By Leke Adeseri, South West Editor & Monsuru Olowoopejo
Eko for show
Every Lagosian must find a way of savouring the splendour of the reworked State House in Alausa. That is where Governor Akinwunmi Ambode lives and works.
From the governor’s house, to his support staff offices and residences were spectacles to behold.
Even the recreation area has a captivating lush green football pitch, an inviting lawn tennis court and other sections for whatever game the residents may wish to play.
The state government, for Monday’s Southern Governors’ Summit, added class to the State House, putting a conservative N100 million to turn the place to a state-of-the-art venue that would impress any visitor of the calibre of 17 governors expected to gather later in the day.
From the gate to the red carpet were décor that sparkled, making Lagos live up to its sobriquet, Eko for show.
The Southern Governors’ Summit
When Lagos State Government announced that southern governors would reconvene in Lagos after 12 years, many wondered what their aim was, considering that the ruling party, All Progressives Congress, APC, was not the dominant party in the 17 states.
And the reason for choice of Lagos as the convergence spot for the governors also became source of concern since the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, is not a core politician.
The parley was allegedly championed by Ambode and his counterpart from Akwa Ibom, Emmanuel Udom.
The agenda was also disclosed by Ambode in his speech before the governors embarked on over three hours meeting which resulted in the communiqué issued later.
He stressed that the resuscitation of the SGF came at a time when the country embarked on activities to correct the wrong that had existed over the years.
Ambode said: “It is coming at a most appropriate time. As we are aware, the Senate and House of Representatives are currently harmonizing their differences on the proposed amendments of the 1999 Constitution before they are transmitted to the State Houses of Assembly for approval.
“It is important for this Forum to comprehensively look at the proposed amendments with a view to working with our respective Houses of Assembly to ensure a coordinated response on our part that will strengthen the practice of democracy, federalism, constitutionalism and the rule of law,” the governor added.
He noted that the productivity and revenue-generating capacities of most of the states are stifled thus turning them into no better than street beggar states incapable of even meeting routine obligations of paying workers’ salaries and pensions without federal support.
Citing the example of Lagos State in the struggle for true federalism, Ambode explained that the state had fought and won several legal battles since 1999, which he said, had systematically strengthened her autonomy and enhanced her fiscal viability.
He noted that over the years, Lagos has won legal control over the management of its environment, control of urban and physical planning, regulation of overhead masts, registration and regulation of hotels and restaurants and control of her inland waterways.
“The victory does not belong to Lagos alone, but to all other states in the federation and which they must explore significantly. I believe if Lagos has been able to achieve so much fighting singly, the Forum can accomplish much more by thinking, planning, strategizing and acting together.”
Takeaways from the Southern Governors’ Forum
Governors from the 17 states that cover the Southern Region of Nigeria, converged in Lagos on Monday, October 23rd, 2017 for a strategic meeting, the first since 2005 which was hosted by former Governor Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
This covered the South-East, South-West and South-South zones of the country and was another opportunity for the Governors to forge a Southern Coalition in the areas of socio-economic development, commerce, industrialization amongst others.
Here are the five key takeaways from the forum;
A Robust Attendance
The Forum had a robust attendance as widely expected with 13 state governors present, while Cross River, Delta and Anambra sent their deputy governors.
This was a welcome development as the leaders were ready to engage and discuss issues beyond political party borders with Governors Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos) and Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) as co-chairmen of the conference.
Devolution of Powers & Fiscal Federalism
The Southern Governors Forum resolved at the end of its meeting to work collectively, in pushing for devolution of powers and achieving fiscal federalism. Reading the communiqué, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State was optimistic that the Southern Governors’ Forum will work assiduously to drive a robust and connected infrastructure, that will accelerate the economic development of the states in the Southern belt.
According to Governor Ambode, “Lagos State had fought and won several legal battles since 1999 that have systematically strengthened her autonomy and enhanced her fiscal viability. These victories belonged, not only to Lagos, but also to other states, adding that, if Lagos could achieve so much by fighting alone, the Southern Governors’ Forum will accomplish more through collective planning and strategy.”
Ambode to lead the SGF
Apart from serving as the chief host of the forum, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State was unanimously appointed as the Chairman of the SGF. Governors Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa) and David Umahi (Ebonyi) will serve as co-chairmen.
Constitutional Amendment Review
The forum resolved that it will participate actively in the ongoing 1999 Constitution amendment, working with the State Houses of Assembly to ensure a coordinated effort to strengthening democracy, federalism and the rule of law.
Port Harcourt, Next Destination
At the end of the engaging Southern Governors Forum in Lagos, it was resolved that the next destination for the meeting of the governors will be Port Harcourt, Rivers State the “Treasure Base of Nigeria.” This marks opportunities for new partnership for the development of Southern Nigeria.