The forthcoming governorship election in Lagos state is surely arousing the curiosity of most Nigerians – from the political analysts and scholars of Nigerian politics to the so-called common man, for a number of reasons. It presents an opportunity to further test the political credentials and clout of Mr. Bola Tinubu, unarguably the most influential politician and strategist in the south-western part of Nigeria, having previously been the Governor of Lagos State himself from 1999 – 2007. Tinubu is regarded as the originator of modern Lagos State’s development template.
Upon leaving office after the expiration of his mandate in 2007, he had successfully engineered the election of his successor, now the outgoing Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, in 2007, despite the expression of interest in the much coveted office of the Governor by a number of his own loyalists, as well as the perpetually marauding People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which is cognizant of the fact that the key to Tinubu’s continued relevance lies with his firm control of Lagos politics.
Despite fielding such candidates as the late Funsho Williams, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Ade Dosumu, in the past, the PDP has been continually trounced in the gubernatorial elections in Lagos state. With the imminent end of Governor Fashola’s tenure, a man widely respected for transforming Lagos state beyond expectations, to the extent that even opposition politicians grudgingly admit he has discharged his duties well as Governor, the race for the Governor’s office becomes even more interesting.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has chosen Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, a former Accountant-General of Lagos State as its flag bearer for the imminent election. Two main factors have come into play on this selection- religion and origin. Given that Lagos state’s Governors since the commencement of the Fourth Republic – Messrs Tinubu and Fashola – are Muslims, religious affiliation has been politicized in recent times, with a number of Christian leaders expressing the need for Lagos to have a Christian Governor. Also, on the issue of origin, there have been agitations on the need to elect a Lagosian who hails from Isale Eko. Ambode, a Permanent Secretary under the Tinubu and Fashola administrations, whose credentials and accomplishments as Permanent Secretary, as well as his Christian faith and originating from Epe, ticks the boxes for the APC.
As with previous governorship elections in Lagos state, the contest is between the candidates of the APC and the PDP. The PDP candidate, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, who had previously contested against Babatunde Fashola in 2007 under the less-known Democratic Peoples’ Alliance (DPA), surprised many by coming third and garnering more votes than more experienced and better-known politicians like Tokunbo Afikuyomi and Femi Pedro. Agbaje is the flagbearer of the PDP and given the weight of the PDP, and going by Agbaje’s previous antecedents in the 2007 election, he surely represents a formidable challenge to Ambode’s APC.
Ambode has a couple of advantages going forward in the February 2015 governorship elections. First is the political goodwill enjoyed by the Tinubu-Fashola administrations in Lagos State, which gives the APC the political legitimacy to present a relatively unknown person as gubernatorial candidate. This goodwill has been earned, more so, as a result of Fashola’s excellent delivery of good governance in the State. Fashola, who was also relatively a political unknown in 2007, having served as Bola Tinubu’s Chief of Staff, has further endeared Lagosians to the APC.
The PDP has not been helped greatly by the internal squabbles within its fold, as well as the dearth of a credible leader of the party in Lagos State. Second, the prospect of a continuation of the public service delivery initiated by a candidate who understands the workings of government in Lagos state also works in Ambode’s favour. Having served in the Lagos state Civil Service for almost three decades as Permanent Secretary and Accountant-General respectively, and having the privilege of understudying both Tinubu and Fashola, Ambode appears to represent the continuity in governance that the APC advocates for, which also resonates with most Lagosians.
A Strategy for Human Security
What appears evident from an examination of Candidate Ambode’s Governance Plan is a focus on human security, as a people-centred of promoting the freedoms from poverty, need and fear. The Plan has service delivery as its core, which will be undergirded by the principles of Leadership, Accountability, Governance, Opportunity, Service (L.A.G.O.S). The Plan has as its main areas of focus: tourism, economic growth, community cohesion, equitable distribution of wealth, poverty reduction and the urbanization of slums, human rights protection, urbanization and the provision of physical and social infrastructure, all in tandem with the present administration’s development blueprint. Of great importance in Ambode’s view is the need to focus more on the urbanization of slums, physical and social infrastructural development and the distribution of wealth to all strata of society.
