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15 YEARS OF DEMOCRACY IN LAGOS: WHITHER THE DIVIDENDS?

By Yinka Odumakin
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(Being Text Of Speech By 'Yinka Odumakin @The Democracy Day Lecture Organized By The Lagos State Chapter of The Peoples Democracy Party On 28th May,2014)

Protocols,
It is my great pleasure to stand here this morning as a guest of the Lagos Sate Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) to look at the last 15 years of democracy in the state of excellence.

When my good brother, Taofeek Gani called me weeks back to extend this invitation, I told him upfront that I would be here. Apart from my relationship with Gani that would make me oblige any request he makes of me, the subject of discourse today is a very fascinating one for me as Lagos remains the only state in Yoruba land that holds the record of uninterrupted reign by one political tendency between 1999 and now.

I recall like yesterday how I drove to Senator Musiliu Obanikoro's home in Ebute Metta sometimes in February 1999 after all logistics had been perfected from Sunday Adigun through Lagos Airport Hotel and Kresta Laurel building the previous day for the gubernatorial elections holding across the state.

We were both to coordinate the agents of the Alliance For Democracy(AD) and its Governorship Candidate, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Epe and Ibeju-Lekki Local Governments of Lagos.

We arrived Epe to meet a group of dedicated Yoruba nationalists led by the late Comrade Baba Omojola who had come to do field works. It is regrettable that the same Lagos today has a document produce by the Lagos State government before the National Conference claiming that Lagos is not part of Yoruba Land.

We fought a hard electoral process and by midnight the following day we left the collation centre at Epe with victory in our hands to join the situation office at Mainland Hotel where victory dance was already afoot.

I have recalled the above to give my locus standi to x- ray 15 years of democracy in Lagos. I was involved. I have lived in Lagos in all those 15 years without break .When I talk therefore ,you should know I have a good idea of what I'm saying.

THE PROMISE OF 1999.
At his inauguration ceremony on May 29,1999;Senator Bola Tinubu adjusted his glasses and looked Lagosians straight in the faces to make the following commitments:

"The celebration of democracy started in our State a week ago and it continues

even after this event. We have been rejoicing in the hope that today will truly mark a turning point in our lives. We have been rejoicing in the hope that today signifies the end of an era. We are happy in the hope that today epitomizes a new beginning. A renewal of our hope and dreams that from henceforth, our people shall be governed, not by the arbitrary rule of the jackboot but by the rule debated and agreed to by their own elected representatives and government.

This was the dream of the founding fathers of Nigeria 40 years ago. As you all know, the dreams evaporated 33 years ago when the military struck. But thank God, military rule has become intolerable worldwide. Democracy has become a global factor And thank God, we have become the touch-bearers of new political spirit, the embodiment of the democratic aspirations of our people

As flag-bearers, we are not unmindful of the heavy burden and responsibility that we carry. We are not unmindful of the huge expectations of our people, young and old, man and woman, able and disabled. Nor are we unmindful of the misery and poverty that the generality of our people have had to endure almost forty years after Independence.

Our goal, as the Prophet of old commands, is to lighten the burden of our people, alleviating poverty by providing jobs for our youths, houses, secure homes, water, good roads and creating efficient mass transportation system, industrial development and providing life more abundant for our people."

We are here today fifteen years after to review whether those lofty promises have been fulfilled in the eight years.

But we need to first look at the revenue profile of Lagos in the last fifteen years as shown in the table below:

S/N YEAR RECURRENT N CAPITAL TOTAL APPROVED BUDGET CAPITAL : RECURRENT TOTAL ACTUAL EXPENDITURE % PERFORMANCE


1 1998 10,343,000,000 6,490,000,000 16,833,000,000 39:61 12,416,000,000 0.74

2 1999 12,009,000,000 5,835,000,000 17,844,000,000 25:75 10,283,000,000 0.58

3 2000 26,492,000,000 16,450,000,000 42,942,000,000 38:62 32,204,000,000 0.75

4 2001 32,141,000,000 16,774,000,000 48,915,000,000 34:66 45,174,000,000 0.92

5 2002 36,312,000,000 21,923,000,000 58,235,000,000 38:62 41,257,000,000 0.71

6 2003 39,697,000,000 22,956,000,000 62,653,000,000 37:63 45,377,000,000 0.72

7 2004 53,092,000,000 24,315,000,000 77,407,000,000 38:62 60,660,000,000 0.78

8 2005 65,503,000,000 47,226,000,000 112,729,000,000 41:58:00 78,575,000,000 0.70

