By Chukwudi Nweje The Nigerian Third Force Movement has rolled out its action plan for the 2019 general elections. Prominent members of the group include former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Charles Soludo, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Olisa Agbakoba, Tafawa Balewa, and Prof. Pat Utomi….
Last week, the newspapers reported the statement of Lagos State governor, Mr Akinwumi Ambode while responding to questions bordering on his stewardship. Specifically, journalists wanted to know why nothing had been done on the road to the gateway into and out of the country, the road leading to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) from the Oshodi end, since it had been budgeted for by the state.
One would want to ask; why was the question raised in the first place? Answer to that is quite simple. The road had featured in the state’s budget and Lagos or more precisely, Governor Ambode wasn’t known to waste time where developmental projects in the state are concerned. The facts are self-evident. His giant strides within the few months of assuming duties have shown he is a man in a hurry to change the face of Lagos. His light-up Lagos projects have come to stay. Lagos inner roads have enjoyed attention which had not been the case before. Major landmarks and areas in Lagos, such as Berger, Abule-Egba are looking quite different. But I digress.
The governor responded to the inquiry by acknowledging that the state had actually captured the road in its budget and could deploy construction companies within a short period to begin work, but was unable to do so because the Federal Ministry of Works, Power and Housing had not given the signal or if you like, approval for the state to do so.
“In the spirit of the regeneration and urbanisation that this administration has set out to achieve, we believe strongly that the image that is exhumed by the decadence of that road must be repaired. We took it upon ourselves to redevelop the road…that the House of Assembly should approve the total reconstruction of the Airport Road from Oshodi to the International Airport.” It was supposed to be a 10-lane road, “with interchange and flyover that would drop you towards the Local Airport. The contractor is already set to go. Everything, as I said has been completed,” the governor explained.
That was not the only frustration of the governor, he equally lamented the non handover of the presidential lodge or State House, Marina (as it used to be called), since President Mohammadu Buhari gave his nod for the state to take over the national monument, which from my understanding was supposed to be one of the highlights of the Lagos at 50 celebration. “As we speak, nothing has been done on Mr. President’s directive. We are frustrated.
The approval of Buhari should be honoured. We believe we should take possession.” With his case made, it was not long before the minister and Ambode’s predecessor in office, Babatunde Raji Fashola (BRT) responded through his media aide. The thrust of the minister’s response was that the delay was not from him but from the Federal Executive Council (FEC) whose members are expected to deliberate on the state’s request.
“Federal Executive Council Memorandum are debated and commented upon by all members and in cases of roads, surveys, maps and other material have to be provided to assist members understand the location and connectivity of the roads, (in this case four roads), in order to assist how they vote on the Memorandum” .
On the presidential lodge, the minister said it was currently being run by the presidency and that his ministry was working with relevant security officials for the handover.
“The Presidential Lodge is a high security location and officials of the Ministry also require security clearance to enter in order to do any works.” It’s easy to gloss over the Minister’s response and assume all is well. But a closer scrutiny indicates that all is not as it seems. The response is pure obfuscation in that Nigerians or those who have been following the issues were not really informed about how long it would take for the approval to be given, if truly it had gone to FEC. Also, which are the other roads that have connection to two other states?
The only state that would likely be affected in all these is Ogun state. And since the MMIA is in no way linked to Ogun, one could only assume that the reference is to Lagos-Ibadan expressway which should be eliminated as work is presently on going, leaving three other link roads into Ogun- the Ikorodu, Epe and Lagos- Abeokuta expressway. I am at a loss as to how this would affect the International airport road which should be a major priority because of its importance.
The minister would further betray a not-so-well-hidden grouse in the way his statement was worded. Take for instance the expression, “the response is to ensure that members of the public are not misled by deliberate or inadvertent mis-statements”, “the motive behind these public accusations must therefore be scrutinized”, “equating processes to a lack of co-operation is therefore akin to creating a storm in a tea cup”. The pent up resentment, and what I would call, immaturity, also came to the fore with the statement that the two of them had only spoken once (few weeks before the media spat) since Ambode was sworn in. What was that revelation supposed to achieve? That he had issues relating with his successor?
From my understanding, what Lagos state government plans to do with the MMIA is even more ambitious in scope than the ministry’s plan. Ambode is proposing a 10-lane road to FG’s eight at a cost of N10b compared to N2b budget of the FG. That is an offer that should get accelerated hearing and be dispensed with considering Lagos’ status as the largest city in Africa and the fifth biggest economy in the continent.
No, the minister hasn’t done too well on this matter. One expects a synergy between him and Ambode to advance the cause of Lagos. Ambode is his successor and they are both in the same party. Those that have less stakes in Lagos, in the same government, are relating with the state government, seamlessly. Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed has been able to get Lagos state to take up the National theatre and the National Museum for renovation and face lifts befitting the status of such monuments. Likewise, the almost colorless Sports minister, Solomon Dalung is sicking the long abandoned National Stadium on Lagos state for renovation.
As a lagosian who has tremendous respect for the minister, he needs to play the role of the “elder” more, more so, his tenure has an expiry date and to Lagos, he would return…