Given the fact that Lagos state is the smallest state in Nigeria, with a total area of just of 3,577km sq, but with the largest population of almost 20 million people, and also being the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, there is the need to urgently seek means to diversify the means of transportation in this sprawling metropolis. It is widely known that Lagosians spend significant productive hours in traffic due to the heavy strain on roads and as a result of dependence on road transport. This has urgently called for a multi-nodal approach to transportation for long, as one-fifth of Lagos’s entire area is covered by lagoons and creeks.
The Ambode Plan focuses on Security, Economy, Infrastructure, Healthcare, Education, Social Welfare and Good Governance. In the area of job creation, it proposes the establishment of an Employment Trust Fund to the tune of N25b within a period of four years by the government, with one billion naira earmarked for each of the five divisions in the State for the next four years; Ikorodu, Badagry, Ikeja, Lagos and Epe Divisions.
Also contained in the Plan is the establishment of a Small Business Loan Guarantee Scheme, to be managed by reputable stakeholders from the private sector, civil society in conjunction with government. In order to achieve these set goals, the Plan has rightly taken into consideration the importance of engaging ‘Corporate Lagos’ to participate in the Employment Trust Fund. The realization that the collaboration between the governmental, corporate and civil society sectors in the area of employment generation is critical for sustainability is quite commendable and must be adhered to in order to achieve success in this regard.
On ‘Corporate Lagos’, the manifesto proposes measures that will attract and retain both foreign and local investors to Lagos, with the aid of e-governance solutions for business. Quite importantly, it prioritizes the re-establishment of a middle class in the state, under strict adherence to the Rule of Law. Also, while recognizing that multiple taxes/fees exist in the state’s tax codes, a pledge is made to remove them as soon as Ambode assumes office. The implementation of these measures will of course need to be done in an atmosphere of a peaceful and secure Lagos State. Despite Lagos’s huge population, it is generally a peaceful and stable State. This safety of the environment has been achievable through an effective alliance between the State government and the security agencies.
The Manifesto seeks to ensure a safe Lagos by expanding the role of the Security Trust Fund, pursuing the residents’ identity scheme, as well as the commitment to undertake Security and Justice Sector Reforms in the State. While these are laudable plans, it is expected that the implementers of these policies, especially those relating to the Justice and Security Sectors Reforms will strive towards an active collaboration between the federal government – which is largely responsible for the security agencies, the state government, and the civil society actors in the state.
On Education, a number of initiatives have been highlighted for implementation. The emphasis of the Manifesto is on the upgrading and creation of new e-libraries, in line with best global education practices, the upgrading of the state-owned tertiary institutions – the Lagos State University (LASU) and the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), as well as the introduction of scholarship schemes in the vocational and technical colleges. The plan to also establish an IBILE meal scheme in all public schools, which is a new one, appears to share common ground with the education strategy of the Osun State’s Governor Rauf Aregbesola, as part of the progressive policies that are defining the APC leadership in States across Nigeria.
On Health, the Manifesto seeks to further improve upon the Primary Healthcare Programme, the harmonization of private and public sector partnership in secondary healthcare, as well as the establishment of medic-parks and bio-parks in Lagos state. Essentially, the implementation of the healthcare Plan will not only boost the state’s healthcare system, by making healthcare accessible to all and sundry, it will also help to generate revenue for the state as it will attract some of those who would usually seek medical care outside the country.
The Plans on Agriculture and the Environment respectively emphasize job creation, self-sufficiency and subsequent expansion to export, the protection of the environment, access to clean and safe water and air.
