16 Dec 2014

Memo To Next Lagos State Governor - by Lekan Sote

Every permanent resident of Lagos State is concerned about who becomes governor in 2015, now that the governorship primaries of the All Peoples Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party – the two major political parties in Lagos State – have been won and lost. Akinwunmi Ambode, a former Lagos State Accountant-General, emerged as the APC torchbearer, while Jimi Agbaje, a successful businessman and pharmacist, will fly the PDP flag.

The electioneering promises to be a hard tackle, because the APC won’t readily concede Lagos State, though Agbaje, a progressive among conservatives, is much beloved by Lagosians. The pitch of his 2007 governorship campaign was “Everybody loves Jimi Agbaje.” The election, “selection,” or “arrangement,” that chose Ambode was relatively peaceful, though it came with some grumblings. Agbaje’s was marred by violence, maiming and, alleged death, instigated by the losers.

Lagos PDP grandees, and erstwhile political enemies, Adeseye Ogunlewe and Olabode George, have closed ranks to wrest Lagos State from the APC. Lagos PDP Publicity Secretary, Taofeek Gani, declared: “The common enemy is the APC.” Ogunlewe and George were dead set against Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, a former Minister of State for Defence, as the PDP governorship candidate. They felt only a more credible and formidable candidate could take on the APC.

Lagos State is the benchmark for other states, and indeed the Federal Government in many ways. Lagos State handled the recent breakout of Ebola Virus Disease adroitly, and the Federal Government had no choice, but to follow its lead. A grateful World Health Organisation, not only declared Nigeria Ebola-free, but poured encomiums on Nigeria.

Those who will rule Lagos State must recognise that it is the economic capital of Nigeria, and so may have to seize the initiative from a fumbling Federal Government. Lagos must set the pace in addressing the major challenge of the nation – job and wealth creation. The governor must apply the wisdom of first principles, whereby Lagos State must rapidly build infrastructure that will enhance agriculture, manufacturing, and trade, in that order.

If Lagos State will have to be an economy within the Nigerian economy, so be it. After all Sections 14 and 15 of Part II, that is, the Concurrent List in the Second Schedule of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, allow a state to generate, transmit and distribute electricity infrastructure within its borders. Section 18 allows states to initiate industrial, commercial, and agricultural development programmes.

The flood, and the traffic jam, that accompanied the heavy rainfall of September 28, 2014 proved a point: The obvious inadequacy of both the drainage system and the road networks in the Lagos metropolis. Government will have to pull down structures – houses, markets, whatever – for new roads. Repairing, resurfacing, or refurbishing old roads just won’t cut the ice. The delivery of the Lagos Metroline is now more urgent, and the maritime transport option must be rapidly expanded.

It is stating the obvious to say that the security of lives and properties will enhance the ambition of Lagos State to remain the economic capital of Nigeria. The danger posed by Fulani herdsmen to fellow Nigerians in both the urban and rural parts of the state must be contained. Plans must be in place to check possible Boko Haram “sleeper cells” from migrating to Lagos, while awaiting activation by their principals. And the menace of armed robbery must be addressed.

Though the next government must not slacken the pace of work, it must however accord dignity and respect to the citizens while performing its duties. This will engender a sense of community, and encourage citizens to willingly buy into government vision and programmes. If operatives of the Kick Against Indiscipline, Lagos equivalent of an ethical police, comport themselves in a way to motivate citizens to voluntarily comply with Lagos codes of discipline, perhaps fewer fledgling, low-scale, businesses will be dislocated.

Operatives of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority must discharge their duties to ease, and not compound, the flow of traffic in the metropolis. Also, the Vehicle Inspection Officers should avoid causing accidents as they chase or intercept vehicles they perceive not to be roadworthy or do not possess statutory documents. They should find a civil way to make motorists conform to the extant roadworthiness regulations, so that more vehicles, especially commercial vehicles, will be available on the roads.

It is negative achievement if commercial vehicles, like taxis and commuter buses, run off the road to avoid arrest. This reduces the inventory of vehicles on the road, and commuters resort to trekking or hopping on dangerous “okada” as they go about their business. Too often, the few vehicles that have the statutory papers, take advantage of the scarcity of vehicles when the VIOs are on the road, and increase transport fare, sometimes beyond the reach of commuters.

The education infrastructure must be expanded and redefined. There is the need for a technical university to teach digital, cutting edge technology. The state may have to partner the likes of GFR Academy, owned by the family of a former Lagos State Deputy Governor, Sarah Sosan, and the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurial Foundation to expand knowledge of new technology, teach, mentor, and empower budding entrepreneurs. Lagos State must deliberately seek out investors that will use the latest technologies to provide products and services that are as competitive as those of other economies.

Still on education: Some have observed and said that many public primary and secondary schools in Lagos State do not teach kids much. The inventory of teachers is too low. And the schools are run like correctional facilities to hold wild kids until they become adult hustlers or unskilled labourers. Correct values and the appropriate curriculum must be taught in the schools, to raise productive and law-abiding citizens. Expanded educational infrastructure will give poor kids access to education, and provide the much needed human capital to run the metropolis.

The frequent strike actions by various cadres of medical workers in Lagos State are signs that things are not too well with that sector. Lagos must urgently add more to its medical infrastructure, in order to deliver better health care to the workforce and their dependents. Economists will tell you that if the workforce is healthy, worker absenteeism or idle time will be greatly reduced, and productivity will increase. And yes, there must be a way to check the pilfering fingers of public servants.

Nigeria is said to have a housing deficit of 16 million, and Lagos accounts for 10 per cent or 1.6 million of that. Some people in Lagos live under bridges, on stilt huts above rivers, by river banks, in shacks, in mosques, and yet others live in the open, like tramps. When you contrast their spare living conditions with the heavenly comfort of upscale neighbourhoods, like Lekki Phase 1, Victoria Garden City, Banana Island, and other parts of Ikoyi, you will shudder.

Lagos may have to forge a more formal accommodation arrangement with neighbouring Ogun State. The current haphazard regime whereby Lagos workers live in Ogun State communities that are coterminous with Lagos is not good enough. It often leads to traffic jams, slumming, and lack of social amenities. Maybe, now is the time for the much canvassed South-West integration of common infrastructure and social services for the people of the Old Western Nigeria.

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