Honorable Hakeem Dickson was the Chairman of Surulere Local Government between 1999 and 2002. He recently dumped the APC for the AC to pursue his ambition of becoming the next governor of Lagos state. I sat down with him in a boardroom on the 5th floor of his office in Lekki to discuss his plans and ideas for Lagos State. Hakeem Dickson spoke extensively about his ‘transformative agenda’ and even spare time to talk about his love for cooking and baking.
Why have you decided to throw your hat in the race, and what would you do differently if elected?
The idea first came to mind in 2019 on my way to South Africa for a conference. I looked straight into the sky and said it was possible. Of course, I do not have the money, but I have people.
I thought about where to run: the PDP or APC. Then I thought to myself, the PDP does not know how to win, so I won’t be going down that route. But on the other hand, the APC knows how to win, which I understand, but I am willing to change things. So I decided to go to another party. Even if you win the ticket in the Apc, Tinubu still has the final say. If he doesn’t want you there, he will change the result of the election. They have done it to me three times. I defeated Femi Gbajamila, but Tinubu wanted him to be in the House of Representatives.
Another reason I am running is that the sons and rightful owners of lands in Lagos have never ruled Lagos. Why is that? For instance, Nobody from the king’s lineage or Idejos has ruled Lagos. Nobody from Awori has ruled Lagos. So what are we talking about?
First of all, Sanwo olu is not a Lagosian to start with. They came to live in Lagos. Where are the Lagosians? Where are all the indigenes? The time of slavery has gone by.
Did you leave APC because of the injustice of the party or because you wanted to pursue your ambitions?
I left for two reasons. One, I would not be able to get the ticket in the APC because they don’t want someone smart. They say somebody built Lagos. How can you give it to one person? What did he build?
Let me tell you. As Chairman between 1999 and 2002, I contributed to building Lagos. So one person did not build Lagos. If others are afraid to say the right thing, they must be stupid. So I’m telling the truth.
This brings me to my next question. During your time as Chairman in 1999, what were your most significant achievements in Surulere that ordinary people can attest to?
There are many, but I would mention a few, and you can verify them.
I lit up Surulere. I gave monthly social benefits to residents above 60 years of age. I employed several young people and created decent jobs for many. My administration also provided free dental care, which wasn’t available to the poor before then.
I renovated every Health Center in Surulere and even built new ones. It is on record that during my stay in office, no woman lost her life during childbirth in any of our facilities.
I also renovated all the schools in Surulere. All. At that time, we had about 72 primary schools – only Mushin had more schools than us. To combat insecurity, I increased the number of neighborhood guards from 30 to 300. I also increased their monthly salary from N1,500 monthly to N10,000. We went further and set up the Surulere Law Enforcement Cops and reduced the crime rate to less than 15%. The enforcement cops were so effective that they caught President Obasanjo’s attention, who thought we were operating a para-military outfit.
We even equipped the police and bought walkie-talkies and an operational vehicle.
My administration gave physically challenged people a sense of belonging. We employed many of them and gave some others cash grants. Guess what? We even introduced the first Miss Surulere, and the now-famous Agbani Darego was the first winner in the contest we organized. We did a lot in Surulere, and many of our ideas were copied by other local governments and even state governments.
For instance, when I noticed a lot of traffic in Surulere, we created a traffic management corp to solve the problem. It was our successful template that Tinubu used to launch LASTMA.
When I become governor, traffic will disappear in less than three months.
Another point I’d like to make is that we met over 3 thousand potholes in Surulere when we resumed office. Yet, Tinubu, as governor, said he was not interested in renovating federal roads, even though the people who use those roads are Lagosians.
I quickly brought in machines from Canada, and we began working on many of those roads. We introduced direct labor in every ward. We cleared canals. Any rain that fell the following year could not stand. Flood desisted from Surulere.
At some point, I met a budget of N138 million and got it to N1.2 billion. After that, people started saying I was getting too popular and could be eyeing the governor’s office in Alausa. I said no, I just wanted to go and repeat the class. Tinubu was so afraid of me, very afraid of me. They even reported me to his mother, Alhaja Mogaji.
What are your plans to deal with insecurity (especially thuggery and cultism) if elected governor?
These are the people the APC uses to win elections. You have to understand that. Give me six months, and all those engaging in cultism and thuggery in Lagos will be gone. You would see security as you have never seen it before.
I also strongly believe in the state police. I believe in having county police meaning senatorial police. I also believe in campus police. In Unilag and LASUthere must be campus police. I am not a PDP member, but I agree with Atiku on the issue of state police.
I will ensure that Lagos is livable and safe. Businesses should feel safe enough to operate for 24 hours. Whether banks or restaurants, they shouldn’t close shop because they feel unsafe.
What are our plans for infrastructural development in Lagos, seeing that many of our roads and bridges aren’t in perfect shape?
Why would it take Uganda and Kenya 2 years to construct an interstate rail, and it is taking us 14 years to build one? I won’t be a governor that would carry power to one man behind. A governor should be able to take responsibility and stand up for himself. See what happened at the End SARS; somebody gave an order, but they would never tell the truth. So they killed people, and someone showed up later, saying, “I did not go anywhere. I am here.’ Bullshit!
When I’m elected, I will change the name of that toll gate to End Sars and give them a befitting memorial because they were fighting for a good cause. In fact, they were not fighting anybody; they were just complaining. I was also part of the protests. My wife and I used to bring food to the protest ground.
But back to infrastructure, most of our engineers have failed us completely. They know what to do, but because of what they want and corruption, they deliberately drop standards. Also, how can the government provide enough infrastructure when the commonwealth of Lagos goes to one man?
How will you win this election, seeing that you are going up against APC, which has formidable political machinery?
Trust me, I have a game plan, but I will not reveal it publicly. However, I’m confident of winning.
Any final words?
This government is not working. Unfortunately, an old man that should be somewhere sitting in his village and farming is president. We have bad leadership in this country—one lives in Dubai, and the other in London.