“They know that I had strategies which I put in place to defeat the APC in 2015 to win seats in the House of Representatives and the Lagos Assembly.”
Moshood Salvador is a former Lagos State chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but now the State Director-General of the Buhari/Osinbajo presidential campaign organisation and the Deputy Director-General of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu governorship campaign for Lagos West Senatorial District. Sanwo-Ou is running on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
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Salvador speaks on how the state government plans to tackle the Lagos port congestion, the chances of the APC in the governorship election and other issues.
The port in Lagos has been congested for a while now and has caused much gridlock which in turn has paralysed so many businesses within the Apapa axis. What plans does the Babajide Sanwo-Olu government have to deal with the situation?
This issue and what would be done about it is part of what Sanwo-Olu explained to the elders of the party when he met with them recently. He told them that, part of the plans to tackle the gridlock is to give special training to the Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LASTMA) officials so that they can handle the difficulties. The issue of truck congestion is as a result of the activities of the port which the authorities cannot handle. If you observe, the trucks only queue up during the day, then they load their trucks at night. Therefore, if we can make arrangement for them to queue up outside Lagos, then as soon as it is time for them to start loading their trucks, then they can come into Lagos for that purpose late at night.
Is it not time the Federal Government dredges other ports across the country rather than concentrate only on Lagos?
If we had a reliable railway system, this would not have been an issue and it would aid in decongesting the ports.
Recently, the Lagos State House of Assembly complained about the dilapidated state of many roads in the state. For a state like Lagos which has the highest Internally Generated Revenue in the country, is it not surprising that the huge income accruing to the state does not seem to be commensurate with the level of infrastructure development?
It is not a matter of having huge revenue; we have to address the issue of the lack of maintenance culture which we must change. It is what I practice. It is because the government could not maintain high rise buildings, which is why the Federal Government sold it and my company was one of the lucky ones to buy. When you come to the estate where these high rise buildings are, you see that they are maintained and the roads are always in good condition.
Who is to maintain roads in a country? Is it the government or individuals?
Some of the potholes we are talking about cost little or nothing to repair, but usually, because of our lack of maintenance culture, they are allowed to degenerate. Some of the roads can be taken care of by the local governments but they are not.
Whose job is it to ensure that these roads are maintained?
We have local government, state and federal roads and if the local government can take care of their roads, I assure you that citizens won’t complain. It is when local governments can’t afford to develop their roads that it becomes an embarrassment to the state government and they usually intervene. It is the local government that we should ask why they are not doing what they are supposed to do, and then they should be able to say what their constraints are.
Local governments always complain of lack of funds to carry out such rehabilitation. Do you agree?
Who is to fund the local governments? They get their share from the revenue gotten from the Federal Government and they are also entitled to generate revenue themselves, instead they all rely on the Joint Account to get revenue for their day to day activities. All of them need training and a new orientation on how to generate revenue instead of relying solely on the government. Generating revenue does not mean that you have to tax your constituents to death; there are many ways of generating income. Some of the councils are blessed with resources which they cannot even see and in most cases, are unwilling to tap. Once we employ the services of experts who would put them on the right path, you would see that the local governments would start doing fine without having to wait for anybody.
The Brookings Institute recently said that Nigeria has overtaken India to become the poverty capital of the world which is a far cry from what we used to have before 2015. What coherent policies does your party have in place to combat poverty?
The most important issue we need to consider when talking about the economy is if the exchange rate is stable. In the past two years, the exchange rate has been stable but it cannot be fixed because of the method in which the dollar is being supplied to the nation. The CBN policy on having different rates is not something everyone accepts as a standard but it is important because of different level of needs. When you are talking about health and school fees, they cannot be the same rate because the government subsidizes for students and that is why that rate is low. So there is an excuse for that even though the difference is not much.
I cannot tell you that all the policies of the government are excellent because no government is excellent, but on a scale of one to ten, I will score this government seven.
You used to be a critic of the government, what has changed about this administration that has made you given it such a high score?
There was a time when most state governments could not pay salaries, but this government was able to give some bailout funds to address that issue which some of us even criticised. But the good thing is that the money ended up in the pockets of Nigerians. We criticised it at that time because we questioned what the governors were doing with the funds available to them that they failed to pay workers salaries. Most of the governors from both APC and PDP mismanaged their resources and that is why there were unable to pay salaries.
At the National Conference we advocated for state governors to make their security votes public so that Nigerians can know what they do with it. I advocated that security votes should be controlled. Do you know that governors earn salaries? If for instance, we say that the security votes of governors should not be more than 200 percent of his salary, we will be helping in a way to control how they spend security votes. It is not for a governor to sit down and say he has spent N500 million for security votes, yet, we cannot audit it to know if he is being truthful or not. That is a very terrible window for corruption and even if you bring a priest to become a governor, he would always steal through that window.
What is your opinion about the negotiations on minimum wage for workers? Do you think an increment is long overdue?
It is not the increment of your salary that would help you but the value of the money you are holding. When you increase it to N30, 000, the bakery worker would also demand for an increase because all of us buy from the same market. Even one million naira has no value not to talk of someone who earns N18, 000. What we should be talking about is what to do to make N18, 000 valuable in the market and sufficient for one man to eat twice a day for 30 days. We can only do that by having sound economic policies. If you increase minimum wage without policies that would make the money valuable, it would have no meaning. When they start talking about increase in minimum wage, I see them as unserious because it would only cause more problems. I prefer a reduction in minimum wage where there is low inflation and the currency has value such that you can purchase goods even with fifty kobo.
A sister publication of the Economist magazine ranked Lagos as one of the world’s worst cities to live in despite its huge IGR. What is your take?
How can they say that without giving indices or the yardstick they use to draw such conclusions?
Maybe we can talk about the fact that Lagos has so many dilapidated roads, the traffic caused by the port congestion is excruciating which has affected many businesses negatively and other factors like lack of water and high cost of living?
We have already talked about the roads and the port congestion and concluded it is a federal issue and not that of the state. I initially stated that the only way the state can help is by making space available for the trucks to park.
Do you see the PDP’s governorship candidate, Jimi Agbaje, as a threat to Babajide Sanwo-Olu?
It is absolutely impossible for Agbaje to be a threat because the structure, with which he is supposed to work with, has been weakened already. Whether they like it or not, I took some of the structure away and many of the members who are still there are presently negotiating to come and join me in APC because they want to have rest of mind as I am having. I have perfected a strategy that I would use to kill PDP totally, such that it won’t recover.
Do you think the APC is stupid to have made me the deputy Director-General, for the Lagos governorship campaign in Lagos West and made me the Director-General for the Buhari/Osinbajo campaign in Lagos? They know what they are doing. They only prove that they are smarter than the PDP. They know that I had strategies which I put in place to defeat the APC in 2015 to win seats in the House of Representatives and the Lagos Assembly. All those strategies have been withdrawn already and that is what I am using against PDP now. I can assure you that there is no way the PDP can get the number of votes that they got under my leadership in 2015.