Apostle Oloruntoba Oke is the chairman of Ifako Ijaiye Local Government Area of Lagos State. In this interview with thegazellenews.com‘s JUMU’AH ABIODUN DAWUD, he speaks on his experience in office. Excerpts:
What were the major challenges you faced when you were sworn-in as Chairman of Ifako Ijaiye Local Government?
The immediate challenges were: how to integrate the programmes of my predecessor, a member of our party, into my own programme. We have our own agenda but his programmes cannot be wished away totally. So merging the two programmes to put in place a people-oriented administration provided the first major challenge. Another challenge was getting fund to execute our programmes. These were the immediate major challenges.
How were you able to manage these challenges?
Well you will agree with me that governance is difficult but also dynamic. You encounter challenges daily but you overcome or rather try to overcome the challenges as they come. These are issues that will actually make you strong and will continue to guide you.
We have always been focused and we have programmes well spelt out before our assumption of office. This guide us a lot because it’s one thing going into government with a particular focus and it’s another thing getting into government and still not using that focus. Once you still have your focus and you are committed to do what you have promised to do whatever challenges, issues and problems you face in office during your activities or implementing your policies, once you are committed to fulfilling your promises, you will overcome the problems.
It’s about governance, so the issues will always be there; the challenges will always be there; and the problems will always be there but once you are not scared and you refused to be defeated in the face of all these problems, definitely you will forge ahead and that is where we are today.
What project has given you most satisfaction since you assumed office?
That is really interesting. I won’t say a particular project because all the projects executed so far in the local government are programmes and projects tailored towards the needs of the people. There are some major link roads that have suffered neglect in the local government for about two decades but we took it upon ourselves to rehabilitate them immediately we came in and I will mentioned some of the roads to you. There is a major link road called Galilee Avenue and there is another one called Old Akute road, which is 1.8km long. Then there is Kajola. When you are coming through Akute road from Ojodu there is no way you won’t pass through Kajola road.
When I came in, I was told that Kajola was a no go area because it is under high tension wire but I rubbished that and today we have fixed the road.
We have also fixed Old Akute road and Galilee Avenue as well as another major link road in the front of the Ifako Ijaye General Hospital called College Road. We are going to rename that road because the one recently commissioned by the state Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN is also called College Road. All these roads came with standard drains.
In the area of education, we are renovating primary schools and buying furniture for them. We have also distributed free school bags to pupils in the local government. We have also built and rehabilitated public health centres in the local government.
I remember that when we first did the Old Akute Road, the entire community did a banner expressing their appreciation, it gives me joy when people are happy. Of course, it is during my tenure that we have a library, the first of its kind in Ifako Ijaiye LG. We also have an
ICT centre, first of its kind in Ifako Ijaiye LG. All these give me absolute joy. The essence of going into government is to put smiles on people faces and for what we have been able to do, we have put smiles on people’s faces.
Agreed, there is no way we can achieve 100 percent approval of what we are doing, it’s not possible. You will still have some people complaining of one thing or the other and commenting negatively about the government. However, this does not matter since one is committed to working hard to achieve what you promised the people.
Sir, how were you able to source funds to execute all these projects?
That’s a big question and a very good one. You see because there is no way you can have all the funds for all the projects or programmes you plan to implement when you are in government, you have to be prudent in your management of fund available to you. We make do with our internally generated revenue (IGR), then with whatever we get as allocation from both the state and federal governments.
Prudent management has been one of our virtues and the Governor also encouraged us to take loans from our banks which most of us did.
The other time, we discussed about the new council secretariat under construction. When are you completing the project?
I don’t know whether I explained the cost implication of constructing that secretariat. When the contract for the construction of the secretariat was first awarded by the administration of the late Richard Akinpelu, it was N67 million but when Honorable Doherty, my immediate predecessor got into office, the contract was reviewed upwards to about N365 million.
My take on that was that how can a reasonable chief executive of a local government spent as much as that on just one project, to me it doesn’t make sense, I’ m sure I mentioned that to you during our chat then.
However we cannot abandon the project so I said we will try as much as we can to complete it within a record time, so that we can commission it and staff can move into it.
But man proposes, God disposes. In Nigeria, you know that most of the funds government at various level spend comes from the federation account, so we were challenged by funds and we couldn’t just meet up with the goals sets for ourselves in terms of completing the project.
However, we actually tried taking the project from where we met it to the next construction level but I’m not sure if we would be able to complete it before our tenure ends in October.
Secretariat projects in local governments are usually huge projects that one administration rarely complete them but in our own case here, I think in reviewing the contract upwards, somebody was just trying to be too ambitious.
So what did you do to address this issue?
As at the time we came in, there was little we could do. The structure was already there, I mean the frame works. So if we are going to review the contract downwards, it means we will carry out some demolition which will translate into wasting of funds because money have been spent on putting together these columns.
I must also say that the concept of the building is a good one, good in the sense that there are two halls as part of the structure I know this will fetch money. Therefore, when I look at all this, there is no way we can review the contract downwards, the best thing is just to leave it as it is and we continue because I have looked at the structure, all the facilities intended for the building and I’ve seen that if we spend the money, in no time we will recoup the money. That is why I just felt we should leave it and then continue with the construction.
When you started you were very active, I monitored your activities especially in the area of construction and rehabilitation of roads. It seems you have now slowed down, what is the reason for this?
We didn’t slow down. You will agree with me that when we came in, there were serious problems that people can see within the local government. That is why we have to move very fast to quickly fixed some of the roads, to quickly provide drains in area where they are needed. The speed at which we were working then cannot continue now because don’t forget that during the campaign we said that we are going to ensure that within our six month in the office that we will make a statement which we achieve.
There is no government that would maintain the same tempo all through because you are coming in to tackle the problem confronting the people and you apply yourself to finding solutions to those problems immediately. Of course we know we are through with the Old Akute Road, Galilee Avenue and other roads we have fixed, we are not going back to fix them. Having tackled the major problems, then we sit down, review and take on other problems affecting the people. That does not mean we have slowed down, in fact as we speak, there are project to be commissioned which we have completed and people have even started making use of them. The library and ICT centre projects have been completed but yet to be commissioned.