Lagos Assembly and misplaced priority
Recently, members of the Lagos State House of Assembly embarked on a trip around the six education districts in the state aimed at sensitising both teachers and learners on what they explained as the urgent need to save Yoruba language from extinction. According to them, there has been a sad trend of low use of the Yoruba language, and it is now necessary more than ever before, to re-awaken interest in it with a view to bringing back its lost glory. Towards this end, teachers were advised to encourage their teeming students on the use of the language, and never to dissuade them from doing so. They went further to say that some of the morning devotions should now be held using the Yoruba language as a further way of promoting it. The state assembly, they explained, had already taken the lead in such gestures by holding some of their plenaries in the Yoruba language.
Ordinarily, such campaign as this cannot be said to be out of place, especially when viewed against the background of having to do with what was viewed as a germane issue of threat to a cherished major language. But when those involved in the crusade are properly scrutinised, and their normal statutory schedule duly examined, the unmistakable verdict can only be that of a wholly misplaced priority. The legislative arm of government is saddled with the responsibility of legislating for good governance. And if there is a state assembly that should be more alert to its schedules, it is no other than that of the centre of excellence.
Currently, the population of Lagos is put at over 20 million. The import is that its house of assembly ought to be very busy trying to complement the giant strides of the executive by working assiduously to move the state forward. Definitely, going round schools to talk about resuscitation of the Yoruba Language can only be described proverbially as ignoring a more serious case of leprosy and concentrating all attention on less non-life-threatening ringworm!
To start with, before setting out on their ill-advised mission, it was doubtful if assembly members took out time to get the proper statistics of Lagos schools and how many of them have Yoruba Language teachers. Or, if most schools are found to be without Yoruba Language teachers, how will the campaign be sustained? Moreover, in which public school in the entire state have the assembly members seen students communicating in English Language? So, if those who are the real target of the seminars are learners who have never embraced the use of English Language in their daily conversations in the first place, what is the essence of preaching the use of the only language they know to them? Again, with the status of Lagos as almost a neutral state where all other states of the federation are well-represented, what gives the assembly members the conviction that preaching the re-awakening of any local language is such a fantastic idea when more efforts should be geared towards national integration? Even if there is need for any language re-awakening or whatever, it definitely does not fall within the purview of a state’s house of assembly unless of course they are bereft of what their constitutional duties entail.
Although both the national assembly and their states counterparts continue to emphasise and insist on their right to oversight functions, and billions of tax payers’ money is being channelled towards frivolous projects through which public funds find their ways into private pockets, it only shows the non-readiness of Nigeria’s politicians to attune their minds and conduct to proper democratic ideals and principles.
There are more serious issues begging for the attention of members of the Lagos house of assembly. Sometime ago, perhaps to justify its existence, it rolled out what it termed traffic laws. Since those laws were promulgated and made public, it never occurred to the honourables that an appraisal of the laws was necessary with a view to checking out the level of compliance and if the need be, remove those among them found to be totally impracticable. For instance, what is the essence of legislating against street trading in a state where traffic gridlock is a daily experience? Or forbidding people from making or receiving call while behind the wheels. While such law makes sense when there is free flow of traffic and it is truly not advisable to pick or make calls, the same cannot be said in a situation of heavy traffic when everything is at a standstill. Again, how would people caught up in serious hold-ups be stopped from patronising hawkers?
One of those items that ought to engage the attention of the Lagos assembly is how to rid Lagos of dangerous criminals who now are everywhere harassing innocent citizens. Even with the so-called security arrangement put in place by the Lagos government manned by half-hearted members of the Nigeria Police Force, no part of Lagos is safe especially in the evenings. Anyone whose vehicle suddenly breaks down especially in the evenings would always realise how insecure the citizens are. Again, Lagos assembly members ought to be concerned and preoccupied with how to convert the Local Council Development Areas to full-fledged local councils. That involves, among others, lobbying National Assembly members and presenting well-researched papers through their representatives especially now that APC is both at the state and the centre.
Ever since Nigeria’s capital was moved to Abuja in 1991, Lagos has continued to be short-changed by the Federal Government even though Lagos still remains second to none as the goose laying the golden eggs. Less endowed states of the federation parade more local councils while Lagos which is home to all has a paltry 20. By now, Lagos ought to have a special status as a former capital of the entire nation and the most populated coupled with its enviable position as one of the major contributors to the gross domestic product. But for the LCDAs to be converted and constituted as proper local councils, all that is required is a state assembly which clearly understands its constitutional mandate.
Oyewusi, an educationist, lives in Lagos.
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