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DOES SOUTH WEST NEED FEDERAL DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION?

As I was saying, it is a time to ask all our political leaders from Lagos, Ibadan, Oshogbo, Abeokuta through Ado-Ekiti to Akure since 1999, for instance, the values they have created at home and the benefits they have attracted from the capital of the complex federation Abuja – where national values are allocated. We need to speak truth to power in South West. We need to reconstruct the questions on where the rains began to beat us in Yoruba land.
Is it not extremely shameful that a democracy that began with a former Head of State as returning President (of Yoruba extraction) in 1999 has not been able to reconstruct Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, for instance, about 22 years after? Was Bode George (who hails from Lagos) a former military governor of Ondo state, not a Chairman of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)? Why didn’t he plan constructively with the PDP government (1999-2015) to construct a modern road network to the two ports in Apapa? Was Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe not a Works Minister in that dispensation? Who sabotaged Bicourtney’s contract to do the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway under a PPP deal? Some Governors of Yoruba states, Lagos, Ogun and Oyo did. Who owns Bicourtney? The name of the major investor there is Dr. Wale Babalakin who has invested in building what a former Aviation Minister referred to as ‘the best local airport in Nigeria’, MMA2, Lagos. It is not a time to discuss the character of Babalakin. Let’s discuss politics, enterprise and development. Why was there no consensus on the politics and grey areas of the contract instead of throwing away the baby with the bathwater? Why is the road (Lagos-Ibadan) Expressway still uncompleted?

I asked these questions before but they are still relevant. Do we need any power of attorney to ask why almost 22 uninterrupted years of democracy in Nigeria has not produced good link roads in the Western region? Is there any good road from Lagos to Abeokuta in Ogun state? Is there any good road that links Ogun state to Oyo state? Is there any road we can be proud of between Oyo state and Osun state (carved out of Oyo)? What of Ekiti state taken out of Ondo State? Is there any good road linking Akure to Ado-Ekiti? In other words, do the state capitals in Western Nigeria have good link roads? How long did they wait for the federal government to complete a rail line from Lagos to Ibadan? What of the legendary centre of excellence, Lagos? Are even the federal roads in Lagos infrastructure to be proud of? Does Lagos, our economic capital of West Africa have excellent roads as Centre of Excellence? Are all the federal roads worthy? Does Lagos maintain its inner city roads? Are the mega potholes everywhere in Lagos not a mega embarrassment to the authorities and the residents?

Can we ask the big man of Owu kingdom, former President Obasanjo, why the road from Lagos to Ota where he has a big farm, and even a university is still work in progress 22 years after he kick-started a democracy with a wonderful slogan in 1999: ‘Obasanjo: a man we can trust’?

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Let’s leave Buhari and his wonderful party magicians alone this week. It is a time to do some self-examination of the region that sits on a hill and so can’t be hidden. Let’s leave the cheerleaders and mischievous distorters of Akeredolu’s lawful order to herdsmen in Ondo forest to their conscience this week. And so, it is a time to ask the leading lights and brand ambassadors of a region that is supposed to be the light of the world called Nigeria, some soul searching questions. I hope no one is carried away by a consistency in National Bureau of Statistics data that Western Nigeria is still the wealthiest and highest in literacy rate in its indices on poverty and literacy rates in Nigeria. There is also a new mind-blower: ‘sooner than later, Lagos will be the third largest economy in Africa, competing with Nigeria and South Africa. Just as we have California in the United States competing as the sixth largest economy in the world with $2.4 trillion GDP, which moved slightly above that of France and Brazil since 2015. That is good to hear. But how does this affect the people and critical infrastructure? How do these indicators compel a federal South-West Development Commission at this time?

Do we need a South-West Development Commission (SWDC) before the mighty Lagos can announce to the world that Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) is now the best teaching hospital even in West Africa? When will the Lagos State University too be equipped to be commissioned by the Office of the Citizen as a world-class University and a Centre of Engineering Excellence? When will LASU produce civil engineers who can take over from the mega mediocrity called Public Works Department that is even creating craters while maintaining Lagos roads?
We are in the forefront in the advocacy for practice of true federalism within the framework of restructuring. Where are the authentic brand ambassadors of federalism among the governors in Western Nigeria? Can’t the governors and leaders move beyond delivering seminal papers and making noise on different social media platforms?

In the last 22 years what have the Tinubus, the Agagus, the Mimikos, the Fasholas, the Aregbesolas, the Akeredolus, the Ambodes, the Amosuns, the Ajimobis, the Fayoses, the Aregbesolas, the Otunba Gbenga Daniels, etc invested significantly in education in their states? They are all very educated and so they all benefited from the robust investment that the iconic Obafemi Awolowo had in education quality as a weapon of country and global competitiveness. Let any of these our leaders beat their chests about the world-class universities they established since 1999. Ondo State has three state universities, Ogun state has two state-owned universities, Oyo too now has two universities. There are more state universities in today’s South West. But which of the three universities in Ondo State, for instance, is well funded to be called a centre of excellence?

