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The Unfortunate Lagos By Muyiwa Ogundele




One of the highlights of the Dr. Akinola Aguda Report to the late General Murtala Mohammed on the new Federal Capital Territory, was that Lagos, the nation’s economic never centre, would be given special status. In other words, that Lagos would not be neglected should in case the federal capital was eventually moved to Abuja.

It is doubtful if successive governments adhered to this important provision, rather, Lagos has been left to be on his own. Abuja has not deem it fit in more than two decades, to accord the state the needed special status which was supposed to enable it function as the nation’s economic and industrial hub. This is also taking into consideration that Lagos accounts for more 57 percent of Nigeria’s economic activities in the country.

Apart from this, ministers from the state have not help matters. From Alhaji Femi Okunnu to Babatunde Fashola, they’ve all seen themselves as adversaries rather than partners in progress in the advancement of the collective interest of Lagos.

It is within this context that I want to look at the non-cooperation by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing concerning the fixing of the International Airport road.

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is very disturbed about the dilapidated state of the Oshodi-Airport road, which he described as an eyesore and an embarrassment to the whole nation as the road leads to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport. Despite the fact that Lagos state government is ready to fix the road. The Federal Ministry of Works under the leadership of immediate past Governor of Lagos State, Fashola appears not be forthcoming in terms of granting the required approval for the Lagos State government to embark on reconstruction of the road.

This is where I am saddened and began to flash back to similar needless muscle flexing and power show between some Ministers and State Governors, especially if they are of different political parties. It is therefore absurd and unfortunate if Ambode’s allegation that Fashola is deliberately withholding approval is true. Fashola was the immediate past Governor of the state and a member of the same APC Federal government which is also the ruling party in Lagos state and who knew the bad state of the Apapa-Airport road and who also experienced frustrations from a PDP led Federal Government over such projects.

It will therefore be a puzzle for any discerning observer why Fashola should deliberately frustrate Ambode from developing a state where he was once Governor and also did his best in terms of infrastructure. The allegation of Ambode against Fashola’s attitude is very weighty and going by how Ambode presented the facts, many may be tempted to agree that Fashola may actually be blocking Ambode’s opportunity to excel. There is no reason why Fashola should waste any time in granting the required approval for the Lagos State Government to embark on the construction of the all important Oshodi-Airport Road.

Ambode announced the readiness of the state government to immediately embark on the reconstruction of the road which has been redesigned to accommodate 10 lanes to come from Oshodi to the International Airport with interchange and flyover that would drop you towards the Local Airport. The Governor also announced that the state government is ready with the funds to execute this, immediately approval is granted by the Federal Ministry of Works. So the question now is, what is delaying this much needed approval?

Ambode could not have expressed his frustrations openly without exhausting all avenues to get the approval from Fashola’s Ministry. Now that we have heard Fashola’s side of the story, one is tempted to believe that there may be some reasons other than bureaucratic bottlenecks considering the not too cordial relationship between Fashola and his successor in the early months of the Ambode administration, which was mainly caused by the disclosure of the huge debt left behind by Fashola. The only thing that would soothe the nerves of Lagosians is for the minister to handover the all important road for the Lagos State government to repair.

Any attempt to play politics with a road that needs an urgent attention as the statement from the minister seems to imply, might affect the ordinary Lagosian, who will benefit from the road and the positive impact on the economy of Lagos state as it will save a lot of man hour lost to traffic gridlock on that road. Also given the fact that the road is a major entry point to Nigeria from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, the federal government should have gladly be receptive to the offer of the Lagos State government to do it and finish in six months.

If the allegation is true, Fashola must rise above pettiness and be a statesman that he is supposed to be by immediately putting the interest of the people of the state above any personal animosity he may be harbouring against his successor. With the open expression of frustration by Ambode, there is no way many will not believe Fashola’s action is deliberate considering the fact that such scenario had happened before in Lagos when another Lagosian,  Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe who defected from the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and became  Minister for Works (2003-2006), was engaged in a power show with then Governor Bola Tinubu over operations of Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LASTMA) officials whom he banned from operating on Federal roads in the Lagos metropolis and quickly assembled his own Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) operatives.

Despite the fact that the Federal government is owing Lagos State a whopping N51 billion refund on federal roads rehabilitated by the state government, the governor said the federal government should release the N2Billion appropriated for the Oshodi-Airport road in the 2017 budget, for the state government to embark on the reconstruction of the road. This is not fair!

Ambode also expressed frustration that six months after President Muhammadu Buhari approved the handover of the Presidential Lodge, Marina, the State Government was yet to gain access into the premises. This is also wrong and may send wrong signals out there that Fashola is on vendetta mission because the release of the Presidential Lodge also falls under his Ministry. Why has the key to the Presidential lodge not been handed over to the governor? And why are those involved making very difficult for presidential directive to be honoured? these are germane questions that should bother more than casual observers.

Every Lagosian would want Governor Ambode to be encouraged to continue with the current pace of work in the areas of infrastructure and security which has made Lagos state a yardstick of governance for other states in the country. Many people marvelled at the regeneration of Ojodu Berger which is a beauty to behold, Abule-Egba Flyover Project and also the Aboru/Abesan Link Road and Bridge Project. These projects are repositioning Lagos to measure up to its status as an emerging mega-city.

The only way the minister can show his sincerity is by granting the long overdue approval to the state government to immediately embark on the reconstruction of the Oshodi-Airport road, which the governor has promised to complete in six months.

Ogundele, an economist wrote from Surulere, Lagos.

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