Thomas Hobbes, a philosopher, in trying to justify the existence of the state argues that the state is a product of collective needs of individuals, to avoid chaos that result from everybody trying to realize his or her selfish interest. Hence, people submit or are presumed to have submitted partially some of their rights to an independent arbiter called the state or “the Leviathan”. This engagement he described as the social contract, without which he asserted life would have been nasty, brutish and short.
The idea of having the best form of representatio n and legitimacy to achieve order and organization has been one of the most important evolution in human sociological history that result in political systems and forms of governments world over. It is in this context, that a variant of what started in Athenian known as Athenian Democracy, which advance form called modern democracy, ushered an -APC-controlled Lagos State Government headquartered at Alausa-Ikeja, to manage the social contract in Lagos State for all classes of people; rich and poor, opportune and strong, weak and vulnerable. The chief executor of this social contract is Mr Akinwumi Ambode who swore -with his BIBLE- on the 29th May 2015 to among other things, defend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which provides guidelines of implementing the social contract without fear or favour.
Since then, various social currents triggered by either implementatio n of inherited policies or law or Ambode’s policies reveal the countenances and attitudes of the Governor’s aides that imply civil societies legitimate opposition through advocacy as ‘naïve’ of democracy -their rare perspective. The kind of addresses and side expressions that emanate from this group of people, whenever there is a civil action suggest that legitimate opposition is confused for subversion. One is surprised that they are more interested in knowing who sponsored the protest than addressing their legitimate demands. I doubt if his security aides would proactively widen their scope to include security implications of the state policies and laws in equitable manner for all citizens, instead of reactionary measures. Abraham Lincoln, one of the front runner of our model democracy and presidential system of government, defines democracy as government of the people, by the people and for the people. If one is to domesticate this, I will say democracy is a rationalizati on of subjective feelings and opinion. Whatever issue we canvassed is driven by subjective feeling. Hence, democracy is the order that allow the flow of the late Aminu Kano’s logic: “let superior logic wins and social equity be enthroned”.
Since October 4th, 2016 to 7th March 2017, they had been series of civil action like peaceful protests, press releases in response to many obnoxious laws and elitist urban planning policies. An attempt by civil societies to sell to government that the Center of Excellence cannot engage in over flogged issue of “No-to-forced eviction”, is not viewed in the context of law but primordial visages of defending foreigners against Omo Isale Eko (Lagos indigenes).On the 4th of October 2016;the Federation of Informal Workers of Nigeria(FIWON) ,Physically Challenge Empowerment Initiative(PCEI) and Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation(Nigerian Federation) protested enforcement of Lagos Street Trading and Illegal Market Prohibition Law 2003.Another was on 7th and 16th of October 2016 when the Nigerian Federation and PCEI protested against 7 day notice to quit handed down over 300000 people on the Lagos Water front by the Governor.
Then On the 14th November 2016, the Nigerian Federation went to Alausa, Lagos State Secretariat, to protest the setting of Otodogbame on fire by suspected thugs and through suspected deliberate inaction of the Governor and the police. Then came the surprise on the 7th March 2017,PCEI took the government house security operatives and the Governor’s aide unaware of legal ban on begging, empowerment of members and dehumanizatio n of members at Majidun Rehabilitatio n Centre meant for mentally challenged; extortion by suspected KAI.Like a thunderless and breeze-less sudden rain, an army of heads and well organized yellow buses started converging on the Government House,Ikeja.As mirage appears in our focus horizon when taxing a tarred road as ponds that fizzle out; the Government House were confused whether some blind Mallams, wheel chaired visitors are marabouts In advance movement for the Patron who was away. Different radio and telephone calls reveal they have been rattled and humbled to new knowledge; it is trite the saying “nobody monopolize wisdom”.
The Governor who was away was prevented from entering his office and his official lodge. The Governors security aides try to avoid behavior that would attract public backlash because they do not know who is watching globally. It is late, the Comrade Mohammed Zana led PCEI had the day. It would have been symbolic if the Governor had retreated to his father’s house in Epe or private house in the Lagos mainland. Welcome to a new dawn of political advocacy call civil action in Nigeria. Bureaucracy has been ridiculed as providing covers for travesties and doublespeak in Nigeria. One may ask what deters the most powerful military institutions in bastions (UK, France, USA etc) of democracy not to engage in coup? Answer: legitimate civil action driven by public consensus.
