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Why I’m not for #Change in Lagos

By Atolagbe Martins
09 April 2015   |   5:20 am
IN cool offices in Victoria Island and spacious homes of Ikoyi, there is a growing sentiment that even as we welcome change at the Federal level so should we invite change in our home state of Lagos.
Atolagbe Martins

Atolagbe Martins

IN cool offices in Victoria Island and spacious homes of Ikoyi, there is a growing sentiment that even as we welcome change at the Federal level so should we invite change in our home state of Lagos.

In my view, however, we should stay the course in Lagos and not let naïve sentimentality get in the way of sustained development of Lagos. With Major-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s (rtd) convincing win in March 28 elections, Mr. Jimi Agbaje’s campaign based on ‘bold ideas’ is beginning to gain ground.

It’s being suggested that the change sweeping the country and ending 16 years of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) control should be mirrored in Lagos State with an end to All Progressives Congress (APC) governance.

The PDP candidate, having argued before the APC win that Lagos would benefit from an ‘alliance with the centre,’ has since done an about face, in the wake of a PDP defeat and is arguing that Lagos should in fact stand on its own feet. Agbaje, the urbane pharmacist representing the PDP, is a good man but his candidacy presents a clear and present danger for Lagosians.

The cosmopolitan, well educated people from all over the country who have made Lagos their home and just want to be left to ‘get on with making money’ are currently beguiled by Agbaje, who maintains that he is ‘not one of THEM’; a thinly veiled reference to Lagos’ ruling political class/party.

However, voting for ‘the man and not the party’ is one of most persuasive taunts a voter can tell himself; this is because, the man being voted for, no matter what he says, dances with the party that brought him.

If the phrase or its intent seems familiar, it is because the outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan put a nearly identical argument forward in the 2011 elections and many Nigerians (and Lagosians) fell for it and voted him in.

We found ourselves dealing for four years with the fall-out of a president held hostage by the various interest groups, lurching from one catastrophe to another, precisely because he was indeed NOT one of ‘them.’

The expedient argument for change for the sake of it falls flat on its face precisely because one of the major architects of Lagos State’s self sufficiency is in fact the APC gubernatorial candidate, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.

He is a former Accountant-General and has been an integral part of the administrations that have governed Lagos since 1999 and have put together a blue print for the state’s continued growth under Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and subsequently, Governor Fashola’s administrations.

Voters in Lagos remember well that while Lagos was in Opposition, the federal political establishment has run a sustained campaign aimed at undermining the Opposition administrations in Lagos since 1999.

President Olusegun Obasanjo of PDP illegally withheld Lagos State Federal Allocations in retaliation for Tinubu’s proposed local government reforms, which were merely reflective of the reality on ground in Lagos.

President Jonathan’s government has challenged the road and bridge projects aimed at easing congestion and various Independent Power Projects (IPPs) aimed at easing the burden of epileptic national power supply.

Time and again, Lagos’s governors have had to be nimble-footed dealing with Lagos’s position as economic capital against a crumbling infrastructure and overt hostility from the ruling party.

At this time therefore, it would be self-defeating to continue to walk alone in Opposition by voting for Agbaje, a political neophyte who will almost certainly be held hostage by a convergence of PDP interests recently deprived of federal relevance by the recent ousting at the federal levels.

The choice before us is very clear- a vote for a chance for a Lagos with soft and hard political influence- an APC majority in the National Assembly and a Vice President (having served as Attorney-General) all too aware of the unique challenges of Lagos and its strategic importance as regional hub helmed by an experienced and accomplished technocrat in Ambode; OR a vote for a Lagos in the hands of a businessman we only hear from at election time who may be remotely controlled by the vested interests of a recently ousted national political machinery left with a fraction of their patronage.

Imagine a Lagos that is the beneficiary of federal and state cooperation on the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Tin Can and Apapa ports. Imagine a Lagos that can work with the Federal Government to implement state-wide cooperation on the Lagos-Ogun-Oyo corridor, harnessing of our waterways and further expansion of IPPs.

Imagine a Lagos where the state government and Federal Government put aside their differences to renew the federal secretariat and reinvigorate the district around the National Theatre; then pause and realise that you no longer need to imagine. You can vote for Ambode and accelerate the positive transformation in our state.

On Saturday, April 11, I will be ‘pressing my hand’ for Ambode, a man I can trust to continue the good work that has been done in a new Lagos, and maintain its position as the “Centre of Excellence”, a true leader in positioning Nigeria in its rightful place in the comity of nations. Mrs. Atolagbe Martins lives and works in Lagos. She tweets @tolasol