By Uche Mbah
Lagos has, for years now, become a classic example of a state under the grip of different political mafia groups that has been fighting over the control of its vast resources-it is by far the richest of all the states in Nigeria. With a huge war chest of internally generated revenue (it hit N103.4 billion in the first quarter of 2018, which is the combined IGR of 31 states of the Federation) and Federal Allocations (N9.1billion in March alone) it is no wonder that many who are privileged to be at the helm of affairs need only scratch the revenue by the surface to give a semblance of activity under his reign. Most people that have ruled the state make all efforts to build personal political structures that will put them at vantage point in any political negotiation.
Since the former governor, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, rode into the government house on the back of political activism, he became a formidable godfather that installs others after him. He has allegedly transformed himself into a kind of black Alphonso Capone wannabe, a real life enactment of Mario Puzo’s Godfather-and a reversal of the truism that Art Imitates Art. With him, the reversal completes the cycle: Life Imitates Art. He was said to have built a veritable empire of capital and human resources, through labyrinthine proxies. The leadership of Agberos-a local euphemism for the barely literate but vicious leadership of the transport workers union-is said to be completely under his firm control. Just like Don Cornieli, the fictitious Godfather in Puzo’s book, he survives by doing favors to those who become beholden to him.
A typical example wills suffice. The story is told of how he once saved Judge that was terminally ill and flew him overseas for treatment. The Judge was back hale and hearty, and somehow a case that he has an interest in came up in his court. The judge was said to have told him that he owes him his life and that he will do everything to help him. And he won the case.
Even if the story is not true, such is the mythical whispers under which his tale is told. Currently, it is said that all the Obas in Lagos and environs are settled via proceeds from the toll gates that generates hundreds of millions monthly. Then enter Fashola.
Babatunde Fashola’s ascendancy to the throne is said to have been reward for loyalty. When such loyalty was tested and found to be wanting, he was blacklisted and was on the way to being removed when some prominent members of the Cosa Nostra pleaded on his behalf and his sins were forgiven. He had embarked on a legacy of beautification of Lagos, built many bus terminals and brought in the Bus Rapid Transit. With all these, he was also building his own empire and structures to position himself for negotiations. And he got that when President Buhari appointed him a super Minister in what analysts referred to building alternative base that will weaken Tinubu’s influence on the South west. This has paid off: During the runoff campaign for Osun governorship election, Fashola strolled in late and was not wearing the party jacket. Tinubu has to remove the one he was wearing and gave to Fashola before an aid brought another one for him. His influence sure has become noticeable in the politics of Lagos. But Ambode has not been that lucky.
The current Lagos Governor, Akinwumi Ambode, succeeded Fashola and proceeded to dismantle all Fashola’s legacies. The decorative Masquerade trees, the bus stops-mostly dismantled and the whole of Lagos turned into a huge construction site. He was like a chicken that was scratching the ground with both legs, and was soon to hit the ground with his beak. The man called Emperor of Alausa lost the favor of the godfather. In his quest to build his own structure, he stepped on toes that even those who could have pleaded on his behalf were against him. Now he has become a one term governor.
In all these, the masses suffer. All Lagos roads are in terrible shape. Potholes and gullies have taken over the roads while endless constructions go on that makes commuting hell. Fares have skyrocketed. Indigenes are overtaxed. The Computer Village, for example, is said to remit about N2 billion every month. According to sources, anytime that government wants extra cash, they will threaten to relocate the village. Market women are over taxed by the Iyaloja, who incidentally is Tinubu’s daughter. Now government policies are decreed.
When Tinubu sleeps, Lagos has gone to bed.