Apart from the Governor’s rapid response to most of PCEI demands, obviously to avoid being messed up by joining issues with apparent dregs of humanity, that is the social class of this beggars and the physically challenged. The Governor may also have considered avoid ruffling political feathers with fellow Northern Governors by whose states the indigent beggars and physically challenged mostly originated. The Coordinator, Mohammed Zanna, challenged the Governor aides on democracy: “they disobey law and court orders because they are well read with SAN lawyers who know all the loopholes in law. Why can’t this SANs help government to draft a bill that forbids abandoning family member who is physically challenge?” One is tempted to say the concession to PCEI may be a survivalist and circumstantia l decision, not conviction.
The bottom line of this agitations is inclusiveness through humanizing all policies and existing laws that do not pass the corresponding Rotarian 4-way test, because the society is motion and we have not reached the bus stop or epoch of perfection. The Rotary 4-way test: “1.is it the truth;2.is fair to all concerned;3. will build good will and B3tter friendship; and 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned”.one often shudder to figure out His Excellency’s motive as most of his policies and that of his immediate predecessor are not populist; they leap towards the interest of the rich and propertied class, as well attracting foreign investors. The physical planning policies are segregational and does not promote multiclass residency as if only the rich have the right to the city centre. These are the central issues that connect all protests that Governor, his aides and colleagues misconstrued as “an attempt to intimidate; we can’t be intimidated”. They carry on as if in democracy, laws and policies are handout meant to be imposed by leaders; not a participatory process; give and take activities.
While the Lagos State -APC- led government continues to bask in the sloganeering euphoria of Eko Oni Baje OOO; Itesiwasu Eko (Lagos must not spoil; must progress), one must not be tempted to belief anyway that the protesters are routing for regression in development. This no doubt represents the honest views of those in the establishment s, who may have reduced counter-measures to a problem to a monopoly of one source, with feeling of finality. In a frustrating and urgent situation where bureaucracy seem not to deliver correspondenc e of calling government attention to peoples ‘plight through MDAs, nothing can be more imperative than to take to legitimate civil action, as demonstrated by the afore-mentioned protest. I feel surprised that some of the security aides equated the action of PCEI and anybody, in locking blocking the movement of people in and out of the Government House and state House of Assembly, as breach of human rights, as if they forgot that public servants are subservient civil action in democracy; the setting is tax payers’ facility. In a civilized clime, where power belong to the people, government can be sacked through civil action, when bureaucracy and inter -arm of government romance stifles popular demand. Was a French Prime Minister Alain Juppe not locked out by French farmers with tractors; blocking of all routes to State House over his sweeping reforms in1995?
What about the Arab spring as result of self- immolation of frustrated graduate fruit? How many government collapsed because of these civil actions? Answer: Libya, Tunisia, Egypt etc. Democracy connotes the public officials are what Lagos State Tenancy Law 2011 refers to as Tenants at will, who does not pay rent and is entitled to 1 week notice-to-quit. The landlord here is the electorate. Public officials can protest lack of popularity or non- commensurate public perception or reaction by resigning.
Let us be specific of the elitist policies and laws of the Lagos State Government:
1.Lagos Homes Ownership Mortgage Scheme (LHOMS). Remark : only less than 20 percent of Lagosians who earn above #100k could afford it.
2.Lagos Megacity Development and Governance Project has no provision for in situ upgrading of the slum. It takes away people from their land for upgrade, rebuild it with housing estates only affordable by rich -exclude the former occupant. Eg Ilubiri Estate, Badia etc
3.Lagos Environmental Law of Lagos 2017:no wide consultation before hurried passage on the 28th of February,2017. Issues; section 43: mandates collection waste license to dispose all classes of waste -domestic and commercial -this excludes cart pushers and communities, especially those in the rural and informal settlements from waste economy. Section 48: restricts all kinds of Waste Collection and disposal to LAWMA approved Private Sector Participant(PSPs). Only privilege PSP s who can pay the license fees monopolize waste business. Even to drill your own borehole or dig a well, you require a license to excavate the earth base on section 20 of this obnoxious law.
