Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, Friday advocated increased collaboration between the Public and Private sectors in the country as a viable platform for rapid economic growth and overall national development.
Fashola, who made the call in Lagos as Keynote Speaker at the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) Business Roundtable with the theme, “The Role of Corporates in Governance”, said there was need for the two sectors to believe in each other’s capacity to make fundamental impact in governance for the benefit of the people.
The Governor said there was need to believe in the capacity of and collaborate with the government, as a representative of the people, to carry out functions meant to better the lives of the people adding that although the system may be slower in getting things done than in the private sector, the inbuilt process was capable of ensuring that things got done properly in the end.
According to him, there is a need for all stakeholders including the Private Sector operatives to take ownership of the government for the purpose of ensuring that things are done efficiently and economically adding that a situation where every individual built his own roads, provided his own water and generated his own power, among other public services, was an invitation to chaos and confusion.
Enjoining the private sector not to attempt to overreach or subvert the government process, Governor Fashola declared, “We cannot choose to be our own government. Perhaps government has not done all that it is expected to do but if you take ownership of government, we will be all the better for it”.
“There is a process in government for getting things done. They may or may not respond quickly to what the organized private sector wants or is used to. But I want to make a case again that we must use that process and we must never overreach it or subvert it”, the Governor said.
He argued that society would become inefficient if the people do not utilize the processes of government adding, “The government, in this sense for me, is the traffic light. That is government; so do you stop at the traffic light here. Do you stop in London? That is government; the traffic light at the red means stop. So if we all agree that this is the way we want it that is government. It means no other thing”.
Also citing waste management as another example of taking ownership of government, Governor Fashola said in the process of disposal of waste if everyone agreed that the way to dispose refuse was to engage government approved waste disposal agencies, it meant using the powers of government adding that choosing to employ the services of cart pushers or other unapproved means would only inflict environmental disaster to the society.
“When you go to a cart pusher, he is going to pick the refuse and you pay, no doubt, but he will dump it at the nearest canal. When the rains come, the refuse is going to come back to your house with loads of water. But once we all agree that the waste management agency is government, then we are on our way”, the Governor said.
He urged the private sector operators to take ownership of government, encouraging them to attend public hearings in the State House of Assembly, where every legislation that have been passed in the State, “at least from 2008”, have gone through a public hearing.
Recalling that he was skeptical at a point about the working of government and its capacity to deliver quality service, Governor Fashola, however, said his impression changed when he came into government adding that he discovered that every organization, including the government, has its own language and its own processes of service delivery.
“I never foresaw that I would be the one advocating for government. But I guess a conversion of some sort has happened and truth be told, we all need government. The absence of government really will be an invitation to anarchy. If everybody has to build his own roads, lay his own pipes and generate his own power, it will cause a lot of unsavoury consequences, not only on our disposable income but it will be an inefficient undertaken which will come with a lot of health hazards”, the Governor said.
He said having been convinced of the inevitability of Government, his administration set for itself the goal that it must demonstrate that government could work adding that he determined that his must be a government run by citizens as opposed to importing foreign skills.
“So in setting for ourselves that goal that we must demonstrate that government can work and it will be a government run by our own people, we determined that we were not going to import anybody to do this business because we already had a lot of imported skills”, he said.
Governor Fashola said one of the things that he and his team did in late 2007 was to google the map of Lagos and saw that it was all brown with very sparsely green patches concentrated only in Ikoyi and in GRA adding that it was important to point this out because people were asking why government embarked on massive tree planting.
The Governor who described the venture as a major health and environmental intervention, added, “We set about enumerating trees in Lagos. A citizen sent us a text to say that he saw a notice on his door asking him to protect the trees in his compound and clean his environment adding that it was the first in more that 20 years of his living in his house to realize that there was a government in place and that told me we were already getting across to the people”.
He said in order to hasten the business of governance to meet private sector expectations government was now making investments in its tools to ensure that it catches up “and ultimately outrun the capacities that are installed in smaller private organizations, who are definitely partners in the undertaking that we mutually have, to make life better for our people” adding that there is a lot of computerization and digitalization currently going on in government to reach that goal.
Urging the Private sector operators to have confidence in their government and its capacity to deliver quality service, Governor Fashola told the gathering of distinguished captains of industry, “If we don’t trust the system that we have built, that system in my view will not be favourable to respond to us. If every time you put me on a job, you go to my boss for the same service, you are sending a message that you don’t trust my capacity to do the job. So that, for me, is the real heart of the matter”.
Fielding questions from the audience during the interactive session, Governor Fashola told them, “There are many things we do not know and unless we get involved we will continue to operate in ignorance. I would never have known if I didn’t get into government. The only way we can take ownership is when we recognize the government power for good and we trim down its power for bad”.
The Governor said the only way to take ownership of government was when its power for good is recognized, adding, “It is not a matter of we and them, it is a matter of us”. According to him, “When you appoint someone from the private sector to come and be a commissioner, the person comes in with a very understated estimation of what government can do, he feels they are not doing anything.”
He however noted that some of those invited to serve in government from the private sector have since acknowledge that a lot of work was being done in the public sector.
The Governor thanked the organizers for the honour of the invitation saying his interest to attend was aroused the more because “President of the Chamber of Commerce said he wanted me to have a discussion on public sector expectation of the business community and that touched something in me to say that this was an important place to be”.
He also thanked the British High Commissioner “for making himself available at this demanding times” expressing joy that in spite of the challenges that the country faces, the British Government continues to invest in developmental issues in Lagos. He recalled that in partnership with the British Government, the State Government is installing solar power kits in 172 public schools in Lagos and 11 public health facilities in the State.
“This is, perhaps, defining because they are issues about how public funds have been administered in this country. For me it is a vote of confidence because we had to go to the parliament of the United Kingdom to even make the case that the British taxpayer’s money as being invested in supporting public education would get to the appropriate place and I feel proud to say that has been the case”.
In his welcome remarks earlier, the NBCC President, Prince Adeyemi Adefulu, MFR, praised Governor Fashola for his transformational leadership saying in the last eight years the Governor has demonstrated his wisdom and farsightedness as “a Philosopher King at work”.
The NBCC President, who said he knew the Governor from a far distance because in his working life he worked with some very good friend of mine”, added, “Six years ago it was an electioneering time, and he came to Igbobi college where a friend of mine, an old boy, was being honoured, and he made a speech and that speech was what totally drew me over, because he showed a man who is vast, who had knowledge, who was looking far, who was totally focused on the job”.
“In the past eight years you can see the Philosopher King at work, without being an insider of the administration, you could see a man who when from the conceptual on everything that was done, he first persuaded himself as to the wisdom, the far sightedness, the justice of the court, almost in every area and went on to draw his men into it intellectually and then the public”, he said.
The President further described Governor Fashola as “a man who could combine the cerebral with the act of doing” adding, “You can see a man who hardly slept, he woke the job and he slept it and this is from a far distant observer, and the difference has been clear”.
Expressing immense pride in the Governor for “the quality of the public works that we have seen”, the NBCC President declared, “I think when the history of Lagos is written, it will be very kind on you because you have done a humane job. It is my honour and privilege to welcome a brilliant man and indeed a deliverer, he could think and he could do”.