OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR SANWO-OLU: HOW LAGOS CAN CHANGE THE GRAND DELUSION CALLED GOVERNANCE IN NIGERIA

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    Introduction:

    I write as an acquaintance that you once walked up to, to humbly and charmingly re-introduce yourself to after one previous but time-distant meeting, “Barrister Oba (I politely said: ‘my brother, I’m not a lawyer’ and you still kept your smile and went ahead to amiably make your point), Egbon this is my card, let’s keep in touch you’re doing a great job”. I could only guess that you were using your kind perception of my media-persona to graciously compliment me. More so when the mutual “friend” whose Christian Business Men’s meeting or event we were both invited to (albeit, you, as the guest speaker), once told me, some days before then, that on one occasion, when we walked past each other on his office’s corridor, you’d, on walking into his office, from whence I exited, asked if the person who just left his office was Gbola Oba? All these, if you remember, were less than six months to your divine emergence as a gubernatorial aspirant and candidate.

    To cut a long story short; I’m writing you this open letter because I know that intellectually and experientially (indeed, during the last governorship electioneering campaigns in Lagos, I openly campaigned for you-which, since post 2015 general elections, I seldom do-because of your rich public administration’s antecedents) you and your brilliant deputy (so I’m reliably told by those who know him; since I’ve never met him in person), Dr. Hamzat, can understand the progressive but radical public administration ideology cum doctrine here-under enunciated and elucidated, even when unorthodoxy defines it. It’s, however, ironic that some of the ideas constituting the message have been and are still being successfully but incoherently tested in crude formats and in ways largely devoid of the organic democratisation of development through skills cum inherent grassroot-economic-activation of the citizenry.

    Summary of my postulation-using Lagos as a case study of the incumbent fallacy (as mostly ignorantly perpetrated by many in government or public offices) and the delusion of omnipotence (by the citizenry which, ironically, see governments as the sole agent of physical infrastructure solution-provider, when indeed that idolatry is the chief cause of the endemic poverty that’s predicated on lack of creativity and an urgently needed essential problem-solving culture by the people who have been opioid-ised, by conceited successive public administrators over generations, to believe that only governments can, indeed must, provide basic infrastructure): There’s no gainsaying the fact that Lagos is financially very poor and largely populated by millions of relevant market-needed skills-deficient “potential human assets” (I deliberately used this futuristically positive phraseology; as the enormous population of non-productive humanity, particularly the army of aimless youths in the state, is presently fueling insecurity-like, cultism, opportunistic crimes, etc-and exerting a dysfunctional choke on the grossly inadequate infrastructure)!

    We, Lagosians, however seem to have perfected the art of gloating over the-one-eyed-man-in-the-land-of-the-blind-seeming-or-relative-financial-success-mentality-or-arrogance-of-the-state when, say, the budget and infrastructure profiles relative to population and, importantly, the pay of the civil servants of Lagos State are compared with its other federating units in Nigeria or its neighbouring cities and small countries in the sub-region. But juxtaposed with comparative megapolises both in Africa and across the world (Cairo in Egypt, Johannesbourg in South Africa, Rio in Brazil, Jakarta in Indonesia and Mexico in Mexico), Lagos, as a city-with its extant revenue and infrastructure situations, and the remunerations cum welfare of its public servants, is very, very, very budget-poor! 

