Sanwo-Olu’s Dilemma and the Burden of Lagos State

by Akintokunbo Adejumo
babajide sanwoolu

“Lagos is a shameful state with a lot of “promise” because of the access to funds relative to other states. Lagos gets a lot of unnecessary commendation and not enough scrutiny. The state of finance in the state is both shameful and annoying. Government keeps quiet, citizens don’t challenge them enough and the House is seriously complicit.

Barawo at all levels – states and federal – are barawo. Why focus on only the federal? “

So wrote a friend to me on WhatsApp.

(NOTE: Most of this article is made up of comments and articles sent to me personally by friends and concerned Lagosians and then put together by me).

The truth is that since Tinubu left as Governor, Lagos State has been moribund, in terms of income generation and capital development. Fashola did his best, but Tinubu himself messed up by not allowing Fashola to have a strong say in who replaces him and that’s where the problem started from.

Lagos has money but that money was generated when Tinubu in 8 years repositioned Lagos State finances. He was not a great governor, but he is a great planner and the best user of best brains he could find. Fasola built on what Tinubu did and so on. Citizens aren’t dumb. Voters aren’t stupid. Fasola won re-election with over 80% of the votes. If he didn’t perform, that would have been impossible.

I’m sure there’s fraud in Lagos. There must be corruption and all sorts of wastage. They should be scrutinized and exposed.

We should however give credit where due. Tinubu governed well. Fasola improved on it. Ambode’s record was mixed. Overall, the state had been governed well relative to most of the other states.

Ambode was a small civil servant who along with a few, helped Tinubu to increase the IGR of Lagos. Tinubu repaid him 8 years later with the governorship seat, even when everyone said NO!

Unfortunately, Ambode did nothing to improve Lagos finances in his 4 years.

The problem Lagos have today is that there is very little fund and the required projects have more than quadrupled.

The state is suspected by various analysts and people in the know to be struggling financially and Sanwo-Olu will not be successful unless he does something to reverse that. He needs to concentrate on revenue drive and increase the IGR and other income sources to the state coffers. If he’s lucky to get a second term, then he can perform wonders. Right now, he is more likely to fail like Ambode, if he doesn’t come up with new innovations and initiatives.

Sanwo-Olu is a Governor at the wrong time. Maybe he knows it and accepted it like that, or maybe he doesn’t really care except just to be a Governor, or maybe he doesn’t know it and is not really politically savvy. At a meeting recently, the issue of his slow performance came up. The leaders explained that Lagos State is broke because Ambode committed projects financially four years ahead. They are concerned that Lagos APC will be in trouble before the electorates in 2023, however they still believe that the PDP won’t be the beneficiary of APC’s downfall in Lagos State in 2023.

Wrote my friend, who happens to be a concerned Lagos State citizen, “I downloaded the audited financial statements of the state in the last 4 years. I downloaded the budgets too. And then I read the Accountant General’s statement on the accounts. I spent a long time doing this nonsense as a citizen obligation to my state.

From Fashola to Ambode and now Sanwo-Olu, we have had lazy governors. All three of them were/are spending money but not generating money. That is the problem.

The last time Lagos State made significant progress in terms of revenue generation was the second term of Tinubu. It is that money that the three governors after Tinubu have been and are spending. They are not adding to it.

What the current lazy governor needs to do is to re-strategise and change directions. He needs to generate money seriously in the next 18 months so he would be at top momentum of performance shortly before the next election. That way he would be assured of winning and getting the sympathy of Lagos people.”

The scandalous long delay in the Lagos Metroline Project is because Fashola started the project early in his first term. He spent 8 years in office and Ambode spent another 4 years. The Metro project is therefore at least 10 years old.

Given that Fashola bought the coaches and showcased it before he left and Ambode did not make any significant mention of this project in his entire 4 years, it is clear that something is amiss.

We should be asking questions and screaming at the Lagos State government. And also, the so-called stakeholders too (mostly those who take part in and benefit from the “chopping” – “PARTY LEADERS, POLITICAL APPOINTEES, MONARCHS, MARKET WOMEN LEADERS and TRANSPORT UNION LEADERS who must always be made ‘happy’!”, said one commentator.

Lagos wasn’t just getting revenues by default. Tinubu was innovative in growing the IGR. Numbers don’t lie, the trend over time will bear that out.

One more thing – Osinbajo, Fashola, Fowler, Aregbesola, Yemi Cardoso, Ben Akabueze, Femi Hamzat and many others are products of Lagos State governments. That’s a first-rate team that will compare well against any federal cabinet, not to talk of a state government.

Lagos has always been miles ahead in terms of IGR due to its obvious and inherited economic advantage. Using the term, “default” to characterize Lagos may therefore not be out of place. For someone who lives in Lagos, it is evident that what Lagosians (all, inclusive of Lekki, Victoria Island, the mushroom Mainland areas of Mushin, Yaba, etc, and the other major towns of Ikorodu, Epe, Badagry and Ikeja) get when compared to its enormous financial resources don’t fit at all. Lagosians have been short-changed, they know it and apparently care less about it…. as long as the area fathers and area boys get “a crumb of the action”.

According to some sources, Lagos State’s IGR went from N15 billion to N83 billion under Tinubu and to N235(?) billion under Fashola. The increase was a quantum leap and didn’t happen by accident. The standoff with Obasanjo accelerated the drive.

We are not singling out individuals here, that is not the intention of the write-up. The issue is that these guys actually worked for the outcome that we see today. I believe Lagos State governors have governed well overall, considering the rest of the country, and it is acknowledge that certain individuals have done a lot for Lagos State; we’re not denying that, and history will remember them, but the fact remains they could have done a lot much more than we’re seeing, considering all the resources available to them. We all know however, that most of them have to answer and pander to many unsavoury political and social forces that are actually holding real development of Lagos State back.

We should all agree on the need for better accountability and transparency, and expect that the bar gets higher with successive governments.

ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY – these are the missing ingredient to a good government, and we should be asking them, again the PARTY LEADERS, POLITICAL APPOINTEES, MONARCHS, MARKET WOMEN LEADERS and TRANSPORT UNION LEADERS who must always be made ‘happy’!

We can shout and commend Lasgidi to high heavens and back, but the fact remains the state is no different from other states in Nigeria when we talk of stinking corruption. It’s a no brainer.

The few owners of Lagos State know the truth of what is going on with Lagos finance and they keep it within themselves.

A government that increases revenue mainly by increasing payable rates by individuals and corporate bodies met on ground? Or one that actually expands the revenue base by creating new jobs and opportunities? Lagosians need to compare generated income with the level of services provided……a wide gap, which keeps getting wider, while the key beneficiaries appear unconcerned…all at the expense of the state. And the people.

Let the TRUTH be told always!!!!!

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