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Again, Nigeria's democratic maturity was tested with Ondo Election 2012

On October 20 2012, Ondo State went to the poll and successfully re-elected the incumbent Governor, Dr. Olusegun Rahman Mimiko in an election that observers consider an improvement over previous ones in conduct and fairness. When with the last governorship election in Edo State on July 14, it becomes apparent that the nation’s electoral processes are improving. Considering that both elections were won by opposition parties to the ruling party in the country, albeit from incumbency positions, also suggests that the nation’s democracy is maturing.

The oppositions faced a lost battle

Mimiko, the incumbent and flag bearer of Labour party (LP), faced two major contenders for his seat. The first is Olusola Oke of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), a barrister at law with diverse public sector experience and a one-time honourable member of the Federal house of Assembly in the aborted third republic in 1992. He offered the voter a rescue from what he considered an underdevelopment of the State and waste by the incumbent. Mr. Oke had the PDP machinery behind him which was enviably deployed with the President and the entire PDP personalities at the national and states level supported him at wooing the voters. The in-fighting that characterised his emergence as the party flagbearer is probably the low point of his outing.

The second major contender, Rotimi Akeredolu of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is also a lawyer. Mr. Akeredolu is a one-time Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State between 1997 and 1999 and a past president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the Lawyers’ trade union. With a five point agenda and cardinal principles of Agriculture, Knowledge, Entrepreneurship, Technology and Infrastructure, Mr. Akeredolu perhaps offered the voters nothing they are not already getting. His emergence as flagbearer of his party was also dotted by internal party objections.

Governor Mimiko won a landslide victory in twelve of the eighteen local government areas (LGAs). Mr. Oke won in two LGAs while Mr. Akeredolu won in three LGAs including his hometown of Owo. Of course the incumbent popularly refers to as ‘Iroko’ considering the level of popularity his government enjoys among the voters, was a strong contender. It therefore appears that the oppositions were only fighting a lost battle.

Mimiko’s first term performance was believed to be outstanding, comparable only to Ajasin

The performance of Governor Mimiko in his first term involved appreciable intervention in education, agriculture, infrastructure, healthcare, job creation, empowerment and security, among others. Over 250 projects spanning education, health, urban renewal, agriculture and community development has been credited to his administration in a spate of four years. Analysts, who have visited the state during his first term and are conversant with the State, opined that no governor has attained the range and quality of achievements in the sectors listed above within a spate of a four year tenor since the government of Pa Adekunle Ajasin in 1979-1983.

The much lauded innovative Abiye (Safe Motherhood) Programme and the Mother and Child Hospital is worthy of highlight here among others. With a measurable target of 75% reduction in maternal and child mortality by 2015, the facilities provided have delivered 1,217 babies in one year with only 1 maternal mortality incidence as at July 2012. By extrapolation, that will give a mortality rate of 100 per 100,000 live births compared to a nationwide average maternal mortality ratio of 545 per 100,000 live births. And to improve on the number that patronises professional birth attendants, a baseline study revealed that of all the women that attend the basic health centres, only 16% went back to deliver at the facilities, the state government through Abiye safe motherhood project and the mother and child hospital projects decided to track the women by distributing mobile phones to every registered pregnant women in the state as a way of tracking and attracting them back to the facilities. The project received the endorsement of the World Bank.

But does the maths really add up?

That is not to say there have not been those with opposing opinion. The oppositions argue that the resources at the governor’s disposal (N38 billion met in the treasury on assumption of office, over N600 billion received in allocation over the period and additional N27 billion Ondo Bond proceeds) are not be justified by only the 19 mega schools, the mother and child hospitals and the infrastructure and urban upgrades projects carried out by the administrator. This newspaper is of the opinion that the Ondo State Government has demonstrated strong capacity and appreciable willingness to deliver on promises to the electorates and must be encouraged. Within the South West region, Ondo may be comparable only to the Lagos State Government in terms of performance. This is however not to say that he’s been sterling in the financial administration of the state.

