• Monday, May 27, 2024
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BusinessDay

Lagos: 2o15, no jokers please!

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This piece emphasises the need for the political parties in Lagos State to only consider exceptionally competent persons with verifiable track record in both the private and public sectors for the upcoming gubernatorial election in 2015.

Lagos State is the smallest in area size out of the 36 Nigerian States but has the highest population of up to 20million. This is partly due to the poor situation in other states. The State is the economic heartbeat of Nigeria. All the 25 national commercial banks operate from Lagos State. The State is also home to all the telephone companies. It also serves as the gateway to Nigeria being a port city and houses the busiest port in Nigeria. The limited area size and bloated population is a metaphor of the complex nature of the State, which requires exceptional competence to govern.

The importance of Lagos State to Nigeria cannot be over-stated: the State is a source of financial sustenance for neighbouring states. The Governor of Ogun State was reported to have stated that his State’s strategy is to “house, feed and clothe Lagos”.

The Lagos slogan “The Centre of Excellence” or “Eko o Onibaje” should be taken seriously by all the political parties, in picking their respective flag bearers for the 2015 gubernatorial election.  The contestants are vying to fill a big shoe as the current Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, is widely acknowledged to have performed excellently.

Numbers do not lie. Under Governor Fashola, Lagos State has been relatively peaceful without any ethnic or religious violence. There is religious harmony. The Lagos Security Trust Fund is a concept being copied across the country to tackle insecurity. Lagos State has increased its monthly internal generated revenue from 7bn in 2007 to 22bn in 2014. In 2012, the National Bureau of Statistics and the Joint Tax Board (JTB) data showed that the IGR for the 36 states of Nigeria was N555 billion and Lagos State alone accounted for N219.billion-39%. The State demonstrates the highest degree of financial independence amongst its peers, evidenced by a high IGR to total revenue ratio of 64%. Statutory allocation only contributed 17% of the total income of N351billion. Lagos State would have been the fifth biggest economy in sub-Sahara Africa with its $43 billion GDP, if it were a country.

On infrastructure, Lagos State is constructing a 27km Lagos Blue Line Rail Mass Transit system, which is incorporated into the 10-lane Lagos-Badagry Expressway project.  The State, in collaboration with the Federal Government, is reported to have commenced the development of the Lekki Deep Seaport in Akodo, Ibeju Lekki area of the State.  Also, Lagos State is in the early stage of developing the Lekki-Epe International Airport. The airport is designed to handle 5 million passengers annually with provision for future expansion.

The State has successfully commissioned three power plants: 12MW Akute Power Plant, 10MW Island Power Plant and 10.4MW Alausa Power Plant while the 8.8MW Mainland Power Plant is due for commissioning before the end of 2014.  This is unprecedented by any State in Nigeria.

Babatunde Fashola’s excellent performance was acknowledged by the electorate, when he was re-elected with an unprecedented 81% of the votes cast in the 2011 election.

The said Governor was a technocrat with little or no political experience before his election in 2007. Though, his exceptional competence was not in doubt from the onset: he became a Senior Advocate of Nigerian at a relatively young age of 41.  The Governor’s performance is often seen to be a consequence of his technocratic background.

Admittedly, it is a contradiction for anyone to run for a political office without being a politician. However, antecedents as a politician should be less important and emphasis should be placed on competence to govern and not ability to politic (or politrick) – in my opinion. This is because the line between politics and governance is very thin.

Even the Federal Government has learnt to limit political consideration in its interaction with Lagos State Government as exemplified by the various joint initiatives by the two tiers of Government. This is in contrast with its disposition before 2007, which Lagos State suffered for.

An apolitical Governor, in this context, is someone whose interest in the progress and well being of Lagos State supercedes his or her personal ambition or party loyalty. The Governor should accommodate his or her party’s interest as long as its does not conflict with his or her duty as an administrator. Personal political ambition should also not take precedence over the public interest.

Undoubtedly, Lagos State would be better served by a Governor that would not be distracted from his duty post by political battles for intra and inter party supremacy and control. We are all living witnesses to the distraction suffered by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in his battle against the Federal Government under President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Afenifere elders for the political control   of the southwest region. Besides, the fight for control and soul of party structures by Governors is common in different states in Nigeria today. It is opined that Bola Tinubu corrected and over-compensated for the distraction by supporting his succession by an apolitical technocrat in Governor Fashola.

Thus, the parties should assist the good people of Lagos State by picking exceptionally competent aspirants as their candidates. This will enable the electorate in Lagos State make the best choice from the good options available to them

It is opined that a core politician Governor by any of the parties would retard the progress made in Lagos State. There is still a lot to be done.

Lagos State has a large debt profile. As at 31 December, 2012, the State’s debt profile was N402billion, which represented 112% of its revenue as at then. Though its ability to pay is not in question as the debt to GDP ratio is 8%.

Also, with each positive development is the migration from other less well off states, which will continue to put considerable pressure on Lagos State.

Furthermore, critics of the current government have posited that the efforts to transform the city concentrated too much on the affluent people and areas. They also point to the housing problems in Lagos. The Makoko slum is still visible on Third Mainland Bridge as Jakande Estate is on Lekki-Epe Expressway. However it is also noteworthy to mention the giant strides the administration has made in delivering more affordable housing to those who it seemed had been priced out of the dream of becoming home owners. Through the Lagos Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (Lagos HOMS), for instance, the State Government has opened a lot easier and convenient door way which has enabled hundreds of members of the working class to own affordable and quality houses.

The point is that fixing Lagos cannot be completed by one Governor but the pace of progress must be sustained. An expert on Urban Development, William Cobbet, was quoted in Financial Times as saying that “it will take two to three decades of progress to turn the city around”.

We still have a long way to go. This is not the time to take several steps backward. A core politician Governor would retard the progress of Lagos. Any aspirant that is not competent to run a public quoted company should not be considered by all the political parties, in my opinion.

BABATOPE OSHODI