth. But many of us wouldn’t be around

[Mayor cuts in but you believe strongly that this problem, for leaders, people in power who read books]

SAN.. unfortunately our leaders do not read books

MAYOR..[our leaders who read books who also learn from history that this may be a blessing of the need for us to rejuvenate Our health sector]

SAN..by now our leaders should be proactive. I mean many of them are sleeping. Look at what is happening in Europe? Look at what is happening in America? No one is thinking, well, there’s a little bit of some modicum of proactiveness on the part of the federal government by thinking ahead of COVID-19. Any sensible person in government by now would be thinking of the after effect of COVID-19, post COVID-19 should be our major concern now. The Nigerian Labour Congress just brought up some things yesterday, there is going to be loss of jobs already is happening

[Mayor cuts in you told me about your own company that you do online virtual now]

SAN.. I suddenly discover that I don’t need fifty percent of the staff.

MAYOR: Let me just say this…very important to our conversation. I’m just confirming from the task force now in Oyo state, the number of cases in Ogbomosho is 6 not two

SAN: Ninety Four thousand Airline workers have their jobs on the line. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s goes on like that. It’s a reflection of what is happening in other sector. The banks are slashing workers salaries because they just discovered that they didn’t need the number of cashiers to man their vaults. So it’s going to have multiplier effect and the government should be proactive. By now a sensible government should put a team in place to do critical thinking, to the subject the issue to empirical analysis. What are you going to do? If you are going to draft all of us to the farm to start cultivating cassava, this is the time to do it because our vessels are on the high sea and nobody’s buying our oil the landing cost of a barrel of crude a is far more than the amount that is being sold now, so the cost of production is higher than what you are getting. What was shared among the three tiers of government was about one quarter of what it used to be. We have to borrow money to pay salaries; most of the governors will be stoned. Except those who are proactive to start explaining to the people, they have sensitise the people, it is not going to be business as usual. Even you and I need to cut down our expenditure. People are concerned with what food to eat and a time will come when they’re will be short supply of food, so, we just have to put on our thinking cap. It’s not going to be funny and everyone is laughing. It’s not funny matter is not funny at all.

MAYOR: So you have raised the issue of isolation Center and testing center and the need for us to push these, however, there is a story making rounds that some state governments just want to shoot up their numbers so that they can get Federal government’s money, two, do you also think that the federal government need to do something, the kind of support Lagos is getting that Oyo and some other states who deserve should get this kind of financial interventions?

SAN: See, you have to show good feat. You have to be proactive. The case of Oyo state I mean I commend the governor for the equipment of Infectious Disease Centre and I want to thank the chairman of NUJ for the good job they are doing, it was through the NUJ that the we know the place was not ready. Please keep it up for blowing the whistle. I visited the place personally and I’m proud of what was done there I have to commend Professor Alonge and his team, of course I am impressed with the equipment there

MAYOR: Live interview with Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Niyi Akintola COVID-19 still on my mind this wonderful morning, before we went on break, I was trying to call your attention as regards the national question on how we have been able to manage this crisis nationally. We’re quite very lucky that prior to COVID-19 our borders were already closed. If you look at the figures we had yesterday in Oyo there were some immigrants, Togolese, their names came up. Some folks have also spoken of Ogbomosho border states

[SAN cuts in there were reports that some Hausa boys came from Zamfara yesterday]

MAYOR….as a leader in the state, did you call the security agencies or the governor

[SAN cuts in the governor does not pick his call]

MAYOR…still talking about immigrants coming into the states.

SAN: You are talking about the formal border what about the informal borders

MAYOR: Since report of the index case in Oyo, the policy of this government, Oyo government. You can premise them on four parameters. I want you to help us make sense out of it all, the government declared partial lockdown, the government declared curfew from 7:00 p.m. Which it has relaxed from 7:00 to 6:00 to 7:00 to 5:00 a.m as we speak the government closed down businesses and directed that only business or markets that sell essentials and food are to open, the gathering of not more than 10. That was what we been following in almost four weeks now and this week the government added something else workers level 13 and above to resume this Monday, can you help us critique each of these measures?