For instance, it is arguable that unlike Lagos State, the state is still heavy in recurrent expenditure proposed at 43% in 2012 (2011: 41%) and at 5.5% of total revenue, internally generated revenue (IGR) drive remain slightly above the generally low average across the country. With increased borrowing, the recurrent spending may rise further; eroding the capital expenditure space. Mimiko needs to utilise the second term to expand the IGR base of the state as well as keep an eye on the rising level of recurrent expenditure.

Sustaining the development steam with an open arm

Looking ahead, Governor Mimiko must not allow the inertia that characterises second term administration in Nigeria to catch up with him. He must use his second term to complete the establishment of the Abiye mother and child hospital in every senatorial district as promised while delivering on the mega schools. Citizen empowerment in Ondo State, like a typical South Western State, requires impactful provision of access to health and education and to give special attention to women. Hence, given that the administration is performing creditably on health and education front, focus on agriculture and food security should focus on opening up the rural Ondo State through the provision of roads and specialised financial institutions for women. This is also the door to reduction in employment and poverty.

At the political front, the position of Ondo State in the regional equation will remain a turf the governor needs to look into. As Nigerian democracy matures, States will tend to compete more on regional front and integration will deepens. Hence, while we agree political ideology may differ along party line with the other governors in the region from the ACN, putting aside party differences for the benefit of common regional goals of integrated development- hopefully, it could be true to the words- would be more statesman-like. There is really nothing the governor need to start working at from now than being a better statesman. 

  • Written by The Analyst
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All eyes on Lagos to spur Nigeria’s economic growth

On May 29 2007, when Governor Babatunde Fasola of Lagos State promised in his inaugural speech to sustain his predecessor, Bola Tinubu’s legacy, not many observers paid serious attention to such a political statement. And you cannot blame them. They have been let down too often by the politicians who repeatedly fail to fulfil their campaign promises. But Mr. Fasola is changing this belief. Not only has he not spent tax payers’ money in needless probing of his predecessor’s activities and eventually reversing them, he has sustained and added more significantly to Mr. Tinubu’s achievements. From improvement in tax administration to provision of physical infrastructure and human capital development through education, health and sports, Lagos State is besting other states in the country.

Across all sectors, there have been considerable improvements

Education has received major boost since the commencement of reform in 2007. According to the Governor, the average number of Lagos students obtaining five credits including Mathematics and English has increased from 7% in 2007 to 38.28% in 2012 and has catapulted the State to the top 10 of the 36 States at the forefront of public education revival, and the only South-Western state in the top 10 this year.  While this is still a poor performance considering the marked distance from 100%, it is an improvement from 2007 and must be encouraged. 

The approach to health in Lagos is also commendable. Rather than the usual construction of grandiose hospitals in urban centres where most residents are usually enlightened in preventive health medicines, the State is focused on taking basic healthcare for diagnosis and cure to the sub-urban communities; screening and treating the rural dwellers in their thousands for diabetes, hypertension and cancer. The State has successfully trained and graduated the first batch of 300 graduate volunteers to serve its preventive health initiative at the grassroots level.

To solve the power infrastructure challenges in Lagos, the state government has stepped into creating captive independent power projects (IPP) in partnership with private investors. Three key successful projects in this regard include IPPs at Ikorodu, Akute and Lagos Island. The Island Power Project is an 18km dedicated underground distribution network; being powered by Gas engines and currently provides power supply to the General Hospital (Lagos Island); High Court (Catholic Mission Street); High Court Annex (TBS); Magistrates Court (Igbosere Street); Island Maternity Hospital (Lagos Island); State House (Marina) and street lighting of up to 20 Streets within Lagos Island.

