FUTURE LAGOS | The race for Africa’s largest city: the beauty and beast of a city

‘The facade of beauty … will fade without a robust and grounded administrative system’

Gubernatorial elections are upon Lagos this Saturday; who are the main candidates and where could they take Lagos in the next four years?

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by Olamide Udoma 

The people of Lagos will be going to the polls early on Saturday 11 April to spend the day standing in queues. In this election, close to 6 million people are registered as voters in Lagos State, almost three times as many registered voters in the City of Cape Town at 1.9 million in 2014, and more than double the 2.9 million registered in the Western Cape. From the street corners in Ikeja to primary schools in Epe they will cast their vote for a better Lagos. By 4pm citizens who have picked up their Permanent Voters Card will have inked thumbs to show that they have made their choice for the next Governor of Lagos State as well as State Houses of Assembly representatives.

Man casting his vote at a polling unit in Apapa, Lagos Source: Reuters

Man casting his vote at a polling unit in Apapa, Lagos Source: Reuters

The administration of Lagos State, doesn’t just end at the State House of Assembly but is made up of a large complex puzzle. Lagos State is divided into five administrative divisions and 49 Ministries and Agencies. The administrative divisions are further divided into 20 Local Governments (LGs) and these LG’s are split further into Local Council Development Areas, of which there are 37. Lagos is the most populated state of Nigeria’s 36 +1 (semi-autonomous) States at an estimated 21 million – one third the population of South Africa.

I want a better developed Lagos – street lights on every street; security; better care and attention to Lagos state owned schools.

63, Retired Teacher

As Nigeria’s original capital, Lagos state continues to lead the way in governance, commerce and services. With the highest net primary school completion ratio in Nigeria at 70.6% and the highest internally generated revenue, this election is bound to be interesting. Having already won the presidential elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC) continue to go head to head with the People’s Democratic Party in Lagos State. These elections are extremely key because there is a fear that if a new party comes in to power the ongoing projects by the current administration will come to a screeching halt.

Progress, but for wealthy

Lagos 2050 Source: Ayodeji Rotinwa

Lagos 2050. Source: Ayodeji Rotinwa

Since 2007, Lagos has seen what many call progress; physical and tangible progress. Present Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, inherited a crumbling city – literally and figuratively –  and has used the years wisely to bring hope to the citizens of Lagos. Today, driving through the streets of Lagos there is an air of pride and Lagos has become a better place; from area boys breeding violence to embracing a night time economy, from dirty gutters and trash ridden streets to regular waste collection, and from 500,000 people paying tax to over 3 million. Fashola can be described as a change maker. His major achievements have spanned almost all areas under control of the State including education, infrastructure and renovation, public safety and security, waste management, transportation, and healthcare.

“Lagos has experienced superior governance. There has been a deliberate design and effort of the government to develop the State in spite of the challenge of a hostile Federal Government. Our security forces were equipped under an innovative security trust fund” writes Debo Adebayo, Digital Media Strategist in an article comparing the progress made by the Nigerian Federal Government and governance in Lagos in the last four years.

By renovating schools, distributing free textbooks, providing buses for teachers and students, and implementing the Teachers’ Salary Scale has boosted attendance and pass rates in primary and secondary school. This has seen a transformation in the education sector which has been recognised by the World Bank.

The Fashola administration has also improved transport infrastructure in the past eight years; especially highways, bridges and pedestrian high walks. Being the focal point throughout Fashola’s tenure, the most significant and noticeable developments to improve the movement of people across the city and shorten journey times has been done through the introduction of more transport options (BRT, water transport, light rail), traffic radio, and a traffic monitoring force.

The, 2 billion Naira a year, Bus Rapid Transit system has been a gallant attempt at improving public transport and moving large numbers of people. But without the proper planning, policies and management  of the system the demand in less than one year of operation, already exists for more routes, more buses and better management. Dilapidated busses continue to ply the roads at ridiculous speeds while threatening to cause road accidents and commuter queues on the Ikorodu Road stretching at least 100 meters every morning.

Lagos Light Rail (Blue Line) Under Construction

Lagos Light Rail (Blue Line) Under Construction

Despite these achievements there are many who have suffered during the term of this administration, in particular the urban poor.

“While Fashola has been busy tarring roads, building fanciful tolled bridges and planting grass and flowers; he has ignored the need of the people for basic things of life like food, shelter and gainful employment.  There is no pipe-borne water in much of Lagos; and yet the state generates over 27 billion naira in internal revenue every month “writes Femi Aribisala at The Vanguard

He adds that  street-trading, another means of livelihood for the common man, is also frowned at by the Lagos APC government.  As the police chase okada riders down the streets, impounding and inheriting their bikes, so do the “kick against indiscipline” brigadiers confiscate and inherit the goods of hapless petty-traders.

There is mounting frustration that the investments and projects the Fashola administration  has undertaken are solely focused on the middle to upper class, for example the demolition of informal settlements and at the same time giving the go ahead to build the” self-sustainable” billion dollar financial district; Eko Atlantic.

