I have read a lot of reactions and media reports on the engagement between the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the residents/property owners in Magodo Phase II Estate and a certain Chief Superintendent of Police, who was sent from Abuja to lead the supposed execution/enforcement of the Supreme Court Judgment on the embattled plots of land.
First, we must appreciate the leadership style of the present governor, as a man who listens. A man of peace, down-to-earth and one who takes all shades of opinion before making decisions on any matter. Secondly, Mr Sanwo-Olu, apart from building structures and keeping his promise across his administration’s THEMES agenda, always prioritises peace and security in the state above many other interests.
He recognises that it is in the atmosphere of peace and security that sustainable development can be achieved. Furthermore, this governor cares about the welfare of all the residents of Lagos, irrespective of their social status, age, or gender. This is why you often see him engaging publicly with residents in Ajah over the menace of Okada riders who ride against the traffic.
He has also had several other interactions with market men and women in Yaba, Oyingbo, Ikorodu, Badagry and other areas over plans of the government. This action is only easy for humble and people-oriented leaders, who would not just sit back in their palatial offices to issue instructions. Governor Sanwo-Olu goes out to get the job done, even if it entails meeting with the people in their various areas of residence.
The Magodo issue is a bit knotty as it is legal. But, regardless of the circumstances that led to the current situation, the governor, under whose watch the seeming crisis happened, must rise up to the occasion to address it frontally. After all, you inherit both assets and liabilities when one is elected into an office. This, my principal knows and understands very well and in line with the oath he swore to, that he will protect the lives and property of every citizen, he had to wade into the Magodo land issue before it degenerates into a full-blown crisis.
A few opinion writers had rushed to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to paint a picture of what appeared like a “weak” Governor. In fact, I saw some laughable comparison of Governor Sanwo-Olu with Nyesom Wike, his Rivers State counterpart. Pray, what would the latter have done under such circumstances? Would he have slapped the CSP for answering his question, however condescending, or ordered his arrest? Which arm of the security would carry out the instruction? Does Rivers State, like Lagos State, have its own Police, DSS, or the Army?
The writer that did this comparison needs to be reminded that all security apparatus is controlled by the Federal Government in Abuja and their officers are not answerable to any state governments. What we have had in Nigeria is a collaboration between the state and federal governments. The structure is weak, lopsided, and not in the best interest of the Federal system of Government that we practice in Nigeria.
For emphasis, Governor Sanwo-Olu is not weak. He is a democrat, a gentleman, who will follow the due process in every situation and what happened between him and the CSP at Magodo should be a good reason why well-meaning Nigerians need to increase the tempo of the call for true federalism, where all the federating units will have their security arrangements and would not need the Federal Police to carry out a lot of duties in their domains.
Some argued that the governor should have worked behind the scenes and should not necessarily have visited Magodo. This line of thought is at its best funny. Do you go to sleep when your roof is on fire? I believe no one will do that. Refer to the “invasion” of Magodo by mean-looking, gun-wielding police officers in large numbers, who laid siege to the estate on December 21, creating chaos in the area and fear among the landlords and residents.
It took the intervention of the governor for those police officers to stand down the following day. He did not have to visit Magodo before the situation was brought under control. He has continued to engage with the law enforcers in Abuja over the matter up till Tuesday morning when another round of crisis occurred. This time, the Governor could not and would not sit back in his office and watch some persons disturb the peace that is being enjoyed in his State to be threatened. That to me is leadership.
I sympathise with those who shared the above opinions, especially those who feel strongly about the Governor’s engagement with the police officer. I understand their plight and rightly so because Nigerians are not used to civil engagements between elected officials, who are usually Lords and their citizens. We are sorry to disappoint you as Governor Sanwo-Olu will continue to engage the citizens, who he considers as the major stakeholders in his bid to take Lagos to her Eldorado.
South West Governors’ Forum position
The Governors of South West of Nigeria have spoken loudly. They know that an injury to one is an injury to all. No one is safe until everybody is safe.
In a statement signed by the Forum’s Chairman, His Excellency Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), apart from their condemnation of the exchange between Governor Sanwo-Olu and the police officer, the Forum made it abundantly clear that the present structure where the State Governors, who are elected representatives of the people, will have to seek help and approval from an appointed Federal officer in some matters relating to security in their individual domains.
He said: “The content of the video is very disconcerting, and this is being charitable. The utter disrespect, which underlines the response of the officer to the Governor establishes, beyond doubt, the impracticability of the current system, dubiously christened “Federalism”. An arrangement, which compels the Governor of a State to seek clarifications on security issues in his jurisdiction from totally extraneous bodies or persons, is a sure recipe for anarchy.
“We condemn, very strongly, this brazen assault on decency. We call on the IG to explain the justification for this intrusion. This is not acceptable. Any expectations of rapprochement between so-called federating units and federal security agencies are becoming forlorn, progressively, due to deliberate acts which mock our very avowal to ethics and professionalism.
“We condemn, in very clear terms, the role of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami SAN in this act of gross moral turpitude.
“We, on our part, will continue to interrogate the current system, which treats elected representatives of the people as mere prefects, while appointed office holders ride roughshod over them as Lords of the Manor. If the purported Chief Security Officers of the States of the Federation require clearance from the office of the IG on matters within their areas of jurisdictions, only hypocrites will wonder why the current security crisis deepens and there appears to be no solution in the foreseeable future.”
In all, with his intervention in many life-threatening situations, Lagosians have started applauding their Governor. They have confirmed his genuine love and care for the people he is governing. Magodo residents can now go to sleep with their eyes closed. The judgement creditors are also happy with Mr Governor’s leadership approach and Abuja can be assured that, again, Lagos under Governor Sanwo-Olu will continue to rise above every challenge.
Clearly, however, what Nigerians need to clamour for is genuine Federalism. A system where there will be mutually agreeable terms on Exclusive and Concurrent List between the Federating units and the Federal government on matters of internal security, especially the Police.
Akosile is the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.