    The paradoxes which define Lagos’ finances for me are: (a) APC stalwarts (of which, I must confess, I’m ideologically one, but to whom, including my wife-an incumbent LGC vice chair, I’m more of an irritant because of my often-mouthed disillusionment with the barely average quality of governance in the last gubernatorial tenure) rightfully boast of the incremental trajectory of the state’s IGR, innovatively birthed, as both a child of creative financial engineering and existential, nay circumstantial, reality under Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, because of the illegal financial persecution his administration was subjected to in his second term by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo; (b) But the truth is, even if Lagos quadruples its present best-case-scenario monthly revenue collections, a cursory audit of the state’s physical infrastructure and mass-housing shortages alone, relative to where it should be, tells an ugly story (I must say, with a tinge of sadness, that Lagos is largely a ghettorised sprawling pretense-to-urbanity!); (c) That with the right and URGENTLY needed policy cum statutory reforms-which must be as innovatively and as systematically bold as Asiwaju’s historic financial reengineering scissors-kick, please pardon my footballing metaphor (reforms which must primarily reward public cum civil servants on projects’-life-basis from the incomes of economically viable projects that they use their good offices to creatively facilitate and/or successfully monitor to qualitative delivery, albeit as sustainable quality-of-life-uplifting commercial ventures, which must also commercially incentivise the locals who-through skills and/or capital/funding equities-are encouraged to come together to solve their infrastructural cum affordable mass-housing deficits), Lagos’ large slum-like dystopic urbanisation will not only be positively reversed in so short a time, say, from about two years, and, vitally, at little or no cost to the public treasury, with a concomitant inevitable spike in IGR as a result of a largely economically-unbondaged-or-empowered citizens.

    At the expense of almost sounding like a broken old acrylic musical record; the anachronistic colonial-era-inherited business-model of governance, which portrays government (local, state and federal) as an omnipotent problem-solver, that can solve all problems and provide, like the famed Father Christmas, all goodies (as often delusional phrased by a tamed people who wrongly now perceive democratic governance as replacement for smartly orchestrated hard work-“provide dividends of democracy”), has not only failed (anyone who disagrees with me on this submission should go and watch the seminal senate screening of former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, some few weeks ago, in which, albeit unwittingly but in his typically erudite manner, he convincingly portrays the federal government’s genuine efforts at wanting to provide infrastructure, as practically tokenistic; because of its year-in year-out lousy shortfalls in revenue!) but, it’s now the most potent mechanism through which endemic poverty is being spread!

    Lagosians, majority of whom are ostensibly poor and out of the tax net, ought not to be, with the right targeted skills-upgrade training packages of between 2 to 3 months for its army of lowly-skilled, largely poor artisans and strategic apprenticeship schemes for its teeming unemployable school leavers, graduates and young “neets” (neither in employment, education or training), averaging between 6 months to 1 year. However, each training provider must show proof of deploying trainees on live projects. I’m one who believes that the idea of claiming to offer training for training’s sake, without the training provider having a verifiable high-street or industry shop front, where the trainees get hands-on exposure or apprenticeship shadowing experienced artisans working on real market issues, is a FRAUD!

    Solution Proposition One: Policies and legislations must be made to allow residents to start local infrastructure development commercial entities, preferably cooperatives, that will identify commercially viable physical infrastructure projects that they can be granted the concession to invest in over a period of, say, 20 to 25 years. This democratisation of the provision of local physical socio-economic assets must statutorily be linked to the skills-upgrade of local construction artisans and skills-acquisition schemes for neighbourhood youngsters. The inherent positives of this autochthonous or indigenous infrastructure provision business-model are: One, funding and technical expertise will come from the grassroot and not solely from the top-down model and coffers of a technically indigent cum overstretched government. Two, because the locals literally own these life-enhancing assets (roads, bridges, mini power generation and/or distribution ventures, parks, etc), they’ll naturally be inclined to have facilities management packaged for the maintenance of the assets to qualitatively elongate their lifespan and maximise their revenue potential. This scenario, in the backdrop of the statutorily predicated incentive, which encourages setting up and running local construction trades training centre as an important pre-concessioning criterion, will enhance the sustainable employment of local artisans and youths in local projects’ delivery, the tiptop maintenance of the assets over their lifetime and, more importantly in the context of the most debilitating contemporary dysfunctionality in our society, provide security around those assets-that’ll protect the safety of lives and property of the users. In the worst case scenario, a public liability insurance cover will be provided to protect users and the asset by the owner. 

