The Greed of Those Who Govern Lagos By Demola Olarewaju

Starting my journey into political activism on the far left as a students unionist before ending up somewhere in the middle helped me to understand many things about capitalism as well as political leadership and government.

This case of Lagos is a time-bomb that will explode.

That journey took a turn when after watching Fashola in 2010 on television one day declare arrogantly that “there are no low-cost cement bags or iron rods and so there can be no low-cost housing”.

I immediately looked up gubernatorial candidates in Lagos and found @BOGbadamosi.

Karl Marx’s book – Das Kapital – is a critique of the political economy of capitalism that ends with a proposal that socialism is the best form of political economy across the world.

If you suspend his conclusion though, you will find that Marx actually redefined capitalism.
It is no coincidence that Das Kapital is the most referenced book published before 1950 in the social sciences – he thoroughly understood capitalism and accurately predicted that capitalism would ruin every society the way it was going.

That prediction was accurate but failed.

The prediction failed because those who operated the capitalist system took time to understand his thoughts, filtered away his solution but worked some measure of socialist theories into the capitalist system to ensure that capitalism does not ruin the world as we know it.
Capitalism – in its most naked form – functions based on the exploitation of labour.

The reason you pay a worker NGN100K a month is because in a month, you make more from his service than you pay him as a boss – the surplus an value the worker brings is your own profit as an employer.

Now, capitalists knew that if they paid each worker exactly what he was worth, they would never make profit.

Capitalists read Marx and discovered that if they paid workers below a certain sum, it would lead to disgruntlement and ultimately sabotage or full-blown revolution.

In order to sustain capitalism therefore, they understood that they had to pay workers an amount deemed as fair – minimum or living wage, sometimes pay them more than that amount – end of year bonus, and give back to society from their profit – in either charity or taxes.

The reason American capitalism still stands strong today is that it is blended with a healthy dose of socialist principles – social security, free public education, healthcare, taxation and an entire industry of charity which aims at making life better for the have-nots.

The problem of Lagos is that it’s helmsmen in recent times have never read Das Kapital never taken time to study the capitalist system and never managed a profit-making business in their entire lives.

Bola Tinubu since 1999 comes closest but even he falls far short.

When Fashola began his “we are building a mega-city” rants, I looked for the definition of a mega-city and discovered that Lagos became a mega-city the day the ten-millionth person either came into the state or was born here.

A mega-city is a mega-city mainly by numbers.

To make matters worse for Lagos, those who are in Government have zero understanding of the purpose of Government and the awesome powers of Government over the lives of the ordinary people.

As if not bad enough, the ordinary people themselves do not understand it either.

There is a reason you are not officially born until Govt says you are born – Birth Certificate. You’re not educated until Govt says you are educated – School Certificate. A reason why you’re not married till Govt licences your marriage, can’t do business until Govt grants permit.

You can’t even say someone is dead until Govt says the person is dead – Death Certificate.

The reason we cede these powers to Govt, the reason we choose those who govern us is because we trust them to act in our collective best interest.

Lagos has breached this trust.

Again, of all three who have governed Lagos since 1999, Bola Tinubu understands these concepts the most.

The exploitation of the people of Lagos started in 2003 when he became the only AD Governor – the quest for political resurgence required funding and Lagos had it.

Lagos also had to be retained by patronage, all through 2007 till 2011; and then in 2015, Lagos could only be kept politically if Abuja was conquered – and Lagos played its role in that.

But greed and lack of understanding of how Capitalism is sustained/How Govt works took over.

The point where Public-Private Partnership saw Govt protecting the interest of private friends at the expense of the public is the point where the downfall of the Lagos system began.

Some of us saw it in the Lekki-Epe Expressway instance and raised the alarm but were shutdown.

Constructed under Jakande, Fashola merely added an extra lane and other fanciful items to the Lekki-Epe Road under concession to LCC which got financing by borrowing from South Africa, guaranteed with Lagos funds and repaid with daily taxes and tolls on the road itself.

Fashola got away with it because he knew how to craft smart laws that protected LCC without naming LCC.

Ambode made a mistake by inserting Alpha Beta into the law – but he may get away with it, firstly because he will keep Bourdillon happy but also because he learned something.

To keep your worker showing up daily for work even under slavery in capitalism, you’ve got to keep him fed at least.

To keep him motivated to do a good job, provide some entertainment – selfish capitalists know this and Ambode has learnt it: throw tokens to the people.

A bridge here and there, street-lights, this or that road – and the people are happy enough to vote them in again – because the people don’t understand that Govt exists to protect the interests of the masses against powerful individuals who can take care of themselves.

We fought this battle ideologically in 2010 when we marched and chanted “No Tolling, No Fencing” around the Lekki tollgate.

If an opportunity comes, we’ll fight again but first we have to wake people up.

But again: how do you wake ‘woke’ people up to see the light?

To those just waking up: one says “Good morning” and “I wish you well” – the hope of Lagos lies with an enlightened and discerning ‘middle-class’ that is not only enough to influence the lower-class but also have the numbers to make a difference if they can think beyond existing.

One thing I am certain of is that Marx’s prediction was accurate and only failed because capitalists read it and put a gag on their greed.

The greed of those who govern Lagos, no…

The greed of those who rule Lagos will consume them and consume all of us along with them.

A Thread by
Demola Olarewaju

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