SAN: Well let me say straight away that last part of the four options, I mean the four plans of action of the government in respect of COVID-19 is observe more in breach. Beyond that I see this government operating on two plans populism and de-marketing, populism will not take it far. It is populism that has encouraged him to think let me just do this so that people will clap, no no no no, like governor Ajimobi used to say, he will say, a good leader will take people to where they should go not where they want to go. I appreciate the fact that the economic situation of our people has to be taken into consideration but you have to look at the larger interest the public health of the society, you cannot be the only virgin in the maternity ward, like he is trying to do

[Mayor cuts in you mean Governor Seyi Makinde]

SAN…yes, the governor is playing the Ostrich, you see everybody who has a pen drive knows that when they close down Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria is shut down. Your neighbours Osun and Ogun on lockdown and you are here tying to operate your plan of populism, it will not help you, it won’t

[Mayor cuts in. are you saying the direction and policy of the state government is not premised on scientific knowledge?]

SAN..No, no, they are basically based on two major plans, populism and de-marketing. De-marketing is to de-market APC, I am speaking as a Nigeriam not because I am an APC member

[Mayor cuts in we agree before you came here to talk as a statesman]

SAN..I mean I am not speaking here as a partisan politician. Populism, there is a limit, I don’t know whether the governor has read that book called the limit of propaganda if he has read it, he will know that there is limit to some of these things, there are things you just have to put in proper context

[Mayor cuts in are you saying you disagree with resumption]

SAN..I am talking on the approach, I did say I commend him for equipping that Infectious Disease Centre, but let me say this Oyo state especially Ibadan, if you drive round this town you will not believe that there’s anything called pandemic around, it is that you are not educating them or not enforcing?

[Mayor cuts in ..so are you saying that the directive of Oyo state government that only businesses that runs essentials and food markets is wrong?]

SAN..No that’s not true go to Challenge there, social distancing is not being observed, who says people are gathering, that’s the area I do not agree with the governor because he does not want to step on toes. He does not want to appear to offend anybody, you don’t run government that way, and you just have to step on toes to get things done

[Mayor ..that this populist government approach will back fire?]

SAN..It is back firing already. People are already comparing and contrasting, when Ajimobi was there within seven months that restoration bridge, what have we to show now in twelve months, this is May, not one block has been put on the other, and I am not here to deride anybody. To get public sympathy you are doing certain things in, but these certain things in the long run would be in the interest of the people at the end of the day, you and I are going to pay heavily for it. I’m sorry I have to say this that this government has come to destroy the template of development of Oyo state

[Mayor cuts in why and how?]

SAN..the template everybody want to live and die in Lagos because people have been following the templates put in Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, even Ambode that came and try to disrupt it was shown the way out because he couldn’t continue with that Lagos-Badagry Expressway which Fashola completed first and second phases of that road before you get to Alaba and he abandoned Ilubirin Housing Estate, did all sort of things, you see the template is there, when Governor Ladoja came on board, he put up a template of development, give it to him, like Ring road and what have you and take it look at this, you live in Ibadan, all the entry points into Ibadan are dualised by those governors before him. Ladoja did Iwo road, Olodo, Dugbe, Mokola-Ojoo. Akala did Alala Way-NNPC, he did in front of UCH-Gate. Ajimobi did in fact most roads in Ibadan, from Old Lagos Road-Kpodo, Idi-Ape-Akobo, Gate-Iwo road over head bridge, he did Aleshinloye-Dubge-Iyaganku. Now the only road left if the man does not want to destroy the template is Omi-Adio-Abeokuta road that is the only road left…..

BABALOLA: The SAN.. you are a former lawmaker in this state which also places you amongst erudite leaders of Oyo state today having served in that capacity for more than two decades now, if you were to be in the shoes of current lawmakers at the state and federal levels, the senators, representatives and assembly lawmakers, what would be thing that you will be putting in place in terms of bills to support the government post COVID-19 crisis that all us are in?

