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Reminiscing, Akinwunmi Ambode, celebrates 47 years of the creation of Lagos
Reminiscences! As the good and great people of Lagos State celebrate the 47th Anniversary of its historic creation today, waves of nostalgia sweep yours truly from the vast Atlantic Ocean, through the lagoons across the famed Victoria Island to the modern mainland. How old was one then? Just four years.
Yet, one has grown up to share in the proud and rich heritage of Lagos state as bequeathed by the founding fathers whose verdant vision has transformed it into a social melting pot for the Nigerian nation. That is, irrespective of differences in race and religion, gender or geo-political nuances.
Having since assumed the pedigree as the commercial nerve centre of the entire West African Sub-region, with the ever-busy ports as the catalyst, the story of Lagos cannot be told without recourse to the worthy progenitors.
Historically, the geographic boundary was known as the Mainland. Lagos Island, the seat of the Oba then consisted of farms and fishing posts. Beyond the Portuguese’s early influence, the line of the Kings was a noble one.
From Ashipa (1600-1630) through King Ado (1630-1669) down the lineage of Kings Gabara, Kekere to the famed King Kosoko (1845-1851), Dosunmu the great to Adeniji Adele, the revered Oba Adeyinka Oyekan 11 (1965-2003) and the respected Oba Rilwan Akiolu 1 (2003 till date) Lagos has always presented a vast vista of a land of limitless possibilities and home of peace and plenty for all. Here, indeed several nebulous dreams have found their voice and vision, and will continue to do.
Great women and men, including Madam Tinubu of blessed memory as the leader of the market women played a prominent role in ensuring that Lagos remains a reference point in commercial activities and that the voice of the women was heard.
It was such that the English and American press who visited Nigeria in January, 1956 with Queen Elizabeth saw a Lagos, as symbolic of the nation, described as ‘bright, jovial where mud huts and shanties mixed with modern buildings of striking grace and beauty’(New York Herald). But Nigeria is nevertheless ‘an optimistic and happy land’ (Time Magazine.)
Lagos would however, remain the symbol of political re-engineering and the cradle of nationalism. Here, the first most popular political party, Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) was formed by Herbert Macaulay in 1922. Described as ‘one of the most versatile intellects produced by the 19th century Nigeria’, and called the Defender of Native Liberties, Macaulay was the rallying point for the doctors, lawyers, landlords and market women.
According to Mokwuko Okoye, ‘Lagos was able to dominate provincial Nigeria as Paris dominated the 18th and 19th century France.’
While the Sir Hugh Clifford Constitution of 1923 provided for four elected members with three for Lagos and one for Calabar, the NNDP did capture the three Lagos seats in the Legislative Council. And it continued to dominate Lagos politics for some 20 years with great minds in its ranks such as Dr. Adeniyi Jones, Eric Moore, Karim Kotun and Adeyemo Alakija
Lagos it was again that became the epicentre of the struggle for nationalism with the return to the country of patriots such as Professor Eyo Ita, and Nnamdi Azikiwe in the early 30s. Eventually, they saw to the formation of the Nigerian Youth Movement in 1934. Prominent as members were Dr.J.C. Vaughan, Ernest Ikoli, Samuel Akinsanya and H.O. Davis as the moving spirits. Their struggle was for Nigeria’s political independence as did the then newly formed, Chief Awolowo-inspired Egbe Omo Oduduwa.
Between then and now, Lagos has thrived economically under its leaders, starting from the tenure of Brigadier Gen. Mobolaji Johnson, Late Comm. Adekunle Lawal, Comm. Ndubusi Kanu, Comm. Ebitu Ukiwe, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, Late Comm. Gholahan Mudasiru, Navy Capt.Late Okhai Mike Akhigbe, Brigadier Gen. Raji Rasaki, Late Sir Michael Agbolade Otedola, Col. Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Brig. Gen. Muhammed Buba Marwa, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to the present administration of Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN).
In all, the thirteen of them have made tremendous contribution to the evolution of Lagos State at one point or the other. Equally worthy of mentioning are Alhaji Femi Okunnu, Alhaji H.A.B. Fasinro, Chief F.C.O. Coker, Chief Molade Okoya Thomas, among others made Lagos tick.
In fact, Jakande’s administration was particularly unique. He introduced housing and educational programs targeted at alleviating poverty. He built new neighborhood primary and secondary schools even as it provided free education for these two tiers. He established the Lagos State University and constructed over 20,000 housing units, all built cheaply and of great value.
After the military interregnum came one of the symbols of the democratic struggle, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the governor. The man hugely respected as the pathfinder of modern Lagos came with a vision to transform the political and socio-economic landscape of Lagos for good. Did he succeed? Of course, yes.
When he promised 10,000 housing units during the campaigns he delivered. During his eight-year eventful period, he made massive investments in the fields of infrastructural development, education and primary health care delivery.
Beyond the construction of new set of roads to meet the growing demands of an exploding population, he brought administrative restructuring in several areas such as security, LASTMA, waste disposal system, LAWMA as well as the Rapid Response Squad to effectively contain crime and criminality within the metropolis.
It was such that brought in his successor, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) who has gone ahead to build worthy legacies for all to be proud of. With a vision to transform Lagos to a megalopolis, his administration has brought to bear sanity in virtually all the areas of the economy.
From tremendous infrastructural development of long lasting roads and drainages, education, healthcare delivery, urban transportation and waste management, he stands head and shoulders above his peers.
Having been in a vantage position to work with the last two governors for thirteen years, I conclude this piece as I share with you all one lesson I learnt from serving under them by using the football anecdote. My two former bosses, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) are both great supporters of Manchester United, while I, their ward, a Chelsea fan.
I have come to regard Asiwaju as the "special one" because, like the famous bearer of that title, Chelsea manager Jose Mourino, he laid the solid foundation for the evolution of modern Lagos. Like ‘Mourinho’ he has the vision and the winning formulae. In May, 2003, at his inaugural speech for his second term in office, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu declared that “we will build with vigor on foundation laid in the first term until the momentum of positive change becomes forever irreversible in Lagos State”.
But the special one needs a special manager and an ebullient visionary to accomplish the goals. If Lagos State were Manchester United, His Excellency, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) is the quintessential and indefatigable Alex Ferguson. He brought in his Midas touch in all facets of governance to actualise that positive change in the development and growth of Lagos State.
So, where does that leave me, their student? I learnt first that in any club managed by these two managers, there is no room for a Davis Moyes. And I pledged to myself that if I am ever entrusted with the responsibility of administering a football club, I will name it CHELSEA UNITED, if just to assure my two bosses that I learnt from their different but complementary styles in building and running a formidable team.
As Lagos turns fifty in the next three years therefore, the future beckons on whoever would take over the baton in the relay of enduring people-friendly policies to solidify and build on these worthy legacies.
-Ambode is a former Accountant-General of Lagos