By Adekunle Adekoya
REALLY, it wasnâ€™t a town hall meeting, but that is what it turned out to be. Information about the event was to the effect that obas and chiefs from all over Lagos State were going to meet and let newsmen know their response to the latest development concerning the 37 LCDAs, which President Umaru YarÃdua had ordered the state government to scrap, and which the state governor had rejected.
At Regency Hall in Ikeja where the meeting held last Tuesday, paramount rulers in the state, obas of various grades, white cap chiefs and potentates, including baales as well as stipendiary chiefs turned out in their numbers.
The meeting which was presided over by the Oba of Lagos, HRH Oba Rilwan Babatunde Akiolu, chairman of the stateâ€™s traditional rulers council initially had only the royal fathers in attendance, but midway into proceedings, delegations of market women from various parts of the state trooped in, and swelled the audience. The hall was packed to capacity.
Oba Akiolu opened deliberations in Yoruba with prayers and greetings to his colleagues, and invocations to his ancestors, and after this, delved into the matter of the LCDAs and narrated how they were created.
Tracing the genesis of the crisis, Oba Akiolu reminded his audience that he had led a delegation of eminent persons from Lagos State to the State House in Abuja during the Obasanjo presidency, all in an effort to resolve the matter.
â€œThe problem began with Obasanjo, but it was a policy based on popular support. But it seems some people are bent on creating confusion.â€
â€œNobody prays that anything untoward happens to YarÃduaâ€™s government, and Fasholaâ€™s as well. I hereby urge all Lagosians to remain calm and refuse to be provoked.â€
He then invited attendees at the meeting to contribute, since, as he said, â€œthe president was acting on advice.â€
In his own contribution, a prominent white cap chief,Â the Eletu_Odibo of Lagos, Chief Tajudeen Gbadesire said it is all politics.
His words: â€œIt is all politics. What is politics and who are politicians if they are not for the people? If they donâ€™t do what we want, we have a right to protest. If they want us to fight, we may have to fight, but we should remember that there are Lagosians behind this crisis. The governor must be prepared; he has our support.â€
Speaking at the occasion, the Oba of Imota, Oba Ajibade Bakare Agoro said that President Yarâ€™Adua should remember that his late father was Minister of Lagos Affairs in the first Republic, and should be conscious of that legacy.
â€œAll they are after is confusion. They are angry at progress in Lagos and 2011 elections is just ahead. The president has no business in this matter, he should leave us alone.â€
Shortly passions became inflamed when one of those present at the occasion blamed former president Obasanjo. He muttered in Yoruba to no one in particular: â€œObasanjo lo da gbogbo e sile!â€, meaning Obasanjo is responsible for the crisis over the LCDAs.
As passions rose on the matter, a traditional ruler from one of the outliers attempted to calm nerves and suggested that a delegation be sent to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to seek his input in resolving the matter amicably, but his suggestion was drowned by shouts of No! No!! No!!!
Another royal father took the microphone and condemned the call to send a delegation to Chief Obasanjo. He said that the problem was started by â€œBaba Abeokutaâ€ and does not see any reason to think that he will help in resolving the matter to the favour of Lagos, and concluded that there is no point in sending a delegation to him.
The Oba of Odi-Olowo in Mushin, Lagos, in his own contribution said that what Oba Akiolu said earlier was correct as he was also in the delegation of eminent persons from Lagos that went to Aso Rock on the matter during the Obasanjo presidency.
â€œObasanjo is behind this problem. He started it, and is still fuelling it.â€
Former governor of the state, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who was represented at the meeting by an aide, Professor Tunde Samuel, said that the ultimatum, apart â€œfrom being totally unwarranted and an abuse of the constitution, in essence seeks to punish the people of Lagos State for being democratic.â€
He said that the situation is an irony given the fact that the president, â€œas governor of Katsina State saw the wisdom of signing into law the bill creating additional local governments in his home state.â€
He added: â€œWe must impress on the National Assembly that it is duty bound to fulfil its consequential duty and add the names of the 37 LCDAs to the Schedule of the Constitution so that they can properly carry out the role expected of them and contemplated by the constitution.â€
Oba Lawal, the Onigbanko in his own contribution said: â€œDo they want to become God? This is not about guns or cutlass. We donâ€™t want fight in Lagos. It is about development, and they should let us have our LCDAs as local governments.â€
However, reason prevailed through the contribution of prominent industrialist and the Asoju_Oba of Lagos, Chief Molade Okoya_Thomas. He calmed down the audience and urged those present at the meeting to see the development as a challenge.
His words: â€œIf you are challenged, you have to find out the nature of the challenge. We should know the root ofÂ of the present challenge. All the lawyers I spoke with on the matter have advised that there was nothing unconstitutional in the creation of the 37 LCDAs.â€
Speaking further, he said that President Yarâ€™Adua should be seen as an ally in the matter.
â€œIs it not Yarâ€™Adua that released withheld funds? That means he is committed to the 37 LCDAs. This is not a fight because we donâ€™t know how they will fight.â€
He then suggested that a delegation of the stateâ€™s traditional rulers be sent to the President on the matter as a way out. He urged the gathering to put the matter to vote, which was done, and the motion was carried to send a delegation to President Yarâ€™Adua.