Dear Honourable Minister,
We greet you in the name of Allah, the most merciful.
We hope this letter meets you well.
We also hope that this letter, considering that we didn’t send it to you directly, does not come as a shock or surprise. We figured that it was better that the public reads about our anger and angst just the same way as you would. We are pained. We are scared for our future. That is why some of us, young professionals and native Lagosians, bound by a common, deep-seated disenchantment with the way our beloved Lagos State is being run, decided to speak out about why we believe you owe our generation your robust leadership nurtured and burnished by decades of tested and trusted political and administrative aplomb.
We are the Coalition of Concerned Lagos Youths, CCLY, and without the backing of any moneybag or godfather, with or without your support, we shall get our voices heard from Epe to Ebute Metta, Isale Eko to Ikeja and everywhere else. Our resolve is that Lagos can no longer afford to be run by an accustomed stooge remote-controlled from the bedroom of an intemperate and power-drunk godfather. Lagos is Nigeria’s most important state and we can’t sit back and allow just one-man control its destiny. We deserve better than the superficial achievements being credited to the present administration, which have become an awful and ingratiating cliché. Without a doubt, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola has tried his best, but like a popular PUNCH Newspaper columnist, Bayo Olupohunda, averred in his June 6, 2013 column, “While acknowledging the impact of (Fashola’s) visionary leadership on the state (in his first term)…there is no excuse why Lagos roads, especially the inner city roads, should be this dilapidated. The rainy season has exposed the harsh reality of plying the roads by residents. The state of roads in some communities seems like a throw back into Stone Age that you would hardly believe you are in Lagos. The condition of Lagos inner city roads is an affront to its mega city dream. The rising crime rate should also be urgently addressed. He should do more to dismantle the perception gaining ground that his initiatives and projects are elitist and anti-poor.”
Sir, we are not sure whether you know Linda Ikeji but she is perhaps, Nigeria’s most popular and intrepid blogger. Just last week, she posted a story on her blog about the deplorable state of roads in Ago-Okota, a vastly populated, middle class area in Lagos. According to her, “Business owners in the area say businesses have been forced to close because of the condition of the road…and residents say moving to and from their homes is a nightmare.” That is just putting it mildly. Honourable Minister Sir, if you read the comments section of this particular post, you would marvel at the outcry of people. Another commenter, under the pseudonym, Lazy Reader, would make you giggle, but what he/she said cannot be more poignant than the true situation in Lagos; “Lagos govt (is) only taking care of roads on (the) Island while most roads on mainland are bad. They only patch roads on (the) Mainland.” Need we say more?
Sir, the education sector is in shambles. This year alone, over N77billion was budgeted for education, yet, go around Lagos, you would be appalled and astounded by the state of classrooms where pupils are receiving lectures. Some have blown off roofs like Ladipo Primary School, Matori in Mushin Local Government Area, which Sahara Reporters once described as the worst primary school in the world. In a recent report entitled ‘Infrastructural Decay in Lagos Schools’ by Daily Independent, the reporter stated, “For the students of Cardoso Junior Secondary School in Ijora-Badiya, a suburb of the state, learning is definitely far-fetched. The school suffers neglect in infrastructural development. Some of the classrooms are without chairs and tables and where available, the quantity could not be compared to the number of students in the classroom.” And Fashola has been governor of Lagos for the past seven years!
Some do not even have laboratories or basic amenities like toilets or staffrooms. You would be shocked that not too long ago, a seven-year old primary one pupil, Lawal Buhari, at Irepodun Primary School, Ketu, in Agboyi-Ketu LCDA, slipped headlong into a pit latrine provided for the school’s convenience. The story was so disheartening that even the Bola Tinubu-financed PM News, in its June 17, 2011 edition, captioned the story thus; ‘The Shame of Lagos; Pupil Dies After Falling Into School’s Pit Toilet’. It went on to lampoon the state government for its insensitivity and indifference to primary and post-primary education.
Suffice to say that despite his vaunted leadership abilities, Fashola and his APC paymasters did not imbibe anything from the late global statesman, Nelson Mandela who said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Or, how else can one explain the arbitrary, ill-conceived increment of fees in the Lagos State University. The state government was however made to reverse this increment when the students went on a peaceful demonstration to the Governor’s Office.
Honourable Minister Sir, rains are supposed to be an elixir of sort but when it rains in Lagos, it floods. And mercilessly so too. Arguably, more than any other state in Nigeria, Lagos spends a lot of money to curb the incidence of flooding but year in, year out; hapless Lagosians are subjected to the rampaging fury of floods. Many die, many lose their properties. Yet, they pay all forms of taxes through their noses. This is why during rainy seasons, you find all sorts of memes like ‘Fashola is Working, Lagos is Flooding’ on social media. The rains are here again and Lagosians are already agitated. Should this be the case in 21st Century Lagos with internally generated revenue of over N20billion monthly?
Sir, we can go on and on about the different, atrocious lapses of this government but to what end? What is important is that we, as discerning youths, are now aware of the fact that our generation is in trouble if we continued to be under the vicelike grip of the APC. We are tired of its mindless savagery and condescending disinterest in making life better for the people it is supposed to serve. We have concluded that the situation in Lagos is dire, desperate and requires urgent attention from a strong government willing to give strong, insightful and robust leadership. The APC has failed to give this leadership and this has led us to say we want a man like you with a proven track record of political experience enough to take Lagos State by the hands and lead it to where it belongs in the comity of developed states. Fashola came into office scarcely prepared, but the overbearing influence of his godfather got him into office. He has been a good governor but we know that based on temperament, preparedness and the accretion of experience you have garnered as a Local Government chairman, as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as an Ambassador and now as a Minister; based on skill set and ability, Honourable Minister sir, you are poles ahead.
While wishing you Ramadan Kareem, we pray and hope that you would be spiritually and viscerally led to help rescue Lagos from the hands of these mercenaries mortgaging the future of innocent Lagos youths.
Coalition of Concerned Lagos Youths, CCLY
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.