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(OPINION) Lagos and the gains of mainstream politics by Sola Ogunmosunle

One of the fascinating points of the recently concluded 2015 general election with particular reference to the Lagos State gubernatorial electioneering campaign was the calculated canvass for votes by the two leading political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to convince the electorate on the need for the State to cease from being in opposition at the federal level. Since the return of the country to democratic rule in 1999, Lagos State has remained one of the very few States in the federation that has not, at one time or the other, been governed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) . Zamfara, Bornu and Yobe are the other States never to have at once aligned with the center until 2015.
Prior to the presidential election, the then ruling PDP, encouraged by the power of incumbency, had hoped to win the presidential election and had enjoined the electorate to ensure that Lagos State, for once, falls into what it termed ‘mainstream politics’. The then opposition party, the APC, buoyed by its success at the presidential poll, flew similar kite! The APC also bid the electorate not to let the opportunity to align with the centre pass by. The outcome of the election now belongs to history! Lagos is now governed by the APC that equally control the central government.
Undoubtedly, Lagos is a beautiful bride that all the political parties covet for obvious reasons. The State represents a major way forward for the socio-economic renewal of the country. Lagos is the former seat of power for the country and is home to about 2,000 industrial complexes and over 10,000 commercial ventures. 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. Equally, Lagos is a highly private sector-driven economy. Growth in Lagos would therefore have spiral effect on Nigeria as a whole. All these enable the state to generate most of its revenue (73 per cent of the total), giving it an incentive to perform well. Unlike other state government, it does not depend on the allocations from the federation account to drive its developmental agenda.
Regrettably, when the federal capital was relocated to Abuja in 1991, Lagos was left to rot away by successive military administrations. The federal government has refused to emulate countries such as Germany, Brazil, Malaysia, Australia and Tanzania, which have relocated their national capitals without abandoning infrastructural development of the former capitals. Bogged down by a burgeoning population of over eighteen million people, Lagos had over the years become what former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, once described as ‘a jungle’. At the return of the country to democracy in 1999, the State government, under Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his successor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, embarked on aggressive infrastructure renewal and development that has, within fifteen years, transformed Lagos from being a symbol of urban disorder to a widely cited example of effective governance in Africa.
In its efforts to clean up the rot left behind by the abandonment of Lagos, the State government had repeatedly clashed with the federal government in many instances that have raised questions whether we practice true fiscal federalism in Nigeria. The State demanded increased powers from the central government. As a matter of fact, the Lagos State government had instituted dozens of lawsuits challenging the overbearing powers of the federal government over the other federating units in the federation. The State was always at loggerheads with the federal government such that president Obasanjo blocked numerous Lagos projects ranging from traffic control to independent power generation, claiming they exceeded state authority. The State’s attempt to create additional 37 Local Governments Areas to the existing 20 in 2004 was stifled by the federal government despite the Supreme Court ruling that the new LGAs were validly created. The federal government, holding on to some form of ambiguity in the ruling, withheld the statutory allocation to the existing LGAs for many months to snuff life out of the created LGAs. Some form of political solution was later reached in 2008 under the administration of late President Umaru Yar’Adua to name the newly created entities Local Council Development Areas (LCDA)
Now that the State belongs to the mainstream politics, the expectation for some form of partnership for development has been elevated. It is presupposed that the two sides will bury the hatchet and bring the feud to a close. The very first area where the State can begin to enjoy its new found romance with the center is the payment of the amount owed Lagos by the federal government. According to the former Governor of the state, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, the federal government in Abuja owes the state certified N51billion, being costs of repairs carried out on federal roads. If this happens immediately, it will be a good starting point for Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the new Governor of the state.
One other area that the federal government can partner with the State is the ceding of the abandoned federal government owned structures and institutions in the state. The federal secretariat in Ikoyi is one property that can be put to good use if ceded to Lagos State. The subsisting law suit on the property can be settled amicably out of court. The derelict National stadium in Lagos can also be ceded to Lagos State that can possibly manage the facility better than what it is obtainable now.
It is also hoped that the State’s clamour for a special status as a former capital of the Nigeria nation will receive a favorable consideration from the National Assembly, particularly if the motion for the bill emanates from the Executive. It is a well accepted fact that when it is well will Lagos, it is well with Nigeria and when it is well with Nigeria, it is well with Lagos.
Ogunmosunle is of the Features Unit, Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.

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