By Justin Mbu
JIMI Agbaje, the PDP gubernatorial candidate for Lagos State recently declared his desire to make Lagos State the second largest economy in Africa by 2029.
This he anchored on building a state focused on its people and human capital development. This vision is premised on repositioning Lagos globally over the next ten years by focusing relentlessly on the development of the knowledge, skills and health of the people of Lagos which, based on what has been seen in other very successful economies, will equip Lagosians and future generations for a lifetime of prosperity.
Education is so critical to any nation’s success as it becomes an anchor for economic, social and political development. Whilst a fresh debate is brewing actively about Jimi Agbaje spending up to 50 per cent of the state’s resources in creating an education/knowledge economy, everyone seems to be missing a second aspect of his visionary plan, which he described as having a can-do attitude, if we are going to carry it through.
In reading his big idea document, I was quite impressed by his emotional call to Lagosians to join his freedom train with a strong conviction that nothing is impossible to do. Lagosians should not let the fear of possible failure stop them from embarking on what is going to be larger, bigger, better than anything proposed in this country. This is also the spirit he is seeking from Lagosians.
Agbaje is now also being audacious by not only seeking to create this knowledge and education-driven economy, but plans to do so by piggy backing this vision on an intention to invest massively in infrastructure which is craftily locked into his education economy strategy.
He claims we just do not have a choice but to build wider, longer and layered roads if we are going to ease our traffic problems. What is even more exciting is his plan to build underground transportation systems based on the ‘ground breaking’ work that Elon Musk’s company – The BORING company is now able to do in boring huge holes underground to create new transportation infrastructure at a fraction of current costs. Building underground saves the battle for right of way, minimizing potential disturbance to urban dwelling and eliminating disruptions to communities. That’s a big idea. It is clearly the Awolowo model of visioning.
Talking about Chief Obafemi Awolowo, I ask that we cast our mind back to the vision that inspired Chief Obafemi Awolowo when 54 years ago, he built the 25 storey Cocoa House in Ibadan, which at that time was the tallest building in tropical Africa, funded 100 per cent from the proceeds of cocoa. This same visionary leader built the first television broadcast station on the African continent also in Ibadan in 1959, 60 years ago, even ahead of France!
Lagos can only be saved by a fresh, honest and legitimate visionary leader and not an operations manager chosen to be just that – an ‘operations’ manager, who naively admits that he is privileged to be a puppet to govern the current fifth largest economy in Africa. Agbaje will surely get funding to actualise his vision based on the quiet assurances from those still too timid to step out and say so publicly.
First of all, he will get greater value for the money invested in executing these projects. He will definitely win the hearts of the private sector partners and funding agencies, who will trust him implicitly with their money. They will trust how he will spend, they will trust how he will engage, they know he will give value for money and they know Jimi Agbaje will not steal. They will trust his leadership.
He will also raise money from just plugging the huge holes that exist in the State’s treasury and captured in the wider financial economy of the state. Agbaje mentions the revenue from the Lagos State chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers estimated to be in excess of N200 billion annually and asks where it is shown in the books of the state. This income, if captured, begins to make the funding of his education driven economy look even that more possible.
Agbaje says he will implement the Freedom of Information Act to show transparency in his financial governance and bring to every one’s notice, once and for all, how much Lagos truly earns as a state. He also says his government will only seek to facilitate and not participate in the businesses of the various entrepreneurs, corporates and legitimate businessmen who seek ways to support the State’s vision. His Government will have no business in business, and it will also not partake in someone else’s business.
With Agbaje’s plan to zone Lagos into economic zones, this must be great news to enterprise. Whilst I could challenge the zoning allocation, it is clear that the concept is welcome and I am sure, his urban planners, when embedded in government might have different economic zones. For now, he proposes five zones, namely: Lagos mainland, Island, VI and Ikoyi, which should become the ICT, financial and professional services hub – the traditional life-wire of Lagos. Ikeja, Ikorodu and its environs will continue to focus on industrial services. Badagry and environs will focus on engineering technology, agriculture and its value chain industry, Lekki Peninsular and Epe corridor for the emerging upstream extractive industry, fishing and free trade zone, and finally Apapa and its environs for cabotage, maritime and shipping.
This urban matrix concept will provide the foundation for the creation of self-contained and enhanced communities with assets that will facilitate residence, schools, primary and secondary healthcare, security and police formations, social interaction parks, entertainment venues, sports venues and of course commerce and industry. This proposed urban planning concept will reduce the need for movement of people from residential to industrial areas, with the resulting benefits in the areas of traffic flow, productivity and quality of life in each community.
I must give credit to Agbaje’s vision and the ingenious way he has made the creation of an education economy an anchor to drive the rest of the economy. Those who do not understand must read his big idea Manifesto. You will understand why he says his vision just got bigger.