Analysts have expressed pessimism about the future of Lagos State under the anticipated administration of Tinubu’s anointed candidate, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
On the Ambode issue, let’s start with this quote by Salihu Tanko Yakassai, a Kano State senior official, who wrote:
“So many lessons from these ongoing “primaries”. Politics is not what you think it is, it is what it is. Its about interests of few, not that of people. If the interests of those few align with that of the people, then you see them on the same page, but don’t assume they are doing it for us”
Ambode has been evicted through a popular mandate of the party. The leaders at the forefront were the same persons who hailed him as the best thing to happen in recent times. After being bereft of excuses, they said that he didn’t follow the Masterplan, you can read that as the master’s plan. Never believe that the issues that you complain about are the same issues that matter to the power brokers. Whatever issue they had with Ambode, it could have been resolved.
I have few issues with Ambode most especially the Visionscape and Otodo Gbame. I remember how in a hail of fire and gunshots, thousands were evicted from a land they lived for decades. Lagos “progressives” can’t understand that being informal does not mean illegality. Every court injunction was sabotaged and no one was held accountable for pain and deaths. Ambode never addressed it.
Ambode brought Visionscape, a single monopoly to handle Lagos waste. The PSP operators, a major group in the party structure, were taken out in an insensitive way. Insensitivity was the key word, being out of step with the system. When PSP appeared, there were issues with the cart pushers but it was resolved. I know LAWMA officers who were relocated to local councils, practically left to do nothing. Visionscape has issued a bond of N27bn, guaranteed by the taxpayers payments. They are suppose to charge the citizens an Utility Levy, but that won’t happen with the noise that followed the tenement rates. N27bn will be paid to bondholders, Lagos guaranteed that.
Toll gates fees were hiked with no transparency or public communication . No one knows when the tolls will expire, just traditional opaque Lagos. I remembered the date Lagos was flooded heavily, rather than being on the ground facing the issues, our Governor was in Abeokuta, attending a function.
You can add the issue of opacity in Lagos state finances. I remembered sitting with the first Commissioner of Budget and Planning, asking him that we should change this culture of opacity. We talked for two hours. He promised to take small steps in education and health. Then he stopped picking my calls, a former senior partner in a consulting firm, I was sad of how the Nigerian “intellectual” behaves in power. It was a shame. Lagos continued the culture of opacity, it is the only state I know that public budgets are gross summaries, no public line items.
The key issue is that Lagos has always thrived on pop-up contractors who are creation of the sitting governments. I watched how new pop-contractors handled all the main projects in Lagos. This is a silent grouse of the rank of the party and some civil servants – the centralization of benefits. I watched how Lekki roundabouts were wrongly done but no one to check the quality.
I also had issues on some ideas like the obsession with bus stops or the fencing of Lagos with barbed wire making it like a voluntary giant prison. Where exactly was that copied from or just another idea of a government entrepreneurs?
I have seen the fetishization of Fashola but that’s also a problem of low standards. Lagos inner roads were a sham and that was Ambode first target. What were his predecessors doing? I lost my friend in LASUTH, I don’t pray that’s your portion. Lagos healthcare is a sham, no clear strategy on moribund primary healthcare in three years.
The Badagry rail came with its issues. Exchange rates devaluation triggered the costs but Lagos that doesn’t communicate would never explain that. There’s no end in sight. Going back to our first quote, there were issues, but it aligned with the narrative of a few who felt the public treasury distribution didn’t reach them.
Ambode made the people of Epe happy, you need to drive road from Lagos to Ibadan,through Ijebu Ode. Few bridges, attention to security, LASEMA, inner roads and others but does that justify aggregate revenues of over N1.2tn in three years? How do I know if the numbers aren’t transparent?
We now have a man who analysts say he’s just a call centre agent for the Master, aptly put as Sanwo Eko. It’s clear that certain persons wield power, rising on the vulnerability of the masses to further their agenda. So, there’s no victory in sight. Sanwo-Olu does not have a manifesto, he says it’s a participatory one. I don’t know anyone who wants to lead a place and doesn’t have a vision. I don’t believe this is the right person just a pliable person that the party brokers can find.
Lagos needs an overhaul of political architecture. It simply means like we did for the FG, Lagos is due for a new party to lead it. The decision is left for the people as interests involved won’t go down without a fight. You can see the entire architecture – transport workers lords, market leaders and the corporate elite – is woven around this.
The master’s plan continue, lets not be naive, it was not the Masterplan, that was written in 2013. The actors are just trying to hold the taxpayers’ hostage, in a distributed mechanism. Do the taxpayers, the formal workers, the ones who pay PAYE, who oil public finances of Lagos, have the numbers?Do they have zeal? Is there a candidate?
There’s a system that breeds insensitivity and disdain for accountability. The system is due for overhaul. The choice is left to the voters.
Everyone says that taxes will incentivise accountability, the people of Lagos have not proven that right.
Oluseun David Onigbinde is a Nigerian entrepreneur and open data analyst popularly known as the co-founder and CEO of BudgIT, a Nigerian civic startup.