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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Flood: Did Jonathan shun Lagosians?

Lagosians yesterday reacted with cautious disapproval to President Goodluck Jonathan’s poor response to the massive flooding of much of Lagos State last week, following an unusual torrential rain that buried homes, streets and roads in its wake.

However, their reactions coincided with the Federal Government’s announcement of its intention to intervene through the Ecological Funds Office in the Presidency.

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), had last Sunday, claimed that President Jonathan had failed the people of Lagos State by not visiting to assess the extent of damage caused by the flooding in parts of the state.

The party wondered how Jonathan could not see the need to identify with Lagosians, after the shocking effect of the heavy flooding that claimed many lives and caused damage to property.

In a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Lai Mohammed, the party urged the president to see the entire country as his constituency and not regard the stronghold of only supporters of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as his constituencies.

While some residents had gone all out to condemn the Presidency’s slow response, many others played on the side of caution, stressing that the President’s delayed visit to the disaster zone had not amounted to a lack of concern for the situation in the embattled nation’s economic capital.

Muda Yusuf, director-general, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Nigeria news papers that Lagos deserves more than the attention it is currently getting from the Federal Government because the state is the commercial nerve centre that generates a substantial part of the country’s revenue.

“The partisan thinking on this matter is most regrettable. The Federal Government needs to quickly assist Lagos on this occasion,” he said.

A senior executive with WECO Systems, an IT firm, who pleaded anonymity said, “By not visiting Lagos yet, the President has not demonstrated that he is sensitive to the needs of the people.”

He noted that it was rather unusual for a state to experience such a disaster and the President has yet to visit the place to assess the situation and have a first-hand assessment of the level of carnage which occurred there or even make any concrete commitment toward addressing the issue.

“Believe it or not, the recent flooding is a national issue. It was televised across the globe and as such, the President should have done something to show concern for the people. I remember very well that when the bomb blast in Ikeja occurred, former President Obasanjo visited the site.

“I don’t see any reason why Jonathan could not do the same in this case. I think Jonathan does not have good advisers because if he does, they would have encouraged him to take advantage of the opportunity to score valuable political points. I think it is all part of the PDP arrogance,” the WECO Systems executive declared.

Frederick Fasheun, founder and leader, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) in his own reaction, maintained that government existed for the convenience of the people outside the realm of partisan politics. He said: “Since the Lagos State government and others have called for assistance, it was natural that the Federal Government responds quickly because Lagos is an extension of the nation, and what affects Lagos affects all.”

Fasheun would however not share in the views of those who believe the President had not taken the right steps. According to him, government operates by priorities. “Maybe it is not his priority now. Since he just came in, he is being careful not to take the wrong steps, and I am sure when the time comes, he will respond, accordingly.”

But Aderoju Odunsi, vice president, Women in Business arm of the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA) says: “I live in Lagos, so I should feel bad; but thinking objectively, I cannot say that President Jonathan has failed Lagosians by not visiting the site of the flood disaster. As of now, he has many burning issues to deal with. He did not go to Borno State to visit the victims of the Boko Haram bomb attacks, not because he did not care but there
are other reasons.

“It is even too early to conclude that he does not care, as he may still make amends by coming to visit the sites and victims in these places. He will then initiate measures to prevent such disasters in future.”

A broadcaster with one of the radio stations in Lagos who prefers anonymity counselled Nigerians not to be too hasty in judging the President.

She said: “I still don’t feel we should conclude hastily. Don’t forget that Lagos is an Action Congress State. At the moment, I hear the Federal Government monitoring team has come into Lagos ahead of the President to see firsthand, the extent of damage, before he finally comes visiting to sympathise with Lagosians, and to also render whatsoever assistance he has to give.”

Obasi Ngwuta, director, West Africa Business School also said there were no indications yet that the President has disappointed Lagosians.

Ngwuta who says the President has a lot of national problems he is trying to address at the moment, pointed out that it was not out of negligence or political disgust for the state which has so far stopped him from visiting the state, as some groups have alluded.

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