The trending news in Lagos right now is the list of commissioner-nominees that the governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, sent to the state House of Assembly for confirmation – 39 in all – out of which the House approved 22 but rejected 17, six of them sitting Commissioners being nominated to return for second term like the governor. Since 1999 when the Fourth Republic kicked off, this is the first time that such an ominous occurrence will happen in Lagos, which is usually a one-party state, so to say. In a 40-member State House of Assembly, a whopping 38 are members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) with the remaining two belonging to the Labour Party (LP). This time around, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has always been the official opposition party, got nothing.
The Lagos metropolitan areas has an estimated population of 30 million in 2023; this is much higher than the population of many of our neighbouring countries like Benin Republic (13 million), Togo (9 million), Cote D’Ivoire (27.5 million), Niger Republic (27 million), Cameroun (28 million), and many top flight foreign countries like Portugal (10.2 million), Sweden (10.6 million), Belgium (11.6 million), and Switzerland (8.7 million). Despite its huge population, which rural urban migration swells each day, Lagos state has only 20 federally-recognised local governments and 39 Local Government Development Areas (LCDA) created by the state. The LCDA idea came into being in 2003 when the then Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, tried to create additional local governments in the state but his effort was foiled by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, who seized the federal allocations to Lagos local governments when Tinubu refused to retrace his footsteps. Instead, Tinubu called the local governments he created LCDAs and put them under the armpit of the 20 federally-recognised LGAs.
With a population of about 16 million, which is half that of Lagos Metropolitan Area, Kano state commands 44 federally-recognised local government areas, which is more than double that of Lagos state, and since the number of LGAs impacts positively on one’s share of federally-allocated revenue, then, Lagos is at a disadvantage while Kano gets far more than its fair share. This is one of the reasons why demand (for infrastructure and other dividends of democracy, for instance) always overwhelms supply in Lagos state. According to reports, Lagos’ population grows at the rate of 500,000 people every year. The World Economic Forum says Lagos is the fastest growing city in the world with a growth rate of 85 people per hour. This figure corresponds to the one released in July 2016 by the then governor of Lagos state, Akinwumi Ambode, that 123,000 people migrate into Lagos every day, which translates into 85.4 immigrants per minute. This growth rate is faster than that of London (9 persons per hour) and New York in the United States of America (10 persons per hour) put together and multiplied many times over..
These figures tell us that there is work to be done in Lagos: the roads are in terrible conditions; especially when it rains. Poor workmanship has meant that roads are washed away as soon as they are constructed. Lagos has become a glorified slum and must be the dirtiest city in the world. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Lagos is the fourth worst city to live in, in the world, up, mercifully, from the second position it clinched the year before! No planning; yet, there are a plethora of ministries, parastatals and agencies of government being paid for that. Roads are constructed without drainages; the few drainages there are, are not cleared as at when due; there are no bus stops and vehicles are left with no option than to pack right in the middle of the road. Traffic control has become an avenue for LASTMA to fleece the populace. Refuse collection and disposal do not work.
Unfortunately, two arms of government that should be up and doing in Lagos – the Executive and the Legislature – are busy fighting: the governor and the Speaker of the House of Assembly are at each other’s throats over what some have described as bragging rights which have nothing to do with good governance and service delivery to the people. They have forgotten so soon the scare of last February/March presidential and governorship elections! True, then, is the saying that human memory is very short. This is most unfortunate!
Is it because the Lion (of Bourdillon) is away in Abuja? When the cat is not at home, the rat becomes master and roams freely! But can you blame the Jagaban? He has his own plate full of worries as we all can see! Our people say only a foolish man carries the carcass of an elephant on his head and still uses his toes to dig holes to hunt crickets! But is it not also said that every politics is local? Can Tinubu afford to lose his base?
Many reasons have been adduced for the spat between Sanwo-Olu and Mudashiru Obasa. They include: That Sanwo-Olu did not support Obasa to be speaker for a record third term. That is politics and it is the prerogative of Sanwo-Olu to support any candidate of his choice. Democracy in action! But since the post of speaker is not tenure-barred like that of the president or governor, Obasa is in order to contest for as many times as he wishes and if he wins, so be it! No one should grudge him for that. If you want the position of speaker to also become tenure-barred, then, pass a law that will make it so.
Another grouse is that all the local governments were not represented in Sanwo-Olu’s list of Commissioner-nominees. With 20 local governments and 39 LCDAs, how can everyone be represented? The EXCO will be bloated, even more than Tinubu’s 48 Ministers that the country is complaining about. Do not forget that there are also Special Assistant-this and Special Adviser-that! The cry now is that we should reduce the cost of governance by all means possible. Since there are only 40 constituencies in the state and 40 legislators, the Lagos State Executive Council should also be limited to 40 members in all. So, not all vested interests can be represented. Not everyone who worked for the party’s success at the polls can be compensated with political appointments. The most enduring “remuneration” and “compensation” is good governance and that is what we should all work to bring to bear and not the quantum of Naira notes that we can tuck into our individual pockets. If we must be in government before we benefit from the same government, then, that government has failed ab initio. In our little corners, in all the nooks and crannies of the state, the impact of government must be evenly felt.
Another complaint is that there are too many technocrats and friends of the governor in the Sanwo-Olu list to the chagrin of “professional” politicians. Technocrats should not be too many even as they cannot also be absent. And if, as a technocrat, you accept a political appointment, you must understand that it becomes incumbent on you to also help the process. Others cannot work only for you to enter into their labour. You cannot travel out of town on Election Day (except for unavoidable reasons) only to return after the meal has been cooked to sit at the head of the table. Politicians must understand, on the other hand, that the democracy we operate is called “government of the people by the people and for the people” It is not “government of politicians by the politicians and for the politicians”.
A dangerous practice is taking roots all over the country right now: Only the children of the rich and powerful are being favoured with appointments and jobs while those without pedigree and connections are being shunted aside. Our politicians must remember the admonition of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, that the children of the poor that you deny their rights today will make the society ungovernable for you and your privileged children tomorrow. That tomorrow is around the corner, if it is not here already!
The most dangerous of all the arguments for and against on this issue is the one pitching one religion against another – that the Sanwo-Olu list is tilted in favour of Christians to the disadvantage of Muslims. If it is, it should not. But someone asked, what do the quarrelsome Muslims/Christians want the traditionalists or Isese people, or even the atheists, to do? We have pampered the Christians and Muslims far too much! Enough! Everyone who went about demonstrating on this issue on the basis of religion should bow his or her head in shame; be they Muslim, be they Christian.
Those stoking the fire of religious crisis in Lagos, like they did in Osun state when Rauf Aregbesola was the governor, must note that the two religions are so interwoven and their adherents so meshed that a religious crisis among them will completely consume the entire Yoruba race. Do not ever think that the other religions or non-religions keeping quiet do not have their own grievances against you; neither do they lack the capacity to also storm the seat of government with placards and disturb everyone’s peace. Should we all do that, Lagos state will be up in flames and noone will be spared. Is that what we want?
In all of these, where is the place of merit? Where is the place of competence? Where is the place of performance? And where is the place of service delivery to our long-suffering people? Where are the Omoluabi virtues which the Yoruba are well noted for? These should be our focus.
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Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.