    Above all, dependable revenues generated from these projects by mostly local investors will democratise and deepen wealth creation, increase taxable funds in the economy and sustainably stimulate a culture which encourages residents to solve their local infrastructure and affordable mass-housing problems as an economically rewarding opportunity. The preponderant majority of middle- and upper-class Lagosians, anyway, provide their environment-polluting majorly hydro-carbon operated power source, geo-environmentally exacting borehole and personal homes or estates’ gates security-without any checkable criminal background, who’ll claim to come from the north but is likely from Niger Republic.

    Solution Proposition Two: The fact is that government (across its 3 main strata, as it’s constitutionally defined: between a political class that seems, at best, not to be intellectually creative enough to contain or reverse the general regressive degeneracy in society, or worse still, profligate and/or kleptomaniacal. And a civil service that’s peopled with relatively poorly paid, ill-motivated personnel, ever bearing the burden of the constantly haranguing anxieties to meet basic familial responsibilities in their homes and for what may happen to them in a post-service life devoid of illicitly garnered material security. This vicious circle of emotional cum financial insecurity has somewhat traditionalised an attitude of deliberate-inefficiency, nay sadism, to complicate processes for the citizenry and systematise corruption. They-civil servants-constitute the most powerful group of pretensively-unspoken but virulent class of professionals and workers in the realm!

    It’s in view of the visionlessness-precipitated narcissism of many in the political class and the existential insecurity-borne occupational villainy of the civil servants, that one is compelled to suggest that the statute to be legislated to formalise this proposed democratisation of development must factor in these following suggestions: One, that all elected and appointed political office holders at the state (executive and legislature) and local (government/s where a concessioned project owes its operational life) levels, must automatically under the protection of the “Infrastructure/Development Delivery Democratisation Law” to be promulgated, have 5% warehoused in ownership for them (1% of the 5% to be exclusively shared by the Governor, Deputy Governor, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly and the Local Government Chairman of the project-area-of-location, with his vice on a 40%, 25%, 25% and 10%-split-60/40-by-Chair/Vice, of the 1% respectively) from the commencement of its service cum commercial life through the entirety of its concessioned life. Another 5% must be reserved for career civil servants (inclusive of the magistracy) and high court judges (this should be shared on the basis of 1% of the 5% to be shared by the Chief Judge, other Judges collectively and the Ministry-and/or-Agency’s workers on a 20%, 40% and 40% basis respectively). This pecuniary incentive must be person-specific and not tenure-specific (meaning if a governor signs a PPP for the 4th-Mainland Bridge and the contract ultimately delivers the physical infrastructure a day after his tenure, the governor, his deputy as at that day-even if he gets impeached, the speaker, the chairmen with vice of, say, Lagos Island and/or Eti-Osa where it will take-off, with their equivalents in Kosofe and/or Ikorodu, as of that date of the prima facie PPP contract taking its life with the serving judges, magistracy, relevant department/s’ workers and those in service as at that date, even if any one of them and the members of the political class, leaves office the following day, insomuch as it’s the same contract that produces the bridge, must get paid from the time of commencement of the project’s commercial life to the end of its 25-year-maximum concessional life!)

