Babatunde Olalere Gbadamosi is a successful businessman who has made appreciable impact in real estate, information technology, finance, human resource management and road construction, among other things. For many years, he bestrode these sectors like a colossus, creating employment opportunities, providing excellent services and pioneering innovations both in Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
This young man who is a scion of the Gbadamosi family in Ikorodu acknowledges the fact that he had the very best experiences as a child, despite his privileged background. He lived in various parts of Lagos and mingled freely with other children irrespective of their religion, tribe or status. But Gbadamosi who is the governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Party, ADP in Lagos State, is unhappy about the declining fortunes of Lagos, despite its huge potentials. Hoping for a better Lagos, according to him, is wishful thinking, and this informed his decision to contest for the highest office in the state. He will be riding on an enviable record of personal achievements, a good name, public approval, youthful disposition and unquestionable thirst for service. He speaks about his plans for Lagos State to YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine’s ANN OKWOLOGU…
Why are you in politics, given your privileged background and a family name that opens doors?
It takes a village to raise a child, so the saying goes. Lagos State, with its complexities, its warts, its go-slow, its sounds, its sights and its wahala, raised me. I played on the streets of Isale-Eko as a child and ducked and dived through the Atewos of Ikorodu as a boy. I schooled in Surulere, Victoria Island, Ikorodu, Ikeja and Ojo. As I grew, in stature and in status, I eventually found my way back to Lagos, via a circuitous route, by way of London, and the charms of my childhood had lost their luster. Where I once rolled my sugar-box “car” in the dirt of Ikorodu and sailed my paper boats in the clear gutter waters of Kuboye Crescent, Surulere. I now see only squalor, grinding poverty, unplanned, chaotic, rapid urbanization and desperation.
A desire to change this made me look closer at what government was doing, and what I discovered was not pretty. I realized that it could change, and tried to influence some of the players to change things. Soon, I came total realization that their primary mission in politics is not service but self-enrichment.
I supported one, then the other, and soon realized that I was actually better equipped to deliver on the things we can all see are wrong and broken. That’s what made me throw my hat in the ring in 2011, so as to build up the only place I can truly call home on this earth and help us as a people occupy our rightful place in the sun.
So how would you describe governance in Lagos State since 1999?
The first eight years were catastrophic, followed by another eight years of relative respite, and another four years of indifference.
What is your response to the growing anxiety with regard to the pervasive powers of god fathers in Nigeria’s politics, especially in Lagos State?
I look at that issue through the prism of economics. Where, as it is in Lagos, the “godfather” figure insists on arrogating all the state’s resources to himself through a clever web of proxies, the people are denied access to same and disposable income per capita shrinks significantly.
The effect on demand for goods and services is immediate. The factory gates suffer a decline in demand, and service providers see a shrink in patronage. This scenario has been playing out in Lagos State for at least 16 years, even if Lagosians have not noticed. Many will agree though, that life is significantly harder for them now than it was just 5 years ago. In summary, political godfatherism is bad for the polity, but when it’s accompanied by an insatiable appetite for public funds and the state’s assets, as it is in Lagos now, it disastrous for the economy and therefore, for the people.
Everything seems to be in your favour: good education, respectable family name, age, sophistication, unblemished record, preparation and the will to serve. How are you going to deploy these positive attributes to your campaign?
There is a determined push by the forces of darkness to ensure that these virtues no longer count when it comes to public service, and to substitute them with instant financial gratification and raw brute force as the only qualifications for winning elections. Therefore, it’s going to be a long, hard battle, to get the youths (seventy-five per cent of the electorates), to forgo those distractions and compulsion. Positive engagement with young people from all walks of life is something we have always done, whether through direct employment, mentorship or motivation. We intend to continue with these, whilst also mobilizing grassroot support for a final departure from the port of misery and poverty that Lagos State is in at the moment.
For the first time since 1999, we are seeing a Lagos State that could actually go to any of the candidates because of the fractious politics of people in APC. Are you and other candidates outside APC conscious of this opening that could actually free Lagos from the grip of a cabal?
One thing I regret very much, is the needless loss of lives and the wanton violence that seem to be the hallmark of the APC’s internal wrangling. If for nothing else, many Lagosians can’t wait to see the back of them for at least this reason. Our people have spoken, and we have heard them. They want APC and its leaders gone from their polity, and we plan to make that happen.
