Nigeria elections 2023: The battle for Lagos continues
Nigeria elections 2023: The battle for Lagos continues. The state has the largest number of registered voters – seven million – and has emerged as a key battleground in a contest where each side is backed by an army of young people, mostly drawn from the third of Nigerians who can’t find a job or are performing roles below their qualification.
As Nigeria prepares for the 25 February general election, its commercial hub Lagos offers a snapshot of the opposing forces seeking to shape the country’s future – those seemingly content with the status quo and those who aspire for more.
“He’s created jobs before and he will do it again,” said Jimoh Adesina, 40, a driver with the public bus scheme in Lagos who is backing Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). While driving a public bus is a decent job, it is not what you would expect someone with a degree from a polytechnic to be doing, but Mr Adesina is happy just to be in work.
Unemployment and the economy are key concerns for voters in the elections. Despite being Africa’s largest economy and oil producer, four out of 10 Nigerians live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.
Mr Tinubu has based his presidential campaign on his two tenures as governor of Lagos state, and the achievements of the party he helped bring to power in 2015. These are best seen through the windows of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) he introduced that eased the city’s notorious traffic jams.
A modern bus terminal has replaced chaotic scenes at the popular Oshodi interchange, while test runs are under way for a new electric light railway which runs past a refurbished National Theatre.
On the other side of the lagoon is a new national rail line connecting Lagos with the city of Ibadan via a stop in Abeokuta, and a landmark bridge now leads to the upmarket Lekki Peninsula where upwardly mobile young Nigerians in the tech sector live in swanky apartments.
Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, is building an oil refinery in a free trade zone partly owned by the government, nearby a new port built by the Chinese is now operational and there is talk of a fourth bridge to link the working-class mainland to the business districts on the Island.
All these have transformed Lagos from the chaotic city it was before 1999.
Most of modern Lagos is Mr Tinubu’s creation or has been implemented by his proteges who have succeeded him since 2007, including a new city of luxury apartments on the Atlantic coast, where he boasts that he tamed the oceans.
“He is my father,” said Mr Adesina, whose life is intertwined with the man he said paid his exam fees and those of others in public schools in 2001, and also gave him this job as a driver.
He is one of many across Nigeria whose lives have been touched by Mr Tinubu’s benevolence, either through state resources or his personal wealth. The list includes football stars, musicians, politicians whose campaigns he sponsored and businesses he bailed out during tough times.
That is why his slogan for the election, Emi Lokan, which loosely translates to It Is My Turn, is basically a rallying call for favours to be repaid in support of his presidential bid.
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