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Yoruba: Time to speak truth to power – Part 3


National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu

It was gratifying to note that early last week, the six governors in Western Nigeria rose from their meeting in Osogbo, capital of Osun State after they agreed that the solution to the Apapa, Lagos gridlock is recourse to use of railway for transportation.

At their quarterly meeting at the Government House in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, the governors, under the auspices of the Western Nigerian Governors’ Forum, urged the Federal Government to engage the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) to end the daily gridlock.
According to reports from Osogbo, the governors expressed concern over the heavy traffic situation around Apapa, and so they urged the federal government to be proactive, in this regard.

What is more significant, the governors underscored the consequences of the complications along the Apapa- Lagos gridlock when they reportedly noted in their communiqué that, “the heavy traffic on the critical Apapa route was taking its toll on the region’s and the nation’s economies”.

Besides, the governors suggested that an alternative route should be created as a palliative from Apapa to Ibafo in Ogun State, adding that such a route would reduce the effect the daily heavy traffic on the economy and road users. They added that the alternative routes should link the Tin Can Island in Apapa through Tomoro Island to Ibafo.

Besides the host Governor Rauf Aregbesola, others at the meeting were Lagos State Deputy Governor Mrs. Idiat Oluranti Adegbule, Oyo State Deputy Governor Moses Adeyemo and the Secretary to the Ekiti State Government (SSG), Abiodun Oyebamiji.
At the closing session of the meeting, with a theme: ‘The Imperative of Regional Integration’, Aregbesola, the host governor called for an overhaul of Nigeria’s constitution to enhance regional development and remove the barriers militating against economic and investment drives of the region.

In his renewed call for the restructuring of Nigeria, the outgoing Governor Aregbesola said he believed in ‘federalism’ as a system of government because, ‘this will accelerate the development of each region’.

According to a report from the Mission in Osogbo, the Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Adeyemo, apparently echoing Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi, said: “Western Region must come back to the old region, which was the first among other regions. We can hinge on agriculture, make use of the land in the absence of oil for the development of our region…we are gathered here to deliberate on how to move our region forward. We must go back to the era where the Southwest was the first in everything.”

Specifically, Oyebamiji, Ekiti State New Secretary to the State Government, who represented Governor Kayode Fayemi, read the communiqué of the meeting on behalf of the governors.

And so Oyebamiji reported, among others that the DAWN Commission initiated the process to start leveraging opportunities the Nigerian Constitution offers to put in place regional processes and institutions that will mitigate the decline in critical sectors of education, sport, agriculture and security.

No doubt, the meeting of the governors of Western Nigeria in Osogbo last week was a fitting response to the challenge this column had hauled at the governors in the previous editions. This is how it should be but they should raise the bar of their deliberations from rhetoric to action. What is more, the governors should show personal commitment to the Western Nigeria’s Governors Forum. The Governor of Oyo State was not at the meeting, the Governor of Ondo State was not there. The Ekiti State Governor and his Deputy were not there. The SSG (Ekiti) was there. Was Ogun state Governor there?

Though not surprising, the Governor of Lagos State where Apapa is located was not in Osogbo but the Deputy was. This is part of the trouble with Nigeria’s federation: If a less important meeting had been called in Abuja by even the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the only governor from Western Nigeria that might not be there would have been Lagos State Governor. It is noted that it has not been in his character to attend most meetings including National Economic Council’s.

And here is the thing, if the governors had been committed to the dream of the DAWN Commission, there would have been landmark projects that would have been the difference makers in Western Nigeria. The APC governors in Lagos, Osun and Ogun, later Ondo and Ekiti have never shown any commitment to the integration programmes contained in the DAWN document, just as it was stated last week here. What they said about the gridlock Apapa, Lagos last week was indeed the remarkable but belated. What have the six governors of Western Nigeria done collectively to draw attention to the ancient challenge of the Apapa Ports? Have they once risen from their meetings and visited the most complicated Ports location in the world? Should the president visit the Apapa first before governors in the region can make even a symbolic project inspection and recommendation to the federal government? Have the Western Nigeria’s six governors ever tabled the Apapa Ports debacle to the National Economic Council headed by the Vice President as a project of urgent national importance?

