Posted on Monday, August 19th, 2013
By Chukwudi Nweje Assistant Features Editor
Considering its status as the former capital of Nigeria, the commercial nerve centre of the country and a major hub of economic activities in not just in the West African sub region, but the whole continent, it is therefore not surprising that Lagos State prides its self as the Centre of Excellence and a megacity in the making. Going by experts’ definition of a megacity as a metropolitan area with a total population in excess of ten million people, Lagos definitely qualifies as one. Although the last disputed population census says otherwise, Lagos is believed to be the most populous city in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, the Urban Land Institute (ULI), an authoritative and widely quoted source of objective information on urban planning, growth, and development in the world projects that Lagos is on the way to becoming one of the world’s five largest cities.
Since the return to democracy in 1999, successive governments in the State concentrated efforts on developing the state and rendering the dividends of democracy to the people. However, while the State Government hypes on its achievements, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) has dismissed the claims. The group at its recent annual General Convention (AGC) and public presentation of Lagos Open Parliament: The True State of Lagos by Lagosians, under the theme “Making Probity and Accountability in Governance Obligatory: Ways Means, strategies and Tactics”, accused the government of deception and secrecy in the conduct of its affairs.
Debo Adeniran, the executive chairman argued that while the State Government had been reeling out achievements in the areas of road construction, provision of infrastructure and other social amenities including furnishing of public schools, investigations carried out by their agents show that Lagos roads are still littered with potholes, even as many schools are still without basic equipment. He argued that the government has been over emphasising its achievements stressing that whatever it may have done fell below what was promised during electioneering campaigns.
“The government of Fashola has been deceptive, telling people what he thinks they want to hear instead of being accountable for his years of stewardship. It is expected that any responsible government that is worth its onions is expected to perform up to optimal level based on the programmes with which it was elected. It is only when such government goes beyond its brief that it should expect commendation from the people,” he argued.
According to him, the group embarked on the Open Parliament because the government has been operating in secrecy. “We wrote to them under the Freedom of Information Act with a view of getting their reaction to the corruption allegation levelled against them by a group called True Face of Lagos, but up till now no response. “In any democratic setting, government derives its existence, authorities and powers from the people. It is therefore presupposed to be answerable to the same people who through their votes had put it in charge of the affairs of the state or nation.” He however said that rather than respond, the State Government told them that the FOI Act was not applicable in the state.
The group also lamented the spate at which the State is increasingly assuming the semblance of anti-poor. Adeniran says that Governor Fashola administration has since coming to office, turned governance into a business venture by commercialising social services in the state, such that “services that are supposed to be rendered as incentives to law-abiding citizens are turned into business ventures at exorbitant charges beyond the reach of average citizens.” He accused the government of creating avenue for crime to thrive.
He insists that the Lagos State Government has become “the biggest omonile”, insisting that it has taken over virtually every aspect of economic life of the citizens. “Since assuming office the administration has demolished Oshodi, Mushin and Tejuosho markets. It has taken over other available spaces where traders ply their trade and replaced them with structures beyond the reach of the common man. It went a step further in its anti-poor policies with the banning and prohibition from operating on Lagos roads Molue buses owned by private individuals and introducing urban mass transits supplied at exorbitant rate. It is unfortunate that some of the mass transit buses are even in worse state than the Molue buses they edged out.
“It has also banned the 100cc Okada because it says they are reckless and being used to commit crime. The administration says the government will supply 200cc motorcycles as if that will make them less reckless. In fact the 200cc motorcycle will be a better tool in the hands of criminals because they are faster”, he stated.
Reviewing the book ‘Open Parliament: The True State of Lagos by Lagosians’, Adeola Soetan project Executive , Grassroots Watch and Feed Nigeria Initiative (FENI), said that a government fails when it listens to its own voice and voices of its praise singers rather than the people. According to him, governance being about people suggests that “any serious government must be sober enough to see beyond the cloud of assemblage of cronies, the see no evil, say no evil to power sycophants whose job is to hold any government in power hostage at its own pleasure for pecuniary interests.”
He argued that public evaluation of a government that is clad in the garb of performer or actualiser is not and could not have been an easy task to accomplish without necessary ingredients of objectivity, determination and courage to see beyond facade, illusion and delusion of grandeur. He commended CACOL for the painstaking effort at revealing the real face of Lagos from the stand point of the people.
On her part, Mrs Ganiyat Fawehinmi called on the people of Lagos and all Nigerians to take their destinies into their hands “because these so-called leaders are out to enslave us. We must therefore rise up and vote them out in 2015.”
On her part, Dr. Mrs. Awosika said that Nigerians must go beyond complaining about bad leaders and think of what they should do. “If government is not doing enough then we must ask ourselves what we can do to make it better. If we must hold government accountable, then we have to be part of the process”, she stated.