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Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State

Celebrating the ‘Spirit of Lagos’ at 50 By Tayo Ogunbiyi

Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode once affirmed the metropolitan nature as well as the multi-ethnic and multi cultural composition of Lagos when he said: “Let me assure Lagosians that the state is home to every tribe and ethnic group. We are all brothers in Lagos and it shall continue to be like that”. 

Ambode’s position is, of course, a true reflection of the nature of Lagos. Lagos is home to all. Subsequent administrations in the State, especially since the dawn of the current political dispensation, have gone to limitless length to preserve the multi-ethnic status of Lagos. Indeed, the peace the State has enjoyed over the years is a manifestation of unrelenting efforts of the State government in accommodating various interest groups in the state.

On a regular basis, the State government organizes stakeholders’ forums with leaders of ethnic/tribal communities in the state to rub minds together on how to make Lagos a better place for all. Specifically, the State government has a healthy relationship with the various ethnic and tribal groups in the state. The result of this robust relationship is the atmosphere of peace and harmony that reign in the State.

Without a doubt, Lagos has continued to show the way forward in its commitment to an indivisible Nigeria where no one is denied opportunities for self actualization on mundane considerations. The state’s primary, secondary and tertiary health facilities and, indeed, other such infrastructure remain accessible to all Nigerians without any discrimination. Through the instrumentality of the State Security Trust Fund, the State government has continued to ensure the safety and security of every Lagos resident.

 The public primary and secondary schools in the state have continued to open their doors to all Nigerians, irrespective of tribal and ethnic affiliations. Since the inception of the now popular Spelling Bee competition, among public secondary schools in the state, past winners that have emerged as ‘One Day Governors’ amply demonstrate the cosmopolitan nature of the state’s public schools.

Traditionally, the hospitable disposition of Lagosians is legendary. It is a global legend that Lagosians are hospitable people who go the extra mile to accommodate visitors.  In Nigeria, Lagos remains a major melting point where all Nigerians could feel at home, irrespective of ethnic and religious differences. There is no other State that has opened its doors to accommodate Nigerians of various shades as Lagos does. Everyone who resides in Lagos is traditionally referred to as a Lagosian.

In Lagos state, excellence and competence remain major factors in the recruitment of its workforce. Apart from the Federal Civil Service, the Lagos State Public Service remains, perhaps, the only one in the country that employs its personnel without regards to ethnic and tribal factors. Today, the state public service has in its fold Nigerians that cut across the major ethnic/ tribal divides in the country. While some states in the country employ or even retrench based on ethnic considerations, Lagos state has simply continued its policy of absorbing qualified Nigerians into its public service.

In Nigeria, Lagos remains a bastion of hope for thousands of people, especially youths, who aspire to fulfill their dreams in life. Lagos is a place where a ‘nobody’ could rise to become a noticeable figure in the society. Many have arrived the City-State without a clear-cut picture of what the future holds. But somehow, they eventually become a reference point in their chosen career.

Many have linked this trend to the ‘Spirit of Lagos’ which is a metaphor for the never say die instinct of a typical Lagosian who is rugged, determined and relentless. Even in the face of adversity, he stands strong and refuses to give in to defeat or failure. The ‘Spirit of Lagos’ is the heart of Lagos and it is infectious. In Lagos, everyone is a hustler. Don’t ‘dull’ yourself, a euphemism for ‘the necessity for smartness’, is a popular cliché in Lagos. So, everyone that gets to Lagos naturally inhales the bursting Lagos air and suddenly becomes unusually inclined towards attaining success.  

And providentially, Lagos never disappoints! There is something for almost everyone in the city. No focused man stays in Lagos and wallows in hopelessness.  Another popular cliché in the city goes this way: “it is only a lazy man that stays in Lagos and has nothing doing’. True! Lagos offers everyone something. From the art to entertainment and from sports to tourism and across every sector, Lagos gives something refreshing to everyone.

In Lagos, Ajegunle represents the undying spirit of Lagos. Ajegunle typifies the craggy Lagos neighborhood where one might be tempted to ask as in biblical parlance: “can anything good come out of Nazareth?’. But just as the much vilified Nazareth paradoxically produced the Saviour, Ajegunle, has produced some of the Nation’s most famous and iconic sporting and entertainment stars. From Ras Kimono to Majek Fashek, from Daddy Showky to father U-Turn, from Samson Siasia to Taribo West, Ajegunle has become a breeding ground for sporting and entertainment entrepreneurs in the country.

There is, perhaps, no other episode, in contemporary time, that best depicts Lagos as a Land of Opportunity better than that of Olajumoke. Olajumoke’s story is almost similar to that of young David in the Bible who woke one morning as a shepherded boy only to end the day as the anointed king of Israel! In a narrative that could only find direct parallel in contemporary Nollywood scripts, Olajumoke, a mother of two, on a fateful day in February 2016 was going about her normal chore of a bread seller when she suddenly stumbled on famous photographer TY Bello’s set and before you could say Jack Robison, one thing led to the other and she is now a famous model.

In only a few months, she became a brand ambassador for Payporte, and scores of other modeling deals with fashion brands like Salma Guzel followed. She has also been interviewed on CNN, and has become the most googled person in Nigeria. Today, Olajumoke’s account has become an inspiration to people across the country. The gist is that if an illiterate bread seller could suddenly become a celebrity, Lagos offers hope to everyone. In order to really align with her new found celebrity status, Olajumoke had reportedly started a programme with Poise Nigeria, a Nigerian etiquette and finishing school where she is said to be taking courses in English Grammar and Communication, and also in Total Personality Development. That is the Spirit of Lagos

At 50, the future, no doubt, looks good for Lagos. With a re-engineered economy, improved infrastructure and political stability, Lagos remains a rising African City-State and a bastion of hope for the African continent.

 Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos

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