Lagosians are in a rage and going by the saying of Metternich above, what do you think should be happening right now to the governor of the state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu? France, in the above quote, equates to no less a personality than Napoleon Bonaparte. Once Napoleon took control of France with a coup d’etat and proceeded to attempt to create a French empire encompassing much of mainland Europe, every Napoleonic move became a source of great concern to Europe. No matter how unfeeling the powers-that-be may be, there is no way the angst in the Lagos of today will not get to them. Uneasy, they say, lies the head that wears the crown and the bigger the head, the bigger the headache. It is a dog that has strong backers that kills monkeys. But for Sanwo-Olu, the small rat who killed the big elephant (a sitting Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode), the party is over. Grapevine sources say the controllers of Lagos politics sit on edge right now; not amused by the gargantuan nature of the problems that confront their godson and his seeming lacklustre performance so far. But I dare to say that it is too early to hang Sanwo-Olu! He hasn’t spent six months yet. He hasn’t overcome the hang-over of a gruelling election season. He could not even have got his bearing right financially. It takes quite some time for them to recover from election costs and another forever to meet the crippling demands of godfathers. This was how, four years ago, critics also made for Ambode’s jugular, accusing him of not moving fast enough. I remember weighing in on his side then, insisting, as I do here now on the side of his successor, that it was too early to hang Ambode. The same Ambode went on to perform admirably to the delight of many Lagosians, even though his godfathers later dismissed him as good governor but bad politician. Lagos APC leaders saw the red eyes of ordinary Lagosians when they denied Ambode a second term ticket. Bad as the situation of Lagos is at the moment, I dare to say – even if this view appears unpopular – that it is too early to give up on Sanwo-Olu.
Lagos is just a part of the whole, even if it mirrors the whole. Lagos is in a mess because the entire country is in a mess. Lagos is in a deeper hole because it is the economic life-wire of the entire country. A worsening economic situation bites harder in a mega city like Lagos than it does in other areas where the cost of living is cheaper and expectations of the better life that sets a city apart are not as pronounced. The rural – urban migration is felt more in Lagos than even in the capital city, Abuja. The myth that jobs are available in Lagos fuels this one-way traffic. Truth, however, is that many of the companies of yore providing the jobs everyone is running after in Lagos have since relocated or closed shop. Many have moved to Ghana where cost of production, especially power supply, is cheaper. Regularity of power and better infrastructure are also deciding factors. Many hey-day factories are now worship centres and events centres. The factories that still operate do so at less than optimal capacity. Those in employment are losing their job in droves while new jobs are not in the quantum that can cope with the stream of job-seekers. Yet, the deluge of migrants to Lagos continues unabated. Still, you dare not stop them! Freedom of movement will be waved right in your face! There is no level of infrastructure that can be provided in Lagos that will be enough for the population surge. Demand has far outstripped supply of just about anything in Lagos – roads, houses, offices, hospitals, schools, security, power and water supply – just name it!
In the face of this, Federal authorities have not helped Lagos. The first culprit is the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari who, as military dictator decades’ back, for inexplicable reasons cancelled ex-Gov. Lateef Jakande’s metroline project, a project that would have helped solve the transportation problems of the city at minimal cost. To do the same project today is prohibitive. Buhari is yet to explain why he took that hare-brained decision, least of all apologize and atone for his sins. Lagos was also conned when the federal capital was moved from there to Abuja. The Federal authorities promised Lagos would not be left an orphan but would be given a special status. They lied! Subsequent governments have also not seen the need to give Lagos the pledged special status. Amazing that South-west leaders have also slept on the issue. Lagos deserves a special status like Abuja. Three percent or more of the Federal Budget should be allocated to Lagos, just as is done to Abuja. Otherwise, Lagos should be allowed to restrict the movement of every Tom, Dick and Harry into its territory. Or else, Lagos will soon die metaphorically. Lagos is a slum already – every part of it, including the erstwhile high-brow Apapa, Ikoyi and Victoria Island areas. They ran to VGC and Ajah; today, the case of that axis, with flooding and traffic, is worse. They are flocking to Banana Island now but with global warming and the rising level of water worldwide, we shall soon see!
