Home Opinion Re: The Scramble for Lagos: Olagunju Lasisi’s synopsis of the synthesis

Re: The Scramble for Lagos: Olagunju Lasisi’s synopsis of the synthesis

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What a brilliant piece. I read the piece with a deserving attention. I enjoyed every bit of it. What I love most about it were the historical interjections. This is how academics write. It was a stimulating write up with some buts. It is these buts that form the kernel of my several submissions.

1. No doubt the omo onile have a fault in selling their land to the Ibos with nauseating greed. But what could a man who is solely in charge of his economic survival have done when faced with a mercantilist option of selling to the highest bidder ( from other land) and have more monetary value for his property or the option of primordial sentiments of selling his property to one of his own at heavily subsidized price with government or community not commiting itself to paying any ounce of the subsidy?

2. The writer also glosses over the period when Lagos was the federal capital where discriminatory policies were systemically difficult to enunciate. Any attempt to do this would definitely bring the state into a dangerous conflict with the federal government which may invoke all manner of federal laws or rules on the state. This was a serious issue that needs to be captured in the holistic evaluation and appraisal of the Lagos crisis.

3.   The #ENDSARS dimension. To be candid, the storming of the Lekki toll gate by the #ENDSARS agitators also contributed to the tension we are experiencing in Lagos State. Some of our youths still believe that Lagos remains the capital of Nigeria otherwise what informed the choice of Lagos as the epicentre  of their ventilation? Initially, most parents were in support of the protest. This was when the protest was still peaceful, orderly and sane. Energised by the frenzy of youthful camaraderie, the organisers introduced side rendezvous to the protest by bringing different musical artistes on a daily basis to entertain the protesters. This was a good side attraction to the entire protest. During this time, the Police from the state were even providing security for them spurring the organisers to supply them food and drinks. The cooperation between the youths and the Police was what motivated some parents to also release their children to join their peers at the toll gate. I think this was when the governor visited them. He even danced with them for few minutes. Exploiting this convergence of the naive youths and the Police for his diabolical enterprise, Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPoB) released a video calling on his IPoB army to burn down the tollgate, Oriental Hotel (erroneously believing it belongs to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu ), some houses in Lekki and state facilities. This was when the infiltrators smuggled themselves into the midst of the flenjoring youths. At this point, the state security had been alerted to the danger of allowing the innocent ones to continue to use the place for any open entertainment. They were telling the youths about the infiltrators in their midst but they would not listen thinking it was a strategy to get them off the tollgate. I am waiting for Chinedu (Labour Party’s governorship candidate, Gbadebo Patrick Chinedu Rhodes-Vivour) to deny the fact that as an IPoB commander, he and his boys were not at the tollgate to enforce Kanu’s directive. Before the release of Kanu’s video, all activities were restricted to the tollgate by the organisers. But immediately the video was released, all hell was let loose with the IPoB Army burning about 500 BRT buses all around Lagos. They even touched some parts  of TVC before the Police got there. I admit that the coordination between the Army and the Police was unprofessional hence the shooting of some innocent youths not having anything to do with the escalating violence. But I will still hold IPoB responsible for the escalation. If Chinedu or Gbadebo or Patrick knows he deserves to be the governor of Lagos State, let him issue a widely circulated statement denying his membership of IPoB and condemning its activities. A member of an organisation already labelled a terrorist group does not deserve to be the governor of a peaceful state like Lagos. This is what all the youths that participated in the peaceful #ENDSARS protest should demand from him before they can  extend the #ENDSARS goodwill to him. There must be peace in our land,  and in Nigeria. The issue has gone beyond the name of the father or the origin of the mother now. It is about the IPoB connection and the danger it poses to our collective existence.

4. Tangential to this is the nature and character of the administrative structure and profile of Lagos State since it was founded in 1967. Between 1967 and 2023, Lagos has been ruled by 15 different governors with the military establishment supplying nine, while the political corporation (I almost wrote “corruption”) has supplied only six in the 56-year history of the state. The military produced Mobolaji Johnson, Adekunle Lawal, Ndubuisi Kanu, Ebitu Ukiwe, Gbolahan Mudasiru, Mike Akhigbe, Raji Rasaki, Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Buba Marwa. The political class was represented by Lateef Jakande, Michael Otedola, Bola Tinubu, Raji Fashola, Akinwunmi Ambode, Jide Sanwo-Olu. It seems the democratic rule we started enjoying since 1999 has affected our psyche as we have all relapsed into some form of amnesia by not remembering that under the military, Lagos and the ambience of its land was an incurable attraction to the military brass . The damage done to the Lagos territory by the military was of unprecedented trajectory. As far back as 1970, Johnson publicly screamed: “Lagos is not a no man’s land”. Only God knew what informed the outburst 53 years ago. Why are we all thinking of Lagos as one fiefdom ruled from ancient days by one Kabiyesi with immortal existence? The 15 different governors of Lagos State did not operate with one vision and from one vision. Most of them, including those who had never visited Lagos before their posting, came with an operational manual to govern the state, according to antecedents or precepts. Some came to forge unity, others came to force unitary. Some came to preach accommodationism; others came to disrupt its diversity. Some came to protect its heritage; others came to dilute its ancestry. There was no common vision as a result of the plurality and divergence of the assorted humanity that have transversed its political landscape. My overall view on this is that the contributions of these 15 governors – dead or alive – should not be expunged or forgotten when discussing the trajectory of the Lagos tragedy.

