Lagos and the Emerging Political Order [opinion] (allAfrica.com)

Like life itself, politics is very dynamic in nature. Sometimes politics could be both dynamic and dramatic. In politics, things happen in swift and remarkable fashions that rapidly alter the status quo in inconceivable manner. In Nigeria, the political landscape is often turbulent and unpredictable. Political shakers and movers emerge and quit the scene time and again. Many, who once bestride the political scene in towering strides, are today floundering in political oblivion. In the Nigerian political scenery, it is not uncommon to see hitherto revered political kingpins queuing up for crumbs at the table of budding political princes.

The emerging political trend, as typified by the outcome of the recently concluded general election, further validates the unpredictability of politics. Suddenly, the period of influence of a political party that was once touted to rule over the country for fifty years has been cut down so abruptly. The way things are, men who once frequent the Aso Rock Villa like a bee does on honey, would now be reading about happenings inside the rock from the dailies. For political jobbers and certified sycophants, these are, indeed, dreadful times.

Without a doubt, the altering political order has serious implications on the probable outlook of things in Lagos State in the coming months. Since the Second Republic till date, Lagos State has been having it rough with successive Federal Governments, FG. It is still being alleged, in some quarters, that the aborted Lagos metro line project, conceived by the Alhaji Lateef Jakande administration was sabotaged by the then ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN, for political expediency.

In the 4th Republic, the FG -Lagos relations actually got to an all time low as the FG spared no effort to disrupt; and impede the advancement of Lagos. Thugs of the Federal Road Management Agency, FERMA, were given a free rein to cause commotion on Lagos roads by attacking and brutalizing officials of Lagos State Traffic Management Agency, LASTMA and LASAMBUS for operating on federal roads. Perhaps, it all was the now infamous seizure of the State’s Local Government Councils’ funds by the FG.

The stifling of Lagos State by the FG has, however, continued with varying alterations. A few months back, traffic operatives under the auspices of Federal Roads Committee on Surveillance and Action against Roadside Trading and other Forms of Road Abuse (FERSCAR) collided with officials of the Lagos State Management Authority (LASTMA), resulting into hours of avoidable pandemonium. It eventually took the involvement of security operatives from the Lagos State Police Command to return sanity on the roads after hours of chaos.

That the notorious Apapa -Oshodi gridlock persists is partly as a result of the non commitment of the FG to Lagos. It will be recalled that the Lagos State government sometimes ago made a bold move to sanitize traffic situation at Apapa by removing over 120 trucks that were indiscriminately parked along Oshodi -Apapa Expressway. Consequently, the usual traffic gridlock disappeared with motorists driving excitedly to their destinations. Expectedly, security and business situation along the area improved considerably as a result of this intervention.

This bold effort by the state government could, however, not be sustained partly because of the inability of the FG at complementing the efforts of the state. Ironically, Apapa is a very strategic gateway to the country’s sea ports. The major share of government’s revenues comes from both the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports. More than 75 per cent of the goods that are imported into the country come through the ports in Lagos and the major ports in the country are based in Apapa. Consequently, that Apapa is vital to the economic growth of Nigeria is incontrovertible. Neglecting Apapa, despite the trillions of naira accruing to the Federal Government from its ports, further reinforces the sad neglect of Lagos by the FG.

Successive governments at the center have equally refused to address the issue of special status for Lagos. They have also refused to imitate countries like Germany, Brazil, Malaysia, Australia and Tanzania, which, after relocating their capitals, did not hold back developmental programmes targeted at the former capitals. From 1954 to 1994, the capital of Germany was Bonn. It was moved to Berlin, following the endorsement of the ‘agreement of movement’ which spelt out the responsibilities of German government for the maintenance of the old capital and which it has been meeting conscientiously.

Also, Brazil moved its capital from Rio-de’janero to Brasilia. Till date, all federal roads, buildings and other infrastructure in both cities are maintained simultaneously by the central government. Malaysia has also maintained two capitals. Its old capital, Kaura-Lampur, has been retained as the legislative capital, where the National Assembly operates. Its new capital, Putrajaya, which is the most computerised city in the world, is the administrative capital. In Australia, the old capital, Sidney, still enjoys special recognition. Although Campera is the new capital, most activities of government, international conferences, party conventions and meetings still hold in the former capital city. The former capital of Tanzania is Dar-es-Salam. When Dodoma became the new capital, the old capital did not suffer neglect.

The current political order in the country is, therefore, being seen by many as a good omen for Lagos. The calculation is that, now that Lagos has the rare opportunity to align with the government at the center, for the first time since 1979, things should work out better for the State. For one, the State could be paid money it is being owed by the FG over rehabilitated federal roads. Second, the issue of according Lagos a special status could now become a reality. There could also be seamless collaboration on resolving the age long Apapa-Oshodi axis gridlock and many such issues. Also, Lagos could easily negotiate with the FG concerning the construction of pedestrian bridges at vital location along federal roads in the state. It will be recalled that earlier bid by the State government to build such bridges at Secretariat and Berger bus stops, along the Lagos -Ibadan expressway, was frustrated. Perhaps more importantly, now that the dread of federal might is out of the equation, Lagos could witness peace, harmony and accelerated development.

Undoubtedly, a renewed FG commitment to Lagos is good for the socio-economic renewal of the country. For one, Lagos is home to about 2,000 industrial complexes, 10,000 commercial ventures and 22 industrial estates. It contributes 30% to the nation’s GDP (2006 statistics) and is the leading contributor to the non-oil sector GDP (2011 statistics). It accounts for over 60% of Nigeria’s industrial and commercial activities; 70% of national maritime cargo freight, over 80% of international aviation traffic and over 50% of Nigeria’s energy consumption. Aside this, Lagos consumes about 45 percent of the petroleum products in the country.

With the current political order in the country, it is expected that new windows would be opened for development and growth of Lagos. It is only rational that the FG constructively engages Lagos for a partnership that would enhance the prosperity of not only the State but the country at large. Given the centrality of Lagos to the overall social-economic aspiration of Nigeria, this remains a major way forward.

Ogunbiyi wrote in from Alausa, Ikeja.