Focus on Agriculture is the key to a sustainable growth strategy of Lagos State. A re-echo of the need to provide support for agriculture to thrive as Nigeria’s mainstay while reducing overdependence on oil was among the centre points of agricultural strategy for the State. With a population of over 18 million inhabitants to feed, food production is central to the State’s growth strategy. To meet this demand and cut short importation of food from other states, the Lagos State government has put machinery in motion to ensure that it provides for the people through the establishment of the Farm Service Centre (FSC). Mr. Fasola reported that the State is improving on rice cultivation, milling and bagging; poultry production and processing; fish and seafood production, education and provision of extension services to farmers. He also noted that his government’s quest to create farms outside the state is yielding results as Lagos acquires 500 hectares of land in Ogun State to grow rice to feed the rice mill in Imota, a Lagos suburb.

In terms of housing, the State is addressing the housing deficit to a large extent. Several housing projects embarked upon has been completed with several nearing completion. In addition to completed houses in Gbagada, Agege, Ajah, Ikeja and Surulere, the State government is currently constructing housing units in 10 sites in Igando, Omole Phase I & Phase II, Sangotedo, Mushin, Ilupeju, Agbowa, Ogba Phase I & Phase II, Surulere and Igbogbo. However, the common problem with these housing units is their cost. The houses, supposedly built for civil servants cost far above the purchasing power of the intended people and mostly out of their reach. The houses eventually end up in the hands of the few corrupt officials who can afford them or in the hands of other middle class residents who works for the private sector.

And the transportation challenge of Lagos State is being efficiently managed. Lagos has made substantial progress in solving the challenges of transportation and currently serves as a model for many states of the federation in this regard. The State Government has done considerably well in the construction and reconstruction of major highways and provision of mass transportation schemes that has eased the problem of commuting within the State. The mass movement of people from one side of the state (commercial) to the other side (residential) on a daily basis through mainly only one mode of transport- Road has done little to ease the problem of traffic gridlocks which overshadows government efforts.  Hence, current efforts at promoting other mode of transportation through an intermodal transport scheme with the Lagos Badagry Road expansion as a model is a promising development.

The State Government can do better than this

Despite the seemingly good performance of the Lagos State government, the oppositions accuse the governor and his predecessor of non-performance and corruption. Several reports have been circulated of how Mr. Tinubu, aided by Mr. Fasola has been amassing wealth for himself using tax payers’ money. The list of atrocities includes several real estate properties acquired by the State government and later transferred to Tinubu through the state pension scheme that he created. In addition, the oppositions accuse Tinubu of collecting $1 billion from President Jonathan to support his election bid in 2011. Unfortunately, these accusations are never substantiated with any evidence and more appropriately, never investigated.  But the oppositions are right about the performance of the state government. Lagos State can do better. The education statistics is grossly below target. A large proportion of the population don’t have access to pipe borne water. Many roads in Lagos (more than half) are in deplorable conditions and the housing deficit is still huge.  To quote Governor Fasola, “While we are not yet where we want to be, but I am positive that a lot of gains lie ahead”. Well, that is the spirit! The state may not be performing really well but it is still the state to beat in term of development.

Lagos truly holds the ace

The importance of Lagos to Nigeria makes it inevitable for the Federal Government to engage Lagos in its development plans of achieving Vision 20:2020. Lagos is home to about 2,000 industrial complexes, 10,000 commercial ventures and 22 industrial estates. It contributes 30% to the nation’s GDP and is the leading contributor to the non-oil sector GDP. Lagos accounts for over 60% of Nigeria’s industrial and commercial activities; 70% of national maritime cargo freight, 80% of international aviation traffic and over 50% of Nigeria’s energy consumption. According to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi L Sanusi, if Lagos that contributes 30% to national GDP can grow at 20%, that will make a growth of 6%; hence if the contributors of the remaining 70% of GDP can grow at an aggregate of 10%, the country would easily grow at 13% per annum, which is more than needed to achieve its objective of joining the BRICS to form the BRINCS.

  • Written by The Analyst
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