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B Side, Politics

Polithinks: Lagos Beyond the 2023 Elections

Folasayo highlights several reasons why Lagos has to quickly shed itself of a place where politics of exclusion and ethnicity is practiced.

  • Folasayo Adigun
  • 17th April 2023
Polithinks: Lagos Beyond the 2023 Elections

The 2023 general elections have come and gone, but the dust it generated is yet to settle. Across the country, contestants have won and lost; some who lost have found it a bitter pill to swallow and have resorted to various means to seek redress. Most have proceeded to the various Election Tribunals to seek legal redress in areas where they feel cheated.


Lagos was not left out of the electoral drama. Lagos is the commercial capital of Nigeria, cosmopolitan and its richest state. It is Nigeria’s melting point. Thus, issues get the most attention within the state and outside of it. Such was the level of attention given to the 2023 governorship election in the state, and much was the level of drama around the elections in the state.


The 2023 governorship elections in Lagos was contested by sixteen (16) contestants. Of this number, three were more prominent – the incumbent candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, and the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran. The elections threw up a couple of issues bothering on the socio-economy of the state with which the contenders sought the votes of the people. In the end, the incumbent governor, and candidate of the APC, Babajide Sanwo-Olu was declared winner of the elections. Sadly, the most enduring issue in the governorship elections have been that of ethnicity. It matters, and I will explain why.


Just before the elections, several videos were circulated that heated up the polity and seemed to pit tribes against themselves, one of such videos described the election in Lagos as war – a tribal war. Others alleged disrespect from certain ethnic groups, hence the defense put up for Lagos. The ethnic dimension of the campaign became the dominant narrative until voting was done – amidst intimidation and violence on Election Day – and has remained so.


There are several reasons why Lagos has to quickly shed itself of a place where politics of exclusion and ethnicity is practiced, to a place where all ethnic groups can aspire to be their best selves. Some of these are local reasons, while others are more global. 


To some of the local reasons:


As stated earlier, Lagos is Nigeria’s “mini Nigeria”; every part of Nigeria is represented within Lagos, partly because of its history as Nigeria’s former capital and its welcoming and accommodating nature. Its growth and prosperity is the result of Nigerians it attracts from different parts of the country who live, work, and invest in the state. The idea that there are lines in terms of political or social participation which they will not be allowed to cross may discourage their participation in the socio-cultural and economic life of the state, thus limiting the prosperity of the state. A limit on the prosperity of Lagos can result in poverty, unemployment and social unrest, undermining the state’s economic and social stability.


Furthermore, If Lagos continues to shrink the space for the political participation of people from certain parts of Nigeria, such acts will only lend credence to separatists who have repeatedly said that Nigeria’s nationhood is a farce and that the ethnic nationalities in it are better apart than together. Reprisals in other parts of the country will be inevitable, further leading to a breakdowns in national cohesion.


In addition, the politics of ethnic exclusion in Lagos could undermine the rule of law and democracy, and weaken the legitimacy of government institutions in the state, removing public trust in government. This will lead to a breakdown in governance and create opportunities for corruption and impunity.


To some of the global concerns:


On a global scale, Lagos, as the entertainment, cultural and economic capital of Nigeria, and one of the leading economies in Africa, would seem an unstable place for foreign investment, if the drums of ethnic politics continue to make the state politically unstable. It may send a negative signal to potential foreign investors in various areas of the state’s economy. 


Additionally, continued ethnic bigotry among ethnic groups in Lagos, and the politics of exclusion by the dominant ethnic group, which some are pushing to be the identity of Lagos, may give legitimacy to those who carry out xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in some African countries and beyond, deploying some of the rhetoric they heard used by Nigerians on fellow Nigerians during the electioneering season. 


Therefore, given the domestic and global effects of the ethnic dimension of the 2023 elections in Lagos, it must consider the following as it positions itself to remain a national champion and a global player beyond 2023:


1. Constitute a Lagos confab (mimicking the national confab) where people of all classes and backgrounds can exhale on issues affecting them, and the place of Lagos in helping them realize their potentials. Some of the outbursts that have been witnessed in the 2023 elections in Lagos may be the result of pent up anger on justifiable grounds that have not been given the right channel of expression.


2. Security agencies can move to strengthen the confidence of people in the state by ensuring that those who fan the embers of ethnic hatred, whatever their ethnic group, must be made to face the full wrath of the law. The heightened chance of an offender facing the consequences of their actions will lower the tendency of others to tow the same path and increase the sense of security that every resident of Lagos has.

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