Still on special status for Lagos
Nigeria is one of the few countries in the world that thrive on avoidable and unnecessary confusion in its body politic. Thanks to the leadership whose yardstick and parameters for dispute resolution are based on sentimentalism, sectionalism and ethnic bigotry. A leadership that usually feign ignorance of the fact that unless the resolution of dispute is comprehensive and fair to all parties, the group at the receiving end may be forced to nurse its wound in isolation and sometimes re-emerge with actions that are inimical to the well-being of the larger society.
Recently, the Senator representing Lagos Central, Senator Oluremi Tinubu proposed a bill on special status for Lagos State, requesting for the promulgation of an act that would make provisions for federal grants to a state that is overwhelmed by the presence of a very large population of other Nigerians on its soil. The Daily Independent Newspaper of October 11, 2016 reported that the bill was overwhelmingly voted down because the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria felt that the proposal was ill-timed. A submission that shows clearly that our senators rarely base their decision on empirical facts.
What time is appropriate for such bill? Such question can only be answered by those who are conversant with Nigerian history. A deep look at history shows that the demand for special status for Lagos and its colonies (now Lagos State) is not a novel idea and that while the “power that be’’ had always been reluctant to concede to this lofty demand, the idea itself refused to be confined to the dustbin of history because, there is hardly any dispensation in Nigerian history that this request to have a separate or special status for Lagos has not reared its head in the past half a century. Interestingly, Senator Remi Tinubu’s request is the simplest and most straightforward of all the requests and should have been granted but for the simple reason that some Nigerians don’t want to accede to the fact that the pressure that the whole of Nigeria brings on Lagos State is so much that a reasonable leadership need not be prompted before yielding to this demand.
For whether we like it or not, the environment of Lagos State is one of the most challenged environment in the world with its attendant consequences on human morbidity and mortality. Unfortunately, the leadership of Nigeria, of which the Senate is the cream rarely do continuous self-appraisal, otherwise, it would have been clear to them that the special grant they refuse to give today will certainly be used to manage urban factors that are related to mortality and morbidity in Lagos State.
It is sheer foolhardy to believe that the pressure of overcrowding and overstretched facilities are not throwing up their own hammer on the health and well-being of the residents and that more fund would reduce the effect of such pressure. The “good news” is that there is no worthy Nigerian that does not have one thing or the other to do with Lagos and such an individual will certainly be a beneficiary of the planlessness of leadership at the national level. There is hardly anyone in Nigeria who doesn’t know a relation who had died or is dying as a result of cardiovascular or cerebrovascular diseases. This problem accounts for over 60 per cent of deaths in Lagos State today and research has shown that they are largely related to environment and our attitude to it.
As mentioned earlier, there is need to clearly define “special status” because there is the political angle which is the aspect that has beclouded the judgement of the Senate over the sociological aspect. In one word, granting of “special status” means different thing to different people. However, irrespective of the position being canvassed, Lagos State deserved special consideration, special status and should be treated as special region or zone.
In a memorandum sent by Alaiyeluwa Oba Adeniji Adele II, C.B.E, the Oba and Spiritual Head of Lagos to Right Honorable Alan Lennox- Boyd, P.C, M.P, the Secretary of State for the Colonies on 6th June 1956, he demanded that “Lagos and Colony Districts of Epe, Ikeja and Badagry Divisions be created into a separate Region with all the rights and privileges of a Region, and that the Region be called the “Lagos Region.”
Tracing the history of the merger of Lagos with Nigeria, Oba Adeniji Adele wrote and I quote “Since Mr. Oliver Lyttleton (now Lord Chandon” was charged by the London Conference with making an “award” on Lagos, and since Lagos was “awarded” to the Federation of Nigeria, much had been said and written about the position of Lagos. Speeches and Statements in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords, in-spirited resolutions and pamphlets naturally of a tendentious character have all played their parts in making known the wishes of the people of Lagos on the issue of separation. Nigerians must, however, be prepared as architects of a great nation and the pioneers of a civilisation which, it is hoped, will prove enduring, to look their problems squarely and fairly in the face, and in their true perspective, in order to find solutions for them. This of course must be done by one of Nigeria’s component units without bitterness to any of the other units, as no Federation can have perpetual and everlasting peace and harmony unless every component part is satisfied with its state within the Federation.”
Like an inspired Prophet, the content of Adele’ s write-up which was dated almost 61 years ago is as valid today as it was more than half a century ago. It will therefore be sheer innocence for anyone to feel that this matter, despite the negative disposition of the National Assembly, will die a natural death. Moreover, as we always opined, it is better to resolve these issues amicable today as we are not too sure of the temperament of those who will demand for it tomorrow.
