By Opeyemi BAMIDELE Esq
It was Abraham Lincoln who described democracy as the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Simplistic as this sounds, it has become the benchmark for assessing governance across the globe.
Lincoln in arriving at this legendary clichÃ©, thought like a bricklayer. A bricklayer mounts cement blocks one after the other and over each other to build long lasting structures. To him, each ruler and member of society should build long lasting relationships, one that will survive posterity and one each will leave behind for succeeding generations to inherit.
In western countries largely located in Europe and United States of America (USA), governance has toed this simple clichÃ©, as virtually all activities by government are carried out in strict conformity with this. To them, government does not refer to just the executive but the three arms, Executive, Judiciary and the legislature, working independently and interdependently.
The relationship is symbiotic and there is mutual respect for each. Each arm believes it cannot survive without the other, hence the conscious move to communicate effectively as a team but with the realization that each tier must operate in accordance with the Constitution of the land.
Each must, like a carpenter, knock off rough edges, smoothen relative smooth edges in place with sandpaper, stick them together with long lasting evostic glue, paints them for aesthetics and packages well for marketing and eventual delivery. To these developed democracies, each arm recognizes the supremacy of the Constitution, hence adopts it in performing its constitutionally defined roles.
In the third world, especially countries in Africa and the Americas, the reverse has been the case. Governments do not derive their power from the people, hence are not accountable to them. Even in the so called democracies, the â€œrepresentatives of the peopleâ€, in the executive and legislature, emerge from warped elections.
Elections without credibility or any trace of legitimacy. What should then be expected? Governments that do as they please, governments that do not know the basic meaning of accountability, governments that trample on peopleâ€™s rights, governments that are above the law. Nigeria is no exception. All aforementioned attributes of governments pervading the developing countries are fully present here.
However, there is much to cheer, as there are enticing linings on the horizon. Legitimate governments, initially denied access to power as mandated by the people, are being restored in their rightful places by the bastion of the
common man, the judiciary.
The list is growing. Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko, Edo State, Comrade Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, who incidentally marked his one year of grassroots leadership a few days ago. There are also numerous Senators, members of the House of Representatives and members of State Houses of Assembly.
Hitherto untouchables, elite Nigerians who bestrode the nation like colossus, are been kept in coolers to allow legitimate God fearing Nigerians lead their people towards the Promised Land. Those who hid behind the veil of immunity to perpetuate all forms of atrocities are being brought to book as they drop their garbs of office.
In Lagos State, the Centre of Excellence, governance is being sustained in accordance with the rule of law. Government realizes it derives its mandate from the people and has always ensured that the people are carried along in all its activities.
Today, Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) is proving that he sustains whatever he or his administration initiates. At the inception of his administration, he promised to run an open government that will be accountable to the people. In keeping faith with this promise, he instituted a forum the regular 100 days anniversary commemoration, which was deliberately initiated as an avenue for Government to give account of stewardship to specific target groupings/audience among the civil populace. At the forum, he faces the peopleâ€™s court, sector by sector to give an account of his stewardship, receive feedback on plans, programmes and policies being enunciated by the administration and even takes knocks from those displeased in part or whole by these activities and programmes. Some of the groups he has engaged include: the private sector (with the aim of enlisting their corporate partnership for trade and social responsibility); the Grassroot Leaders (for effective grassroots sensitization, participation, policy understanding and support for Government programmes at the local level); the Political Class (for Popular Participation in Policy Formulation, Implementation and Campaign); the Civil Society (with the aim of evolving a synergy of service between the Government and Development operators, as well as Interest Groupings) and students (catching them young to express their minds on commendations and condemnations, on goings on around them).
Today, he will engage the informal sector, largely made up of artisans, i.e mechanics, bricklayers, carpenters, market men and women, hairdressers, tailors and the lot. He has regularly held interactive sessions with media executives such as News Editors, Features Editors and Political Editors as well as the Guild of Editors as a strategic Media Platform and conglomeration of print and electronic media representatives.
The peopleâ€™s Governor has also organized convocation of town hall meetings and business fora with the grassroot at the senatorial and local government levels. Governor Fashola (SAN) and his team, have since inception proved that theirs is a government by artisans, for artisans and of artisans. The Governor as a bricklayer has taking it on himself to build lasting relationships, locally and abroad. His administration itself is made up of people from various sectors of the society.
