7th March, 2011
Since the commencement of processes leading to the coming general elections in the country, one question that must have been agitating the minds of discerning Lagosians is: does the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, have an opponent in Lagos State? In fact, is there any need for more campaigns in the state for the re-election of the present administration in the face of its monumental, eye-catching achievements in the first tenure? After all, it is a truism that one good term deserves another, and Lagos State has, indeed, enjoyed one good term of excellent governance.
Undoubtedly, many Lagosians must be taking the total and overwhelming victory of the ACN in the state for granted. And there seems to be justifiable reasons why it should be so. First, the present administration, under the leadership of Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has proved beyond measure that it can be trusted to keep promises which it has made to the electorate. In doing this, the administration has gone beyond the mandate of the people to bring Lagos into global reckoning as the fastest growing model mega-city in Africa.
Secondly, as a result of its achievements in the last four years, the present administration has set itself up as a model of good governance in Nigeria. Today, with Lagos as their point of reference, Nigerians from across the country can raise relevant questions to both federal and state governments as to why things have not been and are still not working in the country. Such questions are already being raised at both the centre and in the states.
Thirdly, even the â€˜Oppositionâ€ seems to be doing the campaign for the incumbent administration. That is the only way one could interpret the response made by the Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate in Lagos State, Mr. Adegboyega Dosunmu, during the recent debate organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) for him and his Action Congress of Nigeria counterpart, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) to a question concerning the development plans of a PDP administration in Lagos State. His response was that since government is continuity, a PDP administration would build on what it found on the ground. Interpretation 1: What is on the ground is a solid foundation to build on. Interpretation 2: We want to assist to complete the good works of the present administration. But, like former President Olusegun Obasanjo said in 2003 while campaigning for a second term, if a man has started a good job; why not allow him to complete it? If the PDP acknowledges the good works of the ACN in Lagos State, I believe the most honourable thing to do is to congratulate the party and move on.
Of course, Dosunmuâ€™s response would not be the first time the PDP has acknowledged the landmark achievements of the present administration in Lagos State under the leadership of Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN). In 2009, at the Nigeria Bar Association Conference in Lagos, the then Foreign Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, told the gathering of lawyers at the Oceanview Restaurant in Victoria Island, â€œGovernor Fasholaâ€™s style of leadership has provided a powerful example of what it means to say â€˜let your action speak for youâ€™. The Governor of Lagos State has shown that what we need to change Nigeria is that you be the change you want in the society and that it can be done. I have always told him that in my new job as Foreign Minister, he has made my job much easier for me because wherever I go, sometimes to the chagrin of PDP leaders, I say the Governor of Lagos State provides an absolute and overwhelming evidence of what leadership can achieve; the transformational possibilities of leadership. And I dare say, first and foremost now as a patriot and not as a party man or a leader, that God give us more Babatunde Fasholas for Nigeriaâ€.
Now, in analysing this statement, I have severally come to the conclusion that if Governor Fashola, the leader of just one out of the 36 states of the federation, has provided â€œan absolute and overwhelming evidenceâ€ of what leadership can achieve, an opposition would be doing a great disservice to Lagos State and, indeed, Nigeria by campaigning to replace him. Coming from a man of the stature of Chief Ojo Maduekwe, a prominent PDP leader, a three-time minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, an erudite scholar, not given to frivolities and a passionate lover of development, this statement stands out as an overwhelming evidence that the present administration in Lagos State should be encouraged (not opposed) to continue the work as a shining example to other states of the Federation.
Putting all these reasons together with the fact that the Action Congress of Nigeria is a party that has made a tremendous impact on the majority of Nigerians in so short a time, the prospect of any other party, not just the PDP, making an appreciable inroad into Lagos State is not only remote but altogether impossible. In fact, the opposition would be better advised to concentrate its attention in retaining the states currently under its custody, which it is already in danger of losing as the ACN wind of change continues to spread like wild fire across the length and breadth of this country. It is a revolution which is as forceful and powerful as that which has already overthrown some despotic governments across the world in recent times. The only difference is that while they are applying the force of arms and physical strength, we are using the time-tested weapon of democratic change â€“ the Votersâ€™ Card and the Ballot Box. It would not be far-fetched or out of turn to say that, as far as this election is concerned, Lagos State is sealed and delivered to the Action Congress of Nigeria.
But having said that, it is also true that the sealing and delivery of the state to the Action Congress of Nigeria can only be realised through physically voting for the party during the coming elections. It will be tantamount to wishful thinking if on the days of election, any supporter of the party stays at home with the thought that the others would vote for the party and claim the victory. Even as we all agree that there is overwhelming evidence that the ACN will form the next government in the state, this can only come true if Lagosians come out en masse to vote for the party.
That is why I find it necessary here to say a few things about apathy. It is a word which has found expression in the attitude of most Nigerians, especially towards matters of general interest. In its extreme sense, it is a result of intense emotional trauma. During World War 1, it was referred to as shell shock to explain the effect of bombing and machine gun fire on soldiers living in trenches at the war fronts who also witnessed the death and maiming of their colleagues. They developed a sense of numbness as a result.
Although in our case it is as a result of failed governments and failed promises, the effect is no less intense than the warfront experience of the World Wars. This is, however, most noticeable among the elite who seem to have lost faith in the government of the country. They live in the world of their own, providing their own needs, water, electricity and others which, ordinarily is the responsibility of government. So, during elections, they find it unnecessary to participate in the process. English intellectual, literary critic and writer, Cyril Connolly captured this attitude in his influential literary magazine, Horizon where he wrote, â€œSlums may well be breeding grounds of crime, but middle class suburbs are incubators of apathy and deliriumâ€.
Apathy is a virus with the capacity to devour the destiny of both an individual and a while nation. In fact, American educational philosopher and one time dean of Yale Law School put this more succinctly. He said: â€œThe death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishmentâ€. While this attitude could be excused in the past by reason of failed promises and incompetent leadership, it can no longer be excused today because change has come. The present administration in Lagos State, a government of the Action Congress of Nigeria, has provided a change. It has shown that a government can keep promises; that a government can meet the needs of the people and that the concept of the Social Contract is still alive and well. It is, therefore, time to embrace change, not only at the state, but also at the federal level in order to give the average Nigerian a new and better lease of life. Nigerians have suffered enough in the hands of those who only seek power for its sake to enrich themselves and their immediate families to the detriment of the majority of Nigerians.
However, we cannot get rid of them by wishful thinking. We can only do that by casting our votes on the election days for the Action Congress of Nigeria and the candidates of our choice. This is the only way to return this government to power come May this year. This is the only way to ensure total electoral victory for the Action Congress of Nigeria in Lagos and across Nigeria.
â€¢Durugbo is Personal Assistant (Print Media) to the Governor of Lagos State.