    This afore explained incentivisation formula for the political class, the state’s superior benchers and the magistracy with the civil servants (inclusive of those at the project-impacting LG/s) to encourage them creatively galvanise the private sector and/or citizens to solve their local infrastructure and mass-housing problems on a PPP-basis, doesn’t preclude the government-as an institution granting the concession-getting the value of its equity (which will often be land; as the government is largely not expected to put its money into these projects but focus on human-capital development and productivity-enhancing soft cum hard infrastructure in education-for which literacy, numeracy, coding/programming and all forms of TVET in the following priority order, agric, construction, power-generation, InfoTech, etc-and health), and minimum of another 5% solely for its coffers as shareholding and recurrent revenue from the project’s net profit. The advantages inherent in this innovative infrastructure-provision business-model are: the class of political office holders and the civil service will mutate from being the rent-seeking agents that they are presently to becoming the chief encouragers of those who can really deliver urgently needed infrastructure and affordable mass-housing assets to hit the ground running, because their economic gains in the projects coming alive by the most qualified private sector operator, with the most competitive life-of-project structural integrity (because any engineering incompetence-either in the design or delivery-that vitiates the operational life of the project similarly nullifies their statute-protected profit-sharing) and ditto the most competitive project valuation cum pricing rate (because if they allow cost-overload they will inevitably suffer its consequences in reduced and delayed amounts to reach them, as overpriced projects will reduce and delay the size and maturation time of net profit!). Lastly, another 5% of the project’s net profit (from the moment it goes commercial) must be shared on the salaries of doctors, teachers, nurses, police and first-responder operatives in the project area (especially to make their housing and first-three children’s schooling affordable in the locality).

    In concluding this treatise on 21st-century innovative but practical governance, I’m particularly glad that your administration is already emphasising the importance of handshaking the private sector, on a PPP-basis, to solve infrastructure (like the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta and Ikorodu-Sagamu roads; of which I must confess that I’m presently championing, with some Diaspora financial investors and local land owners, the construction of a 1-kilometre bridge linking Imagbon Village with Journalists’ Estate in Arepo {our skeletal design and structural cum environmental reports are already with the sub-agency of NNPC that’s in charge of the pipelines over which the bridge will be built}, albeit this is exclusively in Ogun State and one of the diaspora investors is already perfecting tolling concession with your counterpart in Ogun State) and affordable mass-housing problems.

    Sincerely,

    Gbola Oba

    Visioner & Co-Founder WWW.ULDA-EDU.NG and its financing arms (the registered cooperatives) in Nigeria and our diaspora:

    Underposted are some relevant pieces of information about the writer’s passion and practical involvement on this subject:

    Question: Good morning Mr Oba, please what does ULDA stand for?

    Gbola Oba: The registered infrastructure and mass-housing delivery cooperative (fully registered with the Lagos State Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Cooperative, the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria as a National Housing Fund contributing corporate entity, and with Real Estates Developers Association of Nigeria, REDAN, as ULDA AND PARTNERS {OSHODI} MULTI-PURPOSE COOPERATIVE LTD) that you’ve VOLUNTARILY indicated interest to join because you heard me on the radio talk about a mass-housing cooperative society that I founded, following a friend, the famous Seyi Martins, General Manager of FRCN’s Metro FM, Ikoyi, lambasting me when I returned to Nigeria in January after founding ULDA & PARTNERS COOPERATIVE LTD (registered with the Companies House, the equivalent of the CAC in England), is, like its London sister entity, the investment or project financing arm of a CAC registered building and construction training institute, UNIVERSAL LEARN DIRECT ACADEMIA LTD, popularly called ULDA.

    It has a faculty of some of the most globally experienced Nigerian construction professionals (please click to visit, www.ULDA-EDU.ng, to read about them and the story of how ULDA was envisioned by me and was co-formed, under the board leadership of one of Nigeria’s very few TVET-Technical, Vocational Education and Training-experts and former two-term rector of Lagos Polytechnics, Engr. Olawumi Gasper). And because the vision was instructed by my accidental co-founding of AUTOMEDICS LTD, where I’m the founding and still presently the Chief Operating Officer and the instigator of the founding of its now famously successful automotive mechatronics training institute, which has made a former one-workshop auto repair business to have more than 10 franchises across Nigeria and well over 500 independent modern auto maintenance/repair workshops in all the nooks and crannies of the country, owned or technically managed by AUTOMEDICS’ alumni, I knew from the onset, that like AUTOMEDICS, ULDA too must leverage the rich practice and experiential exposure of Nigerian construction experts, who like my principal partner in AUTOMEDICS, Kunle Shonaike, who trained in the USA and worked as an automotive engineer there for almost three decades, must have had diaspora experiences.

