25th March, 2016
By Tayo Ogunbiyi
While reacting to the recent clashes among some major interest groups at the Mile 12 market, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode reiterated for the umpteenth time the metropolitan nature of Lagos as a melting point of various ethnic groups in the country. The Governor used the occasion to reaffirm the multi-ethnic and multi cultural composition of Lagos. He said: “Let me assure Lagosians that the state is home to every tribe and ethnic group and nobody should give this disturbance any ethnic coloration whatsoever. We are all brothers in Lagos and it shall continue to be like that”.
Ambode’s position is, of course, a true reflection of the spirit of Lagos. Lagos has always been home to all. Subsequent administrations in the State, especially since the dawn of the present political dispensation, have gone to limitless length to preserve the multi-ethnic status of Lagos. Indeed, the relative peace that has been in existence in the State, over the years, is a manifestation of the unrelenting efforts of the State government to accommodate various interest groups in the state. On a regular basis, the State government organizes stakeholders meetings with the leaders of the ethnic/tribal communities in the state to rub mind together on how to make Lagos a better place for all. Specifically, the State government has a healthy relationship with the various ethnic and tribal groups in the state. The result of this robust relationship is the atmosphere of peace and harmony that currently reign in the State.
Without a doubt, Lagos has continued to show the way forward in its commitment to an indivisible Nigeria where no one is denied of opportunities for self actualization on mundane considerations. The state’s primary, secondary and tertiary health facilities and, indeed, other such infrastructure remain accessible to all Nigerians without any discrimination. Through the instrumentality of the State Security Trust Fund, the State government has continued to ensure the safety and security of every Lagos Resident. The public primary and secondary schools in the state have continued to open their doors to all Nigerian, irrespective of tribal and ethnic affiliations. Since the inception of the now popular Spelling Bee competition, among public secondary schools in the state, the thirteen winners that have emerged as ‘One Day Governors’ sufficiently demonstrate the cosmopolitan nature of the state’s public schools. A breakdown of the thirteen ‘One Day Governors’ that have so far emerged reveals that seven are of Yoruba origin, two are from Edo state while the remaining four are of Igbo extraction.
Realistically, the issues involved in the development and growth of Lagos State and, indeed, Nigeria transcends ethnic and religious sentiments. The brotherly love and bond that have existed between Lagos and the diverse ethnic and tribal groups in the State must not be compromised. Fifth columnists, whose major pre-occupation is to fan the ember of disaffection for self-seeking interests must not be allowed to profit, as it is their practice, from the current false campaigns. Traditionally, the hospitable disposition of Lagosians is legendary. It is a global legend that Lagosians are hospitable people who go the extra mile to accommodate visitors.
In Nigeria, Lagos remains, perhaps, the only major melting points where all Nigerians could feel at home, irrespective of ethnic and religious differences. There is no other State that has opened its doors to accommodate Nigerians of various shades as Lagos does. It has always been the tradition of successive governments in the state to accord every resident in the State equal and fair deal in the scheme of things. Everyone who resides in Lagos is traditionally referred to as a Lagosian. This is the spirit of Lagos.
It is this tradition that the current Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, has been building upon since he assumed office. Being a detribalized personality, in all the policies and programmes of his administration, Ambode is motivated by a strong desire to build a State where everyone, irrespective of ethnic, tribal, religious and other such concerns could productively earn a living in a safe and secured environment. His main goal is to leave behind a State where ethnic and tribal considerations count for nothing.
In Lagos state, excellence and competence remain major factors in the recruitment of its workforce. Apart from the Federal Civil Service, the Lagos State Public Service remains, perhaps, the only one in the country that employs people without regards to ethnic and tribal factors. Today, the state public service has in its fold Nigerians that cut across the major ethnic/ tribal divides in the country. While some states in the country employ or even retrench based on indigenization considerations, Lagos state has simply continued its policy of absorbing qualified Nigerians into its public service.
Highlighting the ethnic and tribal composition of our great country is always a hurting venture for patriotic and detribalized minds. One of the banes of the country’s march to greatness is tribalism and ethnicity. Our diverse ethnic and tribal configuration has always been a major set -back in our quest for a united, prosperous and strong nation. The truth, however, is that irrespective of religion, ethnic and other such parochial divides, what every Nigerian wants is good governance that provides the basic needs of life and not unnecessary agitations over religious and ethnic differences that serve only parochial interests.
Given the current thinking in Lagos State, it is strongly believed that all stakeholders in the state should play a major role in ensuring the full realization of the lofty policies and programmes of the State government for common good of everybody. Therefore, to further strengthen the current development strides in the State, there must be continuous constructive engagements and collaborations between all groups, interests and actors in the state. This is the only way forward. This is the spirit of Lagos.
—Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja