My first impression was that the Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, is very passionate about development, uplifting the lives of the ordinary citizen and he is in a hurry to move Lagos to the next level of development.
Takeaway number 1
The Governor is very worried about security, he is not looking just at the physical security infrastructure he is looking at the fabric of society. Speaking candidly he used the phrase Arabian Spring. His thinking is that if something is not done now, the middle class may wake up one morning with the hungry masses sitting at their breakfast table waiting to be served. We all know the rules of etiquette will not be observed if that happens.
Takeaway number 2
Education, education education. The Governor wants to increase the investment in education. By my calculation, he needs at least N6 Trillion a year to fund public education at about the same way private sector educational institutions are funded. This estimate is based on 6 million enrolments in primary through to secondary schools with a N1 Million spend per child per year. This is the rough average cost per year to train one child in a good quality private school. If we intend not to just have functional literates, the Governor would have to spend as close to the Private sector as he can. The Governor is of the strong belief that if he doesn’t make this investment now we make no progress as a society.
The Governor is working on the John F. Kennedy Model; “Ask not want your Country (State) can do for you, but what you can do for your Country (State)” He wants the middle and upper middle class to make sacrifices for the greater good.
Takeaway number 4
The middle class, upper class and OPS believe they cannot make that sacrifice now because we have barely come out of a recession and that development should be postponed. The Governor, on the other hand, believes that the investment in infrastructure ultimately benefits the Middle, Upper Class and OPS. His theory is based on the bottom of the pyramid approach. In his words, if construction is going on, the average artisan has a job to take care of his family. If you go a rung up the pyramid it actually means more factories are operating at full capacity because those at the bottom will consume more and then this affects the middle class who service the manufacturing companies. So it’s a ripple effect which benefits OPS primarily.
Takeaway number 5
Middle and upper-class homeowners who have homes in the UK and USA have no problem paying property tax in the countries where they have these homes, primarily because they can already see the development; parks, sidewalks, trains, etc. But since these creature comforts are underdeveloped in Lagos, they do not see the reason why they have to pay for them to be created in the future. So which comes first? The chicken or the egg.
Take away number 6
Logic will not sell the Land Use Charge, those kicking against it are finding it more difficult to pay school fees and see their middle-class lifestyle disappearing before their eyes. There is genuine fear of the future. They want the Governor to also realise that they are struggling and all those palatial houses are not what they seem.
I am worried about Take away number 1 and 2. If we do not do something now those at the bottom of the pyramid will overrun those at the top. If the investment in the social fabric of the State is not made now, the population will be uncontrollable if there is an uprising. We should all realise that the Governor as the Chief Security officer of the State without stating the obvious is warning us of an impending catastrophe if the middle and upper middle class do not make the sacrifice now.
It is the same sacrifice most middle class and upper-middle-class parents are making when they invest in their children’s education.
The Governor should increase the advocacy on tax, and create a system that rewards taxpayers for paying on time and gives them a cash back at a future date, tax credits, bursaries for their children etc.
Edwards is a Lagos-based attorney