Buhari Begins Official Visit to Lagos Monday, First in 14yrs by a Sitting President

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Gboyega Akinsanmi

President Muhammadu Buhari will tomorrow begin a two-day working visit to Lagos State, thereby making him the first Nigerian president that will officially visit the state in the past fourteen years.

Ahead of Buhari’s visit, the state government has released traffic guide, which it said, would help its residents to review their travel plans between Monday and Tuesday to avoid undue traffic congestion in the metropolis.

The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, confirmed the president’s official visit to the state in a statement he issued yesterday, noting that the president would inaugurate some landmark projects the administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had fully executed in its first year.

Beyond inaugurating different projects, a government source told THISDAY that traditional rulers, illustrious indigenes and political leaders would seize the opportunity the president’s visit offers to renew their call for special status for Lagos.

Also, the government official disclosed that traditional rulers in particular would ask the president to work with the National Assembly and ensure that the 37 local council development areas (LCDAs) are granted full status.

During the visit, it was gathered that the president would be requested to return to Lagos State Government, Federal Secretariat and Tafawa Balewa Square among other properties of the federal government that were sold under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

In his statement, Ayorinde said President Buhari’s official visit “is the first time in about 15 years that a sitting president will be visiting the state on a working visit.”
According to him, it is a testimony to the landmark achievements in the last one year of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode as well as the good working relationship between Lagos State and the federal government.
During the visit, Ayorinde disclosed that Buhari “will formally inaugurate the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) Rescue Unit in Cappa Oshodi built by the state government to ensure prompt and swift response to emergency situations in the state.”

After unveiling the LASEMA Rescue Unit, the commissioner said the president “will thereafter inaugurate the newly constructed Ago Palace Way in Okota, Isolo after which he will pay homage to the Oba of Lagos, His Royal Majesty, Oba Babatunde Rilwanu Aremu Akiolu at the Iga Iduganran, Lagos Island.

“The President will later be hosted to a reception by the state government at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos where he will also commission and hand over security equipment and vehicles contributed by the Ambode administration to security agencies to beef up security in the state.”

He added that Lagos residents “are looking forward with excitement to receive the President in the state, just as he urged residents to bear with law enforcement agents and traffic control authorities who will effect road diversions in some of the routes that the President motorcade will pass through during the visit.”

However, since former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s official visit to Lagos in November 2002, no sitting president has officially visited the state despite its status as Nigeria’s economic capital and its contribution to national economy. Though all past presidents during their tenure used the airport in the state as transit point and paid non-state visits to Lagos.

Under the Obasanjo administration, the federal government’s hostile relation with Lagos State Government was evident, resulting in constitutional tussles that were resolved by the Supreme Court. The crisis between the federal and the state government was as a result of the political differences between former President Obasanjo and the then governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is now a national leader of the All Progressives Congress.

The conflict between Obasanjo and Tinubu erupted in 2002 when the latter created 37 additional local council development areas (LCDAs), which brought the number of local councils in the state to 57.
But the conflict escalated before the 2003 general election during which the former president furiously led the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in an historic electoral contest to take control of Lagos.

While the Supreme Court declared the decision of the state government to create 37 additional councils constitutional, Tinubu was re-elected in a historic contest that edged out governors in five other South-west states.
Obasanjo’s immediate successor, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, who resolved some of the conflicts between the federal and state government, did not visit Lagos during the period he lasted in office apparently due to his grave health condition that finally claimed his life in 2010.

Likewise, Yar’Adua’s successor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan never paid official visit to the state even though he got massive support from the electorate in the state in the 2011 presidential election.
Ahead of the 2015 general election, Jonathan unofficially visited the state almost on weekly basis, holding meetings with political leaders and consulting traditional rulers, captains of industries and civil society practitioners.