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Why Lagos State is celebrating 50th anniversary in a grand way – Ayorinde

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Artistic Director, Toronto International Film Festival , Mr Cameron Bailey (left), Lagos Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Steve Ayorinde, Lagos Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and culture, Mr. Folorunsho Folarin-Coker, during the  Press briefing

The last 50 days of the year-long events to celebrate Lagos@50 promises to be very exciting, starting with the performance of the spectacular theatre show, WAKAA today, as explained in this interview by the Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Steve Ayorinde

There is top preparation on-going for Lagos at 50. Can we have an insight into the activities lined up?
The preparation you referred to is actually for the last 50 days of the year-long celebration. Don’t forget that the celebration started on May 27, 2016, three months after the 10-man Planning Committee to drive it was inaugurated by the governor. Since that time, we have had a measured, consistent and effective anniversary Programme. Several colloquiums have been held under the direction of the Planning Committee Chairman, Prof. Wole Soyinka, as an intellectual voyage into different areas of life, culture, history, governance and business that make Lagos an exceptional state. The committee has also celebrated each of the old administrative divisions of the State, namely Ikorodu, Badagry, Ikeja, Lagos Island and Epe. Each of those divisions had a whole month dedicated to celebrating them in the course of the last 10 months. Equally more important is the fact that we have succeeded in tying the year-long anniversary to a monthly show that symbolically revolved round the 27th of every month since May last year. We launched the One Lagos brand as the state’s tourism initiative on July 27 last year; we had a ‘Love Lagos Weekend’ town hall meeting in London on August 27 last year and had a Lagos Corner at the world-famous Nottinghill Carnival, which celebrated its 50th-anniversary last year.

Remarkably, Lagos was celebrated at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival with eight films in September last year, the first African city to be so recognised; and we had the maiden edition of The Lagos Street Party and the second edition of the One Lagos Fiesta in December to further highlight the Lagos@50 joyous mood. This year, we opened the Lagos Art Expo on January 27 in memory of Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, who served Lagos till his death in November last year as the co-Chairman of the Lagos@50 Planning Committee. Also, it was on March 27 that we rolled out, through a World Press conference at the Governor’s Office, the activities lined up for the last 50 Days of the anniversary – from Saturday April 8 to Saturday May 27. That day happened to be the World Theatre Day and the state’s Council for Arts and Culture was on hand to add colour to that momentous day.

The highlight of that press conference was to announce a rich long list of the activities that will crown the year-long celebration in 50 days. There is something for everybody. From spectacular theatre shows like WAKAA by Bolanle Austen-Peters which opens the 50-Day glee on Saturday April 8 to KAKADU which comes up at Harbour Point on May 21 and FELA: The Broadway Musical that runs throughout the Easter weekend at Eko Hotel, the celebration has an unmistakable artistic and cultural profile. Lagosians will have a taste of a number of the world-renowned events they have always enjoyed, like Boat Regatta which will take place in Epe, Badagry and Lagos Island simultaneously; The Lagos Carnival and a Parade of Colours across the island and mainland parts of the state as well as the Eyo (Adamu Orisha) festival itself, which is slated for Saturday May 20 at the TBS. There will be jazz music concert mixed with a fashion show to celebrate the International Jazz Day on April 30th; there is comedy show tagged LAGOS LAUGHS on May 7, where 50 of the most outstanding stand-up comedians will mount the stage on the World Laughter Day to reinforce the fact that Lagos is the capital of Stand-up Comedy in Africa and there will be a competitive dance exhibition. Film is not left out, with red carpet screenings in each of the five divisions of the state because Lagos loves the cinema.

In between all these, the Lagos brand will be felt at the World’s biggest film festival – CANNES, in France, which is celebrating its 70th edition between May 17 and May 28, 2017. Lagos will have a pavilion there. All the social clubs in the state will also be recognized and celebrated on May 12 while a two-day international conference will hold to discuss the progress of the state as a mega city that is eager to be a smart city. All these and many more will lead to a glorious climax on May 27 to first celebrate the children because Lagos shares her birthday with the Children’s Day and then a photo exhibition as well as the Governor’s ball cum gala night which are slated to hold at the Presidential Lodge in Marina, which President Muhammadu Buhari has graciously handed over to our state to serve as the Lagos Historical Centre. Furthermore, this is a milestone anniversary that will afford us to document and capture for posterity, in print and on audio-visual, different aspects of the history and progress of the state as well as the contributions of its icons and builders.

