Once upon a time, the state was an “urban jungle”. If you wander through the noise-polluted streets, crowded with rickety commuter buses, cars, push carts and wheelbarrows, and teeming with screaming street vendors, ubiquitous market stalls around heaps of rubbish At pole height and rotting gutter seeps, you might find a human corpse or two decomposing on curbs, corners, or street intersections.
I said “on foot” because if you chose to drive, you could spend an entire day trying to cross a single avenue of a stretch not exceeding 500 meters. Traffic jams were as controlled as the heckling. This way, you would experience traffic hell, but you wouldn’t go far enough in the adventure to know what an urban jungle, screams, moans and stinks like.
Relief could come quickly, sometimes, from this suffocating crowd of people, corpses, screaming automobiles, heaps of garbage and puffs of exhaust, soot, smoke and dust; it could happen when a truckload of armed robbers makes its usual visit to your side of town, shoots vultures on the rooftops and pandemonium happens, and the crowd flees and the next moment , the roads cleared up like magic. And shops and their guards are robbed, cars that collide in panic and get stuck have had their trapped drivers robbed or killed.
But for a slowed-down moment, you’ll have relative calm, as peddlers, kids, and policemen disappear on a forced break. Thieves are generally not so loud; they just wave their guns and shoot to kill as a deterrent. You will have peace in this cemetery until the thieves leave and the mourners take over. And the shopkeepers return, and the motorists honk their horns to jostle each other to escape, and the corpses and the heaps of rubbish find their living and living neighbors.
Lagos State was such an urban jungle in 1999. Then President Olusegun Obasanjo called Lagos that (I didn’t) to spite those who ruled there. It was then that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu had just taken the direction of Lagos. It was then Lagos. Talk about dysfunction, despair and chaos. Then ask the residents about despair.
Do any of these sounds sound familiar to you? Do we have a model to look at Nigeria today or not? Take your pick of descriptive words for security nightmare, economic desperation, and existential dismay.
Like Nigeria today, this jungle – it was Lagos – had serious and serious income problems. It had a population of over 6 million, lacked everything it lacked but only generated internal revenue of 600,000 naira per month, 7 million naira per year, which was ruthlessly gobbled up month by month by a civil service that was stuck with an “unexplainable”. “Salary system. Financially, Lagos was bankrupt, insolvent; successive military governments were content to be able to pay the salaries of government employees and hobbled with the status quo.
Tinubu fixed and modernized the mechanics of the Lagos Treasury. He established a cohesive and integrated revenue management system and development plan such that successive administrations could easily monitor, manage and improve the flow of revenue into the Lagos State coffers as well as follow a plan to add milestones to economic and infrastructural development. in an organized and lasting order. Lagos has gone from 600,000 naira per month in 1999 to 45 billion naira per month today, about 14.6 billion naira per year in 1999, up to 83 billion naira in 2007 and 550 billion naira today today, an increase of 7,400%. A revolution has happened.
Just as Nigeria has recklessly remained a monolithic economy for decades, depended on oil and still depends on it to fund its budget today and has consequently reeled from economic downturn to recession to instability or the other , Lagos – like most states – once depended on federal allocation to meet its financial, social service and development obligations. Tinubu, as governor, had just established additional local councils in the state and Obasanjo ordered him to rescind it or forfeit the federal allocation of funds to the Lagos LGAs. Tinubu wouldn’t; he was anyway done with the reliance of the state on external subsidies.
Tinubu has dared and weaned Lagos from dependence on monthly federal allowances from Abuja. His administration funded 57 Lagos LGs and LSDAs throughout his two terms as governor. Lagos continued to fare better than many other states economically. In relative terms, Lagos has even performed better than Nigeria in terms of growth and GDP indices while being so starved of funds allocated by the federal government.
