Lagos Vs Abuja: why Lagos deserves more attention now part1

Oshodi-Apapa-Expressway-gridlockWhen the nation’s capital, Abuja, as an idea clocked 40 on February 3 this year (3rd February 1976-3rd February 2016), I had accused the authorities in Abuja – from the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) to the presidency of collective amnesia about the historic anniversary.

I had noted then that it was unfortunate that President Muhammadu Buhari, who was invited to Abeokuta to mark the state’s 40th birthday, forgot that Abuja and some states including Ogun, Ondo, Imo were created at the same time in 1976. This is the background to the two landmark events that resulted in creating five more states and Abuja.

On August 7, 1975, the then Head of State, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed inaugurated a five-man Committee on the creation of more states in the country. The Committee was headed by Justice Ayo Gabriel Irikefe. It was the panel that recommended an increase in number of states then from 12 to 19. Justice Irikefe later became the 9th Chief Justice of the Federation (1985-1987). Two days later, Hurricane Murtala set up another Panel headed by former Chief Justice of Botswana, Justice Timothy Akinola Aguda, on the possibility of a new Federal Capital for the country.

The tempestuous General did not waste time: he created seven more states from the recommendation of Justice Irikefe Panel and promulgated Decree No.6 of 1976 following a broadcast to the nation on February 3, 1976 that a new Federal Capital for the nation had been created. That was the date with history that seven states and Abuja had in 1976… And which was why I could not understand why all the agencies of government in the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) and the presidency could not remember to celebrate the date with history when the capital as an idea clocked 40 last month.

It would be recalled that I had also then said that the president’s men could not have been exonerated from the insufferable collective amnesia because Sections 299-302 of the 1999 Constitution as amended provide that the President is the Governor of the FCT and the Vice President is the Deputy Governor.

I had then noted that the presidency, too, should have prepared for the celebration of a milestone or prompted the FCT Minister he had delegated his powers to. Which was also why I anchored my conclusion of the article entitled, “Forty Hearty Cheers! But who is saluting Abuja @ 40?” on the expediency of celebrating Abuja’s historic birthday by remembering the late Murtala’s unfulfilled promises to Lagos 40 years ago. This was the way I had put the reminders:

What is more, the gridlock that Apapa-Oshodi expressway has become is always a reminder of the expediency of fulfilling the 40 years old promise to the last capital of the federation, Lagos.

“…And Murtala’s unfulfilled promises to Lagos…
Of all the failings exhibited about Nigeria’s capital, the most telling is failure to fulfill promises made to Lagos that was proposed by General Murtala as future Economic Capital of the Federation.
In his broadcast to the nation on February 3, 1976,  Murtala had promised that Lagos would not only be designated a “special area”, it would be Nigeria’s commercial capital and the deal would be incorporated into the 1979 Constitution then in the works.

His words: “Lagos will, in the foreseeable future, remain the nation’s commercial capital and one of its nerve centres. But in terms of servicing the present infrastructure alone, the committed amount of money and effort required will be such that Lagos State will not be ready to cope. It will even be unfair to expect the state to bear this heavy burden on its own. It is, therefore, necessary for the federal government to continue to sustain the substantial investment in the area. The port facilities and other economic activities in the Lagos area have to be expanded. There is need in the circumstance for the federal government to maintain a special defence and security arrangement in Lagos, which will henceforth be designated a SPECIAL AREA. These arrangements will be carefully worked out and written into the constitution. Kaduna and Port-Harcourt are to be accorded similar status and designated special areas under the constitution.”

I had then added that this is one remarkable promise to Lagos that no government since February 14, 1976 had fulfilled. The General made the promise on 3rd February and he was assassinated on 13th February 1976. I had also on the anniversary article noted:

“What is more, the gridlock that Apapa-Oshodi expressway has become is always a reminder of the expediency of fulfilling the 40 years old promise to the last capital of the federation, Lagos. That is why I would like to follow up this week on why President Muhammadu Buhari should, as a matter of urgent national importance hold an economic summit on Lagos as Nigeria’s economic capital.

Time for Economic Summit on Lagos
I think the time has come for us to accept responsibility for our actions and inactions about LAGOS. I would like to appeal to all of us to swallow our politics, pride and vanity for a moment and accept the fact that we have failed Lagos, our Lagos. There is a time for everything. It is time for remorse about Lagos. Again, it is not time for poetry about and history of Lagos: Our big elders and brothers, Dr Dele Cole, Odia Ofiemun, our own Bosede Sanwo, irrepressible Kaye Whiteman, etc have taken care of all that. This is not about why Lagos and Abuja have had to hate each other for the past 40 years. What we want to discuss is economics and not politics of Lagos Vs Abuja. We need to talk about development of Nigeria via the development of Lagos. We have to talk about development of the Lagos that makes the money that Abuja spends…

So, instead of asking some key actors hard questions about their role in the making and unmaking of Lagos, we should invite them to an economic summit where they should be remorseful enough to promise to pay reparation or restitution.

Here is the deal: There are actors and there are actors but some actors have been more active and resourcefully so than others about Lagos. General Obasanjo is one actor who has been involved in our recent past. He was one of the big “soldiers of fortune” to use the description of Siollun (2013) when the Apapa ports were conceived and built. He was in power in 1977 when some emissaries from Abu Dhabi came to Lagos, the then capital, to ask Nigeria for what they then called “bilateral loan” to set up their Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF). We obliged them and we used our wealth then to celebrate Festival of Art and Culture called “FESTAC 77”. Today Abu Dhabi with a population of 2.33 million, is the second largest Sovereign Wealth Fund in the world with a whopping $773 billion (USD) by 2014 survey. Norway is the world’s largest with $882 billion.

Nigeria with a population of about 170 million has only $1 just as Senegal ($1b). You are not invited to contextualize and blame “FESTAC 77” for this difference, please. This same big man, General Obasanjo, who succeeded Murtala in 1976, was supposed to work Lagos as Nigeria’s commercial capital into the 1979 Constitution then in the works. He did not fulfill the promise General Murtala made in his broadcast. It was “not his will”. This same Obasanjo returned to power as elected President in 1999 and left in 2007. Between him and the then Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu there was no love lost. The two of them for eight years never discussed how to rebuild and expand facilities in Apapa and sustain development there according to Murtala’s covenant with the people of Lagos in 1976.

And the big man Tinubu, too, has been in charge of Lagos politics, business and leadership since 1979. We can all see the development that has taken place since. Despite all the strong grips on Lagos, there is no way Lagos that Asiwaju Tinubu and Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (2007-2015) dreamed of as a “Mega and World City” according to Whiteman (2012) can be described as a dream come true yet. Those who work with words can appreciate Lagos in a way that will make us romanticize about the megapolis as a city that works, pulsates, survives and grows as Dowden (2008) would do.

The Lagos of the Poets (Ofeimun 2010) can make you fall in love with the city by the Lagoon but it is still by 21st century standard a ‘Jungle City’ which should not be left alone to the Tinubu’s, the Fashola’s and Ambode’s alone…This is part of the discussion points as espoused by Whiteman (2012):

The challenge for Lagos today is that of the ever-expanding city, the twenty-first-century megapolis soon to be one of the world’s largest. Its population is now estimated conservatively by the UN among others to be anything between fifteen and eighteen million, and is expected to reach a possible 25 million by 2015. By 2025, it is expected to be the third largest city in the world…

The 2006 census that gave Lagos a low figure of 9 million has been rejected and described as a scam. The Lagos state official figure from their independent census, tallies with the United Nations’.

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