By Dare Babarinsa
Finally, the Federal Government has conceded that inter-state movement can be permitted despite the ravaging pandemic of COVID-19. Nothing really has improved in our battle to stem this costly importation from China, only an admission that the government has not really succeeded in stopping unnecessary interstate movements.
In the South-West, movements have been going on all the same despite the ban and the law enforcement agents, knowing that toll-gate is good in a democratic society, we’re happy to create their own. The COVID-19 pandemic would not go away quickly and we know that for many more months to come, the body count would continue.
The political battles too would not cease. You may ban churches and mosques, but who can ban politicians from the ultimate trade? In Edo State, the game is on in the full season with its ironies and bathos. The man in the middle of the game is my friend and old landlord on Acme Road, Ikeja, the durable Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, former General Secretary of the Textile Workers Union who served for two terms as the Governor of Edo State.
He succeeded in installing his protégé, Godwin Obaseki, in the Government House on the ticket of the party of change, the All Progressives Congress, APC. Obaseki’s main opponent was Pastor Osaze Iyamu, the old right-hand man of former Governor Lucky Igbinedion, of the old Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Sure enough, Obaseki is now of the PDP and Iyamu is of the APC and Oshiomhole still remains in the middle.
The season of politics is nigh and no COVID-19 is going to debar us from full participation. After Edo, it would be the turn of Ondo. On Tuesday, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu announced that he too had tested positive to COVID-19. He thought he had malaria, then one of his friends advised him to go for a test. He did. Despite this setback, you can be sure that Arakunrin, a lawyer of formidable capacity, would be waging his campaign from his isolation centre at the Government House, Akure.
Ondo State is an interesting terrain for politics. Therefore, Akeredolu, despite his incumbency, is facing spirited challenges from his own party, the APC. The opposition PDP is shopping for a formidable candidate to confront whoever emerges as the candidate of the APC. Among those in the running for the PDP ticket is Eyitayo Jegede, the man defeated by Akeredolu in the last governorship election. Another person is Eddy Olafeso, who served as Commissioner for Information under the late Governor Olusegun Agagu and until lately was the Vice National Chairman (South-West). I believe that INEC needs to regulate the campaign in Ondo and Edo states in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state that would bear the greater burden of the pandemic is Lagos. With the lifting of restrictions on inter-state movements, we should expect people from the far North and the East to continue their exodus to Lagos. Already, many parts of Lagos have been taken over by these our fellow brothers and sisters from other parts of Nigeria. Their power was demonstrated during the last general elections. Most Yoruba in Lagos voted for the APC. Most of the immigrants voted for the opposition PDP and they returned many candidates on the ticket of the party to the House of Representatives and the Lagos State House of Assembly.
This has been the pattern in Lagos since the end of the 1950s. In the local council elections of 1950, the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroon, NCNC, led by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, won all the 24 councilors in Lagos. The colonial government had instituted the mayoral system in the city. Dr Abubakar Olorunnimbe was made the first mayor and Mbonu Ojike, a fiery nationalist of the Zikist mode, was made his deputy. The Oba of Lagos, Kabiyesi Adeniji Adele, was made an ordinary member of the council, while Olorunnimbe was the chairman.
In 1951 however, Lagos was merged with the Western Region under the Macpherson Constitution and Chief Awolowo went ahead thereafter to dismantle the Lagos mayoral system. Adele was made a member of the Western Region House of Chiefs and thus restored to his primacy in Lagos local affairs. The influence and control of Lagos from Ibadan was to end with the coup of January 15, 1966, which brought General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi to power.
Since General Yakubu Gowon created the 12 states structure in 1967, Lagosians have stopped going to Ibadan. Some of their leaders have joined a section of the Yoruba political elite class who prefer bowing and yes-siring in Abuja than to consider the aspiration of their people for a proper regional arrangement for the Nigerian federation. However, this is not a matter that would go away easily. These political elites, set in their ways, overwhelmed by the problems of the present, prefer to think of the next election instead of the next generation. Pity.
The greatest loser of the present arrangement is, of course, Lagos. In the year 2000, Chief Bola Ige, then the Attorney-General of the Federation, was having problems with the oil-producing states of the Niger Delta who were insisting that oil found in their waters, especially in the lagoon and the Atlantic open sea, should be counted for them in the derivation formula for revenue allocation. President Olusegun Obasanjo was sympathetic to them but wanted the position of the law on the issue of the littoral states. At the end, when the states challenged the Federal Government at the Supreme Court, the Federal Government conceded. Chief Ige was also happy with the decision.
I don’t know the position of Lagos concerning revenue made from its soil and its littoral waters. As of now, we are told that more than half of the money generated from the Value Added Tax, VAT, is from Lagos, yet the state is not considered for special treatment on the basis of the derivation formula. The crude oil is from the ground, the VAT money is from the pockets of Lagosians. I wish someone would go to court to challenge this inequity.
More than 100 years ago, Herbert Macaulay, the great nationalist, surveyor, and journalist, persuaded his friend, Chief Amodu Tijani, the Oluwa of Lagos, to challenge the colonial authorities over the forceful acquisition of Apapa for the building of a port. The colonial government called it Crown Land. The case went up to the Privy Council in London and Oluwa was triumphant. Today, Apapa remains a major port in Nigeria, and every day, trailers and other heavy-duty vehicles head for the place, putting the burden on Lagos State and its infrastructures.
Yet money derived from these facilities is not regarded with the same treatment with money from crude oil. The revenue allocation formula should be used for all accruable resources in Nigeria. This would help to promote equity and justice.
When we talk of revenue allocation formula and how Nigeria should be ordered, we need to revisit the 1963 Republican Constitution. That was the Constitution agreed upon by the founding fathers of our country. Revisiting this would help our leaders to find the way to the future taking into consideration the reality of the present. As of now, there is social chaos in some parts of Nigeria, especially in the North East and the North-West. The idea of exporting their trouble to Lagos and other parts of Nigeria is not a solution that can endure. There is a need to create new realities that can tackle these problems arising mainly from poverty, religious fanaticism, historic injustices and feudal violence.
Leaders of other parts of Nigeria, especially in the South-West should brace themselves up for the challenges and opportunities presented by the present problems. Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, and Ekiti must find their way back to Ibadan to create new institutions that would respond to old problems. The road may be rough and crooked, but it is the road. The COVID-19 has shown how vulnerable we all are and how weak we are acting alone. The ancestors who agreed on the regional arrangement for Nigeria were not foolish after all.
It is good that the Federal Government is showing its presence in the South-West. Soon, the road between Akure and Ado-Ekiti would be rebuilt. It is rebuilding the roads to Apapa and even the Lagos-Ibadan Express road and they would be completed in a few years’ time.
Think of using Abu’s money to entertain him.
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