Is it only the rich or the successful that has right to the city? The answer to this question is the vacuum in our collective drive for equity and social justice; a vacuum that must be filled by a Non -Governmental Organisations or B3tter put civil society advocacy. The society can only be helped by civil society when the political class have unique collaboration as result of individual -interest-driven-political expediency and survivalism. Many chose not to know what is right for most of the society, as mandated by the Rule of Law. Political patronage usually comes first. The realization of invaluable roles of civil society -social groups (not -for-profits) in providing alternative platforms to advocate for B3tter governance, social justice, specific intervention to mention but few, have made most states in the world to grant them status of tax exemption’. As the bees are attracted to pollen grains; the sun orbits the Earth from East to West; as your dominant gene in your DNA and your learning obsessed you with a dream and focus, so are NGOs proponents who can’t wait to impact the mother earth, and write their names in Gold in the passing time they bestride the earth.
Enters, the Justice and Empowerment Initiative, (JEI) Nigeria, with its workaholic special breed Co-Executive Directors, Andrew Maki, Megan Chapman and Anna Maitland, all United States citizens with PhDs in Law, who have come to Nigeria, from their comfortable country homes in United States, to expand the frontiers of socio-economic justice, mostly for the urban poor and vulnerable populations, thousands for whom they serve as corporate legal advisers -that is their interest. I don’t think anybody in his right senses will consider it illogic for JEI to look in the direction of Nigeria, where the United States is saturated with CSOs, institutions and ethos of democracy. One does not need to go to school in the western climes to know the values of democracy. They came from a clime where professional ethics, empathy and existentialis m have made people to achieve morality, while some weird without religion. They belong to the former.
Suffice to say the JEI informs, educates and empowers the urban poor in Nigeria in collaboration with many formidable NGOs prominent among which Shac/ Slum Dwellers International(SDI)and Amnesty International . It also trains paralegal for communities to facilitate access to justice.
I find it irritating that some aides of the Governors, some members of the state Assembly only look for ways to always wonder from issues, once Megan Chapman is sited, to non-issues, commonly, “what are your interest in this matter”; “you are the only odd person here”; “can this happen in the United States”; “we will report you formerly to the Governor”. “We can’t be intimidated by foreigners and some fifth columnists. In fact, issues must antagonize issues in democracy; nobody should be antagonized. Her attempt to ventilate the legitimate dissent of any issue she represents is viewed as busy body or overreaching with derision. This raging and uncoordinated jibes thrown at Megan Chapman is what sociologists called “stereotypic offensiveness”. A political settlement meeting was supposed to find an action point for negotiation not to be judicial or negatively adjectivize anybody. That was what marred the DSS supervised outdoor meeting of PCEI delegations and line Honourable Commissioner of Youth, Sport &Social Development, Mrs Uzamat Akinbule Yusuf and some political stalwarts; the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Civic Engagement, Mr Taiwo Ayedun on the 7th of March 2017.Although civility was rare on the part of Mohammed Zanna-led protesters, but it could be understood by their confirmed claims that numerous advocacy letters and meetings have not yielded good outcome or desired response or courtesy of responsive acknowledgeme nt. A Government House aide called off the meeting, out of anger: saying we can’t be intimidated”. This implies shortage of skillful negotiators among Ambode’s team.
For God’s sake, a Co-Executive Director of the JEI,Anna Maitland, was part of over 100,000 United States citizens that protested the obnoxious policies of Potus Donald Trump that include travel ban on Nigerian citizens and all Muslims recently. They are not stopping yet! Our mind may have been poisoned by sad chapters of colonialism and the global politics; foreign policies postures of some developed countries. But, it does not call for sweeping generalizatio ns. It is not only every law, as the Alausa lawmakers are won’t to declare, as having exception; nature too has it’s exception. If we have any cause for serious security concerns, our DSS should be proactive about people of the Middle East origin, whose region originated IS, Al-qaeda violent-terrorist group, who obviously have more to benefit from destabilizati on of the country, than the United States citizens doing socio-economic right and public-accountability advocacy. Nature will reward them just as LMDGP 2007 is a world bank financed project. A megacity implies a global and international city of rainbow configuration as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Dubai, New York, London, Geneva etc; a home to all races of humanity. The endowment fund of the World Bank Group is provided by rich countries, among which the United State is a principal funder. We have Jimmy Carter foundation for eradication of Guinea worm in Nigeria; Bill Clinton Foundation; Ford Foundation; Rocker feller Foundation that establish IITA as food security research center for tropical Africa; among other foundations that provide research funding, project financing to many developmental needs.