On Tourism, there is a Plan to launch a project known as T.H.E.S.E, which refers to an integrated solution involving the systematic integration of Tourism, Hospitality, Entertainment/Arts Sports for Excellence, aimed at enabling the State to explore, execute and enshrine a new vista of jobs for our youths, our women and vocational artisans. The attraction of visitors and foreigners to Lagos through this initiative guarantees a pronounced improvement on our revenue sources, while the establishment of Business Support Centres/Services.
On Social Welfare issues, the Manifesto seeks the continuation of free education for primary and secondary school children, in line with the core principles of the APC. Underscoring the need to ensure the protection of the rights of children in Lagos state, there is an emphasis on the enforcement of the Child Abuse Law, and the criminalization of child labour. Also, ensuring the protection of the rights of women, the aged and the disabled, as well as the provision of social welfare and opportunities for these groups are emphasized in the Manifesto.
On the youth question, given that the youth population in Lagos State represents the highest number of its citizens, several youth empowerment schemes have been designed to harness the potentials of the youth as well as prepare them for leadership in the future. For instance, an internship scheme for the youths of the State has been developed to keep youths engaged while awaiting admission into tertiary institutions during the ‘gap year’. This scheme, which will afford youths the opportunity to gain valuable work experience and imbibe work ethics early on, will also ensure that the energy of the youth is put into good use. The Plan seeks to encourage the active participation of the private sector in this scheme by offering tax credits for each youth brought on board by the former. Youths are also to be encouraged to become engaged in community projects within their locality under the Lagos SPARK, a scheme that will provide grants for special community projects for a number of years.
Under Governance, the Manifesto highlights the importance of a civil service that is responsive and efficient, and service delivery-oriented, based upon the means of e-governance. It also identifies the need to implement Local Government reforms that will improve the performance and relationships of local government structures with the citizenry.
On Power generation, priority is placed on the exploration of opportunities for alternative energy sources. There are also plans to further expand the already-existing Independent Power Project (IPP), and the protection of the rights of Lagosians in their engagement with private power suppliers.
On what is referred to as ‘Integrated System’, the Plan’s starting point is that the existing 29 bridges in Lagos are inadequate to cater for its huge number of motorists. It therefore seeks to expand seven of the bridges while also exploring the opportunities of pursuing an integrated transport management system that takes into consideration roads, a mono-rail system and waterways. It also intends to undertake an overhaul and expansion of the BRT scheme by introducing new bus routes and establishing a 24-hour bus service in the State.
On Finance, the Manifesto underscores its commitment to a 20-year financial and statistical planning on the needs of the State, as well as the establishment of a Lagos Finance and Development Commission, which will afford all stakeholders in the State, including the private sector, civil society and government, to match the needs of the State with the financial resources required to achieve set goals.
Consolidating Human Security
The Ambode Manifesto is a multi-sectoral blueprint having its raison d’être in re-visioning continuity in a manner that stands tall on the shoulders of the achievements recorded by the Tinubu and Fashola administrations since 1999. Its unique selling point is that while it does not seek to re-invent a progressive wheel that has made governance essentially people-centred and taken Lagos State so far, it still identifies the few challenges inherent in the delivery of public services and proffers innovative ways to surmount these challenges in a way that consolidates on the human security agenda.
While across Nigeria, there is the increasing agitation for change, especially at the federal level, in Lagos State the majority seem to aspire towards a more encompassing continuity and improvement in the delivery of public services to the people. Candidate Ambode’s credentials appear to fit the bill for the tasks ahead. In the efforts to further develop the Manifesto into concrete Policy documents, there will be the need for an inclusive and coordinated engagement with sectoral experts, the civil servants of Lagos State who will be tasked with implementing the Plan, while obtaining the input of the citizenry, on whose behalf the Manifesto has been developed. This will promote and guarantee a genuine partnership and ownership of the Plan, while inculcating a crosscutting sense of responsibility and inclusivity.
Afolabi Tunde, a public policy analyst, writes from the United Kingdom.