Saturday, 24 December 2011

When the Stakeholders of Future Lagos Met

When I first a received text message some time in November stating my nomination and invitation to attend the Lagos Youth Stakeholders Forum, I shrugged off the temptation to add it to my plans, knowing how tight time constraints would be on my schedule that week. Besides, I felt it was probably just another of those government initiatives that assemble youths to record their complaints and never do anything about it. But when the same SMS alerted my phone two more times, I had to read it more carefully. And then, I realized that though it was a programme sponsored by the Lagos State Government, it was co-sponsored and coordinated by the Afterschool Graduate Development Centre (AGDC), an organization chaired by Mrs Ibukun Awosika and managed by Mrs Detoun Ogwo. That was it. With paper magic, I squeezed out two and a half hours out of a cramped weekend schedule and planned to attend a portion of the whole event. So, when the young stakeholders in Lagos met with the Executive Governor, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, what did he say?

The Governor’s speech was very informative and interesting as he enlightened his audience with updates from the national frontiers. There were mixed questions, many of which could not be answered due to time constraints. I have taken time to put relevant chorused questions below each of the major points recorded.

“Job follows the economy as the night follows the day. Those who will drive the economy of the nation cannot be pre-existing companies. You cannot have twenty ExxonMobils or MTNs but you can have 20,000 massage parlours.”

Question: How will you tackle the problem of multiple taxing? Why should both Lagos and Ogun state governments tax companies along Ibafo? Should they also pay taxes to the federal government?

“The Nigerian economy has performed well to an extent in the areas of entertainment, downstream petroleum, banking, aviation, telecoms. But these areas are not labour intensive.”

Question: So what is the government doing to support indigenous private companies that are struggling to provide labour intensive opportunities? Dunlop folded up in Nigeria because of electricity. Lekki Toll Gate fare is too expensive for the average Nigerian who reportedly lives on less than one dollar a day. Can you tell us something we don't already know?

“The UAE has spent $53 billion this year alone on food importation. Nigerians, despite the fact that we travel to Dubai a lot have not participated in that exchange.”

Question: Good observation sir. How many Nigerians who are below the “fake” middle class of the economy that we have can afford the flight ticket to Dubai? Do you know there are graduates earning thirty thousand naira as their monthly salaries even in your state?

“I have often asked myself, with things so difficult, would I have chosen prostitution instead of practising as a nurse? Where is the sense of dignity?”

Question: Very well sir. We have often asked ourselves, “Do our grey-haired leaders think we are dull or what is the explanation for someone embezzling public funds to the tune of billions going to jail for 6months? Who cannot do that?

“Your pains get to me and I am ready to do something about it. I love our Ofada rice. The rice we eat here in Nigeria is 5-12 years old in storage. The Asians eat the fresh rice, which is why they can eat it with chopsticks. I do not see why government cannot create and implement policies that regulate the importation of rice and encourage the consumption of our locally cropped Ofada rice and the likes.”

Question: It is good that you love Ofada rice and want us to be planting and eating it. Please, how we get the “intelligent” people in Abuja to understand this? How to we interpret this to them since it offers no financial rewards to the loot-rich portion of high class economy?

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