What is the state of opposition parties in many states of the federation today? What is the state of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State, supposedly the ‘Centre of Excellence’? The spirited opposition prior to 2015 by All Progressives Congress (APC) has become a beacon of opposition politics in the country even, if the dividends according to the people now appear scanty.
Opposition politics in most parts of the country, sadly, is essentially election-based, as only the gongs of electioneering rouse most opposition parties and politicians from their four-year slumber into the political fray. When they inevitably lose, they either resume their usual stupor or jump and defect to the ruling party to salvage their battered political careers.
Lagos PDP, like most opposition parties in some states, is no exception. No matter the numerous infractions of the ruling party, not much kick of opposition comes from the party and its leadership. Whereas, many Lagosians and its army of civil society groups take on the ruling party and its government on a daily basis over failed policies, Lagos PDP, which has lapsed into perpetual opposition, is usually not moved. What the party has become adept at is make itself available after a four-year hiatus to mount what some have called tepid campaigns for office.
So far, the only lone opposition voice in Lagos PDP is its leader, Chief Bode George, whose concerns are not limited to the situation in Lagos, but politics at the centre in Abuja. In matters relating to bad governance in Lagos, many PDP stalwarts are usually silent, which is worrisome for a party that desires to rule the state.
While former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who was denied a second term, held office, Lagos became a mounting refuse dump. Many Lagosians were outraged by the government’s inability to follow through with the clean up template put in place by previous governments.
Not only that, the previous government abandoned the big budget rail line stretching from Lagos Marina all the way to Badagry and beyond, works in the multi-national facility, designed to take traffic from Lagos Marina through Ojo to Badagry, has since grounded to a halt. Residents living on that important international route experience difficulty in commuting the Lagos-Badagry-Benin Republic route.
It wasn’t just the abandonment of big projects that marked the failure of the last administration, all inner roads also collapsed while the government busied itself with mega projects that further alienated it from the people. While residents cried to the high heavens about the deplorable state of inner roads and streets, Lagos PDP simply slumbered on in clear abandonment of its oppositional role to galvanise the governing party to its duties.
A full year after Babajide Sanwo-Olu assumed office, not much appears to be happening. What exactly is Sanwo-Olu’s programme of action towards that important rail project? When would work start on that expressway from Orile through Mile 2 to Agbara to Badagry and all the way to Seme Border and Benin Republic? Before President Muhammadu Buhari’s border closure, residents on that axis lived like Lagos outcasts, and forgotten in the scheme of things. For a major international route, it has been sheer governance failure on a monumental scale. Yet in that continuing failure, Lagos PDP seems complicit in its taciturnity.
Oshodi bus terminus is another area of mega project in the middle of a vast slum and market. The last government could not complete it and one year after, not much seems to have happened to that project. Each day, Lagosians look at the vast edifice in amazement, wondering when it would be completed so it could be put to use. In all these, vast sums have been sunk; lots more still needs to be spent.
It appears the PDP did not learn anything from the oppositional experiences of the first and second republics, where parties outside government formed shadow governments to query and vet government projects.
Now, the ongoing repairs on Lagos Third Mainland Bridge is what many consider another area of governance failure both from the federal and state levels. They see it as governance unpreparedness for emergencies and scant regard for citizens’ wellbeing. After barely emerging from a three-month lockdown as a result of coronavirus pandemic, where the economic and social lives of Lagosians were brought to a halt, both the Federal and Lagos State Governments decided to close that important link artery that is at the heart of Lagos commute for repairs. This is after wasting three long months of lockdown doing nothing. Now Lagosians are being made to bear the brunt of daily traffic mayhem for six months, whereas this was a project conceived long before the lockdown.
But in all these infractions and signs of failure of APC leadership in ‘Centre of Excellence’, Lagos PDP does not have much to offer in terms of marshaling creative alternatives.
The party’s failure in its oppositional politics is no less evident than in its criminal silence, when months ago the Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Mudashiru Obasa, was alleged to be involved in financial mismanagement. Lagos PDP either did not hear of the allegations or felt it wasn’t worth its time to weigh in and demand accountability.
While calling on the people of Lagos to take up the challenge by asking critical questions about how the resources of the state are being managed under the ruling party since 1999, Spokesman, Lagos Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Taofik Gani, in a telephone conversation with The Guardian said it was unfortunate that APC has taken it for granted that nobody could ask questions on how it manages the state’s resources.
For instance, Gani said there are several moribund multi-billion naira projects the state government embarked on since the administration of former governor Bola Tinubu, his successors Babatunde Fashola and Ambode that have not yielded gains to the citizens of the state.
One of such projects Gani pointed at is the abandoned Cardiac and Renal Centre, Gbagada General Hospital that was built at the cost of N5.6 billion under Fashola and is still lying unused till date.
The chairman Lagos PDP, Mr. Adedeji Doherty, said it was not true that the opposition has been silent or not doing what it ought to be doing in terms of providing alternative ideas to the government. He also challenged the media to embark on investigative reporting to unravel deficiencies in the governance of Lagos or any other state.
According to him, “It is not to wait for the opposition party to talk before the media reports. Another challenge is that the people themselves are very complacent today, to the extent that if you speak too much against the government, the people will rise against you because of hunger.”
Doherty lamented that the COVID-19 pandemic does not also help the situation or give room for the opposition to criticise too much, because people are angry and hungry. He also urged the media to be more focused, adding, “If you point out government’s inadequacies and discuss it with a particular media, more than five media organisations will turn around to present those genuine issues you faulted the government on as if they are positive. These are the challenges we have as opposition.”
The PDP spokesman also faulted the controversial N4.5 billion Sunborn Yacht Hotel brought from England and moored on the Lagos waters under Fashola for many moths before it disappeared. Gani recalled the Lagos-Enron Independent Power Plant (IPP) project that did not also see the light of the day.
In another reaction to the state of development in Lagos, a PDP aspirants for the yet-to-be fixed senatorial bye-election in Lagos State, Yeye Adenike Shobajo, said the ruling party has done its best since 1999, noting, “we cannot say the ruling party didn’t do its best because there is no way it could have done better than its best. My position is, our party is coming to add more value to governance in the state.”
An economic development expert and Lagos resident, Dr. Jimanze Ego-Alowes, argued that for now there is no opposition party in Lagos to ruffle the feathers of APC and its governing machine,
According to him, “Lagos PDP carries the burden of bearing a thin head on its huge shoulders. She’s not been able to think; she only acts without much, if any thought. To worsen her woes, she is contending against Tinubu, a master of the game. Safely, one can say, Lagos for now, suffers no opposition party. PDP is a party in name only in Lagos.
“While APC’s opposition politics to PDP prior to 2015 was topnotch, although many see the party not living up to its campaign promises to Nigerians, Lagos PDP hasn’t even shown it is part of the state’s daily experiences. Its complicit silence on important issues affecting the state should agitate it. Merely waiting for four-year election circle to crawl out of its closet to ask residents for votes is, at best, bad political culture that may perpetually keep the party out of Lagos power equation. This may be so until it decides to rouse itself from its lethargy and begin to play robust politics of constant engagement.”
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