This, however, is not to excuse the fact that Sanwo-Olu must roll up his sleeves. He is said to have declared a state of emergency on the state of Lagos roads and drainages. That is a right step in the right direction but can he bell the cat? It’s like it is up to a decade that Ambode left office! Everything just came crashing down in one fell swoop! All the roads just got bad at one and same time! How come! Someone said it is testimony to the kind of “quality” work that Ambode did while in office. Ambode’s contractors did shoddy job everywhere, a top LASG official said. Otherwise, how come he constructed roads yesterday and they all collapsed the next day? Ambode will one day have an opportunity to defend his tenure. I for one regret he was denied second term. Why? I met him in December 2017 and he promised to pave Bakare and Owo-ade streets off Alapere, Ketu as well as execute the concrete lining of the Alapere canal. My church is in that vicinity. It’s a nightmare whenever it rains. Now, I have to begin again the “who knows who” project of working my way up to Sanwo-Olu. They say the drains are blocked because Ambode paid less attention to them. Will Sanwo-Olu be different? My professional colleagues, Tunji Oseni and Joe Igbokwe, are in charge of the Environment and Drainages in the new dispensation. I wish them the very best – but let them please add the Alapere canal and Bakare and Owo-ade streets to the projects I understand the LASG is penciling in for urgent attention. But – and this is a very big but – until something is done about empty bottles of soft drinks, table water, and sachets of “pure” water, the problem of blocked drainage will not be solved in Lagos. Should we not outlaw the use of these materials, which have constituted themselves into nuisance and menace? Can any government in the third world square up to the multi-national soft drink companies? It is trite to ask if this is how they also constitute themselves into a nuisance in the advanced countries of the world. Of course, it cannot be so! Stringent environment laws are enforced abroad. It is only here that anything goes.
A strong-willed leader is needed not only to run Nigeria but also Lagos; men like Otto von Bismarck; men of iron, blood and sweat. The job to be done in and over Nigeria is not small; Lagos also. The parlous state of the economy apart, there are other reasons Nigerians are losing their sanity and the rate of suicide is on the rise. At night, you hardly can sleep as a result of blaring loudspeakers of partying people and those on (night) vigil. It is like communities far and near must, willy-nilly, be conscripted into these activities. What God answers the prayers of those constituting themselves into nuisance unto others? Nursing mothers, pregnant women, babies, those just returning from work, those who must get up early, students reading for exams, those maintaining their quiet period – everyone is dragged by force by fight to observe the vigil or partying taking place kilometres away. Yet, there are laws limiting the noise level in Lagos. Can Sanwo-Olu enforce these laws and bring about sanity? Can worship and events centres be forced to adhere to building regulations? They are like swarms everywhere; swearing to false affidavits to put up their structures. We have the highest number of worship centres in the whole world; yet, our morality is at its lowest ebb. We clutch the Holy books but hardly apply their tenets to our daily living. When you are heaving a sigh of relieve that the vigils are ending in the morning and you can now catch some sleep, the blaring of loudspeakers calling so-called faithful to prayers takes over. As Government abdicates, everyone is law unto themselves! In those days we used to refer to Ajegunle as the jungle city. Today, the entire Lagos is one stretch of unending, undulating jungle. As they say, in Lagos you do not avoid potholes; you select which potholes to sink into! Similarly, these days you select which jungle to make your abode in Lagos!
Before you step out of your home, you need prayers; you need anointing; and you need not just to cover but also to soak yourself from head to toe in the precious blood of Jesus. Our streets are scary! Jobless youths swarm everywhere. Menacing! Stalking! Searching for daily bread – and that could be you if you are not lucky. Crime is the most viable business in this country today – after politics. Cultists, ritualists, kidnappers, bandits are on the prowl. 419ners are the least of the criminals these days – and their cousins, the internet fraudsters. A new binge that is taking over from these is betting. Our youths crowd cafes and betting houses from morning till night. Easy money is the name of the game. No jobs anywhere. Soon, even if jobs become available our youths would no longer be in the mood to work. Get-rich-quick is the name of the new game. Doing nothing; yet, expecting to reap millions and billions. In those days, I played pools, while in the secondary school. I wasted a fortune and irreplaceable years “perming three from five” and “napping five sure bankers.” Week-in, week-out, I lived the delusion that I would “kill Kora;” meaning that I would make millions once my banker draws clicked. It never did! Willy Ehi Obiyan and Akinlude made money off me with their forecast books. “Face-to-face” and Adebutu Kessington made money off me as I lost my stakes week after week. I pinned my hopes on winning big and sponsoring my education abroad. It never happened! I lost money! I lost time! I wasted four good years of my youth before, eventually, God took control and I took and passed the first JAMB in 1978, the very year I should have graduated from the university had I entered the very year I left secondary school in 1974 because my result was baam!
Grandma told me, if your enemy is a gambler, he is cursed already. There is no need wasting your time cursing him again. Our youths are hooked to gambling. They are our future. Ghana is banning betting; even if it is not, we should take the lead here. Will Sanwo-Olu?