The Nigerian economy has been rundown with massive unemployment, low oil prices, rising costs and an unstable Naira making headlines. Lagos as Nigeria’s commercial capital feels the pulse and the heat of a poorly managed national economy. Nationwide, it seemed the Federal Government abandoned its role to govern the nation. Our public space was filled with stories of public corruption. Confidence in the nation’s security was at an all-time low with our police force ill equipped to tackle crime. This was why the nation spoke in the presidential elections of March 28th 2015 to reject 16 years of failure of governance.
In contrast, Lagos has experienced superior governance. There has been a deliberate design and effort of the government to develop the State in spite of the challenge of a hostile Federal Government. Our security forces were equipped under an innovative security trust fund. Thousands of patrol vehicles and armoured personnel carriers enhanced the few that the Federal Government provided, keeping us safe from kidnappers, robbers and terrorists. The light rail from Okokomaiko to Marina will be ready in June, taking many cars off the roads. Lagos has five independent power plants (IPPs) that provide off-grid, uninterrupted electricity to public hospitals, buildings, waterworks, and streetlights. With good foresight, it has surveyed the energy needs of the various communities in Lagos. The environment has been improved with parks that used to harbour criminals, now providing relaxation to residents. Lagos has made great progress. The ambition of Lagos to provide social and infrastructural services to Lagosians has only been reduced by a hostile PDP-led Federal Government.
For the first time, Lagos has the opportunity to cooperate with a progressive government at the centre. General Buhari of the All Progressives Congress has outlined a party manifesto that indicates many benefits for Lagos. Flanked by Lagos’ own former Attorney-General, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Lagos has a unique opportunity to move to the next level of progress. For instance, the federal plan of the APC for electricity takes after the Lagos off-grid IPP model for its public facilities. With the energy needs survey already done by the Lagos Government, implementation of the APC’s off-grid community-based IPPs will almost be like plug and play. Imagine Alaba International, Ladipo, Tejuosho and Balogun Markets with their own power plants. This reality is very close and touchable. The APC federal government also wants to set up industrial and technology parks with free electricity, free Internet and business grants. Where better to initiate such a scheme other than Lagos? One can see Computer Village in the mix. A social safety net for the poor is also top on the agenda of the APC- free meals in public primary schools, conditional cash transfers of N5,000 each to the poorest. This is the next level that Lagos deserves.
But our progress in Lagos could suffer a setback if the wrong policies or party take hold. An assault on, or incursion into, Lagos by the party that has failed Nigerians will undermine the collective growth of Lagos. Those forces that pinched the peoples’ resources for 16 years and their right to a decent living are knocking on the door of Lagos. Nearly all the states that they ruled, from North to South, and from East to West, retain the memory of the failure of governance. Ask Edo, Oyo, Osun and Ogun States what failed governance under the PDP entailed and the cleanup operation required by the progressive governments. Can Lagos afford a cleanup operation in the next four years? Is Lagos not too big and too dear to us to fail?
That is the context for the April 11 election, and as glaring as it is, the choice is just as clear.
The APC government has shown a firm commitment to using government to help foster growth. Federally, the APC has formed sensible governance policies in its manifesto that are not dedicated to protecting the powerful, but will work to bring relief to the majority of Nigerians and Lagosians who are powerless. The APC government in Lagos has impressive achievements despite the implacable wall of hostility erected by a PDP-led Federal Government so intent on crippling Lagos that they risked crashing Nigeria’s commercial progress and held Lagos’ revenues and development hostage. Mr. Ambode has worked at the top of the accounting function of the APC Government that managed Lagos’ economic survival in the face of PDP’s antagonistic might.
Jimi Agbaje, the PDP candidate, has gotten this far with a guile that allows him to say whatever he thinks an audience wants to hear. But he has tied himself to the exploitative and vicious forces that control the PDP and embraced their electoral methods, including an unleashing of ethnic militia on Lagosians on March 16th 2015. Voters may still be confused about Mr. Agbaje’s true identity, but they know the Peoples Democratic Party, and an Agbaje administration would reflect its agenda. Mr. Agbaje’s choice of Musiliu Obanikoro, Bode George and Adeseye Ogunlewe as his political benefactors says volumes about that.
Mr. Ambode may come across as running a temperate campaign with his reluctance to pound on Mr. Agbaje’s membership of the inglorious PDP (that has cost Nigeria so much) and Mr. Agbaje’s repeated political migration and infidelity. But we know he has a stomach to fight for the policies that will shape Lagos in the next four years and take her to the next level. He approaches the election clearly ready for the cooperative atmosphere of working with a progressive Federal Government.
We are confident that Lagos will attain the next level. For the first time, we will have a federal government that has the genuine interest of Lagos at heart. An alignment of ideology, policies, politics and interest between an APC Federal Government and Lagos State Government is the only option that takes us to the next level. While we congratulate Nigeria for its deliverance from failure, this certainly is not the time for Lagos to invite, accept, or tolerate PDP’s failure. Let us all join hands to take Lagos to the next level.