    Hence, all departments of ULDA are headed by a construction expert who’d either worked or is still working in the Diaspora. This personnel cum partnership strategy has not only been vindicated by the outstanding remarks of NIOB, Nigerian Institute of Builders, and CORBON chieftains who’d visited us, but without bidding for a government contract we were contacted by the Presidency to train for N-POWER, indeed we just graduated 85 out of the 100 trainees allotted us under the youths-skills-empowerment programme. We must also be doing something exceptionally right to make BOSCH, one of the world leading manufacturers and merchants of state-of-the-art light industrial tools and equipment and a celebrated German precision technology brand, to open its first training centre in sub-Saharan Africa on our campus. And far more pleasing, after reviewing our skills-upgrade programme for the upskilling of the largely low-skilled Nigerian building and construction artisans, NECA-Nigerian Employers Consultative Association-has just appointed us as its training facilitators. All these happened in less than our 2 years of existence!

    At no time are our faculty and students on less than 5 active construction sites in Nigeria and Dubai, UAE, where we’ve fully bought over a registered construction services company, AL MUHTARAF LLC, where we intend to send some of our alumni, who’ve shown world-beating competence, to go and complete stages 4, 5 and 6 of their Pearson/EdExcel vocational certification programme on our live sites, as the industry-based practical-heavy certification system can only be done up to stage 3 in Nigeria.

    NB: IT’S IN FURTHERANCE OF USING ALL THESE HUMAN TECHNICAL ASSETS IN OUR RICH FACULTY AND OUR ARMY OF TRAINEES (MADE UP OF SCHOOL LEAVERS, GRADUATES AND EXPERIENCED ARTISANS UNDERTAKING SKILLS UPGRADE WITH US) TO DELIVER AFFORDABLE MASS-HOUSING PROJECTS TO SOLVE THE 17 TO 20 MILLION HOUSING STOCK SHORTAGE IN NIGERIA AND FOR YOU TO PERSONALLY GROW YOUR PROPERTY INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO THAT YOU’RE JOINING THIS COOPERATIVE.

    Interesting contemporary development:

    Sanwo-Olu and I plan to toll Lagos/Ota/Abeokuta,two other roads —Abiodun

    The Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun has disclosed that the Lagos and Ogun State Governments are planning to commercialise three federal roads: Ikorodu-Ogijo-Sagamu, Epe-Ijebu- Ode and the Lagos-Ota-Abeokua roads.

    Abiodun said his government in collaboration with Lagos State government is planning to engage in Public-Private Partnership in the construction and rehabilitation of the three roads.

    The governor said this while speaking with members of Abeokuta Club during his investiture as honorary patron by the club.

    Abiodun said the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and himself had met and agreed to commercialise the roads by allowing the private investors fund and toll the roads so as to ease transportation of people from Lagos to Abeokuta.

    Abiodun, however, said  N26 billion debt is hanging on the state government’s neck over the construction of the  Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway since the contract was signed in 2001.

    Abiodun explained that the government is expected to pay over N1 billion every year to service the debt incurred on the road.

    He said, “I met with my counterpart, Sanwo-Olu and we decided that as a matter of urgency we need to take over some roads which include; Epe-Ijebu road, Ikorodu-Sagamu road and Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta road so as to reduce the population of the people passing the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.

    “I and Sanwo-Olu met with the president to hand over those three roads to us, we sat down with the President and explained things to him.

    “He told us to put it in writing, we wrote a joint letter which has our two logos on it, we both signed it and I personally handed it over to Mr President, and a few weeks ago, the president handed over the road to us.”

    He added “What we intend to do is to commercialise these roads and turn it to a private-public-partnership and we have people that are waiting to enter a PPP with us so that they will fund the road, they will toll it and this would allow the people to move from Lagos to Abeokuta with ease.”

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