9 2006 100,949,000,000 78,858,000,000 179,807,000,000 56:44:00 0.00

10 2007 145,367,000,000 129,395,000,000 274,762,000,000 47:53:00 192,166,000,000 0.70

11 2008 159,627,000,000 243,774,000,000 403,401,000,000 60:40:00 286,602,000,000 0.71

12 2009 150,464,000,000 254,536,000,000 405,000,000,000 63:37:00 294,710,000,000 0.73

13 2010 178,015,000,000 233,556,000,000 411,571,000,000 57:43:00 329,526,000,000 0.80

14 2011 198,182,000,000 252,593,000,000 450,775,000,000 56:44:00 347,053,000,000 0.77

15 2012 233,620,000,000 258,321,000,000 491,941,000,000 53:47:00 439,464,000,000 0.89

16 2013 214,729,000,000 292,376,000,000 507,105,000,000 58:42:00 429,745,000,000 0.85

2014 234,665,000,000 255,025,000,000 489,690,000,000 52:48:00

From a budget of N16b in 1998 under the Military Administration of Brig Gen Buba Marwa ,Lagos today has a budget of N489b.And between the era of Senator Bola Tinubu and Mr. Babatunde Fashola, the state has expended close to N4trilion .When we recall that the last budget of the golden reference in governance in Lagos State, Jakande Administration which the military coup of 1984 aborted was only N1b;we are in a better position to appreciate how the revenue that accrued to the state in the last fifteen years have been used.

There is no area of Lagos that you go to 31 years after he left office that LKJ giant imprints are not seen in every critical sector despite the fact that he never spent up to N1b in those four years. In fact, there are areas you will get to in the state today that the last presence of governance still remains the Jakande touch. May God bless Baba Kekere!

Now let us proceed to examine if there has been a justification for the N4trn expended so far in the critical sectors Senator Tinubu highlighted 15 years ago:

1. ROADS AND TRANSPORTATION
A mega city like Lagos obviously requires a good road network and efficient transportation system. In the last 15 years, Lagos has managed to construct some good roads like Kudirat Abiola Way, Awolowo Road ,Bourdillon Road ,Lekki Road etc but the obvious fact is that majority of roads in Lagos are still in very bad shape. Most of the roads in the non-elites areas of Lagos have become hellish for road users. The media is awash with mind-boggling images of collapsed roads in most parts of the city.

Many commuters still find it very hard to move from one part of the city to the other.

What would have been a big boost to transportation in the state was the BRT scheme that was conceived by the Tinubu administration and launched by the Fashola government. But the greatest affliction of governance in the state which we shall highlight more down the line has turned the scheme into a moribund project.

A report in the National Mirror of August 15,2013 sums up the tragic story of BRT:

"When the Lagos Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, otherwise called Lagos BRT was launched on March 24, 2008 by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) )many residents of Nigeria's economic and commercial capital heaved a sigh of relief, hoping it would ease the agony of traffic snarl in the metropolis, as they imagined commuting to and fro their businesses in the buses that ply on exclusive corridor.

But five years after, the BRT has become a nightmare to commuters, with declining efficient service delivery, accentuated by decrepitude look of most of the buses in the fleet.

The two types of buses - Blue, owned by the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) Cooperative and Red (LAGBUS), owned by the Lagos State Asset Management Company - are used in the BRT scheme.

As many who hitherto parked their vehicles to patronise the BRT are now returning to their steering wheels, tension is heightening on the roads as Lagosians seek to get to their destinations faster by using the outlawed BRT corridor...........

At the Mile 12 to CMS terminal on this day, there was a long queue of passengers, a bus left at 9:15am and another did not arrive till 10:25am. No reason was given for such delay. Frustration was written all over the faces of commuters, while some became restive.

'Those personnel sitting there are not even telling us why the buses are not arriving,' a visibly angry woman said.

A bus marked L08, which had earlier arrived developed mechanical problem and was abandoned until two mechanics, probably from their office came and fixed it. But the waiting passengers declined to board it and it was eventually driven out empty.

Another bus marked 145 arrived by 10:35am. The window screens were broken and some of the passengers avoided sitting close to them due to heavy rain falling at the time. Others had no choice than to occupy the wet seats.

'These people are stupid. They don't have regard for their clients. These seats are wet but they don't even think of what to do about them,' a furious elderly man said, after using his handkerchief to wipe where he sat.

