Lagos: When two elephants fight…
The 35-day government shutdown, the longest in the history of the United States of America, was constitutional and open; but the one here involving the Lagos State Government, which is “technical” and hidden, has been on since Governor Akinwunmi Ambode lost his second term bid last year. While the US government shutdown may have temporarily abated, we can only hope that last week’s assurances by godfather Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu that estranged godson Ambode will no longer be impeached will bring respite to Lagos. The governor has now laid a vastly-reduced budget before the House but the fireworks on that auspicious occasion from the speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, suggest that all may still not be well.
According to Wikipedia, government shutdown occurs in the US during funding gap periods that cause a full or partial shutdown of Federal Government operations and agencies. Funding gaps occur when there is a failure to pass sufficient appropriation bills or a temporary continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government for a fiscal year. Simply put, this occurs when there is a disagreement between the Executive and the Legislature over a proposed appropriation bill.
Government shutdown is a new phenomenon in US affairs, dating back only to 1980 when then Attorney-General, Benjamin Civiletti, issued his legal opinion on the 1884 Anti-deficiency Act that a “lapse of appropriation” due to political impasse between the Executive and Legislature on proposed appropriation bills requires that the US Federal Government curtail agency activities and services; close down non-essential operations; suspend non-essential workers, retaining only essential services and workers, among others.
Since 1976 when the current United States’ government’s appropriation processes began, there have been 22 funding gaps but not all of them led to a government shutdown. In fact, the severity, as well as the length of days, of such funding gaps has also varied. On February 9, 2018 for instance, the funding gap occurred for just nine hours. There, however, have been three very serious government shutdowns involving two Republican and one Democratic president.
President Ronald Reagan’s ultra-Conservative political beliefs triggered a government shutdown for 21 days in 1985/1986 as a Congress controlled by Democrats took him to the wires. In 2003, it was the turn of the Democrats to have a taste of their own bitter pills as President Bill Clinton’s government was shut down by a Republican-controlled Congress for 16 days over major spending cuts. As would be expected, the latest US government shutdown involving maverick President Donald Trump and an opposition-controlled Congress over the contentious Mexico wall that Trump insists he will build has been the longest in US history.
Government shutdowns come with disastrous social and economic, even political, consequences. Apart from the bashing that politicians take from smarting citizens, the economy is impaired through the disruption of services and programs; loss of revenue; and significant reduction in economic growth. Standard and Poor’s said, for instance, that the 2003 US government shutdown took $24 billion out of the economy and shaved at least 0.6 per cent off annualised fourth quarter of GDP growth.
That is for a country that keeps records and that has accurate statistics. Since Ambode lost his bid for second term last year, leading to the emergence of Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu as the new, blue-eyed godson of the godfathers of Lagos politics, governance has been no longer at ease. Whereas Ambode has publicly accepted his fate and has moved on, under-currents continue to speak to the effect that the peace that we see on the surface is, at best, that of the graveyard.
Opponents of Ambode accuse him of sulking; that he is not truthful with all the public declaration and show of support for his party and the candidate; that he is working underground against both; and that there are subterranean moves by him to cut the ground from under the feet of Lagos APC and Sanwo-Olu. It appears his former party members, especially the leaders, simply cannot trust him anymore.
Most times politicians speak in coded language and as the saying of our people goes, it takes a thief to trace the footprints of another thief on the rock: Those sympathetic to Ambode fire back that his opponents are only giving a dog a bad name to hang it. Accusations and counter-accusations of efforts to loot the treasury to fund election campaigns and the reluctance of Ambode to allow such are awash in cyberspace. True or false, none of these back-and-forth does those concerned any good.
It is, however, the impact on governance of the technical government shutdown in Lagos that is of utmost importance to this column. As they say, when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. The bad blood between pro- and anti-Ambode elements in the Lagos APC has adversely affected the smooth and effective running of the machinery of government in the state.
Two areas where this is easily noticeable are the deplorable condition of Lagos roads and the piles and heaps of garbage everywhere. The rains may have added to the bad state of the roads but lack of adequate and commensurate attention cannot be ruled out. Someone also mentioned the poor quality of work done on the roads. It is true that, everywhere, quality and integrity have been thrown to the dogs these days. Roads constructed in the Awolowo days are still around while roads constructed these days hardly last one year.