Eko Atlantic is a 10 square kilometer city being built as an extension of Victoria Island, South of Lagos. It is one of the new ‘utopian’ style cities being planned in Africa. The city is expected to provide upscale accommodation for 250,000 people and employment opportunities for a further 150,000 who will commute to and fro the city on daily basis.  Land overlooking the ocean is selling at $2,500 per square meter while 48.6% of the Lagos population live on less than 2 USD a day.

Eko Atlantic in the distance Source: dilemma-x.net

Eko Atlantic in the distance
Source: dilemma-x.net

“They want to improve the city, but they don’t want to take the steps responsible governments are required to take to achieve that goal, steps that make sure the poor are not paying disproportionately” says Felix Morca, Director of the Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC). SERAC, one of the few human rights NGOs focused on housing rights in Lagos, has taken forced eviction cases to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission. SERAC has been at the forefront fighting cases such as the 2013 Badia demolition, where Amnesty International claims 9,000 people were forcefully evicted. The 9,000 displaced people have now been replaced by Lagos State’s subsidised housing scheme, LAGOS HOMS.

Morca refers to the marginalised poor when speaking of the 2012, three day, Makoko demolition, where stilt houses encroaching the Lagos Lagoon were forcefully taken down without prior notice. “These people are expendable to them. If the government has its way this place won’t exist, maybe within five to 10 years it will be glass houses, penthouses”.

“What Fashola does not realise is that forced eviction does not mean no more sore eyes or ‘poor people’, the forcefully evicted urban poor will always find pockets of unused land to call home” adds Morca. This is clearly the case in Lagos, where 30% of the Badia community originally lived in Maroko, a large low-income community wiped out in 1990 by the then Governor of Lagos.

Fashola and Ambode. Source: akinwunmiambode.com


What has worked for Lagos has been its ability to grow the economy and attract local and foreign investment. With exception to the current economic downturn due to fluctuations in oil prices and the postponement of the elections, Nigeria and Lagos has seen exceptional growth in the past couple of years. While Nigeria was labelled the largest economy in Africa in 2014, Lagos’s economy was put on par with Sri Lanka and Morocco. The Commissioner of Economic Planning and Budget, Ben Akabueze, during an interview on Channels Television noted that Lagos contributes about 12% of Nigeria’s GDP but this becomes as high as 60% if the economic contribution of oil and gas is excluded.

It is reasonable to deduct that Fashola is of the school of thought that states ‘you’ve got to crack a few eggs to make an omelette’. The administration has worked hard to make Lagos a State that looks good – at least on the outside, to the rest of the world. Lagos has become appealing to investors, travellers and business men, however the administrative system is still poor and the governance structure remains inaccessible and misunderstood. Across Lagos there are clear examples of where this has worked successfully and many more examples where it continues to fail.

Before Fashola

My aspiration for Lagos is to be a state where rule of law is respected and an enabling environment is created for both rich and poor.

46, Local Government Politician and Community Advocate

Despite what has been achieved in Fashola’s two terms, some would say that Fashola has not implemented anything original. Some Lagosians are adamant that the Governor should get little praise for the achievements gained during his administration. Should the success of Lagos then be attributed to his predecessor or the party he belongs to, the All Progressives Congress. Or both?

The controversial Bola Ahmed Adekunle Tinubu also known as the ‘Godfather’ of Lagos,  was in office as the Governor of Lagos State from 29 May 1999 to 29 May 2007. He is now the leader of the All Progressives Congress party as well as a chief in a number States in Nigeria. As a man of power whether as a Governor or not he has influenced governance in Lagos State.

Governor Tinubu was forced to depend less on the federal allocation. As a result he systematically re-engineered the internally generated revenue regimes by plugging loopholes and leakages without imposing an additional burden on citizens. This led the State to financial buoyancy. He pushed for new policies in transportation, education, judiciary, health, environment, commerce and industry, from which a project like the Lekki Free Trade Zone was created. During his term administrative institutions were created to sustain the policies and programmes to ensure they evolve with the State.

Lekki Free Trade Zone for manufacturing and services Source: i1017.photobucket.com

Lekki Free Trade Zone for manufacturing and services
Source: i1017.photobucket.com

“Tinubu has become the powerhouse of grooming successful leaders in Nigeria. A feat, yet unequalled in the history of the country” writes Lateef Raji in the Daily Independent. Raji is the special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Information & Strategy. It then comes as no surprise that Tinubu hand picked Babatunde Raji Fashola, his former Chief of Staff, as his successor.

So why do Lagosians dislike ex-Governor Bola Tinubu, a man that appeared to move Lagos forward? Lagosians disapprove of the acquisitions he made and continue to make at the expense of the public purse. In 2007, he was brought before the Code of Conduct Tribunal over the alleged illegal operation of 16 separate foreign accounts. In 2009, Tinubu and the then Governor of Delta and Akwa Ibom State were cleared by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for corruption in relations to the sale of V-mobile network shares. Following that various other allegations have been made for corruption, money laundering and conspiracy.