SAN: I think you are comparing Apple with Oranges here, in our time we had freedom to expose corruption and inefficiency. Many of us were well to do even though we are very young. The salaries then and allowances, everything put together was twenty-one thousand for a deputy speaker for a whole year. The governor’s salary was twenty-five naira [Mayor cuts in security vote?] There was no security vote, but if a commissioner fails to appear before my committee then he is going to jail, how many legislators can do that now?

MAYOR: You said there is refuse everywhere in this town, we understand that the current government came in, they fired the current contractor and put in place new structure, secondly, sir one of the fallouts of this ongoing COVID-19 challenges is security, people hardly sleep at night in town again, every landlord is now a potential vigilante, do you think the government and security agencies are doing enough in the area of rising insecurity and the refuse issue?

SAN: I have dust bins in front of my house but nothing was done to the waste so when I was fed up, I dug a hole and burnt them. My house is like eight buildings away from the government and they didn’t come in four months to pick it up

[Babalola cuts in for the sake of clarity, the Commissioner of Environment, Kehinde Ayoola announced that they have employed consultant]

SAN..Why must it take them eleven months, Kehinde Ayoola is my friend, he is one the best brains in this government, but there is nothing you cannot do if the leadership is not wherewithal. Security wise they are trying but security is a collective thing, you have to involve the stakeholders. What we had in the last eight year, look at what we are having now, it is like taking three steps forward and tens back backward

[Mayor cuts in you think that’s fair for a government of one year?]

SAN..Morning shows in the day

[DARE cuts in sir you have offered constructive criticisms, post COVID-19 challenges, the governor during the May Day celebrations announced that political appointees will have to make sacrifices, 50 percent pay cut and he also announced that civil servants will not be affected, how do you see this gesture and what is your advice for the governor that he should do so the economy of the state do not crumble?]

SAN..That was a good gesture on the part of the governor and the government of the state but it goes beyond that. The government is still making new appointments and should not be a priority now. In fact if there is anything the government is over bloated already. This is not the best time for appointment. I must also admit that Gov Ajimobi had the number of biggest political appointees in the history of western region..I think government should educating the people that it is not going to be business as usual and this is not the time to increase taxes. And government must realize that we live in an interdependent country, Nigerians are highly mobile, I pay my taxes because of patriotism, but government must encourage tax payers to come and pay their taxes and educate people to lower their expectation from government.
You need to subject your actions to self-criticism. I remember, I have been in the think-tank team of at least two governments, I won’t mention names. And, those of us who are in the think-tank were to be seen as an all-card. We are not necessarily the Commissioner or people you see in government, no, but serious thinking goes on behind the scene.
There is a limit to which I can… I can only speak as a stakeholder — there is danger here, let’s correct this and that. But anything that comes with the issue of policy, governance, it’s not my business.
I am in the APC, he is in the PDP. I will not even be trusted if I bring such suggestion. It’s only that something that connects all of us like COVID-19… that’s why I branched at the isolation centre to see what is going on there
There is need for government to do serious thinking before acting or speaking.
During the first tenure of former Governor Abiola Ajimobi, the first thing he put in place was the think-tank team headed by Professor Demola Ariyo.

Babalola…Sir,what is your view on the reconciliation committee formed by Abiola Ajimobi,

SAN.. it is a commendable move, but you cannot expect me to discuss the details on air

MAYOR: I have seen the list of donors in Oyo state, no Chief Niyi Akintola there, why sir?

SAN: Well, you see everybody has his/her own motive for giving and having is not a function of giving, those who give does not necessary mean that they have much, but I believe in giving directly the people that are affected. When you give money to the government, civil servants have this penchant attitude of creating all sort of bureaucracies, the directorate of tea, the directorate of transportation etc then I ask you out of the money donated, how much has reach the people over the six weeks COVID-19 has started?

[Mayor cuts in is that why you don’t want to give to Oyo state government?]

SAN..I got a letter from Chief Ladoja concerning that okay we should contribute as leaders, but I drove to his house, only for me to discover that covid-19 caught him outside the country. I intended to donate to Chief Ladoja because I believe he is a man of integrity but since I didn’t see him I return with the cheque. I can only donate to the Fund not until state government constitute or have a management team.

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