Leaving home at Pen Cinema, Agege area of Lagos and driving either to the office at Ikeja or to church along the Alapere/Ketu axis, the roads are a nightmare to drive on. And I understand this is the same sad tale in many parts of the Lagos metropolis. Except for a few roads, all the others need urgent repair or outright reconstruction. Where pretence is made at remedial work, a strange admixture of sand and gravel is poured on potholes; the very first vehicle to drive on it scatters the rubbish. It is simply money down the drains or, in political parlance, job or food for the boys. Otherwise, it is just sheer waste of efforts.
Why is Ambode not fixing the roads and clearing the drains? Is it because his term is almost up or “they” are not giving him the peace of mind to focus on his job for the few months remaining? Is it the campaigns, since he is seen often at APC presidential rallies these days, including those far away from his home base? Someone said this is politics of survival and, of course, personal survival is man’s first instinct. Threats by the Lagos State House of Assembly to impeach the governor were also cited by many as evidence that Ambode was not being allowed to focus on his job.
However, that may be, it must be said that the House has a constitutional duty to ensure that Ambode keeps to the rules. Budgets must be laid before the House. Due process must be followed. The second arm of government must be accorded the courtesies it deserves. But of course we all know that it is “ija l’ode, t’orin d’owe” between the House and Ambode. Ambode and the House are playing politics of “bad belle”
When the going was good and Lagos APC was one united and chummy family, who cared whether or not the governor finished spending the budget before it was presented to the House? In all of these, however, the interest of the common man should be pushed to the front-burner. The roads are deplorable. The governor and the House should help us mend them. There is garbage everywhere. Ambode and the House should put their hands on the shovel and clear the rubbish. The rains are here but the drains are blocked. That is why each time it drizzles, we have floods everywhere. Whether PSP or Vision Scope, none is working at the moment.
However, I must not end this piece without saluting Ambode and the Lagos State Government for their efforts at developing Lagos. There are critics who insist we are actually not having value for money but at least we have something to point at. New legacy projects are springing up everywhere but there is still so much to be done. So much!
I feel humbled that you dedicated your column in the edition of February 3, 2019 to me and Deacon Dapo Omotosho from Ado-Ekiti. What an unexpected honour! I savour it. Thank you. Be that as it may, I am particularly thrilled when I read the rejoinder of the deacon. My conclusion is that Nigerians, no doubt, may be suffering from collective amnesia (no pun intended). If not, why is Buhari still walking like a colossus in the political landscape in the country despite all his sordid antecedents, atrocities, and the blatant disrespect for Nigeria and Nigerians as Deacon Omotoso took readers down the memory lane about Buhari’s rigid mindset, archaic style of governance, disrespect for rule of law and to constituted authority, incitement to violence, hypocrisy, false nationalism and crass nepotism?
Methinks that greed, self-protection, and abject poverty are the factors responsible for the blind support and “follow, follow” attitude which works to his greatest advantage. The rich politicians and other looters of our patrimony seek for his protection, using money as their bargaining chips to escape being prosecuted for their crime, and he, in turn, wants to fulfil his political ambition leading to a situation of forced alliance and association of strange bedfellows – a case of “the means justifies the end!”
In the case of the poor, they have been so pauperised they lack the sinews to fight any injustice. It counts thrice when you consider that they are mostly illiterates (who are) oblivious of their basic rights. Anything put before them in the form of “salvation” is accepted hook, line, and sinker. Buhari uses himself as the saviour of the “talakawas” even if falsely. They see him as their messiah. Their mind has been so rigidly conditioned in such belief they seldom see the falsity.
May the likes of Deacon Omotoso live long to be the conscience of the people and our storytellers about Nigeria of yesteryears, today and the future! —Yaccob Abiodun
Just wondering it seems the Diya/Abacha script is being re-played with VP Yemi Osinbajo by the cabal that have hijacked power in the Muhammadu Buhari presidency. Diya escaped death twice before being roped in a phantom coup. I am seeing some semblances: Diya and Osinbajo are Ijebu. Their principals are also from the same Kano/Katsina axis. Diya and Osinbajo ignored the counsel of their people. Nigeria sank to this same despicable level during the Abacha/Diya era. I would not know if cabal like al-Mustapha and Gwarzo still exist in the corridors of power! —Olorunnimbe