Does it look like a big event, why this?
Indeed, it is big. It has to be big because Lagos does not do things in half measures. Three key reasons should explain why Lagos deserves a ball. One, it’s a landmark anniversary. The golden jubilee anniversary, of a person or an institution, should not go unnoticed ordinarily. For Lagos, the need for celebration is even more pertinent. Of all the 12 states created in 1967 by General Yakubu Gowon, only Lagos State has remained indivisible. Nothing has touched it; no state has been carved out of Lagos. It has never been severed. Its map has remained the same as it was 50 years ago. Secondly, Lagos State deserves to count its blessings. This is a blessed state. Politically and economically it has proven to be the powerhouse and nerve centre of the country. Other states come here to learn the art of modern and accountable governance and many are humble enough to admit and acknowledge it. Continuity is a word that finds home in Lagos. And each time the Federal wishes to get it right, it usually relies on the ideas, support and manpower from Lagos. On the business and economy front, Lagos also holds the ace.

This is a state that does not rely on oil to prosper yet the Creator finds her worthy to be counted among oil-producing states. The IGR in Lagos alone is bigger than those of 32 states of the federation put together while its GDP is bigger than those of Kenya and Ghana combined, so much so that if it were to be a country, Lagos would be Africa’s fifth largest economy. This is Nigeria’s and West Africa’s commercial and creative hub. And equally important, if you look at the giant strides that the state has made in the last two years under Governor Ambode, with all the legacy and iconic projects that are lined up for commissioning throughout April and May, the need to have a grand ball becomes very evident.

Are there plans on how Lagosians across the state can be part of the celebration?
It’s a celebration for everybody, particularly in terms of attendance and participation. It’s a celebration for the people, especially to acknowledge men and women who have contributed to making Lagos the cynosure of all eyes. Think of all the activities lined up and the hundreds and thousands of Lagosians that will be involved and engaged and even businesses that will thrive. At every point in time, the public would be involved and they are being kept abreast of the various activities through traditional print, broadcast and social media. The whole city is agog and not a single person is in doubt that Lagos is in a joyous, celebratory mood.

How will you summarize the journey so far for the state?
So far so good, the state has demonstrated its leadership position as the centre of excellence in Nigeria. More importantly, the state has made good use of the opportunity of always being blessed with capable and visionary leaders particularly since 1999. This is a state that stopped being the nation’s capital since 1991 but has had more development, arguably, in the last 26 years of not being a capital city.  So it has been a great journey of vision and success. It is commendable that this is a state whose IGR accounts for about 70 per cent of its revenue and whose budget performance has always topped 75 percent to 80 in the last three years. There is always another ladder of progress to climb. But no one would deny that Lagos has been an ideal cosmopolitan city that has given hope and succour to many at a time that the country is experiencing some dire straits.

What is the future?
It is a very bright future for the state and we are grateful that we have a cerebral accountant who understands how to manage men and resources as the governor at these trying times. He has been committed to the Lagos State Development Plan, paying great attention to all the four pillars of development as they affect the economy, security and the environment. Yes, Lagos is now blessed as an oil-producing state, but we are not distracted by it. The aim of the Governor is to ensure that in the next two to three years, the state’s IGR will account for 100 per cent of its revenue, so that we will hardly depend on the allocations from Abuja. In our strategic plan, this feat will provide the basis for our desire to grow the economy of the state to become Africa’s third largest in about three to four years. That’s our own Vision: 20-20. The Governor’s sterling first two years in office has become a demonstrable evidence of what to expect in the next two years and beyond. This is an administration that is running a government of inclusiveness, making sure no aspect of the state is neglected in its developmental strides. This is an administration that is convinced that the arts, entertainment and tourism as well as sports are veritable areas for job creation and youth engagement and is investing heavily in those sectors and other sectors, too.



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