He went beyond his party to look for people of integrity, male and female and has been cementing them, mixing them with effective leadership and good governance, within the rule of law. He has equally been a driver, driving the state towards the Promised Land. His vision has seen the state being transformed beyond the imagination of the people. Could one have comprehended that rather than throw away rusty commercial vehicles, molue and danfos, he brought in his BRT to compete with them.
Rather than send touts and social miscreants to prison after prosecution, he sent them for vocational training and eased their access to micro credits. After sending away traders who had become social nuisances, he built ultra modern markets for them at Tejuosho, Oyingbo, Oluwole, Oshodi etc.
Leading a team of barbers, Governor Fashola has been trimming off weeds and planting beautiful trees which are saving the ozone layer, providing job opportunities for the unemployed and food for the people, as quite a number of Lagosians have graduated from planting just trees but vegetables and fruits as banana in their gardens and even establishing fish ponds within the confines of their residences. He, as a tailor has been sowing seeds of inspiration to all nooks and crannies of the state.
People from all parts of the state are being brought together and sewn together as a formidable team, contributing individually and as a team to the socio â€“ economic development of the state in particular and nation at large.
This government for the artisans has equally established and sustained institutions that are promoting the future of members of this informal sector. A Micro Credit Institution, the Lagos State Micro Finance Institution (LASMI) was established to supervise the operations and activities of Micro Finance Banks in the state. It also put in place the Eko Micro Credit Finance Initiative to empower the artisans and tradesmen and women.
The whooping sum of N5 billion was appropriated last year and well over 5000 artisans have benefitted from micro credit loans made available by the then five registered Micro Finance Banks. A sixth bank has been registered to provide loans to them. Skills acquisition centres have also been established in various parts of the state.
Till date, there are sixteen of such vocational centres located in every nook and cranny of the state. They have been training artisans and youths in such vocations as tie and dye, balloon and flower decoration, cakes and snacks production, soap and pomade production, hair braiding and weaving, hat making and craft to mention a few.
New vocational skills have just been approved. They include welding, tile laying, aluminium fabrication, screen/ transfer, printing technology, vulcanizing/wheel balancing and alignment, handset repairs, refrigeration and air conditioning.
In 2007, 1000 students graduated from five existing vocational centres, by 2008, the figure had risen to 4, 028 and this month, 4, 468 students will be graduating. In order to ensure that these artisans and members of their families have access to decent healthcare, a statewide screening of hypertension and diabetes was conducted from August 24 â€“ 28, 2009 and a total of 82, 425 people were screened.
Out of this figure, 15, 958 were found to be hypertensive and 3, 475 detected to be diabetic. On the Roll Back Malaria programme, the Fashola administration, a survey was carried out on institutional based policy and practices of malaria case management in 210 health facilities.
Government has also been achieving a lot in terms of service delivery and infrastructural development, through the Public â€“ Private Partnership. It is an arrangement with clear vision, direction and defined roles and responsibilities for all actors.
Inherent in PPP are such empowering and poverty alleviation programmes such as micro finance, employment generation, direct labour, franchise and social responsibility services in the health sector. The private sector is also being influenced to focus on micro, small and medium sized ventures and work more closely with the people at the local levels, especially artisans, associations, unions and other local social cells and individuals at the grassroots.
The State Government desirous of ensuring a smooth growth of the informal sector, has fashioned out broad policies and supportive policies and an acceptable environment for the SMEs. These include the development and maintenance of SMEs industrial estates / parks, incubators and industrial technology development centres, provision of supportive enabling environment for them.
Other efforts include the provision of grants or participatory assistance for trade fairs and business exposure and increased opportunities for capacity building in modern manufacturing processes and business management.
As the appreciative Fashola administration celebrates our dear artisans whose contributions to national development are acknowledged, one appeals to this sector of the economy to reposition itself, to play an even better role in global small and medium industries system.
They must seek new strategies and ideas, interact more with other sectors, as the cost of indulging strictly within themselves, will be too costly.
In the words of Francis Bacon, â€œHe that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils, for time is the greatest innovatorâ€. Our artisans must equally join the State Governmentâ€™s tax campaign, by paying their taxes voluntarily and as when due.
With the lopsidedness disposition of the centre in appropriating revenue from the Federation account, it behoves on the State Government to be creative in raising internally generated sources of revenue to provide the dividends of democracy to its people, from whom its legitimacy for service evolves.
The timely payment of taxes by the artisans in the informal sector and others in the formal sector will go a long way in arming the Master crafts man and his team, in building a virile state we all would be proud of.
Eko o ni ba je o!
Opeyemi Bamidele, Esq. is the Honourable Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lagos State