Lagos as a city of dreams
Ever since the return to civil rule in 1999, successive Lagos government has continued to flirt with the idea of making Lagos a so-called megacity with the requisite infrastructure and providing quality of life. And true to that desire, the government has always left no one in any doubt as regards its noble intention. Huge investments in various directions and massive overhaul of infrastructures targeted at rebranding Lagos have remained top priorities. From one administration to the other, the focus has been the same. Starting with the trail blazer known as Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a new wave of purposeful governance, perhaps never known before in annals of the history of Nigeria began. A pact between the World Bank and the Lagos government sparked off the rehabilitation of roads most of which before then were in various states of disrepair. Visionary leadership also led to the formation of various agencies such as LASTMA, LAWMA, LASEPA and others to handle different projects. With such concerted effort aimed at job creation for thousands of formerly unemployed youths, everyone began to feel the impacts and the dividends of democracy.
If however there was someone who sought to make Lagos a megacity in just a matter of weeks, that man was no other than the immediate past governor of the state, Babatunde Raji Fashola! Before he came on the scene, the little known about him was that he was the Chief of Staff to the man who handed power to him. But as soon as he took over, Fashola seemed bent on not only building on the success of his predecessor but also surpassing it. To achieve that, he launched a tax campaign that soon became his logo. Also to have a properly secured Lagos, he appealed to various state-based companies to subscribe to his new security arrangement and with the encouraging response he got, he soon signed a security pact with the Nigerian police and the military. Since then it would appear that most of the armed robbers who formerly terrorised Lagos had relocated.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of the Fashola-led government was the sacking of Oshodi. Lagosians woke up one morning to find that the menace that was Oshodi had been defeated and the traders dislodged. A few weeks after that interesting episode, the whole area had begun to wear a new look as the government commenced the construction of foot bridges to ease up the large human traffic while all criminal hideouts were exposed as everywhere was lit up. It was a lifetime achievement which before then no one would have thought was possible. Yet since every government will always have its plus and minuses, Fashola was never in the good books of the artisans including roadside technicians, street traders and particularly commercial motorcyclists, known as Okada operators.
But the coming of the Akinwunmi Ambode government has shown that governance is about the people, not necessarily structures. By adopting a more humane approach demonstrated by removing the Vehicle Inspection Officers from the roads, even if temporarily, putting LASTMA in proper check and restricting the activities of the Federal Roads Service Corps to the fringes, Ambode has brought succour to all motorists especially commercial vehicles drivers who before then lived in utter terror of those agencies. Again, making the issue of workers’ promotion less cumbersome has also endeared the amiable governor to civil servants. Moreover, the massive construction and opening of new roads in all local council areas has further reduced the stress experienced by Lagosians in the past, and even though at present many Lagos roads are in different states of disrepair, most of the citizens trust the present government to swing into action as soon as the rains are gone.
While the megacity idea of the Lagos State government is quite laudable and desirable, the truth however is that it may be difficult if not impossible to achieve, at least not with the pressure put on Lagos by the non-viability of other states of the federation. Ironically, most of these moribund states have more local governments and collect more monthly allocations from the Federal Government. As it were, Lagos shoulders almost all the burdens of the other states whose citizens continue to troop onto Lagos daily. This has resulted in the springing up of so many overpopulated shanties spread across the state. Unplanned demography and utterly poor drainages of these shanties coupled with the usual illiteracy-induced acts of sabotage and the general uncooperative attitude of different disgruntled elements will always render any good intention of the government inconsequential. Shortfall in health facilities will never abate, education will remain a mockery due to overcrowded classrooms and non-commitment of both learners and their tax-evading parents who nonetheless are spoon-fed with the politics of free education. Refuse everywhere and blocking of drainages will continue to be a recurring decimal.
But this is not to suggest that the government should relent in its strides at good governance. For instance, the government could consider restricting some activities to the night. All over the advanced world, some duties are reserved for the night and that helps a great deal to ease the burden of governance, activities such as road construction, sweeping of the streets and clearing of refuse can be done at night. With enough personnel backed by adequate security and standby vehicles, the task can be performed just within two hours every night, and the citizens would wake up every morning to find everywhere spick and span. This will solve a whole lot of problems especially that of the traffic gridlock often caused whenever these activities are on during the day. Moreover, there is need for the government to re-examine the status of some of the roads. It may become necessary for instance for some one-way roads to turn to double lanes to ease traffic congestion which breeds street trading. Again, whatever it would cost the state government, Lagos by now should have its own independent power project to serve the entire Lagos and its environs, and all traffic and street lights must be activated. Installation of CCTV cameras in strategic points will also enable the relevant authorities to monitor happenings on the roads effectively. In addition, all open drainages in the state must be covered as that is the only way to prevent them from being overtaken by large garbage which block them and lead to serious flooding whenever there is heavy downpour. Continuous flooding weakens the roads and eventually breaks them up as is presently the case with most Lagos roads. Sadly when roads are bad, the citizens groan. Oblivious of the fact that it was all due to their dirty habits, they still heap all the blames on the government.
Oyewusi, an educationist, lives in Lagos.
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