'Why is it that we don't always get it right in this country? How old are these buses that they can't be in good shape any longer? Just look at my body, how do I change the clothes I'm wearing now that I am going to the office?' another man asked no one in particular.

The BRT buses are designed to carry 76 passengers, with 40 sitting and 36 standing, but that is not the situation as all the buses are packed with passengers. In fact, on this day, no fewer than 130 passengers were seen in most of them, a situation, which some passengers observed, is fast turning to ubiquitous Molue.

More disturbing is the fact that the signal bells are no longer functioning. Passengers now shout 'owa' to alert drivers that they want to alight.

It was similar tale of woes when our correspondent boarded another BRT bus from Ketu to Fadeyi on July 17. There were long queues of passengers. Those waiting for bus seats had a queue that stretched towards Ketu Market, while those for standing had another long queue that stretched towards Ojota axis.

About 30 minutes later, an overloaded BRT bus arrived from Mile 12 terminal. Some passengers scrambled to enter, even as it was visible that the vehicle had lost its balance because of overload. Passengers were shouting at each other, and almost exchanged blows for stepping on each other's toes.

Moments later, another bus marked 203 arrived. Expectedly, it was overloaded. The number of those standing was more than those sitting. There was commotion and bedlam in the bus. Two young women engaged in a squabble and rained abuses on each other over standing space. But several seats at the back of the vehicle were empty. Why? They were tattered and covered in dust.

'Why should these people put this on the road? Just look at the seats; how much would it cost to put them in order. It is not as if their services are free,' a livid male passenger, said.

Ironically, a bold statement by the BRT management pasted inside all the vehicles reads: 'As a valued stakeholder in the BRT System, please make it mandatory to demand for the passengers' copy of the ticket. In the event of any reluctance by the crew members on this and other general complaints you can reach us through this lines stated herein'

Despite the above assurance by the operators, many have continued to wonder why the system that was embraced and had turned to a model for other states a few years back is now a shadow of itself ?

The dented exteriors, broken bumpers, broken lights, defaced registration number plates, dusty and dirty interior, reckless drivers, rude and corrupt ticketing officers, bad dedicated lanes among others, keen observers say are elements of a system that lacks maintenance culture."

What these narratives miss out is that jaded buses were imported to Lagos in 2007, refurbished and passed off to Lagosians for the price of new.

2. WATER
Senator Tinubu promised Lagosians water in 1999 but 15 years after most neighborhoods in Lagos today lack potable water. Hospitals in the states are brimming with cases of water born diseases like typhoid as many residents have to drink water from unclean sources. The last time I used pipe borne water in this city was in 2004 and my testimony was a human finger dropping into the bucket from the tap.

In 2012,the state commissioner for Environment Mr. Tunji Bello acknowledged the dire situation of water supply .

He agreed that water scarcity has become a major challenge in Lagos State because of the growing population. But Bello said the challenge is not peculiar

to the Lagos metropolis and does not translate into the state lacking in capacity to deliver portable water to households across the state.

According to him, it is characteristic of the world's mega cities due to increasing population that such cities often attract globally. In the case of Lagos, the commissioner observed that insufficient access to water resources is not due to scarcity, blaming it on the pressure of demand.

He agreed that the population in Lagos is huge and providing water for a population of 20.19 million requires critical infrastructure, which according to him, includes regular power supply and installation of water pipelines across the state.

He disclosed that the challenge of providing portable water has led the governor, Babatunde Fashola, to set up a technical committee to nip the problem in the bud. He added that the committee's agenda is crucial to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by Nigeria before 2015.

3 HOUSING
The Housing situation in Lagos remains pathetic in Lagos 15 years after Senator Tinubu's inaugural address. Unlike the Jakande Administration which made massive investment in housing for low and medium income earners in the state, the Tinubu administration built a handful of houses for such categories of Lagosians while Govenor Fashola has not hidden the fact that his priority is the Lagos rich and not it's poor. When asked why he has not invested in low cost houses, the governor retorted "is there low cost cement?"

Femi Aribisisala observed this phenomenon and wrote as follows:

'Action Governor: For some strange reason, Lagos has tended to have better Governors than most states of the federation. But if you were to ask me who is the best among all the Governors of Lagos, I would answer you without hesitation. In my opinion, it is Governor Babatunde Fashola. Fashola is a man with a vision. He is a man with a purpose. He is a man clearly able to translate ideas into weapons. He has transformed and is transforming Lagos right before our very eyes.