5. My next submission is somehow related to the one I just raised. One man that has received unparalleled bashing and flagellation on the Lagos crisis is Tinubu. The accusations against him are more than what Jesus faced before Pilate. Let’s list them out: Ruling Lagos like a conquered colony or family empire. Imposing non-indigenes as governors. Installing Obas who are selling precious land to the Igbo; specifically they mentioned the Oba of Lagos, the Oniru and the Elegushi, among others. Donating cabinet positions to the Igbo who have no political value and relevance. They are talking about Ben Akabueze and Joe Igbokwe. Snubbing indigenes in state appointments. Running All Progressives Party (APC) like a one-man party. And the list is endless. Let me see if I can defend him on some of these weighty allegations. So that you can understand my sentiments, let me first disclose that I was his Special Assistant for eight years when he was the governor of Lagos State. I will try to be as fair as I can to him and to the public.

Did Tinubu rule Lagos like a family empire? I cannot claim to know all the members of his family but I know some of them very well. His first son, Jide, is now dead. His first daughter, Sade; and his son, S’eyi. Gboyega Oyetola and Ibukun Fakeye. For the years I was with Tinubu, none of these people held any political positions in government. Jide would hang around the governor’s office for hours before he could see his father. And their meetings were always very brief – 10 to 15 minutes. At a stage, the father stopped him from coming to the office to discuss private matters. Sade and S’eyi knew their father didn’t like them coming to the office so they stayed away. Oyetola, yes the same Oyetola of Osun State, had his own private business. Most times, the two of us would talk and there would be no need to see Tinubu again. Fakeye was only coming for approval for a golf course project he was interested in. I knew the pressure he mounted on his brother but despite that, he didn’t get the kind of privileged treatment he wanted for the project. He started working on the approval since 2002 but he didn’t get it until 2017 or thereabouts. Do all these scenarios show how an emperor treats members of his immediate family?

 6. The second accusation: Imposing non-indigenes as governors of the state.

We have only had three governors after Tinubu: Fashola, Ambode and Sanwo-Olu. I know there was no rumpus about Fashola’s status as an indigene. It was only Ambode and Sanwo-Olu whose indigeneship status was queried. They said they are from Ondo and Ijebu respectively. Even Sanwo-Olu ‘s matrilineal connection with Lagos did not appease them. But were these two people imposed on the state? Nope. Ambode went through the most competitive primary I have ever seen in contemporary politics. He defeated Supo Sasore (sponsored by Fashola) and Kadri Obafemi Hamzat (independent candidate). I have said it before that I knew how Ambode emerged. I will talk about it briefly here. When some aspirants protested the choice of Fashola in 2006, I was involved in all the peace meetings. The common refrain by the aggrieved politicians at every meeting was that Fashola was not a politician. Cornered by the genuineness of their claim, Tinubu told them to bring one person from their group for the party to choose between the two. That was the end of that protestation. The politicians failed to agree on who to choose. So, when I went to Tinubu in May 2014 to know who will succeed Fashola, he confided in me that his choice was Ambode, the former Accountant General of the state. I reminded him of the trouble he went through with the politicians when he picked Fashola as his own successor. He replied: I have my reasons. At that time, I was writing a syndicated column for The Nation, THISDAY and Sun. I asked him: “Oga, can I break this news in my column”. He said why not. And I did on 4 May 2014. When there was rumour that he had changed his mind, I went to him again to confirm. This time he now told me his reasons for the choice. He said: “Since 1999, two moslems had  been governors. How about the Christians? Secondly, when Obasanjo seized our allocation, was it not this same technocrat that helped me to pay workers salary”? I reflected these two reasons in the 4 May piece titled: BRF’s Successor: Is Ambode The Final Choice?” Despite his support for Ambode, he still allowed Fashola to bring his own candidate (Sasore) and he still allowed Hazmat to contest as well. Thank God, he didn’t go to Onikan Stadium during the primary. Nobody could accuse him of any interference. He was at the Lagos House and some of us were with him in the house monitoring the activities at the stadium. Why did he now stop Ambode for going for second term? I am sorry, I didn’t discuss that with him. All I can say is that, in 2019, he replaced a technocrat with a technocrat and a Christian with a Christian.