As I once asked, do we then need more or better universities? When last did the government of Ondo state pay salaries of teachers and workers of the three universities? Do they require a federal South West Development Commission to fund their numerous universities?

One more important question, why didn’t Senator Ibikunle Amosun who was Governor of Ogun State for eight years on the platform of the APC collaborate with the APC-controlled Lagos state to complete an excellent link-road between Abeokuta and Lagos? What became of the routes he initiated and the roads and bridges he ought to have completed that would have terminated at Berger Lagos? Does he require the South West Development Commission (SWDC) to complete the roads – from Ota area to Lagos?

We should not get it twisted, there are legal ways of allocating values through appropriation bills in a democracy in Abuja. This is where the federal representatives of the people need to answer more questions. Here indeed is the thing, if all the members of the National Assembly from the South West states want the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to be completed in a particular financial year, all they need is to lobby their colleagues in the appropriate committees to allocate adequate funds for the completion of the road. If they want to deepen the process in a transparent manner, they can visit the president to emphasise the importance of the routes to national development. The Works minister who hails from Lagos State, indeed a former Governor of the state, can even be democratically dragged into the fray. If they insist too on completion of the old Shagamu Interchange to Ore road, they will get it completed. That axis too has been in the works since 1999. It is still is a shame on all the legislators from the South West: Fashola once accused them of diverting funds meant for the Lagos-Ibadan road to their National Assembly budget.

In the main, all the legislators and governors (present and past) from South West deserve to be enrolled in a Hall of Shame for paying lip service to the completion of all federal roads in the region including the Lagos-Ibadan, Shagamu interchange-Ore axis.

What of Mile-2, Lagos Badagry Road that leads to Benin Republic? That is another emblem of shame for the South West political leaders. That route is a federal international route that the representatives too deserve a garland of dishonour for.

‘MURTALA AND HIS 45-YEAR-OLD PROMISE TO LAGOS’

Here is the conclusion of the whole matter: instead of unnecessary debate on the South West Development Commission bill, there should be some consensus this time on a bill, which seeks to fulfill general Murtala’s promise to Lagos almost 45 years ago when he proclaimed Abuja as Nigeria’s new capital on February 3, 1976. This is a worthy pursuit in support of the country’s economic capital based in South West.
As I always remind all of us, of all the failings exhibited about Nigeria’s capital, the most telling has been an unfulfilled promise made to Lagos, which was proposed by General Murtala Muhammed in 1976 as “Economic Capital of the Federation.”

In his broadcast to the nation on 3rd February, 1976, Murtala had promised that Lagos would not only be designated a “Special Area,” it would be Nigeria’s commercial capital and the deal would be incorporated into the 1979 Constitution then in the works. His words:

‘…Lagos will, in the foreseeable future, remain the nation’s commercial capital and one of its nerve centres. But in terms of servicing the present infrastructure alone, the committed amount of money and effort required will be such that Lagos State will not be ready to cope. It will even be unfair to expect the state to bear this heavy burden on its own. It is, therefore, necessary for the Federal Government to continue to sustain the substantial investment in the area. The port facilities and other economic activities in the Lagos area have to be expanded. There is need in the circumstance for the Federal Government to maintain a special defence and security arrangement in Lagos, which will henceforth be designated a SPECIAL AREA. These arrangements will be carefully worked out and written into the constitution. Kaduna and Port-Harcourt are to be accorded similar status and designated special areas under the constitution…’

This is one remarkable promise to Lagos that no government since February 14, 1976 has fulfilled. The General made the promise on 3rd February and he was assassinated on 13th February 1976.

So, Abuja, is a city founded by the Generals and General Buhari should be proud of that heritage. That is why he should join the bandwagon of builders by fulfilling the Murtala’s promise to Lagos 45 years ago (next month). After all, it was permissible to blame the PDP for neglecting the APC-controlled Lagos for 16 years before they came in 2015. But now Lagos and Abuja will no longer hate each other as they are both controlled by the same political party, the APC. President Buhari should let General Muhammed turn well in his grave today by fulfilling the covenant he (Murtala) had with the people of Nigeria on Lagos since February 3, 1976.

Prince Chukwudi Timothy Samuel

Prince Chukwudi Timothy Samuel is the Chairman / CEO, MicMiraSteph Communications and Chief Media Director, Apex Reporters

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