Lagos, the crowded and sleepless city in the West Coast of Africa, made up of Islands and an exhausted mainland is the former capital of the Federal Republic of Nigeria-the most populous country of the black race. Of course, it has long lost that enviable position to Abuja, but it remains the commercial nerve-centre of Nigeria. What this means is that anything that does not sell in Lagos would hardly sell in any other part of Nigeria: anything including intelligence and stupidity that cannot find relevance in Lagos may be irrelevant in any other part in Nigeria; any issue that does not originate in Lagos might not be discussed by the nation’s philosophers; anyone that is not crowned in Lagos would find it difficult to find a national kingdom in Nigeria. Lagos is Nigeria’s dictionary and encyclopedia. Lagos is Lagos and it is a wine that makes those who drink it to believe that Nigeria is Lagos and Lagos is Nigeria.
By all standards and tools of assessment, Lagos is the busiest city in Africa. It might not have the size of a Cairo or the beauty of a Johannesburg or a Pretoria but it is compensated with a volume of human energy than any other city on the continent. Lagos is host to some of the most energetic and creative but unemployed individuals in the world. Every Nigerian dreams of Lagos first before heaven. The average Nigerian believes Lagos to be the minting press for the illusive naira. With the exception of the politicians in Abuja and the coterie of civil and public servants across the country that have direct access to the till of the nation, the average Nigerian believes the seed of his or her riches is planted in Lagos. Lagos has accordingly acceded to a Babel of anxious, disappointed, frustrated, desperate, cunning individuals with wild survival instincts. Keeping Lagos fit for the modern disciplined and rule-oriented man is therefore an exercise that would task the best of men. If not for the fear of blasphemy and the rebuke of the holy ones, I would have been tempted to say that the job of shepherding Lagos is as difficult as the job of returning man to God. Whereas the saints are leaving man to his freedom of choice (the choice to follow the path of righteousness or wickedness), the Devil does not gamble with Lagos: it ties the city to its apron and walks about with it twenty-four hours of the day. This is the reason why you see crime and immorality tattooed on the forehead of the typical Lagos resident-that specie of the human race that nature has wickedly abandoned to the elements.
But my worry of the day is not about the jobless and hungry Lagosian. It is not about the plague or menace of prostitution that is killing the night life of a married Lagosian. It is not about the smuggler and the conniving customs official who cheat the nation by the minute. It is not about the fraudster or 419er who is disparaging the country to get riches that he would waste on luxury cars, exotic women and fantastic houses. It is not about the thief, the armed robber or those who make their living from dispossessing the properties and lives of others. It is not about the drug barons and peddlers. It is not about the teenage girls that have made prostitution the most patronized and lucrative business in this part of the world. It is not about that animal-specie hoping against hope that the heavens would establish a conglomerate that would absorb him and millions of others that have left their more secured environments across the country for the sea- threatened city of Lagos. It is not about the unforgivable sins continually committed against man and God by the rich Lagosian. My story is about that average-sized man with the heart of a lion and the deeds of Samson called Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu who is playing the yeoman’s job of selling modernity to good old Lagos and setting it firmly on the path of global glory and esteem.
Before going any further, I would have to make a solemn declaration that this article is not sponsored or motivated by anything other than the need to cheer those who are justifying democratic rule and are restoring hope to a nation that is abstracted to failure and misrule. Eulogizing a topnotch politician in this political make or mar year has its inherent hazards. But I am willing to follow my heart on this matter. Lagos was up to 1999 considered to be an ‘undevelopable’ city. Its chaotic population and obscure growth pattern scared even addicted optimists. First time visitors wonder whether a zoo can ever be worse off than Lagos. The world’s record books talk about a dirty, unplanned and bizarre city with men of high and active libidos that are capable of turning it into one of the most populated cities of the 21st Century.
Although Tinubu elicited high political expectations, not many looked into the direction of his embarking on modernizing Lagos. But like the shock of a parent who is just hit by the fact that little Johnny has grown into a full-grown man, so has the realization of Lagos’ hit me. Perhaps the long Christmas holidays that dovetailed into the Muslim holidays opened my eyes to what Tinubu has been doing in Lagos. The holidays obviously reduced the human and vehicular traffic and afforded one the opportunity to see Tinubu’s efforts in the reconstruction and beautification of Lagos State. It could also be that the holidays gave one ample time to walk round many places in Lagos. The fact that between 1999 and to date the SilverBird Galleria, the City Mall and the Palm have joined Cash N’ Carry`, Rocky Plaza, Park N’ Shop and Mega Plaza in providing modern shopping malls for Lagosians hit me in a very pleasant way. Driving on the streets of Victoria Island, seeing how streets like Adeola Odeku and almost all major other streets on Victoria Island are wearing distinctive modern looks, brought home the edifying fact that someone somewhere is working earnestly to make Lagos have a feel of modernity. It became unmistakable that someone is almost defying the laws of nature by bringing sanity and decorum to good old Lagos.
To cynics who may be reluctant to give Tinubu his due, he has no choice but to work overtime to enable him and perhaps the (erstwhile?) AD to keep Lagos. They would say that not even a politically naïve person will allow Lagos and its huge economy, which could equal the combined economic strength of several other states, to slip away to the hands of the rapacious People’s Democratic Party. From this perspective therefore, what Tinubu is doing is a political lifesaver. It is in his interest and in some respect, in the interest of what is left of AD to manage the extensive resources of the state prudently. With Ogunlewe (PDP’s arrowhead in Lagos) lurking around the corner and squalling about every little misdeed of Tinubu, it is imperative that Tinubu goes the extra kilometre to please Lagosians who in the main constitute the most sensitive electorate in the country.
Reducing the exemplary efforts of Tinubu to such mundane survivalist instincts is to say least an unkind cut on democracy. In the first place anybody that lived or had visited Lagos before Tinubu’s tenure would realize that the progressive modernization of Lagos is a result of hard and well reasoned work. It is an indication that all is not lost and that very soon the privileged young men adorning the political cloaks of the nation would realize that the destiny of the most populous black nation in the world is in their hands and therefore must brace up to face history with pride and dignity.
From what Tinubu is doing with Lagos it is certain that he is a good manager, user, protector and projector of power. He exemplifies the generation of politicians that realize that Nigeria has a lot of catching up to do. He is himself a political dividend impacting the polity with a dynamic and revolutionary vision. Tinubu (I am told) believes in and works with knowledgeable experts who are themselves anxious to secure a space in tomorrow’s politics. I am also told that he empowers these young women and men adequately and that it is the combined output of his team that is making the wonders in Lagos. If the Tinubu metaphor survives 2007 and stays around with us for a handful of years, Lagos and indeed hardworking Lagosians would board the global train of sustained development and growth. It is because of this that I wish Tinubu and his team of technocrats a prosperous and revitalized 2006.