Mrs. J. O. Williams is a former Accountant General of Lagos State. She is one of those who hold Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in high esteem. She was the Accountant General of Lagos from 1995. She got reinstated into her role on the grounds of Merit by Asiwaju, after being kicked out illegally by the previous military administration.
In her Asiwaju story, she tells of the several challenges the federal government raised against Lagos and the viability of the Asiwaju government back then.
She speaks of the system of Checks and balances that the government of Asiwaju cultured and the one that is being used nationally.
“I was Accountant General in the administration before he was elected and even the one before, but when the one before his administration came in, about 3 to 4 months into the administration. I was asked to step aside as Accountant-General.
When he came in, I didn’t know what was happening behind the scene. In fact, I had not met him before, I didn’t know him when he was appointing his cabinet, I was reappointed as the Accountant-General. I was dumbfounded! So, I had to find time to go and see the governor to thank him for my appointment. When I got there to greet him, he said ‘no, no, no, you just deserve it, I don’t even know you when I came in, I wanted an Accountant-General I could work with and your name kept popping up here and there. And I asked where you were, I asked why you were told to go in the first instance and nobody could say anything, so I asked for your file, I studied it. I asked questions here and there, I realised there was no reason why you should be thrown out of the place without any justification and I brought you back. I do hope you will do your job and be professional at it. And that was how I started working as Accountant-General under his administration. One day, one gentleman, very close to Asiwaju came with an approval and it had a problem and I turned it down, and the man was breathing down my neck, he was getting angry. I told him, I was sorry, I needed to speak to the governor on this. I think he went back to Asiwaju. To my surprise, he came back with a note from Asiwaju saying I appreciate that you scrutinise these things very well so that we all don’t get into trouble. ‘I was elated and it empowered me to do more. Because what we don’t know sometimes is that, people get to all these very busy people when they are most vulnerable like going to meet someone at 2 am to get an approval, and you expect it to work, just like that, there must be checks and balances.
And Asiwaju allows checks and balance
Then, there was this time he saw the pension bill and he said are you people paying so much monthly? Don’t you people do contributory pension?’ I said ‘no sir’.
He kicked against it. Right from the beginning of his tenure, he introduced contributory pension and he kept hammering on it, that we can’t keep paying pension like this, it is not sustainable and that was why a lot of states were owing pensions. He kept talking about contributory pension, until 2004, when the federal government now embraced it. If you check the records, Lagos State was the first state to key into it. Immediately, he raised a team to study the system, go for training and he said ‘give us a deadline and this must be in place’ and it was done.
Somewhere along the line, we had the Enron project, which was supposed to give electricity to the citizens of Lagos State, but the federal government says no, this is on the exclusive list, there is no way, you can’t generate light by yourself’, so, they decided that Enron should go, but we had liabilities to Enron and the liabilities still had to be paid. We were paying Enron, then all of a sudden our local government allocation got stopped because of the creation of local development council areas (LCDAS). So, it was double jeopardy. We were paying Enron back for electricity, we did not use because of the contract terms. We had new local government allocations, and the local governments had to run, but Asiwaju will tell you ‘my priority is to pay salaries and to pay pensions. never you fail on pension and salaries, so whatever you bring as payment for a particular month, you must ensure that you satisfy people who work for us and people who had worked for us. And this to me is humane.
Lagos State never owed salaries throughout his tenure and even after.
What else would you expect of a leader who knows you are working and need to earn your wages because you need to feed your family.
When I said earlier that they meet these people at their most vulnerable moment, there was a time, he wanted to approve something to someone, and he said to me, I will not be at the office today, make sure you come and see me before tomorrow. I said, ‘yes sir’.
I got there around 6pm, I was there, and they were having meetings upon meetings, I kept phoning home, ‘I am still here’.
They had their meetings and he eventually came out around 1am and you understand when the governor says, ‘see me, you can not decide to go without seeing him, you just have to wait’. He was shocked still seeing me around 1am, and I explained ‘he said I should see him’, he felt bad and asked me to come, the Deputy-Governor was there, so we went to another room, looked at the papers and signed. I said thank you sir, goodnight. Then, he was like, ‘how will you get home, where do you live?’ I said, my driver is outside sir. He said no, I can’t allow you go home at this time of the night by yourself, so he gave me his despatch vehicle, gave me his policemen and said they should take me home. That is Asiwaju for you, that is why some of us would work for him over and over again because he knows what to do, he has foresight, he knows how to tackle problems even before they arise and for me, I think that is good leadership”.
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