The Alausa misadventure and ethical showdown constitute an embarrassment to Nigerian intellectual heritage, logic and democracy after 18 years (since 1999). If political public officials of Lagos Status, can deride Megan Chapman, for being involved in development and governance advocacy in Lagos? It is even more surprising to learn that some of the aides who professed to be school activists in their universities’ days; yet engage in impulse driven argument; non-sequential verbal tirades attacks on Megan Chapman; a doyen of humanism and activism.Many of these Alausa politicians may have become too busy to know that rights have gone beyond fundamental human right upon which their school activism days were based in the 80s,90s and 2000s.Then we had no African Charter on Human and People Right(ACHPR);International Covenant on Civil and Political Right (ICCPR);International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights (ICESR) ;kampala_Conve ntion_African _Union_Conven tion_for_the_ Protection_an d_Assistance_ of_Internally Displaced Persons(2009) domesticated and popularized in Nigeria.
The provisions of the above conventions for which Nigeria has ratified is an inspiration to many,what may appear outrageous demands to the too busy Ambode’s men. If on the basis of fundamental human right to dignity of human person, a convicted criminal is fed and accommodated from hazards of nature like rain, sun, wind, cold etc by the state, what has the Governor Ambode MDAs done for Otodogbame people he evicted forcefully, in the light of Kampala Convention, which Nigerian state has ratified? I want to belief the Governor who never claim be Mr Know- all is not aware of this Kampala; not briefed by lined Ministries, else he is wicked, cruel, inhuman and callous. The sanctity of human life should override all consideration . No amount of wrong is fit to make right a wrong. Some may want to spite Megan Chapman or play to certain interests, but the reality is that everybody shall have his own epitaph and fair judgement of posterity. Nature is the judiciary of posterity. The fresh demolition of Otodogbame is not a balanced decision by Governor Ambode, which I believe he was misled by his aides. An indication of failed state is not only when bureaucracy or infrastructur e have collapsed or failed; when poverty is on the intolerable increase; but also includes when voice crying for a deserved state attention is deliberately suppressed with contempt through bias.
More so, a must-know by the Governor, his aides and colleagues are viz; human and socio-economic rights are cross-border issues, just as World Bank’s funding for LMDGP 2007; JEI is a law based NGO operating in Nigeria with CAC approval; that lawyers are tied to obligations to their clients -even for a suspected armed robber. Reason: justice is a 3-way traffic -justice to the offender (not to be punished more than he deserved); justice to the offended (recompensing him emotionally and physically; justice to the society (saving the society from their negative effect). On this note, where is the JEI crime that is attracting unnecessary hysteria from Governor Ambode and his political aides and colleagues? Have those acclaimed lawyers and ex-school activists turned politicians at Alausa not defended clients who they knew have a weak case? It is amazing that even the State Assembly transmogrifie d a protest petition of 14th November by some civil society organizations to call the police to order, on unchallenged attack on Otodogbame people, to a kind of outrageous recommendatio n that ignore the prayers of petitioner and gave ‘Judicial’ order that benefit the police and Elegushi respondents. All the travesties were garbed in an attempt to be ‘holistic’; the lawmakers became father Christmas.
The House of Assembly of the Centre of Excellence deliberately violate Article 24 of ACHPR: the human rights to life, livelihood and dignity, fair hearing and due process of the law (S.4CFRN 1999); Section 22 of ACHPR that obligates that development is a right of the people; Article 11 IECSR: Right to standard of living, food, clothing and housing; right to environment favourable to their development. Above all the sanctity of human life is not seem to have been considered, as the perspective of Elegushi family, that some foreigners took over her land, is being carelessly reechoed by Ambode aides and colleagues. The ownership of Otodogbame land has been an issue of claims and counter claims, in court since 2014;center on gazette, history of occupation, tenure limitation and fundamental human right. In the history of man, migration and social change are ever recurring decimals. Without prejudice to claims at the court, I am not aware any family sprang up from Lagos land. Yoruba are domiciled in Port Novo Benin,Bouake Cote Divoire, Tamale and Accra-Ghana. The Northern Ghana is populated by Hausa migrants from Northern Nigeria.I recall S25(1a) CFRN 1999:the following persons are citizens of Nigeria by birth namely, : “every persons born in Nigeria before the date of independence, either of whose parents or any of whose parents belongs or belong to a community indigenous to Nigeria: provided that a person shall not become a citizen of Niger by virtue of this section if neither of his parents nor any of his grandparent was born in Nigeria;(b)every person born in Nigeria after the date of independence either of whose parent or grandparents is a citizen of Nigeria: and (c)every person born outside Nigeria either of whose parents is a citizen of Nigeria. The Lagos House of Assembly committee had no claim to any field investigation in respect of her Otodogbame ‘judicial’ and outrageous resolutions that terms some adult who were born and registered as Nigerians with National ID cards, also with INEC Voters cards, as “some foreigners”.
