In 1999 Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief when forces of history forced the military dictators to vacate the seat of government after 16 years of ruthless and criminal leadership kick-started by General Buhari in 1983, followed by IBB, Abacha, and terminating with General Abubakar in 1999. Not minding the massive rigging associated with 1999, 2003 and 2007 elections, it is now 11 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria and to all intents and purposes, and for the purposes of accountability, it behoves on us to compare notes, do an honest assessment of the journey so far and tell the world and even the military how far we have gone and why democracy is a better option.

Our people deserve to know how far we have gone. They want to know if there is really a difference between the military and civilian government. Nigerians want a balance sheet of how politicians including this writer have managed this country in the past 11 years. When General Buhari came to power on December 31, 1983 I was in my third year at the University of Nigeria Nsukka . I was in Shagamu NYSC Orientation Camp, Ogun State, in 1985 when IBB criminally forced himself to power. I witnessed the 16 years of military dictatorship from 1983 to 1999, and was involved in the struggle to chase the men in uniform out of power. Permit me therefore to say without sounding immodest that I saw it all in those years of the locusts. I am also a participant in this civilian dispensation having joined the Lagos State Government in 2005 and still serving. I am therefore in a better position to dispassionately look at developments in Lagos where AD and ACN have been holding forte and the Federal Government where PDP has been in the saddle for 11 years now.

Lagos State occupies a unique position in Nigeria and every right thinking Nigerian adult knows that. We need not overflog the issue that Lagos remains the economic hub of Nigeria. It is the nation’s most powerful state in terms of anything. Were Lagos State to be a country, it will compete favourably with some countries in Europe, Asia, South and North America, and even Africa. Lagos remains the pride of Nigeria and the home where a vast preponderance of most civilized Nigerians live and do business. I make bold to say that in the past 11 years, a combination of committed leadership of both the Governor Emeritus of Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Governor Babatunde Fashola has made Lagos a destination and a place to be. I will leave you to judge whether the Federal Government-led PDP will boast of having made Abuja and other parts of Nigeria a destination and a place to be.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was the president for 8 years and used those 8 years to fight Lagos State. He was to rebuild Lagos-Ibadan expressway in 2003 and billboards with his photograph mounted at intervals along their entire stretch but nothing was done. The late president Yar’Adua came with Bi-courtney Construction Company two years ago and up till now nothing has happened on Lagos-Ibadan expressway. It has remained a nightmare, a killing field for motorists to date. The fourth Mainland Bridge that was supposed to link Ikoyi or Lekki to Ikorodu was stalled by Senator Ogunlewe and President Obasanjo. After many years of fighting with the Federal Government on Lagos-Badagry expressway, Lagos State Government has taken up the road project and work is going on there right now.

Lagos Airport road has been an eyesore for years now because the Federal Government has refused to allow Lagos State to do the job of fixing that very important road leading to the nation’s International Airport. Lagos Independent Power Project initiated by Asiwaju was stalled by Obasanjo and see the damage the stoppage of that project did to the economy of Lagos. We are still suffering to date. Outside Lagos most other federal roads in Nigeria are in bad shape with no respite in sight. Shagamu-Benin expressway is still a death trap. Despite these many setbacks from the central government, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, through dint of hard work laid the foundation for the new Lagos we are seeing today. Asiwaju laid the blueprint for this new Lagos and put his mind, soul, eyes, head, feet, hands on it and today Lagos is a testimony that democracy is working.

When Governor Fashola came to power in 2007 and with Obasanjo out of power, the road to where we are today became so near to travel. Take a look around Lagos and see the monumental changes almost everywhere. Lagos is now a huge construction site and this is serious. The massive recovery of public spaces, playgrounds, parks, under bridges and triangular laybys all around Lagos has been a sight to behold. We have seen class, beauty, elegance in Marina, Ojuelegba-Costain axis, Ojota, Oshodi, Anthony, Yaba, Ikeja, Alausa, Maryland, Okota Bridge, Oworonshoki and other areas too numerous to mention here. What about the generator powered street lights, the rebuilding and reconstruction of schools, hospitals, massive construction of drainages all over Lagos? What about the mega city project? I have the Ikoyi-Victoria Island Model City Plan and Ikeja Model City Plan on my table as I write this and this is unputdownable. It is difficult if not impossible to begin to recount Governor Fashola’s achievements in the past four years without missing out some vital areas. Fashola has proved to us that Nigeria is not a basket case. He has proved that young people can make the difference. Fashola has proved that democracy is working in Nigeria and it is better. With the Governors of Edo, Rivers, Enugu, Delta, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Jigawa, Kwara and few others joining Fashola to give democracy a name in Nigeria, one can conclude that we have not failed totally.

Our biggest headache is the Federal Government headed by the rigging machine called PDP. The ruling party has been a bad advertisement of democracy in the past 12 years. With the huge resources at its disposal, unprecedented since the inception of Nigeria, this useless ruling party simply has no idea of what to do with the funds but to loot it. System failure has confronted us in almost all departments in Nigeria including critical sectors like the power, security, roads, schools, hospitals, etc. No wonder Nigerians describe PDP as the empire of thieves, cesspit of corruption, cathedral of debauchery, nest of killers, home of charlatans, and house of fraud. They play politics without principle, seek power without responsibility and go for wealth without work. The truth is that if PDP-led Federal Government is used to assess our 11 years of re-nascent democracy, I do think that we need to apologise to the military but thank God for Fashola and his few colleagues that are keeping the promise. After 11 years I do not think PDP has any other thing to offer Nigeria and this is the time to quit. PDP still thinks they will get away with the type of rigging we saw in 1999, 2003 and 2007 but woe betide them if they try Nigerians this time around. After 11 years of primitive and chaotic leadership, I think time has come for the party to sincerely accept failure and bow out.

Nigerians must throw PDP and whatever they represent out in 2011, otherwise the party will destroy Nigeria. Where Abuja has failed Lagos has excelled. This is the more reason why Lagosians and other Nigerians must support and encourage Governor Fashola to go on. He is the pride of Lagos, the eagle of Lagos, and the star of Lagos. The question is not whether he should be given the ticket to continue in 2011 but he should be begged to continue in office. I have been staying in Lagos since 1985 and if what I have seen in Lagos in the past 11 years is anything to go by, Asiwaju and Fashola need to be cherished and adored as heroes. This is the reason why I insist that the N46 billion supplementary budget controversy in Lagos is totally unnecessary and absurd at this critical point in the history of Lagos. I plead with the Lagos House of Assembly, a house of honourable men and women of integrity and honour, serving the Centre of Excellence to give this governor 120% support beyond mathematics. I plead with the Lagos State House of Assembly not to hold back progress. I plead with them not to stop this moving machine in Lagos. If it is possible for the Assembly to borrow money and give it to this super performing governor let it be. Fashola is the new face of Nigeria. He has through committed and enlightened leadership redefined governance in Nigeria. May we never give outsiders the impression that we are jealous of his huge achievement that is second to none in Nigeria.

I still believe that this is Lagos where 80% of most civilized Nigerians live and if I am right I do not think anybody, even from the opposition, will challenge Fashola in 2011. Last week, I read a piece that tried to persuade Nigerians to push Fashola to run for the Vee Pee. Please tell these people to hold their peace. Lagos is not in a hurry to release Fashola. Fashola will serve Lagos for 8 years and after that we will let him go to serve the whole of Nigeria.  I am curious and anxious to see how Lagos will be in 2015 after Fashola.

•Joe Igbokwe wrote in from Lagos.