Successful ‘Secession’ of Lagos: by Chike Orjiako

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It reads like, “We the people of Lagos State” do hereby declare our independence from the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We also assert that not withstanding this declaration, we shall continue to collect all our statutory Federal allocations”.

“Our decision to continue to partake in this booty is largely informed by the forced remittances of our huge corporate and value added taxes (VAT) to the Federation account”. “We further assert to continue to obey only those clauses of the constitution which in our opinion are deemed progressive and consistent with our desire to make Lagos a Mega City before the year 2020”.

Seriously speaking, the attitude of Lagos state government in its audacious and single-minded approach to aggressive urban renewal and an attempt to run a modern economy anchored around the people is nothing short of given credence to the above assertion, which is only my fictitious creation. I have to make this clarification to avoid unwanted visitors. The tax-based economy Lagos is working hard to erect is very alien to contemporary Nigerians. Nobody should blame Lagos for such bold move because that's the only survival route open to all the states that value and cherish true federalism. The problem is that most states have conveniently ignored this route because of the monthly ritual of 'loot' sharing in Abuja otherwise called Federal allocation.

I have not stopped wondering if there still exists out there any other country on this planet; where federating states gather every month, to share revenues accruing from the sale of crude oil, extracted from a fraction of these federating states.

In a way, Lagos state whose State executives and to some extent it's work force are populated by some of the best trained men and women in this country have decided to redefine true Federation to the rest of the country. I am therefore not surprised about what is happening in Lagos. The State with its huge population and skilled labor was a giant waiting to explode with the right kind of leadership.

Although Fashola, deserves all the credits heaped on him, but we must not forget that, someone called Bola Ahmed Tinubu {BAT} almost unilaterally foisted him on us in 2007. How I wish OBJ's own, imposition brought about similar outcome. I remember clearly the vociferous argument then that Tinubu had no right to insist on Fashola as the only guy right for the job when we thought his primary motivation is to impose a lackey who will not only cover up for his rumored earth shaking loots but also do his bidding after he leaves government House Alausa. After all, the then ubiquitous Ribadu had informed the Nation through the National Assembly, that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu made the infamous list of G31. Also known as group of 31 confirmed greedy and highly corrupt governors. We now know better.

As a little digression, take for instance a system that appropriates millions of naira to governors as security vote without defining the type of security envisaged for them to provide and further goes to grant them the permission to spend it without recourse to their respective State Assemblies. This could rightly be termed 'statutory provision for corruption'. I am sure that even our former labor crusader; Adams Oshiomole will conveniently be thanking his stars now for little mercies. Is it not baffling to note that some highly corrupt governors still develop sticky fingers to further loot their states' treasuries even after sitting on these huge security votes. In China, such leaders will receive maximum death sentence without option.

Flowing from the above, the recent letter from President Yar'adua to Governor Fashola to revert to 20 Local governments is quite intriguing in many respects. I have not seen a set of people that love military discipline like Nigerian politicians. Military discipline by the way is different from civil discipline. While the former is forced, the later is obliged. The Nigerian politician would like to force discipline on others but some how feels his position offers indiscipline as part of executive bonus. This is perhaps why President Yar'Adua could just wake up from the usual slumber one morning, perhaps accompanied by a bad dream of a thriving Lagos, calls up his secretary and dictates a bad note to Lagos state Governor to revert to 20 local governments with immediate effect or face sanctions.

The Local Government creation brouhaha in Lagos State is a huge distraction the governor can hardly afford at this time. It is indeed a true test of Yar'Adua's avowed declaration of love for rule of law and due process. Why did I say so? A little historical introspection will assist here. In 1995, the late maximum leader General Sanni Abacha set up a constitutional conference; to fashion out a new constitution purportedly for the Federal Republic of Nigeria. A country he forcibly 'colonized' at the time. When the conferees handed over the finished draft, the dark goggled one invited some “hot headed professors and wise men” to make the document Abacha compliant.

