By Yekini Alli
On Monday, 24 May, in a strategic and visionary move, the governments of Lagos and Ogun states signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on joint development of infrastructure in borderline communities between the states.
At a ceremony in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Dapo Abiodun inaugurated the Lagos-Ogun Joint Development Commission (LOJDC). Speaking on the occasion, Sanwo-Olu harped on the megacity status of Lagos and the need for developmental synergy with the neigbouring Ogun.
As he noted: “The Joint MoU is a sustainable development agenda under which Lagos and Ogun States will combine resources to meet our present socio-economic needs and prepare for the future. We have nothing to lose but a lot to gain by synergizing efforts with Ogun State in the areas of Infrastructural development, (the development of boundary town roads, water works, mass transportation); as well as revenue and taxation (including PAYE remittances, and boundary town revenue management and collection).”
On his part, Abiodun described the event was a success story, being the first time that the two states had emplaced a formal, structured framework of legislation-backed bilateral engagement.
Abiodun added: “It is undeniable that we share historical and cultural affinities and long before now, successive administrations have mouthed and attempted to have some omnibus or spatial arrangement to have Lagos and Ogun States to work together. But, again, never had there been a time that this was concertised or encoded nor a law-backed structure, institutional arrangement; human and funding resource requirements formalised to actualise what and remains the right way to uplift our people improve their prosperity.”
According to him, the two states would, “forge a common alliance to jointly tackle issues bordering on security, sanitation, traffic and transportation, waste management, water supply, land use planning, infrastructure development and maintenance, urban renewal and slum upgrading for the mutual benefit of our people and the generality of Nigerians,” as development would come to border communities in Ota, Akute Alagboole, Lambe, Ojodu, Agbado, Mowe, Warewa, Isheri and all the eight local government areas that share boundaries with Lagos State.
To say the least, the Lagos/Ogun economic integration is a dream come true. The history of Lagos and Ogun is irretrievably intertwined.
For one thing, Ogun indigenes have, for ages, been actively involved in developmental strides in Lagos.
Ogun indigenes are solidly established in parts of Mushin, Ikorodu, Palm Groove, Ogba, Agege and Aworiland, and were it not for colonization and military rule, perhaps Ogun and Lagos would have been one state. Historical figures such as Madam Efunroye Tinubu and Madam Funmilayo Kuti who reigned in Lagos at specific epochal moments had their roots in the present-day Ogun State. A dramatic artist rendered the Efunroye phenomenon in a song within an eponymously titled play thus: “Efunroye Tinubu, our mother, wealthy mother, the pillar of orphans, Lagos will never forget you and your mighty works..”
Then with modernisation and expansion, Ogun and Lagos are intertwined. Indeed, there are areas within the two states that can confuse visitors, because what separates Ogun from Lagos may be less than a minutes’ drive.
Consider Julius Berger and Sango-Ota, for instance: strangers can be forgiven for thinking that they are part of Lagos. Ikorodu kingdom, one of the most prominent parts of Lagos State, has its roots in Remoland in Ogun State, and was in fact part of the old Remo Division at a period under colonial rule. There is Eko Epe and Ijebu Epe: separating Epe culturally from either of Lagos or Ogun is a difficult exercise.
Ogun is not just the nearest state to Lagos: it is Lagos’ siamese twin and it is a fact that its past, present and future is inextricably linked to Lagos’. Besides, when you look at Nigerian music, most of the brightest stars are/were from Ogun: people like Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Ebenezer Obey, K1, Ayinla Omowura, Haruna Ishola, Sir Shina Peters, Salawa Abeni, Adewale Ayuba, Olamide. However, although originally from Ogun, these musicians are/were as Lagosian as any Lagosian can be. In any case, with inter-marriage, the Lagos and Ogun peoples have blended together for centuries.
The Adiyan waterworks that Lagos benefits from is in Ogun State. The Agbara Industrial State, the major industrial estate in Ogun, serves the Lagos economy strategically. At least 95 per cent of residents of Ibafo/Mowe area of Ogun State actually work in Lagos. Politically, the role of Ogun people in Lagos cannot be under-estimated: many of the permanent secretaries and commissioners in Lagos have their roots in Ogun. Olorunnimbe Mamora, two-time speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly and two-term senator, is from Ogun State. Lagos West senator, Olamilekan Adeola, hails from Yewaland in Ogun. What is more, politically, Ogun and Lagos have been in the same political party for ages. Thus, this new commission coming after previous collaborations in the area of roads is a welcome development.
There is no two ways about it: Lagos and Ogun must collaborate to achieve greater industrialization and cost-effective development. They must take advantage of the recently signed Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) through cost competitiveness and provision of industrial clusters with adequate infrastructure.
They stand to achieve efficient port logistics through much more coordinated call-up systems where Ogun provides holding bays/parks for trailers heading to Apapa ports in order to reduce the traffic congestion in Lagos.
Besides, there can be no doubt that as already envisaged, the LOJDC will foster collaboration in physical planning and urban development, slum regeneration, environmental challenges such as flooding, dredging, waste management and pollution control and engender cooperation in revenue and tax management, especially in the border towns.
There is much to gain from efficient and effective enumeration and data sharing of citizens resident in border town areas, and efficient and regular remittances of personal income taxes of Ogun residents working in Lagos State. It will boost internally-generated revenue (IGR) in both states by reducing tax leakages and increasing taxable persons.
No doubt, both states need effective coordination in transport infrastructure development such as rail networks and interstate roads, traffic management and control. Then when you factor in security collaboration, including intelligence sharing, exchange of residents and criminal data records, joint patrol and enforcement of security policies and regulations, community policing, joint procurement of security equipment, training of security personnel, and alignment of security policies, you cannot but applaud this initiative.
It is exciting that the Ogun and Lagos governments are forging a bond in agriculture and food security given the vast arable land in Ogun and the huge demand for food in Lagos. The South-West geopolitical zone and the country in general has much to gain from their partnership in the cultivation and processing of food and cash crops such as cassava, rice and palm oil, among others. Lagos has huge capacity in rice milling and Ogun is one of the largest producers of rice. This is a case of the proverbial dancer coming in contact with the drummer: mirth and gaiety lurk on the horizon. Governors Sanwo-Olu and Abiodun deserve applause.
In particular, the joint commission is yet another testimony of the visionary approach to governance that has hallmarked the activities of the Ogun State government over the past two years. From constructing agric airports and 14-lane roads and strategic collaborations, the Building Our Future Together advocate seems poised to creatively channel the energies and resources of the Ogun people to build a state that truly sets the pace while others follow.
-Alli contributes this piece through firstname.lastname@example.org