No matter who gets elected, we need to, as a nation, imbibe the spirit of collaboration. If Lagos State can benefit from the ideas of two gentlemen who want to make the state great again, what stops them from picking from the other’s manifesto and inviting the other to own a piece of work. The state, citizens and the nation will all be the better for it.


Penultimate week, I was privileged to be part of a small group that listened to one of the Lagos State governorship aspirants. Last week, we had another contender speak to a room full of businessmen and women.

So, this governorship aspirant told us that the life expectancy for Lagos State is 49 years! Now that got my attention. At that moment, I wanted to be sure of that statement and to whom it was addressed: those who live and work in Lagos or those who claim Lagos as their state origin. Of course, the latter, would seem to suggest something spiritual and clearly this was not one of those prophetic sessions.

Of course, this statement was meant for those who live, work and breathe the air in Lagos State. But Lagos State lays the golden egg for Nigeria. It is a “mega city”. So, how can it be said that life expectancy is 49 years? And how can a “mega city” be ranked as one of the worst cities to live in the world? It is ranked 138 of 140 global cities on this latter measure. All of these was very horrible information to take in. To be told that the city in which I live, that I announce with pride, is nothing more than a glorified slum?

But how can Lagos have such terrible indices?

My instinct was to stay in denial. After all we all know that when politicians want something from you, they have a way of forcing you to pay attention. And once you pay attention, it would almost seem as if the conversation never took place. But if we want to be honest, Lagos State has lost some of its glory; at least from when I was a kid. The filth. The health centres. The traffic and lawlessness of the road users. The schools. And the state of infrastructure. All leave a lot to be desired.

Now back to the aspirant. He made a lot of sense. He talked about restoring Lagos back to its years of glory and pride. How can Lagos State be the centre of excellence and yet be so filthy? How can we not have built new schools in recent times, even when we are alive to the fact that we are in a knowledge economy? Why don’t we have intelligent traffic lights? Why didn’t we allow Google to provide free internet access to our schools? Indeed, until I listened to him, I was not to know that today no local government in the state provides potable water to its citizens. Growing up, we had a borehole and we used to pump water and drink from it. It was clean water. Today, I don’t think anyone drinks tap water, and I am sure that the resulting pressure of demand is why the price of the dispensable water unit keeps rising. In three years, it has gone from N300 to N600!

This aspirant talked about waste-to-wealth along three Rs: recover, recycle, and reuse. Again, I was impressed. A government that is serious about innovation will ensure the simplification of and access to basic services. But action requires great political will, a well incentivised civil service, and low-cost mechanisms across the value chain. Whilst I do not think these pre-requisites are achievable in four years, I agree that if we are to see much traction over the next 30 years, the time to kickstart the process is now.

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The candidate, then went into education, and how he would use education to return Lagos State back to the trajectory of excellence that it was once known for. I agree that our progress and path to greatness lies in quality education. We must get more children and youth off the streets and back to the classroom if we want to live in a decent society. And then lastly, he touched on health and how a collaboration was necessary with private sector operators, such that we could replicate or build a framework around the UK’s National Health Scheme (NHS) and the General Practitioner (GP) model. This made sense. By this time, it was clear that he had well-thought out plans.

Why don’t we have any more Awolowos? Very easily, this contender could be an Awolowo of our time if given the chance. But how do we know that power won’t change him? In the absence of strong institutions and an independent electorate, there is no guarantee that a good politician won’t turn bad. And I don’t see or hear politicians talking about ensuring good governance.


This gentleman and his running mate tried to convince us that they are the team with the best ideas to really make Lagos the centre of excellence. Again, I was impressed, just like I was with the other contender. The questions posed were of a different kind. Unlike those posed to the previous aspirant. The audience was more interested in the “how?” Members wanted to know how he was going to achieve or execute the big ideas he was touting. The questions were a touch cerebral and technical in nature. A grudging acknowledgement or affirmation of this candidate’s ability to conduct intellectual conversations. He was articulate and brilliant. Indeed, he could be a governor anywhere in the world. He had the posture, the answers, the oratorical skills and the presence.

All of this makes you realise that Nigeria is not where it is because we don’t have the right calibre of persons. Or because our leaders are not exposed or enlightened or smart. We are here, in this poor state of affairs, because our leaders seek power not for service but for self.

Lateef Jakande built six water works, 14,000 low cost houses and introduced the Lagos Metro line project in four years. Obafemi Awolowo pioneered free primary education and free health care.

Why don’t we have any more Awolowos? Very easily, this contender could be an Awolowo of our time if given the chance. But how do we know that power won’t change him? In the absence of strong institutions and an independent electorate, there is no guarantee that a good politician won’t turn bad. And I don’t see or hear politicians talking about ensuring good governance. For me, that is the missing piece in our increasingly frustrating puzzle. I think that performance can only be guaranteed when accountability exists. Accountability can only be assured when strong independent institutions exist.

I think that Lagos State is the political poster child for Nigeria. If we get Lagos State working, then we just might be able to wake up the self-acclaimed giant of Africa.

No matter who gets elected, we need to, as a nation, imbibe the spirit of collaboration. If Lagos State can benefit from the ideas of two gentlemen who want to make the state great again, what stops them from picking from the other’s manifesto and inviting the other to own a piece of work. The state, citizens and the nation will all be the better for it.

‘Lande Omo Oba is a lawyer and an everyday girl.