To the third accusation, there is no need to deny the obvious. He practically and personally installed these three monarchs in their respective domains. But the salient truth is that these three were from the royal families. Akiolu, who retired from the Police as Assistant Inspector General in 2002, is from a Lagos ruling house. Saheed Elegushi (the Elegushi) who succeeded his late father was Tinubu’s personal assistant. He may not be directly under me, but he was my subordinate in the Governor’s office. Gbolahan Lawal (the Oniru) too was Tinubu’s ADC. His own selection was more controversial because it was his mother that is from the Oniru family. We can argue for and against whether it was proper for Tinubu to have usurped the function of the Ifa. But we all know that in contemporary Obaship succession, the voice of man is the voice of Ifa. Other compelling factors have silenced Ifa in the selection of candidates for Obaship stool. It means that if Tinubu did not do it, some other influential forces could have done it. Are these three Obas selling land to Omo Igbo? I am not in the position to know this because I don’t indulge in town planning sobolesan.

7. As for putting the Igbo in his cabinet, for a man who knew he was going to contest for the Presidency someday, I don’t think it was a bad calculation. It was a perfect political investment . If he made any move different from this, it would have worked against him in Imo and Ebonyi States where he secured reasonable votes that formed part of his majority votes. Yes, I agree with those who said he should have picked Igbo with political relevance and value. Both Igbokwe and Akabueze are from Anambra State where APC suffered collosal electoral defeat. The two of them have been in government of Lagos State and and at the federal level (courtesy of Tinubu for almost 20 years), yet what they have to show for the investment in them are zero political returns and electoral deficit.

8. Finally, snubbing indigenes in state appointments. This is not correct. He didn’t snub indigenes. When Tinubu was governor, we had substantial representation in his government. We had Chief Tunde Badmus from Ọjọ, the late Prof. Kunle Lawal, Kaoli Olusanya, Tayo Kasali, Leke Pitan, Tunde Samuel, Yemi Cardoso, Femi Pedro, Tunji Bello, Kayode Anibaba, Sunny Àjọṣe, Yakub Balogun, Tunde Fashola, Joke Orelope, Muiz Banire, Hakeem Gbajabiamila, Saka Senayon, Jide Idris, Kemi Nelson, Tẹju Phillips, Abiola Johnson, Tunde Balogun, Musiliu Obanikoro, Segun Dawodu. The three of us in the Governor ‘s office are indigenes: Dapo Thomas, Folarin Coker and Elegushi. The non-indigenes included Dele Alake. Though Dele is from Ekiti State, his father’s house in Somolu is more than 70 years old. His father was one of the foremost private school proprietors in Lagos State. His school, Benevolent High school off Nathan Street, Surulere, should also be up to 70 years. Yemi Osinbajo, Femi Lanlehin, Prof. Idowu Sobowale, Rauf Aregbesola, Wale Edun and Akabueze. I don’t regard this as snubbing. For a man who had been praying and planning to become the President of Nigeria, the tokenism allotted to non-indigenes is of no serious infraction to the protesting indigenous population.

9. Running APC like a one-man party. What happened during the party’s 8 June 2022 primary election had shown that this is not true. Until the result was announced, Tinubu was not sure where the pendulum would swing. If it was true that he was running it like a one-man party, he didn’t need to be at the mercy of President Muhammadu Buhari and the cabal. Till now, people are still praying for him. I am sure he is praying for himself too. If APC is being run like a one man party, then it must be the cabal that are in charge not Tinubu. That was why he announced to the cabal openly that it was his turn. The confusion within the party, which has fragmented it, was the product of internal power struggle among so many cabals scrambling for power in order to protect undisclosed interests. As it was at the national level, so it is at the state and local government levels.

In conclusion, those of us who are stakeholders in the Lagos project must have received some take-aways in Lasisi’s piece and some few things to ponder on in this piece too as we go to the polls on Saturday. When we have finally chased away the sparrow, we shall then attend to the incorrigible chickens in our midst.

Thomas, an international scholar, is a lecturer at the Department of History and International Studies, Lagos State University. He was an aide to the Governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007

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