On a final note,the incredible news of fresh demolition of Otodogbame on the 17th of March 2017,by Governor Ambode, rendering over 4000 people instantly homeless, is reverberating across the globe, and the global civil society and development communities like hurricane Katrina. There are torrents of condemnations of the act by many that include Amnesty International(AI). Any government that is aware of superior currencies like image, goodwill, consensus, sustainabilit y, timeless integrity, pragmatism, posterity, conscience and fulfilment would have adopted a 3Cs formula for all parties as political option: compromise, concession and consensus. Only thin difference exists B3tween Otodogbame people and the parties that made them homeless -opportunity. Nobody chose his father or how fate will treat him.
However, the impartial judge of posterity use nature to punish the guilty. Nature here includes the earth, our body systems and organs, our breath, the road, water and air we fly, the food we eat, feedback from people, the heaven, the earth, water and the minds of people, our conscience; psychological sanctions that you can never appeal for fair hearing, source of happiness, our motion and emotion. I am very sure that the factors that determine the working of Justice Nature is a higher order beyond the reproach of mortal. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, his aide and colleagues at Alausa should understand that certain consideration might tie their hands but posterity and nature docks each person on his personal warrant. We all have different individual graves and epitaphs and everybody is given an opportunity to do the right or undo all the past mistake and make restitution. Whatever tie anybody’s hands from taking a balance decision can obviously not outlive change of next 200 years; just like it never existed last 200 years ago.It is obvious that at the center of excellence we are behind time in global best practice in governance and citizen democracy. We need to collectively take responsibilit y for the flight of the Chemistry of love and Physics of conscience of the mortal we elect to power.
I doff my heart for Megan Chapman and her colleagues at JEI for filling a vacuum in our democracy. I must commend Governor Akinwunmi Ambode security aides and the DSS at State Secretariat and Government House Alausa for their senses of democratic policing -nobody was brutalized or killed during protest. The Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Civic Engagement, Honourable Taiwo Ayedu, the Lagos House of Assembly members that include Speaker Mudashiru Obasa, Hon Mrs Funmilayo Tejuosho and House Committee on Youth, Sport and Social development, Mrs Uzamat Yusuph for rare individual civility. Our democracy can only grow if we allow issue to antagonize issue; nobody should be antagonized. Our democracy can only be seen as having come of age if we can separate legitimate opposition from subversion.
I sympathize with the Governor for the global backlash for the demolition of Otodogbame. The Governor, who I feel is a good man poised to uphold the constitution of Nigeria, would not have gone this road of infamy, if he was properly advised by his statutory aides. The dawn of knowledge is ever -breaking; it will be good if Ambode and his aides proceed on learning exchange to develop the human beings that make up the proposed megacity. This is because the physical structures they are importing from Europe, Asia or South America are sustained by certain values occasioned by policy -driven opportunities, nature and nurture. If the urban poor like Otodogbames, slum dwellers, PCEI group and Waterfront communities are not carried along; the physical superstructur es of the proposed megacity: open spaces, bridges, train station, walk ways etc will pay the price by being littered and messed up with defecation, waste disposal etc.
This is because a corresponding value is needed to sustain every physical development. That is why the Lagos bridges shore lines, harbor are being defecated up. The momentum of value activities that sustain megacities world over has not begun in Lagos; even at preliminary level. The top-bottom approach in planning is facing the ridicule of public rejection and failure as it is obvious in modern markets built at Tejuoso, Oyingo, Yaba for which over 70% of the shops are locked up. What about the housing estates that are empty also. Blame people, the political Hamurabis- the- wise thought(think) they could think for the people, and result is the wastages. May God help Governor Ambode to take a balance decision as demolition of Otodogbame despite a subsisting court order, of the Lagos State Government High court at Igbosere, is not the change people desired and voted for.
A member of Shac/Slum Dwellers International,
Also works at;
OFAPPIT Institute of Technology,
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