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Why Lagos Deserves Continuity In 2023 – Tolu Ogunlesi



Voting wisely in the Lagos context therefore means voting for Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu; voting to preserve this accelerating momentum of Federal-State collaborative transformation (based on political and ideological alignment) that is delivering critical infrastructure and financing support for the people of Lagos State.

For the first sixteen years of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, Lagos State was in opposition to the party at the centre, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The PDP left no doubts as to its desire to take over Lagos. Thankfully, in my view, it never succeeded.

But it did succeed in holding Lagos back in many ways. For years, former President Obasanjo withheld local government funds belonging to Lagos, in clear defiance of the Supreme Court. Lagos also could not count on the much-needed federal support for some of its most important projects.

All of that changed when Lagos and Abuja aligned, in terms of party control, in 2015, for the first time in Nigerian history. In the eight years since then, we have seen a great deal of development directly attributable to this alignment. Let me highlight some of the most important ones.

The historic completion of the first phase of the Lagos Rail Mass Transit’s Blue Line, was enabled by the Federal Government, which, through the Central Bank of Nigeria, made available about N100 billion in support financing to the Lagos State Government, under the CBN’s Real Sector Support Facility—Differentiated Cash Reserve Requirement (RSSF-DCRR) Intervention Fund. Today, the Blue Line is being test-run, and Lagosians are starting to get a feel of what it means to commute within the city by modern rail.

Then there is the Red Line, also of the Lagos Rail project. The turning point for that project was the approval by the Federal Government for the Lagos Red Line to share the existing Right of Way (RoW) of the coterminous section of the new Lagos-Ibadan Rail Line. What this means is that to achieve the Red Line, Lagos now has the groundwork of the existing federal infrastructure to build on. The first phase of that Red Line, running from Oyingbo to Agbado, is now close to completion. This is the kind of approval that the PDP would never have granted an APC government in Lagos, going by their antecedents.

That’s not all. When you ride the Blue Line from Marina towards Mile 2, one of the sights along the way is the iconic National Theatre. Again, with financing (worth tens of billions of naira) made available by the Central Bank, in conjunction with the Bankers’ Committee, and in partnership with the Lagos State Government, the National Theatre is undergoing an extensive redevelopment.

Already the first phase has been completed, allowing the Theatre to host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Conference on Tourism, Culture and the Creative Industries, last November. The National Theatre is being restored to its full glory, and Lagos will benefit tremendously. When the work is completed, the grounds of the Theatre will be home to a world-class Creative Industries Park, comprising hubs for Film, Theatre, Music and IT, and creating direct and indirect economic opportunities for hundreds of thousands of young Nigerians.

One of the most important policies of the APC Federal Government is the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme, a Presidential Executive Order signed by President Buhari in 2019, which allows selected companies to invest in critical road infrastructure, in exchange for tax credits. Lagos was one of the earliest beneficiaries of this, with the concessioning of the Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki Expressway to Dangote Group, under the Scheme, for a total reconstruction; the first complete overhaul of that vital road since it was first built in the late 1970s. Dangote Group is also building, under the Scheme, an access road connecting the new Lekki Deep-Sea Port to Shagamu-Benin Expressway, through Epe; while NNPC Limited is expanding the section of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway between Agbara Junction and the Nigeria/Benin Border.

There’s also the presidential approval in 2017 for the handover of the Airport Road (connecting Apapa-Oshodi Expressway to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport) to the Lagos State Government, for reconstruction. President Buhari himself commissioned the completed project in April 2019. Today, anyone traveling from Lagos’ Islands to the Airport will recognise the huge difference the new Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki Expressway and the new Airport Expressway are making to the commuting experience.

Speaking of the Islands, the Federal Government’s Sukuk Bond programme (the first Sovereign Sukuk Bonds in the history of Nigeria, by the way) has helped finance the reconstruction of Ahmadu Bello Way, in Victoria Island.

To the East of Lagos, on the Lekki Peninsula, there is the brand-new Lekki Deep Sea Port, the most modern of its kind in Africa. Again, this is a project that was conceived in the PDP era, but that saw no real progress, until the APC took over the Federal Government. Under President Buhari, all the necessary support has been provided, including an all-important Sovereign Guarantee that gave comfort to the private investors and bankers and allowed them to finance and complete the project.

Not very far away from the new Deep-Sea Port is the site of the new Lekki International Airport, for which the State Government received federal approval also in 2022. This new Airport, the new Badagry Deep-Sea Port (also approved by the Federal Government in 2022), the Fourth Mainland Bridge and other vital infrastructure projects are all certain to receive the full support of incoming President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his administration, but only an APC administration in Lagos State can be trusted to seriously pursue implementation at the state level.

The Lagos-Ibadan Rail Line and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway are the two most important transport infrastructure projects connecting Lagos to the rest of Nigeria. Again, the APC-led Federal Government has left its indelible mark on both. The new 160-kilometre Railway Line between Lagos and Ibadan – with an extension to Apapa Port – is the first Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project in the history of Nigeria to be started and finished by the same administration.

The Buhari administration also turned the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway from a poorly-funded, ‘start-and-stop’ project under the previous administration, into a fully-funded priority project that is now very close to completion — the first total reconstruction since the road was first opened in 1978.

There are many more examples I can cite, of how the game changed for the better for Lagos the moment it became aligned with the Centre: a special federal grant at the height of COVID-19, in recognition of the fact that it was the epicentre of the pandemic; an $11 million investment in the development of a new, world-class Cancer Centre at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), among others.

With all of the above in mind, it should be very clear to anyone that Lagos staying in party alignment with the APC-led Federal Government, is the most sensible and most rewarding course of action for the next four years. A PDP or Labour Party government in Lagos at this time, will, truth be told, represent an unnecessary disruption of an alignment that has been yielding unprecedented results since 2015, and which has deepened even further since 2019.

Voting wisely in the Lagos context therefore means voting for Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu; voting to preserve this accelerating momentum of Federal-State collaborative transformation (based on political and ideological alignment) that is delivering critical infrastructure and financing support for the people of Lagos State.

Experiments are great, no doubt, but with what we know about the development trajectory of an alignedLagos, now is certainly not the time for ‘trial-and-error’ in choosing the person and the party that will administer Lagos for the next four years.


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