But I have a nagging suspicion that the reason why I am so readily persuaded by Fashola's virtues might not be unconnected with the fact that I am not a poor man. The poor themselves may have a very different point of view. They are probably likely to insist that the best governor in the history of Lagos is Lateef Kayode Jakande; alias 'Baba Kekere.'

I am not a poor man by Nigerian standards. Therefore, I do not presume to speak for the poor. But then, increasingly, I am beginning to wonder who exactly speaks for them in Lagos. One thing is certain, Fashola speaks primarily for the rich; and this is not good enough. In the Lagos of today, the poor have no voice. Fashola's laudable policies are too one-sided. They are tailor-made for the rich: and are grossly disadvantageous to the poor.

'Relocating the poor: I don't have to be poor to know that the poor are increasingly unwelcome in Lagos. The genius of Fashola is to relocate them to the outskirts of the city. If they are non-indigenes, they are relocated back to their homesteads. The systematic ridding of Lagos of the poor is a longstanding process. The poor were shipped out of Maroko. It has been replaced by Oniru where apartments go for an average of 2.5 million naira a year.

Slums in Mushin, Oluwole and Makoko have been demolished. The residents were evicted from their homes, with no talk of rehabilitation. Markets in Tejuoso, Yaba and Oshodi have been demolished and rebuilt. The new stalls are beyond the pocket of the earlier poor occupants. Everywhere in Lagos, the poor are becoming persona non grata.

In places like Ojota, Makoko, and Ijora-Badia East, the poor residents have been evicted from their homes. In some cases, they were given only 72 hours notice to leave. In Makoko/Iwaya, the government's quit notice described them 'environmental nuisances' that 'undermined the megacity status' of Lagos. It stated that their menial existence was detrimental to the government's determination to beautify the Lagos waterfront.

*Eko Atlantic: As the poor are being squeezed out, so is more leg-room being created for the rich. The Eko Atlantic project is the epitome of this. It involves dredging 140 million tons of sand from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean to subdue the sea and create nine million square kilometers of prime real estate, protected by an eight metre-high wall, vaunted to last 1000 years. When completed, the project will boast residential areas, offices, shops, and leisure facilities for 250,000 people, with another 150,000 commuting to work. To have a foothold in this brave new world, you will need a cool 300,000 naira for just one square metre of land.

However, what Lagos desperately needs is not a 'Manhattan island' that will cater primarily for the rich."

I'm in total agreement with him, though I give Fashola the credit for giving Lagos a new look.

4 JOB CREATION AND POVERTY ALLEVIATION
There is no denying the fact that some jobs have been created in the last fifteen years through agencies like LASTMA, KAI etc but there has not been real efforts in the sectors outside menial. Armies of frustrated and unemployed youth still throng the city. The enabling environment for small scale enterprises to flourish has not been created .Even those trying to survive in the informal sector face daily harassment in the hands of those who would have been running the streets like them were it not that they recruited into KAI.

If you are held in the traffic at night, chances are that some pretty criminals would pull a gun by you to ask for money because "the boys are hungry". It happened to me at Radio Bus stop about 100 meters from the seat of Lagos government four weeks ago.

5 LIFE MORE ABUNDANT.
The Life More Abundant Senator Tinubu promised in 1999 has been a direct opposite of what Awolowo actualized and turned out to be the exclusive preserve of those in power, their cronies and hangers on .While the people have yet to see any significant improvement in their living conditions, politicians in power have acquired choice properties all over the city, built 5-star hotels and bought state-of -the-art jets. Hangers on who were almost feeding on sand in 1999 are today swimming in unearned opulence. Opportunities to good life are being taken from the ordinary people on daily basis. The Lagos state University charges up to N350,000 in fees per student in a state that has not fully implemented the N18 ,000minimum wage.

I read the pathetic story of a LASU student who had to drop out of school as reported by Vanguard Newspaper a few days ago and I wept bitterly. This is the worrying narration of Emmanuel Gbesehemane:

' Before I wrote my Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, UTME,' he told Saturday Vanguard, 'the school fees stood at N25, 000. But after I got admission, the fees were increased. But I hoped that with all the noise students were making, the state government would revert to the former fees.'

