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Ambode versus Fashola: Politicising the Airport Road

GOVERNOR OF LAGOS STATE, MR. AKINWUNMI AMBODEPersonalising political power has persisted as the bane of Nigeria’s sustainable socio-economic economic development for decades. Not a few political office holders, former and serving; from councilors to local government chairmen, members of the legislature to the executive often erroneously equate the pedestal of power they find themselves occupying as meant for the self rather than the state or country.  

While this insidious, untenable and inexcusable shortcoming of self-driven political pilots may be excused under a military dictatorship, the same should never hold sway as we attempt to evolve an enduring democratic culture, for whatever reasons.

It becomes even more surprising when the main actors in the unfolding, muscle-flexing drama over the contract to rebuild the Murtala Muhammed Airport road, Lagos belong to the same ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)! Shocking as well is that the current Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola(SAN) was  the man who handed over the governorship baton to the incumbent Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, back on May 29, 2015.

Now, he has raised the timely alarm over the deliberate frustration by Fashola on the rebuilding of the all-important Airport road. Besides, is the allegation that some six months after President Muhamadu Buhari directed that the Presidential Lodge in Marina be ceded to the state, Fashola is still holding unto the keys! This has naturally triggered off some burning, salient questions.

If Fashola’s castigation of the former President Goodluck Jonathan, PDP-led administration’s refusal to act on the said road while he was the governor of Lagos State drew public sympathy then, why should he now constitute himself into a cog in the wheel of progress for the state many thought he loved with all his heart? What does he hope to achieve by denying that same state of the benefit of the Presidential Lodge, meant to be the venue of the banquet for the forthcoming celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the creation of the Centre of Excellence? If that is not crass impunity, then what else is?

Indeed, does BRF realize the continued national shame that the road symbolizes and presents to the average foreign visitor to Lagos? When he looks on in horror at the decrepit, pothole-riddled road, hemmed in by the chaotic spectacle of street traders, shamelessly displaying their torn and tattered upholstery or faded furniture with several tankers parked in defiance to the traffic laws, his image of Nigerians is that of a disorganized, lawless people. And image is everything.

Considering the fact that about 95 per cent of visitors coming to Nigeria by air enter through the MMA, Lagos this situation has become worrisome. Little wonder that Ambode has described the sordid scenario as a “national embarrassment”. That may perhaps, explain the public angst that has so far trailed Fashola’s alleged high- handedness that close watchers of the polity hope would not degenerate to a self-destructive, ego-trip. As crisply captured by Ambode: “In the spirit of the regeneration and urbanization that this administration has set out to achieve, we believe strongly that the image that is exhumed by the decadence of the road must be repaired”.

Further to this, the state government made adequate provision for the construction of a 10-lane, dual carriage way stretching right from Oshodi to the International Airport, complete with interchange and flyover that would drop a commuter towards the local airport. What more, the contractor is ready and so is the needed fund to translate the virile dream into concrete reality. So, why the delay? This bugles the mind.

Notably, while the Federal Ministry of Works has appropriated a paltry sum of N2billion for an eight-lane road, much more money has been set aside by the state for the same project. Considering the economic recession, wise counsel is that such a sum should be used by the federal government  to rehabilitate the Lagos-Apapa expressway that has constituted an asphyxiating traffic bottleneck to Lagos commuters. And if indeed, it is desirous of assisting Lagos in its broad-based infrastructural development it should pay off the sum of N51 billion it has so far spent on the so called federal roads in the state.

In response however, Fashola has stated that the request of the Lagos government to take over the Oshodi-airport road, as well as three other federal roads in the state, was still being discussed at the Federal Executive Council. On the presidential lodge, he said through his media aide that it was currently being run by the presidency and that his ministry was working with relevant security officials for the handover.

To debunk the insinuation that it was not cooperating with the state he noted that in 2016  he  approved the use of the Federal Ministry of works yard at Oworonsoki for Lagos State Government to create a lay-by to ease traffic. That is in addition to granting the Rights to manage the Street Lighting on the 3rd Mainland Bridge to support the security initiatives of the State.

However, to critical observers of the ping-pong game of accusations and counter accusations between the duo, two issues stand out. The first is that the federal government should speed up actions on the state’s requests so as to make both the road and the presidential lodge available for the 50th Anniversary celebrations.

Secondly, the unfortunate tango has brought to the fore the need to do away with the unitary type of government that has the federal government having control over and yet delaying to implement issues on infrastructural development which some states, especially Lagos are capable of actualizing and with the desired promptitude.

With Ambode’s praise-worthy, people-oriented infrastructural development greatly upping the ante on the foundation laid by his successor, the notion should not be given that the former is jealous or envious of the latter’s fast-paced achievements. Within a short span of two years his administration has used the Urban Renewal and Regeneration Strategy to build modern  bridges at Aboru, Lekki-Ajah axis and Abule-Egba.It has  commissioned the 15km   bridge from Badagry to the tourist haven of the Whispering Palms. In addition is the clean-up of the water front from Epe to Badagry and showcasing  the Master Plan for the rapid urban transformation of Epe and Ikorodu.

What this forward-looking young man deserves therefore, is total cooperation from all quarters and not undue delays, predicated on bureaucratic bottlenecks, worse still from a federal ministry. Federal might may not be right, this time around. The essence of democracy is to identify and put in place measures and mechanisms to meeting the needs of the people and not politicizing sensitive issues that bother on their welfare and security.

Aderemi, a social critic writes from Lagos

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