The model that resulted from Tinubu’s governance restructuring still works the magic for Lagos. Lagos is financially viable, generating more than 75% of its revenue independently of federal subsidies from oil revenues. It is on the backbone of a functional, modern and accountable financial system, managed by a highly skilled and motivated civil service, that the state has risen to become the fifth largest economy in Africa. Imagine if all the states of the federation were inspired and motivated from the center in a competition on par with the experience of Lagos. This is the kind of economic revolution that we Nigerians should look forward to beyond 2023.
After the mobilization of revenues, comes the desire to transform the “urban jungle” into a modern, clean and prosperous state. Tinubu had used new measures to improve service delivery and system efficiency in the state public sector. He was ready to take on the challenges of forging order out of absolute disorder in the affairs of Lagos State.
The urban jungle breathes because no one obeys the traffic rules; the roads were in disrepair; laws were ignored, whether those regulating the collection and disposal of garbage, the payment of tariffs and taxes, or the approval of plans and building permits. While reorganizing other relevant agencies, Tinubu created new ones like Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS), Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) and Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA). Their duties were as essential as they were labor intensive so that Tinubu could absorb tens of thousands of unemployed youths, removing them from the streets where some had added to the threat of insecurity.
In other words, Tinubu was cleaning up Lagos and restoring order through these agencies, and at the same time creating thousands of much needed jobs; that was not all, these agencies were becoming big sources of revenue for Lagos State. We are getting more physical development for Lagos, more jobs for the people and more revenue for the state. This is the kind of social engineering and economic ingenuity that Nigeria cannot afford to ignore today.
Tinubu established the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) and introduced the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system to transform public transport in Lagos State. Five years into his administration, Tinubu had completed and commissioned 308 road projects out of 422 awarded contracts. Lagos was irreversibly gaining in urbanity and sophistication after losing the “jungle” characteristic. Tinubu quickly completed the modernization and renewal of the Lagos Island Central Business District Roads Project to give the state’s crucial economic area a new lease of life: roads and sidewalks, traffic lights and markers, facilities modern drainage systems and public lighting.
The same Tinubu administration, in 2006, signed concession agreements that gave birth to Eko Atlantic City, a man-made city built on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean, which now protects Victoria Island and parts of Lekki from a new erosion. In the same year 2006, he also signed the partnership agreements that gave birth to the Lekki Free Zone Development Company to manage the Lekki Export Free Zone, where today Dangote Refineries and Petrochemicals – the largest from Africa. The area has, under construction, an international airport, a deep-water port and is supposed to become the “largest job creation area in all of West Africa”. It’s the definition of having enough vision to secure prosperity for generations to come. Nigeria is ready for such a visionary.
The same Tinubu threw his hat into the ring. He made public promises on tackling our chronic power and energy crisis and promised to secure Nigeria and its impending prosperity. He wants work to rule Nigeria: same man, same purpose, same intention and same call, but different specimen and time. That was Lagos in 1999, now it’s Nigeria in 2023. I lived in the urban jungle and now I thrive in the modern megalopolis of Lagos. My heartfelt appeal to you Nigerians: employ this man. He has a will of steel, an unrivaled passion for success, a sharp head for innovation, is practiced and fully developed in the act of fixing the jungles of a social, economic and political nature. And he has his proven ways.
This article was to focus on Nigeria’s prospects for macroeconomic health and prosperity, overall development and the eradication of extreme poverty. I wanted to refrain from adding to the praise of Tinubu’s courage, democratic principles, charitable nature and the rest. But after his achievement in the just-concluded APC presidential primaries, referencing Asiwaju’s political acumen has become too tempting. He got 1,271 votes where his closest rival got 316 votes. Such a mass of support only confirmed one thing: that Tinubu enjoys cross-regional support and has built bridges between the multicultural people of Nigeria.
Such an extensive support base will come in handy when he tackles head-on our intractable security issue, which is a symptom.
Hon. David, Chairman, House Committee on Information, Strategy and Security, Lagos State House of Assembly wrote from Lagos.