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Leadership transition: The Lagos example



By Anthony Opara


Lagos state is about the most viable state among the thirty states of the Nigerian federation and this is not just because of her population or the fact that it was a former federal capital for many years and as such hosted  most federal government parastatals as well as companies within the state.  I have for sometime watched political developments in the state and can argue that the most potent force that has made the state first among equals is its political developments  The state is about the most stable state in terms of change of batons at the level of governorship.

At the advent of the nascent democracy, Lagos state elected  the Alliance for Democracy (AD) into government with Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu as Governor.  Tinubu can largely be credited with the political development of the state and the development of leaders some of which have now been been ‘lent’ to the nation.  The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo was Attorney General and  Commissioner for Justice in Lagos state just as the current Minister of Housing, Power and Works Fashola (SAN) was a former Chief of Staff to Tinubu as well as Governor of Lagos  State.

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was Governor for two terms or eight years and it was in the course of his tenure the current spate of infrastructural development of the state commenced.  He changed the face of Lagos Island and Ikoyi such that if you visit the Island now you will notice discernible infrastructural development with the roads well tarred.  Roads in the Iba area which hosts the State University were also given serious face lift.  Tinubu did not shy away from developing the Lagos State University (LASU) to make it equal if not better than some first generation universities.  Most of the tertiary institutions in the state gained from the Tinubu administration.

Tinubu would also be credited the standard in the change of guard in the leadership of the state civil service.  He adopted a system whereby the most senior in line assumes the position of Head of Service on the retirement of the Head of Service without rancor and this has helped the state civil service for productivity. Its is same in the judiciary.  The most senior judge takes over upon the retirement of the state Chief Judge and this did not change even when two sisters were appointed Chief Judge one after the other because of this seniority clause.  There is no politics in the appointment of a state Chief Judge for the state. Lagos seem to be blessed with good heads even when under military rule.  There have been occasions when state Chief Judges were not indigenes of Lagos state but jurists who worked in the state judiciary so when its thehir turn by seniority to become Chief Judge they are not denied the position.

Leadership development commenced with the Tinubu administration which continued when Fashola became Governor. Its is said especially in football that you don’t change a winning team.  There were many politicians who lined up to take over from Tinubu at the end of his tenure but he chose to support Fashola for the top job and convinced the party to support him and there was a smooth transition.  Perhaps Tinubu having worked closely with Tinubu who was his Chief of staff in his last tenure was before then a practicing lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to booth. Political commentators believed that Tinubu had tested Fashola and found him capable.  Olalekan Olaniyi told the Difference Newspaper  that nobody can fault Tinubuon recruiting best hands for the job. Tinubu it was who was the first Governor to appoint non indigenes and non Yoruba’s into his government once he believes the individual can perform.  Mr Olaniyi further stated that when Tinubu commenced the Spelling Bee contest which gave the winner the opportunity to be Governor for a day symbolically, many thought it was just to build a good media image for himself but over the years these one day Governors have gone on life to make remarkable progress in their callings in life and the selection process was transparent throwing non indigenes as winners. The Asiwaju was so proud of how these one day Governors turned out that he invited some of them to join in the campaign for the All Progressive Congress to retain the seat of power in Alausa and I daresay it worked as the party easily retained the seat.

When Fashola came on board he did not mince words in stating that he would continue in the bold steps of Asiwaju.  Fashola concentrated development mainly on the main land and if you visit places like Surulere, Mushin etc you will notice that there was careful planning and execution of infrastructural development and development of housing for the people which Tinubu also commenced.

Fashola also continued in the leadership recruitment style commenced by Tinubu such that non indigenes are found in government adding their mettle in the development of the state. Adeniyi Ojo, a politician in the state urged other states to emulate Lagos state in the development and recruitment of leaders. He stated that Lagos state has exported some of the trained leaders to the other states adding that the Governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola was a Commissioner under Tinubu in the state.

There have also most significantly been other individuals who represented Lagos at the House of Representatives who are running to be Governors in their own states. A member of the House of Representatives, representing Lagos State, James Abiodun Faleke, recently almost became the Governor of Kogi state.  He was Deputy to  the APC Candidate who died whilst votes where being counted but the courts decided that rather than allow his deputy complete the race the party should chose another candidate, a ruling that favoured the Current Governor Yahaya Bello who went on to become Governor and is now touted as the worst Governor in the land. As we write, a Lagos Senator, Olamilekan Adeola aka Yayi is in reckoning for the Ogun governorship.

One thing can be said for Tinubu and the leadership of his party which metamorphosed from AD to now APC, there is no overt display of tribalism when it comes to getting the best heads to deliver.  At the end of Tinubu’s tenure the Tinubu political  machinery was once again on hand to select a leader in the person of Governor Ambode who was presented to the electorate and he was voted in by the people of Lagos State.  Chinyere Akadi said that Ambode is following in the tradition of the APC and concentrating developments on areas that have not been touched by the previous administration.  Right now Epe and Ikorodu are  being given a face-lift in terms of infrastructure and in this way the state is feeling the impact of governance unlike some states where someone passing through will ask whether governance was going on in the area.

One typical example I can site is Jigawa State whose capital Dutse looks like a typical rural village in any of the states in the south east.  Political watchers have advocated that states that are not viable should be merged with more viable states and such unviable states include those who cannot pay salaries even with funds from foreign nations and entities.  Even now there are agitations for the creation of more states even when there is nothing to build the state on but politicians will continue to agitate which if you ask me is to massage their massive egos and build political empires.

Whoever wants to build any political empire should first the cost especially in terms of the viability of the state as well as wether there is a trained leadership to take on the onerous task of developing the state especially with the management of scant resources.  Lagos has shown the way. It can be done.


Strongman of Lagos politics, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu


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