As the anniversary of Lagos’ golden jubilee draws nearer, reminiscence over the State’s socio-political and economic development from inception till date is quite natural. In particular, efforts of the various pathfinders who worked assiduously to ensure that Lagos remains a true ‘Center of Excellence’ is worth bringing into focus.
Lagos, though in existence prior to 1967, became a State on May 27, 1967 when Nigeria was divided into 12 States nation under General Yakubu Gowon.
Individuals and group celebrate important events such as birthdays, marriages and even deaths of their loved ones.
In the past fifty years, Lagos has passed through varied social-economic and political phases and obviously a proper golden jubilee should serve as one that ushers in golden opportunities to showcase Lagos achievements and huge potentials.
That Lagos State holds a unique place in the socio-economic setting of the country is never in doubt. It has the largest economy, and attracts the most tourists. Lagos really does have something for everyone. The State was the most important host of the nationalists’ struggles and many of the fight for social justice in the country and full of edifices that was put in place to immortalize Nigeria’s heroes.
Tourists and any interested individuals and group will be spoilt for choice of things to do in Lagos during the celebration as with every other time. For tourists and fun seekers, Lagos offers unlimited fun and memories. The various beaches, hotels, resort inns and monumental sites of Lagos are enough to hold visitors spellbound.
Without reservation, one could look back to the time Lagos was grappling with challenges of being a federal capital to how it is now coping with the status of a mega city and appreciate the level of progress that has been attained since the State came into being.
Prior to the Nigeria’s Second Republic, Lagos State was ruled by four military administrators with the first and longest serving being Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson who was the Governor from 28 May 1967 to July 1975.
The first three years of Johnson’s administration was the period Nigeria fought a bloody civil war resulting into massive wave of migration to Lagos. On the positive side, it is interesting to narrate that it was during the civil war that massive post-civil war development that changed the skyline of Lagos, especially the Lagos Marina, began. The wave of migration coupled with rapid industrial growth, thanks to the oil boom of the 1970s, led to the enlargement of build-up areas through government and private initiatives.
Mobolaji Johnson has on his score sheet construction of the 60.7 kilometer international express road (Lagos- Badagry Expressway) that link Nigeria with the neighbouring countries Benin, Ghana and Togo. His administration was also responsible for the construction of Eko Bridge and several networks of roads and bridges in the State and likewise the evolution of Lagos State civil service.
On the negative side, before Alhaji Lateef Jakande came on board when Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1979, the State had gradually become a city with reverse development with population putting heavy pressure on its delicate infrastructure. So much pressure was on the State infrastructure that schools were being run on three shift system. Thus came to an end, the era of old Lagos where kids could play ‘’hide and seek’’ without the fear of being knocked down by vehicles. ‘Eko for show’ had given way to ‘Eko gbole, o gbole’ (Lagos takes anything).
However, all this was to really change during the Second Republic with the coming of the administration of Alhaji Jakande which was very effective and creative in the implementation of the cardinal policies of his party, the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).
He introduced housing and educational programs targeting the poor, building new neighbourhood primary and secondary schools and providing free primary and secondary education. He established the Lagos State University, LASU and constructed over 30,000 housing units. He also started a metro line project to facilitate mass transit. The project was halted when his tenure as Governor ended with the Buhari-Idiagbon military coup of 31st December, 1983.
From the period of military misrule until the enigmatic pathfinder of modern Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed came on board in 1999; Lagos had become Nigeria’s nemesis. Nigeria itself was underdeveloped and left to be surpassed in terms of development by the likes of Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa.
Military rule failed Lagos, just as it failed the entire country. This is not to say that the military contributed nothing but the failures surpass whatever achievement recorded during the military era.
Soon after he took over, Tinubu stamped both his vision and authority on the state, positively changing the face and reputation of Lagos. He broke away from development stereo types and against all odds, in spite of detractions and an acrimonious political climate, he was able to initiate and implement policies, programmes and projects that had enduring legacies. It was Tinubu’s government that set up durable institutions such as KAI, LASTMA, LASAA and LAMATA. It also put in place a creative and ingenious template that has institutionalized governance in Lagos State. The complete regeneration of the Lagos Island Central Business District took place under Tinubu’s watch. Many roads across the State such as Kudirat Abiola Way, Lawanson-Itire road, Ikotun-Ijegun road, Ikotun –Igando road, LASU-Iyana Iba road, to mention just a few, were rehabilitated and expanded by the Tinubu administration while a comprehensive program for resuscitation of public schools in the State was also put in place.
With Tinubu’s exit came the eight years of Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola(SAN) administration, during which the State moved from one level of advancement to another till the acclaimed ‘Actualiser’ handed over to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on May 29, 2015.
Today, the doggedness and passion of Akinwunmi Ambode for advancing the progress of Lagos has endeared him to diverse people. His passion for Lagos’s advancement is reflected in his agenda to turn the metropolis into 24 hour economy.
As Lagos, the State that blesses those who work hard and have no time for slackers (Eko o gba gbere) celebrates her golden jubilee, one hopes that her many suitors will be committed to preserving her rich heritage and continuously paying their dues to maintain her desired autonomy as she continues to contend with the various challenges of her mega city status.