Change they say is the only constant thing in life and that is why when politicians around the world even with Nigeria inclusive discerned how effectively using it as their slogan could serve their purpose, they swarm on it and the required attention is attracted in the process because naturally people align to the reality of change nevertheless in a hard way in most cases.
As the clamour for change reverberates across the Nigerian space, a group called Free Lagos Movement is clamouring for wholesome change if it will create the desired effect. Therefore, they called for unalloyed change in Lagos politics in particular as well at the inaugural launch and press chat of the initiative on Thursday, February 26, 2015, at the Sheraton Hotels in Ikeja, Lagos.
The thrust of Free Lagos Movement, an amalgamation of various interest groups comprising of people who live and work in Lagos State either as indigenes or visitors and love the city is that Lagos State needs a fresh wind in this political dispensation if it will retain its pride among states in Nigeria and cities around the world.
The common denominator is that the group share in the great and collective wish of a free Lagos where people can freely contribute to the development of the state without fear of loss of investment or favour of having friends around the corridors of power and that reason obviously has brought them together.
“We are not a political association or party but we have carefully measured all candidates, their political parties and key drivers with the same yardstick. It resulted in a resolve to support candidates whose dispositions are closest to our ideals of freedom,” said Akintoye Branco-Rhodes, one of the conveners of the initiative.
The group endorsed the candidacy of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, for the presidential election come March 28, 2015 and Jimi Agbaje, for Lagos State governorship election in April 11, 2015.
Their reason is not far as Akintoye expressed in his address, “We have endorsed the candidacy of Mr President for presidential election and Mr Jimi Agbaje for the gubernatorial election.”
Continuing, he said: “It is clear that certain things happen because there are ‘vested interests’ that have taken Lagos hostage and privatised the state’s resources to the detriment of the people.
“April 11 is an opportunity for Lagosians to enthrone true democracy of government for the people and not government for one as has been practiced in Lagos State since the return of democracy in 1999.”
He added that Lagos State as the economic nerve-centre of Nigeria is of strategic importance to the country, its growth and development. Hence, as a melting point of all Nigerian ethnic groups, a free Lagos will contribute immensely to the progress of Nigeria and Nigerians instead of the annexation of the state’s resources into an estate of one man.
Also, talking statistically, another convener, Dayo Ekundayo, lamented a situation where this ‘vested interest’ has plunged Lagos liability index into 137th out of the 140 cities listed by the Economic Integrity Unit (EIU).
“This means that if you take 140 cities world-wide where people consider good to live in, Lagos is the fourth worst place to live in. A World Bank survey also revealed that of the 36 states in Nigeria, Lagos is still the worst state in terms of ease of security, building permits,” he said.
“It is still on record that more students in Lagos fail WAEC than those who pass. These and many more malaise ravages Lagos in spite of the fact that the state generates over N200 billion monthly as internally-generated revenue,” he said.
In effect, the movement frowns at the situation where the Lagos State government has to play politics with the fate of youths from the state and Nigeria in general when the case of sudden and insensitive hike in school fees was fixed for students of Lagos State University from N25,000 to N198,000 and N348,000 for arts and medicine students respectively.
It was revealed that even when every entreaty to make the state government to consider the plight of indigent students and revert their stance, it fell on deaf ears until politics had to set in before the government in the state saw the need to reconsider and revert to the original fee of N25,000.
As made known, however refunds of the excess charge is alleged to be made to the students who had initially paid. It is being carried out at this period when it is realised that both theirs and their parents’ votes are needed for political reasons.
Subsequently, Yomi Giwa, another convener said that the free spirit of Lagos must be retained and the forthcoming election provides an opportunity to use their invaluable power of franchise to vote, which is a legitimate franchise for freedom of Lagos from hegemony and enslavement.
According to him, “this is not about one man but the awareness that a system that produces such situation should not arise again.”
Consequent upon their resolve, the group has outlined plans to engage in continuous and intensive communication with up to five million residents of Lagos State using appropriate channels and available opportunities made possible through road shows, road treks and concerts to drive home their points. They have also resolved to deploy communication tools which include website operations, and social media platforms to reach out to Lagosians on available information about their impoverishment by a selected few.
However, Free Lagos Movement as stated is an advocacy group that believes that the free spirit of Lagos must be retained, sustained and maintained. Free Lagos Movement therefore advocates for enabling environment for all Lagosians to do his or her businesses without being harassed or intimidated.
The group added that it is open to all Lagosians irrespective of religion, political affiliation, gender, profession, or ethnic backgrounds.