What next?

Fashola and Tinubu have achieved a feel and look of Lagos that citizens have grabbed a hold of. They have given citizens a teaser of what a future Lagos may look like. It is clear to see that Tinubu set the stage and Fashola started the show but who will carry the baton forward?

Jimi Agbaje And Ambode At The Lagos State Governorship Debate Source: www.nairaland.com

Jimi Agbaje And Ambode At The Lagos State Governorship Debate
Source: www.nairaland.com

There are 15 candidates vying to become the next governor of Lagos but there are only two major candidates in the running; Akinwunmi Ambode as the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate and Jimi Agbaje as the Peoples, the Democratic Party (PDP) candidate.

APC and Akinwunmi Ambode are carrying the torch for continuity in Lagos. Their entire communication campaign has pushed the idea of Ambode starting where Fashola is finishing. New ideas do not seem to be abundantly clear and instead the campaign push is that Ambode will work towards the recently launched Lagos State Development Plan 2012-2025.

The plan aims to keep all facets of the Lagos economy moving in the same direction for the growth and development of the state. Key features include, leveraging on the population size, diversifying the economy (the second economy, night clubs, hotels, hospitality facilities), intermodal transportation (linking the different modes of transport ), and providing low-income housing. Modest targets have been set to ensure that Lagos can lead in Africa first by being Africa’s “model city”.

Ambode at the Presentation OF Lagos State Development Plan 2012-2025 Source: akinwunmiambode.com

Ambode at the Presentation OF Lagos State Development Plan 2012-2025
Source: akinwunmiambode.com

“I want to continue all the good works that former governors Bola Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola started. The Mile 2 road and other things the previous administrations started, we will continue work on them” says Ambode while on his campaign trail at Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government Area in January of 2015.

This strategy of ‘continuity’ is working, as demonstrated by the opinion poll on a Nigerian popular blog, naij.com, where Ambode  leads by 33%. In agreement with the the 1321 people who have taken the opinion poll, Damilola Sobo, an environmental consultant said during an interview: “I would vote (if I had a PVC) for APC, Ambode, because I do believe in the idea of continuity under the party”.

The other areas Ambode has focused on throughout his campaign are youth and economy. He has promised to create a ‘24-hour seven days a week economy’, build apartments for the youth and create an educational trust fund to cater for unemployed youth. His overall vision for Lagos is that of ‘leadership and accountability, good governance and quality of service’.

Campaign Poster for Akinwunmi Ambode

Campaign Poster for Akinwunmi Ambode

Agbaje, undoubtedly is an intelligent and well spoken man that has great aspirations for Lagos State and people do believe he could be a great Governor. However, some citizens are not in support of the party he represents.

On watching to the Governorship Debate hosted by the Lagos State Chamber of Commerce & Industry, where both candidates answered questions from a panel, there were a lot of responses similar to that of disappointed APC supporter, Ebokun who said: “Why is Jimi Agbaje aligned with PDP? I’m glad Jimi Agbaje brought up the Eko Atlantic issue on the environmental impact assessment. Ambode sounds like he crammed notes by Fashola and forgot most of it”.

Lagos should be the New York of Africa – a hub for finance, fashion, arts, entertainment in Africa. A ‘sane’ megacity. State of the art architecture, transportation networks that can handle the large population, and the constant flow of visitors.  Lagos will be more balanced and diversified – utilizing all parts (mainland, festac, ikorodu, Epe, etc) with each area being something of a hub for specific industry. Oh, and no traffic.

29, Environmental Consultant

Similar to the majority of all candidates running all over Nigeria vying for votes, his overall message is the same, it includes promises to improve the economy, ease youth unemployment, give attention to small businesses, increase security and improve education. One things that stands out in Agbaje’s approach is that he is not discouraging population growth.

“What makes Lagos bubble is the fact that it brings people from everywhere. The day you begin to deport, Lagos becomes a village”, Agbaje explained during a debate in Lagos in January 2015.

Campaign Poster Source: http://jimiagbaje.com/

Campaign Poster
Source: http://jimiagbaje.com/

For some, this is considered a problematic statement, given that current infrastructure struggles to support the  current population and no clear plan exists of how his administration deal with this challenge as the population grows.

However, whichever candidate wins, they are unlikely to propel Lagos closer to the aspirations of the majority of Lagosians if they do not create a holistic and future thinking administration where corruption is curbed and delivery is key. The next Governor of Lagos has to use the legacies of Fashola and Tinubu as a springboard. The facade of beauty that has been created by the current and previous administrations will fade without a robust and grounded administrative system.


About FutureLagos

Olamide Udoma is a researcher, writer and filmmaker holding degrees in BSc Architecture, MA Design and MPhil Infrastructure Management. Olamide has worked in London, South Africa and Nigeria with various organisations focusing on transport management, slum upgrading and housing rights in urbanising African cities. At Our Future Cities NPO, she is the Lagos manager and editor.