By Tayo Ogunbiyi
HIGHLIGHTING the ethnic and tribal composition of our great country is always a hurting venture for patriotic and detribalised minds. One of the banes of the country’s march to greatness is tribalism and ethnicity. Our diverse ethnic and tribal configuration has always been a major setback in our quest for a united, prosperous and strong nation.
Unfortunately, the nation’s elite, rather than emphasise more on the things that bind us together as a people, often play the ethnic and tribal cards for chiefly selfish and other primordial considerations. The elite have discovered that ethnicity, tribalism and religious sentiments remain cheap channels through which they could play upon the intelligence of the ordinary folks in the country and they have learnt to use them to the maximum for their advantage.
It is a common thing in Nigeria for political jobbers and certified opportunists, who usually have nothing good to offer the people, to fan tribal and ethnic sentiments across the land. Usually, the strategy is for them to pretend as defenders of the people; same people whose interests they have always trampled upon for ephemeral concerns.
In Nigeria, Lagos remains, perhaps, the only major melting points where all Nigerians could feel at home, irrespective of ethnic and religious differences. There is no other state that has opened its doors to accommodate Nigerians of various shades as Lagos does. It has always been the tradition of successive governments in the state to accord every resident in the state fair deal in the scheme of things.
This is the spirit of Lagos. It is this tradition that subsequent governments in the state has been building upon for years. Without a doubt, the state government is often motivated by a strong desire to build a state where everyone, irrespective of ethnic, tribal, religious and other such concerns, could productively earn a decent living in a safe and secure environment. The main goal is to have a state where ethnic and tribal considerations count for nothing.
In Lagos State, in terms of strategic positioning, the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning is, perhaps, the most crucial of all the State’s MDAs. It is the ministry that prioritises the expenditures of the state government. It is a testimony to the non-tribal disposition of the state government that this all important agency was once, for eight years, under the leadership of Mr. Ben Akabueze, a professional banker and economist of Igbo descent. To further reinforce its non-tribal posture, the Lagos State Government named a few of its housing estates as well as a parks after prominent Nigerians such as Chief Emeka Anyaoku and Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu.
In the past 19 years, Lagos has continued to show the way forward in its commitment to an indivisible Nigeria where no one is denied of opportunities for self actualisation on mundane considerations. The state’s primary, secondary and tertiary health facilities and, indeed, other such infrastructure remain accessible to all Nigerians without any discrimination. The State Security Trust Fund has continued to ensure the safety and security of every Lagos resident. The public primary and secondary schools in the state have continued to open their doors to all Nigerians irrespective of tribal and ethnic affiliations.
Since the inception of the now popular Spelling Bee competition among public secondary schools in the state, some of the winners that have emerged as ‘One Day Governor’ sufficiently demonstrate the cosmopolitan nature of the state’s public schools. A breakdown reveals that out of the lots, two are from Edo State while the remaining four are of Igbo extraction.
In Lagos State, excellence and competence remain major factors in the recruitment of its workforce. Apart from the Federal Civil Service, the Lagos State Public Service remains, perhaps, the only one in the country that employs people without regards to ethnic and tribal factors. Today, the State Public Service has in its fold Nigerians that cut across the major ethnic/ tribal divides in the country.
While some states in the country employ or even retrench based on indigenisation considerations, Lagos State has simply continued its policy of absorbing qualified Nigerians into its Public Service. It is on record that sometime ago, a state in the South-East zone disengaged ‘non-indigenes’ from its workforce. This has never been the case in Lagos State.
The relative peace being enjoyed in the state is a reflection of the unrelenting effort of the state government to accommodate various interest groups in the state. On a regular basis, the state government organises stakeholders’ meetings with the leaders of the ethnic/tribal communities in the state to rub mind together on how to make Lagos a better place for all. Specifically, the state government has a healthy relationship with the various ethnic and tribal groups in the state. The result of this robust relationship is the atmosphere of peace and harmony that currently reign in the state.
The issues involved in the development and growth of Lagos State and, indeed, Nigeria transcends ethnic and religious sentiments. The brotherly love and bond that have existed between the Lagos State Government and the diverse ethnic and tribal groups in the state must not be compromised. Fifth columnists, whose major pre-occupation is to fan the ember of disaffection for self-seeking interests must not be allowed to profit, as it is their practice, from the current false campaigns. The hospitable nature of Lagos indigenes is legendary. It is a global legend that the people of Lagos State are hospitable. And so is the present government of the state and previous administrations.
In a political season, unusual things happen and perhaps we are living in an interesting time. There is too much at stake for anyone to begin to incite non-indigenous population against their host state. It is a very dangerous and unwarranted pattern. The sad manipulation of our people through ethnic, religious and sectional differences has caused a lot of harm to our nation. It breaks the unity of our people and turns their attention away from the urgent and real matters of public interest.
Given the current thinking in Lagos State, it is strongly believed that all stakeholders in the state should play a major role in ensuring the full realisation of the lofty policies and programmes of the state government for the common good. Therefore, to further strengthen the current development strides in the state, there must be continuous constructive engagements and collaborations between all groups, interests and actors in the state. This is the only way forward. This is the spirit of Lagos.