They did such a 'fine' job that Abacha in a moment of rare gesture gave them open commendation. One of the recommendations of the Prof. Awhalu Yadudu led group was the now contentious right of States' Assemblies to create Local governments. You already know the provisions of that law, chief of which is the ratification of the creation of local councils in a given State by not only the National Assembly members but also by the state assemblies of the 36 states of the federation. Pray, how does the activity in Agege Local government affect that in Ehime-Mbano Local government in Imo State, which makes it mandatory for Imo State Assembly to ratify the creation of Agege LGA in Lagos State? If OBJ were sincere and loves the country, as he would have us believe, instead of carrying on with a mischievous constitution hurriedly put together to serve the greedy intentions of Abacha, he could have jettisoned it and insisted on the 1979 constitution.

One is bound to ask, what the latest effort to revert to 20 local councils is intended to achieve. Is it to demonstrate that the president has a firm understanding of his role as the defender-in-chief of the constitution or merely flexing his tired muscles for political expediency? My suspicion is that the latest intervention by the President has a ring of political innuendos' tied all around it. This to me is the unfortunate part of this entire ruckus. I will not have bothered to comment on this if Lagos created the additional local governments to do-in other competing political parties. However, judging from available statics, the huge urban renewal going on in all nooks and crannies of Lagos serves as an eloquent testimony that maybe the local councils are needed to achieve just that.

This is where the recent press conference addressed by PDP National Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke, surrounded by the National Secretary, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje and other big wigs of the party at their National Secretariat calling on the President to enforce the constitution became suspicious. Chief Olusola Oke quoted section 287{1} copiously from the 1999 Constitution to support his call on the President to seal up the 'illegal' Local Governments. He concedes that the Lagos State Government has right to create new local government councils, but said,“ the exercise remains inchoate and incapable of giving rise to Local government known to law until the National Assembly has played its part under section 3 {6} and part 1 of the first schedule to the constitution by amending the relevant provisions with the support of at least two-thirds of the members of not less than two-third of the State Assemblies in Nigeria which amendment must be assented to by Mr. President”.

I believe our erudite jurists can adequately address Chief Olushola's concerns. However, my interest is more on the part Mr. President has ignored to play. This is where these questions become relevant: is Lagos state or indeed any other state's desire to create a Local government capable of correcting some structural imbalances inherent in the original Local governments? Will the newly created local governments usher in a new lease of life for the citizens of the new Local governments? Will it bring about accelerated development to the concerned Local governments? Will the exercise give the people a sense of belonging and usher in the elusive peace in most Local communities?

If the answers to all these are yes; am afraid Mr. President is either being misled to thread

a wrong path or he is being out rightly cheeky in addressing this seemingly intractable problem. Instead of writing to governor Fashola to do away with these Local government councils, why did he not just submit an executive bill to the National Assembly to amend the relevant portions of the constitution that imposed the almost insurmountable clauses that created the impasse? Better still prevail on the National Assembly to deal with the request that Lagos State claimed has been with them for as long as this problem has lasted.

The call for fiscal Federalism in a large exogenous state like Nigeria is long over do. The more we try to protect and respect those ridiculous laws that tend to promote a unitary state for whatever reason, the more we stoke the fires that have been burning to consume our peaceful co-existence.

Lagos State appears to be venting their frustration in this matter in the right direction. Instead of sitting and sulking like other states, they have decided to confront the monster head-on. It is like a clear case of a child who says: him mama no go sleep; him too no go sleep. The governor of Lagos State is working the talk. I do not like lavishing praises on elected or selected leaders because of the so many years of failed promises but the Fashola persona is fascinating in so many regards. I had the privileged to be among a group he addressed recently on his mission, vision and actions in Lagos State.

• Orjiako wrote from Lagos.
I was not particularly as moved by the many visible achievements he has made within such a short period of his leadership, as I was enthralled by his passion, his strategies and his hands-on and mostly by his knowledge of the tiniest problems in the remotest areas in Lagos State and his offer of feasible solutions to address them.

When next Mr. President feels like writing and giving ultimatums, I advise he concentrates efforts and channel those energies to the Power and Energy Ministry and if he still has a little more time write to the Minister of Works and Housing because in these areas, the constitution has given him ample exclusive right to defend and propagate.

I believe that governor Babatunde Raji Fashola {BRF} could do with less of these distractions because; no matter our optimism, Lagos is still suffering from a crisis of identity.

• Orjiako, Contributed this from Lagos.

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