Even keel – Latest Nigeria News, Nigerian Newspapers, Politics

Even keel – Latest Nigeria News, Nigerian Newspapers, Politics

By Sam Omatseye


Lagos has been on my mind these few weeks. It is even more so as it stands as an oasis in a federal chaos. Lagos the necklace of islands, the city as state and state as city, the entrepot, the cauldron of ideas, refuge of migrants. Lagos where army made intrigue but only heard war echoes. But before then royals plotted. Welcome Akintoye, but no farewell to Kosoko. The state of example, the melting pot impatient not to melt down.

It is envied but sought. Claimed but delegitimised. Indispensable but discarded. Inevitable in spite of detours. It’s at once Jacob and Esau. Invested in but not honoured. Everybody and everything comes here. Everybody and everything leaves a mark, but the city retains its hide. A city by a sea as though on a hill.

Unsullied by tribe, unswerved by accent, it is a city of many colours but it is still Lagos, the city in the bubble and out of bubble. Here Awo and Zik dueled and laughed; Maitama Sule orated and Mbadiwe soared in bombast. The first anthem softened an inchoate nation and its moist air fluttered first with green white green.

Here is where the nation breathes in and breathes fire. The artistes from Art Alade to Victor Uwaifo and Victor Olaiya, to the pen convulsions of Soyinka and Achebe and even Sad Sam, Peter Pan to Dele Giwa. Of course the protests, the “Alimungo” and SAP rage. It is still here, the beautiful and the damned. In all, Lagos is the terrible beauty, born of a people looking for beauty in every scenario, especially the terrible ones.

This essayist is taking the time to reflect on the city again, as its present governor marks his second year in office. The two years encompass the history of the city. His tenure and candidacy were born in ferment. Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s name came from shadows, and suddenly became the light in a dark and fraught tunnel in the state. His party was in turmoil before and during the primary and his predecessor lost hold. Things eased and Sanwo-Olu took charge. Like it is in Lagos, what seemed like a shipwreck brightened into a berth. Or rebirth. The Lagos street, often in a groove for poesy, burst into a song of Sanwo eko, (pay Lagos bills), an endorsement of control, a groundswell of populist endearment. Forces coalesced in his party and the state. The party appended its solidarity and the state its mandate.

A rhythm of quiet followed before the city witnessed the kiss of a pandemic. Covid-19 looked for the centre to break. But it took Lagos to rein it in. When the nation looked to the centre to respond with speed, it was Sanwo-Olu, the BOS of Lagos, who led the way. Either by rhetoric or action, it was Lagos that first built the centres before we inhaled a whiff of Covid air. It was he who demonstrated the protocols. Tapping into the psychology and medicine of the moment, he led with his commissioner of health beside him. The centre followed.

It was a trying time, with shutdowns and restrictions, and playing the balancing act between economics and survival. At one state, he seemed all other states took a cue from him. Lagos, Nigeria’s consequential city, was in the lead, again.

The pandemic has had a big toll on bread and butter, and the poor were bound to burst loose sometime in the future. Disease was bound to bring its unease. And it did. It came first with order and courtesy and the young, often restless, wanted police to be responsible. The EndSARS protests filled the streets. It widened its gyre, and the lyre gave an initial tune of friendly youth. They wanted peace, with conditions. Governor Sanwo-Olu stepped into the crowds, unfazed by pure water rain and heckles. He gained their trust and became their emissary to the president, an executive messenger.

But the matter grew out of hand, and the good were replaced by the bad, as riots grew. The faces of articulate youth were replaced by those who could not string together a sentence. As it was in Lagos, so it was in Abuja, and other states. The street gang had overthrown the classroom. Thugs were now the thorns in our ribs.

They burned down shops, stole wares. Palliatives meant for all became a Hobbesian battle for milk, sugar and rice, et al. From being an emissary, he had to ensure peace. For this author, the youth had failed not only themselves but this nation. They could not come with a leader, or a committee of leaders. They left a vacuum for opportunists, who were exploited to settle scores not only in Lagos but across the country. Even ethnic entrepreneur Nnamdi Kanu raved on social media like a hyena smelling blood.

Then came the Lekki Story, which some called massacre without respect to the English language or patience for evidence. Some in the media, sometimes with an impulse to the sensational, called it so. The governor did not follow the babel, neither did he contend in public. He instituted a panel. It is still working, but the most potent episode was when the US Government’s report said there was only evidence of two dead, and only one is barely traceable to Lekki. CNN did not report or respond to its government’s work on it, and its professional work has been stood on its head.

Today, Lagos has risen out of the shadows of those days, and it is partly because of leadership. Lagos had been lucky with governors, whether it was Asiwaju Tinubu, or Fashola or Ambode, the city has always triumphed over adversity.

Governor Sanwo-Olu is especially suited for this moment. There is nothing sudden or dramatic about him, and he has steered Nigeria’s indispensable state over the maelstrom. It seems it happened many years ago. It is a measure of his cool and equable head, well-adjusted administrative skill and social intelligence. He is governing the state to an even keel. So, now we are not contending over a restive street, but whether we are on track to complete the rail lines, both blue and red, or how many internal roads are set for commissioning, schools on reset, bridges awaiting take-off or landing. It is just two years, but it seems he has handled the matters of an era, from economic recessions, to a pandemic, to riot on the streets to peacetime elixir. “A crowded hour in a glorious life,” noted the poet Thomas Mordaunt, “is worth an age without a name.”

But it is credit to his ability to collaborate. No leadership is an island. He has had a good team in and out of the executive council, and the people in support. It can never be one man, but one man makes it all whole, and that is the leader. The German lyrical poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, wrote, “I am much too alone in the world, but not alone enough to consecrate the hour.”

Sanwo-Olu knows that hour, this moment, and he is approaching it like a master.




Tambuwal Aminu

This past week saw not just governors and the president marking their anniversaries. Children had their hurrah two days earlier of May 27th. But an untold story needs an airing for its imagination in leadership, and the credit goes to the governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal. For some time, he has scored for the girl child by “bribing” them out of street trading. He undertook a research and found how much the children made for their parents each month their little commerce. He decided to pay the parents the money so the children could head for the classrooms.

It has work for most part. He put money in their parents’ pockets, so as to bring light in their daughters’ heads. What a tradeoff instead of a trade. What a trade-in for the future. He has liberated the girls from the streets into the four walls of a classroom, into the world of the mind. Away from a nooks and nights, away from early and premature wedlock, away from doctrinaire parents, away from rapes and abuses, away from sun and rain. This is the sort of action of change that does not stir resentment or victimhood. Rather it engenders gratitude. It is a triumph for imagination.

Source: Latest Nigeria News, Nigerian Newspapers, Politics

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