Nigerian National Assembly have never been known to represent the wishes of its people adequately because a good number of its decisions are based on sentiments rather than facts. There is no long term focus on issues because sectionalism and group interests are allowed to overshadow collective Nigerian interest. There are ample evidences in support of this assertion, otherwise a state that caters for representatives of all Nigerian communities and tribes is like the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs and therefore, should be protected.
In his reaction to the bill, Senator Gresham Bassey was quoted by the media to have said that if Lagos State is given special status, Calabar, which was once the Federal Capital of Nigeria will make the same demand. What a simpleton? How can Calabar be compared to Lagos in terms of environmental and socio-demographic pressure. The credentials of Lagos State makes it a more viable separate region than many zones in Nigeria and many countries in Africa if the argument of those demanding for separate zone for Lagos is to be accepted and special status for those who wants additional grant and privileges. The statistics speak for itself.
Recently, the Nigerian Minister for Finance while giving a breakdown of the receipts from Value Added Tax, explained that Lagos alone accounted for 55 per cent, 20 per cent was coming from the Federal Capital Territory while Rivers, Kano and Kaduna states accounted for six per cent, five per cent and one per cent, respectively. She explained further that in February this year, based on analysis of FAAC allocations, Lagos State received the sum of N6.14 billion from VAT revenue, while Kano, Kaduna and Rivers got N1.66 billion, N4.23 billion and N1.33 billion, respectively.
For the month of April, Lagos State received the sum of N7.04 billion from VAT revenue, while Kano, Kaduna and Rivers got N1.84 billion, N1.19 billion and N1.78 billion, respectively. As explained by Tinubu, Lagos State contributes over 70 per cent of the revenue through Value Added Tax. How much is placed in the Nigerian purse by Calabar. According to Economic Confidential Annual State Viability Index (2016), the Internally Generated Revenue of Lagos in 2016 was N302.425 billion while that of Cross Rivers was N14.776 billion which is just about 4.88 per cent of the IGR of Lagos State. The IGR of Lagos State is the IGR of 31 states of Nigeria combined. Lagos enjoys some historical advantages. It is one of the oldest cities in Nigeria and has the advantage of being enfranchised earlier than all the communities in Nigeria. It was enfranchised as early as 1923 while the rest of Nigeria was not enfranchised until almost three decades after, in 1951.
It’s Socio-demographic biodata are also enviable and qualifies it to be a viable stand-alone region. Lagos is the fifth densest megacity in the world after Dhaka, Mumbai, Karachi and Manila. It is the most populous state in Nigeria with a current population estimate of between 17 and 21 million. This makes it the largest city in Africa and one of the largest in the world in terms of its population. One of its Local Government Area, Alimosho is the most populous in Nigeria with a population of 1,277,714 which is more than the combined population of 10 local government areas in Nigeria.
As at 2015, its gross domestic products was $131 billion, which makes it the fifth largest economy in Africa and this is between 20 and 25 per cent of the GDP of Nigeria and about 46 per cent of the GDP of South Africa ($280.367). It is more than the GDP of Morocco ($104.908b) and more than four times the GDP of Cameroon ($30.810b). It is two times the GDP of twenty African Countries combined, namely; Niger ($7.566), Guinea (6.754), Malawi ( $5.474), Eritrea ($5.352), Mauritania ($4.714),Togo($4.520),Sierra-Leone ($4.289), Swaziland ($3.430), Burundi ($2.742), South-Sudan ($2.628), Liberia ($2.168), Djibouti ($1.894), Lesotho ($1.806), Central African Republic (1.782), Cape Verde ($1.684), Seychelles ($1.419), Guinea Bissau ($1.168), Gambia ($0.886) and Comoros ($0.622). Lagos GDP is about 5.76 percent of the total GDP of Africa ($2,273.059 billion). With such Curriculum Vitae, it will be unimaginable that Lagos cannot stand gidigba as a separate region.
There is no doubt that Lagos is the hub of Nigerian activities and people of other ethnic nationalities, including, Yoruba who are not natives of Lagos are bound to be jittery on the possibility of Lagos having a special status due to the fear and anxiety that their rights may be subjugated in the process, but these fears are unfounded because, Lagos has always been and will always be a home to everybody. It is better to rest the soul of this case once and for all because it has hovered around for too long.
Prof. Ojikutu is of the Faculty of Business Administration, University of Lagos.