LASU fees were increased by as much as 750 per cent with medical students being charged up to N345, 750. Because many could not afford it, admission in 2011/2012 session fell by about 30 per cent. In the 2011 post-UTME exercise, students seeking admission to LASU sharply dropped. The over 2,000 students who merited admission having passed post-UTME had to forfeit their admissions because they could not afford the fees.'

But Emmanuel did not forfeit the space he had waited so long to occupy, at least not immediately. He said: 'My father took a loan of N250, 000 from his cooperative society to pay for my first year, and I borrowed N8, 000 from my friends. But when we got into the 2013/2014 academic session, the situation remained the same.'

Emmanuel had resigned his job as a teacher in a small private school because he had to make a long commute from Badagry to LASU, Ojo every day to attend lectures. He couldn't afford to live on campus. His father, a retired Local Government official had not finished paying back the first loan, when the second year came along. Emmanuel could not pay his fees and missed out on the entire 2013/2014 session.

'I have been advised to withdraw from school,' he said worriedly, 'my counterparts are now in 300 level. But because the school management requires that anyone who misses exams in first and second semester must withdraw, I cannot continue my career here. I was not allowed to write any examinations because I had not paid my fees. I would like to plead with the state government to have mercy, and revert to the old fees.'

6 DEMOCRATIC CULTURE
The political tendency that has governed Lagos in the last 15 years makes a lot of pretensions to democracy nationally but has found it difficult to walk its talk. A critical ingredient of democracy is that citizens are free to make their views known to their leaders on issues they are not comfortable with. But the attempt by residents of Lekki area to protest their being asked to pay tolls without providing alternatives saw them being beaten blue and black by a combined team of thugs and policemen.

Three years ago, the State Independent Electoral Commission conducted Local Government elections for which winners were announced for the ruling party without figures released till date. Even where tribunals set up upturned some of the dubious victories, judicial strong arm tactics were employed to enforce the dictate of the then CAN. Lagos holds the unpalatable record of about the only state in Nigeria where commissioners (except information ) and information officers cannot talk to the media .

Neither does the state disclose the cost of its projects.FOI requests filed on the finances of the state have been spurned with reckless impunity.

There is a widely held belief that Alpha Betta, a company linked to the "Emeritus" Governor rakes in an average of N3b monthly from the state Internally Generated Revenue, a sweet deal cut while the former governor was in the saddle. The current administration has put the whole deal under the cloud .

Such deals and many other leakages in the system are seen as the prime factors on why the much talked about dividends of democracy have been slow in reaching Lagosians in the past 15 years.

There is also the observation about the ostentatious governance model that has been adopted in the state which takes a big toll on its finance. The type of cars that are used as official cars in the state are not even being used by oil companies. Official residences of top officials are like Hollywood stars resorts in the same state Jakande governed from his private residence in Ilupeju. The obnoxious pension laws passed at the official exit of the former governor entitles him to houses, cars and the salary of the current governor. I understand the state has constructed two palaces in Lagos and one in Abuja on that score.

It has been rightly observed that you can't give what you don't have. A political tendency that does not allow internal democracy in the conduct of its own internal affairs cannot promote democracy in the state.

This tendency has however been getting away with its subversion of democratic ethos simply because of the lack of an organized opposition that can give it a run for its money. It has also perfected its media hold that even if it commits murder there can be justification. The wrongs it does do not make the headlines while its condemnations of lesser wrongs by others are magnified by its Goebbelian machinery.

I believe that for proper democracy to flourish in the state, there must be a vibrant opposition that can match that tendency toe-to-toe and remove the toga of Lagos being a "one party" state.

Like the PDP boasts at the centre that it would rule Nigeria for 60 years, the APC tendency seems to be basking in the euphoria that it would govern Lagos in perpetuity and that to my mind explains the level of complacency.

My honest view is that until it loses election in the state, it cannot be convinced that Lagos can be better managed for a more beneficial deal for Lagosians.

But any political tendency that would achieve that feat must show clearly that it is not "more of the same". It must come with a clear agenda of change and galvanize the citizenry to work for a fresh start that they can buy into with trust earned. Character, integrity and a brighter vision are quiet essential in challenging the oligarchy.

Tell no lies, claim no easy victory says the philosopher. The battle for the soul of Lagos would never be a tea party. A bid for Lagos would amount to taking the oxygen mask from the colonizers and everything would be deployed to save their political life.

I'm however convinced that without such a bid, Lagos will remain the privatized democracy that it is presently.

The moment summons its men and women.
Abo mi re!