Lagos is speaking, who is listening?
Our notes will be incomplete if we do not pause to invite some reflections upon the recently concluded Local Government elections that took place in Lagos, the economic and financial capital of Nigeria. Lagos states also proudly terms itself as the centre of excellence, whilst that appellation might be disputable and even relegated to the status of commendable aspiration when benchmarked against international standards there is no doubt that Lagos state stands out when compared to other states in Nigeria. With its almost no dependence on revenue from crude oil, good governance, cosmopolitan composition and metropolitan structure, Lagos epitomises one of the dreamlands for experts of international development.
The last time we openly pondered about Lagos was earlier this year towards the general elections, under the title “Made in Lagos for Nigeria” and we observed that the televised gubernatorial debates that took place in Lagos had forcefully placed Lagos state on a level that requires some respect and special consideration. We noted that Lagos is quite a lucky state as none of the candidates on the podium came across as a thug, dullard or a freak and although a few untruths were proffered, they all deserve our applause for behaving with dignity and trying their best to appear competent. In a period littered with uncertainty and doubts that things can really change for the better, one of the many things the Lagos gubernatorial contest showed us is that decent debates like many other simple but necessary things can be conducted in Nigeria and that if well-managed Nigerian politicians too can follow simple rules. Lagos stood out as a model.
Alas, the same cannot be said of the just concluded Local Government elections wherein voters showed little excitement in participating, a lot of disappointment in most of the incumbent candidates and practically no trust in the challengers. On their own part, contesting and supporting politicians greeted the results with protests and allegations of rigging and other electoral malpractices. Sadly, there were also cases of violence and even loss of lives. Those who orchestrate violence should be ashamed of themselves; mark my words: nothing goes unrewarded in life one day those that do evil to our land will pay for it.
In politics, silence is a statement. With their reluctance and in some cases outright refusal to openly and passionately embrace their sitting Local Government Chairs and councillors, Lagos is speaking and what the people are saying is that they cannot feel or see the impact of those local administrators. Ideally, the Local Government Area politicians should be the ones presenting and defending the instances of their residents to the state and eventually to the national authorities. Many residents don't even know their local representatives. The newly sworn in Chairs and Councillors need to start a new page in which they prove they can listen to Lagos by connecting with their residents. They need to be active for their people and be seen to be present in their territories.
The main opposition party in Lagos state is yes the PDP but just in case they don't get it, they need to be told that Lagos does not like them at all. With its deafening silence and active apathy towards the PDP, Lagos is saying again as it has said with its history that it is a state of progressives and wants to continue to be so, to change that a lot needs to be done. In the meantime, just as we tell the PDP not to quash opposition in Nigeria ACN needs to give space to opposition parties in Lagos.
With its behaviour in the elections, Lagos is however also speaking to the ruling party in the state and it is telling the ACN that the people of Lagos do not like to be taken for granted. Something needs to be done about internal democracy an accountability of stewardship. Three of the most essential elements for a successful selection of political candidates are capacity to represent and connect with voters, ability to perform in office and loyalty to ideology and party; any political party missing these points in on its way to disaster. Those with vested interest in the party, from Asiwaju Bola Tinubu at the national level to Mr Kayode Adeniyi at the local level in Anthony Village, need to find a way to synthesise these three elements.
Lagos is also speaking to the electoral regulator and it is telling INEC and co that this democracy needs to make space for independent candidates. It is unfair and undemocratic to force people to shut their nose and to tolerate existing parties when voting or contesting. Many good people are out of politics today because they cannot identify with existing structures. For the benefit of the country we need to find a way to let them in. The desire for a simplified system with a few parties and candidates is understandable but an imposed simplification is ridiculous and annoying. Though it might appear difficult to implement, I am sure my colleague, Prof. Attahiru Jega, understands the benefits the introduction of independent candidates will bring to the system, he has the duty of exploring that option.