Your grandfather, his contemporaries and those who came shortly after in Ikorodu, your home, held sway in the politics of Lagos and even the entire old Wester Region. Today, there is a painful reversal that is totally confounding as your voices are no longer heard even in Lagos, what went wrong?
I believe Lagosians in general became complacent because of the general prosperity of Lagos in the 70s and the 80s. It has been observed around the world that generally, prosperity leads to political apathy. This apathy opened a gap in the polity which the selfish politicians ruling us today exploited ruthlessly. Once they deceived, inveigled and lied their way into power, they have further entrenched themselves, using the people’s own resources and are now unwilling to let go of what they now avariciously see as their money.
Do you think you can really make a serious impact without building a coalition in the forth-coming governorship election in Lagos State?
Of course, one cannot rule out a collaborative effort in the quest to free our people from those referred to in Yoruba as Ajeles. All hands must be on deck and efforts are on in that regard. The parlous state of affairs in Lagos means we need a broad, holistic approach to our plan to fix Lagos. The Gbadamosi Plan, as we call it, is people-centered, with its focus being on making the people, at an individual level, prosper, simply by ensuring that people have more disposable income at the end of the month. We plan to achieve this through a variety of means, the first being practical steps to reduce the cost of living in Lagos across the board, whilst at the same time, opening up new fronts for economic growth and development.
Our strategy cuts across from power, to water, to transportation, housing, public hygiene, communications, health care, education, and growing our natural areas of strength like tourism, agriculture, financial services, trade, industry and entertainment.
The issue of the huge revenue that accrues to Lagos and the fact that a few people decide who or what gets where have remained a major talking point in the state and beyond. Do you have a new module that could engender efficiency and accountability?
We plan to computerize every single process of government, from payroll to procurement, from accounts receivables to payables through to client relationship management, this is to make the whole process of government seamless, secure, transparent and easily auditable. The nagging and pernicious issue of over-invoicing will be brought to a final end with an open bidding process for all public procurement, along with a Due Process Office that will keep tight tabs on current market prices at all times. This will be done with the deployment, first of the infrastructure – a fiber-optic, dedicated internet on which we will deploy the biggest ERP system Lagos State has ever seen, based on a robust, secure and stable database system, equally hosted on a stable and secure OS, with mirrored servers, local and remote, for redundancy.
What do you have to say about the scandalous APC primaries that broke all known records in the conduct of primaries?
As I said earlier, it is sad and regrettable that such brigandage, occasioned by needless violence and loss of life should be the hallmark of the party in power in Lagos State. It is obvious that the owners of that party are more oligarchs than democrats.
If you win this election, what do you think your victory would mean to long-suffering Lagosians?
A win for me is a win for Lagosians. It would connote economic, political and social freedom and for the first time in 20 years, Lagosians will actually be able to explore all possibilities and enjoy their own resources.
There is a strong belief that any candidate who wants to win this election must reach out to non-indigenes in Lagos. Are you exploring this window of opportunity?
Lagos had always been about hospitality, until the ajeles took over, and it gradually became a cult of one man. No politician worth his salt can ignore the non-indigene vote and influence in Lagos, and having grown up in Surulere, Ojo and Lagos Island, all areas with strong non-indigenous presence, it is only natural that we have a large presence of non-indigenes on our team.
What is the most worrisome thing about the state of governance in Lagos State today?
Many things worry me about today’s Lagos, but the one thing that is perhaps at the root of all the decay, is the lack of transparency in government finances. It is from this, that the mountains of garbage, the floods, the horrible roads, the badly equipped hospitals and poor pay for civil servants’ stem from.
If you become governor, what is the first thing that you would do on assumption of office?
I would address the issue of Civil Servants compensation, both serving and retired.
But your critics say you are too urbane to do Lagos politics which is tough and dirty, is that correct?
My first business, as a 16-year-old at Onishigida, in Ikorodu, was washing danfos at ₦5 each, in the wee hours of the night, from around 12am when transporters closed for the day. How tough do you think I had to be to do that? I have been on the streets since my early teens. I know the streets, and the streets know me, as we say in Lagos.
What do you share in common with your uncle, the great Rasheed Gbadamosi who excelled in literature, economics, public administration, entrepreneurship and the arts?
I think what I share with Uncle Rasheed, who actually raised me, are his love for music – Fela especially. He also influenced me with his attention to detail – this has been an advantage in real estate; his tendency to think out-the-box to solve problems and his love for theatre – which is my explanation for why Amen Estate has gradually become the film capital of Lagos State, and his love for innovation as a tool for economic growth.