In an interview with TEMITOPE MUSOWO, a community development chairman in Ifako Ijaye, Pastor Samuel Olu Opajobi, calls on the state government to dedicate more funds in emergency management and engage community leaders on security issues, among others.
How did you emerge as the CDC chairman of a well populated local government like Ifako-Ijaiye?
Well, in Ifako-Ijaiye, we have four forum, Ogba, Iju, Ifako, Obawole-Onibata forum, we have been rotating it and now that is the turn of Obawole-Onibata’s turn, my people asked me to go for it given the way I worked closely with the last chairman; it was actually by election and I won.
Any challenge since you resumed office?
To be sincere with you since I assumed office, we have been enjoying the cooperation of the local government. Even the state government as well has been good to us; the only thing I can say is the population explosion in the CDC which I don’t see as a challenge compared to the last CDC as we now have more people to manage in terms of number. Since I was elected as the chairman, I cannot say I really have any challenge. The only area we can call a challenge which has now been resolved is our monthly support from the local government and this has been reviewed upward.
Can you say you are enjoying the support of the local government as a result of CDC cooperation with them in the area of revenue generation?
Definitely, since I assumed office as the CDC chairman, I have made it compulsory for our people to pay all their levies like our annual CDA renewal. I set up a committee to help the people, you don’t need to go to the local government as an individual to pay your bill; rather, the committee helps you pay to the bank and distribute the receipts and we copy the council. At our last meeting, I told all the Community Development Association (CDA) chairmen that they should go to their respective CDAs and ensure that any bill sent from the LG particularly for the locked-up shops should be collected and they should help the people to pay in the bank and not cash to any LG official. It is now the responsibility of the CDA chairmen to go round the community to the lock up shops as soon as the LG serves them the bills and help them pay to the bank. So, in a way, we have been able to limit the work of the LG officials to bill distribution while we take up the payment aspect.
Can you say this has been able to block revenue leakages and increase the IGR of the LG?
I can’t really say since I wasn’t privy to how much the LG was making before, so I don’t really know if this has led to increase in the revenue but, this is just the style we decided to adopt in Ifako-Ijaiye and the CDA chairmen are cooperating with me and the LG can attest to it that this is a good strategy.
What are the areas you need government’s intervention in your community?
Well, first of all, I want the monthly subvension to be regular. You know we hold our meetings where we discuss community development from time to time. If people sacrifice their time to attend meetings and you cannot give them transport fare, they may not come next time. Although, with the support of our able chairman, Apostle Oloruntoba, it has been regular but we want it to be more regular. Another area where we need government’s intervention is in the area of roads, not only here where I live, even at Ogba, Iju, Ifako and other areas, roads are bad. Even if it is grading, the local government can help us to do that before the state government comes to our aid.
As CDC chairman, you have been organising sensitisation programme across the LG since the coronavirus pandemic broke out, tell us about this.
Yes, we are doing this in obedience to the instruction given to us by the state governor. When the pandemic broke out, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu invited us to the State House as community leaders and asked us to go back into our communities and continue to educate our people about the deadly virus and ways they can prevent themselves from contracting it; this informed our decision to carry out this exercise.Immediately I returned from the meeting with the governor, I called my EXCO members and made them to see the need to begin aggressive sensitisation in our communities. We then began the first we had which was the first of its kind in Lagos with a huge turn out of various stakeholders, market women, artisans, healthy professionals, security agencies, community leaders, student representatives, the media, government functionaries all in attendance.
What would be your advice to CDC where there are pockets of crisis here and there?
There is no area where they don’t have their own issue, it could be more in some areas, we thank God in Ifako-Ijaiye, but some other CDCs where they have large concentration of non-Yoruba speaking community may not be this lucky, but what I will advise is that as community leader, you must always see all the people as one regardless of their tribe. Accept that Lagos is a metropolitan city; therefore, must learn to tolerate others.As CDC chairman, you don’t wait until there is crisis before you relate with the people. Visit the mechanics workshops, talk to the artisans, relate with the market women, meet with the Hausa community, the Igbos and don’t discriminate, be close to them all. Moreso, make sure you carry along the security agencies in all the happenings in your community, for instance, whenever we hold our meetings, we usually invite the police, DSS, and other security agencies to come and listen to the security challenges from the people directly and know how to identify the flash points in order to know what to do. I don’t joke with security issue, that is why I don’t take it lightly with anyone who fails to pay his security due within the community.
As a community leader, what is your advice to the government of Lagos state regarding disaster management with recent explosions?
The government should learn to work with the community for information. In the area of pipeline vandalism, the community people can be engaged. The state government should put more fund in disaster management and be more prompt in emergency response, Lagos is a highly populated city and because of our system incidents like the Abule- Ado explosion should be prepared for and met with prompt response.