When last did the governors of Western Nigeria, all the ministers, federal and state legislators from the region hold any constituency projects meeting on the Apapa Ports, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway – Shagamu-Ijebu-Ode to Ore road projects since 1999? When last did all of the above meet with the National Leader of the ruling party, the APC and indeed the leader of the APC in Western Nigeria, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu and the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo the highest elected person in the region – about even the decrepit condition of all federal roads in the region? In those days before the ‘federal civilisation’ kicked us in the face, the powers in Lagos used to design derogatory labels to distinguish federal from Lagos state roads and routes such as, ‘sorry, it is a federal road’. But the powers in Lagos have since 2015 assisted the then opposition party to capture federal powers: now Lagos, the country’s economic capital and Abuja the political capital have been in charge of both Lagos and Abuja? Now, are the federal roads in Lagos from Apapa, through all the federal routes been better rehabilitated even as Lagos former governor is the Works, Power and Housing Minister since 2015?

Is there any element that is more remarkable than the concept of representation in a democracy? Where are the pieces of evidence of dividends of democracy in Western Nigeria since 2015, for instance? I had in December 2017 written on the same debacle of representation in southern Nigeria generally.

In an article titled, ‘Hall of shame 2017 for southern leaders in Abuja on December 24, 2017, ( I had noted, for instance:
..Permit me to institute an end-of-year Hall of Shame for all the representatives from the southern parts of the country in the National Assembly. I would like to state clearly that I am fully persuaded that we have indulged them for more than two and half years and it is time to blame them for poor representation and absence of strategic development agenda in their constituencies. I mean members of the National Assembly from Lagos/South West, South East and South South geo-political zones.

Specifically, we need to ask all of them some hard questions on why they have all shirked their responsibility to the people in respect of the most strategic economic routes (roads) in Nigeria Dr. Christopher Kolade spoke about in 2009.
There has been a dereliction of economic duty to the people of Nigeria by neglecting and ignoring the Apapa-Oshodi-Lagos-Ibadan/Shagamu-Ore-Benin-Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressways.

It is not a time to blame the president and the any political party for this gross dereliction of responsibility. It is a time to blame the current and past federal legislators from the southern parts of Nigeria. They have been part of change management since May 29, 1999. They have been talking about constituency projects. They have been accusing others and investigating various public service infractions. No, it is not a time to blame the north and indeed the Fulani political operatives for our woes.

This is a time to ask questions about their stewardship and poor representation. I don’t care about current poor attention to the Apapa Ports Roads through a convoluted arrangement with Dangote Group. It is haphazard.

In 2009, when the then President Yar’adua began the 257 billion worth of 10-lane roads expansion from the Abuja city centre to the Abuja airport road and Madala, a boundary between Abuja and Niger state, Dr. Christopher Kolade, an iconic figure did a contextual analysis of the economics of the very important but misdirected projects in Abuja. He did not mean that the projects should be stopped. Dr. Kolade only drew the attention of political leaders in the county then to the fact that Apapa, Lagos Ports Roads to Port Harcourt, the economic capital of South South should have been considered too.

The policy and management guru had noted that priority attention should have been given too to the terrible conditions of the roads to the two Apapa Ports he then called critical “economic routes”.

He was ignored and even abused for his “bad verses”. Yet, the Apapa Ports are critical federal assets and the roads from Apapa to Port Harcourt are federal roads. Every week, national newspapers give terrible pictorial and graphic reports of the implications of the gridlocks on the roads.

Now Lagos, the economic capital of West Africa, which Lagos state government says it is developing as a mega city, is complicated. It has become an embarrassment in traffic management, no thanks to Apapa Ports terrible ancient roads fuel tanker drivers have to ply to convey imported fuel to consumers.
Here is the thing; it is not enough to blame the president alone for the poor state of budget implementation and critical infrastructure in the country….

In a democracy, there are processes and various actors have their roles carved out for them in the course of delivering development and projects implementation. We do not have to go to school of politics to learn that the most significant arm of government in any democracy is the legislature. It has enormous powers, especially in our constitution, to make and unmake any democracy. The power of the purse is not in the executive: it rests squarely in the legislature, according to our constitution.

The power of the budgeting and implementation; the power of monetary and fiscal policies arm-chair analysts always joke about are not only with the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry. The power of the National Assembly to deliver development and service to the people is enormous in a democracy that works…’

***We continue this self-examination on representation next week.

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