THE EDITOR: Nigeria’s Lagos, the country’s former capital, has a population of more than 22 million. Sixty-one per cent of the country’s population is younger than 25. Its government had a tremendous responsibility to find/create meaningful employment for these young people and to build decent homes for them and their families.
In 1960 Nigeria gained independence from the British. Unfortunately, following on the heels of its independence the country became engulfed in a civil war that killed as many as three million people.
In the midst of all of this, the country had one thing going for it: oil. This natural resource was both a blessing and a curse since over the course of several ensuing decades this black gold provided opportunities for rabidly corrupt dictators as well as their rivals in the military.
Nigeria has reportedly had just two legitimate presidential elections – 2011 and 2015. The country has had less than a decade of democratic and not completely corrupt rule in its entire history.
Again, very much like us here in TT, all of this was amplified by powerful existing ethnic and religious division. Between 2000 and 2010 the capital was relocated from Lagos to Abuja – situated in a more neutral part of the country.
While this move was good for Abuja and the influx of skilled workers, it was bad for Lagos, which languished in the corruption caused by federal workers who remained there.
This state of affairs is reminiscent of the long-neglected and, I daresay, abandoned parts of our city – East Port-of-Spain, Sea Lots, the Beetham, and Laventille.
Fortunately for the people of Lagos, a young man with a genuine interest in the people of the state offered himself to them as someone who can do better. This man, Akinwunmi Ambode, as the new governor of Lagos, has begun to have a positive and meaningful impact on the lives of the citizens of a deteriorating and long-neglected Lagos.
Ambode was elected governor in 2015 and immediately hit the ground running. He initiated and spearheaded numerous meetings with the ordinary people of Lagos. He installed a team of competent deputies who, through consultations, were able to implement his mega masterplan of multiple micro projects.
In less than two years following his election, Lagosians were already reaping the benefits of his competence. Simple improvements like access roads to people’s homes generated the growth of small businesses.
Ambode gave his deputies several small achievable projects to accomplish. Through their autonomy, he allowed himself the opportunity to weed out the square pegs and cronies planted by the central government, and to fix the flawed management processes that plagued the public sector system.
He gained the trust of the people by completing simple projects – the building of 114 inner roads on time and budget.
Now that his government is working well and he has gained the trust of the people, he has begun to tackle progressively more complex problems. These include the provision of affordable food and housing, improvements in healthcare and security, improving the efficiency of the bus system, the building of several new bridges and roads, the installation of 6,000 new streetlights and 13,000 closed-circuit cameras and sensors for security and surveillance.
Between 2010 and 2015, Trinidad was on a similar progressive trajectory. Can we say the same after four years of the present government?