A NOTE OF THOUGHTS FOR GOVERNOR BABATUNDE FASHOLA

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Let me start by saying, when I wrote the piece: "Lagosians blind trust for Governor Babatunde Fashola," some people, in fact, including my darling wife, felt I was not been fair and very judgmental. When I later braced it up with another article titled: "Lagos, Nigeria: What possibilities of a Mega City," more people were calling for my head, some even called me anti-Fashola government, and worst still, my own constituency - the media - turned its back on me, as most newspapers, which I sent these articles to refused to publish them, perhaps in solidarity and loyalty to a Governor it adjudged the best in the country at that time. Thank God for foreign newspapers and the National Daily that gave them spaces.

No doubt, Governor Fashola was uncontroversially adjudged the best State Anchor amongst the lots of them in the last dispensation and he sure deserved all the confidence and commendations one could invest in him. But then, an adage says do not praise too much a child least it gets to his head. True, when a man does well he deserves to be commended and praised, but even in that fate, he needs to be cautioned more, and at least, be told how he can achieve more, so that he does not depart or thinks he has arrived. After all, a saying says the best professor cannot profess everything, just like the best governor cannot govern all. Take or leave it, the criticisms and perhaps, the attempted impeachment of Governor Fashola in the last dispensation actually spur his massive campaign for a second term and also equip him better for good governance. The criticisms put him on his toes. It quickens him to want to do more. It tells him it's never over until you are out and that it's not yet time for him to sleep or relax. It says to him that some people are watching in spite of the so-called blind trust or addiction of many. And all these, one must confess, has made him not just a better Governor, but a wise person.

The important of these critics and their criticisms, take or leave it, is the yet evidences of good governance that Lagos and Lagosians hope to experience in this current tenure, if there would be any.

Governor, Fashola surely has done well compared to his counterparts across the country, and has been able to convince Lagosians, in fact, Nigerians, beyond practical doubts, that he meant well and can be trusted, but if one must be truthful and objective, there are still so much to be done in Lagos in the areas of road network, particularly in most suburbs of the state. The housing and power generation are also areas of challenges facing Lagos. Believe it or not, these factors have a summing down, if not direct effects, on the income and by extension, the standard of living, which in my opinion includes health, and the purchasing power of the people. Let's take roads for instance, I have often asked myself why most densely inhabited areas in Lagos have just one linking road. I have said this before, and I make haste to stress again that the solution to Lagos usual traffic gridlock is not LASTMA, but a network of access roads. Let me say at this juncture, that LASTMA is the result of the failure and inability of the state government to fix the traffic problem of Lagos. If Lagos roads are well networked and existing major terminal routes are provided with multi-links, the road will fix its traffic situation and there would be no need for any traffic official to be on the road. Imagine the plight of Lagosians, who live in places like Ikorodu, Ayobo, Iyana-Ipaja, and the Lekki-Ajah areas of Lagos, that have just one terminal access route, most of these people leave their homes as early as 4.00am in the morning and get back home as late as 12.00am – that's when the traffic is even light, according to them. Aside that they pay through their noses thru and fro their offices and homes, they sleep for less than four hours every day, and this has very grave health implications, yet we wonder why people die like chickens these days and why most people, even the so-called enlightened, take to the drinking of roots and hot-drink mixture/herb called "Paraga" being hawked everywhere today.

Another mistake of the state government is that it believes that turning four-lane terminal access routes to twelve-lane terminal access routes and giving it a festive decoration, could solve the traffic problem, but experience, one must say, has taught us that a hundredth terminal routes could only compound the problem of traffic in Lagos. As long as there are no alternative-access routes and the so called twelve lanes are still terminal, there will always be hold-ups. The way out is a network of access roads. They could even be just four lanes, but as long as they are properly built, motor-able and well networked; they would go a long way, to serve the existing terminal roads better. Accept it or not, it's arrant nonsense for anybody to say Lagos will always face chaotic traffic situation, because it's a mega city. That would be subjecting all man's intelligence and will-power to defeat.

Just recently the state government took a very praise worthy step by abolishing and making illegal the two year rental that prospective tenants pay to landlords in the state. The Lagos State House of Assembly had taken up the challenge to passed the rent bill, which is tagged 'A bill for a law to regulate rights and obligations under tenancy agreement and the relationship between landlord and the tenant, including the procedure for the recovery of premises and for other connected purposes in Lagos State'. It follows therefore, that henceforth no new tenant can be asked to pay over one year rent in advance. The current practice of asking for two-year rent in advance is now illegal. Also, an “existing tenant”, under the new law, can no longer be asked to pay for over six months, against the current practice of one year. In line with the aforementioned, one will be right to say this law, is expected and intended to protect residents in the state, but unfortunately the government has again failed to put into consideration the peculiar nature and realities of Lagos and in fact, the plight of that man, who desires an accommodation desperately. The question I kept asking myself is how does a man, who needs accommodation enforces this right, in a situation the landlord insists he must pay two years rent. The issue is would that man, who needs a house desperately say no o, the government says I should pay just one year? I must confess that as much as the law is lofty, it is not enforceable in the current Lagos terrain. One would think that with such law, there should be a reinforcing law or even a clause in it, that would take away the right to rent or let out a residential or office building from the landlord or agent, and ensure that all residential and office buildings are registered under a state and/or judicial agency, preferably the court, which in turn would take up the responsibility of renting or leasing out houses in the state, though with consent of the Landlord. This means that all rental agreements between landlords and prospective tenants would be overseen by a law court, or even a registered agent under the government, so that the prospective tenant's rights can be well protected under the law.

Again, the state government should have gone a little further to stipulate how much a single room and a room and a parlour should go for, because with the new law of one year rental in place, the landlords and agents could devise new methods of still getting the two years rent in one year, by inflating the rental costs. For instance, if a standard room is supposed to go for N3,000, they may decide to let it out for N6,000. This would mean that they could still exploit those intended to be protected by the law, and this would have defeated the essence of the law. But then, aside that the aforementioned steps could eliminate these problems of agency and agent fees, including landlord's exploitation gimmick, it would go a long way, to generate good income for the state.

Also, the state needs to stand-up to the issue of lack of water supply in a state that is surrounded by oceans and lakes, as well as the reformation of its law enforcement agencies, LASTMA, KAI, etc. I believe that Lagos can be all it desires, if there is a constructive willpower and common sense, is applied.

On a final note, one must say, as much as one may want to close his/her eyes to some attractive reasons why Governor Fashola is being treasured today, one cannot help but confess that it is impossible to take away his landmark achievements from him. Truly, Fashola, you are the man!

Georges Macnobleson-Idowu
COOLFM / WAZOBIAFM,
267a, Etim Inyang Crescent, Victoria Island, Lagos. [email protected], [email protected]

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Articles by Georges Macnobleson-Idowu